Breitenbach Wine Cellars

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Our first stop was supposed to be Swiss Heritage Winery in side Broad Run Cheesehouse. We were excited about the opportunity to purchase some cheeses to snack on as we traveled to the various wineries on our itinerary. We were also happy to learn that they were a dog friendly facility.

As we made our way to our destination, we discovered that they were in very close proximity to Breitenbach Wine Cellars We had seen Breitenbach wines at Jungle Jim’s but didn’t realize that they were so close to our first stop.

Upon arriving at Swiss Heritage Winery, we discovered that a large tourist bus arrived before we did. Bushmaster went inside to check things out and reported back that they were too crowded and set up more like a gift shop. He couldn’t see how they could accommodate our Classy Canines. And then to top it off, their bathrooms out of order. We had driven for hours so that was not the news we wanted to hear.

Luckily Breitenbach Wine Cellars was so close that it was within walking distance. A few of the people from the tourist bus had begun to leave Swiss Heritage Winery and were making their way to Breitenbach. Before Breitenbach got too crowded we decided we would go there to use the facilities and have our first wine tasting. Although Bushmaster went in to check on things first and had been told the dogs could be on the grounds, we soon saw signs to the contrary. We were going to have to leave the dogs in the car. It was still cool enough out that this wasn’t an issue but we still felt the need to make sure they were okay.

Time for a speed tasting! We quickly sampled the following:

  • Green Shoes – Proprietary Cab Blend – This was a bit too sweet as to what we’ve come to expect from Cabernet.
  • Festival – Red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec – We had high hopes for this one, but to us it came off as bitter.
  • Merlot – Not typically my varietal, I was surprised to find this one turned out to be my favorite.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Red Raspberry – This fruit wine was light and refreshing.
  • Elderberry – There’s just something about Elderberry that we always have to try Elderberry.  This one was very sweet and syrupy.
  • Black Raspberry
  • Plum – This sweet version had spice notes very similar to our own Plum Dry wine.
  • Dandelion – I was very excited to finally have the opportunity to taste Dandelion wine. It had an unusual flavor that made it intriguing to me. Bushmaster didn’t care for it at all.
  • Tawny Port  – This was a nice port with good flavor.

Their wine list was much more extensive but with the Classy Canines in the car, we didn’t feel that we were able to devote any more time here. Breitenbach had a nice little gift shop with food and other items that I would have liked to have been able to explore. The grounds were beautiful and this particular day they were gearing up for a day of festivities with picnic options and music. They also offer tours of their large wine making facilities.

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Classy Canine Road Trip

It was harvest time and we had a special invite from Jerry Chessman to see his vineyards! We plotted and planned our way to Pennsylvania. This time we would be bringing the Classy Canines with us!

Day One

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The boys were loaded into the car before the sun was up. Brody and Snickerdoodle settled into comfy spots in the back seat on their special blankies.

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As the sun came up, Peanut was very interested to see what excitement this new adventure had in store for him.

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Then he took it upon himself to guard the cooler. I’m guessing he knew there were roast beef sandwiches and hard boiled eggs in there!

You know what they say about the best laid plans. Our first winery stop quickly revealed a change in itinerary. A large tour bus had arrived just ahead of us and the place was packed. Along with their restrooms being out of order. So we headed down the road to another winery, but the Classy Canines could not be allowed out of the car.

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Our third stop at a winery we had crossed off our original list. They had some good wines and the Classy Canines were allowed on the patio. We learned from the owner that just like our previous stops, we were likely to find that even though the wineries we had called ahead who said they were “Dog Friendly”, most likely would not be.

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That turned out to be pretty accurate. Fortunately we found that most facilities had patios or outdoor areas where the boys were welcome.

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Of course we had to take pictures with them to record their road trip.

Our winery stops for the day included:

  • Breitenbach Wine Cellars
  • Silver Moon Winery
  • School House Winery
  • Slutz & Slutz Winery
  • Barrel Run Crossing Winery & Vineyard
  • Mastropietro Winery
  • LaPorte Winery

We will be featuring each winery and its wines in the next series of posts so be sure to check back.

