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Tag Archives: CAwine

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.

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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.

WineOHs Cuvée* – WineOHs Night Out

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This is the way we usually choose a place for dinner.

Me: “I’m making (fill in no effort, unexciting meal) for dinner.” Him: “Hmm…. what about going out?”

One of us: “I’m already sipping a (whiskey, beer, glass of good wine) – so it has to have a good selection of (same beverage)”

And that’s the end of it. No mention of what kind of food – most any place we go in Cleveland is going to be good stuff.

This particular night out was our first snow of any significance in the city, and we knew we were wanting to stay close, so we decided to head to Bar Cento in Ohio City for wine and hand tossed pizzas. (Shock – we were both sipping a glass of pinot noir when we had this conversation)

I knew the wine list was good, and thin crust gourmet pizza just sounded yummy.

When I say we went early, it was probably 6:30pm when we arrived and there were only a handful of people in the front room or in Bar Cento itself. The server was prompt and helpful – even if she did talk to my partner about the wine selections as if I wasn’t sitting there. Bless her heart.

Our wine selection was Steltzner Claret Bordeaux ‘08, at $35.  A blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc – its a pretty big wine, with well balanced tannins. Nice cherry, cinnamon and clove on the palate. Its spent 22 months in Mixed French Oak, so this is oakier than I usually like. Steltzner LabelBut with our Big Board – charcuterie, cheeses and house pickled vegetables for $18, it was an excellent balance. We loved the 2 different patés on the board and the cheeses were very well selected. Nothing commonplace.

I was impressed with the upper end of their wine list. Their higher end wines are less than 2x retail. For restaurant service, and comparable to some places in town… I was impressed. The lower end isn’t quite the deal on pricing, but nothing was in my “are you kidding me?” range.

Chef Adam Lambert was out and about in the dining room. One of the things that really stood out was that Chef was outside the kitchen talking to the servers and taking one last look at each plate that went out. It was obvious that quality and presentation were his highest priorities.

Bar Cento Big Board

The pizzas were ordered and arrived just as we finished the Big Board. We got the Bianco with sausage and the Olive. The man can put away some pizza, but with the two good size pizzas and the Big Board, we had about half of each to take home for lunch. Both were delicious. I’m a WineOH who is always looking at ingredients because I have an MSG allergy. Anyone sharing this sensitivity will be happy to know that Bar Cento is 100% MSG free, including the sausage. (always a concern)

Final Comments: Nice wine list, great service, food served with the highest quality in mind.

We’ll go back. And if you are looking for a nice meal with your honey, it makes the grade.

* Cuvée – a blend of several grapes, versus a single varietal. For MissWineOH, this is a blend of topics that will occasionally pop up when a single category is not appropriate.

Wine of the Week: Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Franc

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This is my new weekly feature called Wine of the Week – its a short review and recommendation of wine I loved in the past week (gee, I had to stretch for the title, huh?) You’ll see it hereafter referred to as WOTW for brevity. Or laziness, or both.

I’m not usually one to haphazardly buy wines over $20 per as I wander through a wine store, at least not when I’m restocking for the week. But I was in Rozi’s Wine House on Detroit Avenue in Cleveland just before New Years and found a wine I had to have. I’d been hankerin’ (that’s a technical term) for a good Cabernet Franc and had been remiss in not ordering anything from my beloved Virginia Cab Franc gods. When I found the 2008 Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Franc, I clutched it to my chest like a long lost brother from the Corps.

Alexander Valley Vineyard - Cabernet FrancThis wine runs $24.99 at Rozi’s, so its not horribly expensive by any stretch – and I will tell you, its worth every       nickel and dime if you enjoy Cab Franc.  The 2009 is available on their website, I can’t speak directly to that one, and I might suggest buying it and putting it away for a bit, but the 2008 is VERY drinkable now, and also could sit in the cellar, but not for too long – its just that good right now.

