December 2013 Wine Guy: Cleveland show features Italian portfolio wines

AT THE CHOOKIE BENEFIT – Seated (left to right): Linda Spence, Cheryl Biviano, Molly Halliday, Lynne Larney. Standing (left to right): Lisa Dickson, Julie Vugrinoich, Atty. Bill Biviano, Leonard Fisher, Carol Burgess, Cindy Harcharik, Rosemary Horvath, Karen Cybak-Hurst and Dawn Thompson. Electronic image by John Webster.

AT THE CHOOKIE BENEFIT – Seated (left to right): Linda Spence, Cheryl Biviano, Molly Halliday, Lynne Larney. Standing (left to right): Lisa Dickson, Julie Vugrinoich, Atty. Bill Biviano, Leonard Fisher, Carol Burgess, Cindy Harcharik, Rosemary Horvath, Karen Cybak-Hurst and Dawn Thompson. Electronic image by John Webster.

November is traditionally the beginning of the holiday season, and that means wine buying is ramped up for parties and family get-togethers. I’ve found a number of great wines at affordable prices for you.

Chookie Alberini 12-13

Richard ‘Chookie’ Alberini Jr.

On Nov. 5, I traveled to LockKeepers Restaurant in Valley View, Ohio for Cutting Edge Selections’ Italian portfolio show. Cutting Edge distributors has one of the finest selections of Italian wines to be found in Ohio, and this tasting showed all their strengths. (The wines listed here can found or ordered at nearly any wine shop in your neighborhood.)

I started off with a sample of Elio Perrone 2012 Sourgal Moscato d’Asti ($19.99). Perrone produces one of the finest examples of Moscato d’Asti available. Crisp, clean citrus and stone fruit flavors move along to a floral, mineral-tinged finish that is just plain outstanding for a wine in this price range.

My next white wine was a glass of 2011 Abbazia di Novacella Gewurztraminer from the south Tyrol region of northern Italy. Lush, opulent stone fruit flavors and a textbook spicy finish make it hard to stop at just one glass.

If you’re looking for a wine gift for someone who is tired of cookie-cutter formula Chardonnays, pick up a bottle of Sergio Mottura’s Latour a Citivella Grechetto IGT ($29.99). Tight, stony citrus flavors and a long complex finish tinged with herbs will have you wishing you bought more. This unique Italian white will be a wonderful addition to your wine collection.

A red that really stood out was the 2010 Masseria Setteporte Etna Rosso DOC ($22.99) from Sicily. Smooth, dark fruit flavors and a long complex finish make this stylish red a joy to taste. Rib roast or grilled chicken would be a fine match.

Thanks to Cutting Edge Selections and LockKeepers Restaurant for a wonderful wine and food event.

On Nov. 9, I attended the annual Angels for Animals benefit wine taste at their facility in Canfield. This is always a fun event at which to see old friends and readers support a great cause. Sixteen wines from around the world and several craft beers from Akron’s Thirsty Dog Brewery were being served to accompany the delicious food from the Angels’ kitchen.

I started the evening with a glass of Thirsty Dog Raspberry Ale and a plate of zucchini fries. Crisp yet smooth flavors and a hint of raspberry on the finish made this a great combination with the fries. A red wine that really stood out was the 2012 Campo Viejo Garnacha (Grenache) from Spain. Smooth raspberry and cherry flavors with a spicy floral note on the finish made this $12 bargain a great partner for the scrumptious sausage-stuffed mini peppers.

If you’re looking for a tasty dessert wine for the holidays, try the Winery of Versailles Schokoladenkirschwein (pronounced shoke-o-laden-kersh-wine), meaning “chocolate cherry wine.” This grape wine with cherries and chocolate added was simply wonderful with the Brix and Philadelphia Chocolates on the dessert table.

Thanks to Diane Less and her band of “angels” for a great evening of food and wine.

On Nov. 19, I attended the Springfield Grille’s monthly dinner taste. This month, they featured wines from California’s Rodney Strong Wine Estate. I’ve always admired this producer’s wines, and was happy to learn that their District Manager Liz Hammer would be there to lead our group through each wine selection.

This family-owned winery is on a roll, with being named American Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine, and having their 2010 Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley score 94 points in Wine Spectator magazine.

Our first course of halibut with bok choy and pear slaw was paired to Rodney Strong’s 2012 “Charlotte’s Home” Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma County. While inexpensive ($12), this is Sauvignon Blanc at its best. Crisp citrus and pear flavors worked very nicely with the citrus-marinated halibut.

A fall frisee (shredded) salad was served for our second course. Rodney Strong’s 2011 Chalk Hill Chardonnay was poured to go along with this light, tasty salad. Tangy apple and citrus flavors from this wine worked nicely with the butternut squash chips and blue cheese sprinkled on the curly endive salad.

Our first red wine was Rodney Strong’s 2011 Russian River Pinot Noir. Cote de Beaune in style with lively crushed berry flavors, it was fabulous with the Grille’s walnut-encrusted chicken drizzled with pomegranate sauce. This affordable Pinot ($23) should be on everyone’s holiday buying list.

Braised oxtail with Vidalia onions over roasted garlic risotto was served for our main course. Rodney Strong’s Rich and Bold 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley was chosen to go with this hearty dish. Lush plum and red fruit flavors give way to a long finish tinged with spicy vanilla. This near-perfect union of food and wine was a crowd favorite.

Our final wine of the evening was the 2010 Symmetry Red Meritage from Alexander Valley, Calif. A delicious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (75 percent), Malbec (12 percent), Cabernet Franc (10 percent) Merlot (2 percent) and Petite Verdot (1 percent). It exudes plummy dark fruit flavors with hints of dark chocolate and spice on the nose. The spiced pumpkin crème brulee drizzled with salted caramel sauce was a fine choice for the rich, defined flavors of Rodney Strong’s Symmetry Meritage.

I’d like to thank Liz Hammer and the Springfield Grille for an enjoyable evening of food and wine.

On Nov. 12, I attended the “Evening for Chookie” benefit at Leo’s Ristorante in Howland. More than 450 people attended this fine event. Music by Sam Trina and Gary Pirrung with members of Chookie Unplugged provided a great backdrop for this sold-out event.

Leo’s expert kitchen and staff provided a delicious buffet dinner for everyone attending. A silent and a Chinese auction with a 50-50 raffle raised more than $86,000. This benefit was one of the best-run events that I have attended in my time as the Metro Monthly Wine Guy. I’d like to congratulate Leo’s Ristorante and the benefit’s organizers (see photo) for a great evening.

At our local store tastings, I found a couple of nice wines that won’t rock your holiday budget. At Warren’s Michael Charles Premier Wines, they were also featuring Rodney Strong’s stable of wines. Strong’s 2009 Alexander Valley Merlot ($17.99 on sale) provides rich, mouth-filling plum and berry fruit flavors leading to a creamy berry-tinged finish. Try this well-priced Merlot with roast duck at the holidays with your family and friends.

At Vintage Estate Wine and Beer in Boardman, they were pouring samples of the 2009 Heavyweight Zinfandel ($11) from Lodi, Calif.  This nicely balanced blend of Zinfandel (89 percent) Barbera (7 percent), and Petite Sirah (4 percent) offers full-bodied red fruit and berry flavors leading to a long, spice-tinged finish.

Upcoming wine events include Michael Charles Beer and Wine in Warren Holiday Taste Friday. Dec. 6, at the Youngstown Country Club. Dinner tastes at the Springfield Grille will resume in January. Regularly scheduled 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 jmwineguy@gmail.com. The best of the holidays to you!

© 2013 Metro Monthly. All rights reserved.

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