After a run of overcast skies, the sun peeked out on Monday and so I zoomed over to the Iron Horse Hotel in Walker’s Point to test-drive new executive chef Grand Slauterbeck’s tweaks to a menu of small bites, wine and cocktails. Florence & the Machine and vintage Cure tunes filled The Yard – an outdoor patio with sun sails, sectional sofas, upcycled cocktail tables and yes, even adorable puppies – as I sipped a glass of Hanna Winery Sauvignon Blanc (Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California) and Cloudline Cellars Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon). These are just two by-the-glass selections on the 100-bottle-strong wine list. As for nibbles, there’s Russian Roulette (childhood favorite “pigs in a blanket” where one is stuffed a habanero pepper), foie-gras popcorn balls, chicken wings with homemade doughnuts and lobster deviled eggs.
If you’re looking for a new spot to kick back this summer with a glass of wine, particularly if you have a large group, The Yard is the place to be.
WINE EVENT OF THE WEEK
You really can’t buy a glass of wine closer to Lake Michigan than you can next weekend at the annual Lakefront Festival of the Arts on the grounds of the Milwaukee Art Museum at the Baumgartner Terrace. (This is a brick patio extending south from the museum’s Quadracci Pavilion.) While the painters, sculptures, furniture makers and fiber artists who travel from around the country to sell their wares here are all top-notch, a nice pairing lies inside the Milwaukee Magazine Wine Garden. Sold by the bottle and by the glass, selections from the wine list can be sipped alongside a carefully curated cheese pate.
WINE DEAL OF THE WEEK
Did you know Chez Jacques in Walker’s Point has a gorgeous garden behind its restaurant? Away from the hum of traffic along 1st Street, it’s a quiet little oasis not many people know about. Also a hidden gem is its happy hour, where from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday glasses of wine on the all-France list are slashed by a buck. Bottles are reduced by $5. Nine different appetizers, including bouchee d’escargots and champignons farcis, are $5.
WINE OF THE WEEK
Chardonnay is so, well, plentiful. But the Golden State puts out a lot of other stellar white-wine varietals, including Pinot Gris. I’m a big fan of the 2012 La Crema Winery Pinot Gris (Monterey, California, $20). It’s confident but not aggressive, featuring crisp Meyer lemon notes and some guava too. Because the wine is aged in stainless steel, there’s no oak on the palate, just lots of minerals instead that contribute to an overall freshness. (www.lacrema.com)