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:
This is probably a little unorthodox, but I’m going to write about it anyway. It DOES have something to do with beer at least.
It may seem crazy to combine heart-pumping physical activity with beer drinking – although I know some people that would consider beer drinking a sport. Even the organizers call this event “a ridiculous running race.” I’ve always thought an ice cold beer tastes great after a good run, so I’m in.
Tap ‘N’ Run is a 4K (or 2.5 mile) running race that includes four beer chug stations along the race course – plus a full beer at the finish line, along with crazy costumes, contests and awards, and an after-party with live music on the barge at Hooters and Beer Seller down along the river.
The race is professionally timed and all participants will receive a medal – that doubles as a bottle opener of course, the equivalent of more than two beers and a Tap ‘N’ Run t-shirt. They also will offer non-alcoholic beverages and even a taxi partner to help get everyone home safely.
They will be checking IDs, so you must be 21 years of age on race day to participate and you MUST present a valid ID at check-in.
I am joining a few friends to create a team. I’ve never participated in this but it sounds like a blast. Cost is $38 per person if you register before Saturday, April 28. The price goes up from there. Visit http://www.tapnrun.com for more info and to register. Hope to see you there!
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
Valle dell’Acate Il Moro
Mitolo Savitar Shiraz
Runquist Petite Sirah
Silver Oak Napa Cabernet Sauvignon
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.
This Saturday I decided to go the Ohio River Valley 6th Annual Barrel Tasting. First off it was a beautiful day and what a lovely drive. Since I live in Northern Kentucky, I decided to go to Harmony Hill Vineyards in Bethel, then to the Ripley to Miranda-Nixon Winery and then end at Kinkead Ridge Winery.
Disclaimer: When sampling wines that are still aging in the barrel are not complete or finished products. So when tasting them you can taste the potential of what they will be. All of the wines I will will be talking about came straight from the aging barrels.
My first stop was Harmony Hill Vineyards. As we drove back to the tasting room and the barrel tasting all we could think of was how beautiful and quaint it was. Harmony Hill is a Certified Wildlife Habitat and everywhere you look there are donkeys, fawns, birds, and many other wildlife. The Barrel tasting was held in the underground wine cave. We tried 2 wines a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chambourcin. The Sauvignon Blanc was good you could tell when it’s done aging it would be a crisp medium bodied wine. The Chambourcin was decent, but when you tried the finished product in their tasting room it was yummy. A great bold red wine with tastes of oak, currant, and pepper. My suggestion if you go to Harmony Hills go during their summer months, pack a picnic basket and buy a bottle of wine and listen to the live music. Its a whole entertainment experience.
Second was Miranda-Nixon Winery, this place was beautiful too! Not only can you see the acres of vineyards its next door to a horse farm. We sampled 3 wines from the barrel a Chardonnay, a Sangiovese, and a Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnay was amazing and it will be even more amazing once its finished aging. The Sangiovese was young of course but you could tell it had great potential when finished aging. I liked the Cabernet but I really thought the other 2 had more potential. There tasting room overlooks the hills of the vineyards and the horses on the farm. We tasted some of the wines in the tasting room and I fell in love with 3 of their wines. The 2010 Traminette (a crisp white wine that has a hint of sweetness), 2010 Catawba (a blush wine with hints of citrus and sweet), and the American Cabernet Sauvignon (a balanced cab with hints of berry flavors with a semi-dry finish). My suggestion go to their Saturday night tasting dinners $55 per couple accompanied with a bottle of wine with your choice of Salmon or Steak.
Now I have saved the best for last! My favorite Winery was the Kinkead Ridge Winery, they have their wines mastered. These wines will stand the challenge against of any wines anywhere. We first tasted wines as the finished product and then we tasted them out of the barrel. The first wine we tried was their Cabernet Franc and I all ready knew I wanted to buy a bottle. We tried 4 wines from the barrel and all of them were showing strong characteristics of big red wines. We started off with the Cabernet Franc which all ready had some tanins, a hint of cherry, and a little spice aftertaste. This was by far my favorite out of the barrels. I then tried the Cabernet Sauvignon which was on its way to be a full-bodied tanic cab. It was of course still in its young stage but it sure showed potential. Next we moved onto the Syrah which was a little more fruitier tasting or lighter tasting than I would expect from a Syrah. I’m sure after it’s fully aged and bottled the wine will be great after a few years of aging in the bottle. The last barrel tasting was a Petit Verdot this was also showing strong tannins and a spicy aftertaste. This will be the wine to buy when it gets released next year. Trust me when all of the wines get released next year, I’m going to be the first in line to purchase them.
] Pictured: I’m with the winemaker of Kinkead Ridge Winery, Ron Barrett, I bought the last bottle of Viognier/Roussanne which he autographed for my collection. Here it is on their website.
Cheers and remember support all your local vineyards/wineries. You’d be surprised what’s in your own backyard.
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