Stafford’s Perry Hotel

We found ourselves up in Petoskey, Michigan again for a few days of business and pleasure.  My Bride was attending a board meeting and I was the tag-along spouse, who for me it was all pleasure and then she would also end the trip with some pleasure time.  Petoskey for those that are not familiar with the State of Michigan would be located in the northwest quadrant of the Lower Peninsula on the water and had a long history of originally fur trapping and trading, to lumber and limestone, to now a great year-round resort destination for all of the pleasures that the state has to offer.  Some of the Nick Adams stories by Ernest Hemmingway are based in the area, and a couple of diverse luminaries would be the famed Civil War historian Bruce Catton and the actor Hal Smith, who if the name does not ring a bell, but you are of a certain age bracket will remember the lovable inebriated Otis who was part of the charm of the old Andy Griffith Show that may run for ever, because of cable television.  I am not sure of how many states in the Union have a State Rock, the Petoskey Stone belongs to Michigan is still a stone that lures the hobbyist.  The Perry Hotel was built in 1899 during the infancy of tourism for the entire region and was one of some twenty luxury hotels that were built to take advantage of this new-found business, and it is the only one that is still in operation and a year-round destination.  One of the original reasons that it was considered a luxury hotel, besides it views of the water, is that unlike most of the buildings of the day, the hotel was built of brick, and was considered fire proof.

The Perry Hotel was the site of the board meeting and all of the participants were staying there as well.  There was an afternoon meeting, followed by a cocktail hour and then a dinner, the next day there was a breakfast, another meeting and then everyone went on their merry way, though we decided to stay up there afterwards and relax as it was a five-hour drive to get there.  The custom of the hotel, when they have a major group is to turn over the H.O. Rose Dining Room over for their use.  During the cocktail hour portion of the night, a large table was set up with an assortment of hot and cold appetizers for everyone to nosh on.  Since this is Michigan, the House-Smoked Whitefish was delicious, but so was the Smoked Salmon, and I did have to have some fruit, vegetables, cheese and crackers.  The dinner for the evening started with a Michigan Salad, which has some cherries mixed in, if you are new to the state.  The entrée for the evening was a version of Surf & Turf, which had salmon and a petite filet mignon.  The dessert was a Chocolate Mousse presentation, and everyone was well sated.  After the dinner, my Bride has a long history of instigating the time-honored Michigan practice of playing Euchre and they found some suitable tables on the porch verandah just off the dining room, so I snuck back to the room to make notes and catch up on the computer.

I found it interesting that the Stafford’s Perry Hotel as well as the other hotels in their limited local chain have the Stafford’s Wine Collection in conjunction with the Oakbow Cellars of Napa Valley.  The collection consists of a Pinot Noir from Carneros, a Chardonnay from Russian River, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley and a Sauvignon Blanc from Rutherford; they all sounded interesting and delightful, but none of them were offered at the bar for the party.  I guess these wines were selected to be the featured wines, so as not to compete with all of the local Michigan wines in the area.  We started off with Cardiff Vineyards California Chardonnay 2016.  This was a softer and lighter Chardonnay and I would opine that it had a short aging period in Stainless Steel, because it was not buttery, but a bit fruit forward and a touch sweet, as I watched, it was a good crowd pleaser.  The red wine that I chose for my Bride and I for dinner was Domaine des Pasquiers Cotes du Rhone 2016.  Domaine des Pasquiers offers a couple of different wines from this region, and this was their basic wine, a blend of Grenache and Syrah.  The grapes spent from ten to twelve months aging, before bottling and it was a decent wine from the region.  Over the years I have always selected a Cotes du Rhone if it was offered, especially from a limited wine list, and I have only been disappointed a couple of times.  Our trip was off to a great start.

