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May 21

West Chester Wine & Food Festival – In Review

My new friend Jen attended the West Chester Food & Wine Festival on Saturday. Kevin & I spent the day at the Northern Ky Wine Festival, so couldn’t make it crosstown to the West Chester event. Jen is new to discovering both wine and the wine opportunities that Cincinnati has to offer. She offered to let me re-post her write-up on the festival. It’s here in in it’s entirety and can also be found over on her blog. I will have our write-up of the Kentucky event on Tuesday.

UPDATE 6/5/07: Gang, Jen is a guest writer and she’s very new to the wine world. Keep this in mind as you read the post. Also keep in mind our disclaimer: wine is personal taste. Just because Jen doesn’t like a wine, or I don’t like a wine, doesn’t mean you won’t love it. And that’s perfectly alright. Also keep in mind that this is a blog, not a magazine, and we certainly don’t pretend to be experts. We’re all sharing our experiences with you. That’s it. And every experience is individual.

– ML


As part of our foray into the wide, wonderful world of wine, John and
I went to the West Chester Wine & Food Festival yesterday. It was
held at the Voice of America park in West Chester, which is basically
an open grassy space in front of the Voice of America Museum. There
were three major wine festivals happening in the metro area this
weekend, but we decided on this one because Dayton is a little far from
us and we knew that Michelle & Kevin would be covering the one in
Northern Kentucky, so we’d get to hear all the great highlights from
them.

I also chose this one because it was strictly Ohio wines,
which meant that we’d get to taste wines from some of the Cincinnati
vineyards right in our own backyard. I almost mean that literally – one
of the vineyards, Henke Winery, is just down the road from John’s
parents house.

Some general thoughts about the festival before
I get into specific wines: lots of Cabernet Sauvignon, lots of
too-sweet whites. I will admit that John and I sort of set out with the
idea that he would be trying lots of the Cab and I would be trying most
of the rieslings & chardonnays, because we really like those wines
and are always looking for new favorites. My main complaint with the
white selection is that they were mostly too sweet. As a thought for
the future, anything described as "fruity" probably means I’m going to
hate it. I like sweeter wines. Something described as "sweet and
fruity" seems like it would appeal to me, but left me feeling like I
had just downed a wine cooler, which is not really what I’m looking for
out of a good bottle of wine.

We were very disappointed with
the food selection. For something that claims to be a wine AND food
festival, there really wasn’t much in the way of food. Chicken fingers,
hot dogs, cheeseburgers. One booth had garlic mushrooms (a vegetable
John and I have long condemned) and I saw one advertising quesadillas,
though that was the only description. That was it for the food. There
was a booth selling pre-packaged homemade sweets, and one booth – bless
them – that had bread with various oil dippers to sample. (Little
Sonoma, and we tried the parmesan and garlic herb dipping oils. We
loved both.)

I would have given any
winery a thumbs-up that had food or water. After ten wines or so, we
were really hankering for something to clear the taste out of our
mouths. The only thing any booth had was oyster crackers. Little cubes
of cheese, pieces of bread, or glasses of water would have gone a very
long way. Unfortunately, out of the 12 vineyards we visited, no one had
anything. We had to stop after the first five and go buy hot dogs and
soda just to get a clear palette again.

Editor’s Note: We find that we should go find sparkling wine at this point. There’s nothing like a good sparkler to clear the palatte.  – ML

Also, in terms of
things I wish the individual wineries had provided, I wish they would
have paid a little more attention to the brochures they were handing
out. Most of them had at least a little something to take away, but
there were a few that didn’t. I was taking notes, of course, but since
we saw so many different booths, it would have been nice to give us
something to take away to learn more about the wines after the fact.
That’s my main complaint even about the wineries that did give us
information – most of them gave information on location, the winery’s
history, what food options they have if they’ve got an on-site
restaurant… and that’s great, but I’m here to know about the wine.
Most of the brochures don’t list the wines they offer! History and some
backstory is great, but focus on the great products you’re providing!

It
also ended up being a slightly more expensive trip than we had
imagined, and I blame that on poor advertising on the festival’s part.
We didn’t really mind, and I would have still gone, but the setup was
definitely unclear and other than times and how much parking was, there
was very little information available before we went. Parking was a $5
donation to the park, tasting tickets were $.50 each. What we weren’t
forewarned about was the fact that each tasting was anywhere from 1-6
tickets, and a full glass was 4-10 tickets. (We didn’t end up getting a
full glass of anything just because we were so overwhelmed by all of
the different ones we sampled.) It would have been nice to know how
much the tastings really were in advance, but it didn’t break our
hearts. Most of the wines I tasted were 1-2 tickets, John’s were
predominantly 2-3. The ports and other "special" wines were 3+.

