I once again got the privilege to attend an industry preview of the wine festival and here are a few highlights. Please realize these are high level thoughts of what I enjoyed; your experience might be different:
Booth 2: Charles Smith/K Vintners – Eve Chardonnay was a nice well rounded example. Also learned that Kung Fu Girl (a must try for Riesling fans) has had production to support year round availability for the last two years and that should continue going forward.
Booth 3/50: Rieslings and Grüet Bubbly are nice breaks in the middle of a large red run to help refresh the palate. All the Loosen offerings are good with the Dry Riesling being a different take on the standard offering.
Booth 15/22/68/98 – There are some nice high end red wines in the Grand Tasting Room. Expect a longer than usual line for Orin Swift, JAQK, Mollydooker, and Cinq Cepages. All were showing nicely in the afternoon and might be worth a slightly longer wait for red lovers.
New to me this year was Hoepler Estates out of Austria. Christof Höpler is in attendance to answer any questions you have about Austria, their national grape (Grüener Veltliner), or the other wines he brought. Overall I was impressed by his Pinot Noir in addition to the Gruner and Blaufränkisch.
Also, the Frederick Wildman, & Sons table (booth 118) was a “new-to-me” importer that was able to give me a few good examples of their portfolio. Tasting through their red offering was well worth the time. They’ve been attendees in the past, but this was the first year I spent time sampling their offerings.
A few favorites were also there: Veleta (booth 56), JAQK (booth 98), Terry Theise (Booth 12), Henke (booth 125), Burnet Ridge (booth 127), Firelands (booth 59), Moet Hennessy (Pinot Meunier booth 116), and Justin (booth177). Terry Theise has a Pinot Meunier driven bubbly; the Aubry Brut, which can be used as a nice comparison to the still version at Moet.
Overall. my impression is that the Wine Festival will be a great time for wine lovers looking for something to do this weekend. There is a nice mix of new and old favorites that should keep everyone expanding their palates. If you go this weekend, post any favorites in the comments below!
Once you have mastered surviving a festival, you can start to apply a few other techniques on navigating the amazing number of options you have. Here are a few different ways that I have approached large tasting events:
This is the basic system of picking an end and working your way around stopping at each booth along the way fully tasting options that appeal to you. The advantages are very little up front planning and it gives a large amount of time to socialize with your group. It does require you to switch from sweet to dry at every table and I remember the time I tried a heavy desert wine and stained the glass for the rest of the evening.
The two variations of this are stop at the shortest line or stop at the largest line. By stopping at a short line, you can get a little more personalized attention from whomever is working the booth. When this is a winemaker, winery rep, or distributor they can be very knowledgeable about what you are tasting. The additional information can give a better appreciation of the style and help to improve your overall knowledge. The long line theory is that this many people cannot be wrong. It’s a gamble that the wait will be worth it when you get to the front. Usually this line will make it more difficult to engage in conversation and learn about the wines.
This requires a glance through the program to see if there are any varietals or wineries that you have been wanting to try, but have not had the opportunity. It could be a desire to try something else from a place you have heard about, like Canadian Ice Wine (Booth 89), a new varietal like Blaufraenkisch (Booth 93), or a producer like Orin Swift (Booth 22). These are only a few examples. You could also visit local winery booths (along the left wall this year).
This is an additional layer of planning, but can be worth it. The goal of this is to try all wines of a certain type or color before moving on. Only whites, then rose, finishing with reds. This really helps when you like certain varietals or want to be able to compare the same type of wine from different regions and producers. The difficulty is remembering any place you want to return to on the next round.
