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Thursday, May 26, 2016

An Australian Taste Trip: The Wines Of Jacob’s Creek

Array of Jacob's Creek Wines

Jacob’s Creek is Australia’s largest wine brand with more than 160 years of winemaking expertise. Do they have any new tricks up their sleeve? You’ll be surprised.

Wines From The Land Down Under

Although there have been vineyards in Australia since the 1700s, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the country began capturing world attention. Today Australia is known for dynamic and cutting edge wine producers and is the seventh largest wine producing country.

Jacob’s Creek is a winery deeply rooted in the history of Australia. In 1840 William Jacob settled in Rowland Flat on the banks of a creek that later would be named for him and become world famous. Seven years later vines were planted and a legacy was begun.

We had the opportunity to taste through a spectrum of Jacob’s Creek wine and came away with some new insights. It was a multi-continental virtual tasting, with Napa winemaker Ehren Jordan and Jacob’s Creek chief winemaker Ben Bryant being joined by wine educators Jean Reily and Steve Meckiff.

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Keeping It Light

Jacob's Creek Pinot GrigioWhile the main white grape in Australia is Chardonnay, Jacob’s Creek offers a pair of fine Pinot Grigio. Jacob’s Creek wine is accessible not only in terms of taste, but price as well. We tasted the 2015 Classic Pinot Grigio (SRP $7.99) and the 2015 Two Lands Pinot Grigio (SRP $13.99).

The 2015 vintage is considered one of the best for white wine in Australia. The Classic is zesty with pure flavors of apple and pear. The Two Lands is a more complex wine with some tension between the acidity and the sweetness. It is barrel fermented with natural yeast.

Two Lands is a collaboration between Napa winemaker Jordan and Australian winemakers at Jacob’s Creek. The contrasting styles of oak aging in California and minimal intervention in Australia come together in a very pleasing package.

The Main Event: Shiraz

Shiraz is the signature grape of Australia. The Shiraz of Jacob’s Creek is known around the world and is made from grapes from the famed Barossa Valley.

We had three Shiraz to sample and started with the 2014 Reserve Shiraz. This is a full bodied wine that can only be described as crunchy. Big, black fruit with a silky finish. There is freshness to the wine and subtle oak flavors. This is unbelievably good for a price of only $15. This is a knockout.

Jacob's Creek Virtual TastingAfter 160 years, has Jacob’s Creek gone stale? Think again. The 2014 Two Lands Shiraz forced us to do a double-take.

Upon first approach, this had an aroma of farmland and brambles. The higher acidity was noticeable. The more herbal approach was causing the Green Dragon (my wife) to return to the Reserve. But wait! The Two Lands was developing nicely in the glass with complex flavors of dried fruits and prunes. This stock for this wine hit bottom, but then shot through the roof. A nice bottle at a mere $13.

Jacob’s Creek flexed its innovation muscles once again with their Double Barrel Shiraz. The wine is aged in used Scotch whiskey barrels and the effect is a sensational complexity – a taste of char and dark spices with a dollop of chocolate. This wine shows how those in the spirits industry can work together to share resources and make amazing products. This is an aromatic wine that shows thick legs on the glass. If this is any indication, we can’t wait for their Triple Barrel Shiraz!

Jacob’s Creek is doing it right. Ofering high quality wine at affordable prices. They aren’t content to lead the pack. William Jacob’s creek continues to flow with innovation, new approaches and astounding success.

Full Disclosure: We received these wines as marketing samples.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Toledo Area Wine Events & Tastings: May 25-28, 2016


Wednesday, May 25
20160126_191735The Andersons, Sylvania, 6-8 PM. Great Cabs for Under $20: 1. Decoy 2013 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon, 2. Vina Robles 2012 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, 3. Bishop's Peak 2013 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, 4. Twenty Bench 2014 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, 5. Sean Minor 2013 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Nominal fee per sample or $10 per flight.
 
Corks Wine and Liquor, Promenade Plaza, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford – (419) 872-6800. 6-8 PM. Fun wine tasting of summer friendly wines. Beach Party movie and patio pounders. Super fun! Nominal cost per sample or $15 for flight.
 
Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463. 5:30 –7:30 PM. Wine Tasting. $15 per person.

