Articles from March 2010

Wine Web Wednesdays: Sin Tax Error

(via TONX photostream on Flickr)

We have no problem paying taxes, but this ballot initiative proposed by Josephine & Kent M. Whitney is just ridiculous. It would raise taxes on alcoholic beverages in California by more than 12,000%. To put this in understandable terms, a 12-pack of Bud Light would now cost as much as a Honda Accord. Haven’t these people ever heard of moderation.

Extra Dry Reading: The details of the initiative on ballotopedia.

7 Buck Chuck?:  Dr Vino’s take.

People are scared: Some pretty funny comments on LAist.

Drunk Email the Whitneys your complaints.

On a much cheerier note: We are anxiously awaiting the opening of Bar Covell in Los Feliz by the man striking a very Los Feliz pose above with partner Dustin Lancaster and snacks from Heirloom LA‘s Matthew Poley.

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Pillow Talk

The Mentor and the Mentee

She said: I know more about wine and have a more refined palate than He does. I’m not being braggy: it’s the truth. This fact is the motivation behind the blog: it is a forum for me to reintroduce myself to the wine world and for Him to learn about it. We’re five months in and what has become increasingly clear is: He’s a fast learner. Or, at least, He is quickly learning how I taste wine. More often than not there are similar descriptors in our tasting notes. We have a strict “no talking” rule when tasting as to not influence each other. (And by We, I really mean Me–it’s my rule. No talking, no research, no reading the label. Shut up and taste.) And yet in the last few weeks our tasting notes are becoming more and more aligned. He’s advancing to the next level. Or at least, my level.

He Said: Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.” Only he said it in a different language that I don’t speak. Also, there are a lot of “ess” sounds in that sentence. Did gay men have lisps in the 15th and 16th centuries?

Anyhow, as the story goes (which I believe to be lore) LdV’s mentor, Andrea del Verrocchio resolved to never touch a paintbrush when he saw the work of young LdV. I’m not implying that you have to stop drinking wine. Actually, I don’t know what I am implying. I wonder if da Vinci was fucking his mentor too?

She said: I don’t know what you’re implying either. Or even saying, really. But what I am implying is that you: 1. are a quick study 2. need to get your own wine tasting descriptors. And…the nature of the blog is transitioning.

I started the topic and sound like an overly serious dolt compared to your sex and daVinci line. You go next.

The Hazards of the Job

He Said: Both of Us have been to design school, where it is essential that one dives head first into projects and takes each job very seriously. I mention school, and not the professional world, because money isn’t exchanged for work. My point is that even though we aren’t making any money from Swirl Smell Slurp, We both take it somewhat seriously. It is a job, albeit quite a fun job. But on some of the nights that we have to taste 4 or 5 wines, I can get quite drunk. And, I’m totally fine with getting drunk when it’s planned; but accidentally getting drunk on a Sunday evening is a hazard of this job.

She said: Occupational hazard. Or non-occupational-but-take-drinking-wine-seriously hazard. Maybe We should start spitting more. Or skip the gin and tonics in between bottles of wine.  I’m not sure I believe “accidentally getting drunk” is a truism, but yeah, you did get kind of drunk last night. That da Vinci scenario you mentioned earlier didn’t happen.

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United Slurps of America: Texas

Every state in the US produces wine. Why not taste them? For 50 weeks We will do just that…welcome to the United Slurps of America. Week four. It’s Texas, y’all

What has become a recurring theme in this project reared it’s head again: damn it’s hard to get wine shipped from one state to another. United States of Prohibition? That said, our big thanks to Bill Elsey (with the lofty credentials of CS, CSW, and Manager of Wine Sales) of Mandola Estate Winery for being so easy to communicate and do country-wide shipping with. Also. Texas wine growers, wine makers, and drinkers of local juice: you have an incredible advocate and ambassador named Denise Fraser. Denise picked up on our USA:TX quest on Twitter and immediately offered her help in making introductions and playing go-between. After our initial paltry (read: nothing) response from Texas wineries about getting bottles shipped to Hollywood, Denise worked her magic. We plan on reviewing more Texas wines in our Wines of Note series this week. Thanks, Denise!

