Field Trip: Wine Dining with Orin Swift Wines

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This wine event at Bar Cento in Ohio City couldn’t have fallen on a better night. It was the perfect antidote to the cold November rain that was making me feel dark and drab.

This wine pairing, presented by Chris Victor, National Account Manager for E&J Gallo, and Superior Beverage of Cleveland paired three wonderful wines from the cellars of Orin Swift with an amazing three course menu created by Chef Sean Conroy.

Our first pairing was a 2015 Mannequin Chardonnay with the Amuse Bouche of fall veggies featuring acorn squash, red beet, sweet potato, sultana and Brussels sprouts. The Chardonnay tasted of ripe white peach, jasmine with a nice acidity that was softened bu the creaminess of the food and the sweet of the sultana. We continued with the Chardonnay into the 1st course of halibut, pumpkin, saffron, pine nut, and golden sage. The delicate flavor of the halibut with saffron sauce was nicely balanced with the bright citrusy vibe of the wine.

Next up was the 2015 Papillon Bordeaux Blend that paired well with our 2nd course that included lamb rack, mustard greens, merguez, and eggplant. Yummy! The flavours of ripe blackberry, dark cherry and subtle tannin played beautifully with the mustard greens and horseradish eggplant, coaxing out a flavourful bite spice in the wine.

Our final course was Clafoutis: a baked flan-like dessert of brandied cherries, fresh fig, and DiSaronno Amaretto. Paired with the 2014 Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon, it provided and unexpected, amazing surprise of the evening; I’ve never enjoyed a Cab with dessert before. I’d always thought they were too heavy. But the silky combination of blackberry and cassis didn’t overpower the delicate, flavourful dessert, it enhanced the richness of the cherries and Amaretto. I had always thought that in pairing wine and dessert the rule was sweet for sweet. This pairing proved that rules were made to be broken.

As the evening came to a close, our group’s discussion turned to the 2014 Mercury Head Cabernet Sauvignon and as luck would have it, we were treated to a small sample. Outstanding!

Sometimes, even in the darkest, rainiest night, a little light can shine in: great friends, great food and some amazing wines. And if you’re really lucky, you can find all three in one place.

Cheers! 🍷

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©TheWine Student, 2017

 

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Field of Dreams: Uncorked Medina Wine Festival


We were looking for a chill vibe to start our weekend,  and we found it in Seville.

The inaugural Uncorked Medina Wine Festival at Buffalo Creek Retreat had everything we were looking for: wine, live jazz, wine, food trucks, craft beers, culinary demonstrations, art, and…wine.

Benefiting Friends of Medina County Parks, Uncorked featured a selection of wines from California as well  many local Ohio wineries including: Gervasi, Troutman Vineyards, Hi and Lo Winery, and the Winery at Wolf Creek.

The event also featured a reservation only,  five-course food and wine pairing Twilight Dinner prepared by chef Anthony Scolaro of 111 Bistro in Medina.  Yum!

The weather was spectacular and HubbyDoug and I strolled the grounds as vocalist Helen Welch provided an awesome soundtrack of jazz standards. It was the perfect cap to a busy week, and a cool welcome to the weekend.

Cheers! 🍷

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©TheWineStudent, 2017

MmmmmMonastrell Monday! 

Taking a break from my studying, I caught myself in a little daydream; thinking back to not long ago and a trip to Jerome, AZ. 

I’d heard of Caduceus Cellars from my nephew, Aaron, who’s really into the bands Tool and Puscifer. What does this have to do with wine? Caduceus was founded by Maynard James Keenan, frontman and songwriter of Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer. Established in 2004, Caduceus is described as a ‘small production family owned winery’. Unlike some celebrity winemakers, Keenan likes to get his hands dirty in all aspects of the business; from planting and harvesting to winemaking and marketing.  

From our wine flights, HubbyDoug and our friends Carl and Deb picked the 2013 VSC Anubis (50% Cab, 30% Cab Franc, 20%Petit Syrah). My pick: the 2014 VSC Monastrell (100% Cochise County Monastrell). 

Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre) is a thick skinned grape that provides color, fruit and tannic structure especially when blended with Grenache and Syrah; it is the ‘M’ in GSM wines. On its own, it has intense perfume notes and blackberry flavours along with hints of meat. Age brings out more leather and gingerbread aromas and flavour. 

The wine in my glass had a beautiful garnet colour with sage on the nose (what I imagine the scent a desert flower would have). It had light-medium body with neutral oak, and flavors of basil, thyme, juniper with a kick of licorice and olive. It made me think of a fragrant, lush herb garden. Normally with reds, I expect to have more of a jammy, fruit forward experience, anything herbaceous I associate with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. It wasn’t sweet wine, far from it. But, much like it’s winemaker, its juxtaposition from what I thought it should be, and what it was, I found a true expression of where it was cultivated. 