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A Night In

I am going to discuss a dinner we had prepared on some planks from a firm called Beyond Salt and Pepper.  Most of the time the dinners that I discuss are big parties that we host or attend, or restaurants, either for pleasure or in groups.  Most of the time that we are home, we will have something fast, like a carry-out of assorted ethnic foods, because we find the wine selection much better here; or my Bride will make a big dinner that will give us some left-over dinners for a couple days running, especially since sometimes she has projects with some of the charitable organizations that she assists in.  There are days where the Raconteur is lonely and maybe that is what makes him the Raconteur that he is, when he encounters people.

My Bride and I both came from working class families, so our dinners, even the fancy ones, never have plated dishes that a foodie would photograph.  I was offered some samples from this company called Beyond Salt and Pepper, and that offer these planks that are used for cooking, but the planks have been saturated and then sealed in an assortment of beverages i.e. Chardonnay, Merlot and Bourbon and they are sealed in a very thick mil plastic to keep the planks moist until they are used.  If you sniff the plastic enclosed planks you can still smell the cedar and the liquid that they have been soaked in, so it is a real treat.  I can also say that we did not use the barbeque once this summer, so the meal was done on the broiler.  My Bride started off with the Chardonnay planks and prepared some nice portions of Salmon with a simple marinade so as to accompany the flavor of the cooking surface.  The dinner was excellent and I think that she feels more confident to try the planks now with some meat, and I will presume some filets in the future.

Just so that you shouldn’t worry, we also had wine with the dinner.  By now you may have noticed that I never write just about food.  We had a bottle of Michael Pozzan Special Selection Annabella Napa Valley Chardonnay 2014.  The Pozzan family came from the Piedmont and in 1948 his grandfather planted thirty-five acres of Zinfandel in Healdsburg and some of the original vines can still be seen on Pozzan Road in Sonoma County.  Michael was in the wine industry and finally took the plunge to being a winemaker and has been doing this for twenty-five some odd years.  This was a delightful wine where some of the Chardonnay was aged in French Oak and some in Stainless Steel for ten months.  For an affordable wine especially from Napa Valley this wine showed some wonderful layers of complexity that belied its price.

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Kori SLH Pinot Noir

I am always gleeful as a kid, when I am unpacking my new carton from “A Taste of Monterey.”  Granted that we pay for the wine, before it is shipped, but the contents are always a mystery.  I think that is part of the excitement and it gets me filled with anticipation.  From day one we went with their Private Reserve Club, which ever club you sign up for, you end up with a dozen bottles a year, but we decided to go with the gusto and get some of the best wines that probably don’t have a ghost of a chance appearing in Michigan, also some of the wines offered are of such small quantities that the odds were against us as well.  So, imagine my surprise when I picked up the bottle and there was no label and no capsule over the cork.

Even though I had received the wine late in the evening, I was able to call the wine club to explain my dilemma.  I told them that I needed to get a copy of the wine label at least for my blog, and I also was concerned about the lack of a capsule as an additional seal.  I did a confirmation the very next day with a copy of the label, and I was told that the wines did not have a capsule, which I thought was curious, but I have encountered that situation once or twice before.

The wine in question was Kori Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2013, and I mean how can one not get a bit excited, as I feel that this is one of the best areas in California to grow this very fussy grape, who can give rather mediocre results if not tended to properly and in the ideal terrain to be grown.  This winery is a partnership that started in 2007 between grower Kirk Williams and his step-daughter Kori Violini.  This is a dream winery, getting fruit from the KW Ranch & Highlands in the Santa Lucia Highlands.  This is one of the respected vineyards that sells grapes to wineries like Wrath and Morgan.  The vineyards owned by Kirk Williams is surrounded by other well-known estates like Gary’s Vineyard, Sleepy Hollow and Rosella’s (all vineyards that I have had the good fortune to encounter because of my wine club).   I was a little surprised that in today’s computer era, I could find almost nothing about the winery or any production notes, other than an aging potential of five to six years and a production run on one-hundred-fifty cases produced.  I think that this is a wine that may not stay in my cellar that long, because of curiosity.

