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Mar 12

2009 Wine Festival: 9 Things I’m Excited About

You can find the online guide here to help plan your visit: Online Tasting Guide and Map.

Please keep in mind that this is just the top 9 things I found when perusing the booklet, I'm sure there will be plenty of other surprises we find as we wonder around tomorrow. Let me know in the comments if I missed anything!

1. Live blogging the event tomorrow. This should be quite a bit of fun and make the quick wrap up easier on myself this year. You can follow it on our blog. I'll be twittering and Michelle will be moblogging.

2. Ohio/Kentucky/Indiana Wineries. This year the following wineries will be representing:

3. Maryhill Winery (Booth 2). A nice selection of a few wines that Michelle got a chance to taste a few weeks ago and has been raving about.

4. Four Vines (Booth 20). This was on my list as one the the must stops last year and I happy to get a chance to try the 2006 vintages.

5. Reininger/Helix Winery (Booth 22). Another winery Michelle has talked about for the last few weeks and also not currently in our regular haunts.

6. Meeker Vineyard (Booth 37) had one of the nice balanced Chardonnays that I really enjoyed last year and I look forward to trying their 2005 this year.

7. Cupcake Vineyards (Booth 98) was a participant in the live blogging session at last year's Wine Blogger Conference and I'm glad they have come to our area.

8. Dry Creek Vineyard (Booth 117) is a favorite of mine. Another participant in the WBC last year and their Fume Blanc was served at one of the dinners. The Dry Creek appellation is one of those places in America that has a consistent taste from all the different wineries I have visited. If you have never tried them, I recommend using this opportunity to do so as they are available in the area.

9. Rounding out the evening with the Chocolate Amore from Trentadue Winery (Booth 113). This was a favorite of Michelle a few years back and is something to be enjoyed with it's rich choclate flavors that coat both the glass and palate. Drink it last though.

 – Kevin

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Posted by Michelle at 6:00 pm in Cincinnati, Local, Special Events, Tastings | Permalink | Comments (1)
Mar 12

OTBN: Staglin Family 20th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon

February 28 was Open That Bottle Night. OTBN asks that you take that special bottle of wine you've been saving for a special occasion, and just open it. No occasion is ever special enough, right?

We took advantage of OTBN to open a half-bottle of 2002 20th Anniversary Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Staglin Family Vineyards. Kevin picked up the wine as a gift for me a few years ago, from Jungle Jim's, to celebrate the anniversary of our first date. The half-bottle cost $70.


The color was a gorgeous garnet shade. The nose was laced with peppers and berries, plum, blueberries, and clove. Kevin called this "a really true wine" because everything in the aroma also showed up on the palate.  In the mouth it was filled with all those flavors, and was rich and full – almost beefy. There was some toasted oak, but it was appropriate, accenting the wine instead of overpowering it. The tannins were there, but gentle. The entire package was well balanced and immensely enjoyable.

We probably could have let this wine alone for another 10 or so years, but it was Open That Bottle Night, and well, what the heck?

This was the kind of wine where you knew you should be savoring every sip. The worst thing about this wine is that we had to finish it at all. I was quite sad when I took my last drink, but thrilled to have tasted it. That's a good wine.
Do I need to mention? Our rating:

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Posted by Michelle at 8:34 am in Tastings, Wine Notes | Permalink | Comments (1)
Mar 11

Surviving the Cincinnati Int’l Wine Festival, 2009 Edition

The days are numbered. The Cincinnati Int'l Wine Festival is this weekend. Hundreds of wine, hundreds of people, and you with your tasting glass. How on earth do you survive it?

I have my own tips for Wine Festival Survival. I polled a large group of wine bloggers on Twitter and discovered that my tips are everyone else’s as well. These tips are geared for people who are heading to the Festival to try new wines, learn new things, and not get generally hammered.

So, from the collected wisdom of the Wine Blogging Twittersphere and in no particular order, here some ways to survive tasting hundreds of wines:

1. Make a game plan. Let me make this easier for you. You can download the Tasting Guide. In this you can find the list of attending wineries, the corresponding floor plan, and the list of wines in the Special Tasting Room.
Plan ahead. See what looks interesting. Accept that you can’t possibly try everything. You may want to decide to divide and conquer within your group of friends.

2. Eat a big meal before hand. You’ll stay sober longer. You may want to follow your festival experience with a large meal afterwards. Either way, it’s a busy weekend downtown, and the St. Patrick's Day parade and festivities fall on Saturday. Whatever you decide, make reservations.

3. Consider a designated driver, cab service, or hotel room. Kevin & I just succumbed to an afternoon and evening of alcohol and are getting a hotel room. The Wine Festival is smartly offering hotel packages and it’s an opportunity for a romantic evening. Thinking of a cab service? You can always use FETCH (513-35-FETCH).

4. Dress comfortably. There is no need for high heels. Pull out your Easy Spirits, ladies. You can look cute and trendy and leave the stilettos at home. You will be walking a lot, standing even more, and jostling in and out of a lot of people. Also, expect it to be warm in the tasting hall. Lots of people can do that to a room.