Thursday, May 26

Andersons, Maumee, 5-7 PM. MS Bike-to-the-Bay Sign-Up Tasting. Attend this special event to taste some great wines and sign up for this year's MS Bike-To-The-Bay. 1. 2014 Salmon Run – Chardonnay – Finger Lakes, 2. 2015 Elicio – Rosé – Rhone, France, 3. 2014 DeLoach – Pinot Noir – St Helena, California, 4. 2014 Force of Nature – Red Blend – Paso Robles, California. Nominal fee per sample or $4.50 per flight.

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Andersons, Talmadge Road, Wine Tasting. 6 – 8 PM. Battle of the California Zinfandels. Time to fire up the grill, rub the rub and slop on the sauce! 1. High Valley - Lake County, 2. Meeker – Sonoma, 3. Tin Barn – Sonoma, 4. Pozzan – Napa, 5. Seghesio – Sonoma, 6. Klinker Brick – California, 7. Beran – Sonoma, 8. Storybrook Mountain - Napa. Nominal fee per sample.
 
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TREO Wine Bar, 5703 Main St., Sylvania, (419) 882-2266. Wine & Cheese Thursday. Explore the wonderful world of wine and cheese. Try four different wines with a sample platter of the day’s cheese.
 
Zinful, (419) 931-9946, 218 Louisiana Ave., Perrysburg. 5-8 PM. Wine tasting. Call for information. 

Friday, May 27
 
Toledo Museum Of Art, (419) 255-8000. 6:30 – 8:30 PM. Wine By The Glass Pavilion: Memorable Wines, Historic Vineyards. Enjoy four wines and light snacks. Tickets are $25 for members, $35 for nonmembers and are available for purchase during Museum hours by phone at or at the information desks
 
Walt Churchill's Market, 26625 Dixie Hwy, Perrysburg, (419) 872-6900. 4-7 PM. What’s New Wine Tasting. Experience new wine selections with Mimma from Solo Vino. Nominal fee per sample.
 
Saturday, May 28
Dzia's Irish Pub, 5131 Heatherdowns Blvd, Toledo, (567) 698-3942. 3-5 PM. Wine tasting. $15.
 
Kroger Maumee – Wine Tasting, 3-7 PM. Nominal fee per sample.
 
Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 2-6 PM. Rose’ Tasting. Rose’s have become fashionable again and are the perfect wine for Spring and Summer. Rose’ wines are ideal for entertaining a Sunday barbecue or sipping pool-side. We will be tasting wines from Tavel, Provence, Cotes du Rhone and others from around the world.Nominal fee per sample.

AREA WINE BARS
  • Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463.
  • Zinful, (419) 931-9946, 218 Louisiana Ave., Perrysburg.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cala Blanco 2012 Tempranillo La Mancha

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This Spanish Tempranillo provided a welcome break at a recent conference. While the hospitality room was underway, my friend and I stole away to try a stash of wines brought in from a friend from California.

There’s a lot of miles on this wine, because it originates in the Spanish La Mancha region. La Mancha is the largest wine region not only in Spain, but in all of Europe. It encompasses 420,000 acres.

This is 100% Tempranillo, the light bodied red grape that is native to northern Spain. This is a ripe tasting wine, with strawberry smoothness. Cala Blanca, which means “white chalk” is deep red in color with a touch of spiciness.

A better bet for Tempranillo is Ribero del Duero or Rioja, with their cooler climates. The Cala Blanco, however, is an enjoyable glass. Its quality skyrockets when shared with good friends.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Wines of Meeker Vineyard Brilliant At La Scola Wine Dinner

Molly MeekerThe wines of Meeker Vineyard presented by Molly Meeker herself plus the cuisine of La Scola Italian Grille created an unforgettable evening.

From Junkyard to Vineyard

The journey of winery owners Charlie and Molly Meeker didn’t take the traditional route. Molly was an actress and Charlie was an entertainment attorney. They met at Norman Lear’s production company, which produced such shows as All In The Family, Sanford and Son and Maude.

Charlie became a film producer and ultimately president of MGM. Molly rose to a VP position in Lear’s company. In 1977 they bought a vineyard in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley. In 1984 the Meeker Vineyards winery opened.

