Bob Sanata is the new wine director at Springfield Grille in Boardman. Electronic image by John Webster.
By JOHN WEBSTER | Metro Monthly Wine Columnist
September was filled with many fine events featuring great wines, tasty beers and handcrafted whiskeys.
Jeff Brayn of Rust Belt Brewery invited me to the Tap House on Commerce Street in Youngstown to sample some of their seasonal beers and to meet Stefan Stojanovic of Cleveland Whiskey. The Cleveland Whiskey distillery is unique in that they don’t age their bourbon whiskey for years in charred barrels. Rather, they have developed a high-pressure infusion system with oxygen that cuts the aging process to almost nothing.
My first sample was their Christmas Bourbon (86 proof). Because it was very smooth with a sweet nose, I was amazing that it hadn’t spent years in a charred barrel developing its fine taste and textured finish. Next up was their 87 bottling (87 proof). Having many of the same qualities as the Christmas bourbon it was even smoother in its finish. My last sample was their flagship Black Reserve Batch No. 5 (100 proof). Noticeably darker in color with deeper, fuller flavors, this whiskey was simply outstanding.
Most of these whiskeys are available throughout Ohio and should make a fine gift for the holidays.
After Brayn and I finished tasting the whiskeys, we moved on to Rust Belt’s stable of seasonal beers. Their Octoberfest seasonal beer (5 percent alcohol) exhibits crisp fruit and nut flavors leading to a full, clean, refreshing finish that should work well with many of autumn’s favorite dishes.
A glass of Old Man Hopper IPA (5.5 percent) was served next. Golden in color with pronounced hoppy fruit flavors, it was very engaging. Old Man Hopper would be an ideal refreshment after a day of fall yard cleanup. Rust Belt’s Brown Ale, available year-round, is dark amber in color, offering lush, full-bodied flavors leading to a taut finish. Late-season burgers hot off the grill would be a great partner for this delicious brown ale. I intend to visit the Tap House again and try some offerings from the kitchen paired to other Rust Belt beers, and will report my findings in a future column.
On Sept. 13, I visited Mike Lapmardo at Charlie’s Premier Wines in Howland for his Saturday wine taste, and I found a couple of California wines that deserve attention. The Acacia 2012 California Chardonnay at $10.99 a bottle is an outstanding buy for upcoming holiday dining and parties. Green apple and peach fruit flavors with a hint of hazelnut on the finish make this undervalued Chardonnay a fine choice for the budget-minded wine buyer.
Another fine value at this taste was the Treasure Hunter 2012 Elephant and Castle Napa Proprietary Red Blend ($24.99). Deep red fruit flavors tinged with a hint of spicy oak lead to a clean finish that goes on forever. This red blend could easily sell for twice the asking price, so I wouldn’t wait too long to pick up a bottle or two for your table or cellar.
Later that day I visited Michael Charles Premier Wines on Elm Road in Warren for their second Saturday taste, and found several wines to be very appealing. My first choice was the 2012 Picket Fence Sauvignon Blanc from Alexander Valley, California (normally $17.99, now available for $14.99). Classic Sauvignon Blanc fruit flavors and a clear, clean finish should make this wine a great choice for pan-fried perch fresh from the lake. The 2009 Eos Zinfandel from the Paso Robles region of California (normally $19.99, on sale for $15.99) was my next wine pick. Lush, brambly red fruit flavors proceed to a spicy long finish that should work very nicely with barbecued chicken.
On Saturday, Sept. 20, I attended the Vintage Estate third Saturday tasting in Boardman. The 2012 Dancing Coyote ($12.99) Pinot Grigio from California’s Clarksburg region is a great wine for everyday enjoyment. Rivaling its Italian cousins, it exudes ripe apple and pear flavors and finishes crisp and clean. Oven-baked chicken and acorn squash would be a fine partner for this tasty white wine.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive California Pinot Noir, give the 2012 Sea Glass from Santa Barbara County a try. Light bodied with ripe cherry and strawberry flavors, it finishes with a spice-tinged note that is very appealing.
Boardman’s Springfield Grille held a lovely Farm-to-Table wine dinner on Sept. 24, featuring food prepared by Adam Lee of The Sprouted Table paired to wines from Cutting Edge distributors. Martin Whitley of Cutting Edge and new Springfield Grille wine director Bob Sanata were on hand to lead the diners through each course of food and wine. Sanata had seven years’ experience at the Hickory Grille in Hermitage, Pa., before being appointed to his new position in Boardman.
Our first entrée of charcouterie (prepared meats and accompaniments) with chicken pate from Lamppost Farm in Columbiana, housemade plum preserves, curried grilled carrots and housemade crackers, was served with a glass of 2012 Seven Hills Dry Riesling from the Columbia Valley of Washington. Hands down, the chicken pate was a match made in heaven with the fruity, off-dry Riesling. Citrus fruit flavors complemented the rich pate and had me asking for another splash of wine.
The next pairing started with a glass of 2011 Chehalem Chemistry White Blend from the Willamette Valley of Oregon. This delicious blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurztraminer was paired to a gazpacho pepper shooter (made of blended cucumber, Honeycrisp apple, Cubanelle pepper and creme fraiche served in a pepper). The flavorful Chemistry was right at home with the delicious gazpacho. This multidimensional pairing was unique and tasty.
A tomato and peach salad was our next offering. It consisted of heirloom tomatoes, tree-ripened peaches and charred red onion drizzled with “holy basil” (an herb related to the basil we know) pesto vinaigrette. The wine chosen for this scrumptious dish was a 2013 Underwood Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Sweet berry fruit flavors and a spice-tinged clean finish worked very nicely with the tasty tomato and peach salad.
Our dinner entrée was family-style taquitos (rolled tacos). Ohio’s Miller’s lamb barbacoa (a method of slow-cooking meat), sliced butcher steak, and stewed black turtle beans were piled upon individual flatbreads. A glass of Columbia Valley’s famed Andrew Will 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon was poured to go with the tasty taquitos. This spicy dish needed a bold red, and the Andrew Will Cab was up to the task. Ripe dark fruit flavors and a textured chewy finish worked nicely with this bold entrée.
Local artisanal cheeses with raw honeycomb, brandied pears, toasted walnuts and Gasper’s grapes made a wonderful dessert course. A rare bottling of 2006 Trentadue Viognier Port was chosen to go with the delicious selection of cheese and fruit, and this unique Russian River port was simply fantastic. Not as heavy as traditional ports, the Trentadue offers sweet apricot and creamy vanilla flavors that were a perfect ending to a great dinner.
One of the highlights of autumn is the Bacchanalia celebration at Pat and Amico Mariani’s home in Austintown. This year’s wine contest featured seven different homemade wines made from grapes crushed at last year’s event, and the entries were better than ever. The winner was Joe Majovsky, whose wine featured bright, crisp red fruit flavors and a nice clean finish. When I told him his wine should age well, he joked that he would have to hide the last bottle. Thanks to the Marianis for their generous hospitality in hosting this annual fun-filled event.
I hope to see wine lovers at Michael Alberini’s Restaurant for their First Crush Diamond Wine taste at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19. He’ll be featuring domestic reds, some white wines, and music by the Sensations. Call 330-965-2524 for reservations or more details.
Other upcoming events include Thursday, Nov. 6, Springfield Grille pairing dinner featuring Dawson Orchards of Enon Valley, Pa.; 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 email@example.com.
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