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Wisconsin’s Wine-Buying Power
Wisconsin loves its Washington State wine. Plus: chocolate wine.

In town two weekends ago for Wine & Dine Wisconsin, the Washington winemakers I met with revealed an interesting fact: After their home state, Wisconsin is the second-biggest market for their wines. With this in mind, here are my favorites of the wines poured during the “Shining Stars of Washington State” seminar at the annual wine and food event.

2007 Basel Cellars Estate Winery “Inspired” Red Wine Blend (Washington State, $40) features 72 percent Merlot and 28 percent Cabernet Franc grapes, in a classic Bordeaux Right Bank style, and is a burgundy color in the glass. Dusty black-cherry and boysenberry notes, along with a hint of espresso, are the hallmarks of this wine, of which only 473 cases were made. (http://www.baselcellars.com)

2009 Reininger Winery Cabernet Sauvignon (Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $40) is a blend of 78 percent Cabernet Sauvignon plus Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, resulting in a full-bodied, muscular Cabernet Sauvignon with earthy black-currant and plum notes, plus a cigar-box nose that carries through on the palate all the way to the finish. (http://www.reiningerwinery.com)


Every wine has its season and for Beaujolais Nouveau, that’s the third Thursday of November. A reader emailed me on that date asking where she might sip some Beaujolais Nouveau après-work: I directed her to Thief Wine Shop & Bar’s Milwaukee Public Market location. InterContinental Milwaukee also threw a grand fête in honor of this French wine’s annual release. But what if you missed those opportunities? Don’t fret because on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at the Bay View Community Center, 1320 E. Oklahoma Ave., in Milwaukee, is another chance. Tom Vaughan – he used to own Downer Avenue Wine & Spirits – will be pouring his 10 favorite 2012 Beaujolais Nouveau releases (think light and fruit) at this three-hour event, which begins at 6:30 p.m. A buffet of meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables is also included. To sign up, call 414-482-1000.


Do you have an American Express card? I do, and count myself lucky, because that means I’ll get $25 worth of wine – gratis! – when I shop at Thief Wine Shop & Bar on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. As part of Small Business Saturday, American Express cardholders who spend $25 at a participating business (Thief Wine is one) will get that amount credited back to their card after the purchase. You must pre-register your card, however, to be eligible for the offer, and I’m told that the number is often capped off, so don’t delay!


Chocolate wine. Those two words strung together sound suspicious, don’t they? In October, ChocolatRouge wines debuted, linking red-grape varietals with chocolate in a single bottle of wine. With the holidays around the corner, I sipped the two and feel they’d make excellent pairings with chocolate desserts, or drunk from a cordial glass after dinner. ChocolatRouge Sweet Red tastes like a high-alcohol, full-bodied red wine with a sweet raspberry-chocolate kiss on the finish. (It’s actually got Pinot Noir, Malbec and Syrah grapes.) As for ChocolatRouge Milk Chocolate, I recommend serving over ice for a fun cocktail. The Barbera wine marries quite nicely with rich chocolate but there’s definitely a creamy textures that tips it into the cocktail category. Each bottle costs $11.

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