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:
About a month ago, Tino Vino, a winemaking venture in East Hyde Park, closed its doors. Because the closing was sudden, without notice, some chaos has ensued. Customers who have placed orders for custom wine have been left with a large hole in their pocketbooks, no way to retrieve their wine, and no way to contact the owners.
The shop was originally owned by Annie McManus, Lindsay Valentino, Michelle Banks, and Jennifer Fairbanks. I admit, I’ve reached out privately to one of those ladies, as well as a former Tino Vino employee, to find out what happened. I honestly don’t expect to hear from anyone. I’ve been led to believe that Annie and Jennifer, at the end, were only peripherally involved in the venture and have acquired lawyers.
I found out about the closing because I’ve been contacted by several of Tino Vino’s customers who think I’m Michelle Banks. I’m not. Let me make this clear – I do not have any business association with Tino Vino, nor have I ever. I’m as surprised as the rest of the you that they closed in the unprofessional manner they have.
Lindsay Valentino’s recently ex-husband, Steven Sykes Valentino, has his own legal troubles. He and his realty group, ORP, were accused of stealing more than $1 million from the condo properties they manage. One of the girls from Tino Vino was also an employee of ORP. I’m not sure if there is a direct relationship between that situation and the closing of Tino Vino, but common sense tells me there might be.
I have been trying to dig into the closing a little more, but there isn’t much out there. Both Howard Ain (WKRC) and John Matarese (WCPO) have tried to contact the owners with no luck. Both of those gentlemen did reach the landlord of the building, and they both reported an eviction notice on the door. (I drove out to Tino Vino on Sunday and was surprised to find the eviction notice had been taken down. To me, that’s a sign of life. Take it as you will.)
According to Ain at WKRC, the building owner cannot give out any of the wine, as it is still legally the property of Tino Vino. There is an eviction hearing scheduled for the end of the month. If something is not done by then, the Sheriff may have to dump the wine because it’s illegal to set it out or give it away.
My recommendation? Call your credit card company. If you can get your charge reversed for the wine you paid for, do it. It’s certainly worth the call. Also keep in mind that the shop has been closed for a month. If the utilities weren’t paid for in that time, then the wine was no longer in a temperature controlled environment. It may be baking in there under terrible conditions.
If I hear anything that will shed some more light on this situation, I will certainly publish it here.
For 71 years, Gallup has been tracking the number of Americans who say they drink alcohol. The latest poll results were released the other day and currently 67% of US adults say they drink alcohol. This is a slight increase over last year and apparently the highest recorded since 1985.
Favorite beverage? Sorry wine folks. Beer is apparently the #1 choice, followed by wine and then liquor. Interestingly, wine was the #1 choice in 2005. I blame the recession – beer is, after all, “recession champagne.” Wine still wins a little, as the #1 beverage choice among women and older Americans. Guys, younger drinkers, and (here you go), those in the midwest still prefer beer – just like the marketing tells us.
There are some other interesting tidbits thrown into the mix, including that those who seldom or ever attend church are more likely to say they drink in comparison to those who don’t get up early on Sundays. Additionally, those with no religious identity, Catholics, and non-Christians are more likely to drink than Protestants. Huh.
Finally, the report lets us know that the recession may not be the reason for the increase in drinking. Of poll respondents who earn less than $20,000 per year, 46% say they drink. However, 81% of those who earn $75,000 or more say they drink.
View the Gallup results and survey methods (pdf).
Image from Gallup
This guest post is from Nancy Bentley, co-owner of Kinkead Ridge Winery in Ripley, OH.
An editorial note: I try very hard as a blogger to stay apolitical. However, I do not require this of my guest bloggers. Nancy’s post expresses her personal feelings about some legislative issues affecting agriculture in Ohio and is a legitimate Opinion piece. I invite you to express your own feelings about the legislature in the comments or by contacting Nancy.
It makes me laugh how the Wall Street Journal continually posts ads from the state of Ohio suggesting what a great state Ohio is to start a business. In 1999, we relocated from a highly successful vineyard operation in Oregon, in order to prove that great wines could be made in southern Ohio and to revitalize the area with new wineries for agritourism. We personally mentored at least five new wineries, and continue to help more.
I would like to describe several current situations regarding the Ohio Department of Agriculture and wineries, and then two other situations that reflect how they are hurting small farmers. To put finances in perspective: The Ohio wine and grape industry released its 2008 economic impact report, which finds that Ohio’s grape and wine industry has a significant impact of more than $580 million on the state’s economy.
