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The Wine Side of James Beard Awards
Several Wisconsin chefs got nods in the JBF Awards, but what about the wine?

"three glasses with white, rose and red wine" image via Shutterstock

Foodies and wine-os wait, with bated breath, for this time of year when the James Beard Foundation Awards semi-finalists are announced (in May the winners are named). This year, there was a quite a bit of Wisconsin representation. Two Milwaukee chefs were named in the “Best Chef: Midwest” category: Justin Aprahamian (Sanford) and David Swanson (Braise Restaurant). In addition to fabulous food, the wine lists at both are fantastic. Braise is even tapped into the latest wine trend which is wines from a cask. Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge in Bay View, that inconspicuous white ranch house that cultivates many a love affair, was nominated for “Outstanding Bar Program,” joining company with The Aviary in Chicago (I’ve been, trust me, it’s outrageous what molecular-gastronomy cocktails can do. Ever had one that tasted like buttered popcorn?). L’Etoile in Madison snagged a slot on the list of semi-finalists for “Outstanding Wine Program.”

The Ruby Tap’s busiest night is Thursday and no wonder. That’s when the $10 corkage fee for wine bottles bought at this shop in the Tosa Village is waived. What does that mean to you? This translates to not only paying just the retail price ($10-$130) – as opposed to the typical 200 percent mark-up most restaurants employ – but you also don’t have to tack on the extra $10 to enjoy it in the shop. Choose from 70 wines. Thirty-two of those are in the self-dispensing wine machines, providing the perfect opportunity to try a pour for a buck or two before you splurge on the bottle.

You know what they say about Wisconsin winters, right? You can either embrace them or hide. Tempting as it is to hunker down inside with a big glass of red wine, here is an opportunity to do something, well, unique. Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery  is hosting a Frozen Tundra Outdoor Wine Fest this Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. at its Kewaunee tasting room and winery. Pile on your down and polar-fleece clothing and head up north for a vineyard tour, food pairings, a live-music show and tasting of the wines (all are made from Wisconsin-grown grapes) in a glass that’s yours to keep. Tickets cost just $10; buy them at the winery or at its website before you go.

Looking for a unique bubbly to uncork on Oscars Night this Sunday? I recently sipped Franciacorta Berlucchi Cuvee 61 Rosé Sparkling (Italy, $24). After expressive notes of wild berries this sparkling wine eases into a creamy, bright finish. There’s also a slight taste of brioche on the finish (perfect for pairing with bread and chip appetizers). Half Chardonnay and half Pinot Noir grapes went into this wine. Curious why it’s called '61? 1961 was the first year of Berlucchi’s wines. Last year marked the 50th anniversary. What better occasion to drink this wine? (www.berlucchi.it)

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