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After seven wineries, the boys were all tuckered out!

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But they quickly adjusted to their luxurious hotel accomodations.

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And had no trouble settling in on the large king size bed.

Day Two

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The next morning they were ready to roll.

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Once again, our plans shifted around a bit but it was all good. We made our first stop at the country market. Then it was off to another winery, which according to the owners, was run by their Irish Setter.  Peanut and Brody made friends quickly with Cabernet.

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And the ladies who arrived after us on a tour.

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They were such gentlemen and so well behaved. But of course! They are the Classy Canines!

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At the next three wineries, the boys were again welcomed inside and loved all the attention they received.

The wineries we visited included:

  • Burch Farms Winery
  • Lakeview Wine Cellars
  • Heritage Wine Cellars
  • Penn Shore Winery and Vineyards
  • Courtyard Winery

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When Bushmaster took the purchases we made at the last winery to the car, they were a bit concerned he might be leaving without us.

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Their concerns were unwarranted as we all piled back in the car ready to find somewhere to have dinner.

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We didn’t have to look too hard or too far to find delicious Lake Erie perch dinners.

It was just about dusk when we made our way to Jerry Chessman’s vineyard. We visited a short time with him, his family, and friends. Harvesting is pretty much a round the clock operation this time of year and all the vineyards work together to help each other out. We made it an early night and headed to our hotel so we could be back at the vineyard bright and early the next morning.

Day Three

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We got there early to see that harvesting activities were already underway. The smell of fresh grapes wafted through the air.

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The Classy Canines were loaded into the back of the Gator and we were off for a special tour of the vineyard.

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They really seemed to enjoy the ride!

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We had seen the miles and miles of vineyards from the road during our travels the previous day but it was really amazing to be up close in amongst the vines.

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Noiret grapes hung in huge clusters.

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The dark area just above the distant tree line was Lake Erie. Vines stretched all the way to that tree line.

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Concord grapes were large, full, and oh so juicy. They hung everywhere on the vines.

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It took us nearly an hour to complete our vineyard tour.  It was just beautiful!

We were invited out to do some picking of our own. Bushmaster came back with buckets of Noiret and Concord that we are currently making into a blend that will be called Brody’s Road Trip Red.

Time flew by and soon it was time to pick up Diamond and Niagara juices and begin our trip home.  We made one last winery stop on the way:

  • Presque Isle Wine Cellars

We had hoped to find another perch dinner as we traveled along the lake but unfortunately there was none to be found.

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Even with all the delays from rush hour traffic, we made it to Grandpa’s Cheese Barn before closing time and picked up some special goodies.

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Peanut again guarded the cooler knowing full well there were some tasty cheeses inside.

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What a great trip! We look forward to returning to Lake Erie Wine Country again. A huge thank you to Jerry and crew for making our trip so special!

Wine and Canvas

It had been over a year since my last adventure at Wine and Canvas and I had been itching to paint again for quite some time. I was so happy when my friend Juanita was able to join me. Both our hubbies were working so it was a perfect opportunity for a Girls’ Night Out.

We got settled in with our wine and a cheese plate and were ready to begin.

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My wine selection for the evening was Sycamore Lane Cabernet Sauvignon from California. It was a nice bold red with a good balance.

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Under the expert guidance of our instructor, we started with the background.

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Next we added the vase, followed by the flowers and vines. Our instructor did such a fabulous job teaching and guiding us. It had been my intention to take more pictures of each step of our progress, but we were having so much fun I forgot!

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Juanita’s was just stunning! It was hard to believe that this was her first painting.

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I got a bit over zealous with blending the colors in my flowers that I lost some of the definition.

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After I got home, I attempted some touch ups. I’m not sure yet that I’m finished with it. The great thing about this project is that I can always go back and make it even better if I want.

What a fun night out. And so much better with a friend. I can’t wait for our next excursion!

Grape Harvest at Brianza

Three gorgeous days! And a group of happy “winos”. The harvest was work, but oh so much fun!

