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Tag Archives: Pinot Noir

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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WOTW – Did Your Mama Teach You That?

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The Other Guys Wines make Hey Mambo. And they named this one Kinky Pink.

 Right now you are singing Mambo Italiano… so here’s another version of Hey Mambo to get THAT out of your head.

Now, on to Kinky Pink. Because it’s definitely worth talking about.

BottleShot Kinky PinkI opened a bottle of Kinky Pink Rosé on a fine spring day in Cleveland and waited to see what would happen. Their Sultry Red is one of my most recommended chillable reds – I’ve poured it at a number of tastings, including this one in January, so I was interested to see what they do with a Rosé.

The color in the glass is a beautiful pink. Aromas of orange blossom, strawberry and peony. (the winery says wisteria… i didn’t smell it, so maybe my nose has gone old school floral on me)

The Kinky Pink is 98% pinot noir with a splash (2%) of Chardonnay. Pinot Noir rosés can be a bit thin – but this is a medium bodied wine which will hold up nicely with spring and summer dishes.

It starts with tart cherry and clementine and has a pleasing finish of strawberry and lemon. Light chicken dishes, pasta salads, your Sunday ham – all great pairings with this wine.

The good folks at The Other Guys sent me a bottle of their new Rose, as well as a bottle of the Sultry Red, and I’d recommend either of them as great summer sippers!

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 – 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.

Winery Adventure – Markko Vineyards

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Markko Vineyards - front entrance

A regal entrance into one of Ohio’s oldest and most successful wineries.

Markko Vineyards isn’t the easiest place to find. There is no big sign indicating “Winery Here” – in fact, there are no signs at all. I got a bit turned around on the back roads off of I-90 because of some bridge work (now completed) – but if you follow the directions from the Markko website, you’ll get there fine. And you should. You should make an appointment for a tasting, and go out and try these wines in Conneaut, Ohio. Arnie Esterer, owner and winemaker, has a theory. “Our wines are good. If they like good wine, they’ll find us,” so he’s not worried about drawing a crowd. He’s been at this for over 40 years, and he knows what he’s talking about – his wines are divine.

Markko WineryThis is not a “destination winery” and not one to appear on the cover of a tourist magazine, but the wines are worthy of The Beard House and the New York Times. There is a small tasting room with a table for 12, and old growth tree shaded deck. Perfect for one of their Perch and Riesling lunches.

Back deck at Markko

I chatted with Arnie and his son, opening bottles here and there, while we talked  about this incredible adventure they’ve been on. The goal when Arnie Esterer and Tim Hubbard started was to show the potential of Vinifera in the Lake Erie region – it wasn’t an AVA yet in 1968. They were looking for the terroir, and by george, I think they found it.

Markko has 16 acres under vine, and every bottle produced comes from estate grapes, producing about 2100 cases annually. When Markko got started they planted Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir under the guidance of Dr. Konstantin Frank (a New York winemaker). Later Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, and Merlot were added to the plantings. Over the last 44 years, Arnie has become known as pioneer in Ohio winemaking.

Once Arnie came back from testing the wines they intended to bottle that day, we started the tasting with his Chardonnay.

2007 Chardonnay Select Reserve, bottled in ’09 (I tasted in 2011, so it’d been aging in the bottle 2 years) This spent 2 years on oak, but the flavor of the chardonnay grape shines through. Apple and pear on the palate, buttery on the finish. I am in no way an oaky chardonnay fan – much prefer them stainless steel, but WOW. Beautiful. ($33) – This one was paired at a MissWineOH event with chicken salad toast points and fresh garden salsa crostinis.

2004 Chardonnay Reserve This spent 7 years sur lee on American oak. Yes, you read that right – 7 years. This one had less of the fruit on the palate, but the butter was certainly present. I’d call this a perfectly oaked Chardonnay. (2005 is $30, I don’t think the 2004 is available)

2007 Chardonnay Lot 0703 Three years on oak, and fined with egg whites. Pleasant fruit, crisp and aromatic. Slightly more obvious oak here. ($24)

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve A beautiful field blended Cab, smooth tannins and well balanced. Blending consists of 5% each of merlot, cab franc and chambourcin. Gorgeous. ($33)

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Having tasted the 07, I grasped just how Markko wines are meant to be aged. The 08 had more prominent alcohol, and was slightly more tannic. It is also a drier red, but has the same full mouthfeel as the 07. Similar field blend.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve The smoothest of the Cabs. Very fruit forward, the complexity of the field blending shows with fun layers of the chambourcin and cab franc peeking through. This wine, while aged similarly to the others in its oak barrels, did not have the oak intensity – beautiful wine, and any of the Cabs could lay down for many years. ($36)

2008 Johannesburg Riesling Grassy and slightly floral on the nose stone fruit on the palate, slight effervescence that makes this a great wine to pair with spicy dishes. (currently not available)

2007 Riesling Reserve More grassy and slightly petrol on the nose, with honey on the finish. This one also has that effervescence. ($30) I paired this at a special event with a pumpkin cupcake. Beautiful wine.

Arnie did not stop being an innovator when he planted vinifera in Ohio in 1968. He also devised a trellis system for organic grapegrowers and planted American, French and Hungarian oak trees on his 100 acre property.  The intent was to be able to harvest these (now 40 year old) trees to be sent to a cooperage to become Markko barrels. That harvesting begins this year. Winemaking innovation and excellence is  a hallmark at Markko.

