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Apr 30

The excitement overwhelms me

On my blogs, by reviewing things, I am giving out free publicity to events, restaurants, and software. So I appreciate when I get a little free publicity myself. My business blog, Write Technology, is a Typepad featured blog today. I’m quite excited. They got it all a little wrong, but it’s close enough to accurate. There’s also a giant photo of my face. It’s like they zoomed in or something. Here’s hoping it drives some business my way instead of folks who see the photo and just like redheads …

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Posted by Michelle at 1:19 pm in News | Permalink | Comments ()
Apr 30

The Napa Grille Cincinnati, Again

UPDATE, 9/10/2007: We just learned that The Napa Grille suddenly
closed. The employees have all gone elsewhere and the restaurant is no
more. I can’t tell you how sad we are that this happened. We’ll miss
The Napa Grille.

In February of 2006, Kevin and I ate at a new restaurant called The Napa Grille, which we really liked. (See the blog post of that meal here.) Since then, we’ve returned twice, including Saturday night.

The first great thing about The Napa Grille is the reservation system. I’ve mentioned before that I’m quite enamored of OpenTable.com, which allows you to make all your dinner reservations online. Every time I log on to the site, I’m surprised by the number of new restaurants available in Cincinnati. The Napa Grille has been online with OpenTable since they opened in January 2006.

Last night we were joined by our friends Kate & Ben. We had 6:30 pm reservations and were immediately seated. We had excellent service over the course of the evening from Beau Bacon, the manager, and Geoffrey, our server.

The wine selection was amazing. In fact, you can download the 30-page booklet of 101 by-the-glass/by-the-taste options. You can also order from a wide selection of wine flights or create your own. It’s an expansive list compiled in a binder, including information about each wine and winery, as well as ratings from Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, and others. The Napa Grille also uses an Argon wine preservation system, which safely displaces oxygen from the opened bottle. (I’ll review the wine at the end, after the jump.)

We started with several wines recommended by Beau. From there we moved on to the California Artisanal Cheese plate. This was good, but had more fruit than cheese. We all ordered a second round of different wines to try with the cheese plate. For dinner, we all took different paths. At Geoffrey’s recommendation, I tried the special of the evening – mahi mahi with lavender jasmine rice and a mango salsa. It was delicious. Ben had the duck, Kate had halibut in a lobster truffle sauce (this was quite tasty) and Kevin ordered the 6-oz filet with fantastic whipped potatoes.

To accompany our food, we each ordered a wine flight. At that point we had upwards of 12 glasses around our table. Following dinner, we each had a pinot noir sorbet that had recently been dreamed up by Beau and the chef. It was really sweet, but quite tasty. Sort of like a wine slushee. Following this we had dessert. I believe there was a cheesecake, an opera cream torte, and in my case, the chocolate decadence cake – soft, warm chocolate sponginess filled with warm oozing chocolate. Kate & I each had a dessert wine and Ben followed his meal with a glass of scotch.

The Napa Grille earns a giant happy face from all four of us. Our meal lasted around 3.5 hours, yet we never felt pressure to rush through our meal. Geoffrey, our server, was knowledgeable and helpful. He easily tread that fine line between being attentive and not hovering. The food was quite good, but that was to be expected. The service and food has been consistent for Kevin & I across our three visits.

At this point, we only have one suggestion to improve the Napa Grille. We’ve been spoiled by Bin 36 in Chicago, where each wine flight comes with a pre-printed sheet listing the name and region of each wine. It provides the information you need as well as place to take notes. After all, if you like it, you want to remember the details. It would be great if the Napa Grille added this to their flights.

The Napa Grille is a hidden gem, quietly existing in the bottom floor of the Hyde Park Regency. One of Cincinnati’s best kept secrets. I hope they start offering wine tastings and winemaker dinners to help draw attention to a quality little place.

Our rating:

The Napa Grille
2444 Madison Road
Cincinnati, OH 45208
Cost: Expensive, but worth it

Wine notes after the jump.

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Apr 27

Cincinnati Wine Events: 4/27 – 5/3

It’s been one of those weeks around here. You know, the kind of week where everything just sort of gets away from you. My apologies for the lack of posting, so we’ll make it up to you with the excellent list of events happening this coming week. South African and Spanish wines seem to be making a splash in the tasting lists lately. Chateau Pomije also now has a schedule of regular tastings for summer.

The excellent 1 Night, 12 Kitchens is happening this Sunday evening at the Midwest Culinary Institute with some of Cincinnati’s top chefs. Don’t forget to get prepared for the big tasting weekend later in May. In one weekend you can take in Ohio Wines at the Voice of America park, a wine & food festival at Dayton’s fantastic Fleur des Fetes, and the Northern Ky International Wine Festival. It’s all happening May 18-10. Check it out in our Upcoming Events section.

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.

You may note that the tastings in KY are mostly free, and the
tastings in Ohio charge at least .25. It’s illegal for a retailer to
give alcohol away in Ohio, so they charge you, but many times it’s a
nominal fee.

