Two More from The Caller

As the old commercial goes “when it rains, it pours” and that can describe the missives that I receive on occasion from The Caller. He is always on the look-out for big wines, not the ones to break the wallet, but full bodied, as that is what he enjoys in all of his drink selections. He has also been discovering the many new distilleries that are popping up, as he is a man of discerning tastes. I really think he only sends me photos of the wines that float his boat.

The first wine that he sent me a photo of, not a full bottle (I may add) is Arcadian Stolpman Vineyard Syrah 2007. The Stolpman Vineyard is recognized by many wineries as a place for one to get Syrah, and they are in the Santa Ynez Valley, part of the much larger Santa Barbara County AVA in California. Arcadian Winery is one of the unique wineries that own no vineyards, but they have some great long-term contracts with outstanding vineyards. They are also known for extended aging periods in their barrels, as their wines usually debut much later compared to others in the area. They are never in a rush and that is a good thing.

The other wine that he sent me a photo of was one that surprised me, but I must presume that someone touted him on it, as it is a wine not often seen here. Thurston Wolfe Zephyr Ridge Petite Syrah 2012 is one of those finds that The Caller gets at times. Zephyr Ridge is an area in the Horse Heavens Hills AVA, a subzone of the Columbia Valley in Washington State. The winery was established in 1987 and they were not on my radar. This particular wine was aged for twenty-six months in new and used American Oak, and that tells me that they were constantly checking it, to make sure that it was perfect before bottling. There were only two-hundred-ninety-seven cases of this wine made, so I think The Caller found himself a real catch. I shall wait for his next message or I know that I will see him in a couple of weeks.

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Two Wines from The Caller

We will be seeing The Caller in a couple of weeks, and I had gotten some messages from him, but since I try to stay ahead of my writings, I am just getting to it. Of course, he always lets me know when he is having a good time without us. I guess that is just so that I know that he is around and he had a dinner and recorded some of the wines that he enjoyed.

The first wine that he tried was Markham Vineyards Cellar 1879 Blend 2013 from Napa Valley. This wine is dedicated to Jean Laurent who built the original building on the grounds of the winery. It is a blend of Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. It was aged for twelve months in oak, and twenty-nine percent was new oak. This sounds like a wine for The Caller as he likes his wine big and with the first three varietals, I think he got a well-rounded taste and even a little Cabernet Franc adds to the flavor.

The second wine that he gave me was Vina Eguia Rioja 2014 which is all Tempranillo. This winery was established in 1973 in Elciego and was purchased by Bodegas Muriel in 2010. Eguia is a Basque word, that language that is all its own that is still used in that part of Spain and the work means “truth.” He has been enjoying wines from the Rioja, since the first bottle that I introduced to him, several years ago.

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Lost Wine Stories

I was trying to find some items that would remind of wine stories, and as I was going through a box of matchbooks, I found a recurring theme, that is kind of sad. Some people probably think it is silly that we have all of these relics of days gone by, but I enjoy looking at them and remember with a smile on my face the meals and the wine. Alas, my Bride, does not really recall many of the places that we have gone to, until she reads my article sometimes. I found some matchbooks that were not mine, so I know that they were from my Bride, before we met.

I amassed some of them that were from Manhattan and it speaks volumes about an institution that is still in business back in the days when matchbooks were a common way for a restaurant to advertise. I just long to know what great meals and wines she may have had back then, though I can guarantee that that the meals consisted of seafood and white wine, because until we met, that is what she always dined on. The ones that are still around are like the Rainbow Room in the Rockefeller Center.  Though as I think back, I did partially write about her dinner at the Rainbow Room, but it was only a hazy memory of a Chardonnay and a Filet of Sole.  Fraunces Tavern on Pearl and Broad Street where General Washington bid farewell to his troops. Via Quadronno famed for their Italian food on the Upper Eastside at 73’rd and Madison. Le Grenouille that famed French restaurant known for their cuisine and their floral arrangements on 52’nd Street between Fifth and Madison. Oh, the meals that she must have had without me.

