Tag Archives: beer

Summer Beers

Although Bell’s Oberon and Leinenkugle’s Summer Shandy have been out for over a month now, the weather has not cooperated. Doesn’t Mother Nature know that once these beers hit the market, we are supposed to have warm, sunny days with cool, floral-scented breezes? Well, finally the weather has broken, and the growl of rusty lawnmowers fills the air. With new and unique beers being released every day, there are many to choose from no matter your style.

Frankenmuth’s Twisted Helles 

(Available the first week of June)

I can’t tell you how excited I was when I got the email from Frankenmuth’s Chuck Osberger, asking me if we wanted to be one of the select-few retailers to carry its brand-new summer beer: Twisted Helles. Not wanting to go with the normal wheat beer selection, the brewers decided to stick with their German roots. In the late 1800s, the Germans came up with a light and refreshing recipe to compete with the Czech Pils that had become very popular. Helles, German for bright, was just the trick. Now centuries later, Chuck and his team have crafted a beer that reflects summer in Michigan. Spicy, with orange and lemon overtones and a crisp, clean finish, this beer will be the hit of the season. Act fast, though. Like summer, the Twisted Helles is fleeting.

Short’s Nicey Spicey

(Available the first week of June)

I agree with the brewers at Short’s when they say their summer wheat ale is complex yet scrumptious. The name says it all. It features a nice dollop of fresh lemon and orange rind for citrusy tartness, and it’s spiced with coriander and black peppercorn for body and balance.

Angry Orchard Traditional Dry Cider

(Available now)

With gluten-free products being all the rage, Ciders are on the rise, and Sam Adams has struck while the iron is hot! The entire Angry Orchard line of hard ciders is gluten free, but I think the Traditional Dry is the tastiest. Crisp and refreshing with notes of fresh Fuji and Granny Smith apple, the traditional has a bright, bittersweet finish that is thirst quenching and leaves you wanting more.

New Belgium Rolle Bolle Ale 

(Available now)

As Detroiters, we are a step ahead of most of the country when it comes to traditional Belgium Feather Bowling, thanks to the Cadieux Café. Balance comes into play with both the game and the beer. Oats provide a creamy mouth feel, with tropical notes on the nose and a crisp, citrus, hoppy finish from Cascade and Centennial hops. This beer was made for long afternoons at the park playing games and grilling.

After a long, hot day in the yard or on the boat, these beers are the perfect treat to beat the summer heat!


– Jennifer Laurie

The Beers of Belgium

If you follow me on Twitter @NinosWineExpert or read my blogs, you will already know that I am a huge beer fan. I do not claim to be a Cicerone, a beer expert, in any way. I’m just a girl who loves drinking unique and flavorful beers and sharing my experiences with friends and customers alike. I have spent a lot of time blogging about Michigan beers and their styles. However, I have not expressed my love of Belgian beers. When most people think of a Belgian-style beer, they think of citrusy, light, spiced wheat beers like Hoegaarden–my personal favorite. However, Belgium has many styles of beers, from rich, dark, strong ales like Westmalle Dubble to sweet, fruit-flavored Lambics like Lindeman’s.


Belgium Brewing

Though there are no hard-and-fast rules to Belgium brewing, there are a select few that hold the revered title of Trappist Ales–six to be exact. The production of these beers must be overseen by Trappist Monks in their monastery, and the profits must either go into the upkeep of the monastery or to a charity of the monks’ choosing. The recipes are up to them and vary dramatically. However, the acclaim and infamy of these beers is consistent.

