January 2015 Wine Guy: Great wines at great prices; seasonal beers at Rust Belt Tap Room

Tap Room Manager Matt Lageson (left) and Southern Tier representative Travis Sessions at the Tap Room’s seasonal beer tasting in December. Photo by John Webster.

Tap Room Manager Matt Lageson (left) and Southern Tier representative Travis Sessions at the Tap Room’s seasonal beer tasting in December. Photo by John Webster.


December was filled with many fine tasting and house parties, and I discovered quite a number of great wines at prices everyone can appreciate. All of these wine picks would work nicely for get-togethers in the New Year and beyond.



On Dec. 5, I attended the Cork & Cap (formerly Michael Charles Wines on Elm Road in Warren) annual holiday wine gala at the Youngstown Country Club. With five different distributors offering great choices at their stations, there were more than 30 wines to choose from, and the Country Club accompanied the wines with delicious appetizers.

At the first table, I tried the 2013 Roaring Meg Pinot Gris from the Central Otago region of New Zealand. This wine received an award from Decanter magazine, and it’s easy to see why. Upfront citrus and stone fruit flavors lead to a clean fruit-tinged finish that is very refreshing. At around $20, it’s a great buy.

My next pick from the same distributor was the award-winning 2011 Filon Real Grenache ($14.99) from the Calatayud region of Spain. Wine critic Stephen Tanzer gave this one 90 points. Dark red fruit flavors tinged with spice make this an ideal choice for smoky ribs hot off the grill.

At the next table, they were pouring the 2012 Caymus 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. At $69.99, this is a tremendous bargain for someone looking for a birthday, anniversary, or other special gift. Classic Napa Valley fruit flavors and a long textured finish will amaze even the most critical of wine lovers. The Wine Advocate has given this great wine a 96-point rating.

Also at this table I found the 2012 Stoller Dundee Hills Pinot Noir ($27-30) from Oregon, which received 92 points from Wine and Spirits magazine. This is one of the finest Pinots I’ve tried this year. Bright black cherry and berry fruit flavors just explode upon first taste, and the finish is long and smooth. Baked salmon would be a wonderful partner for this tasty Pinot Noir.

At the third table, I found that they were pouring an old favorite of mine. The 2012 Sobon Estate Old Vine Zinfandel ($14.99) from California offers upfront full-blown red fruit flavors leading to a spicy finish that should be great with burgers and fries. Also at this table they were pouring the new release of the 2012 Anthony and Dominic Pinot Noir ($19.99) from Napa Valley. Medium-bodied with lush berry and spice flavors, it was great with the tasty cheese from the appetizer table.

Table Four featured two great wines to start and finish a meal. The Laurent Perrier Brut Champagne ($39.99 on sale from $59.99) is a crisp taut blend of Chardonnay (50 percent), Pinot Noir (35 percent), and Pinot Meunier ((15 percent). With a 91-point rating from Wine Enthusiast magazine, this wine shows great finesse with hints of citrus and stone fruit on the palate and a long perfumed finish that seems to last forever. This is a great Champagne at a great price.

The 2013 Frost Bitten Riesling Ice Wine from Washington ($19.99, on sale for $14.99) offers crisp apricot and pear fruit flavors that give way to a bracingly clear finish that makes you think you’re enjoying a German Ice wine at five times the cost. It was outstanding with sharp cheese.

Table 5 was sampling out glasses of the Gregory Graham 2009 Syrah ($22-24) from the Crimson Hill Vineyard in the Red Hill district of Lake County, Calif. Dark inky red in color with oodles of black cherry and red fruit flavors, this is Syrah at its best. Graham’s Syrah rivals the Rhone’s best at a fraction of the cost.

What better way to finish a fantastic tasting than being handed a glass of Noval Black Port (Robert Parker 90 points). This New Age-style of Port is a joy to drink with lush dark berry fruit flavors that finish smoothly with a hint of spicy vanilla. At $22-24, it’s a great buy, too.

I want to thank Cork & Cap owners Nick and Loretta Uroseva for a wonderful holiday wine experience.

On Dec. 11, I was invited to the Rust Belt Tap Room on Commerce Street in downtown Youngstown for a sample tasting of New York State’s Southern Tier Brewing Company’s seasonal holiday beers. Southern Tier Factory rep Travis Sessions and Tap Room Manager Matt Lageson were on hand to lead me through several Southern Tier and Rust Belt seasonal beers.

My first sample was Southern Tier’s I-90 Scotch Ale. This Ohio exclusive ale features smooth malty flavors and a creamy long finish that is very refreshing. One of the Tap Room’s delicious sub sandwiches would be a great partner for this tasty ale. My next sampling was the Old Man Winter Ale. Rich complex hops and barley notes and a full clear finish will have you asking for more. Beer-battered fish and fries would be delicious with this tasty winter ale.

Another choice was the Krampas Christmas Lager. A touch of hoppy bitterness makes this aged (30 days) lager a joy to drink. This is a very refreshing beer to drink with lighter holiday fare such as ham sandwiches.

While at the Tap Room, I tried Rust Belt’s seasonal Frackin’ Vanilla Porter. Deeply colored with creamy vanilla and hazelnut flavors, this brew is a joy to drink just by itself.

A big thanks to Rust Belt Tap Room owner Ken Blair and his brand manager Jeff Brayn for a great time sampling Southern Tier and Rust Belt’s fine seasonal brews.

Moving along to local shop tastings, I visited the Cork & Cap Bottle Shop and Tasting Room on Elm Road in Warren for their monthly Saturday wine taste. I was pleased to see the 2013 DeLoach Heritage Chardonnay (on sale for $12.99) being poured for their guests. In a previous column, I reviewed the DeLoach Heritage Pinot Noir and found it very appealing and affordable. Produced from sourced California vineyards, the Heritage Chardonnay offers creamy tropical fruit flavors and a clean refreshing finish that keeps you coming back for more.

Another great bargain from this tasting was the 2012 Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon ($29.99, on sale for $19.99) from Sonoma County. This delicious blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with a smattering of Merlot (10 percent), Cabernet Franc (6 percent) and Petite Verdot (2 percent) tossed in for complexity is a joy to drink. Smooth red fruit flavors and a finish tinged with berries and spice made me think I was sampling a much more expensive California red.

On Dec. 20, I attended Vintage Estate Wine and Beer monthly wine taste in Boardman. The 2012 Flint and Steel Sauvignon Blanc ($15.99) from Napa Valley is one of the nicest Sauvignon Blancs I’ve tasted this year. As described in its name, this white has a flinty backbone that is very refreshing. Textbook grapefruit and peach flavors lead to a crisp finish tinged with lemongrass and wet stone. At its affordable price, the Flint and Steel is a real “steel” of a wine.

Vintage Estate had a real treat in store for guests at this tasting. They were pouring their 2013 CMS Red Blend ($14.99) from a five-liter bottle. The added excitement of trying this wine from such a large format really created a buzz among the crowd. This Columbia Valley red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Dark ruby in color with spicy black cherry and plum flavors, it finishes with a hint of toasty oak and spice.

Upcoming events include a Cork & Cap late February dinner taste at Vernon’s Cafe  – call the store for details. Regular tastings include the Upstairs Restaurant’s Wine Down, third Thursday tasting; Charlie’s Premier Wines of Howland, every Saturday; Barrel 33, every other week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday; Vintage Estate, third Saturday tasting; and Cork & Cap 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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