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August 27, 2017 – Aromella and Vignoles

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The day began at 7:30 AM.  We received our instructions from Tony and headed out to the vines.

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Netted to protect them from the birds, the vines were waiting for us.

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We got to work unsnapping the nets and harvesting the fruit with grape razors. (This are magical tools that work so nicely – much better than clippers. Add two to our Christmas list!)

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Meet Aromella. A white grape with a tart yet sweet flavor. There’s nothing quite like tasting the grapes fresh of the vines.

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Next it was Vignoles. Another white grape a bit more acidic in flavor than the Aromella. It it noticeably different with its very tight clusters.

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As our bins filled, we emptied them into larger containers on the flatbed. The yellow harvesting bins hold approximately 25 pounds of grapes.

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About 3-1/2 hours later, we were back in the winery loading the grapes into the crusher/destemmer.

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Two horizontal augers move the grapes through the machine. As you can tell by the tight clusters, this is Vignoles being processed.

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The grapes are quickly and easily separated from the stems…

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…and the resulting must is pumped into the huge bladder press.

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As water is pumped into the bladder, it expands pushing the must against the sides and pressing the juice out of the grapes. The fresh juice was so sweet and delicious! From here, the juice is pumped into the fermenting tanks.

September 3, 2017 – Vignoles and Marquette

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Day two and we were back at it.  This time harvesting the remainder of the Vignoles and moving on to Marquette.

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A dark purple grape, the Marquette was easier to see among the leaves which made our work go much more quickly.

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Marquette is another beautiful grape with wonderful sweetness. After having eaten wine grapes, I doubt I’ll ever have a desire for store bought table grapes again.

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David happily volunteered to man the hose as the must powered through to the fermentation vat. The crushing and destemming process was much the same as it was for the white grapes. However, red varietals are fermented on the skins and seeds before the juice is pressed off.

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We even got to do some actual grape stomping! If the vats had been just a bit larger, no doubt Vicki and I would have been dancing around in them like Lucy!

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After the work was done, there was plenty of time for fun! Here Donna, Vicki, and I are headed back to the winery with thoughts wine glasses dancing in our heads.

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After lunch and a few glasses of wine (well maybe more than just a few), Vicki and I tried out some new lipstick that Jen shared with us. Just like teenage girls, we had to do selfies!

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Girls just wanna have wine!  Er, I mean girls just wanna have fun!  We did both!

September 11, 2017 – Marquette and Noiret

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On our third and final harvest day, we were picking Noiret and processing the Marquette from our previous pick. Tony had the nets unsnapped and the vines waiting for us. We worked hard to search through the robust foliage to make sure we got every grape.

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Noiret is another red grape with beautiful color and flavor. The grapes were larger in size than the Marquette.

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Before we could process the Noiret, we had to move the fermented Marquette out of the fermentation vats. It had completely fermented to dry as evidenced by the seeds floating on top and the lees falling to the bottom. In between was beautiful new red wine.

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Not a drop should be wasted! You can see the lees (the thick sediment) I’m scraping from the bottom of the vat so that it can be pressed off. And yes, my wine glass is in my hand. I didn’t spill a drop of that either!

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As you can see, it is quite the team effort at this point in the process.

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Once the Marquette was moved into the tanks where it would continue to process, the vats were cleaned and we began crushing and destemming the Noiret.

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The Noiret, like the Marquette will be fermented on the skins and seeds before it is pressed. The must was lighter in color with a bit more foam than the Marquette.

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What a great time we had and what a great experience this was as we got to see a much larger wine making operation. We learned so much from this hands on process. And of course we are looking forward to next year when we get our first samplings of the final product from these efforts. Thank you Tony and Deb for this opportunity!

