By JOHN WEBSTER | METRO MONTHLY WINE COLUMNIST
May provided a virtual downpour of wine events for Valley wine lovers. Springfield Grille, Wine and Dine Ohio and a bevy of trade shows filled every week up with tasty outings.
Natural-State Fine Wine Distributor was featured in Springfield Grille’s monthly dinner taste. Beckmen Vineyards 2010 Grenache Rose from Santa Ynez Valley was our first wine sampling. Highly rated (90 points, Wine and Spirits magazine) this mostly Grenache (75 percent) rose has a smidgen of Syrah (10 percent), Mourvedre (8 percent), and Counoise (7 percent) blended in for added complexity. Bright fruit flavors and a crisp taut finish made this wine a fine choice for the fresh oysters topped with house-made watermelon chili pepper and cilantro sorbet.
Also from Beckmen Vineyards, our next wine was their 2009 Le Bec Blanc. This delicious Rhone-style blend of Marsanne (46 percent), Roussanne (38 percent) and Grenache Blanc (16 percent) reminded me of Rhone whites from Hermitage and Chateauneuf du Pape that cost two to three times more than this wine’s asking price. Bold citrus and hay flavors followed by a long crisp finish worked hand in hand with the smoked salmon Eggs Benedict served atop a split brioche (roll) from the Grille’s kitchen.
Our next wine hails from the Monstant region of Spain. The 2008 Xabek is a low-yield blend of Carinena (50 percent) and Garnacha (Grenache – 50 percent). Bright and bold red fruit flavors lead to a lush finish tinged with herbs and crushed berries. Wild greens with almond-coated buffalo mozzarella tossed with pancetta and poached nectarines made a delicious pairing for the bold and fruit-filled Xabek. (A xabek is a small single-masted sailboat commonly seen off the coast of Spain.)
A scrumptious marinated roasted chicken breast served over mashed root vegetables was presented for our main course. Our wine pairing was a glass of Milcampos 2009 Vinas Viejas from the Ribera del Duero region of Spain. One hundred percent Tempranillo grapes from 60-year-old vines produce a deep purple wine with gobs of black fruit flavors that was very tasty with the roasted chicken.
Popcorn chocolate caramel custard was paired to a glass of 2004 Bodegas Covila Reserva from Rioja, Spain. Made from 100 percent Tempranillo, the Covila Reserva features fresh yet structured red fruit flavors that simply danced with the rich caramel chocolate flavors of the Grille’s custard.
Wine and Dine Ohio returned to Alberini’s Restaurant in Niles for a great tasting featuring wines from around the world paired to Chookie Alberini’s excellent features menu. Buckeye Beverage was the wine distributor for this event, and they had some new and exciting wines to try.
The first wine poured was Australia’s Shinas Estate Sweet Justice Sparkling Moscato. Hailing from the Victoria region of Australia, this bubbly explodes with bright sweet citrus fruit flavors that were delicious with the suggested pairing of lobster bisque.
California’s Sonoma County was the source of Mackenzie Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay. Crisp yet round fruit flavors and a bright vanilla-tinged finish were just the answer for the summery tagliatelle (pasta) al pesto Genovese.
Our first red was the Jaspi 2009 Negre Red Blend from the Monstant region of Spain. A classic blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan, it just oozes black fruit flavors tinged with spice and tobacco. Alberini’s rich homemade lasagna worked very nicely with the Jaspi’s bold fruit flavors.
Alberini’s veal parmigiano offers diners a great chance to experience classic Italian food preparation. All of this can be ruined by choosing a wine that will overpower the delicate rhythm of flavors in this dish. The 2006 Hook and Ladder Merlot from their Los Amigos Ranch Vineyard was just the wine for the mission. Mouth-filling yet supple flavors of blackberry and spice yield to a finish kissed with a hint of cocoa.
