BY JOHN WEBSTER | METRO MONTHLY COLUMNIST
March came roaring in with a number of fine beer and wine tastings, and April is looking to be just as exciting. Before we get started, I want to give everyone a quick heads-up on three events coming in April. On Saturday, April 20, the Youngstown Country Club is hosting a wine taste for the local Special Olympics program. For information, contact Jan Grasso at 330-744-8411, ext. 125.
On Saturday, April 27, the Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center is hosting a fundraising wine taste at their beautiful center. Contact the Center at 330-301-0019 or 330-385-6250 for more details.
At 4 p.m. Sunday, April 28, Michael Alberini’s Restaurant is having their April Funk Diamond wine taste. Fifty wines along with gourmet tapas from Chef Steve Zurkey’s kitchen will be available, and a live funk band will start at 5:30 p.m. For tickets, call 330-965-2524.
This month, I attended a special dinner tasting at the Springfield Grille featuring Colorado beers. Our first entrée was the Big Sky Aspen Pie, a tasty flatbread pizza sprinkled with crispy pork belly, summer squash, fontina cheese, and ale-charred tomatoes. This dish was paired to a glass of Yeti Great Divide Imperial Stout. Deep brown in color with rich caramel and toffee flavors, it paired nicely with the Aspen pie.
Our next offering was Rocky Mountain Spring Rolls filled with roasted poblano peppers, avocado, and grilled corn. Light and crispy, they were paired to a glass of Great Divide Denver Pale Ale. Light in style with bright golden colors, this crisp brew was just right with the crunchy rolls.
Our next dish was a heaping bowl of Bison Mac’n’Ale. Hazed and Infuzed Amber Ale is folded into macaroni smothered in a blend of five cheeses and topped with the Grille’s homemade bison chili. Bolder Beers Hazed and Infuzed Amber Ale was a perfect choice for this hearty dish. Cold conditioned with crisp hoppy flavors, it worked very well with the bison mac and ale. Colorado lamb chops with carmelized chipolinni onions was presented for our main course with a glass of Flashback India Brown Ale. This India-style brown ale has distinctive hops and citrus flavors that are very refreshing. It proved to be delicious with the rich and tasty lamb.
Our dessert course was a huge Grand Junction Molten Lava Brownie served piping hot with warm fudge and homemade banana ice cream. Our beer was a Bavarian-style wheat beer from Boulder Beer Company. The Sweaty Betty Wheat was light golden in color with banana and clove aromas. It was very refreshing with the molten lava brownie.
I think the Springfield Grille did an outstanding job with this tasting, and I look forward to their next beer tasting.
On March 7, I attended the eighth annual wine and beer taste benefit for the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown HIV/AIDS Ministry. This event is sponsored by the Youngstown Area Grocers Association and the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce. This event has grown immensely since it started eight years ago. Kirk Gray from Mr. D’s prepared a lovely selection of food for everyone. Trays of antipasto with imported meats and cheeses, penne alla vodka, chicken marsala, crab cakes and sliced turkey and pork roast were just a few of the many dishes offered to go with several tables of wine and beer selections.
My first wine sampling was a glass of 2011 Castle Rock Chardonnay from the Columbia Valley of Washington. At $9.99 a bottle, this refreshing Chardonnay is hard to beat. Crisp clean citrus fruit flavors paired nicely with the fabulous crab cakes. A red that really stood out was the 2011 Chalone Pinot Noir from Monterey County. Bright berry and herb-infused flavors gave way to a crisp full finish that was delicious with the chicken marsala. For a change of pace, I grabbed a glass of 312 Urban Wheat Ale. Light and hoppy with a spicy finish, it was delicious with the pasta salad. I want to thank the sponsors of this event for a chance to try some interesting beer and wines with outstanding food. If you haven’t attended one of these events, set some time aside next March, and I hope to see you there.
At local store tastings, I found a number of unique wines for people looking for wine at a reasonable price. A white that I really liked was the Mason Cellars 2011 Three Pairs Pinot Gris from California. At under $12 a bottle, this is just the answer for upcoming barbecue dining. Bright pear and citrus flavors make this a great choice for chicken or fish hot off the grill. Another unique white wine was the 2011 Evolucio Dry Furmint Tokaj from Hungary. Round, slightly off-dry fruit flavors lead to a crisp clean finish that should be nice with summer-style salads. A red that really stood out was the 2010 Cameron Hughes Lot 292 Santa Ynez Valley Syrah. With full-bodied dark fruit flavors, this red just screams for prime rib or chops.
I’d like to announce to my readers that a new wine bar has opened in the Mahoning Valley at the former Five Points Wine Bar location at 9065 Springfield Road in Poland. Vincent’s Vine Bar has been open less than a month. If you’re looking for a great wine experience, please give Vincent’s a try. I stopped in to check them out on a Saturday night and was greeted by managers Mitchell Capps and Randy Anzevino.
They got me situated at the bar with a bowl of their signature wedding soup and a bottle of Wente Brothers 2011 Morning Fog Chardonnay. Vincent’s features a full menu with weekly specials along with live entertainment. I was pleased to see local musician Stan Miller come through the door prepared to give everyone an evening of great music. Stan plays at some of the area’s greatest night spots and will be a welcome addition at Vincent’s. As I was finishing my soup, Randy and Mitch brought out a basket of crusty bread from local bakery The Bread Chef, served with seasoned olive oil. It was a marvelous addition to the crisp, tasty Wente Brothers Chardonnay. I’m looking forward to visiting Vincent’s again, and I’ll have a more in-depth report in a future issue.
Along with the upcoming events listed earlier, other regular 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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