The main goal of the wine festival is to have fun and enjoy yourself and the company you are with. These are a few suggestions on how to make the most of your time in the convention center this year. Anyone have other approaches? Did I miss an obvious way to navigate the large amount of choice? This year, I’m excited to revisit Pinot Meunier (Booth 116). This is the third grape used in most Champagne along with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
February is shaping up to be a great time to be a beer drinker in the Cincinnati area. The weather’s cold and the nights are long, but there are an amazing number of events coming in the next few weeks. Here’s a quick rundown:
In a few weeks, it will be the inaugural celebration of Cincinnati Beer Week. An official site has popped up to try and track the various events around the city, but I recommend hopping over to the Hoperatives blog for their take on the latest information. Here are a few of the events about which I’m excited:
Thursday February 2
Party Town Local Breweries Backroom Brawl from 6:00 – 8:00pm
Party Town kicks off Cincinnati’s Inaugural Beer Week with a “Backroom Brawl” of only local craft brews featuring the “Cincinnati Beer Week Barleywine,” a collaboration between local brewers, and our 18 tap growler program voted “Best of 2011″ by Cincinnati Magazine! Cost $2.00
Friday February 3
Arnold’s Bourbon Barrel 1861 Porter Happy Hour Tapping at 5pm
In honor of beer week Christian Moerlein has remixed a batch of the Arnold’s 1861 Porter. Arnold’s is already the only place that you could get the Porter, but for this special release, Christian Moerlein will be aging the same beer in a bourbon barrel.
Saturday February 4:
Cincinnati Brew Ha-Ha! from 07:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Cincy Brew Ha-Ha Winter Edition will bring all that has been enjoyed over the past 5 years indoors to the Cintas Center on Xavier University’s campus for its Winter Edition. This one-of-a-kind local event features top beers and top comedians creating the perfect recipe for a great time. From ales to lagers and pilsners to stouts, there is something for every type of beer aficionado – including 6 firkins! Cincy Brew Ha-Ha Winter Edition will feature over 80 selections of beer to sample and multiple comedians on 2 stages.
Additionally, there are a bunch of other events, including a 3 Floyds beer dinner at Tellers (2/8) and a selection of Left Hand beers on tap at the Hyde Park Cock and Bull (2/9) . This all leads up to the Cincinnati Winter Beer Festival on the 10th and 11th. Last year, this event was a great time and apparently it’s going to be even bigger this year. Click over to their site for more information and tickets.
On Feb 25, the Moerlein Lager house will be opening as part of the Banks, adding the first alternative to the Holy Grail, which opened last March. Tickets are $150 and the doors open at 6:30. More information can be found over on the Lager House official website.
I’m off to drink a Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere. That should help keep me sated until next month.
Saturday, November 12th from 7:30 – 11:00, is the eighth Taste of the World Wine and Beer Festival at the Newport Aquarium. Michelle and I have volunteered to pour in the past and I can recommend the event. This year, in addition to the regular admission ticket, a new “Top Shelf” area has been added with food and cocktail pairings from Laine Steelman and Molly Wellmann. Laine is the new head chef at the Party Source and Molly is the mixologist behind Japp’s in Over-the-Rhine.
I have enjoyed wandering through the different rooms and finding new and different drinks and cocktails. I’m not sure exactly what beverages will be available this year, but the selection of spirits (usually a couple of Party Source private barrels, tequila, and cocktails) along with the beer and wine has made it easy for everyone to find something to enjoy.
General Admission Tickets are $85 ($95 at the door)
Top Shelf Tickets are $125
All proceeds go to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 513.698.2457.
On the drive across Kansas, a state that seems to be roughly 12,000 miles across, Michelle and I noticed a billboard for the Oz Museum. With her love of the Wizard of Oz and my desire to not be in the car for a few minutes, we decided to make a small detour to Wamego, KS. Wamego was a very nice little town and in addition to having coffee at The Daily Grind, next door was the Oz Winery.
The winery offers free samples while they are open and this gave us a chance to try what they had to offer. The dry whites were tasty, especially the Poppy Fields, a balanced Pinot Gris. The wine was well made and we ended up with a few bottles.
Oz Winery is worth a stop for anyone on their way through the Sunflower State.
And if you want to know more about our cross-country road trip, from Cincinnati to San Francisco, you can follow along over on the Posterous Blog.
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