Wine Guy December 2012: Angels for Animals Holiday Wine Taste benefits daily operations

Diane Less at the Angels for Animals holiday wine taste benefit. Electronic image by John Webster.


The end of the harvest season and beginning of the holidays mark the busiest time for wine tasting events. I’ve found many great affordable and enjoyable wines that I’d like to share with you.

Earlier this fall, I attended the launch of Salvatore’s Italian Grill’s new wine list. Five wines were chosen from their new list and paired to an exciting menu from their kitchen. An antipasto and appetizer buffet and mixed green salad (or lentil soup) was paired to a 2010 Sterling Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc from California for the opening course. Bright citrus and melon flavors with a hint of grass on the finish made the Sterling a fine choice for the wide selection of imported meats and cheeses from the buffet table.

Jumbo gulf shrimp with fresh lemon risotto and a glass of Salvatore’s own Sonoma County Chardonnay was the next offering. The lemon-tinged risotto was a fantastic partner for the crisp Sonoma Chardonnay. Clean citrus fruit flavors follow through to a finish tinged with a touch of oak, making this inexpensive Chardonnay a fine choice for many offerings from Salvatore’s extensive menu.

Pappardelle norcino (roasted pork, wild mushroom with pappardelle pasta in sherry cream sauce) was paired to Salvatore’s house Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County for the dinner’s third course. Textbook Cabernet fruit flavors and a smooth clean finish worked nicely with the rich creamy pasta dish.

The fourth wine of the evening was a 2010 “14 Hands” Merlot from Washington State. Salvatore’s delicious Neapolitan chicken with plum tomatoes worked handily with the cool-climate berry and spice-tinged Merlot. Salvatore’s finishing dessert course was a mixed berry torte with yellow custard. A glass of Italy’s Sangue di Guida DOC Frizzante was simply delicious with the berry-laden torte. Light medium red in color with off-dry crushed berry and plum flavors, the Sangue di Guida was a perfect finale to a great dinner at Salvatore’s.

Another enjoyable event saw Wine and Dine Ohio collaborate with Up a Creek Tavern in Howland for a tasting featuring Buckeye Beverage distributors’ line of wines. Our first wine was a 2011 St. Urbanshof “Urban” Riesling from the Mosel region of Germany. Crisp apple sweet fruit flavors made this delicious Mosel Riesling a perfect choice for Up a Creek’s Greek Pecan Chip Basket appetizer drizzled in balsamic vinegar and crumbled blue cheese.

A 2011 Kenneth Volk “Jaybird” Chardonnay was our second white wine of the evening. With no oak aging, only pure Chardonnay stone fruit flavors show through on this delicious stainless-steel fermented Chardonnay. The diners who ordered the “Big Catch” haddock dinner found this combo quite enjoyable.

Portugal is the home of our next wine selection, which is currently being offered at $10.99, discounted from the usual $19.99. The 2007 “Portal Mural” Reserva Red is a blend of Tinta Roriz (40 percent), Touriga Franca (40 percent) and Touriga Nacional (20 percent). Deep red in color with intense red fruit flavors it finishes boldly with round tannins tinged with cocoa and spice. It was just perfect with the penne pasta Diavolo topped with red sauce and crumbled sausage.

Our next red wine was the 2009 Maggio Family Vineyard Merlot from Lodi, Calif. Textbook dark cherry flavors with soft supple tannins will please even the most finicky wine drinker. Up a Creek’s classic baby back ribs proved to be a nice match for this friendly Merlot.

Our final wine of the evening was the 2010 Steele “Outcast” red blend from Lake County, Calif. A stylish blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Barbera and a touch of Petit Verdot thrown in, the Steele Outcast is another great bargain, discounted to $23.99 from the original $62.99. Dark ruby red in color with gobs of berry fruit flavors, it finishes long and clean with a hint of vanilla and spice. The folks that ordered the 14 oz. certified Angus ribeye were asking for seconds of this classic California red blend.