This Monastrell is hand-picked (by Keenan himself), sorted, submerged cap fermented and puncheon aged for 18 months. Puncheon is an extra large oak barrel (70-100 gallons). The larger size allows for stronger/ stricter controls in the wine’s development due to the higher inner barrel surface – wine ratio. 

I’d only had this varietal before as part of the GSM blend but on its own it was a wonderful surprise to add to my list of exceptional wines with a twist. 

Cheers! 

What I Did This Summer Part 2: Redemption, a Star Turn and a Little French Kiss 💋

Jordan Winery and Vineyard

After a busy few weeks of getting my daughter moved and relatively settled in at college, I’m back to my studies. Here’s the second half of my ‘what I did this summer’ report.

The second day of our excellent wine adventure took Hubby Doug and I to three vastly different wineries. One had a home-spun vibe, one had a very cinematic feel and the last took us back in time to a beautiful french chateau.

Alexander Valley Vineyard (AVV) ~ In 1961, Harry and Maggie Wetzel purchased the homestead of Cyrus Alexander (the valley’s namesake). In 1963, they planted their first grapes, and In 1968, with perseverance and resolve, their first Cabernet was bottled and a lifetime love of winemaking was born. Winemaker Kevin Hall along with three generations of the Wetzel family are continuing the family legacy of winemaking and farming.

The winery has a cosy tasting room, and an underground cave where we learned about how wines are barrel aged. Very cool (literally). 🙂
When we arrived at AVV, it was just after they’d opened for the day. And while it seemed a bit early to sample, in the name of research we summoned the ‘five-o’clock-somewhere’ rule and tried a couple of small samples. Our two favorite were the 2013 Redemption Zinfandel and the 2012 Cyrus. Both were beautifully nuanced, yet full-bodied.

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Francis Ford Coppola ~ Driving through the archway gave us the feel of what it must have been like to drive on to a movie lot (without the guard asking if you’re ‘on the list’). Coppola winery was one of the most unique I’ve experienced. It had a img_5614picturesque pool area with cabine where you can spend the day with your family. Most water areas at wineries are reservoirs, overflow basins or decorative ponds that they always kick me out of. Bocce courts and lazy hammocks overlooking the valley give a chill vibe that invite you to grab a glass and relax.

Inside the winery is the main tasting room and movie museum with select memorabilia from several Coppola classics including Apocalypse Now, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and the giant neon martini glass from One From The Heart. Our tasting experience was the Sonoma Inclusive at the main tasting bar. Our pick of the flight was the 2012 Director’s Cut Cinema blend of Cab Sauv, Zin, Petit Syrah and Syrah, and the 2012 1Mille Cab Franc.

One of the coolest wine tasting experiences that I’d love to return for is Tasting in the Dark. Small groups are led to the Coppola tasting labs, then blindfolded and led through a variety of sensory appreciation activities designed to fine tune the senses. Hoby Wedler, a UC Davis graduate, who is himself without sight, leads each group to the discovery of flavor and essence; allowing other senses to become stronger in the absence of sight. As we know when one sense is gone, others take over, and this experience would be amazing to help one begin sharpening their palate.

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Jordan Vineyard and Winery ~ our final stop of the day took us up a winding road to another world. This by appointment only winery made me think a little of Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon – beautiful, elegant and very regal.

When Jordan was established in 1972, the choice was deliberate to focus on creating only singular varietals, but doing them very well. Their Cab Sauv is produced from the Alexander Valley, and Chardonnay exclusively from the Russian River Valley. The philosophy being that by focussing on singular wines, a better continuity of style will be achieved, and a consistent realization of balance between fruit, acidity, tannin, and alcohol. Each vintage you open will generally have the same qualities time after time.

We chose the Library Tasting, a one hour tasting. The Chardonnay tasting was paired with an Ahi Poke with Quinoa and Heirloom Tomatoes. Usually I’m not into raw tuna but this was a lovely combination that beautifully enhanced the subtle notes of the wine.

On to the private tasting room where we sampled three older vintage Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a variety of artisan cheeses and a Jordan Estate Olive Oil.

Our pick? If you guessed Cab Sauv, grab yourself a glass of wine because you are very smart! Our vintage was the 2007~ something very special indeed.

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It was an amazing day of touring and tasting and I hope one day I’ll be lucky enough to go back.

Cheers!

©TheWineStudent, 2016

A Midsummer Knight’s Dream ~ Field Trip to Napa | Sonoma 🚗💨🍷


The winery with the dungeon was one I had to see.
On this weekend winery getaway to Napa and Sonoma, HubbyDoug and I had only two days to visit and sample. So rather than a meandering trip, we became precise and and streamlined about what we wanted to see.

