Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Restaurant Review: Reclaimed Bar and Restaurant, Chicago

On occasion, one hears about a restaurant outside the obvious restaurant destinations of Chicago like River North or the West Loop. Reclaimed Bar and Restaurant sits in Chicago's North Center area, a few miles West of Wrigley Field and well-worth searching out. Run by the husband and wife duo of Chef Craig Bell and Adrienne Fasano, this is a family business that is both a neighborhood joint and also more. The menu is Southern (mostly) and Italian food through the lens of the chef's experiences (training at Le Cordon Blue, a stage with Chef Hilario Arbelitz at Zuberoa in San Sebastian, Spain, and a background in competitive barbecue). Adrienne brings the Italian angle with special dishes on Sundays.

Restaurant Review: Reclaimed Bar and Restaurant, Chicago

Reclaimed is all about honoring the past yet being modern about the results. Flooring and other wood items have been reused in the decoration and a repurposing project is soon to happen in the outside patio area, which will result in a second bar space. Music is also important to the co-owners, evidenced by a turntable and vinyl LPs as well as weekly LIVE music sessions. Craig was playing Supertramp while we were there, definitely a blast from the past for me.

We ordered from the Brunch menu, available from 10:00am to 3:00pm, which has an interesting mix of dishes expected and some not so much. Much of the menu is available later for Dinner (5:00pm to close), along with a host of additional options. We can heartily recommend the Biscuits and Gravy (Buttermilk Biscuit, Breakfast Sausage, White Gravy), the French Toast (Baguette Bread, Cinnamon, Raspberry Compote, Maple Syrup), Fried Chicken (Buttermilk Brined, Chicken, Orange Ginger Honey Dipping Sauce) and Bacon Brittle (Apple Smoked Bacon, Candied Sugar Cayenne Crust), but be careful of the last one - it's spicy! All of the dishes are an elevated version of what you might have had before, with some special additions that lift them beyond the ordinary (the raspberry compote was a revelation). We definitely plan on finding time to visit again during dinner hours.

Restaurant Review: Reclaimed Bar and Restaurant, Chicago

Don't be shy and order a craft cocktail to go with your meal. If the other drinks are anything like the Bitter Southerner (Medley Bros Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Amaro Montenegro, Jack Rudy Sweet Tea Syrup, Lemon Juice), I could easily spend hours tasting my way through the cocktail menu. The beer and wine lists show attention to detail as well. In fact, the only thing lacking was much of a choice for non-alcoholic drinks, something that could be easily remedied via the plethora of craft sodas available these days or having the mixologist come up with some options.

There's no doubt that, if I lived in the area, this would be my neighborhood restaurant - casual and friendly in feel, but with inventive food and drink to keep it interesting. Don't wait for a Cubs game to head over either.

Reclaimed Bar and Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

*Meal provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Casillero del Diablo 2014 Reserva Merlot

Casillero del Diablo 2014 Reserva Merlot

One of my favorite Merlots in recent memory, the 2016 Reserva from Casillero del Diablo is a quaffable fruity wine with cedar notes and a pleasing undercurrent of acidity. I immediately thought of making Sangria - this would make an excellent base.

*Wine provided for editorial purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Rock River Chocolate Trail

Over the Memorial Day weekend, my youngest and I enjoyed a road trip following the Rock River Trail, a route that follows the Rock River from Waupun, WI down to Rock Island, IL. We had a great couple of days driving down, visiting towns big and small, taking photos and creating memories.

Rock River Chocolate Trail

One aspect that we really enjoyed was trying to find identified candy stores on the Rock River Chocolate Trail. These are shops that the organizers of the Rock River Trail have found in the towns along the route. I counted 21 shops on the official route, and we planned on visiting 9 of them.

Unfortunately, since our trip took place over a holiday weekend, not all of the planned stops were successful. Of the 9 we had hoped for, we found 4 of them open, but we enjoyed each one.


Rock River Chocolate Trail


The Rock River Trail is just over 300 miles officially and could be driven in a day if one were so inclined. We'd suggest a more meandering pace, with stops for chocolate, other food, a few wineries, and the sights along the way.