Of the six made in Belgium–and I have tried four. Chimay and Westmalle are readily available year-round while Orval and Rochefort are limited gems that should be scooped up when seen. Besides Orval, each brewery brews at least two styles of beer. Chimay and Westmalle brew both a Tripel style and a Dubbel style. A Triple Ale is blonde, strong, pale ale brewed with three times more malt than a regular strong pale ale. They are known for high alcoholic content, sweet candied fruit and yeast notes, with balance, and almost hidden, bitterness. On a side note, if you like Champagne and are looking to try beer, this is a great place to start, but be conscious of the alcohol content, because this drinkable style can sneak up on you! The Dubbel, is slightly less alcoholic than the Tripel, with more rich, dark, fruit, caramel and nutty notes. These styles are often imitated by US craft brewers, most notably New Belgium, whose love of Belgian beers has brought these styles to the masses.

Other beers that are stylistically Belgian are Saisons, witbiers, blonde, brune, and lambics. Saisons, or Season in French, are Farmhouse ales that were brewed in the winter months for the purpose of providing refreshment for field workers during the harvests of the long, hot summers. They are spiced, medium bodied, and tend to be between 5- and 8-percent alcohol, even though the more traditional ABV percent was about 3.5. American brewers have taken a liking to this almost extinct style. Michigan brewers like Jolly Pumpkin and New Holland have many followers hooked with there Saisons–Bam Beir and Golden Cap, respectively.

Blonde Pale Ales

Blonde pale ales are not to be confused with witbiers, though both have a lovely golden color and both have spiced notes of orange peel, clove and candied lemons. The biggest difference would be that blondes are made predominately from malt and witbier (or wheat beer) from wheat. When looking at them, the witbeir will have an ethereal cloudy quality while the blonde will be clean and vibrantly golden. The best and oldest example of a witbeir is Hoegaarden. While you may have tried the ever-popular Blue Moon Belgian-Style Wheat, brewed by Coors in Montreal, Canada, I highly recommend trying the Hoegaarden for its remarkable, refreshing, sweet and sour, lemon-zest finish.


When searching to try a blonde pale ale, I recommend Leffe Blonde, or if you’re up to no good, reach for the Duvel. Duvel, devil in Dutch, is a strong pale ale, with all of the malt, citrus, spice and alcohol of a regular pale ale–intensified. Brunes are the darker counterparts to the pale ale. They tend to be roasted with notes of caramel, nut, and sweet malt. Leffe, again, is a classic example.

Leffe Brown and Blond

Lastly, we come to dessert: Lambic.

Though almost synonomus these days with Framboise, the raspberry-fruit-style lambic, lambics come in three different styles and can go from mouth-puckeringly sour, to richly sweet. In general, you can find two types of lambic: fruit–mainly raspberry (frambois), cherry (kriek), peach (peche) and black currant (cassis)–or gueuze. Fruit lambics are terrific alternatives to dessert wine and pair wonderfully with dessert or mixed into cocktails. All are sweet, with just a hint of tartness to the finish, especially the Kreik, which is brewed with sour cherries.

Kriek, Frambois, and Peche Lambics

However, the gueuze is going to be tart and sour, with notes of yeast and under-ripe Granny Smith apples. It doesn’t sound it, but it is delicious and refreshing. Unlike its friendly fruity sisters, gueuze is not for the novice beer drinker. If you are looking to break from the norm, however, I say go for it!

If you like to keep your beer purchases Michigan made, Jolly Pumpkin makes many deliciously traditional Belgian-style ales. Though there are many other styles out there, I believe this is enough to get your interest peaked and your mouth watering over Belgian beers!!!


– Jennifer Laurie

“Hop”ping Into the New Year

January may seem like an odd month for beer geeks to get excited, but each snowy, bitter, and bleak January, they wait for the golden, floral horizon of Bell’s Hop Slam. In Michigan, and many states across the country, January 8th is celebrated with release parties and brewer’s dinners as well as very happy hopheads. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “hophead,” it simply refers to a beer lover who is enthused with hoppy beer.

So what does hoppy mean?