We’ve enjoyed Gundlach Bundschu wines since Doug’s last trip to see them a few years ago so they were a top choice.  But friends told us about Castello Di Amorosa, a winery fashioned after a thirteenth century Italian castle, complete with dungeon … and torture chamber. Um… more about that in a bit.

Peace and quiet

There are times when visiting a winery is like visiting an old friend. The feeling of ease and relaxation wraps around you like a warm hug. At Gundlah Bundschu, we made our way to the bottle bar to grab a glass and then walk the vineyard. I typically enjoy so many of their reds but because of the heat, I chose a flavorful, chilled and beautifully floral Gerwürtztraminer, while Doug had his favorite, Pinot Noir.

The relaxed vibe of the staff invites you to take your glass and explore pretty much anywhere on the property. There were no limits, and no restrictions except perhaps your footwear, and how long you needed until you wanted to refill your glass.

We got our shoes dusty as we made our way through the vineyards, stopping to taste a couple of Pinot Noir grapes off the vine. There was nothing like it. The flavor was so bright and sweet; almost like a sunburst on the tongue.

Small enclosures at various points along the walk were available with coolers of water and comfortable seating. It was unbelievable how quiet it could be out in the vineyards with nothing but the sun, a light breeze blowing, breathtaking scenery and your wine to savor. We felt any tension melting away as we sipped and walked.
It was how I imagine heaven might be.

While we could’ve stayed all day, we wanted to get to the next destination before nightfall, those winding roads can get pretty tricky.

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Dungeons and dragons
Driving on approximately forty minutes, we arrived at the castle. A labor of love for Dario Sattui and 20+ years from concept to completion (15 years of construction), Castello Di Amorosa is an authentic replica of a 13th century Medieval Tuscan-style castle. Fashioned with hand squared stone, tile and ancient brickwork brought over from Europe, it features spectacular upper and lower courtyards, 5 defensive towers with battlements, a chapel, great hall, royal apartment, dungeon and torture chamber (no castle was complete without them), as well as a fully functioning winery. This architectural marvel is 136,000 sq. ft. including castle and winery. There are 8 levels — 4 levels above and 4 underground. It is truly a feast for the eyes.

We made our way through the drawbridge to travel back in time to a world where romance swirled, women swooned and if you stepped out of line, it was the rack (or the iron maiden). I made sure HubbyDoug was on his best behavior. The chill from the deepest cellar crept up my spine with a slither and it made it difficult to remember the heat from the sun just beyond our reach. It kind of freaked me out when we walked through the labyrinth before getting to our final destination: the tasting room. I bet Halloween here is a scream!

Taking in the opulence and authenticity of detail was awesome and then to see the modern winemaking equipment was a real juxtaposition. And it wasn’t lost on us that we were taken to our wine tasting right after visiting the dungeon and torture chamber. Hmmmmm…. Needless to say, many of us bought several bottles. My pick: the 2015 Dolcino Gerwürztraminer a nice, slightly sweet chiller.

In the next post: Day 2 of our excellent wine adventure at Alexander Valley Vineyards, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, and Jordan.
Cheers!

©TheWineStudent, 2016

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Wine on the Waterfront 


To celebrate that summer is actually here in the Cleve, my friend Shelly and I checked out the 5th Annual Waterfront Wine Festival in Avon Lake, OH.

In support of the Smiles for Sophie Forever Foundation confronting pediatric brain cancer, this event featured several local Ohio wineries including Matus, Paper Moon, Firelands, Humble Bee and Vermillion Valley.

My pick for the day: Vermillion Valley Cabernet Franc. Served slightly chilled, it had a light, flavorful vibe of blueberry, raspberry and hint of dark cherry that was enjoyable but not heavy. It definitely took the edge off the heat from the sun.

With the beautiful breeze off Lake Erie, and plenty of sunshine, it was a great event that drew fantastic crowds and helped to support a great cause.

Cheers!

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©TheWineStudent, 2016

 

Where Y’at?! Mardi Gras Crawl @Flats East Bank


It was a day of ‘should we, shouldn’t we’ before we finally decided that we should. And though we were tardy, we didn’t get detention. The Mardi Gras Crawl at the Flats East Bank  yesterday was too much fun to resist. But we had to streamline our crawl. We narrowed it down to three: The Big Bang Bar, Alley Cat Oyster Bar and Crop Rocks. Signature drinks of the day were the Elsa shot (in a flashy glass) and Mardi Gras classic the Hurricane.

Did we see a lot of people having fun? Yes! Did we flash anyone for beads? No! It was too chilly. Although, after I came back from the bar with our drinks, I noticed HubbyDoug had more beads than me. Hmmmm…

Wherever your plans take you for Mardi Gras, be safe, have fun, and let the good times roll!

Cheers!

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©TheWineStudent, 2016