Highlights of the report include:
Situation #1: Given the fact that the Ohio wine industry contributes so much money to the economy, we are appalled at the latest overreach by the Ohio Department of Agriculture bureaucracy. There is a law on the books that allows them to inspect wineries as food production facilities, something that neither California, Oregon or other huge wine producing states do. Only wineries that wholesale their wine are subject to this annual inspection, which wineries will be charged an annual fee for, ranging from $50 to $300. Wineries that only sell retail will not be inspected. I have actually been in a winery in Ohio that only sold at retail that had dog turds on the floor. Wholesale warehouses that store wine may not be inspected (follow the distributor lobby money).
Nothing harmful to humans can live in wine. We actually had an ODA person suggest that we wash the grapes to eliminate insects, a laughable comment. There was a suggestion to use bleach to clean up black mold, a product that is well known to cause TCA taint in wine. Our only avenue for change is to change the law to exempt wineries. In the meantime, inadequately trained, probably highly paid registered sanitarians will be hitting the road and generating travel expenses to make sure that wineries have hairnets in the building. The maximum amount of money these fees could generate for the state would be $30,000, and it will be much less than that.
The claim is to protect the public, but there are no plans to take samples of wines for testing of any kind, and wineries are already highly regulated by the federal government (TTB) and local health organizations. This is just bureaucratic bloat and a waste of taxpayer money.
We cannot get a straight answer as to what part of the regulatory code will be enforced. On a conference call, I was basically told that wineries could be inspected with different criteria. And imagine if your winery is inspected in January, when everything is cleaned up, or at crush, when bees, fruit flies, etc. fill the winery.
Situation #2. We have been making Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Viognier/Roussanne and Petit Verdot for 10 years. In general these wines are in the 12%-13% alcohol range. A fine vintage from 2008 pushed them all over 14% alcohol. The federal government approves all wine labels. For free. The state of Ohio rubber stamps such labels, at an initial fee of $50 per label. Because these wines went over 14%, I was required to submit “New Label Registrations” and write a check for $250 to the state.
Situation #3: It goes beyond wineries. Last year, Harmony Hill Vineyards had a wonderful farmers market. The Ohio Department of Agriculture has now said that if you want to sell your eggs or meat at a Farmers Market, a cooler with blue ice is no longer good enough to store your food for a couple of hours. “Mechanical refrigeration” is required. So that means you load up a refrigeration, hope you can plug it in somewhere, transfer your food in the cooler, load it in the fridge, and reverse for the trip home.
We use farm fresh eggs in fining, and needed 6 dozen eggs from a small egg producer in Ripley. She is NOT allowed to deliver the eggs to us, a few miles away. We had to pick them up.
Situation #4: The Fizzleville Fair in Adams County has made home made ice cream for over 30 years. Apparently that will no longer be allowed.
So, in summary, this is a bureaucracy out of control. We need new leaders who will get out of the way and let Ohio small business do what they do best without excessive and stupid regulations. Ohio is hurting and driving small business out of Ohio, not encouraging it.
– Nancy Bentley
One of the best wine tastings in the city, which is also insanely inexpensive, is the Friday evening tastings at the Bigg’s Skytop location on Beechmont Avenue. There are nice light appetizers, quality wines, a genial and knowledgeable host, and a highly social environment.
Go while you still can.
If you haven’t heard, Remke has purchased the Bigg’s Skytop location (amongst others). Several readers have asked me what might happen to the wine program and Michael J. Campbell, the wonderful man behind it.
I asked Michael today, as I’m worried as well. I didn’t like the answer. Basically, Remke hasn’t made a decision yet and they will within the next 10 days.That decision affects both the wine program and Michael’s job.
You still have a chance to influence the decision.
Michael has asked that you use the Remke Contact form and request that they maintain the current quality wine program – and him!
So tell everyone you know and help save the program. It’s sort of like writing your congressman though – you actually have to fill in your request on that contact form; don’t just think about it.
I have my fingers crossed. I often visit the Remke by my home in Northern Ky. For months, they were an active part of the campaign to bring wine into grocery stores in Kentucky. I’m hoping that eagerness to carry wine spills into their new Ohio retail sites and includes quality programs like the one at Skytop.
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