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Imaginative Food Creations

Meeker Chardonnay and Scallop BisqueThe recent wine dinner featuring Meeker wines was presented by La Scola Italian Grill along with Esber Beverage Company. I enjoy drinking a great glass of wine, but to propel the occasion through the atmosphere, there’s nothing like scrumptious food. Having Molly Meeker there to discuss her wines was the cherry on top.

We tasted through five different wines paired with amazing dishes, the first being scallop bisque with bacon (I had no idea jowls were so crispy!). This was paired with the 2012 Meeker Dry Creek Valley Chardonnay.

The Chard offers a fresh bouquet. It is barrel fermented in neutral oak and is aged six months sur lee for additional body. It undergoes malolactic fermentation for a nice creamy finish. The bisque was rich and succulent and the chardonnay contrasted nicely. The chardonnay had an enjoyable vanilla finish. It’s a nice value at $25.

Bone marrow and Meeker ZinWe were looking forward to the Meeker Cabs, but we weren’t there yet. First we enjoyed the 2011 Bessie Zinfandel. Dry Creek Valley is famous for Zin and Bessie did not disappoint. Well balanced with nice acidity, it maintained a light and bright profile. There was a dash of black pepper and it didn’t taste “hot” with high alcohol. Paired with roasted bone marrow topped with red onion marmalade, this was a memorable and unconventional pairing.

The next offering was the 2010 Great Cabs Cabernet, Sonoma Valley. This was paired with a stuffed pork dish topped with wasabi micro greens and roasted red pepper. This is a mid-range cab which features small quantities of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. It has nice body and great texture.

Molly described the Combination (code three) California Red Wine as a “down and dirty’ California blend. It has 60% Syrah, 20% Petite Sirah and 20% Barbera. This has a beautiful sour cherry flavor with a lilting acidity. It has some herbal notes and blackberry hints. It retails for $37. It was paired with slow-roasted poblano infused short ribs. Happy to say I received a bottle of this as a birthday present!

3 liter Meeker Winemaker's Handprint MerlotHands Down Winner

The next bottle is “hands down” the most recognizable Meeker wine: the 2012 Winemaker’s Handprint Merlot, Sonoma County. The standard bottles bear the colorful handprints of winemaker Lucas Meeker. Also on display were a 3 liter bottle and a magnum.

The Handprint Merlot is a Cabernet drinker’s Merlot. It is robust and complex. It is 84% Merlot with the remainder being a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It explodes on the palate with cherries and red fruit with some toasty caramel.

This was paired with delicious lamb shanks and was divine.This has a SRP of $42 – an excellent bargain.

Chocolate Covered What!?

20160510_212931Our evening concluded with key lime pie with black pepper and chocolate doubloons paired with the 2013 FroZin dessert wine.  One of our dinner partners got me good on this one. I love chocolate and he said, “this chocolate doubloon is great.”

Mouth watering, I took a big bite – it was a jalapeno! Yikes! I enjoy jalepenos with beer and Mexican food, not so much at my wine dinner. Our friend Ann could not say enough about the jalepeno – at least not much I can repeat!

This was a playful finish to a truly magnificent evening of wine, friends and food. Meeker offers a great lineup of diverse wines, from elegant Chardonnay to Merlot with character. We encourage you to uncork at your first opportunity.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What Makes A Great Winery Visit? Here Is Our Trifecta

Viewpointe Winery, Lake Erie North ShoreA winery visit can be spectacular – or a complete bust. What makes the difference? After visiting more than 100 different wineries, here’s our inside scoop.

 

We Have Reports On More Than 130 Wineries

I just recently glanced at our winery reports page and counted 133 entries. We’ve visited many more than that, probably closer to the 150 mark.

Some of those visits have been memorable – sipping outstanding wine in the dappled sunshine while being caressed by gentle breezes. But some have been memorable for the wrong reasons.

The bad winery visits can remind you of an episode of Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsey going ballistic after discovering an oozing mess in the walk-in cooler.

Well, what is it that makes a winery visit an experience to savor?

Based on our experience, we consider three factors. If a winery scores big in all three dimensions, you can ink in a big star on the wine trail map – marking it for repeated visits.

In our experience, you need the “three goods:” 1. Good winery grounds and tasting room, 2. Good tasting room staff, and 3. Good wine.