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Friday, June 2, 2017

Michael David 2014 Inkblot Cabernet Franc

Michael David 2014 Inkblot Cabernet Franc

I remember drinking this for breakfast last year, poolside at Bare Ranch for the Snooth-Lodi Wine Media Trip, and thinking that any wine that's good for breakfast is probably a pretty damn good wine. I've had it several times over the years and it remains one of, if not the best, of all Cab Francs. This is like drinking Lodi in a bottle. Aromas of dark earth, blackberries, black pepper and spices; all of the above along with tart red berries on the palate; this is a 3-Dimensional wine, full in the mouth, tannins and acid duking it out in the background, with a full and lingering finish. Outstanding now, I can imagine this rewarding patient years of cellaring as well.

*Wine provided for editorial content - all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Vivanco: Sharing Wine Culture

Vivanco: Sharing Wine Culture

Located in Briones, La Rioja in northern Spain, the Vivanco organization consists of a winery, museum, and foundation. Third generation Pedro Vivanco was one of Spain’s first certified winemakers and is joined by his sons, Rafael the winemaker and Santiago running the museum and foundation. One of the things I really appreciate is that Vivanco makes wines using only native grapes vinified using traditional techniques, and presented in a bottle inspired in an original eighteenth-century bottle that is on exhibit at the Vivanco Museum of the Culture of Wine. The original building, a new, state-of-the-art winery, museum, educational center, tasting room, and restaurant sit on top of a naturally temperature-controlled underground cellar that can hold 3,500 barrels. Wow.

Tasting Notes:
Viura-Tempranillo Blanco-Maturana Blanca 2016: handpicked from estate vineyards; 50% Viura/35% Tempranillo Blanco/15% Maturana Blanca; Tempranillo Blanco and Maturana Blanca, an indigenous, minority white grapes that are exclusive to the DOCa Rioja; each grape variety is vinified separately on its lees for 4 months in stainless steel; floral, citrus, and orchard fruit aromas; pear, banana, and citrus fruit flavors; nicely balanced with some forward acidity making for a crisp and refreshing drink; synthetic cork closure.
Reserva 2010 Seleción de Familia: handpicked 90% Tempranillo/10% Graciano; each grape variety is vinified separately; aged 2 years in French and American oak barrels; smoky earth, dark fruit, and red berry aromas; plum, vanilla, sweet red fruit, and spice flavors; good balance between tannins and acidity and should age well for another 5-10 years; cork closure.
The eye-catching bottle and unique labels certainly catch ones attention, but the fantastic wines inside are what will make you a fan.

*Wines provided for editorial purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Cockburn’s Special Reserve Port

"Take top quality grapes (trodden)
and plenty of seasoned wood barrels.
Lay aside to rest. Then just add Time."

Cockburn’s Special Reserve Port

I'm a huge fan of port and, while many think of this drink as imbibed by old men puffing on cigars, Port has undergone a sea change in the last 50 years or so. Gone are the days when the only option was a vintage Port, declared only in exceptional years and expensive. Founded in 1815 by Scotsman Robert Cockburn, Cockburn’s (pronounced “Cō~burns”) is one of the oldest port houses, today owned by Symington Family Estates Cockburn’s family of ports now includes Special Reserve, Vintage Port, Anno (Late Bottled Vintage) and Quinta dos Canais (Single Quinta Vintage), Fine Ruby, Fine Tawny, and 10- and 20-year-old Tawnies. Wow. In 2015, Cockburn's celebrated 200 years of winemaking, which is really impressive.

Cockburn’s Special Reserve was created in 1969 to fill the gap between ruby port and vintage port. Ruby ports are aged for less time and are ready to drink sooner. Reserve ports are aged slightly longer at 4-5 years in large barriques and also are ready to drink on release. Cockburn’s invented the reserve port category, and it is now one of the most popular ports.

Tasting Notes:
Grapes from vineyards at Quinta dos Canais; hand-picked: pressed by foot treading ('pisa' in Portugal); fermented and aged in oak barrels made by the company’s coopers; red berry, cherry and red plum aromas; similar flavors with a slight sweetness and spice; smooth mouthfeel with just a bit of burn from the higher alcohol content (20%); cork closure; SRP $18/750 mL.
Wonderful to drink on its own, Cockburn's suggests pairing this port with nutty desserts, chocolate, fruit and strong cheeses. Don't worry about opening the bottle for a single glass (if you can limit yourself) - the wine will stay good for up to six weeks once you’ve opened it.

