January 2012 Wine Guy: Alberini’s debuts Sivas Wines from Sonoma County, Calif.

Chookie Alberini at Alberini's last month. Image by John Webster for the Metro Monthly.

BY JOHN WEBSTER | METRO MONTHLY WINE COLUMNIST

Late November and December produced a number of fine wine events for avid wine drinkers in the holiday mood.

Liberty’s Churchill Commons Giant Eagle held a tasting in late November, expanding on their previous years’ holiday events. This year, several wine and beer distributors were on hand to provide samples of their wines to accompany Giant Eagle’s Chef Jarred Johnson’s tasty food preparations. Bacon-wrapped jumbo scallops, coconut chicken tenders, shrimp scampi, spicy chorizo sausage with mussels, beef tenderloin, cider-brined pork loin and roasted lamb were just some of the delicious food Chef Jarred had to offer. I filled a plate with scallops and beef tenderloin and poured a sampling of the 2009 Entwine Chardonnay from California. Bright citrus flavors followed by a crisp clean finish provided a nice match for the rich scallops.

My red pick was the 2009 Castle Rock Vineyards Pinot Noir. At a sale price of just $7.99 a bottle, this will provide a lot of enjoyment to those who stock up early on it. Textbook Pinot Noir flavors and a soft berry-infused finish were just scrumptious with the beef tenderloin.

Thanks to the owners and staff of the Churchill Commons Giant Eagle for hosting a great event, and I urge everyone to stop by to see their increasingly large selection of wines in the store.

Also in November, Wine and Dine Ohio held a tasting at Rachel’s Westchester Restaurant in Austintown featuring wines from Tri-County Distributors. Rachel’s experienced kitchen provided a delicious ensemble of entrees to go with a great selection of California wines. The first wine poured was a 2009 Tamas Pinot Grigio from California’s Central Valley. This aromatic stainless steel-fermented white features citrus and green apple flavors that went nicely with the sliced marinated chicken atop a bed of Italian greens. The Tamas Pinot Grigio is a great choice for fish, chicken or grilled pork loin hot off the coals.

Our next wine hailed from California’s Livermore Valley. Wente’s 2010 Morning Fog Chardonnay was a real hit with the people who ordered the recommended Louisiana salmon in cream sauce. Lightly oaked with lush tropical fruit flavors, it complemented the spicy salmon dish. Our first red offering was the Bordeaux-style blend 2009 Fleur De Lyeth from Sonoma County. Opulent plum and cherry fruit flavors followed by a textured finish were a great counterpart to Rachel’s famous blackened filet tips, which needed a rich-tasting red to accompany them.

Our fourth wine was the 2007 Wente Short Horn Canyon Syrah from Livermore Valley. Deep spice-tinged red fruit flavors followed by a structured but lush finish made this a fine choice for the wood-grilled 14-ounce pork chop drizzled with a French mustard wine sauce (Robert sauce). This versatile red would also be at home with any style of outdoor barbecue.

Our last wine choice was the 2008 Murrieta’s Well “The Spur” blend from Livermore Valley. A robust but elegant blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (54 percent), Petit Verdot (23 percent), Petite Sirah (10 percent), Cabernet Franc (9 percent), and Malbec (4 percent). It exudes lush plum and black cherry flavors that will have you thinking that you’re sampling a wine at least twice the price of $23.99. Rachel’s 12-ounce New York strip steak was a fine match for this exciting red blend.

For those who had room for dessert, Tri-County supplied several bottles of Terra D’Oro Zinfandel Port from Amador County. Rich and full-bodied, this port-style Zin was dessert by itself, but was simply grand with the chocolate and other desserts offered.

Wine and Dine Ohio thanks Rachel’s owner Les Horvath and staff and local Tri-County Distributors for a great food and wine event.

Mid-December found Wine and Dine Ohio at Alberini’s Restaurant in Niles for a tasting featuring a host of new-to-the-area Sivas Wines from Sonoma County, Calif. Our first wine sample was the 2010 Sivas Sauvignon Blanc. Classic Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc fruit flavors of citrusy lemon and fresh grass were just the answer for the rich Diver’s Scallops drizzled in honey-lemon sauce. All that was needed for this great pairing was a warm summer breeze coming from the Pacific Ocean.

