It's wine o'clock, folks.
It's wine o'clock, folks.

Taking a break from summer beer to taste new wines ... and one vodka

With beer season in full swing – though of course it’s always beer season in Brew City – I admit I’ve fallen a bit behind on tasting new wines.

This, despite having committed to spending a little extra time with white wines this summer. Since I naturally reach for red wines, prioritizing whites once in a while is something I have to do.

But I have set my mind to the task – and I know you’re thinking, hard work there, Tanzilo – and uncorked a few that I’m sharing with you here. (Prices are suggested retail or approximate retail.)

Red

Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montacino 2012 – I know, I'm starting with the splurge wine, but trust me. Wine Spectator raved about this 100 percent sangiovese – which averages about $57 retail – calling it, "Rich and expressive, with cherry, strawberry and earth flavors and plenty of flesh to cover the solid structure. Spice and tobacco notes add depth as this plays out on the long finish." The legendary Gaja family blended the best of its grapes for a single 2012 wine, and the results are delicious. Pair it with a thick, medium rare grilled steak or just kick back and enjoy it by itself.

Beronia Rioja Reserva 2011 – This Spanish gem from the Rioja valley – one of the world's great wine regions – has an oaky, smoky vibe, ripe fruit and bright acidity (but with a good tannic balance), making it super-drinkable. At about $20, this wine feels a bit like a steal.

Ciu Ciu Oppidium Marche Rosso IGT – I love to taste wines from Italy's Le Marche region because of its ties to Milwaukee. A large contingent of Marchegiani settled in Bay View to work at the Rolling Mills and helped found the Italian community there. But their descendants aren't the only ones who will enjoy this full-bodied, purple-ish red made entirely from montepulciano grapes. It's got a dark color – Italians might call it vino nero – a bouquet packed with fruit, smooth tannins and a bit of oak. Around $20.

Ventisquero Cabernet S…

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The former McKinley School has long been in need of love.
The former McKinley School has long been in need of love.

McKinley Elementary: A look inside a place that matters

Finally!

For years I've been eager to see inside the former McKinley Elementary School, 2001 W. Vliet St., which was shuttered and sold by MPS nearly 40 years ago. After a 2013 fire, the private daycare and school that operated there also closed for good.

Since then the schoolhouse has been rapidly deteriorating, in some cases at the hands of vandals, other times thanks to forces of nature. But while the city was facing obstacles in obtaining it, the building faced the threat of demolition.

Now, the sprawling 19th century schoolhouse – which was built in sections from 1885 until 1898 (not counting a shoebox-like addition from the 1960s), and looks like no other in the city – has received historic landmark designation from the city and was remediated thanks to federal superfund dollars.

And there's a plan to renovate it into apartments!

This makes me extremely happy, as you might surmise from the many links here to articles I've written on this building (and based on the photo at right). I encourage you to read those for more on the history of the building and what's transpired there in the past few years.

"The city has granted Gorman until the end of 2017 to secure financing for the project," David Misky, of the City of Milwaukee's Redevelopment Authority, told me in June.

"They submitted an application for funds from the Federal Home Loan Bank last week, which is the first step. They are also looking at Historic Tax Credits and Low Income Housing Tax Credits and will likely be submitting those applications later this year and into 2018. The financing really will need all of these credits to make this project doable.

"Meanwhile, EPA is done with their piece and the city is looking to further clean up and secure the property. We continue to have people breaking into the building."

As part of this step forward, I was allowed access to the building, and I can finally share some photos with you of what McKinley looks like inside these days:

Cream city …

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Ray's is 56 and has a new parking lot, so why not celebrate?
Ray's is 56 and has a new parking lot, so why not celebrate? (Photo: Ray's Wine & Spritis)

Ray's Wine & Spirits improves a lot & celebrates 56 years on Sunday

Every Milwaukee neighborhood has a liquor store (or three), but some neighborhoods have wine, spirits and beer emporia that are worth driving across town for.

Ray’s Wine and Spirits, 8930 W. North Ave. in Wauwatosa, is one of those places, thanks not only to a deep selection of wine, craft beer and liquor, but because of its upstairs growler gallery with tastings and other events, outdoor seating and, above all, a knowledgeable staff.

The shop opened in its current location in 1961 and has recently improved a lot, so to speak...

So why not throw a 56th anniversary parking lot party, right?

That’s what Ray’s is doing from noon until 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 16.

Johnathan Dye will be there selling his delicious Mr. Dye’s Pies, Marco Pollo and Fatty Patty Burger food trucks will be on hand dishing out tasty goodness, while The Steelheads will perform from 1 until 5 p.m.

Ray’s will sell its booze slushies and there will be "a beautiful, big-ass beer truck" dispensing five beers and Sprecher Root Beer. There will also be ladder ball and bean bag toss.

There’s no cover charge and everyone is welcome at the event, which takes place rain or shine (there are tents!).

Bob Cavallo shot footage at Summerfest '71. Here it is.

VIDEO: Prepping for Summerfest 1971

I spent a fair amount of the late spring this year writing about the history of Summerfest, which, as you all surely know by now, is celebrating its 50th Big Gig.

You can read that baby here.

There is nothing like a photograph to help bring to life the festivals of the past, which is what I thought when I posted these images of Milwaukee having fun at Summerfest in the past as an accompaniment.

But what really takes one back is film and video. And thanks to Milwaukee rock and roll photographer – and musician – Bob Cavallo, we have some footage he shot of the set-up for Summerfest 1971.

Among the performers that year were pioneers B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, The Coasters, The Drifters and Muddy Waters. Also on tap were country stars Jeannie C. Riley, Sonny James, Ray Price and Roy Clark; as well as teen hitmakers like Bobby Sherman and The Jackson 5; rock acts like Mountain, John Sebastian and Blood, Sweat and Tears; and jazz artists like Woody Herman.

Cavallo's band The Messengers also performed on an eclectic bill that also included Sherman and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. It was when The Messengers split up that year that Cavallo traded his drum sticks for a camera and began working for his father, who was a photographer.

It's interesting to see the glimpses of the skyline and, especially, of the poured concrete supports for the future Hoan Bridge before any of the deck was constructed.

Also interesting to see how a couple guys used a rope and pulley system to fly the speaker cabinets for the P.A. systems onto less-than-solid-looking scaffolding and to see the tents, stages and what appear to be rows and rows of folding chairs for seating.

The festival, my friends, has come a long way.

Thanks to Bob for this great footage.

Oh and, because this was 1971, some shirtless stagehand had to moon the camera, so if nudity offends you, don't watch.

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