*Wine provided for editorial purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Adler Fels Winery

Founded in Sonoma Valley in 1979 by David and Ayn Coleman and perching high on a crest in the Mayacamas Mountains, Adler Fels (German for “Eagle Rock”) has views of vineyards in Sonoma to Napa and beyond. In 2016, they announced that they had updated their brand with new wines and new packaging. Winemakers Aaron Bader and Linda Trotta continue the tradition of making the wines from top grape growers who have worked with the winery for as many as three generations.

Adler Fels Winery

Tasting Notes:
2014 Pinot Noir: 76% Santa Rita Hills/24% Russian River Valley grapes; cassis, spices, and pepper aromas; black cherry and cassis flavors into a tart red berry finish; light bodied but well-balanced; 1,500 cases produced; SRP $27.99.
2015 Chardonnay, 50% Russian River Valley/50% Monterey County; Meyer Lemon, apple, and melon aromas; tropical fruit, honeyed almond, and toast flavors into a lemony finish; pleasing mouthfeel, well-balanced, and a pleasure to drink; 1,000 cases produced; SRP $19.99.
*Wine provided for editorial purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Weekend At Turkey Run State Park

People primarily go to Turkey Run State Park to hike, and it's set up well for that. From the parking lot, where the Nature Center is located, a long and tall suspension bridge takes you across Sugar Creek to the more demanding trails in the park. Maps for the trails (and park in general) are handed out when entering ($9 for out-of-staters at the time of this posting) or in the Nature Center. Make sure you get one, because the trails are well-marked with sign posts, but it's still easy to get turned around when you are out there. I hiked this with our six year old and, while he's a gamer, none of the hikes were overly difficult for him (though he did tire about halfway through our second day).

A Weekend At Turkey Run State Park

We spent two days hiking the Park. On the first day we hiked Trails 3 and 10 and back on 3 - 3 has ladders and stairs and plenty of canyon time, while 10 meanders flatly through the forest. If you're reasonably fit, we highly recommend Trail 3 above the others, if you can only choose one. The second day we hike Trail 3 (ladders again!), briefly on Trail 5, then Trail 9. Trail 5 from Trail 3 starts with 140 stairs up the side of the hill, beautiful but taxing. Trail 9 was the most technical of the ones we hiked, with a lot of scrambling over boulders and so forth. There is a beautiful waterfall on this trail we hadn't heard about and that made the more difficult trek worth it for sure. Back onto Trail briefly, then the return to the bridge along Trail 3 made for a nice long hike.

A Weekend At Turkey Run State Park

While you can camp or find lodging outside the park, the Turkey Run Inn is on site, which makes it very convenient. Built in 1919, it has undergone expansions and renovations over the years. It's in reasonable shape, with some mustiness here and there, but overall clean and well-run.

The Narrows restaurant is onsite at Turkey Run Inn and, unfortunately, is only okay. Décor is dated and uninspired, but the restaurant feels clean. We ate both breakfast and dinner there, opting for the buffet option both times (Sunday we didn't have an option due to a holiday). The food tastes like it was provided by an outside food company like Aramark or Sysco. Nothing wrong with that, but not overly interesting, creative, or flavorful. I wish we'd opted for the pizza option, which can be eaten either in the restaurant or taken out - they looked and smelled great.
The Narrows Restaurant at Turkey Run State Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Weekend At Turkey Run State Park

If you don't want to hike, or want to supplement that activity, the park does offer an outdoor pool during warmer weather, picnic areas, and other recreational activities. Next time we come back we plan on canoeing or kayaking Sugar creek or trying out the park's horseback riding.

How to get there: Turkey Run State Park is about 160 miles South of Chicago, IL an about 70 miles West of Indianapolis, IN.


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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Aberrant Cellars: A Winery Dedicated to Avoiding Convention


ab⠂er⠂rant
adjective: aberrant, departing from an accepted standard

Aberrant Cellars: A Winery Dedicated to Avoiding Convention

When I was offered samples of Aberrant Cellars wines, I jumped at the chance, based on the name of the winery alone. I love language and when someone shows imagination, that's a real bonus. Eric Eide, the winemaker, has an appreciation for Latin, and it is reflected in his wines' names.