We’re also very pleased to have not one but TWO co-bloggers who virtually tasted with Us. (Insert “everything is bigger in Texas” phrase here.) Ben Simons of and Jim Wilkerson from both signed up for the fun. Check out their own wine writing shenanigans over at their blogs. Ben has a funny, smart must read every week “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” (cue Western music here) that always makes Us smile. For Mourvèdre lovers or learners, Jim dedicates each Monday to the grape, offering a thoughtful, easy to read review that always includes a “free association” picture to sum the wine up. Ben and Jim are also prolific and often funny Tweeters–follow them, read their blog, say hello.

[Him speaking, for this entire paragraph] I am from Texas. I have been in California for almost 20 years, but every memory of my childhood is from Texas, my family is in Texas, and it is a place I (try to) visit at least once a year. I have had some pretty good TX wines and some godawful bad ones. The last thing I want to do is bad mouth the state that I grew up in, so I hope these wines are good. Also, there is something to the notion of “Southern Hospitality.” Denise Fraser, Bill Elsey, and the guys from Vinotology and VINEgeek have been very helpful and a pleasure to work with, and we are honored and grateful. So now, we’re fixin’ to taste some wines, ya’ll.

Vermentino, Mandola Estate Winery 2008 (sample, $18 at winery)

She said: Pale yellow straw (how many times have I noted this?). On the nose: hit of alcohol, but behind it very floral like a Southern Rhone and then the citrus acid of a Sauvignon Blanc. Lemon leaves, high acid, some minerals, herbaceous, green…very quenching. Ends with a bite, wish the transition was smoother. That said, very enjoyable and a nice match to our spicy shrimp taco dinner. Hot day, spicy food–it matches well.

He said: Very floral on the nose with a little bit of heat. I would almost guess this to be a viognier. It also has lemon and citrus on the nose. On first sip I was confused because, despite the nose, it is crisp like a Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is actually the direct middle of Sauvignon Blanc and viognier; characteristics of both, but distinct. Lemon, grapefruit and minerals on the palate, and a small amount of electricity; it’s igniting my fillings. Am I detecting pepper? I don’t think I have ever had pepper on a white wine, but I am getting it in the finish of this one.  I love Sauvignon Blanc and kinda dislike viognier, but this wine is a good happy-medium.

Vinotology said: I’ve actually had this wine before, and have enjoyed it.  Mandola produces a number of wines from Italian varieties that are uncommon here in Texas, and this is one of the ones that has been getting quite a bit of attention.  At first I wasn’t getting a whole lot of definition on the nose, but after I had let it breathe a little bit it really opened up for me.  I got a lot of herbal and mineral aromas, along with some pear and a little bit of peach.  The palate had some minerality with some great citrus components and acidity.

VINEgeek said: Somewhere in between typical Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in color. A bright, juicy nose: a lot like Juicy Fruit gum, in fact, (even the little foil wrapper). Plus a bit of pineapple, perhaps. Nice and crisp on the palate, bringing grapefruit and more pineapple, but not full-on pineapple, more like if you had a fruit salad and the last piece in the bowl was a piece of pear that had been soaking up the pineapple juice at the bottom of the bowl. Something like that. It finishes crisp and clean with a hint of green/grassiness, leaving you wanting another sip. I had pretty low expectations, but this is very solid white wine that I’d be happy to drink again. Definitely one for me that would surprise people in a blind tasting. B/B+

Montepulciano, Spino, Mandola Estate Winery 2008 (sample, $26 at winery)

She said: The color is beautiful: deep, bright ruby catching every glint of light. On the palate: it tastes like grapes. Beyond this initial thought I also sense dark cherry fruit, fresh acidity, cocoa powder texture. Very long, dusty finish. The texture is chalky–and I enjoy this. The acid makes it good with food. Not very refined, but quite enjoyable. Overall reminds me of a basket of dark Bing cherries from the Farmer’s Market that still have a bit of orchard dust on them.

He said: The color is a vibrant deep red-brown that is shiny and reflective; beautiful even to a color-blind person like me. Earth, dark cherry and some cola on the nose. Maybe a little too much heat in the nose too. Tart cherry in the mouth. Initially I said (imagining the drinking process as 100% from sip to swallow), “1st 30%-not so good. 2nd 50%-great, creamy and long. 3rd 30%- awesome aftertaste.” I wanted to draw a diagram (I am an architect after all) but I am too tired and approaching drunkenness, so no.  After opening up, the 1st 30% has calmed down a bit and is robust and fruity. It tastes like grapes. Which made me think about all the wine reviews I read; no one ever says grape. Why is that? I actually really like grapes, but it seems taboo (or something) to say that wine tastes like grapes. Anyway. This wine doesn’t taste like grape juice, but it is very much of grapes. There is maybe a little too much heat in the finish, but it is otherwise tart and nice throughout.