Springfield Grille held their last monthly  dinner taste of the year with Gabrielle Leonhard of Gabrielle Collection Wines from Napa Valley, who led us through her stable of handcrafted wines. Cranberry chicken over apple chestnut bisque was paired to Gabrielle’s unique 2005 Vertex Red Cuvee Blend No. 615 from North Coast fruit for our first entrée. Only 500 cases of this blend is produced each year (50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 percent Merlot, 10 percent Cabernet Franc, 15 percent Syrah, and 5 percent Petite Sirah). Deep red fruit flavors lead to a spicy pepper tinged finish that complemented the tasty fruit laden chicken dish.

The collection’s 2008 Juxtaposition Napa Valley blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (75 percent) and Syrah (25 percent) was poured for our second course of fresh blackberries mixed with arugula, prosciutto and fontinella cheese. This red offered up oodles of red plum flavors and a smooth juicy finish that complemented the fennel-infused balsamic dressing on the Springfield’s delicious salad.

Pumpkin scallops with chopped kale and butternut squash was paired to Gabrielle’s 2010 Pietro Chardonnay from Napa Valley for our third course. Delicious peach and pear fruit flavors proceed to a finish tinged with a hint of oak. This pairing was enjoyed by everyone in attendance.

Our fourth wine of the evening was Gabrielle’s signature 2008 Equilateral Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Only 200 cases of this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon are produced in a year. Dark fruit and berry flavors interwoven with toast and spice produce an elegant multilayered Cabernet that is a joy to sample. Springfield’s kitchen was up to the challenge with their cashew chipotle pork loin drizzled with a honey maple red wine reduction sauce. Food and wine pairings don’t get much better than this combo. Our sweet ending course was a flaky baked apple crisp drizzled with red wine and cinnamon marinated golden raisins.

A 2009 Gabrielle Pietro Family Vineyards Pinot Noir from Russian River was paired with this decadent dessert. It was a perfect conclusion to a wonderful dinner.

One of my favorite destinations during the holiday season is the Angels for Animals Holiday Wine Taste at their Andrews Hall. Great food, delicious wine, and a large crowd in attendance always make for a wonderful evening. All the wines poured were available for sale along with a huge selection of gift sets, with a portion of the funds set aside for Angels for Animals’ daily operations.

At $14 a bottle, the Brancott Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand is hard to beat. They consistently provide a nice bottle of Pinot Noir at a price that is very competitive. Ripe cherry and spice flavors lead to a smooth clean finish, pleasing to nearly every palate. Another favorite of mine is the Raymond “R” Collection Field Blend Red Wine for $14. Ripe berry and red currant flavors and a clean textured finish make this a consistently good wine and a fine choice for holiday get-togethers. I want to thank Diane Less and her great staff for a wonderful evening.

Another fine fall wine event was the Splendor in the Glass scholarship fundraiser at Alberini’s Restaurant in Niles. With six wine distributors and two local wineries in attendance pouring their wines and Chookie Alberini’s experienced kitchen staff serving tables of delectable food, this is a must-attend annual affair. Beef Wellington, chicken roulades, ceviche shrimp and trays of antipasto and artisan pizzas just beg to be sampled with a glass of wine. My first pick was the 2009 Carmen Petite Sirah Gran Reserva from Maipo Alto, Chile. Lush, ripe plum and dark fruit flavors give way to a spicy pepper-tinged finish that complemented the fork-tender beef Wellington.

For someone looking for a lighter style red give the 2009 Nannicola Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon a try. Food friendly, this red wine offers textbook Cabernet fruit flavors and a textured clean finish. It was delicious with Alberini’s signature lamb lollipops. Thanks to Alberini’s for an enjoyable evening benefiting a good cause.

Wine and Dine Ohio is gearing up for our 2013 tasting season. To 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 (

Other upcoming tastings include Springfield Grille’s monthly wine dinner (call the 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

There were so many great holiday events that I couldn’t cover them all in one column. Next month, I’ll keep you updated on my many wine finds that will be great for enjoying by the fireside. I wish you all a Happy New Year, and I hope to see you at wine events around the Valley.

© 2013 The Metro Monthly. All rights reserved.

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