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Mission Hill, British Columbia

Number One: Good Winery Grounds And Tasting Room

Upon arrival, nothing sets the stage like seeing an impressive, quirky or scenic winery building. It gives you good vibrations right from the start. There’s nothing worse than rumbling up to the next stop on the wine trail, looking at your companion asking, “Should we go in, or just turn around?”

Having an awesome tasting room doesn’t mean you will have world class wine, but it shows the caliber of the operation. Chances are that even average wine will taste a lot better in a tasting room with a floor to ceiling window overlooking a lake than in what appears to be a farmer’s converted garage.

One of the nicest tasting rooms we’ve visited is Heron Hill in the Finger Lakes. You are impressed from a half mile away and even more blown away once you are inside. Lamoreaux Landing and Glenora are two other stand-out Finger Lakes establishments. The winery buildings in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Stellenbosch (South Africa), and Lake Okanogan (British Columbia) are also spectacular.

There is also a lot to be said for grounds with picnic tables and scenic views of mountains, vineyards or lakes.

Number Two: Good Tasting Room Staff

La Bri, South Africa

Someone save us from uninformed, unhelpful and unpleasant tasting room staff. You’ve made the decision to stop for a tasting and enter the building. The next moment of truth is the tasting room attendant.

In some wineries, like Bully Hill in the Finger Lakes, the staff ARE the attractions – entertaining guests with humorous stories and gags while dispensing detailed knowledge of the winery’s goods. A good staff can also help guide you to the wines you will most enjoy.

On a good day, your tasting room attendant will generate warmth, be a helpful advisor and sell a lot of wine.

The other end of the spectrum includes those who are too busy to tell you about the wine, those who don’t know what is in a particular wine and those who are doing it without a true love of wine.

This factor is probably even more important than an impressive building. At this point you're already invested in making a stop and if you get a bummer of a host, you’ll feel it’s been a waste of time.

Check Out Our Winery Reports Page To Plan Your Next Visit!

Taste of WashingtonNumber Three: Good Wine

Excellent wine can supersede almost any other flaw in your winery visit. This is the final piece of the puzzle. If you’re sipping an especially robust Cabernet Franc in a groovy tasting room while the tasting room attendant is telling you an intriguing story about how the owner started the winery, you have hit the trifecta!

If Numbers 1 and 2 are locked in, you have a better than even chance you’ll be tasting some good wine. But there is no guarantee.

While we were up in the Niagara Peninsula, we made a stop at a winery that looked very impressive from the road. The building was of a modern design built from local stone. Inside the tasting room glittered as track lighting glinted off racks of bottles in impressive displays.

Unfortunately, the wine was just “mehh”…

Once you have achieved the “three goods,” that is the time to turn to your companions, smile and raise a toast. You are living the good life!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Toledo Area Wine Events & Tastings: May 18-21, 2016


Wednesday, May 18
DSC_0310The Andersons, Sylvania, 6-8 PM. Son of Z-Best. 1. Olivier Leflaive 2013 Chassagne-Montrachet, 2. Trinchero 2012 BRV Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, 3. Stags’ Leap “The Leap” 2012 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, 4. Terlato 2012 “Episode” Napa Red, 5. Walt 2012 Santa Rita Hills Clos Pepe Pinot Noir, 6. Graham’s 20-Year Tawny Port, 7. Mollydooker 2012 “Velvet Glove” Shiraz, 8. Chateau La Nerthe 2012 Chateauneuf-du-Papes, 9. Orin Swift 2014 “Palermo” Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, 10. Caymus/Wagner Family “Red Schooner Voyage 2” Malbec, 11. Domaine Tempier 2011 Bandol, 12. Michael David 2013 “Gluttony” Old Vine Zinfandel. one ounce pours priced individually.
 
Corks Wine and Liquor, Promenade Plaza, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford – (419) 872-6800. 6-9 PM. Special guest: Angela of Vanguard Wines. We will be sampling Luminis Sauvignon Blanc, White blend and Malbec along with a few case stacker gems. Nominal cost per sample.
 
Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463. 5:30 –7:30 PM. Wine Tasting. $15 per person.

Thursday, May 19

Andersons, Maumee, 5-7 PM. More Great Spring Wines: 1. 2012 Jorge Ordonez – Botani – Dry Muscat – Sierra de Malaga, Spain, 2. 2015 Bieler Pere & Fils – Rosé – Provence, France, 3. 2014 Corvidae – Lenore Syrah – Columbia Valley, Washington, 4. 2013 Voliero – Rosso di Montalcino –  Montalcino, Italy. Nominal fee per sample or $6.50 per flight.