Tell them we sent you, and happy tasting!

Follow the "Continue reading" jump at the bottom for Friday, 4/27 –
Thursday, 4/3 tastings. Upcoming events & classes, which require
reservations, are listed at the end.


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Apr 25

Do you have that wine?

Earlier today I visited a message board run by a local retailer. There was a common question on the board that made me laugh.

"On vacation I stopped at [insert name of small, boutique winery here]. I was wondering if you carried their wines."

We always stop at wineries when we see them. I never fail to ask the winery folks two questions:

  • Do you have a web site?
  • Are your wines available outside of the winery?

Often, when I expect the wines to be hard to find, I’m told that no, they’re in the store right down the street. Maybe around a few corners, but available. This happened on Saturday when I asked the kind folks at Harmony Hill where we could purchase their wines. He mentioned the new Wine CART and then surprised me with "and Wild Oats, in Rookwood." Really? See. It was worth asking. It’s also worth asking because there are wineries out there who sell their wines only at the winery and via mail order.

Why do I ask if they have a web site? Because if I want more of the wine, I want to be able to attempt to order it online.  Or at least view the stock online and make a phone call. Plus, I want to blog about it, and who complains about reciprocal links?

I guess my point is this – when you visit a small winery (or a large one, for that matter), it’s okay to ask questions. No one will get offended if you want to know where you can buy their wine later. And it keeps you from having to hear these words at every wine retailer at home in response to your question:
"No, I’m sorry, we don’t carry that wine."

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Posted by Michelle at 11:46 am in Wineries | Permalink | Comments ()
Apr 23

Review: The Cincinnati Fine Food Show

The weather in Cincinnati was 75º on Sunday without a cloud in the sky. It was a perfect kick-off to spring and a perfect debut weekend for the Cincinnati Fine Food Show, the event-within-an-event of the Cincinnati Flower Show. We should have been at home, doing yard work and other welcome-to-spring house activities, but instead, we visited the show.It was a great first effort for the Fine Food Show, and I’m glad they’re looking at this as an annual part of the Flower event.

The first thing we did was to purchase our tasting tickets and take in the wineries. We tried wines from each winery, including Kinkead Ridge, Valley Vineyards, Harmony Hill, Henke, and Ravenhurst.

Ohiowineslogo_2Kinkead Ridge: It was great to finally meet Nancy face to face. She’s such a sweetheart! We really enjoyed their Cabernet Sauvignon (award winning!). It was all she had left. They were running out of wine and I think that’s just fantastic. We look forward to visiting their winery this summer, and hopefully a barrel tasting in the fall. Nancy also gave a us Kinkead Ridge shopping bag at the end of our day. She commented that she knew she had really made it when she got her own shopping bags. Cheers to that!

Valley Vineyards: We tried the Vidal Blanc icewine. I think I’m spoiled by the icewine in the Niagara Peninsula, because this just tasted too, um, grapey for me. Overall, I’m not really a fan of Vidal Blanc, I suppose. We didn’t try any other Valley Vineyards wines, and perhaps we should have.

Harmony Hill: We had a great conversation with both Bob and Patti at Harmony Hill. (They’ve built an honest-to-goodness wine cave!) It was a surprise to find out that they’re both nurses by trade, and the winery is a gigantic endeavor on the side. All of their wines have a musical theme – Woodwind (Seval Blanc), Serenade (Chambourcin & Marechal Foch), Concerto (Vidal Blanc), Ovation (Traminette, Cayuga), and the Chamber Suite (a sweeter Chambourcin). We purchased a bottle of the Ovation, which is just tropical enough to be a great front porch wine. Once we try it outside of the tasting area, we might just buy a case to represent our "summer white." Like Kinkead Ridge, Harmony Hill opens on weekends in the summer starting Memorial Day. It sounds like they always have some live music going on too.

Henke Winery: We tried the flight of wines offered at Henke and were pleasantly surprised by the Chardonnay. In fact, it was our favorite. Thanks to the Henke folks for talking us into trying it. We also really enjoyed their Vendange a Trois, a blend of 85% cabernet sauvignon, 10% cabernet franc, and 5% merlot. Henke Winery isn’t even that far from us, so we’ll have to pay them a visit soon. (You’ll find them quite frequently throughout our weekly Events listings.)

Ravenhurst Champagne Cellars
: Ravenhurst did not blow us away. We tried both the Cuvee and the Rose sparklers. We preferred the Cuvee of the two. The booth was staffed by two Horticultural Society members who weren’t overly familiar with the wines, and didn’t seemed overly thrilled to be there.

Obviously, our favorites were Henke, Harmony Hill, and Kinkead Ridge. At all three places we had great conversations with the people who actually make the wine. I also find that when you meet the winemakers and the folks who really have passion for their craft, it adds something extra special to the wine.

After the jump, read some of our comments on the food portions of the show and on our suggestions for making the sophomore Fine Food Show even better.

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