VINEgeek said said: It smells like a Tuscan wine with its dusty cherry fruit and a sharp earthy, herbal quality. But there is also an aroma that I can’t really describe, but I that associate with not-ready-for-primetime wines I’ve tasted in many a tasting room in Texas and elsewhere. On the palate, I get more Sweet-Tart red fruit, sort of like a two parts cherry, one part cranberry blend. Medium-bodied and smooth-textured. It’s totally drinkable, but not something I’d seek out again. C

Vinotology said: This is another wine that Mandola makes that you really don’t see from other wineries in the state right now.  This may well be the perfect Italian food / Texas wine pairing.  The whole time I was tasting it, I kept thinking about how much I wanted some Spaghetti to go with it.  The nose really hits you with cherries and black pepper and spices, along with a little bit of cedar.  The palate is well balanced, with more spices and red fruits, as well as some earthiness.  There is a perfect amount of acidity on this wine that makes me crave food with it.

4 down, 46 to go.

We said: Over the holidays We took a three week road trip to Texas (meandering is our way). We spent a day doing a tasting room tour in Grapevine, Texas with (His) family. The highlight wine of the day–Austrian (from a sister city of Grapevine). So, what a relief and a pleasure to have a Texas tasting that We enjoyed. Cheers–this was a fun one and with such great company. We also feel compelled to take note of the labels (We’re designers, We can’t help it and end up spending a lot of time discussing it)…not our style but lovely and elegant. Also, We had fun with the phonetically enhanced tasting notes sent with the bottles. He really didn’t know how to say: mon-tae-pill-CHAH-noh (even though He took two years of Italian in college).

VINEgeek Summary:
I hope that the “not-ready-for-primetime” comment doesn’t come across too harshly, because the Vermentino proves to me that they know what they’re doing at Mandola. All-in-all this tasting showed me that I shouldn’t be so dismissive of Texas wines. And I’m doubly excited that I found a very good one so close to home (Mandola is about 20 minute drive from my house)! Thanks to Swirl Smell Slurp for inviting me to participate and waking me up to wines in my own backyard. Cheers, y’all.

Previously on USA: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington

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Field Trip Fridays: Shirking My Civic Duty

Los Angeles Superior Courthouse
For the past two days I have been spending the 8:30-5:00 time slot waiting to see if I would be picked to sit on a jury. I’m admonished from saying anything specific about the case, so please pardon my vagueness. Today was better and more efficient than yesterday, but it still took the entire day (and, really, why so many recesses?). During one of our “it’ll just be 2 more minutes” waits in the hallway I made friends with Juror #30, a cute girl who used to be a computer forensic scientist who now teaches yoga, is writing a book, and something about linux and routing and her new Android phone that I didn’t understand. It was now at least 15 minutes into our “2 more minutes” and the discussion turned to food & wine. I was excited and impressed that she had been to Canelé and then she started talking about her friend Jeff who used to work for Thomas Keller, which brought up a story about Her last jury pool that consisted of both TK & Jeff. It really is a small world, and even more amazing how much you can discover in just “2 more minutes.”

Given Juror #30′s previous career, I knew she was screwed, she was gonna be on that jury for sure. I knew I was getting out, I knew it. And the reason is because of this exact thing that you are reading. When it was my turn to answer the 9 questions on the sheet, I stated where I lived and then for my occupation said, “Architect & Wine Critic.” As soon as it was my turn to sit in the jury box, the prosecutor said,”The prosecution would like to thank and excuse Juror #35.” See you later, bitches.

So, I can’t speak in specifics about the case. But. Hypothetically, if you are ever in a jury pool for a case involving alcohol, start a wine blog. Trust me.

