May 2012 Wine Guy: ‘Wine and Wildlife,’ Big Tap-In raise funds for local non-profit organizations

Christine Lapmardo, manager, and new owner Nick Uroseva at Michael Charles Premier Wines on Elm Road in Warren. Metro Monthly electronic image by John Webster.

By JOHN WEBSTER | THE WINE GUY | METRO MONTHLY COLUMNIST

April had lots of interesting wine events to enjoy, including Salvatore’s Italian Grille, Springfield Grille, and Selah Restaurant, which all held great tastings. Beaver Creek State Park’s Wildlife Education Center held a fundraiser taste and Michael Charles Premier Wines introduced new owners. In addition, Phill and Sandy Reda of Vintage Estate Wine and Beer held his third annual “Big Tap-In” craft beer festival at the Covelli Center.

Great wine shops rarely change owners, and when Chuck and Debbie Lapmardo announced that Nick and Loretta Uroseva were buying their store, Michael Charles Premier Wines on Elm Road, I had to be there for their first tasting. I was happy to hear that Chuck’s daughter, Christine, is remaining to help run the store, along with the rest of the knowledgeable staff.

Their inaugural “Second Saturday” taste had two well-priced wines that should be just right for upcoming summer enjoyment. Australia’s 2008 Shoofly “The Freckle” ($11.99) Rhone white blend of Marcanne (40 percent) Rousanne (31 percent) and Viognier (23 percent) offers ripe peachy flavors and a fresh vibrant finish that should complement lighter summer dishes. My red pick was the 2010 Rio Madre Graciano ($11.99) from Rioja, Spain. The Graciano grape is used mostly for blending in Spain to give complexity and floral notes, but the 100 percent Rio Madre Graciano is simply delicious. Lush berry flavors follow to a floral-scented finish. Just the other day, I received an email Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits saying that this wine has been awarded a Chairman’s Selection.

I wish Nick and Loretta all the best in their new venture. They have some exciting plans for the future, and I look forward to seeing what they have in store.

On April 20, I was invited to attend the Wine and Wildlife fundraiser at Beaver Creek State Park’s Wildlife Education Center. Tables loaded with hot and cold hors d’oeuvres and two wine stations greeted the 80-plus attendees as they entered the facility.

With wine in hand, I headed to the North American Wildlife room which displays distinct geographical regions of North America and their native wildlife. New this year is a stunning wraparound mural, painted by Diane Less of Spotted Horse Studios (and Angels for Animals) to complement the already impressive display. If you’re looking for a great weekend destination, this should be on your summer schedule.

My next stop was the Center’s newly acquired live beehive. While there, I was poured a sample of beekeeper Don Kovach’s homemade Mead-Melomel honey wine. This was one of the finest examples of mead that I have ever sampled. Off dry with floral and honey notes, it finished clean and creamy. A fresh fruit salad would be a perfect partner for this (or any other) tasty mead.

I would like to thank Diane Less, event organizer Karen Henry, and Wildlife Center curator Jim Kerr for a wonderful time.

Let’s move along to Springfield Grille’s monthly dinner taste. This month, they featured local and organic food and wine. Each summer, Springfield Grille selects locally grown and raised produce and meats to serve in the restaurant. Not only is it good for our area’s economy, but it’s also great for restaurant patrons. Our first course was white bean crostini with local yogurt provolone cheese paired to a glass of 2010 White Haven Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. Bright citrus flavors and a crisp herb-tinged finish worked hand in hand with the delightful crostini.

A California 2010 Clos du Bois Chardonnay was our next wine sampling. It was served with crunchy orange roughy soft tacos drizzled with local black bean mango salsa. The lightly oaked crisp-tasting Clos du Bois held up nicely to the bright citrusy dressing and crunchy taco. A locally acquired mixed green and dandelion salad tossed with turnips and roasted beets was paired to a 2008 Rotta Proprietors Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles for our third entrée. The rich dusty Cab fruit flavors paired surprisingly well with the sweetish caramelized flavors of the roasted beets.

A Kim Crawford 2010 Pinot Noir from New Zealand was poured to go with roasted Berkshire pork loin with corn pudding for our main course. Textbook Pinot fruit flavors and a spice-tinged finish were just the answer for the fork-tender pork loin.

A raspberry and mixed nut tart was paired to Edna Valley’s 2009 Syrah for our dessert offering. The cool climate in Edna Valley produces vibrant dark fruit and berry flavors that are quite different from warmer localities. I particularly enjoyed the pepper-tinged finish of this wine with the mixed nut flavors of the tart.

I recently attended the Pittsburgh Wine Fest restaurant tasting with members of the Springfield Group, and next month, I’ll have a full report of some great wine picks I found at that event.

