Clean as a Whistle

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s time to get those little jobs [you love to ignore] done before your guests arrive and the wine is uncorked. Because you know the jobs, no matter how small, will never get done when that happens.

Cleaning my wine decanters is one of those jobs. I admit I haven’t been decanting my wine in the past few months; instead favoring the aerator or just going au naturel and pouring right from the bottle into the glass. I did stop, however, at just taking a straw to my bottle because I like to stay a little classy. Since I’d been neglecting my decanter, a fair bit of old sediment had accumulated on the bottom and was tough to get out with the standard method of cleaning.

I’d seen bottle brushes that looked like they’d do the trick but one of my decanters was irregularly shaped and the brush wouldn’t reach the main area of trouble. Further research lead me to the Riedel decanter cleaning beads; little stainless steel beads that are shaken around the bottom of the decanter and naturally power away stains and old sediment residue.

The way they work is simple: Take your decanter, fill about half way with water, pour in the beads and swirl, or gently shake back and forth for about two minutes. Pour the water and beads through a strainer, let the beads dry and reuse again. I found with my decanter, it took a little longer to get the stubborn stains out but what resulted was a crystal clear decanter, ready to use for some beautiful holiday wine!

I finished the experiment by placing my decanter on a wine decanter dryer stand so that all the water could drip and/or evaporate. Nice. And easy.

All this cleaning is making me thirsty. And now that I know how to easily cleanse my decanters, I just might have to find a vintage that’ll help me whistle when I work.


©TheWineStudent, 2014

Happy Hallowine!

It’s two days to ghoul and if you haven’t found something for your goblet, I have some suggestions for you. And you don’t have to go into the dark recesses of the catacombs to find them. Most were at World Market at spooktacular price points.

Remember a while back I wrote that when I make a bad pun, you can take a sip? Start now before they get really horrific.

Am I bewitched by a label? I confess, I am a big sucker for fun label art. HubbyDoug just looks at me, rolls his eyes and spins his head around a few times. Good thing he hasn’t started speaking in tongues; I might have to consult an exorcist.

I stayed with the blood reds this year, in keeping with the season. Here is my bare bones list, in no particular order:

  • Rest In Peace ~ 2011 California Red Wine Blend ~ I quite liked the fruit forward, raspberry jammy vibe. It settled into pleasant earthier tastes of tobacco, leather(face) and the tiniest whisper of chocolate on the finish. A nice sipping wine to keep the vampires from your door.
  • Monster Mash ~ 2012 Lodi Red Blend ~ A melding of Lodi Zinfandel and Petit Sirah. It surprisingly had a nose as thin as Slenderman. But no matter; it had a nice tobacco ` cherry vibe with high alcohol and oak flavors. If you have a taste for a somewhat grounded, yet bright red go for this mash. It’s a graveyard smash.
  • Trick ~ 2013 California Red Table Wine ~ The lightest in color, this Trick was a little more of a tart-y treat (kind of like most women’s Halloween costumes). It tasted of unripened strawberry and cherry, and reminded me a little of War Heads sour candy with its pucker-y, ‘get you in the sides of the mouth’ effect. Nice if you like a little zing in your wine.
  • Phantom ~ 2011 California Red ~ Bogle Vineyards ~ This phantom was no misty apparition, from the moment I opened the bottle I detected a spirited nose of rich, raspberry jam. It had the deepest blood red color of the four and tasted of blackberry with a little smoke. The flavours were subtle and lurking at first, then I slowly became aware of them. But I wasn’t afraid. This was a friendly ghost.

On All Hallow’s, the devil is in the details. And I hope these few suggestions help get you started to find the most fun for your celebrations. Scaring up some poison for fright night should be like child’s play. But stay away from the two buck Chuck(y).

I hope you all have a safe and happy Halloween!


©TheWineStudent, 2014

Great Expectations

When the frost is on the pumpkin, we usually have the mindset that summer’s fun is on the wane and we need to start battening down the hatches against old man winter. But I like to believe that there’s still a lot of fun to be had.

Here are two new venues that promise to bring a little mirth to the wine in your glass.

Athens Uncorked ~ Located close to Ohio University, Athens Uncorked is poised to become the ‘first grown-up’ wine bar in Athens. With over thirteen years of café and culinary experience, siblings Nate Hayes and Kathryn Blake’s vision is to provide Athens a quiet, ‘off the beaten path” adult lounge atmosphere. Avid wine students themselves, Nate and Kathryn have been hitting the books to research which wines will make up their flights and tasting menu. “We were red wine snobs,” confessed Hayes. “But since we’ve been sampling so many whites that we want to put on the menu, it’s opened our eyes to how many great white wines are out there.”

