Stuck in a wine rut? Or just looking for something more interesting to pair with your next meal? We've got your number. For this series, we'll be talking to some of the best and most qualified wine experts in Milwaukee and getting recommendations for wines that you should be drinking right now.
"For me, it’s always been about the enjoyment of wine. It’s life, drinking different things and eating," says Joshua Wolter, general manager and beverage director for c.1880. "I enjoy the hell out of it."
Wolter says he was introduced to the world of wine during an experience at Helen & Craig’s Bistro in his hometown of Racine. It was an experience that inspired a natural curiosity about wine and the ways it could be paired with food.
"The deeper I went, the more I wanted to know," he recalls. "I found my passion."
That passion drew Wolter into the industry, where he gained experience working with Chefs Marc Bianchini at Osteria Del Mondo and Robert Ash at Kil@watt. From there, he moved on to work with Brian Frakes at The Pfister, where he helped design beverage pairings for chefs table and wine dinners.
"I also had the good fortune to be able to travel fairly extensively," Wolters notes. "And that’s where I garnered a good deal of my wine knowledge."
In 2013, he took on the role of general manager and beverage director at c.1880, a Walker’s Point restaurant which has been the recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for four years running.
"There’s an incredible benefit to the adventurous nature of Chef (Thomas) Hauck’s food. It gives me an opportunity to really branch out and be adventurous with the wines. It’s allowed me to really seek out new things and bring creativity to our offerings that really complements both the food and the tastes of our guests."
In the end, his approach to wine is simple: ""A good glass of wine can definitely make a meal, but don't be afraid to try something new, or unknown. It's not life or death, it's wine."
NV Patrick Bottex "La Cueille"
'Thanksgiving is all about tradition, I think we can all remember taking a sip of sweet wine when we were little, as glasses were left unattended by adults. I was raised making the stuffing with my mother, and it was a firm belief that it wouldn’t turn out unless there was a $4 a bottle Andre, Cold Duck in the kitchen, déclassé I know, but a tradition I keep to this day, and will for the foreseeable future. I recently discovered Bugey-Cerdon, a slightly forgotten wine region in the crossroads of Savoie, Burgundy and Rhône, when planning last year's Champagne dinner at c.1880. This ever so slightly sweet pink sparkling is a perfect way to get your holiday started. Offering a lower alcohol content, it’s dry and crisp, fresh and incredibly aromatic, this wine offers effervescent flavors of alpine strawberries and acts as a perfect aperitif. Your guests will be downright impressed."
Try this if you love: Lambrusco, sparkling Shiraz or taking edge off before your mother-in-law arrives
Pairs with: Ripe cheeses, soft fruits and salty cured meats
Price: $12 by the glass at c.1880
2013 Paul Lato "le Souvenir" Chardonnay
"I catch a lot of grief for my undying love of all things Chardonnay. This wine is no different, I feel in good company knowing that Thomas Keller reaches out to the winery directly to order cases for The French Laundry. There are many aspects that fight it out between a good Chard, and a bad, this one knows it’s good. It’s not everyday I meet a wine that can leave me near speechless. Aromatics reminiscent of honeysuckle, hydrangea and wet granite. The first sip of this wine brings out a medium bodied white with flavors of crisp apple, kiwi, and pear. The toasted oak notes are ever-present without being intrusive. Granted the elevated price on this wine can be a bit intimidating, but pulling the cork and the first taste is worth every penny. This isn’t an every day wine, drinking this is truly an experience to the palate. The perfect glass to celebrate with and impress."
Try this if you love: Oaked domestic Chardonnays or aged Aligoté Bourgogne
Pairs with: Oysters, light seafood, fresh fruits, olives
Price: $150 by the bottle at c.1880
2015 Banshee Rosé of Pinot Noir
"I was told once, 'if you aren’t having rosé at Thanksgiving, you aren’t doing Thanksgiving right.' I couldn’t agree more, especially with the love of rosé that I have, there is no time of year that I feel it can’t be appropriate. The domestic rosé game has improved over the years, straying distinguished palates away from the traditions of Provence, and inviting new consumers through it’s complex and refreshing flavors. Banshee howls in with with it’s orange/pink color, and essence of stone fruits, grapefruit and orange. In the mouth, you can expect to entertain essence of dry peach and minerals. This wine with dinner is sure to pull the secret Grand Marnier that grandma put in the cranberry sauce."
Drink if you love: Semi-dry whites with a fruit essence, like Chenin or Pinot Blanc
Pairs with: Pheasant, tart berries, pomegranate, liver pate
Price: $33 by the bottle at c.1880
2013 Laurence et Rémi Dufraitre Gamay, Côte de Brouilly, France
"Gamay is slowly becoming a new favorite wine trend, likening it to the spread of Malbec and Pinot Noir, this varietal has it’s truest roots in France in the Beaujolais region. Not to be confused with the innocent annual jubilation that highlights the youthful flavors of Beaujolais Nouveau that is also produced of Gamay. This more traditional wine finds flavors more reminiscent of the region it was produced. The terroir driven red will give aromas of barnyard, mild spice and herbs. The medium body of this wine brings flavors of black berry, current, and fig. This is my #1 recommendation to serve at the table throughout dinner on Thanksgiving. It compliments the classic savory dishes that accompany the yearly feast. All I can say is, 'pass the green bean casserole, extra crispy onion.'"
Drink if you love: Oregon or Bourgogne Pinot Noir, light and noble reds
Pairs with: Alliums, root vegetables, game meats (all cooked in butter)
Price: $69 by the bottle at c.1880
2012 Sheboygandy Pinot Noir
"I would be remiss if I didn’t mention at least one wine from my absolute favorite winemakers in the United States, Roots Wine Co. Racine native Chris Berg brings an altruistic attitude to his Pinots, some of the finest that I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. One in particular brings out the originality in his style and craft, Sheboygandy. Yes, thats the real name: a play on Sheboygan/Burgundy. This Pinot is a treat to the palate, sourcing from half Roots Estate, and half Fairsing Vineyard the wine bring aromas of preserved jam, iron, and smoke. To the tongue it brings a blend of earthy flavors, highlighted by an almost light mustard seed and black pepper. Stylistically French with Oregon flavors. A glass of this, and you won’t want to ever leave the table, making everyone that surrounds you, your best friend."
Try if you love: A lighter alternative to bolder terroir driven reds like Châtenuef-du-Pape or Côtes-du-Rhône
Pairs with: Spiced sausage, savory herbs, game meats
Price: $90 by the bottle at c.1880
2012/13/14 Sans Liege "The Transcendentalist"
"There is always one person at the table who believes that California Cabernet is the only wine on earth that pairs with food, the only red worthy of their glass. With this wine, you may be able to steer the stubborn away, and grasp an appreciation of the unknown. This particular winery, is part of a new genre of Central Coast producers, who aren’t following the norm, straying from flavors and traditions of some California producers. This wine is a blend of triple vintages of all varietals included, seeing new and neutral barrique aging for 34, 22, and 10 months, respectively. A nose full of rich berry, leather and wood. Like an Autobot or Decepticon, this wine transforms, from first taste to last, with or without food, each taste is different. Consistent tannins lend themselves to essence of chocolate, earth, and tobacco. A truly eccentric wine also makes a fitting after dinner glass. If you think the first couple bottles didn’t get you buzzed just enough, this will lend sufficient liquid encouragement for indulging in that second slice of 'pie à la mode.'"
Try if you love: Washington Cabernet or California Malbec
Pairs with: Rich meats, toasted breads, savory desserts
Price: $66 by the bottle at c.1880
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.