Wine Tasting – September 9, 2017

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JP had some great blends lined up for us this day:

  • Broc Cellars 2014 Love White from Berkeley, California – White blend of 85% Marsanne, 12% Roussanne, and 3% Viognier
  • Brooks 2014 Amycas from Willamette Valley, Oregon – White blend of 30% Pinot Blanc, 28% Riesling, 17% Muscat, 15% Gewurztraminer, and 10% Pinot Gris
  • Core 2007 Ground Around from California – Red blend of 64% Tempranillo, 18% Grenach, and 18% Syrah
  • Core 2009 Hard Core from Santa Barbara County, California – Red blend of 38% Mourvedre, 34% Tempranillo, 25% Cabernet Sauvingon, 5% Syrah, and 1% Grenache
  • Core 2008 Mister Moreved from Alta Mesa, California – Red blend of 97% Mourvedre and 3% Grenache
  • Horseshoe Bend Jesters Peach from Willisburg, Kentucky – Bourbon barrel aged Peach wine

All in all, this was a wonderful tasting with some fantastic blends!

The whites were quite enjoyable with good balance.

The reds were also a hit. While Mister Moreved appeared to be the favorite among tasters, it was Hard Core that won my heart. Delicious!

As much as I have been burned out on peach wine, I was quite surprised at how nicely Jesters Peach turned out. The peach and bourbon flavors were rich and flavorful and just may have redeemed peach for me!

Swiss Wine Festival 2017

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“Keep Calm & Wine On”

That was the theme of this year’s Swiss Wine Festival and so we did.  For us, it marked the fifth year in a row that we have attended.

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We got an early start with plans to enjoy a full day of tastings.  Admission to the wine pavilion included souvenir glasses, and new this year, Indiana Artisan cheese samples from Fair Oaks Farms.  Wineries participating were:

  • Best Vineyards
  • Buck Creek Winery
  • Carousel Winery
  • Cedar Creek Winery
  • Ertel Cellars
  • French Lick Winery
  • Harmony Winery
  • Holtkamp Winery
  • Indian Creek Winery
  • Ridge Winery
  • Windy Knoll Winery
  • Winzerwald Winery

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Behold the Wine Pavilion! Or as we like to call it, the Adult Playpen. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. We had beautiful blue skies and perfect temperatures. We were ready to party!

Our first stop was Best Vineyards. It had been a while since we had visited their winery and we were happy to see they had joined the festival this year. We remembered them well for their amazing fruit wines and they did not disappoint. Their Mango was just as good as ever and their newly release Illudium Q-26 was quite the unusual surprise. Actually made from lemons it was very tart, refreshing and fun.

Carousel Winery was next. It was good to see our friends there and they easily remembered us from our sojourn to their winery to purchase their last three bottles of Aglianico two years ago. As always, their wines were fantastic. Their Traminette was delicious as was their Cherry wine. Their Pomegranate had a wonderful port-like quality and their Shadow Dog Port was out of this world.

Winzerwald Winery has been one of our favorites since the very beginning. We very much enjoy their German-Style wines. Between the two of us, we sampled nearly everything they had to offer. Bushmaster’s favorite here was their Riesling. Their Mai Wein infused with sweet woodruff caught my fancy. And of course I had to have a bottle of their Schweizer Spice to put away for Thanksgiving.

Next, it was on to French Lick Winery. Another favorite, they offer quite a variety of wines from reds to whites, dry to sweet, fruit wines, as well as dessert wines. Again, we sampled nearly everything. Not surprisingly, my favorites were the Noiret, Norton, Norton Rose, and Traminette. Bushmaster prefered the Steuben. We both agreed that their French Tickle was the perfect choice for a New Year’s toast.  Their fortified Heaven’s View Port and Crema Dolce also topped our list.

We were looking to restock with Dam View Red as we moved on to Ridge Winery. Recently, we had shared a bottle of with family and it was quite the hit. It had been aging in our cellar and had taken on a port-like quality. Their newer vintage, while good, was not quite the same experience, but with given some time, we may be able to recapture that flavor. I found their Swiss Wine Festival to be delightfully woody and their signature Black Jack to be the perfect blend of blackberry and apple.

Ertel Cellars was our next stop. They had a full wine list with something for everyone. Hands down, their Strawberry wine is one of the best we’ve ever tasted. It has a beautiful nose and is so full of strawberry flavor.