Las Perla
I thought I hadn’t heard about this place yet. But then I remembered Her story about Raul, Her favorite bartender from 20 years ago was opening this place. She seems to know everyone in the restaurant/bar industry and tells me stories of their lineage and which ones She worked with and where and who then opened what restaurant and who was sleeping with who… So, if I remember correctly, Raul was the bartender at Small’s K.O. where She used to go with Corina of Canelé everyday after work which was at a restaurant owned by Nancy Silverton, where Suzanne Goin was the head chef and Manfred Krankl was Her boss and George (the owner of Silverlake Wine) was a waiter. And maybe Thomas Keller was a busboy or something.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. So, we met our double-date partners D&M at this new Mezcal place for a cocktail before dinner. D asked his iPhone what made Mezcal different from Tequila and it told us that Mezcal is made from blue agave and is smokier. The menu is written in Sharpie on pieces of cardboard which we all had different feelings about. Also, each of our menus had different items listed which confused me a little bit. We all ordered the Smokey Margarita. The waitress brought our drinks nervously to the table and spilled a little bit on the denim covering my now wet privates, which I easily forgive of a new place working out all of the opening jitters. The drinks were great, as was the crowd at this place. We weren’t here for long, but I would like to go back. We will.

Lazy Ox Canteen
This is our second time here. We love it. The menu is dynamic and the chef seems to really love to experiment with food. We brought a bottle of wine but decided to start with a bottle of Torrontes Grazioso, Argentina 2008 for our first course (which also waives the $20 corkage fee). We ordered Yellowtail, Pickles, Octopus and Pig Ears. All really good and paired well with Torrontes. The Pig Ears here are amazing, comparable (and much less spicy) then the ones we had at Animal. We ordered our entrees and all D could talk about was ordering dessert. I had Pork Frites (which came out way, way earlier than everyone else’s food. We were warned that they might come out at different times, but I was done before anyone else got their food). D got Braised Beef (amazing), She and M split a Pork Porterhouse with the best whipped potatoes I have ever tasted. And my Pork Frites was great. We opened the wine we bought, Miner Family Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (received as a sample, retails around $60) that was so (pardon my French) fucking good. Creamy and spicy and perfectly balanced and went so well with my Frites. In recent weeks, Miner and Penns Woods are the best wines  I have tasted. There hasn’t been a weak (or even average) bottle of the 8 we have consumed from these two producers.

For dessert we shared the Rice Pudding that D had been talking about since the 1st course. I loved it and She hated it. The one thing that we don’t agree on is sweets. I love them, She hates them. When I am alone, I eat a Snickers bar. Or, once when she was out of town I ordered both the cheesecake and the chocolate cake at Canelé. Anyhow, I recommend the rice pudding.

Dinner ended with great conversation and a bottle of Spatburgunder Trocken Weinhof Scheu 2007 and talked about our next double-date. We might spend a weekend in Buellton and drink wine from our friend Morgan’s incredibly winery, Cold Heaven. And possibly spend a couple of days at a winery that D&M are members of that has a house they can rent for like $90/night. We’re in.

As we were leaving a “gentleman” in his 60′s with a young Asian woman on his arm told Her (3 times) how beautiful Her dress was. It is a beautiful dress (and She, of course, looks beautiful in [and out of] it), I concur, but this guy seemed creepy. I looked at him coldly and said, “Yes, it is.” We ignored him and he left. Then I remembered the time we were here previously we saw the same dude. Only he had a friend and 4(!) young Asian women on their arms. I think maybe he is a porn producer. I want to sell him a porn title that I think might be fitting for his company: Double PenetrAsian.

The Gorbals
Our last stop was to see our friend Ilan. We were all drunkish at this point, but Ilan sent us out 4 glasses of wine, each different for us to taste. I don’t really remember much about the wine but Ilan said, “Oh, you guys have to try this.” He brought us out ice cream he had made in the same manner as Mexican hot chocolate. It was chocolate ice cream with a lot of heat surrounded by little graham cracker crumbs. It’s interesting that something cold in your mouth can be so hot. She loved it, which due to her hatred of sweets mentioned earlier, is saying a lot. Thanks Ilan, it was delicious.

D&M wanted to go to Karaoke, or dancing, but We were both tired and decided to call it a night. Maybe next time.

This morning we are nursing our hangovers with a nice mimosa with fresh-picked oranges from Her mimosa tree. It’s a beautiful day in LA.

