February 2012 Wine Guy: Springfield Grille tasting showcases affordable fine wines

Springfield Grille managers Tamela Barnhart and Kena Perkins at their monthly wine dinner in January. Metro Monthly electronic image by John Webster.

By JOHN WEBSTER | METRO MONTHLY WINE COLUMNIST

The kickoff of the new year provided a number of fine wine events for inquisitive wine drinkers. Both Springfield Grille and Wine and Dine Ohio held events that showcased affordable fine wines, and a unique trade tasting took place in Cleveland to complement the many local store tastings.

Springfield Grille’s monthly dinner taste featured wines from Purple Feet distributors to go with their signature five-course dinners. We started the dinner with miso shrimp topped with papaya salsa. A 2009 Cantaluna Sauvignon Blanc from the Colchagua Valley of Chile was chosen for this lighter entrée. Crisp and refreshing tropical fruit flavors followed by a grass-tinged finish meshed nicely with the tangy shrimp. A 2010 Coquille D’oc Blanc from France’s Domaine de Sainte Rose was our next pouring. A delicious blend of Chardonnay (40 percent), Sauvignon Blanc (40 percent), Viognier (15 percent) and Muscat (5 percent), it delivers loads of citrus and peach-tinged flavors leading to a crisp clean finish. A grilled marinated long-stem artichoke set atop crusty bread was paired to the tasty French blend and it was a crowd favorite. At $12.99, this is a real bargain from France, and I plan on stocking up on it for this summer.

Roasted beef ragu (sauce) atop pasta was paired to a 2005 Noster Inicial from Priorat, Spain for our third course. Made from mostly Grenache (Garnacha) 70 percent with a dollop of Carignan (25 percent) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5 percent) added, this rich and juicy red was just the answer for the Grille’s beef ragu. At under $20 a bottle, this Priorat blend would be a great substitute for everyday Zinfandel for the more adventuresome among us.

A 2009 Robin K Pinot Noir from California’s Central Coast was our fourth wine. Lush plum and berry fruit flavors followed by soft finish tinged with spice went hand in hand with the Grille’s cranberry and cornbread-stuffed pork loin smothered in wild mushrooms. The fork-tender pork loin was a textbook match for the juicy lush Pinot Noir. A banana-filled chocolate crepe with vanilla bean ice cream was paired to a 2009 Mi Terruno (“My Land”) Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendoza, Argentina for our final course. I’ve sampled a number of Mi Terruno’s other wines and have always been impressed with them, and their Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve was just plain fantastic with the chocolate crepe. As a heads-up, look for two tastings coming from Springfield next month. A chocolate and wine taste will be held on Feb. 14 and 21, so call the restaurant and get your reservations in, since seating will be limited.

Café Cimmento  in downtown Youngstown was chosen for Wine and Dine Ohio’s monthly dinner taste for January. Wines from the Pacific Northwest were chosen to go with specially prepared entrees to make a unique dinner experience for the 45 attendees. The first wine poured was the Eola Hills Pacific Blanc from Oregon ($11.99). Off-dry but crisp fruit flavors made this blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, and early Muscat a real hit with the people who ordered Cimmento’s Tuscan salad. Our next wine was Eola Hills 2009 Chardonnay. Awarded a Best Buy in 2008 by Wine Spectator, it won again this year. Smooth creamy citrus fruit flavors followed by a supple clean finish were just the answer for the featured New Zealand lamb lollipops. This inexpensive Chardonnay should be on your “must-buy” list for upcoming summer and outdoor dining.

Our next wine originates in the Columbia Valley of Washington’s Wahluke Slope. The 2010 Charles and Charles Rose is made from 100 percent Shiraz and exudes a stony minerality with upfront raspberry flavors. The “orecchiette con salsiccia” (pasta, sausage, escarole and cannellini beans in garlic sauce) was a fine match for this robust rose. A dinner featuring Pacific Northwest wines wouldn’t be complete without a great Oregon Pinot Noir included. We chose the 2009 Eola Hills Pinot Noir because it exemplifies textbook Oregon Pinot flavors (spicy notes of cherry and strawberries) followed by a supple spice-tinged finish that meshed wonderfully with the New Zealand rack of lamb that Cimmento’s prepared. This Wine Spectator “Best Buy” ($16.99) compares well with Oregon Pinots that are twice its asking price.

Moving back to the Columbia River Valley of Washington state, we chose the 2010 Charles and Charles Red ($15.99) to finish the tasting. This undervalued red is a blend of 51 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 49 percent Shiraz. It offers gobs of red fruit flavors tinged with coffee and cocoa followed by a silky smooth finish. This red wine needed a robust entrée to go with it, and the diners who chose the Fettuccine Carbonara simply raved about it. With all the award-winning wines poured at this event, I want to congratulate George Mager and his dedicated staff for a wonderful job and a great start to the new year.