Alexander Valley Vineyards has been making wine since 1975 in Sonoma County. Maggie and Harry Wetzel purchased the property in 1962 and were one of the first in the area to plant grapes. They produce about 100,000 cases annually, including 17 varietal wines and proprietary blends. Seventy-five percent of AVV’s production is red wine. Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon constitute half of total production. They also produce Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Gewurztraminer, Syrah, Sangiovese, Viognier, and this incredible Cabernet Franc.

The 2008 Cab Franc is an estate wine, but not single vineyard, having been sourced from several of the family’s properties. They made 1400 cases, and aged it for 14 months on 100% french oak, 50% of which was new. I’m not one for an over-oaked Cab Franc – as I love the flavor of the grape and don’t want it hidden in the oak, and this wine is a great balance of oak for aging and the beautiful cab franc flavor. It comes in at 14%, but a few years in the bottle shows beautiful smooth tannins and not a hint of heat (higher alcohol) that I usually taste at 14%.

Berries and spice come out of this wine on my palate, and it smells, well… yummy. As I said on twitter when I poured it, there was a winegasm in my kitchen. Gorgeous wine.

As if you couldn’t tell, I highly recommend this one. The price is out of my daily drinking range, but I’ll definitely be going back to it; and trying the 2009 as well. I’d pair it with a lighter meat dish – herbed pork loin perhaps, not too heavy on the pepper. This is a wine you want to show through, not be eclipsed by your meal. I almost want to put a salted caramel dessert with it… just to see how it shines. If you are on “the tweeter” – follow them at @avvwinery.

Happy Sipping!

Holiday Weekend – A Pairing Adventure, Part 1

Holidays in our house have always been two-part affairs. A Christmas Eve gathering with heavy appetizers and paired libations, and then a holiday meal of roast beast or glazed ham and assorted sides, with a few wines that will blend well and keep us from saying anything that will get one disinvited next year.

This year was no exception – just with a slightly smaller crowd. Momma WineOH came from North Carolina for the holiday week, and we dragged in Chef Buglet from Chardon, because my daughter’s desserts and mashed potatoes are a requirement for any gathering of family.

Saturday’s menu consisted of: (click on the links for the recipes)

Raspberry Baked Brie

2010 Gerard Bertrand Picpoul de PinetMomma WineOH requested this after seeing it posted on the site following the Beaujolais tasting. It was just as delicious this time! We paired a 2010 Gerard Bertrand Picpoul de Pinet with the brie. The crisp acidity in Picpoul goes beautifully with the cream. Floral and peach aromas are typical of this varietal from the Languedoc. The raspberry jam made from King Estate pinot noir complements those flavors.

Squash & Pear Bisque

We used a pumpkin squash bisque for a pre-holiday tasting, so I decided to try my hand at preparing a bisque. It’s easier than it looks. You should give it a try. Curry, ginger and nutmeg add tasty fall or holiday flavors. Pair a Viognier with this soup. I’m a fan of Virginia Viognier, so try this site as a guide, VAWineTime – you might also try Bonny Doon Viognier or something from Cote Rotie or Languedoc.

         Sausage Balls

A family tradition, sausage balls have been a staple of Christmas in our house for years. I’ve paired many wines with this, including Mollydooker’s Two Left Feet, always an incredible wine, but occasionally hard to come by – a Zinfandel will pair well, and we opened up Plungerhead from The Other Guys. They have a few I haven’t had… so if you have enjoyed The White Knight or Pennywise, let me know your thoughts. 

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Sausage Bites

These are my go to appetizers for a crowd. They pair beautifully with red wine, and can be made ahead and reheated. I invariably put these tasty bites with a pinot noir, because well…. it just rocks together. There are some incredible pinot noirs to be had in the $15-18 range. Good ones to be had at $9-14. And amazingness above $20, particularly out of the Pacific Northwest. In the everyday catagory, go for Rex Goliath – in the mid range, Underwood Cellars or Castle Rock are consistent and tasty. Above that… the sky is the limit and the flavor profiles and quality increase exponentially.

This was our Christmas Eve spread… stay tuned for our Christmas pairings, including the breakfast casserole, and

“what do you serve with Waldorf Salad”…

What did you have for Christmas Eve? Do you have traditions for the night before Christmas? Share them in the comments!

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