Without further ado, on to the wines!

I’ll
go in order of how we tasted them with one exception, and that’s the
star of the show for us. When we originally approached the Kinkead Ridge
booth, I was really disappointed to see that they only brought one
wine, their 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon. Next weekend, they’re releasing
all their 2006 whites, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. John
sampled the Cabernet, and we could not have been any more impressed. It
received a 91 rating, and they sell it for $19.25 a bottle. We left
with one and had to talk ourselves out of buying a second. I’ve been
saying for years that I’m looking for a red wine to turn me on to reds,
and this might be the one. We both loved it. It was rich, intense
without feeling heavy, and didn’t have any of that bite that I’ve
always felt with red wines. When the very helpful woman at the booth
suggested I try it even though I’m anti-red, I chalked it up to her
just trying to sell their wines. It was absolutely delicious. They may
have only brought one wine, but for us, it was definitely the best one at the
entire festival.

Kinkead Ridge Estate Winery
904 Hamburg Street
Ripley, Ohio 45167
http://www.kinkeadridge.com
(937) 392-6077

Editor’s note: I swear we didn’t tell them to fall in love
with Nancy’s wines. But I think it’s great that they did! Yay Nancy and
Kinkead Ridge!   - ML

Now we’ll start going in order. Our first stop was Vinoklet Winery.
Vinoklet is one of the more popular wineries in Cincinnati. Their wines
can be found at many local grocery stores, and they’ve got a full-scale
restaurant on site. If you go for a weekend dinner, you get to sample
their six wines and have a carafe of your favorite with dinner. All of
their wines are table wines with names that mean absolutely nothing to
the typical wine drinker – Cincinnatus, Tears of Joy, In Vino Veritas,
La Dolce Vita, and so forth. I was excited to stop at their booth
because I always see their wines at the store but never knew which one
I should try. I tried the Sunset Blush first at the recommendation of
the pourer. It’s described as a semi-sweet table wine, but I found it
to be incredibly sweet. It does have a nice fruity finish, but reminded
me more of a sangria than a table wine. It’s one of the sweetest blush
wines I’ve ever tasted, but it wasn’t too bad. After that I tried In
Vino Veritas, a sweet wine. It was just too much for me. It almost
seemed syrupy and was very heavy. They likened it to a sweet riesling,
which is pretty accurate. John tried the Cincinnatus, described as a
dry table wine. It’s their darkest red wine. He found it to be
incredibly dry and not terribly drinkable. We were a little
disappointed overall, but I could still imagine us going up for a
weekend visit due to their really great weekend meals – which end with
a bonfire in the vineyard!

Vinoklet Winery
11069 Colerain Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45252
www.vinokletwines.com
(513) 385-9309

Next up was Debonne Winery from Madison, Ohio. They
brought three rieslings with them, and I sampled two. The Razzberry
Riesling wasn’t impressive to me. The raspberry taste seemed like an
after-thought, as if they had created a good wine and then felt like
they had to add something else. I then tried the Riesling Reserve, and
was pleasantly surprised. The color is incredibly light, so much that
when I sat it down on a very light yellow table cloth and John hadn’t
been paying attention, he came back and thought it was water. They
describe this riesling as semi-sweet, as opposed to the others which
are semi-dry, but it was just sweet enough to be delightful. I could
definitely have a glass or two of it after dinner. John tried the
Cabernet Franc and really disliked it. This was sort of how most of his
day went – lots of cabernets that were so dry, their flavor was almost
an afterthought. I did love the riesling reserve, though, and at
$11/bottle, I don’t think you can go wrong.

Debonne Vineyards
7743 Doty Road
Madison, OH 44057
http://www.debonne.com/
(440) 466-3485

Burnet Ridge is
another Cincinnati winery located in North College Hill. They brought
some interesting reds, but I wasn’t particularly impressed with the
selection of whites. John’s a merlot drinker at heart, and there wasn’t
a single merlot to be found at the entire festival. He decided on the
Purple Trillium, a dry red blend consisting of 69% Cabernet Sauvignon,
21% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. This was his 3rd
favorite wine of the day. The first word he came up with was "potent" -
the blend of four flavors gave it a rich, full flavor. It’s the sort of
wine you could enjoy one glass of with dinner, but not much more than
that. I tried the Chardonnay and didn’t particularly enjoy it. Their
website encourages you to drink it young (it’s a 2005), which makes me
think they’re pushing the idea of this being the best point in its
aging cycle. I thought it was far too dry, though the hint of pear at
the end was nice.

