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Monday, January 26, 2015

Tasting Vino At Morgan & York, Ann Arbor

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Earlier this month we took a road trip to Ann Arbor, to grab a spot of lunch and to visit some wine destinations. Our team of four was Green Dragon and me plus the Cabinator and Glorious T.

After lunch at a Paesano’s Wine Bar, we squirted in to Morgan & York. Morgan & York is a cool purveyor of European wines and handmade cheeses. Being there for the first time, I was drawn to the wine displays and began checking them out.

Glorious T, who had suggested our visit, immediately checked with one of the staff members about the scheduled wine tasting. The staff member replied that there was no wine tasting scheduled. Glorious T, like a cowboy at a high noon showdown, quickly drew her cellphone and displayed the website listing the tasting. In a matter of minutes, a southern Rhone tasting was assembled near the front door.

The first wine was Domaine Alary 'La Gerbaude' 2011 Cotes du Rhone. It’s rare when the first wine at a tasting is the favorite, but it does happen. In this case, our crew was drawn to the silky texture and robust dark fruit of this Grenache-Syrah blend.

Before our next wine, Glorious T announced she didn’t want to be “that” customer, but wasn’t a snack usually served with the wine. A few moments later, cheese and crackers arrived. The next wine poured was Domaine les Grands Bois 2013 'Trois Soeurs' Cotes du Rhone. This “three sisters” blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignane is made from vines aged 30 to 60 years. This is a fresh and fruity wine with a berry and violet taste. The consensus was this needs a bit more aging.

The final wine of our tasting trio was Domaine Catherine le Goeuil 2012 Cairanne. This is also a Cotes du Rhone with more complexity than the first two. The blend is 51% Grenache, 17.5% Syrah, 17.5% Mouvrèdre, 7% Carignan, and 7% Counoise. The tannins were more pronounced and the flavor was imbued with smokiness. The price of $29 was the highest of the three. The others were $17 and $18 respectively. This one was my favorite.

We had a couple of take-aways from our visit (even beyond the bottles we bought). First, Morgan & York is a great destination for lovers of fine food and wine. Second, there are many values to be found in French wine, particularly the Rhone blends that feature Grenache and Syrah.

With anticipation, we look forward to our next visit.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Chateau Tour de Gilet 2012 Bordeaux Supérieur

Dave's Phone 010315 116We enjoyed the Château Tour de Gilet during our recent trip to Colorado for our nephew’s wedding. The rehearsal dinner was at Le Central, a cool French restaurant in Denver.

I must digress for a moment to explain how horrible the traffic is in Denver! There are five solid lanes of traffic in every direction with your turning lanes carefully placed on the side opposite you. My phone GPS was finicky as well – changing routes seemingly every minute.

Needless to say, we made several passes around town before finally zeroing in on the restaurant. By the time I found an ultra-scarce parking spot, I was ready for vino!

Château Tour de Gilet is located  a short distance north of the city of Bordeaux. The chateau was erected on the foundation of an ancient abbey of the twelfth century. Lots of little streams cross the vineyard to drain the soil and to improve the quality.

The wine is aged in steel vats, and so the flavors are bright and not buried under layers of oak. It offers flavor notes of cherries and blackberry with a hint of tobacco. It certainly paired well with my grilled beef dish.

The exact blend for the Château Tour de Gilet is a mystery, but it seems to be a Merlot-driven blend with Cabernet Sauvignon and perhaps Petite Verdot. Bordeaux Supérieur wine is often produced by single parcels of older vines. Moreover, Bordeaux Supérieur wines must be aged for at least 12 months before they can be sold.

Château Tour de Gilet allowed my somewhat stressed and oxygen-deprived body a chance to breathe in the smooth goodness of French winemaking. It paired perfectly with our festive French dinner and helped make a memorable occasion for all.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Grape-ocalypse Now: Climate Change Could Alter The Taste Of Wine

Grape-ocalypseChanges in the Earth's climate will bring about changes in the taste and production of wines with some calling it a 'grape-ocalypse' as traditional growing areas are lost, it's been predicted.