On March 27 and 29, Selah Restaurant in Struthers hosted Wine and Dine Ohio’s monthly dinner taste. With guitarist Julius Veal and his smooth jazz, everything got off to a great start with a glass of 2010 Cedarbrook Napa Chardonnay. With just a hint of wood, this crisp white features citrus and melon flavors that went very well with the recommended linguine and smoked pork entrée.

Our next wine poured was a 2009 Hook & Ladder Chardonnay from California’s Russian River Valley. Slightly bolder than our first Chardonnay, it offered tropical fruit flavors and a bouquet of honey and pineapple tinged with oak. It held up nicely to the dish of rich pasta and artichoke with crumbled bacon that was suggested.

Our first red was the 2008 Jed Steele Shooting Star Zinfandel from Mendocino County. This cool-climate Old Vine Zinfandel was fabulous with the homemade ricotta gnocchi. Lush Zinfandel flavors and a spicy berry-scented finish make this Zinfandel a great choice for upcoming summer cookouts.

Australia’s Victoria region is the home of our next wine. The 2007 The Verdict Cabernet Sauvignon from the Shinas Estate offers bold plummy fruit flavors and long textured finish the paired lovingly with the Devonshire seared steak entrée.

We returned to California’s Lake County for our final wine. The 2009 Vigilance Red Hills Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits Bordeaux-like fruit flavors and structure. Those who ordered the bourbon beef tips were very pleased with this distinctive red wine.

I want to thank the Selah restaurant staff and Julius Veal for a wonderful two days of dining and wine tasting. Our next two Wine and Dine Ohio events will be on Thursday, May 31 at the Station Square Ristorante in Liberty, and an exclusive tasting of Ohio’s Ferrante Winery on June 27 at Rachel’s Restaurant in Austintown; I hope you’ll join us for both.

On April 18, I went to Salvatore’s Italian Grille in Howland for a tasting featuring 25 different wines from around the world. Owner Salvatore Coppola is updating his restaurant wine list, and a lot of wines from this tasting will eventually find a place on the list.  To accompany all the fine wine offered, tables were filled with trays of antipasto, imported cheeses and meats, and artisan pizzas.

For upcoming summer fare featuring light dishes, give the Montagna Sangue di Giuda del’Oltrepo Pavese DOC NV Frizzante ($15) from Italy a try. Deep red in color with berry-tinged flavors, this bubbly is just plain fun to drink. Low in alcohol (7.5 percent), its spritzy nose and fruity flavors will please most everyone.

If you’re looking for something bolder in style, the 2007 Fratelli Ferrero Barbera d’Alba ($24) from the Piedmonte region of Italy offers textured cherry flavors and finishes long with spice-tinged fruit. Salvatore’s Veal Maximo would be a fine choice for this Piedmontese classic.

My last pick was Peirano Estate’s 2010 Chardonnay ($15) from Lodi, Calif. Classic California Chardonnay citrus fruit flavors are this reasonably priced wine’s ticket to success. Salvatore’s excellent chicken Francaise would be a natural choice for the crisp-tasting Peirano Chardonnay.

On a final note, let’s talk about beer. I mean lots of beer. On April 21, I attended Vintage Estate and Phill and Sandy Reda’s Big Tap-In craft beer festival at the Covelli Center. This fundraiser for Making Kids Count keeps growing every year in both attendance and craft beers offered. With summer just around the corner, I found a number of ciders that should go well with various summer dishes.

My first discovery was Magner’s Imported Irish Cider. Their apple and pear ciders are simply delicious. The apple cider is golden in color and has a fresh apple-tinged nose. It comes in at 4.5 percent alcohol and would be great as a dressing for vegetables or salads. The pear, also 4.5 percent alcohol, is lighter in color and would be outstanding as a marinade for baked ham. Crack open a bottle, slice some cheese, and sit back and enjoy yourself with a Magner’s.

My next pick was the Crispin Natural Hard Apple Cider Original from Minneapolis. Another low-alcohol drink that offers refreshing relief from the summer heat, this cider is particularly good over cracked ice. I want to thank Phill for inviting me to the Big Tap-In, and I look forward to next year.

Upcoming events include 5-8 p.m. Thursday, May 17 at Charlie’s Premier Wines of Howland; owner and winemaker Mac McDonald of Vision Cellars will be pouring. On Tuesday, May 22, Springfield Grille will have their monthly dinner taste. On Thursday, May 31, Wine and Dine Ohio will have a tasting at the Station Square Ristorante in Liberty, and on Wednesday, June 27 will be at Rachel’s Restaurant in Austintown for a Ferrante Winery taste.  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 contact us through the Wine and Dine Ohio Web site (www.wineanddineohio.com).

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 look forward to seeing you at events around the Valley.

© 2012 The Metro Monthly. All rights reserved.

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