By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jan 22, 2008 at 10:28 AM

 Yesterday, I took Great Lakes Distillery's Doug MacKenzie up on an offer to visit the Capitol Drive area distillery and be among one of the first in town to taste his first attempt at making grappa.

While Great Lakes has rapidly made its name with great vodka and gin that bear the name of owner Guy Rehorst, anyone who has met MacKenzie can immediately see that he's a guy with fire (water) in his eyes. He's got distilling in his blood -- although not when he's driving -- and he's eager to try his hand at new spirits, many of which will likely get added to Rehorst's product line.

Great Lakes is the first licensed distillery in the state since Prohibition -- another has opened since, in Hudson --  so, it seems fairly safe to say that MacKenzie's grappa -- distilled from Wisconsin-grown Marechal Foch and Millot grapes -- is the city's first commercial grappa and likely the first in Wisconsin.

With a pleasing nose and a fruity attack, this is a smooth grappa that could use a little boost on the finish, but is satisfying and delicious. It's definitely an auspicious start.

Once Great Lakes gains government approval for the grappa and for the label, MacKenzie hopes to have 100-plus bottles out to retailers in the area. They will most likely arrive sometime in spring. So keep your eyes out for it and stay tuned to and we'll let you know when it's coming.


Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.