Old City Hall

Old City Hall Restaurant is in Bay City, Michigan and it is located in the building that was the old city hall of the city. We ended up in Bay City, because I was tagging along going as a guest for a board meeting, the dinner was Thursday night and then the meeting was Friday morning. I had been near the city before, but had never been there and the restaurant was only about two blocks from the hotel where the meeting would be held and we were staying at. Everything was prearranged, so I just went with the flow and I tried to be a wall-flower. Though it was the beginning of a long weekend that we were on to celebrate our anniversary, so I was doing research on the spots where we were going to go, and most of the time my research is fruitful.

I had looked at the menu of Old City Hall and there was much that had piqued my interest. The dinner for the board meeting was being held in a private side room that had a bar as well, just for the group. The menu for the evening had been pre-selected and they were fine choices. Of course, yours truly is kind of “high maintenance” and I had to ask for substitutions starting with the salad course. They were offering salads with three different dressings, Ranch, Blue Cheese and Raspberry Vinaigrette; and I was able to get Italian dressing, just a simple request and that was easy. There were three choices for our entrée offerings. Salmon braised in fish stock with a Thyme and Citrus Crème Fraiche, which I did not see being served near me. The T-Bone Steak with Roasted Garlic Fingerling Potatoes and green beans seemed to be the choice of the majority. The last choice of the evening was Chicken Oscar, a variation of the classic Veal Oskar where this was a sautéed chicken breast topped with blue crabmeat, asparagus and a white wine butter sauce served with garlic mashed potatoes and green beans and that is what my Bride had ordered. This is where my chutzpah really came to the forefront, because I asked the server that I had noticed that they had on the regular menu Duck Confit served with a “lobi” which was a mixture of beans. Our server said that it would not be a problem, as the duck was priced less than the dishes being served and I was a happy camper, especially because it was prepared perfectly and it was one of the largest servings I had ever seen. I had been prepared to pay for my dinner if there would have been any problems with my substitution.

We started off the evening having some wine by the glass during the cocktail hour period and we had a most pleasant Starborough Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2015 from Marlborough region of New Zealand. Marlborough is the main wine growing region of New Zealand and Sauvignon Blanc is almost synonymous with Marlborough. It is a fresh and flinty tasting wine that is just so refreshing and a great way to start off a meal. We finished off the meal with Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Port 2010. Taylor Fladgate is one of the most accessible of Port wines from Oporto in the Douro Region of Portugal. Late Bottled Vintage Ports are almost issued every year as compared to Vintage Port and the Late Bottled Vintage Ports stay in the barrel between four and six years and is a great way to appreciate Port without the major expense of a vintage declaration. Port wines are a mysterious blend of many varietals and perhaps the only one to know exactly would be the winemaker, but some of the vines have intermingled over the years, so it may be moot to be able to totally identify the grapes. The most common and traditional grapes are: Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roritz, Tinta Cao, Sousao, Tinta Amarela and Mourisco Tinto. The wine that we had between the two that I have mentioned I purchase separately as I did not want any complaints that I was taking advantage of the largesse of the board members, even though after they had found out that we were celebrating our anniversary. I selected a wine, even before I found out that I could have the Duck Confit, so it was not a Pinot Noir wine. The restaurant had on their wine carte Louis Jadot Puligny-Montrachet 2011 and that is not a Chardonnay wine encountered that often. Puligny-Montrachet is in the Cote de Beaune region of Burgundy and it is home to four Grand Cru and seventeen Premier Cru appellations. While both red and white wines are found in Puligny-Montrachet, it is the white wines that are famed. It was worth the added expense to have that wine with the meal. The next day we had breakfast and lunch with the board and after the meeting was completed we were off to enjoy the rest of the weekend.


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Two Milestones

My one-thousandth article is now published. I am sure that that it is considered inconsequential to some, but I think it is a big deal. It has been a slow learning curve and finding ways to get comfortable and introducing enough information about wine without getting too technical. My conceit in writing is not to lecture or impress with my vast knowledge (that is funny), but as if we were sitting at a table with a bottle of wine and a couple of glasses and I remember a moment where wine is part of the memory. I guess I am that relative that keeps telling stories, that you can’t quite avoid because of being related.

