Boathouse Vineyards

This was a first for me, a winery that can be visited by car or boat, as the tasting room is located on the waterway connecting North Lake Leelanau with South Lake Leelanau. Michigan is the pleasure boat capital of the country with all of its coastal areas and marinas. Boathouse Vineyards has capitalized on this and it was a new winery for us to visit. If you haven’t discovered it by now, I guess I am rather gregarious and when I am at a winery I like to take notes and my Bride and I were handed over to none other than Dave Albert, an ex-auto guy (go figure in Michigan) who decided to be in the wine business. What a pleasure it was to talk with him, his passion for what he is attempting is marvelous. He has developed twenty-one acres (ninety-nine percent vinifera) and of that acreage half is devoted to Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Not only was there a crowd of people tasting, there was a small concert going on outside between the tasting room and the docks, it was like one big party.

Boathouse Vineyards is not a large winery, but they are dedicated to making the most of what they have. They were offering seventeen different wines and two ciders the day that we were there. Even with the crowd Dave was answering all of my questions and offering more wines for us to taste. He is a great business man and is using French Road Cellars for the winemaking. While French Road Cellars sounds like a competing winery, they are in fact the first custom-crusher in Michigan and they are aimed to assist the new wineries that are developing each year in the area, and they are planning to eventually to be a twenty-thousand case facility, and this is a rather common business in other parts of the country.

Did I tell you that we were having fun, I can tell you that my Bride was getting quite animated, and that is a sure sign that she is enjoying the moment. We started off with some white wines, first the Pinot Grigio 2016 which had a nice soft color, but a little light on the nose. Then I requested to try the Dry Dock Riesling 2016 and my Bride gave me a funny look, because she is not partial to the Riesling wines that she has tried from Michigan, and she was even impressed by this Estate Grown wine that was dry in a more Continental style with a delightfully long aftertaste. I had to try the Seas the Day 2015, because the name alone tickled my sensibilities and it was a blend of Muscat, Chardonnay, Auxerrois and Pinot Gris and it was sweeter than I prefer, but not overtly sweet and well balanced to my taste. The last white wine, we had was suggested by Dave and it was the Boathouse Bubbly 2016 and it was an off-dry Riesling that had been aerated, it was interesting, but not my glass of wine. Dave then switched us over to the red wines and we started off with Sunset 2014 which was non-oaked and each vintage will be different as it is a blend of all the left over red wines, and this one was Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Regent. We tried the Pinot Noir 2013 made from Dijon Clones and aged for nine months in French Oak and I found that this persnickety growing grape made a lighter wine, but as the vines mature, I think that they may bring more nuance to the wine. The Cabernet Franc 2012 was the wine that my Bride was chomping at the bit to try and this wine was aged for nineteen months in French Oak and it was delightful and well balanced. The winner of the day and it may be the dearest bottle of Michigan wine that I have ever bought and it was well worth the bottles that we took home with us, was the Merlot 2012. Can you say awesome and surprising, it was a perfect bottle of Merlot and almost made me forget where I was, after nineteen months in French Oak this wine won me over, and after looking over the tasting sheets, I guess it won others over as well, as it received the Gold Medal from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. We may not cruise back there by boat, but I guarantee that we will be driving back there for a return visit and more space in the trunk of the car.

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Reunion 2017

Woodrow Wilson Junior High School had their Seventh reunion and this one had Deja-vu written all over it. Most people have high school reunions, but in Southwest Detroit we celebrate our Junior High. I am not sure how many have gone to all seven of the reunions, but I know that I have. The first one was kind of an ad-hoc affair where we met at a bar and it was a good time. The second one was an organized affair that one thinks of, for a reunion, but our reunions are open-year parties; so, we have had graduates from the Fifties, Sixties, Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, until the school was changed to an academy. The third reunion I had the honor of being the chairman, but I was blessed to have a great group of people assisting and the groundwork was set for the years that followed. The reunion besides being a great way to see people that one grew up with, there have been teachers that have attended some of the events, we have had live music at times courtesy of the professional and semi-professional musicians that have walked the halls of the school and on a more solemn note there is a break in the good times, and the attendees take one of the helium balloons that adorn the tables as centerpieces and write the name of a friend and former graduate that is no longer with us, and the balloons are sent up to the heavens after a prayer.

Since the inception the entrance price was twenty-five dollars, and for that one received the entertainment, food, beer, soft drinks and sometimes wine. The food is set up buffet-style with salads, breads, vegetables and starch and a choice of three entrée choices. The dinner choices this year was roast beef, mostaccioli with a meat sauce and “city-chicken.” “City Chicken” for the uninitiated is a skewer of veal and pork cubes that have been breaded and then baked and finished off with a gravy, it may be a Michigan dish for all I know, but I remember having it as a kid at some of my friend’s homes. There were a couple of sheet cakes for dessert, one frosted with the school upon it, and the other extolling the theme of Southwest Detroit. Afterwards one of our grads offered to take photographs of the attendees, and even with the attendance down there were plenty of group photos. Many were done by individual years, but alas, my classmates had prior commitments and we usually had the largest group, so the few of us that did attend were grouped with all of the Sixties alumni. Our photographer worked all evening and she did a tremendous job, as she even had time to take individual sittings, couples and then there were even some groups that wished to moon the camera. We also had a volunteer videographer who has been posting his work for the last couple of years, including some fun videos where one-person morphs into another person, and I feel sorry for the young lady that had to morph into herself from me and my moustache.