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Andersons, Talmadge Road, Wine Tasting. 6 – 8 PM. Our Annual 'Last Great Cabernet Tasting Before Summer': 1. Substance - Washington Charles Smith Winery, 2. Meeker – Sonoma, 3. Norman - Paso Robles, 4. Ste. Michelle Indian Wells, 5. Justin - Paso Robles, 6. Mt. Veeder – Napa, 7. Emblem – Napa, 8. Orin Swift Palermo – Napa, 9. Whitehall Lane – Napa, 10. Frog's Leap – Napa, 11. Storybook Mountain – Napa, 12. John Anthony - Napa. Nominal fee per sample.
 
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TREO Wine Bar, 5703 Main St., Sylvania, (419) 882-2266. Wine & Cheese Thursday. Explore the wonderful world of wine and cheese. Try four different wines with a sample platter of the day’s cheese.
 
Zinful, (419) 931-9946, 218 Louisiana Ave., Perrysburg. 5-8 PM. Special tasting event - Skurnik Wines & Spirits and Vintner Select present the wines of Paul Jaboulet Aine.
Light nosh included. $25 per person. Call for information. 

Friday, May 20

Toledo Museum Of Art, (419) 255-8000. 6:30 – 8:30 PM. Wine By The Glass Tango, Salsa, Cha-Cha: Latin American Wines. Enjoy four wines and light snacks. Tickets are $25 for members, $35 for nonmembers and are available for purchase during Museum hours by phone at or at the information desks
 
Walt Churchill's Market, 26625 Dixie Hwy, Perrysburg, (419) 872-6900. 4-7 PM. Rep’s Choice. Sara Blakely from Berman Wines will surprise us with her selections. Nominal fee per sample.
 
Saturday, May 21
Kroger Maumee – Wine Tasting, 3-7 PM. Nominal fee per sample.
 
Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 2-6 PM. Sparkling wines. With graduations coming up, it’s an ideal time to focus on that special day with an appropriate sparkling wine. We will be sampling some of the best examples of sparkling wine, Cava, Prosecco, and Champagne. Nominal fee per sample.

AREA WINE BARS
  • Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463.
  • Zinful, (419) 931-9946, 218 Louisiana Ave., Perrysburg.
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Up & Coming

Rat Pack Italian Wine Dinner, Paesano Restaurant and Wine Bar, 3411 Washtenaw Ave, Ann Arbor, (734) 971-0484, Wednesday, May 18, 6-8 PM. Featuring six Italian vintners, six wineries and six regions. Walk-around wine tasting with Chef Dave Whitney’s appetizers and desserts. Cost $60. Call for reservations. 

The 21st Annual Wood County Human Society Wine and Dine will be held  May 20 at the Hilton Garden Inn at Levis Commons in Perrysburg from 7-10 PM. Featuring: live music, silent and live auctions, and delicious grazing stations. Tickets $55 single, $100 couple. Music by Suburban Legend. More information and tickets here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dry Creek Vineyards 2015 Wilson Ranch Dry Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg

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There is a danger with Dry Creek Vineyards Chenin Blanc. My wife is liable to drink it all before I sample it. Here’s why.

Loire Valley Roots

I’ve been a fan of Chenin Blanc for many years. It all started with Vouvray from France’s Loire Valley.

The Vouvray which I first enjoyed had a touch of sweetness balanced with acidity plus a smidgeon of effervescence. It was a lovely bottle for dining out.

Dry Creek Vineyard, located in Sonoma, draws its inspiration from the Loire Valley and has produced another fine effort with its 2015 vintage Wilson Ranch Dry Chenin Blanc. The winery has produced Chenin Blanc with grapes from Wilson Ranch for more than 25 years.

The Green Dragon’s Thirst

My wife, aka the Green Dragon, is a lover of refreshing white wines. Sauvignon Blanc tops her list, but based on this bottle (and some we sampled in South Africa) Chenin Blanc is climbing in the rankings.

She insists that the wine be properly chilled (no warm whites and not to cold to dull the flavors). She also dislikes overly oaked whites and craves rich tastes.