A hoppy character comes from the types of hops used when brewing a beer. Hops are flavor agents that impart an overall bitter flavor to beers and balance out the sweetness of the malts used. Hops became popular to use in the 13th century, when brewers noticed that when hops were added during the brewing process, their beers lasted longer. Hops have a stabilizing antibacterial effect on the brewer’s yeast, making it less likely to spoil. Though many mild beers use hops, like Sam Adams Boston Lager, Pilsner Urquell, and Magic Hat #9 Pale Ale, many hopheads brush these styles aside for the king of hoppy beers, the IPA.

IPA, or India Pale Ale, was created in England in the 1700s for British soldiers stationed in India. Before IPA was created, the beer that would arrive in India would have a skunked, awful flavor due to the extreme heat it would face on its seaward travels across the equator and around Africa. The alcohol was a known preservative, and the hops had their antibacterial nature, so George Hodgson of Bow Brewery realized that by adding more hops and more alcohol to the beers, the beers would arrive palatable. As with the American Tiki Revolution of the 1950s, the soldiers came home craving the bitter beers they had tasted abroad, and a new style was born.

In my most modest opinion, American style IPA is notably more complex than English style IPA. It’s generally richer and more floral, imparting a citrus character. Noble hops, more traditionally used in Europe, are lightly bitter and more aromatic. American style IPAs, such as the ones produced by Bear Republic, Bell’s, Dogfish Head, and Founders, rely on popular and flavorful American hop varieties like Cascade, Columbus, Warrior, Simcoe, and Centennial. Some, like Nino’s most popular IPA, Bell’s Two Hearted, are brewed exclusively with one hop variety while Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute is brewed with many. Most American hops convey citrus (especially grapefruit), stone fruits, and pine resin.

The art to a good IPA, like all things, is balance. Many IPA or Double IPA brewers today have made it their goal to make the hoppiest beer around. Beers like Stone Brewing Company’s Ruination, named because it ruins your palate, or Arcadia Hopmouth, are too much for me. However, I find Bell’s Hopslam, with its addition of honey and punch of malt, delightful. A good rule of thumb when trying a new IPA is to find out its IBUs. International Bitterness Units give you a good idea of how hoppy a beer is. My favorites, such as Founders All Day IPA and New Belgium’s Ranger IPA, are 42 and 70 respectively; the aforementioned Ruination’s is 100.

If your New Year’s resolution was to try new things, I highly recommend IPAs, but be warned, their refreshing citrus quality, paired with their mouthwatering bitterness, will haunt you and leave you craving more. You may even find yourself turning into a hophead!

Oktoberfest Is Here: O’zapft Is!

On October 12, 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. And thank the beer gods he did, because over 200 years later, we are still celebrating that royal wedding by eating Brats and drinking fresh, flavorful beer out of giant steins!

Traditionally, Oktoberfest is a Marzen-style beer, which can be confusing because Marzens are brewed in March. Before refrigeration, the summer would be too hot to make beer because you couldn’t control the fermentation. So it was decreed that beer would only be brewed between the fall and spring months. On top of the King’s anniversary, this autumnal celebration was an excuse to drink all of the summer’s beer to prepare for fall brewing.

Although Oktoberfest is technically a German tradition, American brewers have taken it on with gusto. Everyone from Leinenkugel to Short’s has an Oktoberfest beer now, and they all sell out quickly! Whether you are a traditionalist, drinking only Bavarian beers like Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten or Paulaner, or bounce around, tasting whatever you can get your hands on, here are my picks for celebrating Oktoberfest:

Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen Münich Germany $10.99 –

Brewed in the traditional Märzen style, which imparts a richer maltier flavor than others, the Paulaner has notes of toffee and spice with a touch of refreshing bitterness on the end.

HofBräu Oktoberfest Münich Germany $9.99 –

If I had the chance to go to Oktoberfest and drink copious amounts of Oktoberfest beer from morning to night, I’d choose Hofbräu because it is so very drinkable. Hofbräu Oktoberfest is not made in the Märzen style, so it is not as spicy and rich. It is, however, full bodied, hoppy, crisp, and refreshing!