This will be a rather short article, only because as my Canadian relatives would say, I am on holidays, or what we Yanks call vacation. We are taking a long weekend that started off last night with a dinner for a conference that I am tagging along with and after the conference we are driving across the state to visit an area that I have never been to before and then will be more wine and food pairings to write about. Not that I live a glamorous life, but I try to enjoy what I can. I joke that I must be doing something wrong, because all the wine I tend to write about has been paid for by us and not solicited, maybe one day, but if it happens, my Bride would be surprised and thrilled.

Bridal Swing
The other milestone that is happening is that we are celebrating our twenty-first anniversary and we started the celebration with a Louis Jadot Puligny-Montrachet 2011, but more about the wine when the time comes to discuss that moment. Right now, I know that I have one more year than…
“It was twenty years ago today
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play
They’ve been going in and out of style
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile.”
…and I feel that covers me pretty well.

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MWWC#28: Smile

“Gray skies are gonna clear up
Put on a happy face
Brush off the clouds and cheer up
Put on a happy face.”

wine-stain Monthly Wine Challenge

The play and movie “Bye, Bye Birdie” may be considered dated, but so am I when it comes to music, I guess. This is the twenty-eighth edition of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge and Beth of Traveling Wine Chick was the last winner and her distinct honor was to come up with the theme of this entry which is “smile.”


Smile is a great theme, as I think all wine drinkers are happy and why not? They get to enjoy the nectar of the Gods and wine has been around for ages. I would venture to say that almost every article I have written about wines is merged with happy occasions and I tend to even smile as I relate the events. I can only think of four events that would make a wine lover not smile. The first is when you have a bad bottle of wine, either it is too old, improperly stored or the cork did not do its job properly and thankfully this is a rare time. The second is going to a restaurant that you are looking forward to trying for the first time, and that usually means a monumental dinner tab at the end of the evening and the evening left you wanting or expecting more. The third would be when you are enjoying a wonderful bottle of wine and you realize that you are drinking the last glass of the wine. The last time that a wine drinker would not smile is when you realize that you are enjoying the last bottle of that case you bought and have cellared for ages and you can’t go back for more. Otherwise we are some of the happiest folks, especially when one is enjoying the wine with a great friend or friends.

Pazzo Wine
Smile is a theme that could go in many directions, but I always talk about how great wine enhances a dinner or a party and I have been lucky over the years to have dined at many stellar and unique restaurants. At The French Laundry with their spectacular wine list, I just asked the sommelier that evening to suggest a wine that is popular with the locals and he brought us a bottle of Pleiades VIII Old Vines of Marin County a truly unique wine that is non-vintage (bottled in July 1999) and is a blend of different red and white varieties and each issue of this wine is totally different from the prior bottling. What a smile I had that evening. And the evening that I was given the first glass of Screaming Eagle by some men that kept disturbing our dinner, yes I did smile afterwards and forgave them for the diversion.

Project Happiness Syrah Lodi 2011
What I am going to mention right now is some wines that make me smile because of their label or their name. I mean I am a very eclectic wine drinker. There was a wine that I had called Pazzo 2004, which in Italian means crazy and is made by Bacio Divino Cellars of Napa, California, and the winery in English translates into the Divine Kiss. This was a proprietary red blend of basically Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as other varieties. This was not an expensive wine, but it was fun, then there is the equally fun and not expensive Project Happiness Syrah 2011 from Oreana Winery of Lodi, California and that big yellow smiley face on the label will make you smile, even if you say to yourself I can’t buy that. The third wine that brings a smile to my face is a winery from South Africa with a name that immediately made our dear friend Ms. Yoga buy me one year. The wine is Goats Do Roam 2002 which is a great take off, of one of my favorite types of wine Cotes-du-Rhone. She knew that, and that is why she bought it for me, and the winery actually raises goats on the property and makes cheese from the animals. This wine is a blend of Grenache, Shiraz (sounds like a Rhone wine so far) and some Pinotage, the famous varietal of South Africa.

I also have to smile as this was almost my one-thousandth article to be published, but if I had delayed it, I might have been disqualified and I have only missed one entry in the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge from the beginning of this wonderful change from my usual writings. I also have to say that another reason that I am smiling right now, is that when this article publishes my Bride and I will be off for a little getaway to celebrate another wedding anniversary. Yes, I am a very lucky man and that keeps me smiling even more.
“Take off that gloomy mask of tragedy
It’s not your style
You’ll look so good that you’ll be glad
You decided to smile.”

