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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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!).