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Jun 20

Travel Diary: Adventures in Africa

An old friend of mine is on a tour of, well, the world. In the last two weeks, I think he’s been in Istanbul, Zanzibar, and now he’s somewhere in the Serengeti. Curt is a wine connoisseur, so I’ve begged him to send me tasting notes of his adventures whenever he has some time and an internet connection. Here is the first of those missives, detailing a set of Tanzanian wines. I’m hoping for his notes from Africa all the way to Paris. You can check out Curt’s travel blog at march-fourth.com.

 -Michelle
___

The day before leaving for Tanzania for 2 weeks, I attended a once in a lifetime winetasting. Our regular wine group spent the evening tasting some spectacular burgundies, including a Le Montrachet and a Romanee Conti. The advice I received that night, from a friend who has spent numerous years traveling the world - especially in Africa: ‘Take your wine with you!’

Pre-Trip French Tasting (Photo by Curtis Pack)
Pre-Trip French Tasting (Photo by Curtis Pack)

So there I was (there I was, there I was!) in the gift shop at Lake Manyara, and a white and a red bottle From the finest Tanzanian Vineyards stuck out like a tourist in a local village – $10 for the white and $11 for the red. There was no vintage on the label and no way these bottles had been stored adequately in a building that more resembled a permanent camper. It was simply Dodoma Dry White and Dodoma Dry Red…so I bought them both.

Back at the lodge, I opened the white wine first, wanting to follow proper etiquette. The color was nothing special, medium to deep gold. The nose on the other hand knocked me back in my bar stool (and not in a good way)! It overwhelmed me with pungent iodine and I thought, ‘I should have brought some wine with me.’ I mustered up the courage and went back for the second nose with very low expectations, but found more mellow aromas. There were notes of unsweet honey and it seemed similar to a sherry. Lucky for me I enjoy a weird white wine like this from time to time. I took a sip and noticed the immediate dryness and strong acid drawing the moisture from my mouth. It actually had notes of wet tobacco on the palate (weird!). I finished 2 glasses and it held my attention but it was certainly beginning to take an effort to keep drinking it.

Tanzanian Wines (Photo by Curtis Pack)
Tanzanian Wines (Photo by Curtis Pack)

The red on the other hand was totally drinkable. I would probably stand it up against any California $10 red. It wasn’t the darkest red but it was still a teeth-stainer. I picked up consistent and subtle but identifiable hints of black cherry, pepper, and smoke on both the nose and the palate. A hint of extraction on the palate quickly melted away into a good balanced finish. I could have kept drinking this wine with dinner all night, but as customary I reserved a glass for tasting the next day. By then all of the fruit had evaporated and it was a little like licking a rock.

Curious about my experiment, I searched the web for Dodoma wines. CNN dubbed Dodoma as one of the ‘5 African Wines Making a Splash’ in January this year. Other articles are sparse, but commentary seems to at least say the Dodoma wines are making a marketing push. Right now I think it is a high price to value ratio – let’s hope it stays that way.
You win some, you lose some. I am glad that I didn’t bring wine with me!

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 8:16 am in Guest Writers, Tastings, Travel, Wine Misc, Wine Notes | Permalink | Comments (1)
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.
Mar 06

My Wine Exchange Was a Hit

By: Cresta

Well, I finally did it! I hosted my very first wine exchange a couple of weeks ago. It was not orchestrated as “formally” as I would’ve liked (yes, I am pretty neurotic about things going according to plan), but because everyone had a great time, I consider it a big success! Here is how it worked…

Each person brought two bottles of the same wine. One bottle was put aside for the exchange and the other was opened for tasting. I even found these really cute wine glass tags to help distinguish our glasses.

Cute wine tags that I found at Cork ‘N Bottle. They not only describe some wines, but personalities as well.

We ate a few snacks before we got started. I kept it simple with cheese and crackers, a variety of nuts, olives, some veggies, dark chocolates and cocoa dusted truffles.We began with white wines (sweet then dry) and moved on to the reds, which included quite a few blends. No one brought any dessert wines or sparkling varieties. I provided index cards for people to take notes but that kind of fell to the wayside as we started down the line of about eight different wines.

After the tastings, we moved on to the exchange. We drew names to pick the order and we allowed one steal. I ended up with 3 Girls Cabernet Sauvignon, which I really enjoyed.

Some of my other favorites were: Clean Slate 2011 Riesling, Cary Chen Riesling from Elk Creek Vineyards and Pro-mis-Q-ous, a California red table wine.

I think it would be fun to try this again but perhaps create a theme around it (like Summer Wines). Or maybe dictate the variety of wine people bring. It’s not such a bad deal…I ended up with the leftover wine. Oh, and we had a massage therapist friend scheduled to give shoulder massages but she fell ill. So I would incoporate that next time.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Cresta at 6:17 pm in Tastings, Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments (1)
Dec 12

Taste the Tables Event This Saturday

By: Cresta

This Saturday, December 15, The Wine Guy Bistro, Wine Shop & Wine Bar in Rookwood Pavilion is offering a fantastic opportunity to try a variety of different wines.

The Wine Guy’s seventh annual Taste the Tables event takes place from noon until 4 p.m. They will open 50 different bottles of wine for you to try… 50 wines for just $15. To me, there’s nothing more disheartening than buying a bottle of wine that you end up not enjoying. So this event is the perfect chance to find some varieties that you like and then purchase them to take home. You can mix and match cases to stock up for yourself or purchase Christmas gifts.

I would suggest grabbing a bite to eat before you taste. They won’t be serving food at the bar during Taste the Tables. But The Wine Guy Bistro will open for lunch (and dinner).

 A few things to note:

  • They are not taking reservations; it’s first come, first served.
  • Standing room only; there won’t be any barstools at the bar so that they can accommodate the crowd.
  • It could get pretty crazy up at Rookwood with all the holiday shoppers, so remember you can park in the garage located behind The Wine Guy.
  • Wines that are left over will be sold during dinner that night for $4 per glass.

The Wine Guy Bistro Wine Shop & Wine Bar is located in Rookwood Pavilion, 2692 Madison Road. Call 513-834-5712 or visit http://thewineguywineshop.com for more information.

If you go, please comment here and let us know how it was. Or you can always email me. If you find some fantastic wines, we want to know that as well.

Cheers!

 

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Cresta at 8:43 am in Tastings, Wine Events | Permalink | Comments ()
Nov 06

La Joya Free Wine Tastings…And Meet the Wine Maker!

by Angela L.

Last night I enjoyed a wonderful dinner with La Joya Wine Maker Johanna Pereira (Blog post to come) but I got taste all of the wines that will be in this weeks’ free wine tastings around Cincinnati and Louisville. These are simple wonderful wines that let the grape speak for itself. The La Joya wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Carmenere, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Enjoy!

Cincinnati area: Tuesday, November 6th
The Fresh Market – Kenwood, La Joya wine tasting and meet the Wine Maker, Johanna Pereira in store event 4-7 PM

Cincinnati area: Wednesday, November 7th
The Fresh Market – Oakley, La Joya wine tasting and meet the Wine Maker, Johanna Pereira in store event 4-7 PM

For our Louisville readers: Thursday, November 8th
Liquor Barn Louisville - La Joya wine tasting and meet the Wine Maker, Johanna Pereira in store event 4-7 PM

Cincinnati area: Friday, November 9th
The Fresh Market – West Chester, La Joya wine tasting and meet the Wine Maker, Johanna Pereira in store event 4-7 PM

 

- Cheers Angela

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Angela at 11:56 am in Meet the Winemaker, Tastings, Wine Events, Wineries | Permalink | Comments ()

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