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A New Car and Wine

I always like to hear about good customer service as this maintains customer loyalty. I have mentioned enough times that I was in retail all of my life (but not wine retail) and I think of the little things that one can do to keep the customer happy. One of the adjunct services that I used to do was to keep abreast with the local restaurants around the metropolitan area, so that I could potentially send someone to a new place that they might not have been aware. If they were travelling to a city that I had been, I could also make some recommendations there as well.


People would also ask me about wines, not that I am a maven, but I try. Well just a couple of days after helping The Messenger pick out some wines for her Thanksgiving table, she sent me a photo of another bottle of wine. It seems that she had gone and selected a new automobile and when she picked it up, she was given a bottle of wine as a token of appreciation and she asked me my opinion. She even joked that it may make another article, and yes I think she is right.

The Messenger sent me a photograph of the label of the wine and asked me about it. The wine is Tenuta Santome Cabernet Sauvignon Marca Trevigiana IGT 2013. The winery was new to me and so was the IGT. The IGT stands for Indicazione Geograficatica Tipica and well, I knew the region Marca Trevigiana in Veneto for Prosecco, this designation refers to wines made in the district that are not Prosecco. The IGT covers any red, white or rosé, a blend or a varietal and the wine can be still, sparkling or sweet, so it allows a lot of leeway if the winery wants to do something different and in this case that are using Cabernet Sauvignon grapes for the wine. The principal grapes found in Veneto are Prosecco/Glera and Pinot Grigio, but now Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay is also used and there are red grapes that are new to the area as well like Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. So even though The Messenger is not a wine drinker, especially dry red wines, she has received a nice bottle to put out for company during a dinner in the future, and I would say that it was a nice gift.

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Carryout Pizza

I was having a relaxing day working on my blog and a bunch of small projects that I can get into on occasion. The only thing better than writing about wines is enjoying wines, but the day had been dry. I am, unfortunately, not one of the writers that is always surrounded and immersed in wine and there are plenty of days and even nights when I do not have a glass of wine. On the other hand, my Bride had a very busy day and had been running around trying to keep everyone happy and even though we had Italian food the evening before she was craving pizza.


She was not in the mood to go out, as she wanted to relax at home, which she so enjoys. She went to one of the small local chains of pizzas to get a pie. Michigan if you are not aware is home to two giant pizza corporations and no we don’t get their pizzas, but the pizza business is huge in this state, and I really can’t speak for other states, as I have not had pizza outside of the Detroit area, except years ago when I was very young, an uncle of mine opened the first pizzeria in St. Catherine’s, Ontario because he saw what a gold mine they were here in Detroit. She got a pizza that I would approve of, just tons of meat, onions, mushrooms, olives, peppers and onions, as she knows that I don’t like frou-frou pizzas. She likes to eat a pizza with a knife and fork and I just like the grab a big slice and fold it, just like I was taught back in the Fifties, did I just say that? ; of course that must be a mistake on my part.

Well I went down to the cellar to see what I could find and believe it or not, I found something that I thought would be fun to try. It was a wine that I had bought when it was brand new and sometimes one puts the bottle aside in the cellar and it gets forgotten about. Of course I got nervous, because the cork broke apart and I could neither work the cork out with that wire contraption that I have and I couldn’t poke the cork into the bottle. So I slowly worked a hole through the cork, then I got a decanter, a funnel and a coffee filter and poured the wine through the filter. The aroma was wonderful and the deep color was fascinating as it filled the decanter, no sign of aging. I had grabbed a bottle of San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Riserva 1986. After two years in oak, and one in the bottle, then all those years in the cellar there was still heat in that first taste, the Sangiovese grape has enormous life to it, as I have observed over the years. You could never tell without seeing the label that it was a thirty-year-old wine, so now I am really looking forward to some of my heavy duty Italians that have been resting for decades. See what a pizza night can cause. As a postscript to this story, we didn’t finish the bottle that evening and the next night, the wine was a bit tired compared to the first night, but still very drinkable.