I may have a glass of a nice white one evening only to discover the bottle completely drained the next night. Such is the Dragon’s thirst. I had to move quickly to taste this wine!

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An Expressive Chenin

The 2015 DCV Wilson Creek is 100% Chenin Blanc from the Wilson Ranch in Clarksburg, an area in the Sacramento delta known for its Chenin. The wine is stainless steel fermented.

The 2015 harvest was one of the earliest in history. The yields were down but the quality was high. There were just over 7,000 cases produced using stainless steel fermentation.

On first swirl there is a rush of pineapple and banana. On the palate there is peach and orange. The profile is fresh fruit with rounded edges.

This is a great pick for an after dinner wine or a casual afternoon in the back yard. It also is a superlative match with seafood or Asian cuisine.

Over the years we’ve come to appreciate the great value from Dry Creek Vineyard. We’re glad that trend continues. The SRP for this wine is only $13 and would be a bargain at twice that.

This Chenin Blanc is a great pick for foodies and those who appreciate refreshing values.

Full Disclosure: We received this wine as a marketing sample.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Napa Valley Versus Sonoma: We Pick The Winner!

Team gears up for Napa vs. Sonoma at Real Seafood

The two most famous wine regions in the United States? There’s no doubt about it, Napa Valley and Sonoma lead the way. Which is better? Here’s our liquid quest to find and answer.

The dinner featured top wines and gourmet food.Real Seafood Showdown

This is the sort of event we love.The recent wine dinner at Real Seafood Company in Toledo had a competitive edge. Participants would taste head to head match-ups of Napa Valley and Sonoma wines to determine the best wine region – while enjoying the superb culinary treats of Executive Chef Paul Cerveny.

Napa Valley has been producing the finest American red wines for more than a century. Cabernet Sauvignon reigns supreme with some bottles commanding prices over $1,000.

Sonoma formerly was overshadowed by its world-famous cousin, but today it produces wines to rival Napa. It is well suited to cool climate wines including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Let The Battle Begin

Our contest pitted two iconic wineries: Rodney Strong Vineyards of Sonoma and Napa Cellars. Rodney Strong is the namesake winery of famed American Dancer Rodney Strong. Notable winery Napa Cellars is owned by the Trinchero winery group.

We enjoyed four courses with a wine from each winery. We tracked our favorites on a menu we used as a ballot to pick the winners. Even if we were only drinking water, each dish was a masterpiece to be enjoyed. Of course, paired with superb wines, this was an amazing dining experience.

First up was Wild Mushroom Spring Rolls with Chinese mustard dipping sauce and micro cilantro. The Napa Cellars 2013 Pinot Noir squared off against the Rodney Strong 2013 Russian River Pinot Noir. As we discovered as the evening progressed, it’s hard to choose between two excellent wines. In this case, our tasting team opted in favor of Sonoma and the Pinot from Russian River Valley. The notes of plum and raspberry made an elegant start to the evening. Our vote: Sonoma.

Pistachio Crusted Beef Wagyu by Chef Paul CervenyThe second course was Crispy Pan Seared Rice Noodle Wrapped Halibut with miso glaze, daikon radish and carrot salad with mango vinaigrette. The pairings were the Napa Cellars 2014 Chardonnay versus the 2013 Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay. The Napa Cellars Chard was a strong contender with balanced flavors of citrus and apple. The Chalk Hill appellation gave Rodney Strong the edge with a full body that was creamy yet crisp. Our vote: Sonoma.

It was rally time for Napa Valley. The third course was Pistachio Crusted Beef Wagyu with pomegranate honey yogurt sauce, spring asparagus and chive couscous. Salute to the chef! All the dishes were stellar and this offered an explosion of contrasting flavors. The pairings were Napa Valley 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon versus the Rodney Strong Alexander Valley Cabernet.

This was a bit of a surprise for me. I’m a huge Rodney Strong fan, especially of its premium range wines and any wines from Alexander Valley. I expected Rodney Strong to mop up the floor (or the honey yogurt sauce) with the Napa Cellars Cab. However in a split decision I selected the Napa Cellars Cab for its rich flavors of dark cherry and cocoa. The Rodney Strong Cab tannins were a bit too strong. Our vote: Napa Valley.