Then I look at some of the restaurants that are no longer around, like the famed Luchow’s the famed German restaurant in East Village. Rosie O’Grady’s which may have moved or now owned by others. Café San Martin in Midtown, one of the old standby red sauce Italian places that were haunts for years. The Coach House in Greenwich Village just off Washington Square, which is now the site of another famous restaurant. A couple of the others I claim no knowledge of, and my brain is filled with the useless information that makes my writing so much easier. I can easily say that my Bride probably spoiled me more, than in reverse, plus she has always been more open to dishes that I may shy away from. The meals that she had, may make me weak in the knees and more so, what wonderful white wines may she have had, that she may not even be aware that they were as famous as some of the eateries. Well time for a glass of wine and for me to ponder what I have missed.

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Lunch at the Dearborn Inn

It was a very quiet week for me, and I really didn’t have anything special on the horizon. Then I got a message from my son in Las Vegas that he and his wife would be in town for only a couple of days. His schedule was rather hectic and still up in the air, but he was hoping that we could get together at least for lunch. I was all game for it, as my Bride was spending a week on business seeing accounts in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and her week was an intricately scheduled trip, with barely time to check up on me, to make sure that I wasn’t starving to death.  My son and his wife were staying at the Dearborn Inn, a famous landmark and historic location in the city of Dearborn. It is on the books as being the first airport hotel in the United States, and some of you may say, that there is no airport in Dearborn, but at one time there was, and it was basically for the convenience of the Ford Motor Company and Henry Ford had built the hotel to accommodate his business guests, and there were even a few extended stay bungalows in the back. Eventually the need for the airport wasn’t required and now all of that land has been walled in and it is used as a test track for the engineering department, and since all of the buildings around the track are Ford buildings the security is pretty good.

I told my son that I would meet them at the restaurant at the hotel, and he wasn’t even aware that there was a restaurant in the hotel, as when they arrived the night before, the restaurant is off to the side of the beautiful lobby and rather hidden from plain site. As we sat down for lunch, I told him that we had recently had lunch there with his sister when she made a quick trip back home. We ate the Edison, which is an appropriate name, as Edison and Ford were longtime friends, and Ford had moved the entire Menlo Park laboratory and his Florida laboratory as well to his Greenfield Village complex, not to mention the boarding house that was nearby to the Menlo Park complex where a lot of Edison’s employees stayed; it was the first boarding house that was electrically wired. All this as an introduction that my son and his wife both had a Reuben sandwich and a bowl of Kansas City soup, and I had a cheeseburger. The night before they had their fill of one of the famous Detroit locations for sliders that they long for living in Las Vegas.

They were being good and only had coffee or soft drinks, part of this was because they were still on Vegas time and it was really time for breakfast, but the restaurant was only serving lunch items at the time. I on the other hand, had a glass of wine, as if you are surprised. There were several bottles of real interest, but only sold by the bottle, so I chose a glass of Aquinas Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 from the North Coast of California. Aquinas is one of the labels of Don Sebastiani & Sons. The North Coast is really a huge area that encompasses Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, the Lake Counties and parts of Marin and Solano. The wine was a blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest was Merlot with a dash of Malbec and Petite Sirah. It was aged for twelve months in a mix of American and French Oak. It was a very easy drinking glass of wine and worked well with my cheeseburger. Alas the meeting was all too short, but I was not the purpose of their visit, but I enjoyed the time immensely.

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Sonoma Brunch

Brunch is an often-maligned term, a cross between breakfast and lunch. I shudder when I think of a buffet line as it is something that just makes me uncomfortable. I prefer a nice meal that is a juxtaposition of the two meals when one can have a nice conversation during the meal, rather than trying to juggle an assortment of food and plates, watching others try to accomplish the task of piling mountains of food, trying to recoup their expenditure. We planned on going out for brunch and then maybe a matinee at the cinema, since the next day my Bride was driving out to the Upper Peninsula for a week of business meetings, so we were going to make a day of it.

