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Jul 02

Guest Post: An Italian Wine Primer, Part 1

While Kevin & I are in Alaska, we've asked some friends and
colleagues to post on their wine loves, wine experiences and more. For
this post we welcome Kevin Keith, who does an excellent job of introducing himself. Thanks Kevin!


Hi y’all!  My
name is Kevin Keith, and I am currently the wine buyer for Liquor Direct Wine
& Spirits
, with two locations in Northern Kentucky, as well as local wine
blogger for Under The Grape
.  Michelle asked me to
help keep her blog going with a little post, so I tried to come up with
something that would fit with her readers, as well as not repeat anything she
or Kevin (her husband) has touched on in the past.

What I came up with is a little something that I am very
passionate about, and have had many questions on in my stores over the years,
and that is Italian wine.  I tell
people who ask about Italian wine, that this subject is the hardest to teach
people on due to the overwhelming amount of information there is about the
subject.  You see, while other
countries in the world dedicated specific areas of their lands to viticulture
(growing grapes), in Italy, there are vineyards everywhere, in each of the 20
regions (provinces actually), with each region as diverse as the others.

Vineyards Near Barola, Image Credit

Italy has long been in the top three in wine production,
becoming #1 in 2005 with a total of over 8.5 million metric tons that year
(over 2 million metric tons more than France!).  Italy can be divided up into 4 main sections:

1.     1. Northwestern

2.     2. Northeastern

3.     3. Central

4.     4. Southern

The Northwestern portion of Italy consists of 6 regions
spanning from the greater portion of the arc of the Alps and Apennines, which
slope toward the Po River:  Valle
d’Aosta, Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany.  Topography, soil, climate and grape
varieties vary from one region to the next, and much of this area is considered
very prosperous, with the cities of Florence, Milan, Turin and Genoa all
inhabiting this area.  A total of
27% of Italy’s wines are produced here.

The Northeastern portion of Italy is also called the Tre Venezie, or “Three Venices”.  The three regions are Veneto –
the largest producer of DOC wines, Trentino-Alto Adige – which has the
highest percentage of DOC wines comparatively to total output, and
Friuli-Venezia Giulia.  Together,
these 3 regions producer a total of 17% of Italy’s wines.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by Michelle at 8:30 am in Guest Writers, History, Knowledge | Permalink | Comments ()
May 22

Our Own Sin City

Before there was Las Vegas, there was Newport, Ky. No kidding. From spending WAY too much time at York Street Cafe in my life, I knew a lot of the history of that building (speakeasy, hidden safes, etc), but I hadn't realized how real it all was, and how rampant, throughout Newport.

Gangsters everywhere, post-prohibition. Gambling, prostitution, alcohol, casino robberies, murder and tommy guns … it was all in Newport. 

We got to take the Newport Gangsters tour last night. I loved it!  I knew the history of Prohibition and beer in this area from an article I once wrote. It was nice to see what happened in Newport after Prohibition was repealed and the bootleggers, um, expanded.

I had fun with my new camera. Newport has some great buildings. You can visit the Flickr set or watch the slideshow below.

The tour costs $15 and the proceeds benefit a great local charity where our kids are sent to teach for a week at schools in the Caribbean. It's another great cause. The guys that are running the tour are obviously having a great time – and they're sort of overflowing with facts from their research. In fact, I think their research sort of scares them a little. They talked to a lot of people – a lot of the still living (and still local) gangsters and club owners/partygoers from the era. 

It's worth a few hours of your time. Right now, this weekend is your only chance to experience the fun tour, although they're debating on continuing through the summer, as well as looking into a Haunted Newport Ghost Tour. Go show your support – it's a short walk to and from Newport from Taste of Cincinnat and the tour lasts 90 minutes.

You'll never look at Newport the same way.

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Posted by Michelle at 10:00 am in Charity Benefits, Cincinnati, History | Permalink | Comments (1)
Feb 18

Ohio Wineries: Even Closer to Home

Ohio wineries are coming to you.


March 21st at Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park you can try any number of our local goodies, including

  • Henke
  • Harmony Hill
  • Kinkead Ridge
  • Vinoklet
  • Burnett Ridge
  • Valley
  • Meranda-Nixon
  • Meier’s
  • Woodstone Creek

Nicholas Longworth (think Longworth Hall in Mt Adams) was the first to grow grapes in the area, inadvertently creating the Ohio River Valley appellation. The session at Krohn conservatory provides a historical context for our thriving wine area and includes tastings from 9 different local wineries. Your admission price of $35 also includes a Tiffany’s wine glass and a tour of Krohn Conservatory. RSVP by March 17th to 513.421.5707.