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Scheid Reserve Claret

The second bottle that I removed from the carton from my wine club “A Taste of Monterey” was Scheid Vineyards Reserve Claret 2012.  I have heard and read plenty of accolades for Scheid Vineyards and I actually have four different wines, including a Reserve Claret 2011, that I have actually allowed them to continue aging and mellowing out in our cellar.  All of the wines I have are through our wine club, so eventually I guess I will start having to enjoy them, but it is fun to save certain wines and I have always heard that was the real purpose of having a cellar, not a showpiece, because trust me, ours is not, but to allow wines to continue aging.  Since I have not really tasted any of the wines yet, I realized that I had not really talked that much about the winery.

The story of Al Scheid is interesting.  He first purchased property in Monterey County in early 1972, and the area was in its infancy for wine, and it was originally known as Monterey Farming Corporation and was a limited partnership that was originally conceived to take advantage of the tax shelter laws. For the first fifteen years he sold his grapes to other concerns for their winemaking.  As he slowly brought in his family the farm became an estate vineyard and winery and he also bought more in the Salinas Valley to expand the winemaking.  In the Monterey estate he bought out his partners and even bought another vineyard of Pinot Noir.  They built a state-of-the-art crusher for the bulk jobs and created a small winery in Monterey for their craft production.

I enjoy the fact that they refer to their wine as a Claret and thus avoid the term “Meritage” though I often wonder which word works better in the marketing world.  This Reserve Claret is fifty percent Cabernet Sauvignon, twenty-three percent Petit Verdot, twenty-two percent Malbec and five percent Cabernet Franc.  Each varietal is handpicked and destemmed as they mature to ripening and then each varietal spends two weeks in an open top fermenter.  Each varietal is then aged for thirty-four months in a mix of sixty-three percent American Oak and the balance in French Oak.  The final selection of the wines is then blended and bottled unfiltered and laid to rest for an additional twenty-six months.  There were three-hundred-fifteen cases produced of this wine with a suggested aging potential of an additional ten to fifteen years.  Their tasting notes evoke black fruits, tobacco, dark chocolate and bacon smoke and balanced tannins for a long-layered finish.  I am so intrigued that I may have to have the right dinner and company and do a two-year vertical of the wines.

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Mer Soleil SLH Reserve

Wine has been coming here fast and furious these days, and we just received our latest shipment from “A Taste of Monterey.”  We encountered this wine club on our first trip to Carmel and were pleased to find that they could ship us wine, way back when Michigan was a felony state, because the administration preferred it, at the expense of the wine collectors, and it actually took a law suit to correct that issue, and I can happily say that our former Lady Governor is no longer even a resident.   Of course, that is another story, but I was happy to unpack the current shipment, as we expected it, as we are aware of the transaction as soon as it is charged.

The first bottle was Mer Soleil Santa Lucia Highland Reserve Chardonnay 2016, and this wine is part of the Wagner Family of Wine, as in Caymus of Napa Valley.  The family first started winemaking in the Napa Valley after purchasing seventy acres of land in 1906, of course that was short lived as Prohibition arrived and wiped out the majority of winemakers.  In 1972, the Wagner family re-entered the wine business with the launch of Caymus Vineyards. Sixteen years later, Chuck Wagner branched out and started planting Chardonnay vines in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, beginning the production of Mer Soleil Chardonnay. By 2001, Chuck’s son Charlie F. Wagner II had taken the reins and in 2005 he created the unoaked Silver Chardonnay label, which I have tasted and written about.

In the 1990’s they began the Mer Soleil label, though it was originally called “Barrel Fermented Chardonnay.”  So now they make two versions of Chardonnay, the Silver which is unoaked from Monterey and the Reserve which is from the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey.  The wine is aged from twelve to fifteen months in French Oak for a rich creamy texture.  For the Wagner Family of Wine, this is a very small production of nine-hundred cases and they feel that it has the aging potential of eight to ten years which is quite impressive.  The trade notes that they offer is that it has a nose of bright freshness, and flavors of ripe peach and lemon meringue pie (you can tell that I did not write that) and a balanced finish of creamy roundness.  A wine that sounds very interesting to me, but then I have not been disappointed by any wine from the Santa Lucia Highlands and I am sure that this wine will not last long in the cellar.

