Monday, May 4, 2015

What Do You Get When You Cross an 1840's Blacksmith Shop with a 2010 Pinot Noir? The Franklin Grill

The Calamari Appetizer
Last week found me at one of my favorite restaurants, The Franklin Grill in Franklin, Michigan.  Located just minutes from Detroit, the Franklin Grill looks as if time forgot it after it was air-dropped from Vermont. The restaurant is located in an 1840’s carriage and blacksmith’s shop. It opened as a restaurant in 2001 with is current owners Ruth and Jim Kochensparger taking over in 2009. 

The Grill is inviting, feeling more like a friend's house than a restaurant. From my first visit, I wanted to be the “Norm” of the Franklin Grill.  The chef offers a seasonal menu featuring a wide range of items and emphasizing local Michigan favorites such as perch, whitefish and locally grown vegetables when in season.  Their lamb chops  are prepared to perfection and I have enjoyed the freshest seafood- such as salmon and seared scallops. They also feature homey dishes like their specialty meatloaf, the every Wednesday Rib Night with house-made BBQ sauce, and Friday Fish & Chips. 

Maine Smoked Trout Pate

Although the food is top notch, what really sets the Franklin Grill apart is the atmosphere that includes fires in the stove in winter and warm summer evenings on their special patio.  The bar and wine list reflect an aficionado’s taste with special vodkas, tequilas and single malts as well as local craft beers. I have been particularly impressed with the wine list which leads me to May’s Wine of the Month. Emeritus Vinyards 2010 Pinot Noir. 

Emeritus was founded in 1999 when Brice Cutrer Jones purchased the Hallberg apple orchard in the heart of the Russian River Valley. Brice knew this beautiful plot would be perfect for Pinot Noir vineyards. He combined it with a parcel near the Sonoma coast- the William Wesley Vineyard-  and Emeritus was born. Some of the most prestigious Pinot Noirs in California are produced in this area and Emeritus now had two “terroirs”  in the heart of “Pinotville”. In 2004, Brice convinced Burgundy trained wine master and Pinot-phile Don Blackburn to join the team. It was Don who established the hallmark style of Emeritus. After Don’s sudden death after the '08 harvest, his protégé, Nicolas Cantacuzene, stepped in to continue the Emeritus tradition of producing wines of great distinction, balance, elegance and charm. Emeritus produces only Estate grown and bottled Pinot Noir- the Hallberg Vineyard Pinot serves the restaurant market while the William Wesley Vineyard is the primary wine sold to retail customers

Salmon with Sweet Potato or Garlic Mash
Pinot Noir may be the toughest grape to grow. It is a fickle grape that demands optimum growing conditions- warm days supported by cool, moist evenings. It is produced in smaller quantities than other red wines, and based on the laws of supply and demand, you will likely pay a little more for it. Pinot Noir is a dry red that brings rich and fully ripe fruit notes to the palate. The combination of a Pinot’s light body with its rich fruit character result in Pinot Noir being characterized as the “red for white wine drinkers”. This makes it a very versatile wine for food pairing. Perfect Pinot Pairings include ethnic pork, poultry and beef dishes, as well as fish and lamb dishes and dishes featuring mushrooms and wild game. Pinot Noir plays well with creamy sauces, spicy seasonings, cheese and chocolate. Emeritus has developed a special reputation for creating great food pairing Pinots.

Lamb Chops with Cherrys

The 2010 is an easy wine from the first pour. It is a bit darker than the average pinot. As you take in the sensual garnet color, you will encounter a nose of dark fruit, smoke and blueberry which provides the preamble to the well balanced flavors of blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and spice typical of the genre. The smokey nose followed by a blend of oak, cherry, strawberry and earthy spice complimented my lamb chops and left me grabbing the bottle to pour the last drop. 

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