It was bottom of the ninth with Napa Cellars at bat trailing by one run. Could they rally for a clutch victory? The “pitch” was a Chocolate Pot de Creme raspberry puree with chocolate custard, chocolate ganache and sea salt. This was an amazing dessert paired with the 2012 Rodney Strong Knotty Pines Zinfandel and the 2012 Napa Cellars Zinfandel.

The Rodney Strong Zin is made with grapes from Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek. This power of three, plus a rich and spicy flavor profile, enabled it to top the Napa Cellars wine. Our vote: Sonoma.

Although we had the contest scored a win for Sonoma, when Terry Kretz, district manager of Mainstreet Ventures, announced the final tally which included all diners – it was a tie between Napa and Sonoma.

Who can quibble? Gourmet food, delicious selections from Napa Valley and Sonoma equal a win-win situation for any wine lover. We intend to continue to research the question of which wine region is better, no matter how many bottles of wine it may take!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Six Top Albariño Selections From Spain’s Rías Baixas Region

Rías Baixas, a coastal region in the northwest of Spain, is home to the country’s most famous white grape: Albariño. Here are six picks sure to delight.

Albariño with crusted shrimp

How To Enjoy Albariño

In recent months we have been exploring Albariño. This crisp white wine has been perfected in the Rías Baixas DO (Denominación de Origen) of Spain.

Albariño with octopus and Spanish treatsDuring our recent trip to Spain, the greatness of Rías Baixas, in the green fields and rocky coasts of Galicia, was amply demonstrated. The Albariño and local seafood were simply off the charts with excellence.

Back home I’ve had the chance to sample quite a few Albariño courtesy of Rías Baixas Wines and the Wine Studio online education program. When selecting an Albariño, the first step is to ensure it is from Rías Baixas. There are a few other places (some in Spain and some in Portugal) that produce Albariño, but none do it as well. Wines from Rías Baixas capture the sea spray and granite from their unique locale.

Food is an important part of the Spanish lifestyle, so I’d suggest you have fun with some creative pairings with your Albariño. The Green Dragon prepared an array of creative dishes to go with our Albariño including Crusted Shrimp with Spicy Black Beans and Saffron Sauce and also pulpo (octopus) in a chipotle sauce.

 

Two of our top Albariño picksSix Albariño to delight your senses

Adega Eidos, 2014 Eidos de Padriñan DO Rías Baixas – Named after the small family vineyards prevalent in Rías Baixas. Light bodied with mineral notes. Fresh, well-balanced acidity. Lime and tropical fruit.SRP $17.

Bodegas La Val, 2014 La Val DO Rías Baixas - Condado do Tea – This is a one-note wine, but that note is very good. Light yellow in the glass, fresh sunshine on the palate. Citrus flavors with a dash of honey. SRP $17.

Bouza do Rei, 2015 Lagar de Bouza DO Rías Baixas – Lightly acidic. Floral and fruity bouquet. A slice of lemon and twist of lime. SRP $16. 

Terras Gauda, 2014 Terras Gauda O Rosal DO Rías Baixas – Shows that a blend (70% Albariño, 20% Loureira, 10% Caiño Blanco) can deliver beautiful complexity. Peach and orange flavor notes with a beautiful honey finish. SRP $24.

Veiga Naum, 2014 Veiga Naum DO Rías Baixas – Awash with lime flavors. Elegant yet bold. Won us over by the end of the evening. SRP $15.

Xion (Attis Bodega y Viñedos) 2014 DO Rías Baixas – A favorite. Golden in color. Stylish and balanced with a primary note of honeysuckle. Nice complexity with luscious acidity. SRP $14.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Toledo Area Wine Events & Tastings: May 11-14, 2016


Wednesday, May 11
Blaufrankish 007The Andersons, Sylvania, 6-8 PM. Dean’s “Missouri Loves Company” Farewell Tasting: 1. Chateau Grand Traverse 2013 “Ship of Fools” White (Michigan), 2. Pelee Island 2012 Gamay Noir/Zweigelt (Canada), 3. Pelee Island 2014 Cabernet Franc (Canada), 4. Kuleto 2012 Native Son Red (California), 5. Michael Pozzan 2013 Annabella Cabernet Sauvignon. $8 per flight or nominal charge per sample.
 