Burnet Ridge
6721 Richard Avenue
North College Hill, OH 45224
www.burnetridge.com
(513) 522-4203

Editor’s Note: I am not sure whether or not Burnet Ridge is an Ohio Valley appellation. They source all of their grapes from California, not Ohio.

6/5/07: As has been pointed out in comments, Burnet Ridge is very popular around these parts. Again, wine is a subjective thing. What some people like, other people might not. – ML

Harmony Hill is
an interesting vineyard, because almost all of their wines are blends.
Like Vinoklet, their names aren’t terribly descriptive, but they were
kind enough to provide a great sign that listed all of the grapes
involved in each one. I tried the Ovation, a semi-sweet white blend of
cayuga and traminette. The only experience I’ve had with traminette
grapes in the past is in Gewürztraminer. The slightly dry taste of the
traminette balanced out with the fruity taste of the cayuga, resulting
in a nicely balanced wine. My biggest comment I wrote down for this one
was "Drinkable!!". John tried the Serenade, a blend of marechal foch
and chambourcin. It was a little sweet, a little dry, but not one of
his favorites of the day. Their website seems to have the best
description: "If you’ve already matured into a dry red wine drinker,
this may have too much of a fruit forward for you."

Harmony Hill Vineyards & Estate Winery
2534 Swings Corner / Point Isabel Road
Bethel, OH 45106
http://hhwines.com
(513) 734-3548

Editor’s Note: Like Kinkead Ridge, Harmony Hill opens for summer weekends and tours on Memorial Day weekend. They’ve recently built Ohio’s very first wine cave! Our Harmony Hill favorite is the Concerto, which is a Vidal Blanc in a Riesling style. It’s the only vidal blanc I’ve ever liked! – ML

Woodstone Creek
was a winery that didn’t particularly impress me, and the people around
me didn’t seem terribly impressed either. They brought some interesting
offerings, so I decided to try the Niagara, a fruity white.
Unfortunately it was just too much. Their website describes it as being
served with white meat, light pasta, seafood, cheese and fruit – it
sounds like something I’d love, but it just missed the mark. There was
no real depth to it and it sort of stopped at "fruity". John was going
to try the Laureate, a port composed of ravat and pinot noir grapes,
aged in a sherry cask. While I was waiting to taste the Niagara, a
woman next to us turned her nose up at the Laureate, so much so that it
scared us off. She mentioned that the sherry taste didn’t seem well
integrated with the taste of the wine and was detracting rather than
adding to the intended flavor. I may end up going to their winery and
tasting some of the other offerings, because it’s only about two miles
down the road for us, and I feel like I might owe them another chance.

Woodstone Creek
3641 Newton Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45207
http://www2.eos.net/beerwine/woodstonecreek.html
(513) 569-0300

Editor’s Note, 6/5/07: Kevin & I tried some Woodstone Creek at the 2nd Street Wine Festival in Dayton recently. You can see our review of Woodstone and the 2nd Street Festival here.  – ML

Valley Vineyards
offered the only sparkling wine at the festival. I’ll admit to really
liking champagne. Sweet, dry, you name it, I’m probably interested.
They offered a "Sweet Champagne" that I really loved. My only complaint
was that it was a little too sweet – an odd request for something that
has "sweet" in the name, but my request nonetheless. It was lovely,
though, and I’d definitely serve it to my guests at a special occasion.
It’s not terribly far from Cincinnati, and I picked up a brochure
advertising their steak cookouts on Friday and Saturday evenings.
$55/couple or $27.50/person, with what looks to be a delicious menu.
Since we weren’t terribly impressed with the offerings at Vinoklet,
this might be another nice date night. Their tasting room is open on a
regular basis, and in addition to their regular tasting flights they
also offer cheese trays or a freshly-made pizza. I haven’t mentioned
that to John yet, because I know as soon as he hears the word "pizza",
we’ll be making a trip up. I also tried their ice wine, but wasn’t
particularly impressed. It was yet another member of the "too sweet"
club, but luckily I still had some of the fabulous champagne left.

