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It's National Wine Day!
It's National Wine Day!

A taste for National Wine Day

Today is National Wine Day – though I admit I celebrate this event considerably more than once a year – and it seems like the perfect time to share some of the wines I’ve been tasting lately.

Like many of us, I’m a creature of habit, so tasting different wines is a must (get it, a must?) for me, so I don’t become too mired in a rut.

Artesa Estate Reserve Pinot Noir, 2013

Retailing at $40, this brightly acidic Carneros Pinot Noir is densely packed with ripe red fruit – strawberries, black cherries and raspberries – and has a pleasant vibrancy. There’s oak but not too much.

Artesa Estate Reserve Chardonnay, 2013

Flavors of honey, nuts and pears combine in this satisfying white that has an almost creamy, buttery mouthfeel. It’s fruity and refreshing and perfect for the patio this weekend. $40.

Antonelli Montefalco Rosso, 2011

Once you fire up the grill, you’ll want to uncork this blend of Sangiovese (70%), Sagrantino and Montepulciano (15% each). Each of the varietals is fermented separately and then blended before aging at least a year in oak, clarifying in cement vats for 6 months and spending another 6 months or more aging in the bottle. The result is a gorgeous ruby red wine that is dry and fruity and perfect for grilled meats and pasta. $21.

Castelbuono Ziggurat Montefalco Rosso, 2011

Get another look at the same blend from this certified organic producer for around the same price ($19). Bright and packed full of red fruit flavors, this – like the Antonelli – is balanced and elegant.

Domaine Bousquet Malbec, 2015

Head to the New World for 100% Malbec grown high above sea level in Argentina. This nearly black wine is spicy and peppery with black fruits like currants, dark cherries and blackberries, and a dash of chocolate. Smooth on the tongue, this will also perfectly complement those steaks or chops on the grill. $12.

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve

This high-scoring champagne (40% Pinor Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 20% Pino…

Addio, cumpare.
Addio, cumpare. (Photo: Maurice Seymour)

Julius La Rosa dies ... in Crivitz?!

To you, Julius La Rosa was the guy who was famously fired on the air by Arthur Godfrey. To me, he's that guy singing "Eh, Cumpari" and "Mama Rosa" on 45s I inherited from my grandmother. La Rosa died last week at age 86 ... in Crivitz.

I'm no expert on the Italian-American singer, so I'll suggest you read the obituary in The New York Times. It also has the story of his humiliating firing.

La Rosa was born in Brooklyn and went to high school in Queens, and spent 42 years living in Westchester County, N.Y. But he died at home in Crivitz, which makes me think...

1. Julius La Rosa died in Crivitz?!


2. I've driven through Crivitz on a number of occasions. You mean I could've met Julius La Rosa?

Apparently not, because La Rosa moved there just recently, according to

"'He and his wife moved to Crivitz, a small town in northeastern Wisconsin, only last November,' said Smith, who added that her mother was originally from Wisconsin. She said the La Rosa family vacationed in Wisconsin every summer and spent every other Christmas with her mother's family. Smith also said her brother, Christopher, lives in Crivitz.

"'It's a different way of life but he was ready for that,' she said. 'He didn't need the hustle and the bustle at 86 years old. He loved Wisconsin'."

Diplomatico rum, so good you drink it straight.
Diplomatico rum, so good you drink it straight.

Cocktails for Cinco and beyond

It’s Cinco de Mayo and now that I’m back on tequila – thanks to a switch to much higher quality tequilas than I used to taste – I’ve got a trio of Milagro Tequilas to sample and three recipes to make it happen.

The first is perfect for today, but save the second one for Kentucky Derby day on Saturday and the third as a treat for mom on Mother’s Day on Sunday.

These are based on Milagro tequilas crafted from 100% blue agave made in traditional tequila styles.

The Anejo is aged between 14 and 24 months in American oak, imparting an amber hue and a dose of smoky caramel with a palette of flavors that one associates with a good red wine: chocolate and tobacco.

The Reposado also spends time in oak, but less: 3-6 months. The result is a stronger focus on agave with just a hint of caramel sweetness and a dash of spice at the end.

The Silver is crisp, clean, pure agave, strong on citrus, with an earthiness you expect from an unrested archetypal tequila.

Spicy Margarita

1.5 parts Milagro Silver
¾ parts Ancho Reyes
1 part fresh lime juice
.5 part agave nectar (or simple syrup)

Using a lime wedge, wet the rim of an Old Fashioned glass, salt it and set aside. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, shake, and double strain over fresh ice into the glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Blackberry Mint Julep Margarita

2 parts Milagro Anejo
1 part fresh lime juice
1 part honey syrup
5 blackberries
6 mint leaves

Muddle berries and mint. Add rest, shake and strain over ice in julep glass. Garnish with blackberries and mint sprig.

Blushing Rose Martini

1.5 parts Milagro Reposado Tequila
.5 parts Lillet Rose
3 tsp. quince preserves
.75 part fresh lime juice

Starting with preserves, combine ingredients and shake very well, double strain into a martini glass and garnish with orange twist.


Because I’m a single malt scotch fan and have come to enjoy quality undiluted quaffs, I may simply eschew a cocktail and simply enjoy a quality tropical (though not Mex…

MPL's new video series shares "Stories from the Stacks."
MPL's new video series shares "Stories from the Stacks."

MPL launches Stories from the Stacks video series

Milwaukee Public Library has launched a new video series called "Stories from the Stacks," and the segments offer a mix of interesting stories about the library, including a powerful one about an author that wrote a book at the Central Library while she was homeless.

Others talk about teens who've been encouraged by MPL to design and lead their own library programs, and literacy outreach for kids. A pair of upcoming videos will look at Milwaukee genealogy research and a feature on the Villard Avenue branch.

Villard Avenue will also host a video screening party on Wednesday, May 18 at 6 p.m. Popcorn will, of course, be served.

As a big fan of the library's Krug Rare Books Room – which I wrote about here – I especially enjoyed this one:

You can see all the videos here.