Whether global warming is man-made or a natural phenomenon or a combination of the two, vine growers are already reporting that they're having to adapt to changes in the climate to ensure quality and timely harvests, a UK-based company says.

However, it's not all bad news for producers: The BigGreen.co.uk company, a leader in recycling and waste disposal, has also found that global warming is also contributing to larger yields, with wine production opening up in geographic areas that were not considered particularly profitable before.

"The bottom line is that the wine connoisseur will have to get used to the idea that their favourite label is going to taste different," says BigGreen.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall. "And given a few decades, it might even disappear altogether to be replaced by completely new wines."

It's already known that prolonged higher temperatures have a negative effect on aroma and production of sugar in grapes. With climate change bringing a wider variation of temperatures, harsher and more unpredictable winter frosts lasting later into the spring also bring huge implications during the budding season.

"We've spoken to one medium-size California producer who tells us that his wines from 2013 and 2014 are already vastly different from those of previous years," says Hall. "He acknowledges climate change's part in this, telling us that it made it nigh on impossible to choose the right time for harvest."

"He went on to tell us the 2014 production was particularly difficult due to the long, dry summer, and his end product is significantly different, but surprisingly high quality."

BigGreen.co.uk says this is a problem that is challenging wine producers right across Europe and North America, as hotter summers and harsher winters bring changes across tradition wine-producing areas.

In fact, one of the most devastating predictions came in 2013's Conservation International study, which predicts that many traditional areas across southern and central Europe could be lost within 35 years, as the "belt" of prime wine-growing moves northward.

"It's not going to be what some people are calling a 'grape-ocalypse'", says Hall, "Existing wine-makers are rapidly getting used to the fact that their product is going to change over the years, while whole new areas will open up that will bring new tastes onto the market."

In fact, some regions are seeing global warming-led climate change as an opportunity rather than a threat. There are reports that more savvy producers are purchasing land further north as an insurance policy for the coming years; while those in Bordeaux have seized changes with both hands, calling the improved ripening in their region a "good problem" to have.

Bordeaux wines now contain more alcohol than they did thirty years ago, and that's a change producers in other regions are noticing as well. As one Australian wine pundit put it, wines are "bolder-tasting… and pack a boozier wallop". Stronger wines may not be an entirely good thing, as customers consume less to avoid getting drunk, it's been remarked.

"Whatever the future brings, it's clear that global wine production is in for big changes in the coming years," says BigGreen.co.uk 's Mark Hall.

"We need to get used to the fact that favorite names could disappear while new classics may emerge."

Photo courtesy of BigGreen

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Toledo Area Wine events & Tastings: January 21-24, 2015

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Santa BarbaraCounty 082Wednesday, January 21
The Andersons, Sylvania, 6– 8 PM. Closeout Wines: 1. Acrobat 2012 Rose of Pinot Noir, 2. LaFleur 2011 Lissac Bordeaux Rouge, 3. Antano 2008 Rioja Reserva, 4. St. Supery 2012 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Nominal fee per sample or $5 per flight.

Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463. 5:30 – 7:30 PM. Wednesday Wine Tasting. Come out with friends, have fun, taste good juice! $15 per person.

Zinful Wine Bar, (419) 878-9463, 7541 Dutch Road, Waterville, 5:30 – 8 PM. Wednesday Wine Tasting.

Thursday, January 22
Andersons, Maumee, Wine Tasting. 5-7 PM. Our Famous Closeouts – Round One: 1. 2012 St. Supery – Sauvignon Blanc – Napa Valley, California, 2. 2012 Periodic – Pinot Noir – Central Coast, California, 3. 2012 Dona Paula – Estate Malbec – Mendoza, Argentina, 4. 2010 Chateau Villa Carmin – Red Bordeaux – Medoc, France. Nominal fee per sample or $4.50 per flight.