There was more Deja-vu as there was a repeat from the second reunion where a group had a magnum of Gallo Moscato and they were not aware that it did not have a screw-cap closure, so as they were hunting around for a corkscrew they were sent my way, as everyone surmised that I would have one, which of course I did. I handed them my waiter style corkscrew from my pocket and they had never used one before, so I did the honors, after all, who would want to see anyone parched on a summer day? Another example of Deja-vu is that I do stick out like a sore thumb, even with my dark indigo denim trousers, because I have my hat and a sport coat, alright I admit I wear a sport coat like a young lady carries a purse, because it is the only way to have everything that I might need without having bulging pockets on my trousers. The final Deja-vu is that I bring wine to the event, and nobody is surprised at that. It was a warm summer day/night and I decided to have a Sauvignon Blanc and I traveled with a wine glass, because it just wouldn’t work with a plastic or Styrofoam tumbler. I had a bottle of Quintessence Pouilly Fume 2015 from the Upper Loire Valley of France. This is one of the areas where Sauvignon Blanc really shines and shows off the typical flint and limestone of the terroir of the region, alas this wine was a pale representation of what I was hoping for. I also found out afterwards that it is imported by Bronco Wine Company and they are known for their popular priced wines without a lot of nuance, but they fit the niche market that they have developed. It was in my cellar, but I don’t recall purchasing it, but it did the job that I wanted, namely a nice chilled white wine while I enjoyed the festivities. Here is looking forward to the Eighth Reunion.

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Boskydel Vineyard

Bosky means “befuddled with drink, inebriated” as once explained by Bernie Rink the proprietor of Boskydel Vineyard in the Leelanau Peninsula. I had to visit this winery, the first bonded winery, in the area and I read that the winery is going to retire. The Leelanau Peninsula and the adjoining Traverse area are now teeming with wineries in the state of Michigan, but in 1976 there was only Boskydel. The view from this difficult and off the beaten track destination was excellent, but there are some that call Mr. Rink, the Wine Nazi ala Jerry Seinfeld, for not wanting tour busses of visitors stopping to taste wines at his small and eclectic tasting room. He has been called a curmudgeon and I guess when one is in their nineties, that is a well-earned title. I wish that he had been present at the tasting room when we were there.

The tasting room reminded me of what I can imagine the early days of Napa were like, before it became a tourist destination. Posters and knick-knacks that vie for attention from the small tasting bar. Another throw-back to the old days, is that the tastings were gratis and that was very refreshing and a change of pace. Boskydel produces about five to six thousand gallons of wine per year from their own estate. They specialize in Cold-hardy grapes, the French-American hybrids created for colder climates, even though the area shares the same latitude as some of the greatest wine production areas of the world. The day that we were there, one of the sons was handling the tasting room and he was taciturn and not prone for any conversation, which made the moment not as memorable, but I can appreciate the fact that he could just be sad that they were closing down, and I get that.

The winery was offering several wines and some deep discounts on case purchases. The wines offered that day were Vignoles 2015, Soleil Blanc 2016, Seyval Blanc 2016, De Chaunac 2013, Roi des Rouges 2013, Rosé de Chaunac 2013 and Rosé du Cru 2013. We would have tried them all, but since we were not paying for the tasting, we felt that it was rather gauche. I will mention two of the wines that we tried as these are grapes that one does not usually encounter. The De Chaunac 2013 was described as ‘semi-dry,” but I would call it more semi-sweet and that is what I expected, from other Cold-hardy red wines that I have tried. It was very pleasant and I think that it would pair very well with more casual dinners or just by itself and some friends. The Roi des Rouges 2013 had more personality and a bit of spice that I found very attractive. This wine is a blend of Marquette, Noiret and Geneva Red, which was developed at Cornell University and was originally named GR7. The Noiret is what gives the wine the peppery spice flavor that I have found to be enjoyable and would pair very well with some zestier dishes or once again by itself. We left the winery with some wine and with some glasses as keepsakes from the very first winery in the Leelanau Peninsula.

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Bear with Me

This is just my way of giving an apology to the other bloggers, as I have been away on holidays. While I did take my laptop and my phone, I neglected my normal daily duties of keeping up with the writings of the others which is not my usual practice. It appears that between my holiday and then scrambling with my attempting to create a cash flow when I returned, it has been eighteen days since I have seen the working part of my blog from my publisher. I am in the process of catching up.

I wrote a couple of weeks of articles in anticipation of our latest trip, as I do like to keep a steady list of my ramblings out there. I was just remiss that I could not handle all of the responses and readings like I would normally do. There were too many places to visit and too many people to be with, so all of my Social Media endeavors had to take a back seat. I thank my Bride for allowing me some time to get some things accomplished and I will be back soon to a steadier stream of activity, but wine, friends, family and food do get my attention, so I don’t want anyone to think that I was snubbing or ignoring them. I also wish to thank those that kept up and approved of my writings without the quid pro quo, you are the best.


