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Getting Your Viggy On

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In recent years the Virginia wine industry has adopted Viognier as the state grape. And, as we are wont to do, wine bloggers took to exploring it, and giving it a nickname – “viggy”. (Hattip to Lenn Thompson, SwirlSipSnark and Drink What You Like – not sure which of you coined the term – claim it in the comments, y’all!)

Many of my favorite wineries down south are producing beautiful viogniers, and MissWineOH loves to share so that others will fall in love with all this slightly misunderstood grape has to offer. While this wine originates in the Rhone Valley and is best known as the grape found in Condrieu, Virginia is where I first experienced the floral nuances and bright acidity reminiscent of evenings with a glass of chilled white wine in a garden of southern flowers. You should not confuse this with midnights in gardens of good and evil, though there may have been some of that as well in the distant past. On this particular evening on a Cleveland rooftop, we gathered a group of  friends and colleagues, and 6 viogniers from around the world, and then paired them with some great summer dishes – and it was very good.

The Line Up:

Pillitteri 2010 (Canada)
Tarara Winery 2010 (Virginia)
Gerard Bertrand Réserve Spéciale 2010 (France)
Ferrandiere NV (France)
D’Arenburg 2006 – The Last Ditch (Australia)
White Knight 2008 (California)

The Menu:

All of these dishes were selected to pair with Viognier, without pairing with a specific wine’s flavor profile. I would also recommend seafood (shellfish or meaty fish), pork, or pasta dishes. These crisper wines would be beautiful with an alfredo sauce. The talented Caitlin Ziegler (@thatcaity) is a budding chef, and my daughter – and she did all the hard work that went into creating the food for this event.

Brie with Apricot Marmalade (if I can coerce the marmelade recipe from @thatcaity, you’ll get it on WineOH recipes!) 

Spinach Dip with Chunked Challah Bread

Fruit Infused Pasta Salad

Summer Squash Tart

Curry Chicken Appetizers

White Chocolate Lemon Cupcakes – with lemon garnish.

My thoughts: 

This tasting was inspired by finding a bottle of D’Arenburg, 2006 The Last Ditch at Viaduct Lounge in the cooler case, which I promptly absconded with at a decent price on an evening out with friends. This wine was probably the least viognier like of all of them – crisp with oak and cedar undertones and very little floral on the nose – almost like an unoaked chardonnay in profile. I wondered at first if I was tasting a pinot gris. Perhaps the age played a part in that flavor profile, but it was a very different style than the other wines. Try newer releases of this one. (2008 – $17)

The White Knight was playful and yet crisp – delicious lavender, orange and peach on the nose, with a smooth mouthfeel and bright acidity. I like the honeysuckle and slightly spicy finish on this wine. Its unique as a viognier on my palate, but a great wine. ($12)

Tarara showed as what I’d call “classic viognier” to me, but I’ll acknowledge a bias toward Virginia wines. It was one of the three I could identify immediately. (the other two being those above) The floral notes on the nose call to me, with melon and a buttery mouthfeel rounding out a pleasing finish with just a hint of wood. I wouldn’t call it an oaky finish, the taste is too subtle for that. I would say it was a stand out for me – very pleasing. (not sure this is still available)

Gerard Bertrand was a label I found at a trade tasting a few months ago and is readily available at an under $13 price point. It brings strong hyacinth and orange on the nose, with continuing citrus mid palate. Dry, with a bit of a short finish, not complex, but a great sipping or dinner wine at the price.

Pilletteri produces a viognier that was all pear and melon and then a slightly spicy finish. I expected a bit more oak based on some of the other Pilletteri wines I’d tasted – but this one is a perfectly beautiful specimen. A buttery mouthfeel and some vanilla on the nose, but I found no notes indicating aging in oak. ($18.20 CAN)

Ferrandier was a last minute addition to the party, and I was happy that I added it. This viognier from Domaine de la Ferrandier is out of the Pays de’Oc region of France. Its aged two to three months on the lees with a highly aromatic floral nose, full mouthfeel and strong pineapple and peach finish. Beautiful classic viognier which rightfully earned its place at the top of the lineup. It also comes in at $11.99 retail. 

