Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Idaho Wines: Sawtooth Winery

Formerly known as Pintler Cellars, Sawtooth Winery was founded in 1987 in Idaho’s Snake River Valley. Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc, and Viognier are planted in two vineyards, Sawtooth and Skyline, totaling about 470 acres. Total production capability of the winery is 24,000 cases. Sawtooth is part of Precept Wine, which is the largest privately owned wine company in the Northwest.

Idaho Wines: Sawtooth Winery

Tasting Notes:
Snake River Valley Syrah 2012: estate grown Sawtooth Vineyard grapes; barrel fermented in 30% new French and American Oak; deep dark purple color with ruby edges; smoke, prune, and oregano aromas; earth, rhubarb, herb, and subtle cherry cola flavors; 1,000 cases produced; twist-off closure; SRP $16. 
Skyline Red 2012: 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 18% Petite Verdot, 4% Petite Sirah, 2% Malbec, 2% Syrah; deep ruby red with garnet edges; smoky plum, herb, and tar aromas; cassis, pomegranate, dark berry, and earthy flavors; smooth mouthfeel; well-balanced with good acidity; 2,231 cases produced; twist-off closure; SRP $15.
Riesling 2012: 98% Riesling and 2% Muscat Blanc estate grown grapes from the Sawtooth and Skyline Vineyards; aged 7 months in stainless; golden straw color; melon, white floral, tropical fruit and spice aromas; melon, yellow currant, honeyed stone fruit, and mineral flavors; a touch of sweetness is balanced with a tart finish and an acid backbone; 4,200 cases produced; twist-off closure; SRP $12.
Pinot Gris 2014: 99% Pinot Gris, 1% Muscat Blanc from the Sawtooth Vineyard; aged 7 months in stainless; extremely pale yellow in color; floral, lemon, and subtle orchard fruit aromas; melon, lemon, yellow currant, and mineral notes on the palate; soft mouthfeel with a nice touch of acidity; 1,200 cases produced; cork closure; SRP $20.
Wines provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Restaurant Review: DMK Burger Bar, Lombard

Sometimes you hear about a restaurant long before you actually make a visit. That was the case for us with the Lombard location of DMK Burger Bar. It's a place I've wanted to check out for a while, but it never quite worked out. This year, for Father's Day, it worked out.

After a year of searching the USA for a great burger, David Morton and Michael Kornick opened DMK Burger Bar. The focus was on serving 100% grass-fed beef patties (something we wholeheartedly endorse), along with other burgers, all paired with artisan buns. Philanthropically, DMK Burger Bar supports local charities benefiting hunger, wellness, children and the environment. Nice.

Restaurant Review: DMK Burger Bar, Lombard

So, Lombard. One of three current locations with a fourth forthcoming (at Navy Pier). At this location, close-in parking can be a bit difficult, though plenty of spaces are available if you just park a bit further away. A small patio sits at the front of the restaurant, though it was too warm for us to try that out. Neither a straight up bar or restaurant, this has a bit of a fast food chain feeling - the design is understated, with some highbrow elements and comfortable seating, with a decent overall feeling. Wide aisles and incredibly high ceilings make this place seem somewhat vast and add to the general noise level. A bathroom sign warns you that the floor is slippery and they were not joking. This almost feels like a work in progress, with finishing touches to come later. We'll see.

A variety of burgers are joined by options for salads and sides (everything is à la carte), as well as a decent beer list, with some local options included. Hopefully moving forward the local aspect will be played up more, though I can't fault them for what they're doing now.

Six people, three types of burgers (The Paleo - Grass-Fed Beef, Marinated Portobello 'Buns,'Arugula, Pistou; a #1: Aged Cheddar, Smoked Bacon, Charred Balsamic Red Onion, Rufus Teague's BBQ Sauce; and two basic cheeseburgers, along with mac 'n' cheese for the boys (Mac 'n' Cheese #1: Aged Cheddar, Parmesan Crust). We also added three varieties of fries (Parmesan with TruffleCream; Wisconsin Cheddar and Scallions; and Sweet Potato Fries with a Lemon Tabasco Aioli).

Restaurant Review: DMK Burger Bar, Lombard

As mentioned, each dish is à la carte - what was surprising was how it was served. Tasting sizes of the fries were ample for all of us (can't imagine getting the larger shared size) and on reasonably sized plates. The burgers were served on saucers, filling each plate - not sure who came up with that idea, but it just appeared wrong to me. I suppose with larger plates it would be more obvious that no garnishes or sides came with the burgers, but even a small salad plate would have been more attractive visually.

The food itself was great, with no complaints at all. The sweet potato fries were crispy, which is not an easy thing to do. Quantity of food was adequate, though it seemed like there was less than usual due to those small plates). The variety keeps things interesting, with plenty of choices available on a return visit - it would take a while to eat through this menu.

