By JOHN WEBSTER | METRO MONTHLY COLUMNIST
Valley Wine lovers had a number of fine tastings to choose from in June. Summer weight wines and beer predominated most of the events and quite a few were downright delicious.
Our first event was held at Station Square Ristorante in Liberty with Wine and Dine Ohio pouring wines from around the world.
The first wine of the evening sampled was the 2011 Cederberg Bukettraube from the mountainous Cederberg region of South Africa. The Bukettraube grape is a cross between Sylvaner and Frankenthal, and is still grown in Alsace, France (with a few small plots in Spain). This wine’s delicate floral aromas lead to mouth filling apricot flavors that seem to go on forever. This Cederberg selection will surely please everyone looking for a refreshing change of pace for summer fare. Chef Ottavio’s rich Scallops Risotto Carbonara was a perfect choice for the crisp and flashy Bukettraube.
From South Africa, our next wine was the 2009 Villa Sparina Gavi di Gavi from Italy. Made from 100 percent Cortese, this 100 percent stainless fermented white features lush peach and citrus flavors followed by a crisp finish. The folks who ordered the Chilean sea bass grilled with pink crab sherry sauce simply raved about this fine pairing. The Villa Sparina Gavi di Gavi is another fine pick for the grilled chicken and fish entrees we enjoy during the summer.
Our first red pick was the 2009 Maggio Family Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel from Lodi, Calif. Plummy dark fruit and berry flavors and a lush lingering finish made this red a fine match for the Drunken Filet Tips tossed in creamy fettuccine. Our next red sample, also from the Maggio family of wines, was their delicious 2009 Petite Sirah. Deeply colored with ripe earth-tinged dark fruit flavors, it finishes long and spicy with a hint of cracked pepper. This tasty big-boned red was also a fine match for the Drunken Filet Tips.
Our final red of the evening was the 2008 Shannon Ridge 2 Bud Block Zinfandel from Lake County, Calif. This award-winning Zin produces ripe cherry and red fruit flavors leading to a balanced long finish tinged with spicy oak. Only 953 cases of this mostly Zin blend (5 percent Petite Sirah) was produced, so if you’re interested in trying this great wine, I wouldn’t tarry too long. The 20th Anniversary Charred Ribeye from Ottavio’s grill was a great match for this textbook Shannon Ridge Zin.
Springfield Grille showcased a number of fine beers last month for their monthly dinner taste. The Grille’s food pairings for their monthly taste are always great, but they outdid themselves last month. Chef B.J. Sulka produced a four-course dinner that was simply outstanding. Our first course consisted of a mini Kobe beef slider (small sandwich) and Kobe hot dog served with housemade bing cherry ketchup and sweet Vidalia onion relish for dipping. Two Sam Adams fruit beers and Angry Orchard hard cider were served with the course. My favorite was the Angry Orchard Hard Apple Cider. Its bright apple fruit flavors and crisp tangy finish were just the answer for this entrée. The Sam Adams Cherry Wheat Ale was more traditional, with the beer taste dominating the cherry flavor. The Sam Adams Summer Lemon Wheat Beer was a hit with quite a few people. Flavored with lemon peel and grains of Paradise (imported rare pepper), it should drink nicely during a summer heat wave.
Our next entrée was local fried green tomatoes with macadamia-coated fresh mozzarella drizzled in a sweet Sauvignon Blanc-basil emulsion. I’m a real fan of fried green tomatoes, and the Grille’s version is delicious. Leinenkugels Summer Shandy (brewed with natural lemonade) was chosen for this unique dish, and it was just wonderful, crisp and refreshing. It paired nicely with the bright tomato flavors and Sauvignon Blanc-basil emulsion.
Just when I thought we reached our culinary peak, our main course came out. Fork-tender Memphis-style shaved beef brisket with a side of Blacktruffle Purple Yukon potato salad was served with a glass of Crooked Tree IPA (Indian Pale Ale). Heavily hopped with piney citrus flavors, it was great with the spicy beef brisket.
A housemade chocolate chip biscuit with homemade caramel-Guinness ice cream was presented to us for dessert. A serving of Guinness Black Lager was just the answer for this rich dessert. Cold brewed with roasted barley, it was more than enough for the scrumptious chocolate chip biscuit. I want to congratulate B.J. Sulka and his staff for one of the most enjoyable tasting dinners I have attended in the past year.
If you have been looking for a great organic wine for everyday drinking, give the Frey Winery a try. Charlie’s Fine Wines of Howland featured two Frey wines in a recent Saturday store tasting. The Frey Natural Red ($14.99) is a blend of Carignan, Zinfandel and Syrah. Medium bodied with upfront red fruit and berry flavors, this organic wine should be on everyone’s “buy” list for upcoming outdoor cookouts. It was delicious with the chicken that shop owner Mike Lapmardo provided for the tasting.
My next pick was the 2001 Frey Pinot Noir ($19.99) from Mendocino County, Calif. Made from 30-year-old dry-farmed fruit, it delivers oodles of black cherry fruit flavors and finishes smooth with spicy floral notes. This is one of the nicest organic wines I’ve ever sampled, and I recommend that you give it a try.
Summer wines were on the table at Vintage Estate Wine and Beer’s third Saturday taste this month. Their Island Wine Taste was a lot of fun, and I found a couple of great wines for you to try this summer. My first pick was the 2010 Pacific Rim Riesling from Washington state. Crisp and bright citrus flavors with a hint of pear and apple make this Riesling a sure hit for fruit salads and grilled fish and chicken. My next pick was the 2010 Manu Pinot Gris from Marlborough, New Zealand. Wonderful floral notes and crisp citrus fruit flavors will make this a great wine to pair with shellfish or grilled chicken.
Over the past few months, I’ve attended quite a few trade tastings, and I’ve found some real winners to pass along to you. At Cutting Edge Distributors Northwest Passage tasting in Cleveland, they had two wines from Oregon’s King Ridge Winery that I thought were excellent values. The 2010 Kings Ridge Riesling ($12.99) offers up bright citrus and stone fruit flavors and finishes with bright floral notes. This Riesling compares nicely to the highest quality “Pradikat” German wines that cost twice its asking price.
Another fine bargain from Kings Ridge is their 2009 Pinot Noir ($17.99). Vibrant black cherry and raspberry flavors give way to a finish of spicy clove and roasted nuts. This is a fine medium-weight red for summertime drinking when heavier reds won’t do.
Wine and Dine Ohio’s upcoming tastings will be on Thursday, July 26 at Café Cimmento Restaurant in downtown Youngstown, featuring Cescon Wines from Nannicola Imports; on Wednesday, Aug. 29, we’ll be at Stonebridge Grill and Tavern featuring Vintners Select wines.
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). If you have already signed up but haven’t been receiving emails lately, please email your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll make sure that you’re on the list.
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.
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