Pictured: Nick Uroseva (left) of Michael Charles Premier Wines on Elm Road and Dennis Huston, sommelier at Vernon’s Café. (Electronic image by John Webster for Metro Monthly)
By JOHN WEBSTER | METRO MONTHLY WINE & FOOD COLUMNIST
October is always a busy month for inquisitive wine drinkers, and I was fortunate to attend many fine tastings. My first major restaurant taste was at Michael Alberini’s “Falling for Wine” autumn wine taste on Oct. 13. Alberini had 24 wines ($14 to $58 retail) and numerous tables of delicious food to pair them with.
At the first table I visited, I was given a sample of E. Guigal’s 2011 Cotes du Rhone Blanc ($14). This crisp blend of Marsanne, Rousanne, and Viognier grapes offers aromatic citrus flavors that went nicely with the Vietnamese spring rolls offered.
My next wine was the 2010 Grgich Hills Chardonnay from Napa Valley ($40). Grgich Hills has always been a favorite of mine, and I was not disappointed by this textbook example of great Napa Chardonnay. It was wonderful with the Cape Cod fish sticks nestled on a bed of Milanese risotto.
I procured my first red just as the band was getting started, and refilled my plate with Southwest style pulled pork sliders (small sandwiches), and fennel sausage cassoulet. The 2008 Gregory Graham Grenache ($22) from the Red Hills of Lake County, Calif., was a near-perfect partner for the pulled pork. Bright cherry and red fruit flavors follow through to a spicy lush finish. This affordable red should be on everyone’s buying list for upcoming holiday entertaining.
If you’re looking for an outstanding Bordeaux style red blend that won’t break your holiday wine budget, give the 2010 Longshadows Pirouette ($58) from Washington state a “taste drive” around the dinner table. A lush blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, it delivers inky black cherry and dark plum flavors leading to a finish tinged with spicy vanilla. It was simply delicious with Chef Mark Canzonetta’s fennel sausage.
I want to thank Michael Alberini and his fine staff for another enjoyable evening of wine, food, and great company.
On Oct. 15, I attended Springfield Grille’s monthly wine dinner. This month, they featured wines from the Noble Vines wine company paired to seasonal dishes. Our first offering was the 2012 Noble “242” Sauvignon Blanc from Monterey County’s San Bernabe vineyard served with a roasted pumpkin seed and seasonal fruit salad. With citrus fruit flavors tinged with melon, this wine worked nicely with the sweet onion and berry flavors of the late-season salad.
Honey roasted pancetta and pear bruschetta was our next entrée. The Noble “337” Cabernet Sauvignon from Lodi, Calif. was chosen to go with this rich offering. Deep yet balanced red fruit flavors and a long textured finish made this Cab a fine choice for the tasty goat cheese-topped bruschetta.
Maple glazed-chicken medallions and caramel apple risotto was paired with the 2012 Noble “446” Chardonnay from cool Monterey County. Light Chablis-like citrus flavors were a nice match for the delicious maple-glazed chicken.
Our next wine was the 2011 Noble “1” Red Blend. This lusty cuvee (blend) of 50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 50 percent Merlot was wonderful with the prosciutto-wrapped pork loin with roasted apples. Textured dark fruit flavors and a smooth berry-tinged finish worked hand in hand with the tender pork loin main entrée.
The final dessert course featured the Noble 2012 “667” Pinot Noir from Monterey County. The bright bing cherry flavors and spicy clean finish were just the answer for the apple pecan cinnamon pastry puffs drizzled in a sweet red wine reduction sauce. Thanks to the Springfield Grille for another fine dinner taste.
On Oct. 18, I attended the Elm Road Michael Charles Premier Wines dinner taste at Vernon’s Café in Niles. Vernon’s capable staff started our evening off with an appetizer of white bean hummus, edamame, and roasted eggplant spreads accompanied by crostini and flatbreads. We were poured samples of Elizabeth Spencer’s 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from Mendocino County, Calif. Tasty flavors of honeysuckle and apple led to a crisp vibrant finish that meshed nicely with the tasty appetizers.
Our next wine was the E. Guigal’s 2011 Cotes du Rhone Blanc paired to a freshwater shrimp and white bean dish drizzled with olive oil. This is the second time this great Cotes du Rhone Blanc was featured at an October tasting, and it was just as spectacular this time. Complex pear and kiwi fruit flavors emerge and lead to a fresh crisp finish that complemented the succulent freshwater shrimp.
Course no. 3 consisted of Vernon’s pan-seared sea bass atop butternut squash risotto. A Robin K 2011 Pinot Noir from Sonoma County was chosen to go with this classic signature dish. French Cote du Beaune in style, the Robin K Pinot oozes crisp berry flavors and finishes clean with a hint of spicy vanilla. This was a fantastic pairing that got a lot of attention.
The next wine hails from the Campo de Borja region of Spain. The 2011 Coto de Hayas Garnacha Centenaria (Grenache) is one of the finest Spanish Garnachas I’ve tasted in some time. Vernon’s peppardelle (flat noodles) with wild mushrooms and asparagus was a fabulous pairing for the rich Centenaria. Potent yet lush dark fruit flavors give way to a smooth structured finish tinged with herbs and spice. This was truly a great combination of food and wine.
Vernon’s signature chargrilled prime Angus sirloin filet was paired to a 2010 Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, Calif. for our final course. This Cab produces dusty black cherry flavors leading to a plush yet defined finish tinged with tobacco and spice. This was a classic pairing and a tableside favorite.
I was really impressed with Michael Charles’ selection of wines for this tasting, and I’m looking forward to their holiday dinner taste at the Youngstown Country Club on Dec. 6. In addition, I once again congratulate and thank the Vernon’s staff for a great dining experience.
Moving along to our local store tastings, I stopped by Vintage Estate Wine and Beer’s third Saturday taste and found a well-priced Pinot Noir for the central coast of California. The 24 Knots 2009 Pinot ($15) is a nice bargain for everyday dinners or holiday entertaining. Ripe strawberries and black cherries on the palate lead to a long spice-tinged finish that gives you the impression you are sipping a much costlier red.
If you’re looking for a tasty inexpensive Chardonnay, stop by Michael Charles in Howland and pick up a bottle of Butternut Chardonnay ($14.99) from California. Rich citrus and stone fruit flavors give way to a lush buttery finish.
Michael Charles Premier Wines on Elm Road were featuring wines from the Buena Vista Winery stable at their second Saturday tasting. Buena Vista’s 2012 Pinot Noir ($15, marked down from $19.99) from Sonoma County offers raspberry and red fruit flavors in a charming Cote du Beaune style. Grilled chicken or baked salmon would be just outstanding for this tasty red.
Upcoming wine events: Saturday, Nov. 9, Angels for Animals benefit taste at their facility; Tuesday, Nov. 12, “An Evening for Chookie” benefit at Leo’s Ristorante (for information, call or text Molly Halliday at 330-980-6641); Tuesday, Nov. 19 wine dinner taste at the Springfield Grille; and Thursday, Nov. 21, Upstairs and Wine Down Holiday Wine Taste; Friday, Dec. 6, Michael Charles Premier Wines tasting at the Youngstown Country Club (call the Michael Charles Elm Road wine shop for details). Regular tastings include Upstairs Restaurant’s Wine Down, third Thursday tasting; 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 (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.