June 2014 Wine Guy: Fundraiser benefits Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center

BY JOHN WEBSTER | Metro Monthly Wine Columnist

The spring season has provided a number of fine wines at very reasonable prices. Every store taste, dinner taste and fundraiser produced exceptionally fine wines for the smart wine enthusiast. One of my favorite events is the Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center fundraiser taste. The Center is located at the entrance of Beaver Creek State Park. Dedicated to connecting our community with nature and encouraging environmental conservation, it is staffed entirely by volunteers from the surrounding community.

This year, they featured an array of Ferrante wines from Ashtabula County. I’ve sampled Ferrante wines for over two decades, and I’m always impressed by their quality. I started off with a glass of their 2013 American Riesling. Cold fermented with crisp apple and peach fruit flavors, this medium dry Riesling is just the wine for warm weather outdoor picnics.

Moving along to the red selections, I was given a sample of Ferrante’s 2012 Grand River Valley (GRV) Signature Series Cabernet Franc. Simply put, this cool-climate Cab Franc from Northeast Ohio is outstanding. Dark red fruit and berry flavors tinged with earth make this complex wine a real joy to drink. With good California Cabernet Franc starting at $30 and up and St. Emilion Bordeaux in the stratosphere, I recommend that you give this complex red a try.

Also on hand for sampling were Ferrante’s sweet Blueberry and Raspberry Blanc dessert wines. If you haven’t tried these scrumptious fruit wines with chocolate or pastry, you’re really missing out on a treat. Both of these fine wines can be appreciated by beginning wine drinkers up to seasoned wine connoisseurs. I’d like to thank Karen Swanson and the Education Center’s president Tom Butch for a wonderful tour and afternoon.

On April 25, I attended Michael Charles Premier Wines’ spring dinner taste at Vernon’s Café in Niles. Once again, Michael Charles owners Nick and Loretta Uroseva provided five wonderful wines to go with Vernon’s delicious entrees. As we were seated, we were poured a glass of Veuve du Vernay Brut bubbly from France. The crisp apple and pear flavors were a fine match for the Old World bruschetta topped with marinated tomatoes and mozzarella cheese delivered promptly from the kitchen. This is a fine inexpensive bubbly for informal summertime get-togethers.

For our next course of jumbo freshwater shrimp stuffed with crab cake, we were given a glass of 2013 Le Hameau Sauvignon Blanc from southwestern France. Crisp mineral-laden citrus fruit flavors were just the answer for the rich stuffed shrimp.

The next course from Vernon’s kitchen was spring vegetable lasagna drizzled with roasted red pepper cream sauce. This seasonal dish was paired to a glass of 2009 Covila II Crianza from the Rioja region of Spain. Overflowing ripe berry and cocoa flavors lead to a long, textured finish that seems to last forever. At $14.99 a bottle, this wine should be in every wine drinker’s cellar.

Northwest Sonoma County, California, is the home of the fourth wine poured. The 2009 Steelhead Red Blend was simply perfect with Vernon’s slow-roasted pork loin with sautéed Italian greens. Juicy berry and red fruit flavors follow through to a lush, elegant finish that really complemented the tender pork.

Our final main course of chargrilled sirloin filet with smashed garlic Yukon potatoes drizzled with caramelized onions needed a full-bodied red to pair with. The 2012 La Postelle Cuvee Cabernet from the Apalta Valley of Chile was a great choice.

An interesting blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (91 percent) and Cabernet Franc (9 percent), it just oozes with dark plum and red fruit flavors and finishes boldly with a textured long finish.

Vernon’s sommelier Dennis Huston is starting a new venture with chocolate bars made especially to accompany wine, and at the end of the evening, he let me try a “Dennis’ Chocolate for Wine” sample. It perfectly complemented the La Postelle Cabernet. Cabs can be tannic when young, and the dark chocolate made it more approachable and enjoyable. I look forward to trying it with other styles of wine such as Merlot, Pinot and Port. Dennis’ Chocolate for Wine will soon be available for purchase; for more information contact Dennis directly at newwine42@yahoo.com.

I want to thank the Michael Charles and the Vernon’s staffs for an extremely enjoyable evening of food, conversation, and fine wine.

On May 20, the Springfield Grille held an informative “Whiskeys of the World” tasting, matching five specially-prepared dinner entrees to whiskeys from around the world. Joseph DeLuca of Beverage Resources in Lakewood, Ohio was on hand to lead us through the five different whiskeys, describing their unique characteristics.

Our first entrée was Philly steak “cigars,” (steak cut to the size of a cigar) with balsamic onion aioli paired to a glass of American bourbon from the Bulleit Distilling Company of Kentucky. I was impressed with the sweet aroma of this bourbon and how it complemented the juicy flavors of the Philly steak.

Bulleit Distilling was also the source of our next sampling. Their Tennessee Rye Whiskey was paired to marinated duck breast drizzled in a citrus-shallot vinaigrette. The Tennessee Rye had a somewhat sharper nose and a more distinct finish than their bourbon, but it was just great with the citrusy duck.

A glass of Ireland’s own Black Bush Whiskey was paired to the Grille’s Scottish salmon filet set atop bok choy, lotus root, and other Asian vegetables for our next course. The smooth, easy-drinking Black Bush whiskey was a perfect choice for the distinctive Scottish salmon. This was my favorite whiskey because of its smoothness and lack of “heat.”

Whisky-marinated flank steak with roasted whipped potatoes and grilled brussels sprouts was paired to a sampling of Scotland’s Glenmorangie Ten-Year Whisky for the next course. Light gold in color, the Glenmoranie’s distinctive nose and finish was outstanding with the bold flavors of the flank steak.

A bourbon-baked apple with espresso-tinged bourbon ice cream was presented with a glass of Canada’s own Crown Royal XO for our final dessert course. The Grille’s kitchen gets a huge thumbs-up for this delicious dessert. If you’re a fan of Canadian whisky, I highly recommend this dish.

For those wondering why sometimes it’s spelled “whiskey” and sometimes “whisky” – in America and Ireland, we tend to spell it “whiskey.” In Scotland, Canada, and Japan, they favor the “whisky” spelling. So the spelling depends on the beverage’s country of origin.

This was a fantastic evening filled with great information about whiskeys from around the world. I hope the Grille will have DeLuca back, because he is a true treasure chest of information about whiskeys and other imbibements.

Upcoming events include a Springfield Grille whiskey dinner pairing (contact restaurant for date); the 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 wineguy@metromonthly.net.

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