Bordeaux. Napa. Toledo?

Getting beyond our depth is what we do at AHC because  no matter how hard I work my opinions will always outnumber the subjects I’m qualified to speak to. So proceed at your own risk because today we venture into the minefield of viniculture.

I’m the cook here at the Stone Cottage. That means I am also the sommelier. My training amounts to having drunken lots of wine over the past three decades and remembering what I like. In other words, I’m a trained professional.

Wednesday past, a work at home day, Mrs. AHC suggested stir fry for dinner. Foodies and chefs will tell you there are three great cuisines and you should master one. Self-trained fry cook that I  am, most of what I do is based on bistro cooking.

But to say I know anything about cooking Chinese is an insult to the one billion plus Chinese on the planet. What I know how to do is raid the vegetable bins, take the last of everything, dice it and fry it all together in a wok. (I have a good high carbon steel wok bought open box at Williams-Sonoma for a double sawbuck. Browse those clearance racks!) So stir fry it was.

Except for one, small problem. The only chilled white was a Chardonnay and I found myself burnt out on the big grape. Since I knew what I was cooking  I also knew I wanted something with a little more bite.  I love acidic whites; in summer I’d rather drink nothing else. Mrs. AHC abhors them and lately has taken to suggesting she’s ready to swear off whites entirely. Still I wanted something different and from the mystic chords of memory I recalled Dry Rieslings.

This is one of those categories that’s problematic. The Alsatian and German bottles are too expensive and the West Coast ones are too sweet–even the ones labeled dry. I turned for guidance to my friend Viviane’s blog–Food & Style and sure enough she had wise words on the subject. V and I don’t always agree on food but she’s always finding great wines. I just didn’t want to drive to Piermont.

Instead I headed to Pearl River and, at the big chain liquor store, found myself staring at the same too-sweet bottles and chasing a three and a half-year old who insisted on playing tag in a bottle-filled emporium. Corralling her I headed in desperation to the refrigerator. And there, standing between two known-to-be-too-sweet offerings, was a Dry Riesling ($16) from J. Trees Cellars.

Something about the label said  ‘this is what you’re looking for.’ Maybe it was the lack of marketing copy. Maybe it was the intriguing red silhouette of Michigan. But I gambled and I’m glad I did. Drunk ice (and far too) cold the experience is all flint and steel. But allow it to warm up a little and there’s apple and pear and a little tangerine. While I worried about the citrus notes Mrs. AHC gave it her highest non-Chardonnay praise, “It’s alright.”

While I’m sure there’s a back story to be discovered, the J. Trees website is beautiful and evocative and, except for the wine descriptions, stark and devoid of fluff. In some ways it’s a lot like the product tasted. Look up the address on Google maps and you’ll find Blissfield in southeast Michigan,closer to Toledo than any other city.

Who knew Michigan could compete head to head with the big guys–and win.


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