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Mar 06

23rd Annual Cincinnati Wine Festival Preview

by Kevin

The Cincinnati International Wine Festival is upon us for the 23rd year! This Friday and Saturday, the grand tasting will be held at the convention center in downtown Cincinnati.

I will be posting as early as I can on Friday afternoon the highlights from the afternoon tasting, especially the surprises that I find. Every year my goal is to find something unexpected, unusual, or interesting. With 133 booths and a few hundred wines, I have never failed in this goal.

Tickets are still available for both Friday and Saturday nights and the list of wines seems both extensive and exciting. While it always nice to see a few favorite importers like Terry Theise(booth 11), Vintner Select(booth 14), Cutting Edge Selections(booth 32 thru 34) and many wineries from years past, for different reasons: Charles Smith/K Vinters (booth 4) from my wine bloggers conference in Walla Walla), Cline Cellars(booth 51) my first wine club, Henke Winery (booth 125) for teaching me that Norton can have a level of depth and quality, Veleta Wines (booth 56) for helping me learn that the story behind the wine helps to explain the taste, JAQK Cellars (booth 98) for beign able to highlight how different approaches to the a grape can have a very different taste in the bottle, and there is also a place for Bully Hill (booth 39) which was my first every winery experience in the Finger Lakes. I think that is some of the power of the taste of wine is that is can transport us back to a different time and place where we first got caught up in trying to learn as much as we could.

I’m also excited to try a few new things this year, a 2011 Chilean Pedro Ximenez (booth 2), Sivas Sonoma (booth 21) a new winery for me, the Italian selections from Dalla Terra (booth 48), hoping there might be a bottle of Pinot Meunier somewhere at a booth.

Beyond just my excitement, we always like to publish a few ways to get the most out of the overall experience. Here is our annual post of tips and tricks compiled from our and other blogger’s experiences on how to best survive this festival:

Please realize that these tips are geared for people who are heading to the Festival to try new wines, learn new things, and not get generally hammered. If insanely drunk is your goal, well … get a cab and/or a hotel.
So in no particular order, here are our tips for surviving a festival with hundreds of wines and even more people:

  • Decide when you want to go. The Friday Grand Tasting has always seemed more manageable to me, with slightly less people. The Saturday Grand Tasting is generally the biggest event, with what seems like an unending number of people. My favorite session is Saturday afternoon, as fewer people attend and I can get more face-time with the winemakers.
  • 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. Whenever you decide to eat, make reservations.
  • Consider a designated driver, cab service, or even a hotel room. Last year we decided to succumb to an afternoon and evening of alcohol and we got a hotel room. The Wine Fest web site offers several hotel packages downtown, and we often find great last minute deals at The Cincinnatian. In past years, we’ve had good luck booking through Hotwire. Remember, if you drink, please don’t drive. And if you plan to drive, please don’t drink.
  • Make a game plan. First, download the Tasting Guide ahead of time. In the guide, 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. I gave you my plan above,remember it’s only a plan. I am sure that I will deviate through the tasting as I find other things to try. I always like making a friend to find out what they have tried that I need to try. It’s an easy question and everyone has a few thoughts.
  • Dress comfortably. Seriously, ladies, there is no need for high heels. You can still 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. Expect it to be warm in the tasting hall. Lots of people and red wine can raise the temperature in a room.
  • Since we’re talking about clothes, wear dark colors. I know it’s almost 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 = lots of wine accidents. Dark colors are your best bet. On that note, carry a small bottle of Wine Away or a Tide Stain Stick. Even if you don’t need it, someone else might.
  • Get there early. People start filtering in late and things get really crowded really fast. Enjoy being early.
  • 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.
  • Manage your route so that you visit the sparkling wine and champagne in between big wines. Sparklers are excellent palate cleansers and you’ll last longer if you try those in between the big reds.
    Save those dessert wines for last. One year I succumbed to temptation and had a chocolate port early on. As tasty as it was, my next ten wines still tasted like chocolate.
  • Hold your glass up and don’t tilt it sideways. Think about it – the wine will spill out. Holding it up higher makes it easier for the pourer to reach over all the bottles. Guys were better at this than gals last year, most likely because guys are just taller in general. Reach out with those glasses ladies!
  • The pourers are not bartenders. Seriously, don’t bang on a bottle with your glass expecting service. (And no, I’m not kidding.) And while we’re on the topic, say please and thank you. Just because you’re thirsty for wine, doesn’t mean that all good manners get thrown out the window. Some of the pourers are just volunteers and aren’t being paid to be there and everyone has been working hard for at least two days; in the case of winemakers, they’ve been going non-stop for nearly a week.
  • Move out of the way. I can’t stress this enough for the evening sessions. You don’t have to leave, but get your wine and move to the side. Don’t step back two steps, you’re still blocking the three people behind you and you’ll probably spill wine in the process.
  • Try new things. 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? There might be something you really like, even if it’s not Merlot and Chardonnay. The two questions I heard while pouring last year were “Do you have any Merlot? Do you have any Chardonnay?” The answer is not always yes, and there are some really exciting grapes out there that are not merlot or chard. If you see an Alicante Bouché for example, try it – you might be surprised. Chances are, the person behind the table can tell you a little bit about the grape as well, and if you don’t like it, then dump it.
    Spit or dump. A winemaker 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 quietly spitting into your own cup.
    • Dump instead of spit. I don’t spit at the Wine Festival. When I’m judging a wine competition, it doesn’t bother me to spit into a personal cup. 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.
    • Take breaks every 30 minutes or so to have some snacks and water, as well as to regroup.
    • Hydrate, and wine doesn’t count. Bring water if they aren’t handing it out. But you’ll definitely want some handy.
  • Rinse strategically. You see, rinsing your glass is necessary occasionally. But when you’re switching between white and red, ask for a wine rinse. No one will complain. If you’re switching between the reds at the same table, you don’t need to rinse your glass between every one. Not only do you waste water, but no one ever gets all the water out of their glass. You know what that leads to? Watery wine, and you certainly don’t want that.
  • Don’t try to take detailed tasting notes. Sometimes I just rate things on my happy face 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.
  • And finally, don’t expect your friendly wine blogger to get you free tickets. We pay to get in to the evening events. It’s a charity function. In fact, I believe 50% of your ticket is a tax-deduction as a charitable donation. So don’t try to get in free and skimp on those charities, okay? Instead, just go and have a fantastic time!
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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Nov 03

