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Sep 16

WBW #61: At the Source: Elk Creek Vineyards

Every month, wine bloggers the globe over participate in Wine Blogging Wednesday, where we all write to a specific theme. This month, our assignment is to go drink local, but to do it at the local winery, talk to the winemaker, and just get to know the place. Wine always tastes better "at the source."

This ended up presenting an interesting conundrum for me. I wanted to branch out and visit a Kentucky winery instead of an Ohio one. The nice folks at Elk Creek in Owenton invited me down for a tour and tasting (and even threw in Temptations tickets). So two weeks ago, I went to the winery, had a great time, and came home and whipped up this post (which has been patiently in my queue, waiting for WBW). Now for the conundrum: a few days after my visit, Elk Creek reached out to me for social media marketing. Effective today, Elk Creek is a client. I made the decision to go ahead and publish this post because it was written early, but I wanted to make my new relationship with the winery clear as well.

Now that we've got that out of the way …

I'd never been to Elk Creek, and I was surprised to find out it's only an hour from Cincinnati. In fact, it's only an hour from Cincinnati, Louisville, and Lexington, and it sits halfway between I-71 and I-75. To get there I took the scenic route from I-75, which had a lot of twisty-turny roads. I came home the highway, on I-71, which took about 15 minutes longer but was much more my speed.

The Elk Creek campus is lovely. It includes the winery, an outdoor amphitheater where they hold concerts, grape vines (of course), the Elk Creek Hunt Club (clay shooting), and a bed & breakfast with a small spa. Inside the winery building is an art gallery and a deli.

Vineyard and Lodge

While I got a great tour of the winery (they make over 220,000 bottles), what I really want to tell you about is the wines. They offer a lot of varieties, running the gamut from the popular and best-selling sweet wines to dryer wines.

Joe Hall took me through the winery and chose wines he thought I might enjoy. I'm not sure what Joe's position is at the winery, but he definitely has a handle on the production process as well as on what makes each wine unique. Joe also has his own watercolors on display in the art gallery!

Elk Creek grows some of their own grapes (about 45 tons), but they also bring in a lot of grapes for their wines. They source their grapes from farmers throughout Kentucky and occasionally bring in grapes from California and Oregon. Their current estate (grown on property) wines are a Chambourcin, a Chardonelle, and a Cabernet Franc.

Estate grown grapes

I tasted a fair number of wines, although not as many sweet wines as they offer. Not surprisingly, the sweeter wines, both white and red, are their best sellers. Here's is a quick run-down of the notes I scribbled:

2006 "Kentucky Blue" Vidal Blanc ($9.99/bottle): I tend to enjoy Vidal grapes, and this one was not too sweet, very light and tart. 

2007 Chardonnay (14.99/bottle): I was told that this particular Chardonnay is similar to their special edition bottlings for their US Open Chardonnay and the Ghostly White Chardonnay for this year's Halloween wine.  This vintage of the Chardonnay was oak-free. Despite my overall dislike of Chardonnay, this may have been my favorite of what I tasted.

2006 Kentucky Blue Riesling ($14.99/bottle): Light and sweet with apples and peaches. I have girlfriends who would love this wine. 

2006 Crazy Elk Blush ($9.99/bottle): I noticed at the Temptations concert that this was a pretty popular wine. It's not my thing though. The notes read that it's got a hint of strawberries – I'd say it was more than a hint. It's also really similar to a White Zin style, which explains both its popularity and why I didn't really care for it.

2006 Sweet Owen Red ($12.99/bottle): When I tried this the first time, I didn't really like it. It's a Norton, which is perhaps my least favorite grape on the face of the planet. Again, this is one of their top selling wines because it's a sweet red. However, I tried it again at the concert and this time, it was chilled. While still not my favorite, I thought chilling it showed a marked improvement. 

2007 Estate Chambourcin ($19.99/bottle): These grapes were grown right on property. I'm a big fan of Chambourcin in most cases and this was no exception. It was aged in oak for 1.5 years, but I thought it was well balanced.

2006 Viognier ($19.99/bottle): I wanted to like this one a lot, as I love a good Viognier. This one was too oaky for me, but it was very round, and filled my whole mouth (as it should). But I definitely needed less oak. 

2006 Chardonnay ($17.99/bottle): While I have girlfriends who would love the heavy feel and oak of this Chardonnay, I preferred the "naked" Chardonnay I had earlier. This one was too much for me.

2006 Sangiovese ($24.99/bottle): This is an enjoyable wine, although in the past I've tried what I think was the 2005, and its even better. The 2006  is a soft summer red, fairly dry. Apparently it pairs well with Italian (which makes sense) but I'll need to try it out. 

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.99/bottle): This wine is supposed to be similar to the US Open and Halloween Bone-Dry Red limited edition bottlings. The Cabernet is a bright young wine, a bit tangy, and would probably do well to be saved for about a year.

