Two Wines and Three Burgers

In this edition I bring you my thoughts on a trio of events with a trio of tastes embedded as I report on two wine tastings and do a burger review to save you the time and trouble and as an extra added attraction comment on a failed beer and food matching event, all in a thousand words or so.

Larry-Mawby“We’ve had two tough winters in Michigan and especially in the Leelanau Peninsula, our yields are way down yet the quality is still there”, states Larry Mawby, owner and wine grower of L. Mawby winery, a top producer of sparkling wine in Traverse City area. “It’s a process, it’s a real journey,” he commented further. “I’ve been in this business for 40 years and had no idea that this is where we’d be when I started”.

I find the Mawby wines to be as good if not better than even some of the California’s and in a blind tasting you could fool me that they may be from that specific area in France. His Blanc de Blanc is yeasty and thrilling yet he also makes a fun sparkler that the ATF people somehow gave him approval to call “Sex” and you can buy it at Whole Foods in River Forest. Their wine club is one of two that I subscribe to.

I’m sure I surprised Blake Lougheed, the winemaker at Bel Lago also of the Leelanau Peninsula, when I told him his wines don’t taste like Michigan wines. And I really meant it. He says the answer is that they keep every barrel from each vineyard separate and under ultimate control thereby allowing them to blend the flavors and taste profiles that offers them the best finished product.

Bel-LagoHe says the vineyards are at the highest point on the peninsula and even during the winter warmer air rises and saves the grapes from the killing frost and in summer it allows more sun and of course the heat that adds a few more degree days to better ripen the fruit.

The Pinot Grigio/Chardonnay at $14 and his Pinot Noir at $25 are truly lovely and should be searched for with the Whole Foods in Lakeview at 3300 N. Ashland, Chicago, your best bet.

Hot on the heels of the Michigan event the folks from Paso Robles CA. wine country also showed up at City Winery in Chicago.

Ancient-PeaksI found the Zinfandel and Renegade Blend, (Syrah and Malbec) from Ancient Peaks Winery to be quite tasty and am told that they were available at Mariano’s. Peachy Canyon is a winery that might recognize as it is available locally and usually at Famous Liquors. Their Westside Zinfandel is probably what they’re best known for but do look for their Incredible Red, a blend of 95% Zinfandel and 5% Syrah and a deal at less than $15, both wines are usually fairly well discounted.

Okay and now the part you’ve really been waiting for my trio of burger reviews. Lots of writing lately in newspapers and magazines about who has the best burger in what I’ll call the popular and affordable range, i.e. Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s. So the trusty tasting panel went to lunch recently to compare a product from each organization.

I did my best to sample burger for burger as in what was included and what was featured on the burger and found it more difficult than I thought it was going to be. The tasting panel results are reviewed worst to best.

At Burger King we chose the A.1. Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburger which features, “…two quarter pound flame grilled beef patties topped with thick cut smoked bacon, melted American cheese and featuring thick and hearty A1 sauce.”

This was not a good sandwich. It appeared sloppy with too much “hearty sauce” and not very well constructed.  The meat was two every day BK patties with no real beef flavor, the two strips of bacon were of no consequence, the slice of American cheese had absently no flavor and the A1 sauce frankly wasn’t very tasty and added nothing to the overall flavor of the burger. Raw white onion instead of red onion? Brioche and this bun should not be in the same sentence. A member of the tasting panel thought the BK fries were the best of all three with a nice crunchy exterior, oh and even the Diet Coke was bad.

“Son of Baconnator” was our choice at Wendy’s, “…two beef patties, four strips of Applewood bacon on a premium toasted bun with mayo, catchup and cheese”. Not a good looking sandwich to start with but things got better, a good bun, crunchy bacon, good cheese, overall enjoyable. On the downside, the patties didn’t have much flavor, fries were weak although they are cut from whole potatoes and could be better if properly cooked and salted and again, the Diet Coke was bad.

I was completely surprised when I saw and then ate a bite of the McDonald’s Bacon & Cheese Sirloin Third Pound Burger. It was well constructed and had an appealing look. McDonald’s claims the burger is from, “100% North American sourced sirloin with savory bacon, crispy red onions pickles and melted white cheddar, plus catchup and mustard on a premium bun.

McDonald's”Mmm,mmm, mmm”, commented a member of the tasting panel. The burger was quite tasty with a good meld of flavors and had good bite texture; everything seemed to be in the right place at the right time with proper pickle, ketchup and onion ratio. The bacon was actually tasty and the beef patty tasted like a… beef patty.

The McDonald’s sandwich was truly an easy pick as best of these style burgers and yet I find out that this is a limited issue product when this company is looking for items to help it refocus on a better and more popular menu, go figure. My guess is you’ll see it again in the future. Oh I think they’re the best fries when cooked and salted correctly and they certainly had the best Diet Coke of the day.

And finally, just a thought to show you that not every food and wine matching is a success. I recently attended a tasting event at that big, new brewery from Petaluma California now running in Lawndale where they matched a chicken, beef and pork item prepared by an upscale grocery store with the last name of “foods” with three of their beer products. Here’s the deal, the three beers offered were fine and the three food samples offered were fine, except none of them went with each other.

My question is who didn’t tell who what they were making or what they should be drinking with what they were making? My guess is since this was a fundraiser for a volunteer group which shall go nameless, they weren’t really that concerned about the food and wine matching component even though that’s what the $45/pp event was billed as, but it’s a shame to have all this product offered and have none of it be successful.

That’s my whine and I could be wrong.