Our last wine was the Australian Some Young Punks 2008 Squid’s Fist blend of Sangiovese (60 percent) and Syrah (40 percent) from the Barossa Valley. This is one of the nicest Sangioveses outside of Tuscany and it was just perfect with the suggested “cattleman’s cut” ribeye steak. Deep bold dark fruit flavors and a classic finish that seems to last forever were just fantastic with the steak.
On May 14, I was invited to the Overture Restaurant in downtown Youngstown for the Edward J. DeBartolo Memorial Scholarship Foundation dinner hosted by John and Denise York. With Jeff Chrystal preparing an eight-course dinner and wines from Superior Beverage being poured, this proved to be an exciting affair.
Upon being seated, we were treated to a classic course of antipasto featuring shaved imported cheeses and meats with roasted red peppers and marinated artichoke hearts. A La Marca Prosecco from the Veneto region of Italy was poured, and our evening began.
Our second course of Romano herb-encrusted shrimp and scallops in a bowl of risotto arrived as they were pouring a sample of Villa Puccini Pinot Grigio from northeastern Italy. The tropical fruit flavors of this Italian white complemented the delicate shrimp and scallop entrée.
Course number three consisted of pan-seared lemon sole nestled on a bed of whole grain pilaf topped with morel mushrooms. A fruit-filled Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc was chosen with this entrée. This tasty Sauvignon Blanc with its melon and grass-tinged finish held up nicely to the delicate lemon sole dish.
Our salad course of roasted beets and Danish feta cheese with toasted pine nuts was drizzled with a balsamic reduction dressing. A 2006 Rotta Vineyards Cabernet Franc from Paso Robles was chosen to go with this unique salad. Rotta’s scarce Cabernet Franc exudes textured red fruit flavors and an herb-tinged finish that was a great match for this course. The Rotta Cab Franc also did a fine job with the handmade gnocchi and wild broccoli drizzled in Lucatel Romano cheese sauce.
The Pietro Family Cellars 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley was our next wine sampling. This classic Bordeaux blend was a favorite of many of the diners. It was delicious with both the sixth course of seared duck breast and the seventh course of chargrilled veal tenderloin. There was a lively discussion of whether the Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc made a better match for these dishes.
By the time the eighth course was presented, our debate had subsided and our last wine was poured. A delicate sfogliatelle (Italian pastry) set upon Frangelico cream sauce with Kahlua whipped cream was paired to a sampling of Rotta’s Black Monukka dessert wine. This ultra-rare sweet wine is reminiscent of a fine cream Sherry from Spain. Nutty and caramelized flavors lead to an extremely long finish that will surely have you asking for more. It was a perfect finishing touch to a dining experience that I’ll remember fondly.
As mentioned, May was very busy, but I found enough time to see how things were going at Michael Charles Fine Wines on Elm Road in Warren. When I arrived, they were pouring wines from Cutting Edge Distributors. They handed me a glass of 2010 Ocone Falanghina del Talburno ($18.99) from Italy. This unique white wine delivers citrus and almond flavors that lead to a crisp mineral finish that is very attractive.
My red pick was the 2008 Mitolo Jester Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia ($21.99). Silky smooth dark fruit flavors and a long lingering finish will make you think you are drinking a much more expensive red. This is just one of many great wines from Cutting Edge, and I’ll be reporting on more in future articles. I traveled to Cleveland to two of their trade tastings, and was thrilled with what I found.
Also last month, I attended the Pittsburgh Wine Fest, and I’ll be reporting on some wines that will be available in Ohio as well.
I hope to see many of you at Wine and Dine Ohio’s tasting on Wednesday, June 27 at Rachel’s Restaurant in Austintown. We will be showcasing Ferrante Vineyard wines paired to Rachel’s excellent menu items. 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 website (www.wineanddineohio.com).
Other upcoming tastings include the Springfield Grille monthly wine dinner (call restaurant for date); 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 email@example.com. I look forward to seeing you at events around the Valley.