Tasting Notes:
Philtrum Pinot Noir Blanc 2015: "Love Potion;" not a typical Pinot Noir in any shape or form; dry farmed grapes from the Eola-Amity Hills sub-AVA; whole cluster pressing; fermented for 52 days 53% stainless steel/47% barrel; aged 5 months in stainless steel and 25% new oak puncheons; white flower, starfruit and red berry aromas; orange peel, savory notes, into a spice filled finish; decidedly non-white in character, belying the color in the bottle; 344 cases produced.
Virtus Ex Pinot Noir 2013: "Strength;" LIVE farmed grapes from 3 vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills sub-AVA; each vineyard fermented separately; aged 15 months in 44% new French oak; 223 cases produced; smoky plum and black currant aromas; dark berry, tobacco, and tart red berry flavors into an earthy acidic finish; 223 cases produced.
These are some amazing wines, really a different approach than other wines I've had from the same sub-AVA. While I would recommend searching both of these wines out, definitely try the Philtrum, as it's unlike anything you've likely tasted before.

*Wines provided for editorial purposes - all opinions are my own.


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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Trivento Reserve Malbecs

Named after the three winds that blow through the Mendoza region: the Polar, Zonda and Sudestada, Trivento shows Malbec not as a signature style, but reflecting different temperaments, styles, and flavors. Their Reserve wines are a great way to see the differences side by side.

Trivento Reserve Malbecs

Tasting Notes:
2016 Reserve Malbec: grapes from Luján de Cuyo (50%) and Uco Valley (50%) in Mendoza; maceration before fermentation for 20 days in stainless steel; natural malolactic fermentation; aged in French oak barrels for 6 months, then in bottle for 5 months; red plum, pomegranate, and cocoa aromas; dark fruit, tart red berry and tobacco flavors; comparatively light and bright.
2014 Golden Reserve Malbec: grapes from Luján de Cuyo; definitely the Reserve's bigger brother - dark fruit, earth and tart berry aromas; dark fruit and cassis flavors into a earthy leather finish.
These are two very different interpretations of Malbec, fun to compare and contrast their styles.

*Wines provided for editorial purposes - all opinions are my own.


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Friday, March 31, 2017

Frontera After Dark!

Frontera After Dark!

Frontera, a Chilean wine company, is reaching out to Millenial wine drinkers, aiming new ventures their way with an “After Dark” tagline, in deference to this new generation of wine lovers for whom “the day starts to come alive at night.” Interestingly, Millennials are less engaged with 1.5-liter bottles than previous generations, demonstrating instead a marked preference for 750s and alternative packaging. Frontera After Dark labels port a dramatic black background, overlaid by a depiction of the Andes Mountains traced in gold, as dark labels represent a powerful new trend in the U.S. and dominate the landscape where millennials are concerned. In 2015, dark labels registered by an impressive +29% volume increase over traditional cream/white labels. Frontera After Dark was one of the first “dark-label” ranges to debut in the $4 - 7 value category. The 2 wines I tasted were the Moonlight White, a faintly effervescent, crisp, fresh, light Moscato-based blend and the After Midnight Red: a Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah blend, rounded out with a touch of Merlot.

Tasting Notes:
Moonlight White: honeyed lemon and white floral aromas; melon and honeyed apricot into a lemon finish; on the sweet side but balanced by an underlying acidity.
After Midnight Red: cherry, tobacco, and spices on the nose; dark fruit, red currants into a tart red berry finish; luscious mouthfeel with decent acidity.
*Wines provided for editorial purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Peter Zemmer Pinot Noir Rolhüt 2015

Peter Zemmer Pinot Noir Rolhüt 2015

The grandfather Peter Zemmer established the family wine business in 1928  in Cortina s.s.d.v. in Alto Adige - South Tyrol. Today his grandson Peter continues the family's work. At an elevation of 450 m. (1,400 ft.), the hillsides are made up of loam, chalk, and porphyry. A mixed alpine and Mediterranean climate makes for farming that can be herbicide-free, with only organic fertilizer used. In a truly sustainable effort, the winery's entire energy requirement is met with renewable energy, generated through the use of photovoltaic panels on an area of 400 square meters on the roofs of the vineyard. The best of both worlds - a family business with an eye to the future.