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A Cab and a Petite Sirah

I am sure that most people must think that I am really strange, there I am at a wine tasting and I keep my glassful of wine, until they empty a bottle and then I take the bottle and the glass to my little impromptu photography studio with a bland piece of white paper in the background to take a photograph. I guess I do look pretty odd, but it makes me happy and the wine has a little longer to breath, before I taste it. At least that is my story and I will stick with it. Some of the regulars are getting used to me a D. Vine Fine Wines.

The last two wines of the evening’s tastes were both from Napa Valley. The Heritance Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 was from Palm Bay International/A Taub Family Company, and the Taub family has been in the wine business since just after Prohibition ended. The name Heritance is an amalgamation of Heritage and Inheritance as their web site proclaims. This is a wine that is 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot and the winery uses fruit that has been harvested from St. Helena, Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford including grapes from the Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard. The wine is aged for eighteen months in French oak. It had a full body and most pleasant finish and I think it could use some additional cellaring, maybe another five to ten years.

The last wine of the evening was very impressive to me, but then I am partial to big wines. The Retro Cellars Elevation Howell Mountain Petite Sirah 2012 was a great wine from Mike and Kara Dunn, and Mike is the son of Randy Dunn, so there is some great wine making in his genes. This wine is ninety percent Old Vine Petite Sirah and the balance is Syrah. Sixty percent of the grapes harvested come from the Park Muscatine Vineyard which was established in the 1890’s, hence the claim of Old Vines. The wine was aged for thirty months in all new French oak and it had a big bold taste and a great finish. My kind of wine for a fine winter meal and I think it could handle ten to twenty years in the cellar and still be a powerhouse. Everyone that asked my opinion, this was the wine that I touted, clearly from an innocent bystander opinion. We were having such a good time, that I had to remind the staff that I had to pay for the tasting, but it was well worth the investment.

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Two Red Blends

I had left the house earlier than normal to go to the wine tasting and I snagged the last chair at the bar. It was another evening there of a social media social night and was the placed packed. One other gentleman came in after I did, who is semi-associated with the wine shop and a fellow blogger and I asked him if we should go and commandeer a table from one of the adjoining restaurants and he declined. It was another busy night at D. Vine Fine Wines in Livonia.

The first of the two blended red wines were the Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvee 2013, one of the oldest family continuous owned and operating wineries in California, if not the country, since they were established in 1858. Their vineyard is the Rhinefarm, and from that name and the winery’s name you can figure out where they emigrated from. The claim is that for a sobriety check the Sonoma County police ask the driver to read aloud “Gundlach Bundschu Gewurztraminer” and if they can, they can continue on. The Rhinefarm is located up in the Maycamas Mountain Range which separates Sonoma and Napa. This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot and aged for fourteen months in mostly French oak. I have had this wine several times over the years and it is a good safe bet.

The second red blend made me think of math lessons in high school, as “apriori” is a term meaning “from the beginning” or a fancy way of saying deductive reasoning. The Apriori Proprietary Red 2014 was from fruit all harvested from Napa Valley. Their proprietary blend is a mixture of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah. The wine was fermented for thirty days in Stainless Steel and then aged for eleven months in neutral French Oak. There were 2,565 cases made of this wine which is not a large number for a Napa winery. All in all, the two blended wines I thought would be excellent with a dinner.

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Belissima is Italian for “beautiful woman” and it is a line of three sparkling wines from Italy and Christie Brinkley. The Christie Brinkley who smiled at us, from my era, on the cover of over five-hundred magazine covers. Another celebrity that is making wine and I had the pleasure of trying two of the three wines the other night at D. vine wines, a wine shop near me, that has wine classes on Tuesday night, so on occasion I go and try some new wines. Though Christie is not featured on the wine labels, another beauty is and that is a version of Sandro Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” but in small print if one gets past Venus, one can read “Con Amore, Christie Brinkley” which would translate as “With Love, Christie Brinkley.”

The first wine that we tasted was Bellissima Sparkling Rosé Wine NV and it also proclaims as all of the wines do that it is made with organic grapes. The wine’s fruit comes from the Treviso-Veneto region of Italy and since the wine does not say Prosecco, the fruit is labeled as Glera. This wine had a pretty pink foam as it was being poured into the wine glass, but there was not a lot of bubbles emanating from the bottom of the glass. The wine spent forty-five days in secondary fermentation in an autoclave, which must be another style of producing the Charmat Method of sparkling wines.

The second bottle was Bellissima Zero Sugar Sparkling Wine NV also from the same region of Treviso-Veneto and it is also pure Glera. This wine also had very little in the way of bubbles and was a pale straw color. This wine spent its secondary fermentation of seven months in the autoclave. Of the two wines, I found the Rosé to have a better nose and a much smoother taste and finish, as the Zero Sugar was bone-dry and not appealing to me. The third wine that Ms. Brinkley produces is a Prosecco, which we did not try.

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