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Mar 14

New Reds: Quick Review

By: Cresta

A couple of new reds I’ve tried recently…

Robert Reynolds Merlot “Rocky’s Block” Lodi 2007

I tried this wine at a recent event and I was pleasantly surprised. Not outstanding but well above average. It is a subtle, medium-bodied Merlot from the Lodi region in California; slightly oaky with berry and vanilla flavors, very low tannins and a smooth but super sweet finish for a Merlot. I would consider having this one on hand at home as it was easy to drink.

My rating:

Pink hapy





2010 Bodegas Sierra Norte Bobal Temperamento

This was a wine club pick, and it was just OK for me. The club tries very hard to select unique wines that you can’t find everywhere.  I don’t think I’ve been a fan of the Spanish selections they’ve sent over the last couple years.

This wine comes from the Bobal grape, which is a dark-skinned red grape native to the Utiel-Requena region in Valencia, Spain. It had an intense fruity aroma, a soft oak flavor with hints of black licorice (probably why this was not one of my faves). The structured tannins and long finish made it a little hard for me to drink.

I have not had a white wine in a long while! I am definitely ready for Spring so I at least have a (better) excuse to try some whites.

Any suggestions?

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Cresta at 8:44 am in Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments (1)
Mar 07

2014 Wine Festival Notes

Just finished up my brief trip through the festival and while everything I tried was really nice, there were a few things that I’d like to highlight that were new to me.

Note: The local winery row was to the left of the hall as you entered. An the numbers start to the right of the entrance.

Terry Theise Selections (booth 12) – 3 very nice, yet different styles of growers Champaign. The Varnier Brut (100% Chard) had the most upfront yeast with a 2010 base, but grapes added from 2001-2009, the Pehu-Simonet (60% Pinot Noir/40% Chard) made using only their own grapes was more fruit focused, and the Marc Hebrart 50 Chard/41 Pinot Noir with 9% Still Pinot Noir added at the end of the process was a balance between the styles. The Contratto Extra Brut (Booth 15) was also a nice extra dry sparkling wine.

For Whites: Hoepler (Booth 99) once again had a very nice and fresh Gruner Veltliner along with the Pinot Blanc which was aged in Hungarian oak. The Bovin Chardonnay (Booth 132) from Macedonia was a 100% stainless steel offering and it is the only place to check off that country at the Festival.

Reds: Rob Murray Wines (Booth 28) had a few wines not yet available in the area yet. Both the Pinot Noir and the Force of Nature Zin are both arriving in May. This gives a nice opportunity to try them earlier. Cinnabar Winery (Booth 3) had the Sorcerer’s Stone which is available in Ohio and their California tasting room. It was a Zinfandel that worked really nicely for me.

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Posted by Kevin at 3:56 pm in Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments ()
Mar 07

24th Annual Cincinnati International Wine Festival

It’s that time once again to celebrate with the International Wine Festival here in Cincinnati. It’s always a sign that warmer days are getting closer and after this winter, that is a really great thing. 14 countries, 143 booths most with 4-10 wine selections, and a selection of small food items has me excited this year.

I’ll try to get a post up in the late afternoon highlighting any specific gems, but feel free to add you finds in the comments. Did you try everything at Korbel (booth 115) and decide what type of Champagne you prefer? Or was your favorite a Moscato or an American sparkling wine instead?

Annually, we like to publish a few ways to get the most out of the overall experience. Here our list 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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Posted by Kevin at 8:25 am in Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments ()
Feb 13

Last-Minute Valentine Gifts for Your Wine-Lover Lover

By: Cresta

Flowers, candy and jewelry are the traditional biggies on Valentine’s Day. But if you want to stray from the norm or just don’t know what to get your sweetie, perhaps these ideas will help. I know I always enjoy getting wine-related gifts, no matter what the occasion.



Cork Pops wine opener

You can never have too many cool wine accessories. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money. One of my favorites is the electric wine opener. It makes opening a bottle of wine a breeze. Mine is a re-chargeable Waring wine opener with a foil cutter and charging base. My husband recently found an opener at Cork N Bottle called Cork Pops. It has a long needle that you insert into the cork and a pressurized button at the top releases it. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s supposed to open more than 50 bottles of wine.

Wine stoppers are great as well. There are a lot of fun ones out there. I prefer the dripless pourers with stoppers; that way red wine doesn’t get on my (very impractical, very white) countertop, and I can easily seal it back it up. If that special someone regularly drinks red wine, an aerator is an ideal gift. I use mine a lot! I have a Vinturi aerator with stand. I’ve seen some great wine gadgets at Pier One, Bed, Bath and Beyond and Williams-Sonoma. 

Bags & Totes

31 Tote

Thermal Tote from Thirty-One

For those that take wine to parties or transport it while traveling, totes can come in handy. They also make a great accompaniment when giving wine as a gift. You can buy bags made out of canvas and leather; tote bags shaped like boxes; even purse-style totes. I have a personalized thermal tote from Thirty One. It has a Velcro closure and handle and is quite durable. I also like my Bevs-to-Go Bottle Bag from Pampered Chef that is perfect for chilling white wine in a hurry. Place the bottle in the bag along with cold water and ice and voila…your wine is chilled in about 20 minutes.


People that like drinking wine probably like reading about it too. I can’t tell you how many wine-themed books are out there. There are books for the novice and the advanced; books about the history of wine; those with food pairings and recipes; books about vineyards and wineries. I recommend visiting your local bookstore to see what options they have.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Yes, the wine club. A monthly wine club is the perfect gift for any wine lover. This website, Wine Club Reviews, seems to have a lot of great information and helpful reviews to help you select the club that is right for you. The site categorizes the clubs by wine type and region, and they even break it down by which clubs ship to which states. Because of wine shipping laws, remember to make sure the club you choose will ship to your state.

Cheers and Happy Valentine’s Day!


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Posted by Cresta at 2:02 pm in Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments (1)
Feb 07

Warm Up Your Weekend with These Reds

By: Cresta

Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County 2011: Great structure. Nice tannins. Medium-bodied wine with rich flavors of dark fruit, including black cherry and blackberry, with subtle hints of vanilla and mocha on the finish. Somewhat bold but smooth. $18-$20.

Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin, Vintage 2011: If you want something a little spicier than the Cab, this Zinfandel is delicious. I have not had a Zin in a long time, but this is probably one of the best I’ve tried. The dark berry flavors combine perfectly with the spicy, peppery taste and little bit of oak. This wine was just as good a couple of days later after it had been opened. Gnarly Head is from the Lodi region, which is part of the larger Central Valley Wine Region of California. Around $10.

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Posted by Cresta at 3:15 pm in Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments ()

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