December 2012 Wine Guy: Season jam-packed with quality wine tastings

By JOHN WEBSTER | Metro Monthly Wine Columnist

DECEMBER 2011 – As November marked the beginning of our holiday season, it was jam-packed with wine events to tempt local wine enthusiasts.

In late October, Wine and Dine Ohio held a dinner taste at Salvatore’s Italian Grill in Howland, featuring wines from Buckeye Beverages. We started our festivities with a sparkling Coviello Prosecco Brut DOC from Italy. A great pairing for this crisp-tasting bubbly was the Portobello “mare e terra” (sea and land) topped with sweet corn and bacon cream sauce. At $13.99, this Prosecco should be on your list for your New Year’s Eve tasting.

Northern Italy’s Friuli wine region was the source of our next offering. The 2010 Castellargo Friulano is a tasty blend of native Tocai Friulano, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Smooth and refreshing apple and pear fruit flavors followed by a herb-tinged finish provided a nice match for the recommended pan- seared Florida grouper.

The 2008 Terre di Sole Sangiovese was the first red poured. Softly pressed, this fruit-forward easy drinking Sangiovese was just the answer for the sautéed chicken breast with wild mushrooms. At $10.49, it compares to many Chiantis at twice the price.

Diners who ordered the recommended Filetto Italiano were very happy with paired the 2008 Tenuta Curezza Nerosso red that we sampled next. This tasty blend of Primitivo, Negromaro, Malvasia and Uva di Troia has rich, dark fruit flavors and a long spicy finish. Our final red hailed from sunny Lake County, California. The 2008 Shannon Ridge Barbera was the evening’s crowd favorite. Bright and spicy red fruit flavors led to a smooth lingering finish. Salvatore’s classic braciole (thin beef slices rolled and stuffed) was a natural choice for this bold red.

Springfield Grille in Boardman was my next stop for their monthly wine dinner. Once again, Chef Nick Mileto prepared an outstanding dinner feast to go with the wines from local distributor Ohio Wines. Our first dish was a crab tower appetizer paired to a Leonard Kreusch May Wine from Germany. Scented with spicy woodruff, this off-dry German white was delicious with the heaping crab tower. Our salad course of field greens with organic watermelon, grilled mission figs and feta cheese was served with a glass of 2009 Douglass Hill Chardonnay from California. This citrusy Chardonnay with just a touch of Semillon blended in was just plain delicious with the rich feta and fig salad.

Our next entrée was wild mushroom brie and goat cheese ravioli paired to a 2003 Campo Viejo Gran Reserva from Rioja, Spain. This rich flavorsome dish needed a similar-styled wine to go with it. The Gran Reserva Campo Viejo was up to the job with its bold dry fruit flavors and structured finish. Vanilla-scented leg of lamb was presented for our final main course. Argentina’s 2006 Graffigna Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva was chosen to go with the bold leg of lamb. Textbook Cabernet fruit flavors proved to be a seamless match for the tender lamb and couscous.

Our dessert course was a Bosc pear and blackberry strudel with housemade Pinot Noir ice cream. This creamy, rich dish was paired to Raymond Vineyards’ Lot No. 7 Field Blend. I’ve reviewed this tasty blend of Cabernet, Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah and Petite Sirah previously, and if you haven’t tasted it yet, I recommend that you give it a try. I’ve sampled it with grilled meats and stews, and it proved to be fantastic. It also proved to be excellent with the Grille’s strudel and ice cream.

What would November be without the Upstairs Restaurant and Wine Down Wine Bar’s holiday wine taste? Chef Tim King provided a gorgeous feast featuring chicken satay, filet tips, stuffed rigatoni, smoked meat balls, fried gulf shrimp, smoked salmon and a huge assortment of imported cheeses, meats and desserts. With 11 distributors and more than 50 wines to sample, this was one serious wine event. Along with all the above, the Upstairs had a collection of gift boxes that were the nicest I’ve seen in quite a while.

Two white wines really stood out at the tasting. The 2010 Kung Foo Girl Riesling from Washington ($13) was fabulous with the panko bread chicken drizzled in sweet soy sauce. Vibrant citrusy peach flavors had me coming back for more. If you have a serious Chardonnay lover in your circle, pick up a bottle of the 2008 Mayacamus Mt. Veeder Chardonnay ($36) for a great holiday gift. Mayacamus has a track record for long aging delicious Chardonnay. This Chardonnay drinks like a Premier Cru Meursault at half the price. The smoked salmon brochettes were divine with the Mayacamus.

Two bold reds both well under $20 were poured at this event. The Montevina 2007 Zinfandel ($15) from Amador County was one of the best Zinfandels I’ve had all year long. Spicy plum and berry flavors followed by a supple smoke-tinged finish had me wondering how they could do it at that price. The smoked meatballs in marinara sauce worked wonderfully with this great Zinfandel. My next pick was the 2008 Juan Gill Mourvedre ($18) from Jumilla, Spain. Bold and ripe dark fruit flavors were just the answer for the filet tips drizzled in Gorgonzola sauce.