2007 Estate Cabernet Franc ($34.99/bottle): This is a really good wine. Is it a $34.99 wine? I don't know. I understand the price point based on the work that goes into an estate wine, but I tend to get extra picky when the price crosses $25. That said, it's a soft Cab Franc and my exact notes are "not a lot of pepper, really enjoyable," which is saying something. I usually can't stand Cabernet Franc. 

If you live nearby (as in Louisville, Lexington, or Cincinnati), Elk Creek is certainly worth the hour drive. The people are incredibly nice, the wines are good (and in many cases local), and there's a lot to do. The view from their patio is gorgeous. It's a perfect excursion for a nice autumn day.

Elk Creek at Sunset

View all my photos from Elk Creek.

My big thanks to my friend Lenn at the newly renamed New York Cork Report for hosting this month's edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday.

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Posted by Michelle at 11:15 am in Local, Local Wineries, WBW, Wineries | Permalink | Comments ()
Sep 15

Restaurant Week & Zincinnati Oktoberfest

This week is Restaurant Week!  Unlike the Restaurant Week we recently had, you are not limited to downtown. This time, you're limited to independently-owned restaurants.

The Greater Cincinnati Independents, a group of more than 30 locally owned restaurants, are offering prix-fixe menus of $26.09 per person. This generally includes 3-courses, including dessert. Beverages and taxes are not included, but many places are offering paired wines or wine flights for a special price.

The point of all this, of course, is to give you a chance to try a new restaurant and to support the little guy while you're at it. After all, why eat at a chain when you can eat at a unique-to-our-city cafe? Before you roll your eyes at me, Restaurant Week includes places such as Dilly Deli Cafe, Mesh, Hugo, York Street, Lavomatic, and more. Restaurant Week runs through Sunday, so get out there and give it a try!

While you're debating on the restaurant you want to visit, you can enjoy the early start to Oktoberfest. The Goodwill, er, Gemuetlichkeit Games start on Thursday with the Beer Stein Races at noon on Fountain Square. Contestants race across the Square double-fisted with full beer steins that weigh around 35 lbs. The winner is judged by both best time and the amount of beer left in the container. A second is added onto each contestant's time for each ounce spilled.  After the Beer Stein races, you're treated to the Pretzel Toss. Basically, it's cornhole with pretzels.

I love Friday's event, however. It's the Weiner Dog Races, again at noon on the Square. It had to be one of the cutest – and most hilarious – things I witnessed last year. You can bet I'll be there again, camera in hand, to snap those adorable dogs running (and aimlessly wandering) while dressed as hot dogs. I'm a little bothered by the hot dog vendors on the Square during this, but Kevin finds it wonderfully funny. 


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Posted by Michelle at 12:01 pm in Cincinnati, Local, Restaurants | Permalink | Comments (1)
Sep 15

Krystal’s Ride

For those of you new to the blog, I lost my little sister back in 2007. She was 21 and passed away unexpectedly due to an undiagnosed congenital heart defect. My cousins and I established a scholarship fund in her memory. Our goal is to raise $25,000 to fund a scholarship at Thomas More for education majors – just like Krystal.

We've hosted two benefits and silent auctions, a Max & Erma's event, and a wine tasting. This time, we're shooting for a slightly different audience and I'm pretty excited about it. We're hosting a motorcycle scramble and poker run around Northern Kentucky.

Krystal’s Ride will be held this Saturday, starting at the Florence Elks Lodge #314 on Dixie
Highway. Registration will be from
10:30am to 12:30pm.  Cost is
$20.00/$25.00 per couple. Participants will follow a recommended route,
stopping at predetermined businesses along the way to gather playing cards in
order to build the best poker hand before returning to the starting point.  I'll be sitting at Dickmann's Sports Cafe in Fort Wright most of the day if you want to swing by. My job? To hand out specialized poker cards.

This is the first year for the Poker Run and we hope to make it an annual event. The event travels through several
Kentucky counties and even extends out to the Rabbit Hash General Store. The
ride brings business to many local establishments while providing friendly
competition among the riders. Food, entertainment, a motorcycle show, and
prizes for the best poker hand will be available after the event. Admission to
post-event activities, beginning at 5 pm, is $5.00.

For more information, visit the web site at http://www.klpscholarship.org. I hope to see you there!

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Posted by Michelle at 8:30 am in Charity Benefits, Cincinnati | Permalink | Comments ()
Sep 14

Mad Men Mondays: Johnnie Walker Red

It's time for our latest installment of Mad Men Monday. Last night on everyone's favorite retro television show, Betty had the baby. Back then, the guys stayed in the waiting room the whole time. I have to admit, I'm surprised Don even stayed and didn't head to the office until he officially had a son.