We wanted to make sure that we didn’t miss Windy Knoll Winery this year. This was another winery with quite a variety.  Their Seyval with its buttery oak flavors was quite intriguing to me and probably the biggest surprise of the day as this typically would not be my pick.  Windy Knoll Reserve was also quite interesting and we guessed blackberry was the dominant fruit. Summer Strawberry was also a very well done strawberry wine.

We were just about at our limit when the people at our table recommended that we not miss Cedar Creek Winery. Most intriguing were their Black Tie blackberry and Summer Breeze watermelon wines.

Much like last year, there were so many sweet wines.  Although we had tried to pace ourselves and concentrate more on the drier wines which we tend to prefer, all those sweet wines just wore us out. A little goes a long way.

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In addition to the terrific cheese samples, we enjoyed a fantastic meal of beef tips from Mr. Beefy’s.  This has become our favorite and we look forward to it every year.

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All in all, it was another wonderful festival. We enjoyed laughter, smiles, new tastes, and good conversation with other wine lovers. There’s just nothing quite like a wine festival!

Wine Tasting – September 2, 2017

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After our hit or miss summer Saturdays, we were back with our friends at Party Town. JP lined up the following:

  • Chateau Miraval Cotes de Provence Blanc from Provence, France –  Vermentino (Rolle)
  • Domaine du Haut Bourg 2015 Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu from Loire, France – Melon de Bourgogne
  • Domaine du Haut Bourg 2006 Origine du Haut Bourg from Loire, France – Melon de Bourgogne
  • Dead Bolt 2014 Winemaker’s Blend from California – Red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Petite Syrah, and Syrah
  • Alta Mesa Vineyard 2007 Elevation Sensation from Santa Barbara County, California – Grenache blend
  • Core 2009 Red Blend from Santa Barbara County, California – Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre
  • Via Rosa Rosso Dolce from Piedmont, Italy – Semi-sparkling red blend of 50% Malvasia and 50% Freisa

The whites were quite a treat and an opportunity to taste some varietals we had not experienced before.  It was fun to compare the two selections from Haut Bourg.  They were from the same grape, but the 2006 had been aged underground for 10 years on the lees (skin and yeast sediment from fermentation) before bottling.  I preferred the crispness of the 2015 while Bushmaster preferred the complexity of the 2006.

On to the reds which were bold and quite pleasing. Via Rosa was a nice, not overly sweet, dessert wine. Elevation Sensation was my pick of the day.

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Our next taste was a Don Julio margarita. It’s not unusual for us to continue the party at a local restaurant. All are welcome and the more the merrier!

Such was the case this weekend when we were surprised by a visit from one of our dear friends who had moved away as a result of a job transfer.  Back in town for the holiday, of course we had to celebrate!

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Five years ago, Bushmaster and I were just excited to have found a place with regular wine tastings. Little did we know it would come to be so much more. Here’s to good friends and great times!

Brianza Gardens and Winery

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Although we had had quite the whirlwind of activities the week our daughter visited and were tempted to just stay home and recover after she left, the day was just too pretty to stay inside.  We opted for another trip to Brianza to enjoy the summer breeze and a bottle of wine on the patio.

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Classy Canine, Peanut, accompanied us on our visit.  While we were tasting, he and Winery Dog, Whisky, got to know each other and became fast friends.

Thinking it might be a “white day” I sampled their 2015 Chardonnay and 2016 Dry Riesling.  Both were delicious but ended up not speaking to me after all.  So on to the reds it was.  I revisited the 2016 Noiret, the 2014 Cynthiana (my usual favorite), Italian Stallion – 50% Cynthiana and 50% Chambourcin, and their newly bottled Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.  It was hard to choose!  But in the end, my love for Chambourcin won out.

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We settled in at one of the outside patio tables to relax with our bottle of Italian Stallion.  What a beautiful day it was!