While we’re on the subject of local wineries, congratulations to Henke! The fun winery over on the west side was recently mentioned in a USA Today article on urban wineries. Cincinnati has a lot of urban wineries. In addition to Henke, Woodstone Creek, Burnett Ridge,and Vinoklet would all fall into the Urban Wine category as well. Back in June, I had a great time tasting at Henke, although I can’t seem to find the relevant blog post at the moment. I’m glad they’re getting a little extra publicity.

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Posted by Michelle at 12:01 am in Cincinnati, History, Knowledge, Local, Local Wineries, Tastings, Wineries | Permalink | Comments (1)
Feb 12

Barrel Stamp: Ohio Bonded Winery #2

One of my favorite local wineries, Harmony Hill, has issued a strange request. I’ll let Bill tell you this great little story, followed by the request at the end.

During the summer of 2007, a local gentleman visitor
brought to the winery a brass barrel stamp that he had kept as a family
heirloom (a barrel stamp was used in the early days as a method of identifying
the winery that had filled the barrel with wine, was placed over the head of the
barrel and set over a flame to burn the stamp into the oak).

We only
remember marveling at this piece of history and realizing that it was
from Ohio Bonded Winery #2. Neither Patti nor I can recall the winery name,
nor the name of the gentleman. It was one of those crazy days at the winery when
visitors are lined up at the tasting bar, so by the time we had a chance to
speak with this gentleman at length, he had disappeared.

I have searched for months through the Ohio Division
of Liquor Control and Federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms licensing divisions
to try to find this gentleman, to no avail. Unfortunately, all winery records
prior to prohibition were destroyed.

The significance of that piece at this time
is related to an upcoming March event, during which (for the first time ever)
the City of Cincinnati Park Board is sponsoring a wine event at Krohn
Conservatory with a presentation about the History of the Ohio River Valley wine
appellation. That piece is significant, since as Ohio Bonded Winery #2, that
would have been only the second winery to be established after The
Longworth wineries in the mid 1800s. As many of you already know, Nicholas
Longworth started this nations wine history when he planted 3000
acres of Catawba along the shores of the Ohio River, east of Cincinnati, and is
still to this day considered "The Father of the American Wine

The request: If any winery visitor has any recollection of this
gentleman’s visit to Harmony Hill, or knows anything about this piece, please contact us as soon as possible.

I will keep everyone posted as I find out more about the Krohn Conservatory Event. It sounds quite fun, and I do love the conservatory. If anyone knows anything about this barrel stamp from Ohio Winery #2, please get in touch.

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Posted by Michelle at 4:14 pm in Cincinnati, History, Local Wineries, Wineries | Permalink | Comments (1)
Apr 09

One Perfect Evening and the Oakville Grocery

OakvillegroceryI recently read that the Oakville Grocery was verging on bankrupt, and was saved by the generosity of Leslie Rudd of Rudd Vineyards and Dean & DeLuca. I was so relieved. I feel like Oakville Grocery, especially the location on Highway 29 in Napa Valley, is a little piece of history  – a little piece of my own history.

Our last trip out to California’s wine country was in 2005. We stayed in Santa Rosa, which proved to be the perfect vantage point to access both Sonoma and Napa, and then enjoy a brewpub or sushi in Santa Rosa come evening. Because Kevin attended an annual conference in San Francisco, our trips tended to lead up to, and occasionally cross July 4th. On this particular trip, the Mondavi Summer Concert series was hosting the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and celebrating July 4th. I’d ordered tickets months before and was incredibly excited. (See photos here.)

On the recommendation of the folks at Domaine Carneros, we stopped at the Oakville Grocery before the concert. Oakville Grocery is practically across the street from Mondavi and in the "front yard," so to speak, of Opus One. It’s surrounded by vines. Inside, it was crowded with people and Kevin and I split up to pick up specialty sandwiches, yummy pastries, and cheeses, as well as a bottle or two of water. It all went into a box, and we wandered into Mondavi.

MondavismallWe spread our blanket out behind a young family. Turns out these folks lived there in Napa, which seems positively wonderful to me. What a great family! We all purchased our various wines in the Mondavi wine shop and we shared.We talked about the wine and enjoyed the wines with complete strangers as the uplifting strains of New Orleans jazz floated over the evening. In the back of the courtyard, tables were set up at the vineyard edge. Robert Mondavi and his wife, Margrit, were there. At times they were up and swing dancing, and looking very much in love. At the end of the evening, fireworks exploded in the sky, lighting up the vineyards and the mountains.

It was really one of the most perfect nights of my life. Vineyards, wine, beauty, music, history, and good company. The Oakville Grocery was just one part of that evening, but I will forever associate it with that night. I’m glad it’ll be around so that we can do it all again.

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Posted by Michelle at 11:55 pm in History, Travel, Wine Shops, Wineries | Permalink | Comments ()

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