Andersons, Talmadge Road, Wine Tasting. 6-8 PM. Closeout Tasting #3: 1. St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc, 2. Brocard Sauvignon Blanc Saint Bris, 3. Villa Maria Merlot/Cabernet/Cabernet Franc/Malbec, 4. Gabriel Liogier Cotes Du Rhone, 5. Rabbit Ridge Sangiovese, 6. Antano (Italy) Montefalco Rosso, 7. Domaine De Courteillac (Merlot/Cabernet), 8. Antano (Spain) Rioja (Tempranillo). Nominal fee per sample.

Corks Wine and Liquor, Promenade Plaza, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford – (419) 872-6800. 6:00 – 9:00 PM. Thursday Night Tasting:. Nominal fee per sample.
 
WineTastings-1_thumb1_thumb_thumb_thNoir Fine Wine and Beer, 1616 East Wooster, Bowling Green, 6-9 PM. Nominal fee per sample or priced per flight.

TREO Wine Bar, 5703 Main St., Sylvania, (419) 882-2266. Wine & Cheese Thursday. Explore the wonderful world of wine and cheese. Try four different wines with a sample platter of the day’s cheese.
 
Friday, January 23
Toledo Museum of Art, 6:30 – 8:30 PM. Wine by the Glass Pavilion. Great Wine Buys. Enjoy four wines and light snacks at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion. $20 for members, $30 for nonmembers. Purchase during Museum hours by phone at 419-255-8000 ext. 7448.

Walt Churchill's Market, 26625 Dixie Hwy, Perrysburg, (419) 872-6900. Wine tasting. 4:00 – 7:00 PM. 1. Cercius Blanc, Cotes du Rhone, 2. 2011 Shatter Grenache, Languedoc-Roussillon, 3. 2011 Mas Carlot Les Enfants Terribles, Costieres de Nimes, 4. 2012 Chateau Lacopelle Cabanac, Cahores, 5. 2010 Chateau Coustolle, Canon Fronsac. Nominal fee per sample.

Saturday, January 24
Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 12:00 – 5:00 PM. The Wines of South America. Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and more! Our hemisphere is home to lots of delicious wines at very good prices. Nominal fee per sample.

 
AREA WINE BARS
  • Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463.
  • Zinful Wine Bar, (419) 878-9463, 7541 Dutch Road, Waterville.

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[Information on tastings can be sent to TWAV@ATT.NET.]

Up & Coming:
Tuesdays – Weekly wine tasting at Forrester's on the River, 26 Main St. Toledo – (419) 691-2626. 5:00 – 7:00 PM. Five to six unique tastings of wine, that are not found on the menu, along with an assortment of tapas style appetizers to complement the wines.  Tastings are between $10-$15 per person and are held in their wine bar (Paige's Wine Bar). 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Discovering A Culinary Hotspot: Dining at Element 112

Dave's Phone 010315 156

Last summer we attended the Tree City film festival in Sylvania. It was held in the Sylvania Historical Train Barn and we enjoyed the selection of short films.

The festival location was right next door to one of the coolest restaurants in our area: Element 112. Green Dragon and I both agreed we needed to pay a visit there very soon. Last month we finally made the visit – and we’re sorry we waited so long.

The occasion was Green Dragon’s birthday. After the sumptuous dinner we concluded that  Element 112 is clearly the best restaurant in the Toledo area.

The theme of the four elements of earth, wind, water and fire provide inspiration for décor as well as the cuisine. The menu is prepared using fresh local and seasonal ingredients. Chris Nixon is the executive chef and, for us, another key player is sommelier Mark Maruszak.

Dave's Phone 010315 165Covering all the bases and including some nice surprises, the wine list is not voluminous, but includes everything to keep a wine lover well satisfied. Viognier, Roussane, Tannat, Picpol de Pinet and Arneis are among the grape varieties included. Greece, Austria and Priorat are among wine regions we were pleased to see represented.