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“It’s In Your Jeans”

Over the years I have attended and sometimes participated in many charity events. I recently attended a new one called “It’s In Your Jeans” and I even wore a pair of denims to the event and earlier that day at work. The main thrust of the event was to raise money and awareness of the fight against colon, prostate and testicular cancer. Men being “men” tend to avoid talking about diseases of this sort and the dreaded test, which is more psychological taboo, then really discomforting. They also have blood tests that help and I speak first hand, not that I have any of the diseases, but since I have had over a dozen kidney stone attacks since my senior year in college, I have had a urologist for years. This charity enables those that cannot afford to have the test, to be able to. The fund raiser was rather unique in that it was held at a restaurant, and they had guest bartenders who worked the bar for tips and that is where the money was raised. Since I knew the two bartenders for that particular night, we went and had dinner and contributed as well.


The event was held at Magdaleno Ristorante in Wyandotte and I have written about being there before. The restaurant was packed when I got there, and it was still going strong when we left. We both started off having the house salads, my Bride had the Champagne Vinaigrette and I had my usual Italian dressing. Then the fresh bread with a whipped type of sauce that one could use in lieu of just butter. My Bride surprised me and order Veal Marsala and I think that I surprised her, because I tried one of their specials for the evening which was Perch Piccata and both dishes came with a side of pasta. We did not have room for any dessert, in fact after dinner we strolled the whole downtown area, before we drove home.

The selection of wine was a bit trickier, it is easy to go with a white wine for both veal and fish. I was a bit daunted because of the Marsala and the Piccata which has lemon, butter and capers, but I know that my Bride enjoys a Chardonnay and they had a decent wine for us. The J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Arroyo Seco Chardonnay 2014 was up to the task. This is not a fancy Chardonnay but it has some breeding and comes from one of my favorite areas in California. Arroyo Seco AVA is in the middle of the Salinas Valley of the Monterey area and to me, it is always easy to select a Chardonnay from this area without any disappointment. This particular wine is made from Dijon clones and the wine is aged for seven to nine months in an assortment of American, Hungarian and French Oak. We both were happy and contented and before we left we congratulated the guest bartenders for bringing out a crowd of people for the event.

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Thanksgiving Eh

Here in the United States of America we were celebrating Columbus Day, south of the border only for Detroiters, for the rest of the country north of us in Canada they were celebrating Thanksgiving. My grandparents could not get entry into the States after the Ottoman genocide of the Armenians, but they were allowed entry into Canada, so I have an affinity for Canada, and I have always said that if I stayed there for about a week, I could probably sound like a native and speak the language. I diverge as I often do, but I received a request from one of my cast of semi-regulars The Messenger asking if I could help her select a wine for her Thanksgiving dinner. You see The Messenger and I went to college together when she was a student, and she is still an American citizen living abroad as they say. I was grateful and “honoured” that she asked.



She gave me the menu for the meal, starting off with appetizers with assorted cheese and crackers. She had selected bleu cheese with cranberries and cinnamon, Camembert and Boursin with garlic and herbs along with fresh strawberries and Concorde grapes. She also had selected a Kalamata Olive and Fig Tapenade and a Prosecco Sparkling Wine Salami that I had not heard of, but sounded interesting. She was making a turkey with a cranberry glaze and several sides that one would normally find in a meal like this. The last side dish I thought sounded interesting and different with the meal and that was Pierogis with Kielbasa and onions. Then of course there would be desserts, but they were being brought by some of the guests.


She sent me to a site to look at the wines being offered, because she uses a company that delivers and I was surprised to find that they offered any wines, because Ontario is quite strict about the distribution of alcoholic beverages, but they are relaxing some of their laws. We looked at several different wines as she was interested in a white wine that would be easy to drink, because she is not really a wine drinker. She found one wine and I went to look at it and I told her that it would be perfect for her party and that everyone could enjoy it, that I thought would also pair with the assorted dishes and it would be festive and it was a new wine for me as well. Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore NV was the wine she had found. I knew the Santa Margherita winery as they are quite famous for their Pinot Grigio and it made sense that they would also make a Prosecco since they are in the Veneto region of Italy. In 2009 Prosecco di Conegliano-Vadobbiadene was promoted to DOCG and the Glera grape officially is now known as Prosecco. This wine had everything going for it in regards to heritage and district, and even though I did not have a chance to try it, I know that I shall look for it to try at a later date.

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