In Dining

Phil Bilodeau is currently Wisconsin's only candidate for the Master of Wine designation, the industry's most highly sought-after and difficult certification.

6 wine recs from Thief Wine's Phil Bilodeau

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 well qualified wine experts in Milwaukee and getting recommendations for wines that you should be drinking right now.

This week, we spoke with Phil Bilodeau, certified sommelier and proprietor and co-founder of Thief Wine, a value-driven boutique wine shop and bar he founded with partner, Aimee Murphy in 2008.

Originally from Boston, Bilodeau is currently Wisconsin's only candidate for the Master of Wine designation, the industry's most highly sought-after and difficult-to-achieve certification. He has successfully passed both parts of the MW exam and – at some point soon – he says he will get around completing the dissertation required to finish the process.

Prior to moving to Milwaukee, Bilodeau spent five years in Napa and Sonoma, where he worked for Grgich Hills Estate, Trefethen Vineyards, and as Director of Communications at Sonoma County Vintners, a trade organization representing the region's wines & wineries. Prior to his career in wine, he served as online producer for Minnesota Public Radio and editor for Horticulture magazine.

Bilodeau says he always has at least one bottle of sparkling wine and rosé in the fridge. He also loves both red and white Burgundy, Nebbiolo, dry Riesling, and discovering anything new. One of his life mottos is: "Life's too short to always drink the same thing!"

1. Albert Bichot NV Cremant de Bourgogne

"Sparkling wine is not just for celebrations! It's a great way to start the evening (or brunch); delicious on its own, and also an exceptionally versatile food wine."

Drink if you love: Champagne
"This Chardonnay-based methode Champenoise sparkler shows why wines from this region are a great everyday alternative to Champagne – crisp, creamy from two years lees aging, and impeccably balanced, at about half the price."

Retail price: $23.95 per bottle, or $11.50 for a glass at Thief Wine

2. Red Car 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir
Sonoma Coast California

"We here at Thief Wine love dry rosé! We've been championing it ever since we opened eight years ago, and though it's finally catching on around the rest of the city, we've still got the premier selection in both in quality and quantity in Milwaukee.

"One of our favorite domestic examples is the Red Car. It's dry and minerally, but with lovely and delicate cherry and wild strawberry flavors. If you're not familiar with dry rosé, now's the time to start – you'll be amazed at what you've been missing!"

Retail price: $21.95 per bottle, or $10.50 for a glass at Thief Wine

Fun fact: Thief Wine will have more than 85 different rosé offerings coming in this spring!

3. Seguinot-Bordet 2014 Chablis

"We sell a lot of delicious domestic Chardonnay, but I personally love French examples – they're generally higher in acidity, less fruit-forward, and overall more subtle and nuanced; the antithesis of a buttery oak bomb.

"Chablis is a perfect example; at the far northern end of Burgundy, Chablis produces low-alcohol, high-acid wines with exceptional nerve and liveliness. The Seguinot-Bordet is an outstanding value for Chablis; this 100% Chardonnay is subtle and smooth, with flavors of preserved lemon, green apples, and excellent acidity."

Try this if: you think you hate Chardonnay
"This wine is a great way to experience this style. It's especially good for people who've only had the rich, lush California style. Try Chablis – you'll be converted!"

Retail price: $21.95 per bottle, or $10.50 for a glass at Thief Wine.

4. Mullineux 2013 White Blend
Swartland South Africa

"Mullineux is a relatively new winery, founded in 2007. But they've already received huge
acclaim, including Winery of the Year and multiple Wines of the Year from Platter's Wine Guide, which is the authoritative South African wine review. And this wine is a good example of why. It's simply stunning.

"Primarily Chenin Blanc, with a bit of Clairette and Viognier, this rich yet dry wine is layered and textured, showing Chenin's characteristic lanolin and dried honey notes."

Drink this if you love: Chardonnay

Retail price: $29.95 per bottle, or $14 for a glass at Thief Wine

5. Tenute Orestiadi Molino a Vento 2014
Nerello Mascalese, Sicily Italy

"We love exposing people to lesser-known varietals, and Nerello Mascalese is one of the hottest trends among wine cognoscenti. Only a few are available in Milwaukee currently, but it's worth seeking out!

"This indigenous varietal offers bright red-fruit flavors, gentle tannins, and a touch of scorched earth. The Orestiadi is a wonderful introduction to this underknown grape, at a very friendly price."

Drink this if you love: Pinot Noir or Sangiovese

Retail price: $16.95 per bottle, or $8.25 for a glass at Thief Wine

6. Jax Vineyards 2013 "Y3 Taureau"
Napa Valley California

"Since the first red recommendation was eclectic, I'll go a bit more mainstream with the second, a tasty red blend from Napa Valley. Take the bull by the horns with this kitchen-sink blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Zinfandel is juicy yet structured, with loads of brambly berry fruit, a lush mouthfeel, and a framework of supple tannins."

Drink this if you love: "big fruit with a balanced profile"

Retail price: $21.95 per bottle, or $10.50 for a glass at Thief Wine



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