Restaurant Review: DMK Burger Bar, Lombard

The food and drinks (an order of wine, a tap beer, and four Blood Orange and Watermelon Housemade Sodas) came out to be $100, which is a lot for lunch. It's not an unfair price, as the quality of food and drink were very high. If they tweak the service (bigger plates please), add some garnishes, and rework the layout, this could become a regular place for us to visit.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Indiana Wines: Oliver Winery and Vineyards

Located in Bloomington, Indiana, and started in the 60s as a hobby, Oliver Winery now annual sales exceed 320,000 cases. Definitely more than a hobby. Sourcing grapes from a variety of growers, Creekbend Vineyard is Oliver Winery's commitment to the production of great wine from Indiana grown grapes. Oliver Winery sells almost 50 wines and ciders, made of vinifera and hybrid grapes and other fruit. Oliver sent us bottles of their Soft Wine series, three, semi-sweet Soft Wines that were the recipients of the 2014 Gold Consumer Wine Awards in Lodi, California and have earned 40 medals in the last three years.

Indiana Wines: Oliver Winery and Vineyards
Soft White: Niagara grapes; cold fermented in stainless steel; palest of yellow in color; white currant, star fruit, and subtle white flower aromas; citrus, muskmelon, white currant, and honey flavors; quite sweet, then some acid; agglomerated cork closure; SRP $7.50. If they dialed bak the sweetness on this, it would be a really nice wine.
Soft Rosé: Catawba grapes; cold fermented in stainless steel until dry; juice added provide sweetness; pretty dark salmon color; red currant, cranberry, and pomegranate aromas; sweet raspberry, red currant, rhubarb, and orchard fruit flavors;  agglomerated cork closure; SRP $7.50. Not as sweet as the Soft White, this would also be better with less sweetness.
Soft Red: Concord grapes; cold fermented in stainless steel tanks until dry; juice added provide sweetness; cranberry red color; grape juice aroma; grape juice flavor with just a touch of cranberryish bite;  agglomerated cork closure; SRP $7.50. This is, unfortunately, a one-dimensional wine; Concord is a tough grape because it always brings to mind Welch's grape juice. I've never tasted a Concord wine that got beyond that.
Indiana Wines: Oliver Winery and Vineyards

It's tough to make wine from these native grapes, without them being either musky or cloyingly sweet. These are well done  and would be improved, in my opinion, by vinifying out more of the sweetness or limiting the addition of juice after fermentation. One of the suggestions on the Oliver Winery website is to use these wines as mixers in wine cocktails. We chose to make sangrias with all three, and were pleasantly surprised at the positive results. All three wines made a good sangria, very refreshing as we were able to mitigate the sweetness with the fruit, rum, and ginger beer. We ended up mixing all three together to make a super sangria that was extremely tasty.

If you are a fan of sweet wines, these are a well-made version. If not, use them as mixers for good wine cocktails or feel comfortable gifting them to those that enjoy sweet wines. 

Indiana Wines: Oliver Winery and Vineyards

Daily wine tasting and weekend tours of the production facility and cellar are available, as are an assortment of gourmet picnic items, gifts and accessories. Creek bend Vineyard tours are by appointment only and are offered seasonally on a limited basis. We're looking forward to visiting the next time we head to southern Indiana.

Wines provided for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Indiana Wines

Indiana Wines

As one of the closer states to us, it's a bit surprising that we haven't tasted more Indiana wines. Part of this was a disappointing early tasting and also many of the wineries are in the southern section of the state, making it difficult to easily swing by to visit. Things are changing however; Purdue University has stepped in to help both the wine and craft beer industries, and quality is on the upswing. According to Indiana Wines, the trade group,  the wine industry in Indiana nearly disappeared between Prohibition and the early 1970's. Two events helped revitalize the industry. The Small Winery Act of 1971 allowed wineries to sell directly to the public rather than through wholesalers. Also, in 1989, the General Assembly created the Indiana Wine Grape Council to support the growing industry. This helped the industry grow from 9 wineries to well more than 50 today.

As the industry has grown, wineries have banded together to promote themselves and make it easier for consumers to find them.  At least 5 wine trails have organized themselves and allow people to take regional tours: Cardinal Flight, Hoosier Wine, Indiana Uplands, Indiana, and  Indy.

Indiana Wines

Don't have time to drive around to visit the individual wineries? Head to Indianapolis for Vintage Indiana, an annual festival promoting Indiana wine and food. Indiana wineries offer samples of more than 200 wines along with food and live music. 

I'll be working on visiting some of these wineries and also getting some bottles to taste - time to check out our neighbor again.

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