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Tasting at Market Wines

As part of our daughter’s week long birthday celebration, we traversed to Findlay Market.  She and her boyfriend had never been there before so it was a lot of fun to be with them for their first experience.  The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Among all the sights, smells, and tastes, of course we made a stop at Market Wines.

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As usual, they were featuring four different wines with generous pours in their tastings.

BG Riesling

First up was Barnard Griffin Riesling from Columbia Valley, Washington.  I found it to be crisp and clean, produced similarly to the whites we’d had in Michigan. Bushmaster felt it had a bit too much acid for his palate.

BH Rose

I was excited to move on to the rosé.  I’m not typically a rosé drinker but the M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Rosé from IGP Pays d’Oc, France intrigued me.  I’m always open to expanding my horizons.  We have a special love for French wines and this one did not disappoint.  It was smooth and actually quite good for a rosé.

BN Pinot Noir

Next was Caiden’s Vineyards Block Nine Pinot Noir from St. Helena, California. Bushmaster declared it OK for a Napa wine.  I found it light bodied with discernible wood and smoke flavor.

Tapiz Cab

Completing the tasting as a heavy red was Tapiz Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendoza, Argentina. Both Bushmaster and I rated it as just OK.  Everything was pretty much on the back end.  We determined that we much prefer the Argentinian Malbecs over this one.

All in all a fun tasting with a nice variety of wines.  Of course we’ll be back!

Old Wine

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Sometimes you have to take a chance.  And that’s what we did.  Or rather Bushmaster did.  When I was away at a conference this past April, Bushmaster placed a bid on a case of Cabernet Franc from Meranda-Nixon Winery during the PBS Action Auction.  When he went to pick up his winnings, he couldn’t help but peruse the clearance wine bin.

Ever since our trip to Bordeaux, we both have been in love with the French reds. So when he discovered this 1990 Bourgogne Leroy from Bourgogne, Burgundy, France, he couldn’t resist.  Of course, the $7 markdown price on a formerly $100 bottle of wine virtually made his decision for him.  As he said when he first showed me the bottle, “It’s either going to be really good or it’s going to be really bad, but for $7, I had to take a chance.”

We put it away for a special occasion.  Our daughter’s recent visit for her birthday seemed to fit the bill.  We joked about how her celebration wine was older than she was.

It doesn’t seem right to go straight to reporting on how it all turned out, without providing some background about this 27 year old wine.

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Domain Leroy was founded in 1868 by Francois Leroy and has remained in the family for four generations.  Francois’ great granddaughter, Lalou Bize-Leroy, currently runs the estate.  The Leroy name is associated with a prestigious history and leading wine making. From the very beginning, the domaine has been farmed biodynamically and is now certified by ECOCERT.

Our bottle was a Pinot Noir, described as “light and perfumed”.  Wine-Searcher reports that Domaine Leroy Bourgogne Rouge 1990 was last available in December 2011, with an average price of $67.  A bottle sold more recently in July 2016 on WineBid for $95.

Certainly we were in the presence of something great.

We were hopeful as I removed the foil.

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I noticed that the cork was loose and then with the first turn of the wine key, it slid down the neck of the bottle.  Not a good sign.  Unable to retrieve it, I succumbed to my only other option — to push it into the wine bottle.

At this point, our expectations had lowered, but we weren’t ready to abandon all hope.  I poured a round of tastes.  Having witnessed the unfortunate uncorking, some party guests opted to forgo.  Those of us who were brave forged ahead and then compared notes.

The general consensus was that it tasted like dirt.  While “earthy” can be an attribute some wine drinkers enjoy, this was going just a bit too far.  “Light and perfumed” didn’t even come close.  I struggled through a glass before I gave up. One of my daughter’s friends actually didn’t seem to mind it and we were pleased to see that someone was able to find some appreciation for the wine.

Unfortunately, age did not work in our favor, but we would have never known if we hadn’t tried it.  It could have turned out to be phenomenal. It was still a fun experience and added to the mirth of the celebration. We’re certainly intrigued by Domaine Leroy and we’re not about to stop scouring the clearance bins. But next time, I think I’m going to check WineBid first!