February 2015 Wine Guy: Mead flows at Rust Belt’s Viking heritage festival

Left to right: Bob Miller of Woodland Cellars, Tap House owner Ken Blair, and Nathan Wilson and Mike Robbinson of Woodland Cellars celebrate at the Tap House’s Nordic Viking festival, Thorrablot. Metro Monthly photo by John Webster.

Left to right: Bob Miller of Woodland Cellars, Tap House owner Ken Blair, and Nathan Wilson and Mike Robbinson of Woodland Cellars celebrate at the Tap House’s Nordic Viking festival, Thorrablot. Metro Monthly photo by John Webster.


January provided many great opportunities to sample fine affordable wines at a number of local wine shops, as well as a Viking heritage festival at the Rust Belt Tap House on Commerce Street in Youngstown.

On Jan. 16, the Rust Belt Tap House held their inaugural Viking “Thorrablot” Festival celebrating a traditional Icelandic midwinter festival. The event featured two tasty meads (honey wines) to go with the house-prepared roast lamb and turkey leg with green beans and slow-roasted potatoes. Local Woodland Cellars of Hubbard and Brothers Drake Meadery of Columbus provided samples of their delicious mead wines. Brothers Drake Meadery representative Justin DeVilbiss started me off with a glass of their honey oak mead. Light gold in color, sweet yet crisp honey flavors tinged with vanilla were a fine match for the succulent lamb.

My next mead sample was from Woodland Cellars, right here in Hubbard. Owners Nathan Wilson, Mike Robbinson and Robert Wilson explained to guests how they produced their Eye of Odin Artisan Wild Flower Mead from locally acquired honey. Deep gold in color and sweeter than the Brothers Drake mead, this one paired very nicely with the turkey leg. The Eye of Odin would be a fine after-dinner dessert choice for someone looking for a port or sherry substitute.

I want to thank the Tap House staff for a wonderful evening of fine food and mead in a fun Nordic setting.

Moving along to local store tastings, I attended the January monthly wine taste at Cork and Cap (formerly Michael Charles on Elm Road in Warren). Two value-priced whites and a red really stood out at the tasting. My first wine was a 2012 Charles Smith Vino Pinot Grigio ($13.99-14.99) from the Columbia Valley of Washington. Crisp full apricot and tangerine flavors and a refreshing clean finish will have you asking for more. Roasted Cornish hen or other roast poultry would work well with this highly-rated white.

The Charles Smith 2012 Eve Chardonnay (on sale at $13.99) from the Columbia Valley was my next wine sample. Stony citrus fruit flavors and a mineral-tinged finish make this refreshing white a fine choice for lighter food choices, or just sipping by the fireplace.

My third choice was a 2009 Santa Rita Reserva Syrah ($14.99-16.99) from the Maipo Valley of Chile. This tasty red delivers complex dark cherry and plum flavors with a hint of creamy chocolate that lingers on forever. This Reserve Chilean Syrah rivals Rhone Reds that cost three times more. The Santa Rita Syrah would pair nicely with roasts and other hearty meats now, as well as ribs hot off the grill in summertime (as far away as that seems).

I also attended the January Vintage Beer and Wine “third Saturday” wine taste in Boardman. Three white wines from around the globe and a terrific red from Lake County, Calif. really got my attention. If you are looking for a well-priced aperitif white to start your party off, grab a bottle of the 2012 High Def Riesling ($10.99) from the Mosel region of Germany. Slightly off-dry with green apple and lime flavors, it finishes crisp and clean. A cheese and fruit salad would work very well with this fresh-tasting Mosel Riesling.

The Columbia Valley region of Washington is the home of the 14 Hands “Hot to Trot” 2012 ($10.99) white blend. A delightful blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, it offers lively flavors of pear and melon, finishing clean and crisp. Grilled chicken would be a perfect partner for this undervalued white blend.

The French Cotes du Rhone Belleruche Blanc ($10.99) is one of the finest whites I’ve had in the last six months. Pale yellow in color with delicate apple and citrus flavors, it finishes long with a hint of flowers on the end. This mostly white Grenache blend should be on everyone’s list for spring and summer events.

My final pick from this tasting was the 2012 Steele Wines “Writers Block” Petite Sirah ($16.99) from Lake County Calif. This high-elevation Petite Sirah is a textbook example of what this great California wine is all about. Bright red fruit flavors and a lush long finish will satisfy the most particular “big red” aficionado. Top sirloin would work just fine with this tasty red.

Upcoming events: Vernon’s Café in Niles will hold its annual Fat Tuesday wine taste at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 17 – Chookie Alberini will provide musical entertainment. For more details, contact the restaurant. The Springfield Grille in Boardman will have a February Romance wine dinner Saturday, Feb. 14 – contact the restaurant for more details. Cork and Cap will hold a wine dinner Friday, Feb. 27 at Vernon’s Café – contact Cork and Cap for reservations.

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 and Cap, second Saturday tasting and Wine Down Wednesdays. 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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