Before I move along to our local store tastings, I’d like to share a few outstanding wines I sampled at Cutting Edge Distributors’ Jorge Ordonez Imports extravaganza at the outstanding Americano Restaurant in Bratenahl, Ohio. Jorge Ordonez is one of our finest sources of classic Spanish wine. If you see his name and logo on the back of a Spanish wine bottle, rest assured you are purchasing the best. Thirty-two wines were poured at this event, and all were textbook examples of their origins. (I’ll have my tasting notes handy for awhile, so if you see me out and about, feel free to ask about Spanish wines you may be interested in.)

Two wines under $20 a bottle really stood out. My first pick was the 2009 Avante Mencia ($17.99) from the Valdeorras region of Spain. If you like Cabernet Franc-style wines, give this one a try. The Mencia grape mimics Cabernet Franc’s taste profile to a T. Smooth dark berry flavors followed by a finish tinged with fallen leaves will have you asking for another glass. My next pick was the 2009 Emilio Moro Finca Resalo from the Ribera del Duero region of Spain. Supple dark fruit flavors lead to a rich spice-tinged finish that’s just short of amazing for a wine in this price range. I want to thank Cutting Edge Distributors and the Americano Restaurant for a memorable afternoon of wine and food.

Let’s start off our store visits with Wine Styles of Howland. They held an impromptu tasting on Jan. 17 with Hunter Voegel of Treasure Hunter Wines pouring some of his favorites and a few new wines coming into his stable. Hunter started us off with a glass of his 2009 Treasure Hunter Alexander Valley Chardonnay ($17.99). I sampled this wine in the past, and it is just plain delicious. Ripe citrus and pear flavors lead to a crisp supple finish that will make you think you are drinking a wine well above this wine’s asking price.

My next pick was the Treasure Hunter 2009 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon ($27.99). With about 100 cases available, this bottling will always be in short supply. The Stag’s Leap area is one of my favorite wine-producing areas, and Hunter’s rendition is a textbook example of this region’s best. Ripe pinpoint dark fruit flavors followed by a bold structured finish make this a wine that will easily cellar for 10 or more years.  I’ve followed this winery for quite awhile, and I think their wine pricing is very consumer friendly. Hunter promised me a heads-up for his next visit so that I can get the word out to his many fans.

My first store taste took me to Vintage Estate Beer and Wine in Boardman for an all-sparkling wine tasting. My first pick was the Jorge Ordonez 2009 Spanish Kila Cava Sparkler ($12.99) from the Penedes region of Spain. Indigenous Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada grapes are blended to make this ripe and juicy bubbly. It finishes bright and clean and would make a great summer sparkler for mimosas. My next pick was New York’s Chateau Frank Celebre Cremant ($20.99). Made from 100 percent Riesling, it shows apple and honey-tinged flavors on the palate, with a bracing crisp finish that is very enjoyable. This would be an interesting wine for holiday ham and fowl dishes.

My trip to Michael Charles Premier Wines on Elm Road featured two wines that were very intriguing. The 2009 Protocolo ($9.99) red from Spain is made from 100 percent Tempranillo. Medium bodied with juicy cherry flavors, it finishes crisp with textured berry and spice aromas. My next pick was the 2008 Fetish Playmates Shiraz ($19.99, originally $25.99) from Australia’s Barossa Valley. Smoothly crafted with dark red fruit flavors, it finishes clean and neat.

Charlie’s Premier Wines in Howland had a real treat for everyone at one of its “every Saturday” tastings. The crew from Ashtabula’s St. Joseph Vineyard came in with a wide selection of their estate wines for everyone to sample.  St. Joseph’s is one of Ohio’s best sources for outstanding Pinot Noir. Their regular bottling from the 2009 vintage ($19.99) is just plain delicious. Burgundian in style, it exudes lush cherry flavors and finishes long with just a hint of earth and spice.

My next pick was their estate-grown Shiraz ($24.99). Cool-climate in style, it resembles a fine Cote Rotie from the Rhone region of France. Vividly vibrant dark fruit flavors follow to a long, spicy pepper-tinged finish that will keep you coming back for more.

Upcoming events include Alberini’s in Niles, Friday, Feb. 3, a “Cab-In Fever” wine tasting featuring Cabernet Sauvignon; Springfield Grille chocolate and wine tasting Tuesday, Feb. 14 and 21; Vernon’s Ristorante in Niles, annual “Fat Tuesday” taste, 6:30 p.m., Feb, 21; Wine and Dine Ohio events – 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9 at Austin’s in Brecksville, Ohio (8121 Chippewa Road); 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11 at Rachel’s Westchester Restaurant in Austintown; and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 27 and Thursday, March 29 at Selah in Struthers. 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. If your restaurant, shop or charity event is having an upcoming wine tasting, please email me a month in advance at jmwineguy@gmail.com. I wish all my readers a Happy Valentine’s Day, and I hope to see you at events around town.

© 2012 The Metro Monthly. All rights reserved.

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