A variety of seven themed wine flights will range from organic wines, sweet to dry whites; bold and beautiful reds, to a ‘Home Sweet Home’ flight showcasing native Ohio wines. “We really want to hit all the bases with our wine flights,” said Hayes. “ And every two months or so, we’ll change and reset the menu to give our guests a new experience in what’s available.” Their Cellar collection will feature high-end wines sold by the bottle. To keep the focus on the wine, a small, simple tapas-style menu will be available.

Though they’re currently in the throes of construction, Hayes was kind enough to take me on a little tour; they had just finished painting the walls a gorgeous, deep purple color. We did most of our interview in the cosy loft area that will be used for monthly tastings and special events. He described the decor as “comfortable and relaxed” with couches, chairs and tables designed to keep the emphasis on their tagline of ‘wine, conversation and friends’.

Athens Uncorked has targeted the opening for mid-November and expect to be in full swing in time for the Thanksgiving holiday season.

Athens Uncorked, 14 Station Street Athens, OH, 45701

The Wine Mill ~ In the heart of Peninsula, Ohio, in a vintage mill dating back to 1846, The Wine Mill is a part of history re-imagined. Partners Steven McClellan and Patrick Cunningham have a vision of pairing a charmingly rustic setting with a wide variety of fine wines.

Dave Mazzone, Fine Wine Specialist at the Wine Mill, said the wine flight groups are at price points that are easily accessible. “We’ll have a wide array that will have an upscale regional and varietal interpretation. We want the focus to be on having people try things that are new to them,” he said. “The wines featured will be more boutique, and not the average wines that can be found anywhere.” In selecting featured wines for the tasting menu, Mazzone said the key is to offer the familiar as well as the new. “We want to maybe challenge people’s paradigms of what wine drinking ought to be but also still delivering, in a very high level, to what people’s expectations already are. So the vision is to be a blend of those two thoughts.”

The Wine Mill will also have their own label varietal wines. “There’s going to be a Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and a Cabernet available in the very near future. After that, a reserve Napa Valley red wine as well,” Mazzone said. “The Wine Mill will be exploring some relationships, through me, that I’ve got with some great grape growers and great wine producers to commission them to produce wines for The Wine Mill that they’ll put their own personal label on,” he said. “They’ll be Ohio wines that aren’t necessarily grown in Ohio. Even though it’s not locally sourced produce, it’s going to be a locally sourced business.”

As for eventual plans for full scale winery at The Wine Mill, Mazzone said that the original vision was to begin as a winery but since achieving licensing permits can be lengthy process, the thinking became more long term. “My advice to them was to open up their doors, offer a niche product at a fair price, and do it in a really well-serviced way, and build a following.” Producing their own wines will be a marriage of local and bi-coastal. Planting grapes on the adjacent property will be the next phase. “There’s a lot of room there to do a few select varietals,” said Mazzone. “And anything else produced would be grapes sourced from other wine growing regions.”

For the menu, food items will be unique in presentation but designed to serve two or more. “Just like the song says, ‘one is the loneliest number’,” joked McClellan. “Everything we offer will be in quantities for the entire table to share,” he said. “We’ll also be featuring a selection of high-end cheeses because the wine deserves it.”

The tasting area, including an upstairs loft, and outdoor patio, can accommodate groups of up to 150 guests. The bordering eight acre property will have winding trails leading to a natural, wooded ceremony | event area furnished with chairs, tables, and fire pit. “We want to keep a natural, not manicured, feel,” said McLellan of the outdoor space.

Progressing from concept to construction to opening has been “a real learning experience,” said Cunningham. Pending permits and finishing touches, he estimates that The Wine Mill should be set to “open in mid-November.”

The Wine Mill ~ 4964 Akron-Cleveland Rd. Peninsula, OH, 44264

It’s such an exciting time for the Ohio wine industry. These two new wine ventures both share a vision and enthusiasm for the grape, as well as offering visitors fun and unique wine experiences, any time of year.

I wish them both the best of luck and can’t wait to stop by again to check out how things are going!


©TheWineStudent, 2014

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HubbyDoug and I are on our annual retreat to Hocking Hills, OH. The spectacular colors and slight chill in the air make me very grateful we packed three bottles of wine to enjoy over the next three days. A bottle a day keeps the doctor away? I believe this is true.
We started our weekend with an ’11 Foppiano Vineyards Lot 96 Petit Sirah.
Next on our menu: the ’03 Gundlach Bundschu Temperanillo and the ’12 G|B Pinot. HubbyDoug loves this winery!

Being here let’s us recharge, relax and enjoy both nature ~ and how lucky we are to live so close to such a beautiful place.
I hope you all are able to find a place as lovely. And I hope you bring a stellar bottle (or two) to enjoy with it.