All of the wines were served at about 65, and were wrapped in opaque plastic and numbered. While I knew what the lineup was, they were randomly numbered, so not even I knew which was which without tasting first.

The Results:

Our guests were asked to taste each one and then vote on each with a chip. Green (like) Red (don’t like) and White (on the fence).

And the winner, well…. that turned into a tie – with a very close second.

Ferrandiere and Pillitteri took top honors – with Tarara coming in close (by 1 vote)  – the others did well, as in none fell solidly into the “omg, I won’t drink this now, much less ever again” category – and all received at least 2 don’t likes. There were a few minds changed as participants went back and tasted a second time – there may have been an attempt at ballot stuffing, but that was promptly halted by one of our felines chasing a shadow, instead of playing with the chips.

So what do the results tell you?

Everyone’s palate is different. It’s a combination of good food, good wine and good company that makes your experience a memorable one!

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Ontario Wine – There’s Gold on that Peninsula

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#Writers Note# This article will be added to as additional winery profiles are written. Stay tuned!

We all know MissWineOH is all about the beauty, increasing quality, and friendliness of Virginia Wine. But lets talk about one of the most stunning grape growing areas I’ve had the privilege to visit. Niagara on the Lake, Ontario. Just a 3.5 hour drive from Cleveland, for the wine lover, this is a must do vacation on the east coast. A brief stop on either end at beautiful Niagara Falls is a nice break from the wine. Though, if you haven’t had enough, or want to get started, all of the restaurants we went into only served Ontario wine, something you definitely don’t see in the US.

The Canadian Falls area is much more touristy and great for families in need of entertaining their kids.

Niagara Falls, Canadian Side

If you want a more relaxed visit, take in the American side, which is a park preserve, and you can go down near the falls on that side.

Niagara Falls, American side

That’s a LOT of grapes.

And then just 10km north, you start seeing this.

Our visits took us to 12 wineries, several restaurants, and into a wine community that we fully intend to explore again. Our two day trip marked off less than 1/2 of the wineries in Niagara on the Lake alone. For a great wine trip planner visit Wine Country Ontario.

The Niagara Peninsula appellation is the designation for this area, and there are 32 varietals being grown on 13,600 acres. Within the Peninsula, Niagara on the Lake is a regional designation, encompassing four sub-appellations: Niagara River, Niagara Lakeshore, Four Mile Creek and St. David’s Bench. While this may seem like a deep dive into naming conventions, it helps to understand this as you visit the wineries throughout Niagara on the Lake, because these designations become apparent in the wine, even in such a small geographic area. I was in wine geek heaven. For more information on soils, climate and other geeky information, visit the VQA Ontario.

And speaking of VQA. When you put your hands on a bottle of Ontario wine, you will find the VQA label on most of them. VQA Ontario is a provincial regulatory authority that administers Ontario’s wine appellation system. It’s primary functions are wine testing, audits, inspections, and compliance. This indicates a standard of quality the wine is upholding (via testing and approval) when it bears that label.

Click on a name below to see our adventures!

Caroline Cellars                              Pillitteri Estates                                 Reif Estate Winery

Pondview Estates                          Riverview Cellars                               Ravine Estates

Chateau des Charmes                   Coyote Run Estate Winery

Thirty Bench Wine Makers         Stratus                                                   Hillebrand

After reading my notes from the wineries, you may think that I loved everything in Niagara. I can tell you that there’s only one winery I encountered where I didn’t care for any of the wines I tasted, but that doesn’t mean they were bad. Just not what we were after.

If you’ve visited these wineries, please add your thoughts – and if I missed one you think I should add to the next trip, I’ve started a list, so please add those in the comments as well!

