We had quite the wine weekend. Before heading home from the Festival on Friday afternoon, we stopped at both Liquor Direct Covington and Cork N Bottle Buttermilk (Thanks Ryan!) for their free tastings. Saturday afternoon we took in the Wimbledon Wines seminar at Liquor Direct in Ft. Thomas. The seminar was led by John Erikson, whom we met on Friday at the Festival. John seems to really enjoy his job and I suspect he is quite good at what he does.
We tasted four different wines from the Wimbledon portfolio. Wimbledon includes Cycles Gladiator, Mettler Family Vineyards, Calistoga Cellars, and Hahn Estates, among others. Their wines span the valleys of California’s wine country, from Napa and Sonoma down to the Central Coast.
I learned all sorts of miscellaneous tidbits, but John kept repeating something that I’ve heard a lot of lately. It bears repeating often – Wine is all about what you like. It’s not what Robert Parker or your wine store likes. It’s all about your tastes.
We had a great time at this seminar and really enjoyed meeting the guys from Republic, as well as talking more with John. I hope Liquor Direct hosts more seminars like this.
Let’s get to our wine tasting notes. Keep in mind that after the Festival and tastings on Friday, our palates were sort of tired.
Follow the jump for the details.
After the trade tasting for the festival on Friday, Kevin & I met up with Mark from Uncorked for dinner. Jens, from the Cincinnati Wine Warehouse, joined us for a drink. We headed through the rain over to McCormick & Schmick’s, which recently opened at the Fountain Square Westin. I am not a seafood fan, although the few times I’ve enjoyed seafood have been at upscale restaurants such as Chicago’s Catch 35 and Boston’s Legal Seafood.
McCormick & Schmick’s (M&S) takes reservations via OpenTable.com, which is a fantastic online reservation system. Several Cincinnati restaurants, including Pho Paris and The Napa Grille, are listed. We’ve also made reservations for restaurants in Chicago using OpenTable.com. Believe me, it saves you time on phone calls and the process is simple.
The first thing I noticed upon arrival at M&S is that it’s rather green & mahogany. It’s dark. I didn’t get a chance to look at the bar on my way through (although I’ve previously noted they have a $1.95 food menu at the bar for happy hour). We were seated in a curtained booth, which was rather neat. Even though the curtains were not drawn, our area felt really private. I suspect a table in the outer area would provide more of the restaurant hustle & bustle, so it’s all in what you’re looking for in the dining experience.
When our server came to the table, we were all convinced he was the under waiter, or the bus boy, there to fill our water glasses, as he just looked too young to be our waiter. Except that this young man went on to tell us about the specials and eventually take our orders. He was a sweet guy, and I’m a difficult diner, as I’m extremely picky and I’m allergic to all nut-related items. I usually provide a challenge to most servers (although I swear I’m always nice about it) and it’s usually the servers in the upscale restaurants who really rise to the occasion.
This year we attended the trade tasting for the Cincinnati Int’l Wine Festival, which took place on Friday afternoon. This was a fantastic way for us to see the festival, as there are fewer people and more conversation. We actually tried fewer wines than at a Grand Tasting, but we had some great conversations and learned a lot. Not only did we meet folks from wineries and distributors, but we talked with some great local retailers and restaurant folks, including those from The Napa Grille and the Inn at Versailles.
But you want to know about the wine festival, right?
As usual, we went in with a game plan. However, I sort of destroyed that instantly as I ping-ponged throughout the convention center. It was hosted in a larger room this year. The 3rd floor ballroom is part of the new section, and the size was appropriate, I would think. Of course, that also depends on how many tickets they sell to the Grand Tastings. I liked how they had food samples interspersed with the wine samples. There were all these sweet little ladies manning those tables, like the ones that offer you sausage in the grocery store on Sundays. I was worried that the Grand Tastings might overwhelm them, and hoped they had a lot more food samples on hand. Despite this handy little addition, I didn’t find that the food samples were overly accurate. Sausage. Fried ice cream (flavored). Overly garlicked pasta & sauce. Next year they need to look harder at where they place the food booths. Instead of just randomly in the middle, if they place the booths near something that compliments the food, it might work better. But that is a minor complaint, really. I thought the overall setup this year was a lot better, with higher ceilings for air circulation, larger aisles, and plenty of space.
Our favorite table this year was Handley Cellars. More on Handley, and more of the tables we visited, after the jump. Please give us your comments on the trade tastings and/or the Grand Tasting events. We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Michelle will stop by later to give you our full review, but I wanted to point out a few of the standouts from our time there yesterday.
Fernleaf Sauvignon Blanc from Baron Phillipe de Rothschild (Booth 29)
LaFond & Santa Barbara Winery (Booth 25)
The entire Handley estates selection (Booth 15)
If you are curious about French wines, please stop by Chamarre Wines (Booth 113) for a taste of slightly different Bordeaux style wines they are producing.
If you have never tried the fun wines from Three Thieves (Booth 42), I recommend stopping by to see that some very nice wines are being produced in alternate packaging.
Michelle really liked the Chocolate Amore from Trentadue Winery (Booth 139) as well as the Granache-Merlot blend available at Pennsive Concepts (Booth 136).
I enjoyed the Russian River Select Pinot Noir from Rodney Strong (Booth 51).
Don’t forget to have some sparkling wine now and then. It’s a fantastic way to clear your palate. Also, if you can, swish your glass out with wine instead of water.
What did we miss? Any other suggestions for those going on Saturday?
It’s that time again – our weekly write-up of wine events in and around the greater Cincinnati area. It’s a big list, so we’ve compiled it on one page for your printing pleasure. (For information on Dayton, you can refer to Mark’s blog at Uncorked.) If you know of tastings or events that we missed in Cincinnati, please email us and we’ll add it to the list.
Tell them we sent you, and happy tasting!
There are slightly fewer tastings this week. I think the retailers are taking the weekend off to enjoy the wine festival. You can still get tickets to the Cincinnati International Wine Festival. Just show up at the convention center and purchase your tickets at the box office. I recommend the Friday evening or Saturday afternoon events because they are usually less crowded. Saturday night is often packed to the gills, which means it’s hard to even get near the tables. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales go to help local Cincinnati charities (yes, your ticket is 50% tax deductible for 2007). So go! Enjoy!
Follow the "Continue reading" jump at the bottom for Friday, 3/23 – Thursday, 3/29 tastings. Upcoming dinners and events that require reservations are listed at the end.
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