Valley Vineyards
2276 E. US 22 & 3 (Montgomery Road)
Morrow, OH 45152
http://www.valleyvineyards.com/
(513) 899-2485

Henke Winery
was my favorite booth of the day. They’re located in Cheviot here in
Cincinnati, very close to us. They had three people manning the booth,
but there was still a huge line. They were definitely one of the more
popular offerings! I had a Chardonnay that I loved. It was dry, a
beautiful contrast to the overly-sweet wines I had been tasting for
most of the day. Even with the dry overtone, there wasn’t any bite at
the end. It was so smooth, and I could definitely see myself taking
this to just about every dinner party I attend for the rest of the
summer. John tried a Cabernet Sauvignon that he loved, rating it his
second favorite of the day. He couldn’t get over how smooth it was. For
a winery that’s a stone’s throw away from us, we couldn’t be any
happier. They have a full, fantastic menu that ranges from casual
plates to go along with a tasting to market priced Filet Mignon. I
can’t believe we haven’t been there before. This one definitely got the
thumbs-up from both of us.

Henke Winery
3077 Harrison Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45211
http://henkewine.com/
(513) 662-9463

Editor’s Note: A girlfriend and I spent last Saturday afternoon at Henke winery/retail. I purchased a bottle of Cab Sauv Reserve (probably what John had). We also really like their Chardonnay, which is not over-oaked, although Joe Henke had to convince me to try it. Haven’t tried their restaurant, but I imagine the food is good although the decor is a little grandma-ish.  It certainly smelled great. -ML

We made a brief stop at the Little Sonoma
booth, but were sort of surprised that they didn’t bring any wines with
them. They were the only wine store of the day, so my best guess is
that they were leaving the wines to the actual winemakers. As I
mentioned before, they brought along some great dipping oils. The one
John really loved was a blend of olive and canola oils with garlic and
herbs. What a great palette cleanser in the middle of the day!

Little Sonoma
6078 West Chester Road
West Chester, OH 45069
http://www.littlesonomawines.com/
(513) 942-WINE

Editor’s Note: I find it odd, and sad, that Little Sonoma was the only wine shop represented. West Chester/Mason is loaded with wine shops, including The Wine CART and the Wine List, among others. However, Little Sonoma has let me know why they couldn’t pour wines. It is a licensing issue. The State would not
grant a permit for the festival, as you must be non-profit. The festival organizers also kept Little Sonoma from pouring for a winery that might not be able to make it to the festival.  – ML

Our last stop of the day was at Ferrante Winery.
It’s too bad that they’re so far from us, because they’ve got a great
looking outdoor terrace, a full Italian restaurant, and to top it all
off, some great wines. I wrapped up the day with yet another Riesling,
while John enjoyed a Cabernet Franc. We enjoyed both of them. The
Riesling was dry (my kingdom for a dry riesling!), but still retained
some of the sweeter flavors so characteristic to a good Riesling.
John’s Cab was light, and though he really prefers deeper, more intense
flavors, he thought it was a good way to end the day. We needed some
light palette clearing flavors by this point, and Ferrante definitely
provided that for us.

Ferrante Winery & Ristorante
5585 State Route 307
Harpersfield Township, OH
http://ferrantewinery.com/
(440) 466-8466

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Posted by Michelle at 12:01 am in Cincinnati, Local, Local Wineries, Tastings, Wine Shops, Wineries | Permalink | Comments (6)

6 Responses to “West Chester Wine & Food Festival – In Review”

  1. Jen Rizzo says:

    I did forget to mention about The Wine CART – as I was standing by the Henke booth furiously scribbling down notes, a woman noticed me writing and handed me a brochure for their shop. So, while they weren’t represented, they were trying to get their name out. She made sure to tell me about their Friday tastings – $10 for a flight of five, starting at 5:00. I’m afraid I’d never be able to make it since I don’t really get off work until 5:30 or so on Friday nights from downtown, but for those who are closer, I’m sure it would be a lot of fun.
    Thanks for the re-post! And no, we had never even heard of Kinkead Ridge from anyone. I’m so glad to know that there are great people behind the great wine!

  2. Hello all, Nancy here from Kinkead Ridge! I just wanted to comment about the timing of the festival for us. Our production is so small (less than 1500 cases), that in general all our wines are sold out by May. We still had Cabernet Sauvignon because it was our largest bottling, 377 cases; only about 50 remain. So we could only bring one wine. We release our new white wines at the winery on Memorial Day Weekend (Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon and Viognier/Roussanne); the first chance to taste them outside the winery will be at the Dayton 2nd Street Market wine festival on June 1 and 2; then they will gradually be distributed throughout the state. Get them this year! Because of the frost, there won’t be much of a white wine harvest in 2007. Maybe I was on a break when Jen came to the booth. We had our own pitcher of water, oyster crackers on Saturday, and several handouts, one of which is specifically about the 2007 releases! I’ve learned never to discourage anyone that claims to not like red wine from tasting ours. Because we pick our fruit dead ripe, as late as the end of October, even sweet white wine drinkers are often pleasantly surprised!