We Might Have Lost our WITS, but We Found Excellent Wine

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MissWineOH and company were asked to participate in the #WITS2012 Twitter Tasting event in conjunction with WineTwits, so we piled onto the rooftop deck with much anticipation. When the wines arrived, we were ready to pair, taste and tweet about four wines from California.

Wente 2010 Morning Fog Charndonnay was the first wine of the evening. This was paired with a romaine lettuce salad that I first experienced at Hillebrand in Niagara this past weekend. I don’t think I did Chef Dodd’s dish any justice, but it was pretty darn tasty. You can find my recipe here.

The Morning Fog lifted the dish to a beautiful profile with green apple on the nose, and soft citrus notes as it eased into a finish. As y’all know, I am not a fan of the oaky chardonnay, and it was obvious the oak was judiciously used to provide a light buttery medium mouthfeel. At $12.99, (slightly higher in Ohio) this will be a versatile crowd pleaser, as it paired seamlessly with the romaine, prosciutto, crab salad and caeser in the dish. 

Our second wine comes from Hahn Family Wines and home to my favorite wine banned in Alabama (Cycles Gladiator) – the 2011 Pinot Noir quickly became a crowd favorite. With strong berry and cherry flavors on the nose, with a hint of black currant, this pinot finishes with notes of marshmallow. I will attribute that to the winemakers use of caramelized oak on the wine. I am not at all saying the wine is sweet, though your tastebuds may argue with that point initially. The structure of the tannins and medium mouthfeel hold up well with a variety of dishes. We served a Cardamom Salmon spread over plain bagel chips (recipe here) and had trouble pulling away from this pairing to move on to the next wine!

Our third wine was the Garnet 2010 Carneros Pinot Noir paired with a Black Quinoa and Spinich with Basil Pesto. Garnet Vineyards has been making cool climate pinots since 1983, and the current winemaker Allison Crowe joined the tasting to give us her insights into the wine. While the Hahn pinot was overwhelmingly the favorite of our guests, I truly enjoyed the subtlety of this wine. Strawberry and Vanilla with a smooth enticing spice finish off with elegant oak and “drink right now” tannins that makes this CArneros Pinot Noir a go to red around MissWineOH headquarters. This wine is on the higher end of our wine buying for dinner, at $19.99 (and is not available in Ohio) but go get this wine, I loved it. The quinoa dish got lost in the structure of this wine, so the recommendation is to add a pork tenderloin or for a vegetarian twist, a well seasoned tofu, on top of the quinoa. You can find the recipe here.

The last wine was a bit of a struggle for us. Franciscan Estate sent us their 2008 Magnificat, a Mertiage blend. I had opened this a bit ahead, and aerated each glass, but it seemed either very tight in the bottle or slight off. After multiple aerations (and a later decanting) it was sadly determined that the wine was corked. We paired this complex red with a well seasoned Meatballs and Marinara, and those came out beautifully. That recipe is here. I’m not one to give up on a wine, so I’ll be looking for a bottle in the area to try. We’ll let you know how that works out. Based on the comments from tasters in the twitterverse, I’ll recommend this wine. The 2007 is listed at $50.00 per bottle, so a special occasion/cellar wine for us.

Many thanks to the wineries, our MissWineOH who participated on a school night, and the folks at Wine Twits for organizing it all.

Have you tried these wines? Or the recipes? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Happy Sipping!

#Writers Note# The four wines for this tasting were received as samples courtesy of the wineries and WineTwits. Thank you for letting us participate.

What to do when you have too many strawberries, and a bottle of Viognier

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On a hot summer evening, I’m loathe to make anything too complicated for dinner. But on an evening when it is cool enough, I have no choice but to get creative. I just can’t seem to help myself.

That’s how I came to pull a bottle of Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc|Viognier from the cooler. There was a crate of strawberries in the refrigerator from the Tremont Farmers Market, one of the best neighborhood markets I’ve seen, and they were calling out for attention, paticularly once the Viognier had a chance to sit in the glass for a bit.

