13 wines and spirits you must try this month – OnMilwaukee.com

“Bar Month” at OnMilwaukee is brought to you by Miller Brewing Company, calling Milwaukee home since 1855. For the entire month of March, we’re serving up fun articles on bars, clubs and beverages – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews, the results of our Best of Bars poll and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!

Another installment of Bar Month at OnMilwaukee calls for another slate of interesting wines and spirits.

And we start this time with a quartet of whites and reds from the estate-grown Codice Citra, which focuses on grapes indigenous to its Abruzzo region in central Italy. Recent releases have included a pair of 2017 Citra vintages of the lightly acidic, ripe cherry red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and earthy-green white Trebbiano d’Abruzzo that retail at just $10 each.

At a higher price point, about $25 each, are Ferzo-labeled and from 20-year-old vines. Again, there’s a 2016 Montepulciano that’s got a hint of spicy licorice and fresh red berry fruit, but in the whites, there’s a Pecorino Terre di Chieti, from the nearby Le Marche region, that is nicely fruity, with hints of apple and pear with a bright acidity.

Also from Italy comes a pair of really nice reds at around $15 each. The Masseria Altemura Sasseo Primitivo IGT hails from Puglia, way down south, and packs a wallop not only at 14.5 percent ABV but also in terms of flavor, with rich leather and chocolate, dark blueberry and blackberry fruit, rich tannins and a nicely lingering finish.

From up in Tuscany comes Rocca di Montemassi Le Focaie Maremma Toscana – 100 percent Sangiovese – with a nice bright cherry flavor with a hint of violet. Nice mouth feel, with a good brightness and a soft decay.

MacPhail’s “The Flyer” 2016 100 percent Pinot Noir – from 1990s era vines planted in the Petaluma Gap region and fifth generation members of the respected Hess winemaking family – carries a richer price tag ($45-50) but has garnered ace reviews thanks to its warm, medium body, its fresh and fruity smack with hints of herb and spice, and long fade. It’s a great splurge wine for a special occasion or holiday feast with family or friends.

A trip last autumn to Traverse City, Michigan, introduced me to a number of wines from the two peninsulas that help create the unique microclimate perfect for wine up there.

As an example of the variety on tap in upper Michigan, check out these gems from the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula.

Bowers Harbor’s 2017 unwooded Chardonnay, made exclusively in stainless steel, which blends aromatic fruit with a creamy mouth feel ($16); Hawthorne Vineyards’ 2016 Rose ($12), the softness and versatility deriving from a blend of 40 percent Cabernet Franc, 26 percent Pinot Meunier, 13 percent Merlot, 12 percent Pinot Noir and nine percent Gamay; 2 Lads’ 2016 Cabernet Franc ($35), which includes 15 percent Merlot, is dark and rich with toffee and coffee and chocolate and spice, balanced with a dash of vanilla and dark red berries; and Mari Vineyards’ 2017 100 percent Gamay Noir ($26) is a really nice and interesting red that pops with acidity and light tannins. Great nose and a lighter mouth feel will help you remember this delicate gem.

Spirits

Having heard the buzz about the revived Chicken Cock Whiskey, I was eager to give it a try and was lucky enough to secure a sample.

Born in Paris, Kentucky, in 1856, Chicken Cock was the house whiskey at Harlem’s renowned Cotton Club when it was a speakeasy during Prohibition. The distillery was struck by fire in the 1950s, spelling the end for the brand.

Until, that is, Matti Anttila brought it back to life and tapped master distiller Gregg Snyder to create Chicken Cock 10-Year-Old Double Barrel Bourbon ($250!) using a dozen barrels of 10-year-old bourbon that he blended two at a time to create a mere 1,980 bottles.

The mash bill of 70 percent corn, 21 percent rye and nine percent malted barley sounds like a winner, but I admit it took me multiple tastings to discover the pleasures of this gem, which is a whopping 104 proof. Initially, the astringent alcohol overrode the flavors for me, but I found that just a drop of water really opened it up and the sweetness of the caramel and vanilla blossomed, as did hints of chocolate, oak and cinnamon spice.

I have no illusions that you’re spending $250 a bottle on bourbon (if so, good for you!), so I’d suggest keeping an eye out for this on bourbon lists where you might be able to get a taste at a lower price.

One of the most interesting and satisfying bourbons I’ve tasted in a while is the 10-year-old Eagle Rare, from the team at Buffalo Trace.

In addition to the vanilla, caramel and oak you’ve come to expect from most bourbons that have been in the barrel for at least a decade, I love the distinctive cocoa notes that strike a chord the minute the whiskey hits your taste buds.

There’s also hints of citrus and honey and a satisfyingly long finish that you just might wish would last forever.

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