Tasting Notes:
Stems immediately removed and grapes fermented with skin contact for a week; 70% aged in large French oak barrels/30% aged in 2-3 year old French oak barriques; wine is blended and bottle aged for 6 months; pomegranate and tart cherry aromas; tart berry, dark cherry, and baking spice flavors in a light bodied and balanced wine; cork closure; SRP $18.
*Wine provided for editorial purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Riesling Rules: Meeting Pacific Rim's Nicolas Quillé

Riesling Rules: Meeting Pacific Rim's Nicolas Quille

A breakfast meeting with Nicolas Quillé had me excited and a bit nervous. He is the head winemaker for Pacific Rim (among other Banfi properties in the Northwest).  Born in Lyon, France,  to a multi-generational wine family, Nicolas worked in France as a winemaker before making the move to the United States in 1997.  He initially worked as a winemaker in California and then in Washington State, before earning his MBA and then moving to Bonny Doon Vineyard as General Manager. where he supervised the restructuring of the family business involving two significant merger and acquisition transactions. He led the Pacific Rim brand spin-off from Bonny Doon and became the General Manager and Winemaker for Pacific Rim Wineryand is also the Vice President of the International Riesling Foundation, among other wine industry positions. A nicer person you couldn't meet, and a true ambassador for Riesling, one of my favorite white varietals and probably the grape most responsible for me getting the wine bug.

We spoke at length and happily, since I had to get back to work, chose to forego tasting wines, though a few bottles came home with me that day (cheers!). I'm a fan of their green practices, which include a winery built to optimize efficiency for electrical and water usage, composting 100% of their pomace, along with a host of other sustainability efforts. They even produce an organic Riesling, hooray!

Tasting Notes:
2014 Columbia Valley Riesling: white floral, starfruit, and pineapple aromas; muskmelon, honeyed nut, and lychee flavors; semi-dry; nice acidic finish, twist off closure.
2013 Solstice Vineyard Riesling: old vines planted in 1972; grapefruit, white floral, and spice aromas; tart citrus, almond, and white strawberry flavors into a tart and acidic finish; quite dry in the Alsatian style; twist off closure.
Selenium Vineyard Ice Wine Riesling: Yakima Valley grapes harvested on St Nicolas Day 2013; the Selenium Vineyard sits at 1200’ above sea level; floral, honey and stone fruit aromas; sweet apricot with a touch of citrus and into a honey and nut finish; not acid forward but underlying and cuts through sweetness; 117 cases produced; twist off closure.
Pacific Rim makes a range of Rieslings, from entry level to their single vineyard bottling, and it's clear that quality is paramount in their winemaking. The wines I tasted had that quality in common, yet stood apart as individuals, allowing the different aspects of Riesling shine through. It was fantastic to meet with Nicolas, hear his story, and finally, taste his wines.

*Wines provided for editorial purposes - all opinions are my own.
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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Southern Love

When Chile's Concha y Toro purchased vineyards in neighboring Argentina, they named their new venture Trivento, or Three Winds. The Polar (winter), Zonda (spring), and Sudestada (summer) provide ideal conditions for grape growing. Trivento takes those grapes and vinifies several lines of wines, including Amado Sur, or Southern Love, which are odes to the art of blending varietals.

Southern Love
Tasting Notes:
Hand picked Malbec 79%, Bonarda 11%, and Syrah 10%; fermented in stainless steel tanks; aged 8 months in French oak barrels, 6 months in stainless steel tanks after the assemblage, then bottle aged for 5 months; lovely dark fruit, and red berry aromas; dark fruit, tar, and a hint of red licorice flavors; nice balance, and pleasant mouthfeel into a slightly tart and tannic finish; cork closure; SRP $15.
*This wine provided for editorial purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Friday, January 6, 2017

Brothers in Wine

Brothers in Wine


From Michel Chapoutier comes a collaborative wine, produced with Jasper Hill owner-vintner Ron Laughton of Victoria, Australia. This wine comes from a small, old-vine vineyard planted above the Agly Valley. Biodynamic winegrowing is enhanced with organic composts (they are Ecocert-certified). About a third each of Carignan, Syrah, and Grenache are hand-picked and fermented in small cement vats. Aging in 1-3 year old French oak barrels lasts for up to 20 months. I found the 2010 to have minimal aroma, but in the mouth there were lots of dark fruit, green herbs, and an earthy midpalate into a slightly acidic finish. Love the round, almost viscous mouthfeel when first opened - according to the producers, this wine is ready to drink upon release after having been aged in bottles for at least a year.

*Wine provided for editorial purposes - all opinions are my own.

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