Pine Ridge Vineyards is located in the Central Valley region of California – they’ve been making wines since 1978, and are known for their Bordeaux blends. Today, the Estate’s 200-acres span over five renowned Napa Valley appellations – Stags Leap District, Rutherford, Oakville, Carneros and Howell Mountain.

This is one you don’t want to serve too cold – at about 55-60 degrees you find bright aromas of citrus and flowers, a somewhat creamy mouthfeel, with bright acidity. I was impressed with the lasting finish with tropical citrus and a hint of honey. And the $13 price is right in the sweet spot. This bottle came from Wine and Design in Tremont.

The strawberries came in with the meal I prepared to go with. Pan baked chicken tenderloins, seasoned with lemon and garlic and topped with a strawberry and fig chutney – accompanied by roasted cauliflower and red pepper was the meal of the night.

With the crisp acidityof the Chenin Blanc and the floral and light honey notes of the Viognier, the wine blended seamlessly with the flavors of the food. You can find the recipe for the strawberry and fig chutney here.

When you walk the aisles of your local wine shop in search of a crisp, but full white wine for your summer dinner. Look at the chenin blancs, or viogniers (or a blend of the two, like this one!) Great summer sipper.

Crop’s Minor Delight – a Pinot Noir

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On a very chilly evening MrWineOH and I ventured out to Crop Bistro to see what the talk was all about. One of the new additions to the restaurant scene in Ohio City – we were excited to sit at the chef’s table and partake of some delicacies.

I want to hit the highlights on the food, because the real story was a beautiful pinot noir I encountered. When we were seated at the Chef’s Table, which is a beautiful granite bar in front of the kitchen – we weren’t sure what to expect. But we were quickly treated to a gift from the kitchen. As an amuse bouche, we received this gorgeous egg on a little plate. The Chile Deviled Egg ($4 for 3 or $8 for 6) is a taste bud delight! I highly recommend them. Did I mention that sometimes they are pink? Yeah, you’d think that’d be a little freaky, but the flavor is incredible.

Another highlight was the Cherry Bomb – a little culinary genius that closely resembles a deep fried onion, but in reality is a wonton wrapped combination of plum tomato, chorizo sausage, jack cheese, and corn. This appetizer as shown is $8 and worth every penny. Cutting into it is a beautiful sight and the flavors blend beautifully.

One great thing we found is that a few appetizers a piece were filling and the perfect way to taste several of their signature dishes. I would not recommend the chef’s table though. The way you are seated makes the waitstaff reach around you to set plates or refill a wine glass. Its awkward.

Speaking of wine!

Sean Minor Carneros 2010 Pinot NoirAfter much consternation over the wine list, and the obvious frustration of MrWineOH and our server… I selected the 2010 Sean Minor Carneros Pinot Noir. List price is $42 there.

All I can tell you is – its absolutely lovely! Cherry, plum, a bit of blueberry – and nicely balanced spice and earthiness on the finish. While this pinot noir is aged 10 months in 100% French oak of which 20% is new – there isn’t overwhelming oak on the palate. I could smell the oak – but it was beautifully integrated into the flavors.

For my wine geek readers, this is a blend of Pommard and Dijon clones sourced from Carneros vineyards.

And at 13.5% abv (alcohol by volume) it isn’t overwhelming on the alcohol, even at this young age. Don’t get me wrong – it is a bit hot – but it mellowed nicely on day two –  after the server was nice enough to recork the half bottle I had remaining. This is definitely one I’d decant, or at least let sit in the glass for a while before sipping.

I see this paired with many dishes, but its not light enough for seafood – definitely a medium bodied wine for heavier white meat dishes or pasta. Don’t go crazy with italian spices with this – you will lose the beautiful subtlety of the fruit.