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Wines of Note: not lost in translation

Poor boy, He’s sitting in some bland, beige windowless room with seventy-four strangers waiting to not get picked for jury duty. Or hoping not to get picked. I had to dissuade Him from wearing the vintage NWA t-shirt to the courthouse. Although it is the 15 year anniversary of Easy-E’s death, so I guess it would be appropriate. (R.I.P. Easy.)

He gave me permission to look through His notebooks for a Wines of Note post. Must admit this made me a bit giddy–love the voyeurism of looking through other’s notebooks. The thing is He has about nine Moleskine notebooks lying around my house that are half written in and I ended up having to look through them all to find the right tasting notes. I just had to look through them all. And I totally got distracted. And then I started Tweeting and Facebooking about it. And then I felt guilty.

But not so guilty that I stopped snooping, er…reading. The tasting notes were finally found. Let the translating begin (my architecting boyfriend does not have architect handwriting).

We reviewed two wines from Penns Woods Winery in our first United Slurps of America post, Pennsylvania edition. We held back the bottle of Traminette We received to taste at a later date. It was a grape neither one of Us had heard of and We both felt a bit apprehensive.

Our USA co-blogger Joe Roberts of 1WineDude had a nice story about the wine: “I tasted it while it was still fermenting in the tank and sitting on the lees…Gino [winemaker] told me he was trying to make something simple and really fruity and refreshing…I was like “Gino… if you were trying to make a simple wine, you failed spectacularly. This is one of most complex takes on Traminette I’ve ever tasted – you’re INCAPABLE of making a simple wine, man!!!” We had a good laugh over that.”

We were intrigued.

Traminette, Penns Woods 2008 (sample)

She said: Golden yellow, bright and clear. On the nose there is honeysuckle, plumeria, and hay. Or is that wheat? Complex. Rich up front: creamy and lush. Taste oyster shell and minerals. Very dry in the finish–long and lean with great acid. I love the mix of sensations and flavors. Beautiful wine.

He said: Bright gold in color. Strong scent. Minerally with some stardust [? hard to read]. Fruit. Like a German Dunkel. Shells-oyster-y, minerally. Floral wheat beer. No heat. Good acid. 11%…nice and refreshing. Not a “get drunk” wine. [He didn't leave a rating.] [Him here, editing from the courtroom, is this legal?] I give it a

We said: [actually this is She writing, but I'm pretty sure He will agree with me] What a terrific surprise this wine was. We regret We didn’t include it in the USA: PA edition, but sometimes delayed satisfaction is a good thing.

And now for a red. We recently received a package from Willamette Valley Vineyards. Included were some promo material and a nice note which asked Us to wait two weeks before tasting the wine to allow the bottles to recover from travel. We’ve both had jetlag, but that seemed like an awfully long time to acclimate. We’ve wanted to uncork the bottles several times, but waited. We lasted ten days.

Pinot Noir, Tualatin Estate Vineyard, Wilamette Valley Vineyards 2007 (sample, retails for around $40)

She said: Translucent brownish ruby in color–quite thin. On the nose lots of dark cherry, ripe plums, pomegrante, raspberries and some spice (allspice?). On the palate most of the power is in the finish; very quiet upfront and then kind of explodes with flavor. Subsequent sniffs also reveal some mintiness. The tannins are soft. There is a fresh acidity, keeping the wine bright. Really enjoy it–glad We opened it four days early and wish We had more. (To help me pinpoint the flavors I wrote in my notes “what it is NOT: meaty, earthy, syrupy, tar, too tight, bacon, tobacco.”)

He said: Dark-like cherry juice with a deep red transluscense [sic]. Nose: tart cherry cola. Graham Cracker. Mouth fresh bread [draws arrow to space before "Graham Cracker"]/pastry. Tart. Graham Cracker. Pomegranate. Spice throughout. Maybe some cinnamon/nutmeg. Plum. Juicy. One of my fav PN’s I have ever tasted. I want more.

We said: [actually this is She writing, but I'm pretty sure He will agree with me] The back label of the WVV pinot is one the best We’ve seen. No tasting notes are provided (a pet peeve of both of Us–We can make our own decisions, thank you), rather there is technical info, an offer for a 10cent refund when the bottle is returned to the winery, and symbols indicating that the winery is sustainable, Salmon Safe, and part of LIVE: low input viticulture and eneology. Not only do We admire the pro-environment aspect of this, all that information is presented in a clean, easy to read grid. Nice work.