Frankenmuth Brewery Oktoberfest, Frankenmuth MI $8.99 –

Last Wednesday, LockhartsBBQ had a FrankenmuthBrewery tap takeover. There, I was able to meet Chuck and Tammy from the brewery and try their delicious Oktoberfest. It was well balanced in the traditional German style with a slight touch of hops and malt.

Short’s Noble Chaos Bellaire, MI $9.49 –

Playing off the noble wedding and use of Noble hops, this up-north version of a Marzen Oktoberfest is very limited. The extra age makes it toasty with notes of caramel and molasses.  The slightly bitter, hoppy quality on the finish leaves you wanting more.

Oktoberfest is technically only two weeks long, starting this Saturday, September 22, and even though these beers are the perfect complement to fall cuisine, they won’t last long. So whether you choose a Bavarian beauty or a Michigan native, be sure to scoop some up soon!



– Jennifer Laurie

New Beginnings for New Belgium Brewing

Here ye, Here ye! New Belgium’s Fat Tire has arrived in Michigan! More importantly, it’s at Nino’s! This iconic beer, along with its friends Red Hoptober, Ranger IPA, and Tripple, are now sold in our Great Beer State.  Craft beer fans understand that not only does New Belgium produce tasty, well-balanced beers, but it has also forged a path for many small breweries trying to run successful companies.

New beginnings for New Belgium Brewing

The History of New Belgium Brewing

It all started over two decades ago when Founder Jeff Lebesch was touring small towns of Europe on his “fat tired” mountain bike.  He cycled from town to town, trying the different styles of beer, dreaming that one day he could build his own brewery.  Already a home brewer, and a huge fan of Belgian-style ales, Jeff and his then wife–now CEO Kim Jordan–took that little dream, added a ton of hard work, and created New Belgium Brewing.  New Belgium Brewing is now the third-largest craft brewery in the U.S., producing 750,000 barrels of highly regarded brew each year;  and it’s still growing!  In 2011, New Belgium chose Asheville, NC (that’s right, the other Beer City 2012) as the site for its new brewery to help ease expansion. Michigan is the last state that will receive NBB products from its brewery in Fort Collins, CO until the 2015 opening of the Asheville facility.

New Belgium is known for its fun work environment, green technology, and forward business thinking. But how does it taste? I could yammer on about how New Belgium was the first windmill-powered brewery or about how after your one-year anniversary of working there, you receive a bike and a portion of the company. But if these beers didn’t taste good, none of this would matter.

New Belgium beers

Last week I sat down and for the first time in seven  years, I drank Fat Tire.  Fat Tire is an amber ale that is Belgian in style, letting the spices and malt shine while hops take a backseat. It was Jeff and Kim’s first beer and has stayed the flagship because of its easy touch of bitter hops on the finish that leaves you refreshed. The three that came next were new to me.

Born in 1992, the Tripple is a traditional Belgian Triple style, with loads of coriander and clove, but it only has a touch of the traditional banana found in ales like St. Bernardus and Westmalle. This beer would be terrific on a chilly fall night as an accompaniment to a bowl of warm squash soup.

Brand new to every market is the seasonal Red Hoptober.  It was very enjoyable, with a spicy malty quality and a floral kick from the hops. It’s not a traditional Oktoberfest beer since it is a bit heavier than most, but I will definitely be back for more.

After much persuasion, the hop heads finally convinced New Belgium to do an IPA – Ranger, named after the national sales force’s nickname.  I must say, if I ever get a beer named after me, I hope it is as delicious as the Ranger! This has shot to the top of my list of favorite beers. Utilizing Chinook, Cascade, and my favorite, Simcoe hops, the Ranger has a beautiful balance of fruit and citrus, with a long, lightly bitter finish.

New Belgium has made it clear that it wants to become a part of the Michigan craft beer community and not overshadow it.  It’s even made a special Michigan Commemorative Label that reads, “Pedaling Straight to the Great Lake State.” Well, New Belgium has pedaled its way into my heart, and hopefully, yours!

