Wine Guy January 2016: Donavito’s pairs cuisine with wonderful California wines

WEB Donavitos 1-16

Pictured: Alan Donatelli and B.J. Sulka at the wine taste at Donavito’s Restaurant in Struthers. (Electronic image by John Webster)


This holiday season saw many fine wine events for thirsty wine aficionados.

I attended Cork & Cap’s dinner taste at Vernon’s Cafe and was very pleased with their food and wine selections. We started off with a serving of antipasto with Asian-inspired sauce paired to a glass of 2013 Cleebourg Gewurztraminer from the Alsatian region of France. The aromatic, full-bodied Cleebourg exhibited spicy citrus fruit flavors that worked very well with the antipasto.

Our next wine was a glass of 2013 Cameron Hughes No. 475 from the Arroyo Seco region of California. It was paired to a serving of scallop and smoked salmon cakes over mixed greens. This tasty dish needed a crisp flavorful Chardonnay to go with it, and the Cameron Hughes was just the answer.

Our third course was vegetable lasagna drizzled with creamy Alfredo sauce. It was paired to a glass of 2014 Willamette Whole Cluster Pinot Noir from Oregon. The juicy cherry fruit flavors and clean crisp finish of this wine complemented the rich lasagna.

Yummy Yucatan pork stew and a glass of 2011 Casarena Reserve Malbec from Mendoza, Chile was presented as our fourth course. The spicy ancho chile-laden stew was outstanding and needed a special wine to go with it. The Casarena Reserve Malbec was just the answer. Deep red in color with lush black fruit flavors, it complemented Vernon’s unique stew.

Our last wine was a sample of 2010 Cameron Hughes 332 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. Ripe red fruit and plum flavors and a long structured finish tinged with chocolate worked wonderfully with Vernon’s braised short ribs. This was a great pairing for someone looking for a bold food and wine combo.

I want to thank Nick and Loretta Uroseva and Vernon’s staff for a wonderful evening of food and wine.

My next event took me to the Cafe 422 Restaurant in Boardman for the Micro Doctor Wine Down business mixer tasting. The 422 kitchen prepared trays of fried calamari, penne alla vodka, wood-fired pizza, and housemade hot peppers and bread to go with Micro Doctor’s Mark Richmond’s hand-selected list of fine wine.

Three wines really stood out at this tasting. My first pick was an old favorite of mine, the 2014 Pine Ridge Blend of Chenin Blanc (80 percent) and Viognier (20 percent) from California was a fine match for the 422’s delicious salad bar. Its crisp tight citrus fruit flavors make it a natural for starting a meal.

My next pick was Sobon Estates 2012 Reserve Tannat from Lodi, Calif. If you like blackberry pie, you will love this lush-textured red wine. It was delicious with the wood-fired pizza.

My final pick was a glass of 2011 Tobin James “James Gang Reserve” Petite Verdot. Deep red in color, with bold dark fruit flavors, it was a perfect match for the 422’s luscious penne alla vodka.

This was a fun event to attend, and I want to thank Micro Doctor’s staff and the Café 422 Restaurant for a wonderful time.

My next wine event of the holiday season was the Angels for Animals annual holiday wine taste held at their facility on South Range Road in Canfield. Jazz saxophonist Stan Miller entertained the event’s capacity crowd of wine aficionados.

With 20 different wines to choose from and food offerings such as veggie quiche, salmon cakes, Bavarian meatballs, assorted pizzas, and cheese trays, there was a vast array to choose from.

Two wines being poured that evening that have been getting a lot of good reviews were the Meiomi 2013 Chardonnay and 2014 Pinot Noir. The Chardonnay offers rich tropical fruit flavors leading to a crisp finish tinged with honey. It was outstanding with the veggie quiche and mini baked potatoes.