California’s Sonoma Coast is home to our second wine. At $21.95, the Sivas Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is an outstanding bargain among the spectacular Sonoma Coast wines, which usually carry astronomical prices. Because only 1000 cases of this tasty red were produced, it’s sure to sell out; don’t delay if you want to try it. Deep raspberry fruit flavors with a spicy cinnamon finish paired nicely with Alberini’s cheese and mushroom strudel drizzled with a Marsala reduction sauce.

Our third wine was the 2009 Sivas Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon. Upfront Cabernet fruit flavors so typical of Sonoma County and a smooth lingering finish marked by spicy mocha make this refreshing Cab a joy to drink.

A Sonoma Old Wine Zinfandel from Sivas was our next choice. Old vine fruit from Russian River vineyards give this 2009 bottling bold red fruit and plum flavors followed by a lightly oaked finish marked with pepper and spice. The Jamaican rack of lamb was a hands-down favorite with this classic Sonoma Zin.

Our final wine hails from the Asti region of northern Italy. The 2010 Bricco del Sole Moscoto d’Asti DOC was paired to a chocolate Torta di Polenta (cornmeal-based cake) for a festive finish to our evening. Off-dry fruit cocktail flavors and a bubbly floral finish make this a fine choice for many informal celebrations. This was Wine and Dine Ohio’s second appearance at Alberini’s in 2011, and we look forward to working with Chookie Alberini and staff in 2012.

My first store tasting was at Michael Charles Premier Wines on Elm Road in Warren. At this tasting, they featured the wine portfolio of Cutting Edge distributors. Two really great wines were being sampled at this event. My first pick was the 2009 Gerard Bertrand Cremant Rose ($19.99) from the Languedoc region of southern France. Crisp strawberry and raspberry flavors dancing on pinpoint bubbles make this delicious wine a joy to drink. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Bertrand’s bubbly would be a fine choice for a romantic dinner at home.

If you’re looking for a great California Cabernet Franc that won’t bust your budget, try the 2007 Boeger Estate ($17.99) from El Dorado, Calif. Medium-bodied with bright cherry flavors and a leafy cedar-tinged finish, this St. Emilion-style red is just plain delicious.

My next stop was Vintage Estate Wine and Beer’s “Third Saturday” holiday taste. Two inexpensive reds really stood out at this tasting. The 2010 Alfred Rocco Pinot Noir ($12.99) from Mendoza, Argentina offers deep black cherry flavors in a medium- to full-bodied style that everyone should enjoy. Chicken hot off the grill would be my choice for this South American Pinot.

My next pick was a Vin de Pays from the South of France. The 2009 Elicio ($10.99) is a yummy 50-50 blend of Grenache and Merlot. Jam-packed with cherry and red fruit flavors, it finishes soft with notes of spice and tobacco.

Once again, Mike Lapmardo, owner of Charlie’s Wines in Howland, had a number of fine wines at his weekly Saturday tasting. He brought in a nice selection of new Treasure Hunter wines this month to try. The 2008 Helen’s Helm Rhone blend ($19.99) is just amazing. Spicy dark fruit flavors and a long floral-tinged finish will have you coming back for more.  The 2008 Treasure Hunter Fifth Sense ($19.99) is a unique blend of mountain- and valley-grown fruit, combining grapes from Howell Mountain and Rutherford Valley Vineyards. Howell Mountain’s intense fruit flavors and Rutherford Valley’s textured finish make this an incredible drinking experience. This is truly a marriage of Napa’s finest growing regions, at a price everyone can afford.

Upcoming events include Monday, Jan. 16, Springfield Grille monthly wine dinner; Saturday, Jan. 21, the Maronite Center’s 7th annual wine taste; three Wine and Dine Ohio events – 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12 at Café Cimmento in downtown Youngstown; 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9 at Austin’s in Brecksville, Ohio; and 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11 at Rachel’s Westchester Restaurant in Austintown. To make a reservation or get on the email list for Wine and Dine Ohio event information, call 330-651-8676 and leave a message, or email jmwineguy@gmail.com 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 wish all the Metro Monthly readers a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

© 2012 The Metro Monthly. All rights reserved.

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