(Side note: the pictures above are not of the wine We reviewed, but they are from the winery’s website. I couldn’t find any good bottle shots and got sick of searching the internet. And also…a plea: Wineries, offer Hi Res bottle shots on your website. We’re not singling Penns Woods or Wilamette Valley Vineyards out–so many miss out on this opportunity to have pretty pictures of their wines on display here. Thank you, your fans He and She.)

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Wine Web Wednesdays

Now that’s creative reuse. The recycling bin will be a lot less full from now on. Via re-nest.

A trend we can’t toast too…and neither can the “hegans,” apparently, booze is off limits. We’re all for going to the gym, but just so We can be more gluttonous.

“‘Do you mean creamy, buttery dry or grapefruit dry?” Small wine shops get well deserved props (including a favorite local one of ours: domaineLA).

That’s Gott to be the worst re-branding ever: Taylor’s Automatic Refresher changes its name.

Why We drive ourselves when on a Silverado Trail tasting tour: limo drivers are drunks.

Finally, do you follow “8 Rules for Visiting Tasting Rooms“? Here’s how We stack up:

  1. We always pregame (but never with Coors Light, typically with wine).
  2. We probably take more than our share of the crackers from the little basket most tastings rooms provide.
  3. We only spit when we don’t like the wine, but pours are typically very small so it’s not as though We’re boozing it up.
  4. See above. We typically don’t get drunk. At tasting rooms, that is. (And, as mentioned the previous link, you should totally beware of hiring a limo to drive you around.)
  5. True that. But We also hate it when the tasting staff gives us TMI–We’ll make our own tasting notes, thanks.
  6. Bar hogs are the worst. As are chatty, schmoozing pourers. If a tasting room is two deep at the bar, We turn around.
  7. True, but We are paying guests.
  8. See above. It’s pretty rare We don’t walk away with at least one bottle if We’ve enjoyed the tasting.

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Pillow Talk

Big Top Wine Tastings

He said: I have only been to two “organized” big wine tastings, but I think I can say emphatically: I don’t like ‘em. They remind me of one of my favorite book titles, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. I don’t really like tiny pours. I don’t know if it’s because I am a “wine novice” but it’s difficult for me to discern much with such a small amount. I can decide “I like it” or otherwise, but I need more than a couple of sips to really taste it. Also, it always seems like well-dressed adults are trying to be too buddy-buddy with the winemakers. Too crowded, too early, too forced-fun for me. Not the setting I like to drink wine in. And, I usually can’t hear anybody because so many other loud people are listening to themselves talk.

She said: The first big tasting We went to together (I’ve been to dozens solo) was a Skurnik tasting in New York earlier this year. He declared: “I’m going to taste all 278 of those wines.” Right. I think He tasted 8 wines. I agree the crowds can be stifling–and ridiculous. If it’s not a trade tasting the crowd tends to be an ironically pretentious amateur hour (only they don’t get the irony). But the Wally’s tasting We went to on Sunday was a pleasure for me–saw some old friends, tasted some good wines, and…had a Let’s Be Frank dog that was awesome. Sue Moore is a hot dog dreamboat. Plus Larkin sent us home with two bottles.

He said: The Larkin bottles and the hot dogs were definite highlights.

Late Lunch at Umami Burger

He said: The Umami Burger craze has been going on for a while here in LA. Somehow, it wasn’t until today that We tried it. We walked down to Space 15 Twenty because I wanted to go to Hennessey + Ingalls because I need some books on Landscape Urbanism and Public Space Design. We decided to finally try UB, and, wow, the craze is for real. That was the most unique tasting burger I have had in a long time. Definitely overpriced, but good. Unfortunately, I am still a little bit sick and I don’t know if it was the burger or the pint of Boddington’s, but I hit a wall. The walk back to Her house was hard. I curled up on the sofa and don’t plan to move for the rest of the night.