Commemorative Michigan label


New Belguim is available in 22-oz. bottles or “Bombers” for now, but the traditional 12-oz. six packs will be released in November.


— Jennifer Laurie

Toast on the Coast

“Toast on the Coast” Summer Beer Festival

Love beer? Want to be where you can choose over 75 great beers from around the world? Right down the street?

If you answered yes, you’ll want to mark your calendar for Saturday, August 25th and be at Fishbone’s at 9 Mile & Jefferson between 4 PM and midnight to celebrate great beer, great food and great times at the “Toast on the Coast” Summer Beer Festival.

toast on the coast beer festival

Co-sponsored by Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace and benefiting Camp Casey, this unique beer-tasting event is being held in a 10,000-square-foot “Beer Garden” tent and features a Shrimp and Crawfish Boil and a Home Brew Challenge with our own Leo Salvaggio among the judges.

Just $25.00 buys you 15 samples of these unique beers, which you can sample as you stroll the grounds and enjoy traditional beer fare, including Nino’s Artisan Pretzel Walking Sticks. They will no doubt be a hit at the festival.

And if you love Detroit sports, not to worry. There will be HDTVs at the festival, so you won’t have to miss a pitch or a pass (Both the Detroit Tigers and Lions are scheduled.).

Boats, Brats, Bats and Beer…sounds like a winning combination for a great time on the shoreline.

In preparation for the festival, I’ll be preparing one of my own beer-inspired creations on Fox 2 Detroit, Sunday morning, August 19th. Be sure and check that out too!

For tickets and information, visit www.toastonthecoastbeerfest.com or stop by any Nino Salvaggio market to purchase tickets and get a head start on your beer I.Q. by checking the enormous selection of local and internationally crafted beer at our stores.

Join us on Saturday, August 25th at the “Toast on the Coast” Summer Beer Festival at Fishbone’s in St. Clair Shores. It’s another great way to brew up a weekend of fun!

Michigan Craft Beer Craze

Is it a down economy for Michigan right now? Yes. Is the information about the car companies confusing? Sure. But one bright spot, a shooting star in Michigan’s recovery, is our beer industry. The best part about the growth in this industry is that it’s from the ground up–literally. Last weekend, I was up on Old Mission Peninsula, enjoying a casual drive with beautiful views of vineyards and orchards, when I spotted a hop farm! I made my husband pull over so I could check it out.

From the hops to the wheat, from the brewers to the bloggers, the beer industry is employing more and more Michiganders every day. What’s more, our state is making waves in the beer community worldwide. If you go to Ratebeer.com, you will see that not only does Michigan hold the #2 and #3 spot for the best breweries in the world–Bell’s and Founders respectively, but the very local Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. also rounds out the top ten!

First Toast on the Coast Beer Festival

Next week, Kuhnhenn will attend our first annual Toast on the Coast beer fest, featuring some of the other top Michigan breweries, including Shorts and Dark Horse. Tickets are only $25, and there will be up to 75 different beers there (also food and entertainment).

I’m excited to see two of my favorite local breweries, Kuhnhenn Brewing Co.  and Dragonmead Microbrewery, sponsoring the festival.

Many of Michigan’s 100+ breweries are nearby, including Motor City Brew Works, Royal Oak Brewery, and Rochester Mills, but some are a little harder to get to. A four- or five-hour drive will take you to highly regarded breweries like Shorts in Bellaire as well as Right Brain in Traverse City. Even further out, you have Keweenaw Brewing in Houghton.