We went to one of our favorite haunts to eat when we are going out to see a film and that is Flemings Steak House, because it is convenient, though I am really a fan of independent restaurants as opposed to national chains. Flemings calls their meal the Sonoma Brunch as I guess that California evokes a mystique about cuisine. We both settled on the Filet Mignon Benedict which is their take on the classic Eggs Benedict. This dish was made with two filet medallions set on crispy potato pancakes topped with wilted arugula, poached eggs and Béarnaise Sauce. Alas, my Bride gave me one of hers, because it was saltier than she preferred and mine was perfect. In the end, we figured out that it was the potatoes are her order that were the culprit, but I overindulged and had an order and a half. While we were ordering a dessert of Crème Brulee we just mentioned about the potatoes. Much to our surprise they did not charge us for the dessert, and I told the manager that it wasn’t really necessary, because most of the meal was consumed with gusto.

We were going to have Mimosas with our meal and they brought us out a large carafe for the two of us, but we requested the classic version of just using orange juice, instead of their use of passion fruit juice, which we both find a bit overpowering; maybe it is a California thing. They use Wycliff American Champagne Brut NV, made by William Wycliff Vineyards of Modesto, California. This sparkling wine is used quite often by restaurants, as the wine is marketed to the hospitality industry and it is very easy for the help, since it has a screw cap closure. I suppose that because William Wycliff is owned by E& J Gallo Winery that the term American Champagne has been grandfathered in, as the term Champagne is now only recognized as coming from France. The wine is made in the bulk Charmat Method and the typical grapes used are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. The Mimosas weren’t working for me, so I was rebellious and order a glass of something else bubbly. My choice was excellent, because the tiny little bubbles maintained a steady stream until the flute was emptied. I had a glass of Mas Fi Cava Brut from Penedes, Spain and I was just a happy guy. In the late Nineteenth Century, the Masach family started making wines at their Vilafranca del Penedes, and they started marketing their Cava in 1977. This wine was made in the Methode Traditional with a blend of Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada grapes and it is aged an additional ten months after the secondary fermentation. Can I say that it was delightful once again? During our meal, we checked the local theaters for a film to see and we couldn’t find one, so my Bride had a Plan B. We went home and worked on the lawn, and I can attest that even with the able assistance of two lawn services, we still grow the best dirt you have ever seen.

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MWWC#33: Once Upon a Time

there was a young man who grew up in a family that had orchards all around the state of Michigan, growing cherries, apples, plums and peaches. Michigan was always known as a great state for growing fruit and the young man would have continued in the family business. He graduated from Michigan State University in 1972 and would have had a very successful business if he had followed the easy path laid out for him. Though this young man during his college years decided to see Europe and was hitchhiking around and fell in love with the Burgundy region of France and though he knew that his calling was in farming, the farm started changing in his mind.

The young man was Larry Mawby and after graduating, he experimented by growing some vines in a small parcel of land on one of his family’s orchards in 1973 up in the Suttons Bay region of Michigan, and at that time hardly an area considered for serious grape growing. In 1974, he tried planting some French-American hybrids and he was on his way. He decided that he needed his own vineyard and in 1975 he bought his own land “Elm Valley.” In 1976, he planted on his own property and also took a three-day course at UC-Davis and from then on, the dream was manifesting. In 1978, he built a structure to handle the production of twenty-five-hundred gallons of wine, and living quarters above and he was on his way. He was growing Pinot Noir, Vignoles, Pinot Gris, Regent, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier on twenty acres of land.

The winery was bonded in 1978 as L. Mawby Vineyards and his first wine was issued in 1979. His first wine was “Picnic Rose” and he made three-hundred-seventy-eight gallons of the wine, and it was a blend of every varietal on his property. Ever since that fateful trip to Europe and especially to Burgundy he attempted to emulate those wines during the 1980’s. The more he got involved with wine making, the more he realized that his property was on the same latitude as the Champagne region of France. In 1984, he created his first Methode Champenoise Brut NV using Vignoles and he had found his calling. He kept investing in more equipment to make sparkling wines.