She said: I had forgotten Umami was at 15-Twenty, so it was a pleasant surprise. I ordered the turkey burger. I figure it has to be an outstanding turkey burger if they serve it at a meaty burger place. Funny, when I ordered a dog from Let’s Be Frank at the Wally’s tasting I asked for the veggie, thinking the same thing. The owner, Sue Moore, asked “Do you eat meat?” “Yes.” “Well, you really should try our regular dog…we source the meat from fantastic sources…” The waitress at Umami did no such sell, but it didn’t matter, I loved my turkey burger. Had a Gruner Veltliner with it and it was a lovely pairing. But the wine list at Umami bums me out: no winemaker or region info are offered on the list. This is important. And the waitress didn’t know. Ultimately, no matter. The meal was great.

New Wall Street Journal Wine Columnists

She said: I’m pretty sure He didn’t know about this until I told Him, but my boyfriend in wine, Jay McInerney, is co-hosting the new wine column in the WSJ. Yes, I crush all over Jay. So why does my favorite bad boy wine writer have to share? If it was anyone BUT Lettie Teague I would be pissed (they are alternating every other Saturday). But I love Lettie–her video series “Educating Peter” reminds me of how Swirl Smell Slurp came about. (The link above is from Pete Wells blog on the NYTimes–the competitor is nervous?)

He said: To be succinct, I don’t care. To be wordy, I haven’t read the WSJ in a decade (except the one I was in) and this probably won’t change that. I don’t know who Lettie Teague is, but I am now a big fan of her name. I love JM’s writing, but I never read any of his columns in real-time. I will wait and read the articles when they are collected into a book. The same way I watch the television show Lost. I watched 4 seasons on a flight to (and hotel rooms in) China. If it is possible to subscribe via RSS to only JM’s column (and absolutely nothing else) from the WSJ website, then I may rethink my hard-line position.

She said: Dopey, we watched Lettie’s videos together. She has that crazy curly hair that I admire (and empathize with) so much.

He said: When and where did we watch those?

She said: Netflix. The cottage. With wine. (Which may be why He doesn’t remember?)

He said: I still don’t remember.

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United Slurps of America: Michigan

Every state in the US produces wine. Why not taste them? For 50 weeks We will do just that…welcome to the United Slurps of America.

Week three. We’ve been emailing and Tweeting and Facebooking people all over the country, coordinating our future tastings. It’s a bit more complicated than we thought (damn shipping laws). Time was ticking away for the next post and We were a bit nervous…when a perfectly simple email arrived: “Alright, I’m in.” Sean O’Keefe of Chateau Grand Traverse preempted our “Yikes, which state is next?” dilemma by shipping four bottles our way. Thank you, Sean.

We were immediately intrigued by the fanciful labels. And all these images of hands. A little internet research and what do we find? A picture of Sean’s hands. We also found lots of accolades. Sean is a man proud of his wine and the state it’s made in…for good reason. Before we embarked on this tasting tour We had no clue such food friendly, delicious stuff could come out of Michigan. It’s the beauty of the project: discovery.

Researching Michigan We also discovered a fun, informative wine blog:, run by Shannon Casey with frequent cameos by the lovely Cortney Casey. Shannon posts all things MI wine: newswire stories, interviews, tasting notes, links to wineries, and more. Like O’Keefe, the Casey’s are proud of the wine their state produces. The podcasts are a particular treat on the blog. Shannon and Cortney primarily taste local wine, but sometimes venture beyond their beloved state. A recent “Beyond the Mitten” podcast on the Napa winery Luna began:

He said: We found out the other day that they make wine outside of the state of Michigan.
She said:
Umm…Are you going to joke about that every podcast?
He said:

Yeah, of course We love the He said/She said thing. And here is what all of us said about Chateau Grand Traverse:

Pinot Noir Vin Gris, Old Mission Peninsula, Chateau Grand Traverse 2008 (sample, retails $15)

She said: Very pale salmon color, quite translucent. On the nose: intense maraschino cherry, some honeydew melon, and vanilla. Nice kick of acid to keep the wine fresh, but definite sense of sweetness throughout–from nose to lingering finish. On the palate the cherries again with creme cassis. In fact, the wine reminds of a kir. Imagine hot summer afternoons by the pool–it’s a fresh and fruity easy drinking wine.

He said: Cherry on the nose. This is a strange (and delicious) wine. I can taste the Pinot Noir. Very tart cherry again in the mouth. I need to mention that I love this label. Actually, all 4 bottles look beautiful. Good job.