  3. Jen Rizzo says:

    Re: Nancy -
    Thanks for the clarification! (I saw your post over at my Vox too, but wasn’t sure if you’d check back to read my reply comment, so I’m coming here!)
    I think I saw you come back just as we were leaving the booth. We came up to taste, then came back after visiting a couple of other booths to buy a bottle. The woman we talked to made sure to give us handouts (I think there were three?) and talked to us about the whites being released this weekend.
    And I didn’t see the water – my mistake, I was probably shocked from finding the first red wine I’ve ever tasted! – but we definitely snacked on crackers as we read over the material you all had there.
    As a side note, so sorry to hear about how much you lost due to the frost this year – I went back and read through your blog after Michelle directed me at a video from a little while back. I can’t wait to try the new whites, though. I’ll make sure to grab my bottle fast! Is there anywhere in Cincinnati that you can currently buy the Cab? I know you mentioned that you’re running out of it, and since John & I liked it so much, we’d like to pick up another bottle or two.

  4. Hello,
    I’ve read your blog. Interesting. I do remember you and the lady with the nose problem. You three were the only ones standing there so don’t know where all those other “opinions” came from.
    Laureate lady:
    You let a stranger in the crowd review our wine for your blog? Laureate is not a sherry.
    Food:
    A food vendor’s permit is required to do food and water. Ours is for wine only. Food is not legally our problem. But – it could be if we presumed to break food service regulations.
    Brochure/handouts
    We had a display with 3 different handouts. You missed them.
    Niagara:
    Wineries bring what they call “money wines” to festivals like this. It’s not all a beauty contest. And, it’s rare someone doesn’t like our Niagara. You just happen to be telling half the known universe ours sucks. It may not be interesting but we sold a whole bunch anyway – we always do.
    Best Cabernet:
    You would have had to try ALL the cabs to assign the “best of all the cabs at the festival statement”. Didn’t try ours. hmmmmmm
    Little Sonoma:
    Couldn’t bring any wines to the festival. That would have been a violation of West Chester’s permit. The law is soooooo messy sometime.
    Your blog overall:
    You should really be more careful with damaging comments. Somebody might want to sue you someday. If you’re going to post for the entire world to see, you’ve got to exhibit some personal responsibility.
    And, you didn’t rave about Burnett Ridge – that just ain’t done in these parts. Guess you haven’t been around here long. It does put your palette in the spotlight, however.
    If you’re brave enough to show up at my winery now maybe you shouldn’t introduce yourself.

  5. Kevin Gerl says:

    Linda,
    Thanks for your comment clarifying Ohio’s sometimes wacky wine laws. I’m always surprised to learn about the various restrictions put in place around different festivals and types of booths. Just like your inability to sell and taste spirits at your winery came as a surprise, so do the restrictions around various festivals.
    I was fascinated by my discussion with Don at the 2nd Street market especially in regards to the the use of a Pot Still for the distilling of the spirits used in the Ambiance and Laureate wines I tasted while there. I also thought the fortified wines held well in the heat, but than again what is more classic than sipping a nice port on a hot summer day.
    Wine discovery is a journey that we are all on. The process of learning what we all like is a life long(hopefully) process where no one can ever be wrong. We can differ in our opinions and perceptions, but we try and respect all points of view during our discuss of where we are in the world of wine.
    See our comments about the Dayton Second Street Festival here:
    http://www.wine-girl.net/2007/06/2nd_street_fest.html
    Kevin
    Beer and Spirits Guy

  6. Jim says:

    A few comments about your observations:
    Woodstone Creek’s strength is in their spirits which they unfortunately were not able to have at this event. I am looking forward to buying their bourbon once it is available.
    You are spot on with your comments about Burnett Ridge. Chip Emmerich is a legend – in his own mind. His wine is only mediocre and there are many wines available that are better and for much less money. I may be willing to give the wine of Burnett Ridge another try but Mr. Emmerich’s pompous demeanor has made sure that will never happen.
    I agree with you about Kinkead Ridge’s Cabernet Sauvignon. It is very good stuff and is well balanced in this day of the abundance of over extracted juice coming out of California these days. Also, it is infinitely better than anything that Burnett Ridge makes.

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