Corks Wine and Liquor, Promenade Plaza, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford – (419) 872-6800. 6-9 PM. Premium tasting: Produttori del Barbaresco. One of Italy’s greatest wine treasures. Tasting limited to 20 people. Complimentary nosh included. $49 per person. Call for more information.
 
Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463. 5:30 –7:30 PM. Wine Tasting. $15 per person.

Thursday, May 12

Andersons, Maumee, 5-7 PM. More Great Mid-Spring Wines: 1. 2013 Libenzi – Verdicchio - Baccaloro – Ancona, Italy, 2. 2015 Gorman Winery – 42-39-56 Rosé – Columbia Valley, Washington, 3. 2012 Podere Scopetone – Rosso di Montalcino – Montalcino, Italy, 4. 2013 Newsprint – Cabernet Sauvignon – Red Mountain, Washington. Nominal fee per sample or $8 per flight.

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Andersons, Talmadge Road, Wine Tasting. 6 – 8 PM. More Riesling with a few Spanish Wines: You Don't Know Riesling: 1. Dandelion Riesling, Gobelsburger, 3. Robert Weil Riesling Trocken, 4. Reuscher-Haart Piesporter. Spanish Reds: 1. Finca Sandoval Signo, 2. El Chaparral Old Vine Grenache, 3. Pinord Clos 15 Crianza Tempranillo, 4. Aster Ribero del Duero. Nominal fee per sample.
 
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TREO Wine Bar, 5703 Main St., Sylvania, (419) 882-2266. Wine & Cheese Thursday. Explore the wonderful world of wine and cheese. Try four different wines with a sample platter of the day’s cheese.
 
Zinful, (419) 931-9946, 218 Louisiana Ave., Perrysburg. 5-8 PM. Wine Tasting. 

Friday, May 13

Toledo Museum Of Art, (419) 255-8000. 6:30 – 8:30 PM. Wine By The Glass Pavilion- Lucky 13 – 4 Good Bets. Enjoy four wines and light snacks. Tickets are $25 for members, $35 for nonmembers and are available for purchase during Museum hours by phone at or at the information desks
 
Walt Churchill's Market, 26625 Dixie Hwy, Perrysburg, (419) 872-6900. 4-7 PM. Join Angela Bollin from Vanguard Wines for a little taste of great European wines with a long documented wine history. Nominal fee per sample.
 
Saturday, May 14
Kroger Maumee – Wine Tasting, 3-7 PM. Nominal fee per sample.
 
Walt Churchill’s Market, 3320 Briarfield. Maumee, (419) 794-4000. 2-6 PM. Spain has an abundance of native grape varieties, with over 400 varieties planted throughout Spain, though 80% of the country’s wine production is from only 20 grapes. Some of the most common are Albariño, Tempranillo, and Garnacha. Nominal fee per sample.

AREA WINE BARS
  • Veritas Cork and Craft, 505 Jefferson Avenue, Toledo – (419) 214- 9463.
  • Zinful, (419) 931-9946, 218 Louisiana Ave., Perrysburg.
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Up & Coming

Rat Pack Italian Wine Dinner, LaScola Italian Grill, 5375 Airport Hwy, Toledo, (419) 381-2100, Monday, May 16,. Featuring five Italian winemakers. Massimo Piccin of Podere Sapaio, Bolghere, Luca Costa of Tenute Costa, Siena, Enzo Agresta of Tenuta Carretta, Trentino-South Tyrol, Claudio Salvador (importer) of Veneto, Antonella Mancini of Cantina Pedres, Sardegna. Reception 6:00 PM, Dinner 6:30 PM. Cost $75. Call for reservations.

Rat Pack Italian Wine Dinner, Paesano Restaurant and Wine Bar, 3411 Washtenaw Ave, Ann Arbor, (734) 971-0484, Wednesday, May 18, 6-8 PM. Featuring six Italian vintners, six wineries and six regions. Walk-around wine tasting with Chef Dave Whitney’s appetizers and desserts. Cost $60. Call for reservations. 

The 21st Annual Wood County Human Society Wine and Dine will be held  May 20 at the Hilton Garden Inn at Levis Commons in Perrysburg from 7-10 PM. Featuring: live music, silent and live auctions, and delicious grazing stations. Tickets $55 single, $100 couple. Music by Suburban Legend. More information and tickets here.