The Pinot Noir offers fresh ripe berry flavors following through to a lush clean finish marked with spicy vanilla. It paired very nicely with the delicious salmon cakes. My last pick was the 2012 Jack London Cabernet from California. This undervalued California Cabernet produces deep red fruit flavors and a thyme- and sage-tinged finish that lasts forever.

I’d like to thank Diane Less and the Angels for Animals staff for a wonderful evening, and I salute the great work they do.

On Nov. 4, I was invited to Donavito’s restaurant in downtown Struthers for a wine dinner prepared by head chefs Alan Donatelli and B.J. Sulka.

Our first course was sashimi-grade tuna spaghetti with vegetable spring rolls and dipping sauce. This tasty dish was paired to a glass of Mionetto Prosecco (DOC) Brut. Bright and lively citrus fruit flavors and a mineral-tinged finish made this sparkler a great choice for our opening course.

Our second wine of the evening was a glass of 2013 Miomi Chardonnay from selected vineyards of California. It was paired to a unique butternut squash and crab bisque served in locally-grown petite pumpkins. This was one of the best pumpkin squash presentations I’ve ever had, and it was fabulous with the Miomi Chardonnay. The Miomi’s bright textured fruit flavors worked nicely with the rich-textured bisque.

A strawberry salad was served next for palate-cleansing, and it was very tasty with the Mionetto Prosecco. Our next course was housemade mushroom ravioli tossed with wild mushrooms with fresh mozzarella in veal jus. This stunningly fine course was paired to a glass of 2011 St. Francis Splash Blend from California. The Splash Blend is blend of Merlot, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Zinfandel producing a lovely fruit-forward red wine that was perfect with the ravioli.

A blood orange sorbet was served next as a palate-cleanser for the next course of Italian-style braised beef with root vegetables. This hearty dish was paired to a glass of 2013 Federalist Cabernet Sauvignon from Lodi, Calif. Classic Cabernet red fruit flavors and a bold finish worked beautifully with the braised beef.

Our final wine was a glass of Susan Balbo 2012 Signature Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. It was presented with a cup of dark chocolate creme brulee infused with sun-wilted blueberries. This food and wine combination was a match made in heaven. The Malbec lush, clean dark fruit flavors worked wonderfully with the creme brulee.

I want to thank Alan Donatelli and B.J. Sulka for inviting me to their fine dinner and I look forward to their next tasting endeavor.

On the local store tasting front, I visited Cork & Cap’s first Saturday taste on Nov. 14. They were doing a tasting of Ca’Momi Winery wines. It was very difficult picking just two wines to review since I found all six wines being presented to be exceptional.

My first pick was the 2013 Ca’Momi Bianco ($11.99) blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Viognier. This versatile white should be on everyone’s wine list for upcoming house parties and get-togethers as it works well with a number of different food offerings. It produces crisp citrus and melon flavors and finishes silky and clean.

My red pick was the 2014 Ca’Momi Rosso di Napa blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel Merlot and Petite Sirah. This is one of the finest red blends that I’ve tried lately and comes at a price ($11.99) that is hard to beat. It is very versatile and will work well with a number of holiday food offerings. It produces up-front berry and plum fruit flavors and finishes clean with a hint of toast and vanilla.

My next store taste took me to Boardman’s Vintage Estate’s monthly wine taste on Nov. 21. If you’re looking for an inexpensive delicious bubbly for the holidays, give the 2014 Batasiolo Moscato di Asti from Italy a try. Pale gold in color with lovely apricot and citrus flavors, this off-dry bubbly should work well with your holiday ham or as an opening wine with appetizers.

My next pick was Tomasello’s Cranberry dessert wine from Hammonton, N.J. Crisp cranberry fruit flavors make this fruit-filled dessert wine hard to put down. It would be delicious with chocolate cake or vanilla cookies fresh out of the oven.

Upcoming tastings include Saturday, Jan. 16, 12th Annual Wonderful World of Fine Wine at the Maronite Center; contact George Rohan at 330-503-1888. Regular tastings include Station Square’s “Wine Wednesday”; 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

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