On Nov. 5, I was invited to the annual Angels for Animals wine taste and fund raiser. This fun event featured wines from local distributor Ohio Wines and Chalet Premier wine shop. Tom and Toni DeGenova prepared a fine assortment of food offerings to go along with the wines provided.  Ohio Wines was pouring locally produced Mastropietro Winery’s Mastromiscla Red. Rich full-bodied fruit flavors and a bold finish make this a great wine for grilled meats and stews. If you’re looking for a lighter bodied red, give Mastropietro’s Valley Red a try. Upfront raspberry fruit flavors and a soft clean finish make this a sure hit for upcoming celebrations. Once again, I want to thank Diane Less and sponsors Chalet Premier and Ohio Wines for a chance to attend this great event.

Moving along to local store tastings, I started at Wine Styles of Howland for their Saturday “88 points or better under $20” wine taste (in other words, wines that have received a rating of 88 points or more, costing no more than $20 a bottle). My first pick was the 2009 Montebuena Red Tempranillo ($11.99) from Rioja Spain. Dark ruby in color with a spicy scent, it features ripe dark fruit flavors followed by a supple clean finish. My white choice was the 2009 La Crema Chardonnay ($19.99) from the Sonoma Coast. Deep citrus and pineapple flavors led to a creamy textured finish that is simply amazing.

Starting this month, I want to welcome Chalet Premier Wines to this fine group of store tastings. I sampled two well-priced and tasty wines at their first November tasting. The 2009 Edna Valley Chardonnay oozes ripe peach and pear flavors and a caramel-tinged finish that make you think you are sampling a much more expensive wine.

My red pick was the 2010 McWilliams Red Blend ($8.99) from South Australia. This juicy blend of Grenache, Merlot, Tempranilllo and Shiraz oozes strawberry and dark cherry flavors followed by a spice and pepper-tinged finish.

The second Saturday taste at Michael Charles Premier Wines on Elm Road produced two reds that were outstanding. Oregons Willamette Valley is the source of the 2006 Left Coast Cellar’s Calis Cuvee Pinot Noir ($18.99). This highly-rated Pinot is a real steal at this price, so stock up early. Textbook Oregon Pinot fruit flavors and a spicy round finish will have you coming back for more. Also from the Pacific Northwest was the 2009 Waterbrooke Merlot ($14.99) from the Columbia Valley. Black raspberry fruit flavors and a crisp long finish make this a fine choice for holiday ham or rack of lamb.

Vintage Estate Beer and Wine’s monthly third Saturday taste produced several fine red wines that are one sale for the holidays. New to this area is the Entwine 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.99). Produced from selected California Vineyards, it exhibits rich plummy fruit flavors followed by a supple clean finish. This is a great wine for informal parties and holiday get-togethers. Among Entwine’s other budget-friendly wine offerings are Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio.

My next pick was the La Crema 2009 Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast ($21.99, down from $25.99). Lush cherry and cola flavors lead to a supple finish tinged with smoky spice. The La Cream Pinot compares nicely to wines costing $35 to $40.

Michael Charles of Howland poured several top-rate wines for someone looking for a last-minute gift. At $15.99, the L’Ecole 2009 Chenin Blanc offers a lip-smackingly good wine that compares nicely to some of the best French Loire Chenins. Mineral tinged apple and citrus falvors give way to a finish of honeysuckle and spice. Also being poured was the Domaine Des Baumard 2007 Savennieres ($24.99)  from the Loire region of France. This is classic old world Chenin Blanc at its best. Honeyed mineral-driven fruit flavors and a tight crisp finish produce a wine that will age nicely for 10 or more years. This is a great gift for those who think they’ve tried everything.

Upcoming events include two Wine and Dine Ohio tastings — 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 15 at Alberini’s in Niles, and 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12 at Café Cimmento in downtown Youngstown. To make a reservation or get on our email list for Wine and Dine Ohio event information, call 330-651-8676, or email to provide your contact information.

Other regular tastings include Charlie’s Premier Wines of Howland, every Saturday; Wine Styles, every other week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday; Vintage Estate, third Saturday tasting; and Michael Charles Premier Wines on Elm Road, second Saturday tasting. I look forward to seeing you at upcoming tastings around the Valley, and I wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday season.

© 2011 The Metro Monthly. All rights reserved.

Salvatore Coppola, owner of Salvatore’s Italian Grill, and Chris Kray of Buckeye Beverages at the Wine and Dine Ohio taste at Salvatore’s. Electronic image by John Webster.

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  1. Seth Pleskach says:

    Hello, I am looking for information about the
    Representative that posed in that picture. Chris Kray. I am opening a bar, have misplaced his business card. He was excellent with his knowledge at the tasting and look forward to any contact info. Thank you.


    • Seth,
      Email John Webster (The Wine Guy). He has the contact information. His email appears at the end of the column. If you need more info, write back. Good luck.

      Mark Peyko
      Metro Monthly


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