Dave's Phone 010315 158No wine lover is left behind at Element 112. There is a nice selection of wines by the glass starting at $9. A stellar addition to the wine program is the Coravin, which preserves unpoured wine in a bottle using Argon gas.

As a result, you can purchase a glass of 2009 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon, or other premium wines, without having to buy an entire bottle. You can enjoy a three-ounce or six-ounce glass. A six-ounce glass of Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet Chardonnay costs $43 while a 2011 Stags Leap Artemis 3-ounce taste costs $14.

If you prefer to bring your own bottle, the corkage fee is $25. That’s quite reasonable since many of the premium bottles top the $150 and $200 price level.

Dave's Phone 010315 159The service, ambiance and food blend to make Element 112 a superb dining experience. Thoughtful and courteous waitstaff allow you to unwind and take in the surroundings. Mark provided some excellent suggestions and, after a brief discussion, we settled on the 2011 Montaribaldi "Gambarin" a Nebbiolo from Italy’s Langhe region to pair with our Chef’s Tasting. The wine was served in Riedel glasses and the bottle was decanted for us.

Our meal began with a cauliflower bisque served with herb oil and beet chips. Green Dragon then opted for the roasted beet salad while I had the Fromage Blanc cheese plate with honey, sherry gastrique and Frisee. Each dish was a masterpiece of complimentary flavors and artful presentation.

Next up was a highlight dish: the potato gnocci. It arrived in a bowl with a plate placed on top. What the? As soon as the plate was lifted, we knew why – incredibly delicious hickory smoke wafted out. The gnocci, with beurre fondue and parmigiano, was infused with smoke. A delicious morsel indeed.

My entrée was Cappelletti pasta with sage, sweet potato and bread crumb. My wife enjoyed the braised pork with herb purée. Each paired to perfection with our Nebbiolo.

While some restaurants might serve a sorbet at this point, we were treated to Lemon Gelato Snow – gelato frozen with liquid nitrogen to create an airy sophisticated treat. Bravo!

Dave's Phone 010315 160We rounded our our dining experience with Chocolate Mousse with pistachio and crisp chocolate and a Bartlett pear with caramel, almond and cream.

When we thought we were done, Mark came over and asked if we’d like a tour of the kitchen. We were also treated to a couple of specialty gin cocktails that were fabulous. The top was a warm froth while the bottom was a contrasting cool. The effect (especially after an evening of wine and fine dining) was electric.

Element 112 is a superlative dining experience, augmented by an outstanding wine program. Lest anyone hesitate due to the menu cost (all listed on their website), they are currently offering a $35 five-course chef’s tasting menu Monday through Thursday with the courses changing each day. (The chef’s tasting menu is $59 on Friday and Saturday.)

We loved the chef’s tasting menu. Next time we may opt for the Element 112 Menu Tour (at $79 per person) – the people at the table next to us looked like they were having a lot of fun!

Element 112 receives our highest recommendation.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Ignacio Marin Duque de Medina 2013 Garnacha, Cariñena

Dave's Phone 010315 189

This Garnacha comes from Bodegas Ignacio Marin, which was founded in 1903 in the Spanish region of Cariñena. The area has loose, stony soil with a Mediterranean climate.

Garnacha, also known as Grenache, is one of the world’s most widely-planted grapes. It thrives in hot, dry regions and its strong stalks can withstand windy conditions.

The dukedom of Medina, so I learned, is the oldest in Spain, dating back to 1445. The seventh Duke of Medina commanded the Spanish armada at the end of the 16th century.

How did this bottle sail? There were no choppy waters – this has very smooth tannins. It is light in body and fruity, with just a hint of earthiness. It’s a casual sipper that costs about $10. The Duke will pair well with a variety of cheeses and meat dishes that don’t have heavy sauces or spice.