Taste of the World – November 10th 2012


It’s that time of year again when the leaves fall off the trees, the weather hits a surprising cold snap, plans are made for the upcoming holiday season, and the LLS kicks off the season with their Taste of the World event. This has been one of the events that I have looked forward to and attended over the past few years.

It is now up to the 9th annual version located at the Newport Aquarium. This year they have continued the Top Shelf room for anyone who might be interested in a few higher end offerings. The participating restaurants run from BBQ to seafood, with a list being found on the LLS site.

2012 Party town Spirits Table
Last year, I helped to pour both at the Party Source spirits table, featuring a selection of mescals, private barrel bourbons, and a rum. The Top Shelf area had a scotch selection that was similarly fantastic. I’m not sure exactly what the non-wine offerings will be this year, but the Praty Source team does a great job of making sure there options for everyone.

Both the food and spirits are in addition to the wine and beer options that are available. The exact list is a closely kept secret, but I have never been disappointed with the selections.

This is the first year that I am a committee member for this event and I encourage everyone who attends to let me know about your experience.

Date: November 10th, 2012
Time: 7:30 PM
Location: Newport Aquarium
General Admission Tickets are $100
Top Shelf Tickets are $150
All proceeds go to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 513.698.2457.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
May 30

La Poste Eatery is on the Top of My Favorite Restaurants List

By Angela

Recently, I celebrated my birthday at La Poste Eatery and Wine Room and it was one of the best wine and food experiences ever. We decided to have wine pairings with dinner.

Our first course was the Foie Gras on Banana Bread with a sliced Banana with caramelized sugar on top that had a maple carmel syrup finished with cracked sea salt. We had a glass of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne. The hint of sweetness from the Champagne complimented the syrup and the Banana Bread and the driness of the brut matched perfectly with the salt. The Foie Gras melted in your mouth and had this creamy after taste.

The second course was an order of Ravioli with a field blend of mushrooms, fresh sage, cream, and parmesan reggiano. It was paired with Styring Estate Pinot Noir ’06, this was one of the best comfort combinations that I ever had. The Ravioli had a parmesan sage cream sauce with crispy pieces of sage on top that added a slight crispiness to the cream. The Styring Estate Pinot Noir was the perfect pairing. It was a very soft tasting with berries and finish with tannins. This is one of the best well balanced Pinot Noir that I have ever tasted.

The third course was fresh catch of John Dory, a nice crispy white fish with a wonderful red wine reduction with sliced carrots and sliced parsnips. A sweet and savory taste intertwined with the light fish was perfect and it was paired with Domaine Aubissieres Cuvee Silex Vouvray ’09.  It wasn’t tart at all, a slightly sweet taste of melon and fruits. I loved it because it didn’t have that sour taste that Sauvignon Blancs have. A wonderful summer wine that you can drink all summer long and for $16.99 a bottle with a 90 point rating from Robert Parker who wouldn’t want to.

The last course was a white chocolate bread pudding with dried cherries and a butter cream carmel sauce. It was paired with La Tour Vielle Banyuls dessert wine. First of all anything with white chocolate and bread pudding is exquisite. The taste that carried me into bliss was the port-style wine that in France they chill and drink it as an aperitif. This nutty, fruity dessert paired perfectly with the chocolate dessert.

 

I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who loves wines, food and wonderful ambiance.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Mar 29

Wine and Art Show at Party Town 3/31

by Kevin

For anyone looking to try a little wine this weekend, might want to check out Party Town. In addition to their regularly scheduled casual Saturday tasting they have added an art show featuring a local artist twice a year. This time the artist will be Keith Klein. Mr Klein has a studio in Florence, Kentucky. His “Atelier” is housed in the former “Florence Deposit Bank” on Main street. Mr. Klein is represented by the Eisele Gallery of Fine Art in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Eisele Gallery will be having the Grand Opening of its new contemporary wing on April 27, from 6-9PM, featuring beautiful contemporary realism and impressionism.

As an added bonus, an extra hour is planned for this weekend with the Saturday tasting running from 3-6pm. Sunday returns to the normal times of 3-5.

“We’re excited to have an artist from right here in Florence,” says Drew Murphy, General Manager of Party Town, “whose work has been featured in so many international locations. Keith’s work is part of the collection(s) of the Princess of Saudi Arabia, Cincinnati Bell, Converges, Cincinnati Financial and many other prestigious private collections across the United States.”

The wines planned by the knowledgeable staff include a few really nice gems. I always enjoy the tastings on a weekly basis and encourage everyone to visit. This Saturday should be a great time at Party Town. Cost of the tasting: Free.

Wines available to taste:
Laguna Laguna Chardonnay
Valle dell’Acate Insolia
Columbia’s Cellarmaster Riesling
Apothic White.

Valle dell’Acate Il Moro
Mitolo Savitar Shiraz
Runquist Petite Sirah
Silver Oak Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Mar 09

Navigating the Wine Festival

by Kevin

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:

What’s Next

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.

Line Hopping

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.

Trying Something New

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).

Round and Round We Go

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.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.

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