The craft beer boom has ignited the Michigan craft beer bar concept to help get some of these hard-to-reach beers to consumers. Lockhart’s in Royal Oak and Mitten Bar in Ludington feature only Michigan beer on draft while 7 Monks in Traverse City, One Eyed Betty’s in Ferndale, and The Club House in Rochester Hills all have extensive draft beer lists that boggle the mind (up to 46 different beer and craft ciders on draft–a beer nut’s dream). Demand for Michigan craft beer is so high that some the top-producing Michigan Breweries, including Arcadia, Bell’s, Founder’s and Atwater, are expanding their facilities this year to meet demand to the tune of $70 million!

Many of the most revered brewers, such as Larry Bell of Bell’s Brewing, started out as home brewers. The Toast on the Coast Summer Beer Festival will have a Home Brew Challenge. Are you the next Larry Bell? Join us, compete, and find out!

Here’s a small list of my favorite Michigan craft beers:

  • Founder’s All Day IPA, Grand Rapids $10.49: The color of sunshine, the All Day IPA is floral and grapefruit-like. This India Pale Ale was designed to be lower in alcohol for those long days at the lake.
  • Arcadia Ales Sky High Rye, Battle Creek $9.99: Crisp, with a nice amount of rye toast notes, the Sky High Rye is the perfect compliment to hamburgers off the grill.
  • Shorts Huma-Lupa-Licious, Bellaire $10.99: The floral hops leap from the pint on this one! The bitterness of the hops is kept in check with balancing malt. Perhaps it’s not for the IPA novice, but the Hop Heads love it!

All of these are available at Nino’s, so next time you’re in one of our stores and go to grab a six pack of one of those high-volume macrobrews, pick up a locally produced beer instead, and enjoy pure Michigan!

See you at the Toast on the Coast!

– Jennifer Laurie

Summer Beer: Open a Bottle and Release the Summer!

Monday, March 28 began summer for many beer lovers. Though it is a mere 8 days after the first day of Spring, and temperatures were well below the freezing mark, Monday was the release date for Summer’s most beloved Michigan Beer; Bell’s Oberon.  Oberon is a lightly hopped wheat ale, with notes of orange peel and spice.  The alcohol is 5.8% so I don’t recommend having a couple before cutting the grass, but on a lazy summer day by the pool, it fits the bill.  You can buy it by the 6 or by the “designer” Mini Keg!

Though Oberon, followed closely by Leinenkugle’s Summer Shandy – a Weiss beer blended with Lemonade – are the most anticipated beers of the season, many of the craft brewers across the country release light bodied,  refreshing, but still flavorful Summer beers. Here are my picks for tasty summer beers:

Founders Cerise

Bright tart Michigan cherries are blended in to this malty beer five times to get the right balance between tart and sweet.

New Holland Golden Cap Saison

One of my favorite summer beers, medium weight, with light touches of citrus and spice.  This beer has a fruity, wheaty, quality while it still has a dry finish, kind of like Champagne; maybe that’s why I like it so much!

Flying Dog Woody Creek White

A traditional wheat beer, the Woody Creek White has notes of coriander, citrus and banana. Light in alcohol (4.8% abv) this is a nice beer for hot summer days and cold summer salads.

Dogfish Head Festina Peche

This is not your average “fruit” beer. Made in the almost lost Berliner Weisse style, the Festina Peche has a defiantly tart quality to it.  The peach is prevalent on the nose and palate, making it light, fruity, and summery without being sweet.

Summer does not technically start until June 21 this year, but who wants to wait that long? Pick up some summer beers, Brats, and watermelon and give your summer a jump start!


– Jennifer Laurie

Valentine Wines & Pairings: Spiriti d’Amore

I have a confession. I am a Valentine’s Day nut!

During this “Hallmark holiday” you will see me adorned in pinks, purples and reds trying to spread my love of wine, beer, and spirits throughout the aisles of Nino’s. As many of you already know, I will use any excuse to drink bubbly wine, and Valentine’s Day is no exception. Rosés from Mumm Napa, Louis Barthelemy, and Mawby are among my favorites. However, I am not going to bore you with another Bubble-headed article. Whether you’re looking to pair up surf and turf, Chinese take out, or just having a nightcap, here are my picks for a wonderful Valentine’s Day meal…


While I was chatting with the Seafood guys here, it became clear that folks like to cook up a lot of shellfish for the holiday. For crustaceans like lobster and crab legs I recommend a medium bodied white.

