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Stephan Fitz (standing) knows his wine and makes Wine Craze a must for any Milwaukee-area oenophile.

Crazy about Wine Craze

After months of hoping to get to InterContinental's Wine Craze, held every Wednesday evening in the Clear lobby bar, I finally made it last night.

The hotel's Stephan Fitz, who is a passionate ambassador of wine, introduced me,'s Sid Bedi -- a certified beer taster, but a wine neophyte -- wine expert Erica van Heerden and others tasted two reds from the Silver Oak family of vintners.

First up was 2003 Twomey Merlot -- made by Napa's Silver Oak team with grapes from the Twomey Valley -- which is apparently a hot seller in the $40-$50 range. This is the kind of Merlot that will force you to rethink your Merlot grape gripe.

It has unusual green olives on the nose and a pleasant smokiness on the tongue. But the great body (thank you kindly for the tannins Cabernet Franc!) and the clean finish are what will have you raving to your oeno-friends.

Next up was Silver Oak's acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon. Fitz says that Silver Oak sells out of its annual production of this astonishingly consistent wine year after year, at about $100 a bottle.

Part of its success, according to Fitz, is that Silver Oak will dump an entire vintage if it doesn't meet the winery's exacting standards. That makes for a reliable wine and a devoted following.

Great oakiness with a dose of vanilla thanks to the American made barrels. It's smoky, deep and rich, with hints of tart cherries, raspberries and molasses, but as a Barbera fan I loved the burnt rubber undertones that it shares with the traditional unoaked Barberas.

Add a satisfying astringency and mouth feel and you've got the evening's winner (if this had been a competition).

But the real winners were those of us sampling these wines, enjoying good company (and delicious appetizers) and witnessing Stephan's passion for wine and hearing his stories of Barcelona, a city he's equally passionate about.

Get your Wine Craze on every week at InterContinental. Next week there's a Brunello di Montalcino on tap, along with a sumptuous French selection.


mippers | June 17, 2010 at 11:06 a.m. (report)

I haven't been to this event, but can attest to Stephan's passion for and knowledge of wine. My lovely girlfriend and I dined there a few weeks ago and his wine recommendation was spot on. He steered us away from one of the discounted wines we were considering and instead pointed us to a similarly-priced bottle that was among the best I have ever enjoyed.

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