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Two Heady Reds

I picked up two new red wines from my new wine club at Fine Wine Source in Livonia.  I had a very strange week and I could hardly manage to squeeze a trip over there, because I knew that I could not do any additional wine tastings that afternoon.  I look forward to what Jim Lufty and his group are featuring, as there are usually twenty-some wines that are begging to be tasted and evaluated.  It truly is a shop that I like to linger in and talk about wines.  I felt almost ashamed that all I could do was grab the bag and go back into the fray of errands.

The first wine that I took out of the bag and will eventually open was Domaine Lafage Bastide Miraflors Vielles Vignes Cotes du Roussillon 2018.  Domaine Lafage is a major estate in the Roussillon in all shades and hues and from dry to elegant dessert wines like their Muscat de Rivesaltes.  They own about one-hundred-sixty hectares with vines that are hitting the century mark, hence “vielles vignes.” The Bastide Miraflors is a custom cuvee and is a blend of seventy percent Syrah and thirty percent Old Vine Grenache.  After six weeks of maceration the Grenache is aged for twelve months in concrete and the Syrah is aged in French Oak.  This is a deep purple wine that is made to be enjoyed immediately or in the next couple of years, and it has a heady 14.5% Proof.  I usually don’t quote ratings, but for a very affordable wine Robert Parker gave this wine 94 Points.  The owner of Fine Wine Source says “this is the best Syrah based wine you can buy for the money!  Rich yet elegant on the palate with a silky and satisfying finish.”

The second wine is even quite headier with a 15.9% Proof.  The Midnight Cellars “Nebula” Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 hails from Paso Robles in California.  A business man from Chicago retired and bought a one-hundred-sixty-acre ranch with twenty-eight acres currently planted with vines in Paso Robles in 1995 and it is the home for three generations of families that are maintaining the winery.  Midnight Cellars is the twenty-ninth established winery in Paso Robles and they are in the newly designated area known as Willow Creek District.  The “Nebula” is ninety percent Cabernet Sauvignon and the balance is Merlot.  The wine was aged for eighteen months in French Oak, the production was seven-hundred-sixty-five cases and is completely sold out at the winery.  Jim Lufty says “rich, intense and loaded with layers of complexity, flavor and a long lingering finish.”  I would say that I am looking forward to trying them both out.

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Warm or Cold

On our last evening with Ms. Yoga until her next visit, we were sitting and drinking left over wines from our adventures and noshing.  I kept trying to print up a hospitality bill to slip under the door, like we always get when we are away, but my Bride nixed the idea.  Between all the activity at the table, she was also up and down trying to finish packing.  I mention all of this, because on her business activities she was given a bottle of wine, that she left with us, until her next visit, as we all know how difficult it is to travel with wine these days.  She was also surprised, because her contact person told her that he enjoys the wine on ice.

Weinkellerei Gerstacker Nurnberger Christkindles Markt Gluhwein NV was the bottle, and depending on the market, the bottle is either labeled as Christkindles Markt Gluhwein or Nurnberger Markt Gluhwein.  Nurnberger Markt Gluhwein (Glow Wine) and this Mulled Wine is an EU protected designation and it has to be produced in Nuremberg, and it has been enjoyed for over forty years.  It is a blend of Red wine and other fruit juice, there is a white version as well, and some of the natural spice extracts that are used in the preparation are: Blueberry, Anise, Cardamom, Maces, Nutmeg, Cloves, Pimento, Cinnamon, Orange and Lemon Peel.  The manufacturer suggests that one transfer the wine to a sauce pan and gently heat (do not boil) and then ladle into heat resistant glasses or cups (and I would presume that tort attorneys have made that statement required).  Another statement from them is “It is also excellent over ice,” and that is how Ms. Yoga’s client suggested it.  I guess that this beverage is not best at room or cellar temperature.   When we have it, I will give a follow up to this article, and now we shall bid Ms. Yoga a farewell, until the next visit.

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