La Cana Albariño 2009, Rias Baixas, Spain $15.99 –

Albariño is a Chameleon in the wine world. While at dinner with my family, my Mother-in-Law exclaimed it tasted like Chardonnay, my Mother said Riesling, and my Hubby said Sauvignon Blanc! I just said it tasted delicious with my Pop’s seafood linguini! Fruity pineapple, bright citrus, and a dry cleansing finish.

Jean Reverdy La Reine Blanche Sancerre 2009, Loire, France $24.99 –

Floral and elegant, Jean Reverdy Sancerre has a touch of minerality that lends to a complex midpalate. White flowers, ripe melon, and white peaches round out the flavors.

Domaine De L’Aurière Muscadet Survre et Maine 2009, Loire, France 10.99 –

The minerality in Muscadet makes it a perfect pairing for oysters. A bit rounder with more melon flavors than most Muscadets, this is a good introduction to the grape Melon de Bourgogne.


Whether you brave the cold for your beloved and grill some Delmonico’s, or pan sear some filet mignon, our butcher shop has the best prime cuts in town. Try out some Zip Sauce to really add a loving touch!

Garacha De Fuego 2009, Calatayud, Spain $8.99 –

Set the night on fire with this spicy Garnacha from Spain! Bold flavors of cooked plums and ripe black cherries make it the perfect complement to Lamb Chops or Filet Mignon.

Summers Andriana’s Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley, California $22.99 –

This Nino’s Favorite just received 90 points from Robert Parker who said the bouquet exhibits sweet black cherries, plums, earth and spice. I would have to agree. I found that even after aeration the tannins were firm, making this wine a good gift for the wine geek in your life, since they can lay it down for a few years.

Caliterra Tributo Carmenère 2008 Colchagua, Chile $16.99 –

Established in 1996, Caliterra started as a partnership between the Robert Mondavi Family and Vina Errazuriz. Their intent was to showcase the intense fruit and complexity that wines from this region could yield. This Carmenère is a terrific example of just that. It has hints of blueberry, white pepper, and spice box with a creamy mouth-feel and silky tannins.

Hooray Beer!

There are times when I find beer fits the bill better than wine. Right now we have a couple of Craft beers that are good as gifts, or for enjoying on a special evening.

Bell’s Hopslam $17.99 6pk –

Sweet and floral, this takes the term Hoppy to the next level. Brewed with 6 different Hop varieties, Hopslam is well balanced with honey, apricot and grapefruit flavors. Try this with beer battered cod, pork chops, or pan-seared scallops. Perfect for the Hophead in your life!

Atwater Cherry Stout $9.49 6pk –

Made with cherry concentrate from Michigan Montmorency Cherries, this rich and dark stout is a great complement for a steak or for dessert!


Our Bakery is filled to the brim with heart shaped cookies, cakes and treats! Here are my picks for drinks to go with dessert or stand alone as a night topper!

Piece of Cake Liqueurs $19.99 – Support the economy by buying Michigan made Piece of Cake Spirits! These liqueurs come in Chocolate, Pineapple Upside-down, and Strawberry Shortcake. Though the Chocolate has been the most popular, my favorite is the Strawberry.

Sweet Bliss Red, White, and Rose, Washington $9.99 –

For those of you with a sweet tooth these new wines from Washington fit the bill! With fun labels that describe what the wines taste like; chocolate covered cherries for the red, caramel apple for the white and strawberries and crème for the rose, these wines are terrific as a sip-able dessert!

anCnoc 12 year Scotch $39.46 –

I am in love. Yes, with my husband, Rob, but also with this 12 year old scotch. This is a Highland (Speyside to be specific) Single Malt that’s nose is intoxicating with honeyed citrus. On the pallet there are notes of orange blossom, honey, and slight smoke making this a charming and drinkable scotch. A great gift!