MichiganByTheBottle said: Another distinctive offering from Chateau Grand Traverse. This white wine is made from dark red/black grapes. The color is rusty and more salmon tinted. I get deep flavors of tart black cherry, with a real bite on the end. The finish is nice and long. It is not as crisp or refreshing as Dry Riesling, but it has a lot more body. I would call this a red wine drinker’s white wine, and it is easily my favorite of the bunch.

Ship of Fools, Chateau Grand Traverse 2008 (sample, retails $12)
(55% Pinot Blanc, 33% Pinto Gris, 10% Pinot Noir)

She said: Very pale straw yellow. In the nose: citrus, sour cherries, almond extract/apricot pit. Very refreshing and light with a great acidic kick in the end. Watermelon rind and wet stones. Excellent food wine–imagining sushi, spicy Thai, grilled fish, fruit salad. Another wine that makes me think of being poolside. Or maybe I just really want it to be pool party time again.

He said: Very pale. Citrus, apricot and a little heat on the nose. Tastes great, like no other wine I have ever tasted. 13% alcohol with almost no heat in the mouth. Very balanced with a nice acidic taste in the finish. My favorite of this bunch.

MichiganByTheBottle said: I overhead some Michigan wine personalities talking about how this is one of their favorite Michigan whites. The combination of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir really work well together to create a light and crisp wine. The aromas surround the bowl almost immediately. I get hints of strawberry and citrus. This could very well be the perfect Summertime wine to pair with a salad or grilled fish.

Dry Riesling, Chateau Grand Traverse 2008 (sample, retails $13)

She said: Very pale yellow with a tinge of green. Aromatic on the nose: spring flowers, citrus, honey, and wet stones. Bracing acidity. Fresh and lively–another terrific food wine and my favorite of the bunch. Granny Smith apple, honeysuckle, minerals. A slight frizzante. It’s bone dry, but the aromatics keep it interesting. Enjoyed it with French toast with stewed prunes and mascarpone brunch. Fantastic combo.

He said: Bone dry. Green apple, citrus and floral on the nose. It’s so dry that it hardly feels like it stays in your mouth. It confuses me, but I really like it. Even if I can’t describe it.

MichiganByTheBottle said: Dry Riesling is my favorite style of Riesling, and this selection does not disappoint. The bouquet is very aromatic with strong scents of green apple. I get a lot of tart pear on the tongue. Although it is dry, the fruit really shows through. It has a nice long refreshing finish. This would go great with sushi smothered in wasabi.

Riesling, “Whole Cluster,” Chateau Grand Traverse 2008 (sample, retails $14)

She said: Pale straw yellow. Subtle honeysuckle perfume and stones on the nose. High acid, apple, ripe pear, melon. Reminds me of SweeTarts–a candy I love (and I’m not a candy person). There is some residual sugar, but it makes for a terrific balance to the bracing acid. This may be my favorite of the bunch.

He said: Very floral on the nose. Wow, it almost feels carbonated in the mouth. The frizzante is tickling my tongue. I have described the fizz of Txakoli wines as pop-rocks, and this has the same feeling. There are flavors of grapefruit. Really refreshing.

MichiganByTheBottle said: I love unique wines, and this fits the bill. The grapes are pressed whole without destemming or crushing, adding some of the earthiness that I love in wine. This is slightly sweeter than the Dry Riesling. The best description that I could give it is grapefruit with a kick! It is very spicy with hints of ultra-ripe red apple. The finish isn’t quite as long as the Dry Riesling, but there is still a lot of flavor coming through.

3 down, 47 to go.


MichiganByTheBottle said: Chateau Grand Traverse is one of our favorite Michigan wineries. Ed O’Keefe was truly the pioneer of grape growing on Old Mission Peninsula. Sean O’Keefe pointed out that these four wines are not necessarily hit best-selling wines, but are definitely some of his most interesting. I strongly believe that Michigan wines are generally overlooked not because of the quality but because of the marketing and exposure. It is going to take more wine blogs like Swirl Smell Slurp to help highlight some of the lesser known regions doing great things with grapes.

We said: Thank you to Shannon and Courtney of MichiganByTheBottle & Sean O’Keefe of Chateau Grand Traverse for being part of USA: MI. The wines were delightful. We admire the efforts by both of you in promoting the state’s industry. Go Michigan. And We’re very curious about the reds. Perhaps a MI.2 is in order?

Previously on USA: Pennsylvania, Washington

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