However, he did wait and in the process, he met Dennis, a prison guard. If it wasn't obvious from the uniform, accent, and whiskey, I think they were trying to drive home a point that Don and Dennis were in slightly different social classes. And yes, I saw it reflected in the whiskey. Dennis brought a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red.

Johnnie Walker is a blended scotch whiskey that has been around since 1865, when it was Walker's Old Highland. Johnnie Walker Red Label, as we know it today, was introduced in 1909. If you're not familiar with your whiskey, Johnnie Walker comes in different levels (and prices) that are denoted by the label.

About a year ago, Kevin and I were invited to a Johnnie Walker dinner at Boi Na Braza. While I didn't enjoy the restaurant, I did enjoy the whiskey. We got to taste through the entire portfolio, including the Blue.

The label spectrum is as follows, per Wikipedia. They get more expensive as you head towards Johnnie Walker Blue.

  • Red Label — a blend of around 35 grain and malt whiskies. It is intended for making mixed drinks. 80 proof. 40% ABV. According to William Manchester this was the favorite Scotch of Winston Churchill, who mixed it with soda. (Currently retails around $22)
  • Black Label — a blend of about 40 whiskies, each aged at least 12 years. 80 proof. 40% ABV
  • Green Label — a vatted malt that is a blend of about 15 individual single malts, the signature malts being Talisker, Cragganmore, Linkwood, and Caol Ila – Aged 15 years. 86 proof. 43% ABV. Previously sold under the name 'Pure Malt'.
  • Gold Label — a blend of over 15 single malts, including the
    very rare Clynelish malt. It was derived from Alexander II's blending
    notes for a whiskey to commemorate Johnnie Walker's centenary. His
    original efforts were thwarted by a shortage of these malts following
    World War I. Gold Label is commonly bottled at 15 or 18 years. 80
    proof. 40% ABV.
  • Blue Label — Johnnie Walker's premium blend. Every bottle is
    serial numbered and sold in a silk-lined box, accompanied by a
    certificate of authenticity. There is no age declaration for Blue
    Label. 80 proof.
    (Currently retails around $200)

So Dennis brought the working man's Johnnie Walker. Don, never one to turn away a drink, didn't seem to mind. The Red Label is quite popular for mixing with Coca-Cola and they are even being offered together in a limited edition can. At our Boi na Braza dinner, we drink the Red Label on the rocks, with a splash of guarana soda, with our salad course.
The soda sweetened the scotch but there was still a nice light peat
flavor on the finish once the sweet faded.

Based on Johnnie Walker press materials, more than 33 million bottles of Johnnie Walker were purchased in 2004 and Johnnie Walker Black Label seems to be the most popular, with approximately 43 glasses of Johnnie Walker Black Label enjoyed by consumers each second. We occasionally have Black Label in our house, as Kevin sometimes purchases it as an "everyday scotch." 

Overall, great episode and great product placement for Johnnie Walker.

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Posted by Michelle at 12:18 pm in Mad Men Monday, Pop Culture, Scotch & Whiskey, Television | Permalink | Comments (4)
Sep 11

Featured Cincinnati Wine Events: Sept 12 – 18

See that Sad Mac? That's where I've spent my week. Only today – Friday – am I finally getting back on track. If you have a Mac, I recommend waiting a month or so – when the new updates come out – before upgrading to Snow Leopard.

And my huge thanks to the guys at the Apple Store who got my Mail up and running again. Sheesh!

My big recommendation for this week happens tomorrow but yes! you can still get a seat! Better yet, it's only $20 AND you get a $5 gift card. Winemaker Alfredo Bartholomaus will be The Party Source, 1-3 pm tomorrow, teaching a Malbec Blending Seminar. I did this last year (and will be there tomorrow). You learn how to blend flavors to make the perfect wine. Or rather, he makes a pretty perfect wine. You (and me)? Well, it's fun to try. 

The other thing I want to point out is Restaurant Week. I would have written a post on it, but well, the computer … Greater Cincinnati Independents is sponsoring Restaurant Week Sept 14 – 20. There are 33 locally owned restaurants participating. This differs from the most recent restaurant week, which focused on downtown. This is [almost] better, as it focuses on locally owned places, no matter where in town they're located. Support the little guy! The web site offers all the necessary information.

Remember, all the recurring events, those dependable weekly tastings,
are displayed on our calendar. The one-time events are after the jump.

If I missed anything, make sure to let me know. For information on what's going on
in Dayton, you can refer to Mark's blog at Uncorked.

Local Wine Tasting Event Calendar

Map IconFriday Interactive Wine Tasting Map

Map IconSaturday Interactive Wine Tasting Map

Photo Credit:
via Creative Commons

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by Michelle at 11:48 am in Weekly Cincinnati Wine Events | Permalink | Comments ()

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