I hope this article helps you find the perfect gift or accompaniment to a romantic dinner at home this Valentine’s Day!


– Jennifer Laurie

Wine, Beer & Spirits: Halloween Party Must Haves!

If, like me, you pull out all the stops for Halloween, you have to be up to date on all the best beverages for your Halloween Party.  Here are my picks for a party so fun it’s scary!


Bogle Phantom Proprietary Red Blend 2007 $18.99 – Like Brigadoon, this Autumnal favorite is visible only once a year and it is like nothing you’ve ever tasted! A blend of Petit Sirah, Old Vine Zinfandel, and Old Vine Mourvedre, Phantom is ripe and luscious with loads of blackberry, coffee and chocolate notes. As it says right on the bottle this wine is mysterious and naughtily seductive.

Ghost Pines Merlot 2007 $19.99 – Named by the Martini family in 1964 for the ethereal gray pines that grow along the coastal valleys of California, this Merlot is elegant and well balanced.  My recommendation for a “go to” crowd pleaser, the Ghost Pines Merlot has cherry and ripe berry flavors with a long finish of baking spices.

Ghost Pines Chardonnay 2007 $19.99 – Floral and fruity on the nose this Chardonnay is creamy with citrusy, lemon curd flavors. A perfect pairing for sweet jumbo sea scallops or a baked brie tart.

Cline Viognier 2009 $10.99 – Parties are always a great opportunity to introduce your guest to something new.  Viognier is a perfumed and peachy white wine that Cline does a tremendous job with!  I picked this particular bottle for the approachable, fruity, food friendly quality, and the black and orange label.

Leelanau Cellars Witches Brew $6.99 – Support Michigan’s economy by buying this fun spiced wine from Leelanau. Flavors of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg add bewitching flavor to this fruity red.  Warmed up Witches Brew is perfect for adult trick or treaters coming in from the cold!


Hard Luck Candy Flavored Vodka Root Beer Barrel and Red Fish $20.96 –

If Halloween is about anything other than being scared, it’s about CANDY!  And the team over at Hard Luck Candy in Detroit has perfected turning the classic candies Root Beer Barrel and Swedish Fish into 70 proof flavored vodkas. Enjoy them as shooters or have an adult root beer float by pouring the Root Beer Barrel over ice cream!  Go to their website for more recipes! www.hardluckvodkamichigan.com

Crystal Head Vodka $49.99

Created by Ghostbusters actor Dan Ackroyd, this striking package holds very excellent vodka.  Quadruple distilled and then triple filtered through Herkimer Diamonds – thought to have energizing powers – this is a good vodka for sipping. The vodka is smooth, clean and slightly sweet on the finish. Be sure to pick up the limited gift set with two skull shaped shot glasses! www.crystalheadvodka.com

Lucid Absinthe $59.99 –

That’s right! Absinthe, it is legal again! Lucid is slightly sweet and packs a wallop of anis flavor.  When appropriately blended with sugar and water the green liquid turns milky white. The perfect conversation starter! www.drinklucid.com


Sam Adams Oktoberfest $8.99 – Although most of our Oktoberfest beers are gone, we have a limited supply of this medium bodied, very drinkable beer.  Spicy and rich but not too heavy this beer is a party pleaser.

Magner’s Hard Cider $11.99 – Light and refreshing, this hard cider is not as sweet as some other ciders which makes it more drinkable. It has just a hint of apple with a crisp finish.

North Peak Diabolical IPA $10.49 – This India Pale Ale made in Traverse City is perfect for the Hop Heads in your life. Spicy and floral, the Diabolical is a tasty alternative to Oktoberfest or Pumpkin Ales.

Cheers to Halloween and having a ghoulish good time!

– Jennifer Laurie