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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.

There are simply too many food booths to mention them all, but I want to draw special attention to a couple of them.

  • Essencha Tea House and Fine Teas: Essencha had some wonderful chilled teas. I was especially drawn to the vanilla lemongrass. It was calming and refreshing. A lot of folks, including a mail-order place called Teaposy, had Chinese tea flowers that bloom. No kidding.
  • Shearer’s Marketplace: Shearer’s had these amazing little caramel puffs. I have to find some of these where I can buy them.
  • Cheese From Britain: This place had some crazy cheese, including an amazing Sage cheese and a Lemon Zest cheese.
  • Ole Ray’s Sauces: What amazing BBQ sauces! My personal favorites were the Apple/Cinnamon and the Kentucky Red Bourbon, but there were plenty more that hit the spot as well.
  • Celtic Passions: We picked up a loaf of Irish Soda bread. I love the stuff. You can order the mix as well.
  • Rossi Pasta,Ltd: They served a rather large sample dish of tomato basil pasta sauteed up in olive oil and herbs. It didn’t need anything else. It was that enjoyable on its own.
  • Chrisman Mill Winery: Yep, a winery, except that they weren’t pouring wine. Instead, we ended up with a bag of goodies, including a chardonnay vinaigrette, a cabernet sauvignon chocolate sauce, tomato basil bread mix, and several dipping mixes. They’ll be pouring at the Northern Ky Int’l Wine Festival in May, so I look forward to trying their wines.

Everything at the Fine Food Show was local or boutique, and that’s what made it neat. From the wine to the snacks, these foods aren’t all carried at your local grocer (but they’re working on it). I was thrilled to pick up several different cards and brochures. If I can’t order some of these things online, I’ll be keeping my eyes open for them.

Some items the Fine Food Show might want to improve upon for next year:

  • In all the publicity I received for this, I never realized you had to pay for wine tastings. .50/pour was not a hardship, but that’s not the point. At the door of the Flower Show we paid $20 each to enter, under the impression from the publicity that, like the Wine Festival, the wine pours are included in the overall price. Again, the cost of the pours was not the issue. But they should make it known in the publicity. (Maybe they did and I just missed it. This is also a possibility.)
  • "Fine Food Show" might be misleading. I was very aware of what to expect, from the publicity I received from the Horticultural society – because I asked for the press release. Folks walking around the Flower Show who just saw the signage, well, that’s a different story. The name brings to mind a bunch of local restaurants offering samples of their goods. It’s not that at all.
  • According to the folks at Kinkead Ridge, the organizers neglected to put out signage on Saturday, so business was slow. Sunday things seemed quite brisk, but there were plenty of signs pointing the way. The only confusing thing? There was also a big "Lecture Hall" sign on the pavilion, and I was convinced at first that we were wandering into a floral lecture and not the Fine Food Show.
  • The physical arrangement was a little odd. The wineries were very crushed together in a corner, making it hard for people to talk to the winemakers and for others to get samples. In the non-alcoholic portion of the event, 2 or 3 vendors (including Celtic Passions, who make excellent Irish soda bread) were stuck in a hidden back row that was mostly empty. I think there might be a more user friendly way to arrange the Fine Food Show. I know that the Wine Festival has modified their arrangement each year, trying to make it more pedestrian friendly.

Overall, we enjoyed the first Cincinnati Fine Food Show. I really like that it showcased local foods and more importantly, local wineries. It was a great way to meet several local winemakers and try the local wines. It was definitely enough for us to sit down with an Ohio wine map and plot out a little weekend trek to several of the wineries. For more information on Ohio wineries, you can visit Ohio Grape Industries.

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