This isn’t a majestic bottle, but could be just the ticket on a Thursday night.

Full Disclosure: This bottle was received as a marketing sample.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Debonne Vineyards' Vidal Blanc Ice Wins Best Dessert Wine in San Francisco

Debonne Red Ice final front jpeg

Debonne' Vineyards, Ohio's largest estate winery, just received word that their 2013 vintage of Vidal Blanc Ice Wine won the "Sweepstakes Award for Best Dessert Wine" at the 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. This event has become the largest competition of American wines in the world, with a staggering 6,300 entries in 2015. A panel of 60 prestigious experts judge these wines each year. The Sweepstakes Award is presented for wine that is considered to be the best dessert wine out of all the gold medal winning wines.

Debonne' Vineyards winemaker Ed Trebets commented on the 2013 vintage, "We picked the grapes on December 12th, which is historically early for the ice wine harvest and, as a result, there was a good balance of acidity and ripeness. Timing was perfect in order to get the best juice for winemaking."

True "ice wine" can only be produced in a handful of wine regions throughout the world. In order to be a true "ice wine" temperatures must drop to 17 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, and the grapes must be hand-picked and pressed while frozen. Ice wine sugars occur naturally during the freezing process. There is never any artificial freezing.

Owner Tony Debevc could not be more pleased. "This ice wine was harvested before the devastating Polar Vortex hit the Grand River Valley Wine Region in 2013/2014. We knew while harvesting the grapes that it was going to be a special vintage. The grapes were perfectly hand-picked at just the right time. We are honored to be recognized with such a prestigious award for a wine that is truly a labor of love."

The Debonne' Vineyards Vidal Blanc Ice Wine retails for $29.99. It will also be the featured wine for Ohio's 12th Annual Grand River Valley Ice Wine Festival on March 7th, 14th, & 21st. More information can be found here.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Keuka Spring 2011 Miller’s Cove Red, Finger Lakes

Dave's Phone 010315 180

During a recent visit with friends, we popped open a delightful red blend from our “treasure” stash of Finger Lakes wine. It was time to unwind after a day of touring and tasting in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

One of TWAV’s favorite Finger Lakes wineries is Keuka Spring, perched on a hillside overlooking Keuka Lake. The winery offers superbly crafted wines and spectacular scenery.

During our visit we sampled through a number of excellent wines, but two stood out: the 2010 Epic Reserve and the 2011 Miller’s Cove Red. The Epic Reserve is a Merlot-driven blend while the Miller’s Cove Red is a blend powered by Cabernet Sauvignon and polished with Merlot.

The taste is rounded cherry with a hint of minerality and violet. It’s smooth texture is a welcome departure from some big and “hot” Cabernets we sometimes experience. The alcohol weighs in at 12.3%.

There were only 421 cases of this beauty, but fear not. The 2013 vintage has been released and the price remains $22, making it a solid bargain.

Summer seems a long way off right now, but when it finally arrives, we’ll be headed to the Finger Lakes once again. You can be sure I’ll be coming back with a bottle or three of Keuka Spring Miller’s Cove Red.

Rating: 4 of 5  Value: 5 of 5

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Toledo Area Wine Events & Tastings: January 14-17, 2015

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WBC12 Portland 022Wednesday, January 14
The Andersons, Sylvania, 6– 8 PM. Locations Wines from Orin Swift Winemaker Dave Phinney: 1. "Corse" Corsican White (Vermentino), 2. "CA" California Red, 3. "F2" France Red, 4. "I" Italy Red. Nominal fee per sample or $8 per flight.

Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463. 5:30 – 7:30 PM. Spanish Wine Tasting. Come out with friends, have fun, taste good juice! $15 per person.

Zinful Wine Bar, (419) 878-9463, 7541 Dutch Road, Waterville, 5:30 – 8 PM. Wednesday Wine Tasting.