I arrived with the intention of doing a bit of a tasting and picking up a bottle for an event I was doing. I stayed about 2.5 hours, and had I been dressed differently, I might have been conscripted to help cork their wines. They were bottling that day, a fun thing to watch, an incredibly labor intensive process to complete. They use a pump system and hand run equipment to bottle and seal.

Employee Notice - wash your feet

Arnie’s son told me during our conversation that they opened a 1973 Chardonnay a week before I’d been there, and that it had aged beautifully. I just wish I’d been around for THAT tasting. These Ohio wines, while not exactly budget friendly, are priced extremely well for the quality and pricing of comparable wines. Don’t let the Ohio AVA fool you. There are serious vintages being made in Conneaut.

Markko’s first vintage was in 1972, and their system works, so they aren’t fixing what’s not broken. Markko wines are available in wine shops throughout Northeast Ohio. I have spotted them in Heinen’s and in Constantino’s. They do have a few budget friendly wines ($9-$20) – and while I haven’t tasted them, I can’t imagine Arnie and Linda would put out a wine they wouldn’t drink. These folks make cellar worthy wines.

Pairing Adventure – Holiday Meal – Part 2

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As a continuation from my earlier holiday post, our Christmas morning always begins with Breakfast Casserole, coffee, and poinsettias’ for those in the mood. Then we sit down later in the afternoon for a Roast Beast dinner. While the recipes here are great for a Christmas feast, I have been known to pull them out for many different family gatherings, as they are simple, and will easily feed a crowd.

Breakfast Casserole is an easy “Make the Night Before” creation. The first time I ever had this dish was at a CYO gathering of teenagers, so you know it will appeal to the masses!

MonmousseauIn 2011 we became rather fond of Monmousseau sparkling for our celebrations. Monmousseau Brut Etoile. This sparking is done in the “methode traditionnelle” and is made of Chenin Blancfrom the Loire Valley (if google translated the french correctly) As is traditional, the secondary fermentation is in the bottle. Its crisp, fruity – aromas of stone fruit, and well balanced. It is a dry sparkling, but an easy sipper. For those of us that enjoy French champagne on a California sparkling budget, this beauty rings in at $14 a bottle. Its available in wine shops in Cleveland, and we get ours from Wine and Design in Tremont.

For Poinsettias you combine your sparkling with a cranberry juice. It’s a holiday festive twist on the Mimosa, and I love to use a Cran-Raspberry, which blends well with the drier bubbles. Straight cranberry can be palate drying at times.

Our main meal consisted of Waldorf Salad, Standing Rib Roast (aka Roast Beast), the Chef’s Mashed Potatoes, my green beans, and the Chef’s amazing pound cake with lemon blueberry topping. Since she won’t even share the recipes with me, (aka Mom) – I know she won’t let me publish them. But I will give you the Waldorf Salad and Green Beans recipes on the recipes page.

There’s more than a few palates in the house when the family gathers, so there were obviously more than a few wines. We opened a wine from Vinoklet Winery in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the Ohio River Valley for Mamma WineOH. She’s always been my inspiration for my palate and over the years she’s increasingly fond of the sweeter wines… and Mamma gets what Mamma wants. So we poured the La Dolce Vita, a concord wine. Its a slightly sweet version of the concord, and frankly, a drier one than many I’ve tried. Retail – $11.99

Vinoklet’s story begins with Krešo Mikulić immigrating to the United States from his homeland in Croatia, near the Adriatic Coast in the Mediterranean Region. He grew up in the winemaking tradition and  Krešo returned to it in 1984. He purchased a dairy ranch in Colerain Township, Ohio and because of its excellent soil conditions and micro-climate, the vineyard produced first samples of wine with great success. They are producing Chambourcin, Concord, Catawba, Traminette and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The rest of us shared a bottle of one of my favorite Zinfandels – The Other Guys Plungerhead. This wine is one I’ve been drinking for years, and I love the 2009. (Though the 2006, 2007 and 2008 were just as lovely) I discovered this one in Virginia, and was totally taken by the wines of The Other Guys. Its jammy, fruity, and spicy on the finish with a bit of clove – a hint of the oak is also present. There’s about 98% Zinfandel with a splash of Syrah blended in for character. Retail – $11.99

Two things I enjoy about this wine… one – there’s a guy with a plunger on his head on the label. Seriously…. it makes me giggle. Second – the closure on this wine is a Zork. This particular closure is helpful if you open a bottle and will need to close it up for the next day, or place it in the refrigerator. The plastic unwraps and you have your own private “saver closure” on the bottle. When you see these don’t think “cheap wine” – they are a lifesaver when you don’t want to finish your wine.

We enjoyed a Waldorf Salad, a cheese and meat platter, and the company while we prepared the balance of the meal. I usually recommend a crisp white with this salad – but in combination with the meats and cheeses – the Zinfandel worked surprisingly well.

Then it was time for the Roast Beast. Sides of course were Chef’s Garlic Mash and my green beans. We opened the Thief, a Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley (that’s “Willamette, Dammit”) in Oregon. Thief, according to the bottle, is a wine “of distinction absconded from the best vineyard sites in the Pacific North West.” A cute riff on the name, but a lovely medium bodied Pinot Noir – black cherry and just a bit of cinnamon – this Pinot is heavy enough to carry the roast beast easily. At $19.99, I rate the QPR value medium – but one of the better wines I’ve seen in this from this region and in this price range.

This was our Holiday meal in a nutshell. I hope you enjoyed the wine and food around your table as much as we did!

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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