November 2014 Wine Guy: Fall wine pairings prepare Valley for holiday season

By JOHN WEBSTER | Metro Monthly Wine Columnist

October wine tastings produced a number of great wines, paving the way for the upcoming holiday season. On Oct. 24, Michael Charles Wines (Elm Road) teamed up with Vernon’s Café in Niles to host another of Michael Charles’ wonderful bimonthly dinner tastings.

The evening began with a glass of Columbia Valley’s bubbly paired to wild mushroom flatbread. The highly rated Washington State Michelle Brut’s apple fruit flavors paired nicely to the mushroom-laden flatbread.

Pan-seared grouper over Italian greens with tomatoes and cannellini beans was served for our second course. This full-flavored entrée needed a crisp bold tasting white to go with it. The 2012 Cameron Hughes “Cam Collection” Chardonnay from Monterey County was a perfect match. Tropical stone fruit flavors and a long yet crisp finish made this a seamless partner for the pan-seared grouper.

A delicious 2012 Red Hawk Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley was poured to go with our third course of roasted pork belly pappardelle (wide noodles) topped with peas and parmigiana cheese. Medium-bodied with juicy cherry and berry fruit flavors, the Red Hawk Pinot was a great match for Vernon’s signature pappardelle entrée.

The Calatayud region of Spain is the source of our next wine that was chosen to go with roasted chicken thigh over wild grain and fire-roasted vegetables. The 2011 Filon Real is made from 100 percent Old Vine Garnacha (Grenache), delivering chewy dark red fruit flavors and a smooth finish that is a joy to experience. It was terrific with the juicy roasted chicken thighs.

Our final course was New York strip steak drizzled with bourbon reduction sauce over skillet potatoes. A classic 2011 Stickybeak Cabernet Sauvignon from California was paired to the juicy strip steak, and it was a marriage made in heaven. Fleshy ripe red fruit flavors tinged with cocoa and a deep structured finish made our final pairing simply delicious. Host Nick Uroseva noted that Australian winemakers produce this wine in Napa Valley, and “stickybeak” is an Australian term for “busybody.”

For dessert, “Dennis’ Chocolate for Wine” was served – Vernon’s sommelier Dennis Huston’s custom chocolate that he designed specifically to enjoy with wine. The incredibly smooth chocolate was an outstanding complement to the Filon Real Garnacha and the Stickybeak Cabernet. More information on Dennis’ Chocolate for Wine is available by calling 330-646-7378.

Thanks to Michael Charles owners Nick and Loretta Uroseva as well as the great Vernon’s staff for such an enjoyable evening of fine wine and food pairings.

Moving along to store tastings, I attended Michael Charles Premier Wines’ “Second Saturday” taste on Oct. 11. They started me off with a glass of 2012 Domaine de la Motte Sauvignon Blanc ($11.99, discounted from $14.99) from the Languedoc region of France. Zesty white peach and citrus flavors lead to a crisp clean finish that should go nicely with grilled chicken. This winery also produces a fantastic unoaked Chardonnay that should be on your list for upcoming holiday gift giving.

My next pick was the 2012 Charles Smith “Chateau Smith” Cabernet Sauvignon from the Columbia Valley of Washington state. Rich cherry and berry flavors lead to a long textured finish tinged with herbs and toast. The Chateau Smith would be a fine choice for prime rib and roasted redskin potatoes.

If you’re looking for a real red wine bargain for the upcoming holidays, try the 2012 Buena Vista “The Count” Founder’s Red Blend ($16.99, discounted from $29.99). From Sonoma County, The Count is a tasty blend of mostly Zinfandel with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, Petite Sirah and Merlot added in for complexity. Mocha-tinged dark red fruit flavors follow through to a spicy finish that goes on forever. Try it with standing rib roast for a great holiday meal.

Another fantastic red for the holidays is the Cline 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($16.99 discounted from $19.99). I’ve reviewed this cool-climate Pinot Noir in previous columns, and it has a great track record. Ripe cherry and berry flavors give way to a complex textured finish that even the pickiest Pinot fan will love. Herb-rubbed leg of lamb or salmon filet would be ideal for this undervalued red.

Vintage Estate Wine and Beer of Boardman held their “Third Saturday” taste on Oct. 18. Great wines from Australia and New Zealand were being poured. I started off with a glass of 2011 Peter Lehmann Moscato ($15.99) from south Australia. Green-gold in color with oodles of tropical fruit flavors, it finishes lush with spice-tinged grape flavors. If you’re looking for a fuller style of Moscato dessert wine, this might be your pick for upcoming holiday entertaining.

Our next wine was a glass of New Zealand’s 2004 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc ($11.99) from the Marlborough wine region. Crisp clean tropical fruit flavors and a zesty taut finish make this New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc a fine choice for stuffed tilapia and roasted vegetables.

My next wine sample was Oyster Bay’s delicious 2013 Chardonnay ($11.99). Pure ripe citrus flavors with a whiff of oak on the finish are the hallmarks of this non-malolactic-fermented Chardonnay, meaning that it is not fermented a second time to smooth the wine’s acidity. Its bright flavors make it a great choice for roasted chicken or firm-fleshed fish.

Oyster Bay’s 2012 Pinot Noir was poured for our fourth sampling, and it was a real hit. Fragrant lush cherry and red fruit flavors make this cool-climate Pinot Noir a near-perfect choice for upcoming Thanksgiving turkey dinner. At $11.99 each, the Oyster Bay’s Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are fine choices for budget-conscious wine buyers.

Upcoming events include Thursday, Nov. 6, Springfield Grille pairing dinner featuring Dawson Orchards of Enon Valley, Pa.; and 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, Angels for Animals fundraiser wine taste at their facility at 4750 West South Range Road in Canfield. Regular tastings include 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

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