5. Since we’re talking about clothes, wear dark colors. I know it's just about Spring, but don’t pull out your sundresses and pastels. Even if you manage to avoid spilling red wine on yourself, someone else might very well careen into you. Lots of people + lots of alcohol = Tide Stain Sticks and dark colors.

6. Get there early. People start filtering in late and things get crowded. Enjoy being early.

7. Spit.
What? Yes, I said spit. It’s actually an accepted practice. However, even at the Trade Tasting you don’t see it that often. One of the wine makers commented to me a few years ago that Cincinnati is strange because hardly anyone spits.
Some thoughts on spitting:

  • Carry your own spit cup. Dixie cups work, as well as those Solo plastic cups. When a table is crowded, it’s hard to get to the bucket, nor do you want to be in someone else’s spit stream. Also, it’s easier to be discreet when you are spitting into your own cup.
  • Dump instead of spit. I don’t spit at the Wine Festival. Judging a wine competition, it doesn’t bother me. But in our weird lack-of-spitting city, I get really self-conscious. So I take a small sip or two, try to really glean something out of it, and dump the rest of the wine into the bucket. It’s expected. You’re not wasting wine or hurting anyone’s feelings.

8. Take breaks every 30 minutes or so to have some snacks and water, as well as to regroup.

9. Hydrate, and wine doesn’t count. Bring water if they aren’t handing it out. But you’ll definitely want some handy.

10. Stop by the bathroom periodically – not just to use the facilities, but to really rinse out your glass. It doesn’t take long for your wine glass to be sticky and filled with the residue of previous tastes.

11. Manage your route so that you visit the sparkling wine and champagne in between big wines. Sparklers are excellent palate cleansers.

12. When possible, rinse out your glass with wine instead of water and then dump. It works better – trust me.

13. Don’t try to take detailed tasting notes. Sometimes I just rate things on my scale, occasionally I’ll write a sentence. There will be no time for detailed information, nor will you really have free hands or space for writing.

14. Try new things and don’t ignore the little and/or local guys. Just because you haven’t heard of them doesn’t mean they’re bad. Truly, some of the booths have the name of the distributor, but they might be featuring three or four different wineries. This is a perfect opportunity to branch out and explore a little. Who knows what you’ll find?

15. Start at the end. Most people will start at the beginning. Starting at the end (or back) will allow you to fight a smaller crowd – at least until you make it to the middle.

16. Carry a small bottle of Wine Away or a Tide Stain Stick. Even if you don't need it, someone else might. I mentioned dark clothing, yes?

17. Save those dessert wines for last. Last year I succumbed to temptation and had the Trentadue chocolate port early on. As tasty as it was, my next 10 wines still tasted like chocolate.

18. Most importantly, have a fantastic time!  We’ll have a follow-up post next week, so we look forward to reading your comments.

There are some other fantastic guides to suriving a tasting out there as well, including Alder's post on Vinography and a survival guide by 1 Wine Dude.

(This post is an updated version of a post from 2008.)

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Posted by Michelle at 8:30 am in Cincinnati, Tastings, Wine Events | Permalink | Comments (3)
Mar 10

Wine & Food Pairing

Wine & food pairing just got easier, which is good because I'm a bit terrible at it.

Anytime you need to pair some food and wine (or beer), just head to our Wine & Food Pairing page and click either Wine or Food. The widget will walk you through the pairing, giving you all the information you need.

Author and friend Natalie MacLean has always offered a neat online wine and food pairing engine. This widget is courtesy of Natalie. 


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Posted by Michelle at 2:15 pm in Food and Wine Pairings | Permalink | Comments (2)
Mar 10

Oceanaire: Your Wine Dinner Alternative

Those winemaker dinners hosted by the Cincinnati Int'l Wine Festival are pretty darn amazing. Of course, they're also pretty darned expensive. If you're like me, you're already shelling out $65 for a tasting ticket and maybe an additional $35 for the Special Tasting room. Multiply that by 2 and it's an expensive night on the town. The wine dinners on Thursday night cost an additional $125 – $150. I have no doubt they're worth it, and I look forward to the day when I can plop down $300 to go.

This year, there is an alternative. Oceanaire is having their own winemaker dinner for a much more affordable price. Can't make it on Thursday? Oceanaire is hosting a winemaker brunch, also affordable, on Sunday.


Thursday's dinner features winemaker Greg Graziano from Graziano Wine Cellars (Mendocino, CA). The dinner includes 5 courses with 5 paired wines for $65 plus tax/tip.

Sunday's wine brunch features McNab Ridge winemaker Rich Parducci. It includes four courses with paired wines for $30 plus tax/tip.

Of course, Oceanaire's wine dinners don't help out a charity, but if pennies are pinched and you still want an affordable night out with paired wine, it might be the way to go.

Menus are after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by Michelle at 8:00 am in Cincinnati, Restaurants, Wine Events | Permalink | Comments ()

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