He was making a name for himself, especially in Michigan; and then he and two other Michigan wineries were selected to participate in a part of George H. Bush’s inauguration, quite a heady accolade. The Wine Enthusiast declared in 1998 Larry Mawby as a “Great US Sparkling Wine Producer.” In the year of 2003, he was only producing sparkling wines and in 2004 he created his M. Lawrence division using the Charmat Method and introduced his three newest wines as Us, Sex and Fizz. He was now producing sparkling wines in both methods and his name and fame was growing.

Larry Mawby was also instrumental in the creation of the Leelanau Peninsula AVA. He also served on the board of the Leelanau Conservancy and helped form the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association and the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail. In speaking to other wineries, Larry Mawby has been referred to as the Godfather of the Leelanau Peninsula wine growers, as he has offered his assistance and guidance through the years. He was one of the true visionaries in changing the outlook of wine in Michigan. I might also add, as a personal aside, it is a winery that we always make a special effort to visit when we are in that area of the state.
This un-fairy tale was brought about by the Monthly Wine Writers Challenge. The theme “once upon a time” was proposed by the winner of the last winner by Mel of Wining with Mel.

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Le George

The metropolitan Detroit area is the home for the largest Middle Eastern population outside of the Middle East. Suffice it to say that there are plenty of Arabic style restaurants in the area. There is one in the area that is delightfully different and that is Le George in Northville. After the Great War, the Ottoman Empire was carved up and France oversaw some of the countries that had been under the thumb of the old regime. Le George has cuisine that evokes the memory of the Paris of the Middle East, which was Beirut, until the time of the civil war hostilities that are still festering. So, there was a charming bistro atmosphere to this restaurant and it was not just the typical dishes that one finds in most of Arabic eateries.

After we were seated and started to study the menu, a basket of fresh baked pita bread arrived with a side of the garlic mousse that was appreciated. My Bride started off with an order of the Gazpacho Libanaise, which instead of a tomato base, was a yogurt base and she certainly enjoyed it, while I had the house salad with the house dressing. Something else I noticed was that there were no salt and pepper shakers on the table, as I think that it addresses the fact that the chef feels that his dishes are properly seasoned, that classic Gallic temperament. My Bride then had a mix of two different skewers of Kebab, one was lamb, and the other was filet and it came out with a side of hummus and a side of bulgur cracked wheat. I decided to try something that I would normally not have in such a restaurant and I had the Tournedos Rossini with a Cabernet and Mushroom sauce on the side, along with the bulgur cracked wheat. I was expecting a couple of medallions of filet and instead I was served a filet mignon perfectly cooked to my request.

My Bride originally didn’t feel like have any wine, but then she spied a little tabletop sign about a Rosé wine and she went with that. She had the Caves de Cerca Famega 2016 from the Minho region of Portugal, which is the northern most agricultural area and farmed for grapes and for food. The wine was a blend of the noted wines of Portugal, namely Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Tinta Nacional. It had a nice soft color and a soft nose and was an easy drinking wine on this particularly hot Spring day. Since not too many Arabic restaurants have wine, and the owner was Christian, I used the old concept of when in Rome and ordered a Lebanese wine and he had several very interesting other wines by the glass. I had the Massaya Le Colombier 2014 listed on the wine carte as a Vin Rouge. Massaya was a winery in Lebanon prior to the civil war there, and the vineyards and the facility had to be restored, and the first beverage they began making was their famed Arak. The winery is located in the Beqaa (Bekkaa) Valley where about ninety percent of all wine is produced in Lebanon. The wine was a blend of Cinsault, Grenache Noir, Syrah and Tempranillo. Fresh from the bottle the wine was a bit gamey, but it seemed to open up almost immediately and my fears were allayed. All the grapes melded into a most pleasant wine that would work as well with lamb, beef or even chicken with the assorted spices that the restaurant used. We hadn’t even gotten out of the door and my Bride said that she wants to go back there again.

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