Thursday, January 15
Andersons, Maumee, Wine Tasting. 5-7 PM. 1. 2009 Montgras 200 Bicentennial Cab Sauv Carmenere – Chile, 2. 2012 Garnacha Centenaria – Spain, 3. 2012 Reguengos – Portugal, 4. 2012 Allamand Malbec – Argentina. Nominal fee per sample or $8 per flight.

Andersons, Talmadge Road, Wine Tasting. 6-8 PM. Closeout Tasting #2: January is the time of closeouts and great deals. We will pick eight of our best closeouts to taste, and will arrange other closeout tastings as new closeouts arrive. Nominal fee per sample.

Corks Wine and Liquor, Promenade Plaza, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford – (419) 872-6800. 6:00 – 9:00 PM. Thursday Night Tasting:. Nominal fee per sample.
 
WineTastings-1_thumb1_thumb_thumb_thNoir Fine Wine and Beer, 1616 East Wooster, Bowling Green, 6-9 PM. Nominal fee per sample or priced per flight.

TREO Wine Bar, 5703 Main St., Sylvania, (419) 882-2266. Wine & Cheese Thursday. Explore the wonderful world of wine and cheese. Try four different wines with a sample platter of the day’s cheese.
 
Friday, January 16
Toledo Museum of Art, 6:30 – 8:30 PM. Wine by the Glass Pavilion. Winter Wonderland Wines. Enjoy four wines and light snacks at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion. $20 for members, $30 for nonmembers. Purchase during Museum hours by phone at 419-255-8000 ext. 7448.

Walt Churchill's Market, 26625 Dixie Hwy, Perrysburg, (419) 872-6900. Wine tasting. 4:00 – 7:00 PM.

Saturday, January 17
Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 12:00 – 5:00 PM. Bargain Priced Bordeaux. Bordeaux is home to the world’s greatest Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc. It is easy to forget, when surrounded by greatness, that there also wonderful wines below $30. In fact, there are over 700,000 bottles produced in that price range. We’ll taste a few of our favorites. Nominal fee per sample.

 
AREA WINE BARS
  • Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463.
  • Zinful Wine Bar, (419) 878-9463, 7541 Dutch Road, Waterville.



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[Information on tastings can be sent to TWAV@ATT.NET.]

Up & Coming:
Tuesdays – Weekly wine tasting at Forrester's on the River, 26 Main St. Toledo – (419) 691-2626. 5:00 – 7:00 PM. Five to six unique tastings of wine, that are not found on the menu, along with an assortment of tapas style appetizers to complement the wines.  Tastings are between $10-$15 per person and are held in their wine bar (Paige's Wine Bar). 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Salmon Run 2012 Chardonnay Riesling, Finger Lakes

Dave's Phone 010315 172

Salmon Run is the entry level label of Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars. The winery is one of the very best  in the Finger Lakes and the late Konstantin Frank is a true wine pioneer who was responsible for bringing quality wine to the region.

Green Dragon purchased this bottle at Andersons. Not many Finger Lakes wines make it to local shops, so it was a nice find. At only $9.99, it is a bargain price that belies its playful taste.

The Finger Lakes produces the very best Riesling in the US, in my opinion. The minerality and perfectly tuned acidity fits our taste just right.

Some fine Chardonnay is produced in the area, but is certainly not a signature variety. However, the blend of Chard and Riesling in this bottle is spot on.The mix is 51% Chardonnay and 49% Riesling. The wine is dry, with a mere trace of sweetness (0.75% residual sugar).

The wine is fruity and rich thanks to the Chardonnay and the Riesling brings citrus flavor notes and refreshing acidity. The wine pops with freshness, something the winemaker says is due to harvesting the grapes in the early hours of the morning. The two varieties were fermented separately in steel tanks.

This is a great little wine that can age until 2016, but why wait? It’s an any occasion wine that’s low in alcohol (11.8%) so it is food friendly as well. Try it with chicken or shrimp.

Rating: 3 of 5  Value: 5 of 5