The winery sells this for $22 – I haven’t seen it in local shops, but the distributors have it in Ohio, so ask for it! Its a good buy at retail.

Now, will we be returning to Crop Bistro for a full meal? The jury is out on that. The other apps we had were okay, but not fabulous – and even though we spent what we’d typically spend for a night out – the great wine and the company made the evening, not the location. For a business dinner – I think it works – for a regular night out? Maybe not.

*** We’ve got some great events coming soon! Beer and Cupcakes THIS Sunday – tickets still available. And Wine and Cupcakes – West Side – White Wines for Spring – on March 22 – tickets available here!

Also – Our very first East Side Wine and Cupcakes will be April 28 at The Wine Spot in Cleveland Heights – those tickets will be up soon!  ***

WOTW – Belleruche Rouge

Belleruche There are some wines that just seem to circle through our wine cellar on a regular basis. It doesn’t hurt that this one is widely available and retails in that precious “under $13” sweet spot.

Belleruche Rouge – a Cotes du Rhone from Domaine M. Chapoutier is made from 80% Grenache (the grape variety used primarily in Châteauneuf-du-Pape to the south) and 20% Syrah (the grape used to make the Rhône valley’s most famous red wines in Côte Rôtie, Crozes Hermitage, Hermitage, and St Joseph to the north). Chapoutier is known for his wines that bring upwards of three figures, but this one, and its blanc and rosé sisters, are an affordable $11.99 or so.

One of the things that will stand out when you see this bottle is the braille label. The label is produced in homage to one of France’s favorite sons, Maurice de la Sizeranne – blind since the age of 9, and one of France’s most famous philanthropists of the 19th century. Braille appears on each of the wineries labels, including Chapoutier’s highest end wines.

Sizerrane is known for his interest in literature for the blind, and founded the Revue du Braille, as well as perfecting the system of abbreviated Braille widely used today in France. Sizerrane also owned a small parcel of land where Michel Chapoutier sources the fruit from one of the Chateau’s most famous wines.

This is a great dinner wine, but works well as a sipper because of the medium body. Spice, pepper, nice acidity. We’ve paired it with chili, chicken, pork and charcuterie.

And to think you get all of that history in a well balanced, fruity, spicy $11.99 bottle! Highly recommended.

 

WOTW – Pennywise, but not pound foolish

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I’ve been a fan of The Other Guys for a while now. I first had their wines back in 2006 when I was just exploring all that my local wine shops had to offer. There are 5 wines made under the Pennywise label – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Syrah. I’ve had the Petite Syrah and the Pinot Noir.

2009 Pennywise Pinot Noir

The Pinot is what we opened as a pre-dinner sipper. You must understand that we are pinot lovers, and we typically don’t spend our mortgage money on cult pinot,s much to the chagrin of Rex Pickett’s character in Sideways. We are looking for “affordable and delicious”. That is what you will find in the 2009 Pennywise Pinot Noir.

The Other Guys is a wine producer run by one of California’s oldest winemaking families. August Sebastiani is a 4th generation wine maker, and president of TOG. They’ve been doing this for a while, and I haven’t had a wine from TOG that I didn’t like.

The Pinot Noir is blended from the grapes of several vineyards and that blending provides a flavor profile that is pleasing to the nose and to palate. Cherries and a the slightest smell of cotton candy greet your olfactory sense, while strawberry and a hint of vanilla add to those aromas on your palate. Its smooth, with mild tannins and a lingering finish.

This is an easy drinker, but will pair well with burgers or chicken for your mid-week dinner. I could easily pair this with a chicken pot pie, or a homemade meatloaf – as well as a more upscale meal. Even a little acidity wouldn’t bother this wine.

It is (usually) widely available in Cleveland wine shops and comes in at a pleasant $10.99 in our area.

On another note, since I mentioned Rex Pickett – if you enjoy a good novel about wine, pick up Sideways, or the new sequel Vertical.

Excellent reads. You can click on the images below for more information about the books.

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