©TheWineStudent, 2014


High Society

Last night HubbyDoug and I took in one of the last Tribe games of the season. As an added bonus, our friends, Nick and Renée took us over to Society on E4th. It was the coolest; hepcats in suits, and dolls in snazzy dresses having cocktails in place that had the feels of an underground speakeasy. Now while I am a girl who likes a good cocktail, before me was a bottle of 2012 Byron Pinot Noir. Nice and bouncy, it was a great nightcap to share with our friends.
But i know i want to come back to try some of their other concoctions, especially, the most intriguing: Absinthe shot.
And i’m gonna wear my snazziest dress.



Four Blondes, Five Wineries




This past weekend, I was able to bring my friends Terri, Shelly, and Cindy up to Niagara to experience some Canadian hospitality. And to check out the Niagara Wine Festival. After a brief stop to see Niagara Falls, and enjoy a great first night dinner, we began our journey the next day with Niagara Vintage Wine Tours. Gus, our awesome guide, was so friendly and knowledgable, he did an amazing job of filling in the picture at each winery we visited. He also gave a wonderful, anecdotal history of the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Our tour (which included lunch at The Charles Inn) stopped at the following four wineries:

  • Konzelmann ~ Located on lakefront property, when they opened their doors, in 1984, they were the seventh official winery in Ontario.There are now over 140. They had a great presentation by J.R. who gave a crash course in wine tasting and the proper way to sip effectively. He also talked about how it’s best to allow the wine, especially Icewine, to move to the back of the tongue (with a tiny bit of hang time) to get the full flavor and texture. It was amazing how much more depth there was to the samples we tried.

Four Blondes Pick: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Pilliteri ~ One of the world’s largest producers of Ice Wine, Pilliteri is steeped in history and family tradition. The Carretto, featured prominently in the awards room and pictured on many of their labels, is a Sicilian cart that provided transport for families and their belongings or moving their goods to and from market. The barrel cellar/events room is one of the coolest I’ve seen. A stunning concrete table, about 500” long is surrounded by 23 stainless steel chairs on the walls above. the chairs are specially engraved to commemorate significant dates in the history of the winery. Style definitely meets substance as this is a fully functional cellar, maintaining a constant temperature of 12 degrees C with increased protection against light and no vibration to disturb the ageing process. Shelly and I thought it was so cool, we fell behind in the tour and almost got a tardy. But Gus took pity on us and helped us catch up to our group. We joined them just as Francine, our winery guide began our tasting. We sampled quite a few and with such a variety of Icewine, including a Sangiovese and Cab Sauv, it was difficult to choose just one.

Four Blondes Pick: 2010 Exclamation Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2012 Cab Franc Icewine.

  • Between The Lines ~ After lunch, the skies cleared and we headed to the big red barn that houses this smaller, young winery. BTL has a lot of heart and maintains a preference to keep things small but real. Their wine is only available at the winery or via delivery (only in Canada) or at select farmer’s markets in Niagara and surrounding Ontario regions. I found the wines we sampled a bit young tasting but I believe they have great promise. Cellaring for a couple of years could just bring out the depth and complexity that I tend to look for. I like what Greg and Yannick are doing here, and the commitment they have to stay smaller and focus on creating a great product rather than mass produce and lose what’s unique. They’re headed in the right direction.

Four Blondes Pick: 2012 Lemberger Reserve

  • Marynissen ~ Our last stop was the home of wines chosen by former Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chretien to be served at official state dinners. It also boasts the oldest commercial planting of Cabernet Sauvignon in Canada. We tasted a few wines ranging from the Unoaked Chardonnay to their notable Gamay Noir. A very pretty boutique winery, it was a quaint stop to round out our tour.

Four Blondes Pick: 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay, which Cindy thought was, “very nice for the region.”


Peller Estates ~ This winery was not on our tour but we stopped in to round out our day. Beautiful and stately, Peller was a winery the girls spied as we drove into the old town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and mentioned that they wanted to look inside. There was a big country hoe-down going on and while we thought about sticking around to try the mechanical bull, we had dinner reservations so…                                                                                                                                                                                                                Four Blondes Pick:  the Riesling Icewine, fresh and crisp, it was an different alternative to traditional the Vidal.


Four Blondes Big Pick: 2012 Wayne Gretzky Estate No 99 Vidal Icewine. The delicate floral vibe on the nose and liquid amber, honey and butterscotch taste was heavenly.The rich, velvet-y mouthfeel was also incredibly pleasing. If this was in the Stanley Cup playoffs of Ice Wine, this number 99 just won the shootout.

The Niagara Wine Festival continues today and wraps up September 27 and 28.

Thomas Wolfe once wrote, ‘you can’t go home again.’ Well, in fact, you can. And if you’re really lucky, you can bring some great friends with you.


©TheWineStudent, 2014

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