Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Times they are a Changing!

If you follow from an RSS feed, you probably didn't get notified that we've rebranded the business!

With that comes a new website - which is still having some growing pains - but all the SoWineTrails posts are there, as well as new Miss WineOH news - all we are missing is YOU!

I'd love for you to subscribe to MissWineOH and like our facebook page to get updates on public tastings (Wine and Cupcakes tickets available tomorrow!!) winery reviews, wine in the news and new posts.

Thank you to everyone who has supported this blog - and I hope to see your faces at the new website as it grows and develops!

Happy Sipping.

Chief Tasting Officer

Monday, September 12, 2011

Where did the Wine go?

Labor Day weekend called for a trip to southern Ohio. Kinkead Ridge Estate Winery was going to be open, and we just had to taste their latest offerings. After hearing Brian Kirby wax philosophical about all things Kinkead, I knew that this was our chance.

With a 5 acre vineyard, they are known for their Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, and also grow and bottle Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Viognier, and Riesling. along with smaller quantities of Roussanne and Sauvignon Blanc.

At the little house in Ripley, OH - home to their tasting room - which is open only select weekends depending on the quatities of wines available we encountered a lively group of tasters and many people discussing the wines.

From Kinkead Ridge website... my camera didn't cooperate.

We were able to taste 5 of their wines. The 2009 reds were released under the secondary label, River Village Cellars. The whites are the 2010 release for Kinkead Ridge, plus their River Village traminette.

The 2010 White Revelation is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and some secret grape thatI couldn't pick out. Its a tart wine, reminding me much of New Zealand SB - with just a hint of the vanilla that you get from oak. At $13.95, its a good buy for Sauvignon Blanc fans, but the alcohol, at 14.8% was a little overwhelming for us.

The 2010 Viognier/Rousanne has some of the very distinct viognier characteristics, but the addition of the larger amount of rousanne, I think, makes the wine just bit flat or flabby. At $15.95, its not one I'll recommend for a quality-price ratio winner, but it does make a nice sipper.

The 2010 Riesling was MrWineOH's favorite in the bunch. I'm not sure how many bottles we walked out with, but I know it was more than one. Nice and dry, with a 1.2% residual sugar. (I was shocked - I didn't think it was more than .05%) Very crisp acidity, a fruity finish and a hint of efforvescence, this will be a wine we'll thoroughly enjoy. At $11.95, it is definitely high on the QPR scale, but they only made 82 cases, so get after it... after I get mine.

The reds, as I said, were bottled under the secondary label. Ron Barrett noted in his winemakers notes that he was concerned about the 2009 vintage. That concern shows in the reds.

The 2010 Cabernet Franc... this is one I was SO looking forward to - and what I tasted was all oak, all the time. I had no notes of cherry fruit, no green pepper, just oak. I think many folks who like their oaky reds will love this, especially at the price point of $11.95 - but this is not the Cab Franc that we will go back to.

If I was looking for my favorite Kinkead Wine - I hit the jackpot with the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Many of you might say... "Cab Sauv? In Ohio? Really?" but I have to tell you this one is delicious. Cabernet Sauvignon with a blending of petit verdot and syrah. The PV, one of my favorite varietals, shines through with its soft velvety finish. The Cabernet provides the fruity palate that many expect in a bold Cab. At $12.95 on the River Valley label, its a great value.

I want to love Kinkead, I think I was exposed to it at a bad vintage. I'll be hunting for the older vintages in the wine shops, because I've heard amazing things about their Cab Franc and Petit Verdot.

Please - try their wines. They do good work, and while I wasn't overly impressed with a few of their wines, we walked out with a half case of the good stuff, and I've committed their Cab Sauv to my Ohio Wine Tasting lineup for the season. They are THAT good.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Love Affair, with Wine.

While I'm constructing tales of our last two wine adventures, Darrell White, a twitter friend, volunteered to guest post. So here is his story of wine and love, and why he's drinking under $20 whites these days. I hope to show he and his lovely wife the beauty of inexpensive reds in the future.

LOVE Wine Charms
The Tale Begins....

My brother just wouldn’t leave me alone. “Have you met Beth Hurst yet?” Having just arrived at the University of Vermont, a first year medical student plopped down in the midst of 3500 UVM coeds, I had no interest in meeting a girl who Randy had decided was possibly “The One”. Seriously…3500 girls who didn’t know who I was! No way, man. No girlfriend for THIS guy! This was gonna be fun!

Well, I’d love to hate him for it, but I can’t. My brother was right. I met Beth at a med school/nursing school picnic, went on one date, and pretty much said “so long” to my excellent adventure meeting those 3500 UVM coeds. We went from a couple of dates to pretty much spending as much time together as we possibly could. This was one of those classic good thing/bad thing situations, though. I discovered that I couldn’t concentrate on my studies with Beth sitting next to me in the Library so  we did an Upstairs/Downstairs arrangement so I wouldn’t flunk out. Worked pretty well, at least for the library issue.

There was the problem of our shared vocations,though. We found ourselves talking mostly about school, the hospital, medicine and such, pretty much to the exclusion of everything else. We risked a kind of burn-out, not only on our chosen fields, but also from each other. We needed some sort of hobby, something that we could learn about from scratch and enjoy together.

Enter Bob, the world’s most unlikely wine merchant.

Right next door to Burlington is the town of Winooski, a funky little mill town on the river that at the time was struggling to stay afloat. Keeping the rivers of beer flowing for UVM students was the “Beverage Warehouse”, purveyors of all of those kegs the frat houses rolled out on Friday and Saturday nights. Turns out the Beverage Warehouse was also the biggest wine merchant in the area. In the back of the building through an almost hidden door (it was almost like they were embarrassed)  lurked a cavernous room filled to the brim with wine. The room was populated by a single man, rather short and…how should I say it…round. Clothed each and every day in a pair of green Dickie’s work pants and a yellow Dickie’s work shirt with his name on the breast pocket.


What a find! Bob became our wine muse. He may still be the single most knowledgable wine guy I’ve ever met, including the sommelier at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco. Here was a guy who made us feel like he had nothing better to do than teach a couple of kids who were two nickels short of a rub how and what to drink when it came to wine. Being the over-read wonk that I’ve always been I peppered him with questions about what was in the Warehouse, how it was stored, why it was priced that way, what he liked. I remember him chuckling when I pressed him about having the Opus One bottles upright on the shelves instead of on their side in a temperature controlled box. “Ah, they never stay here long enough for that to matter. The last 3 bottles I sold went to some idiot rich guys who drank the first one straight from the bottle on the way to the car.”

So began our love affair with wine, one that went a long way toward letting us continue our love affair with each other. We can both still remember our “firsts”, those first wines that made an impression. Best white? Easy. A Muscadet de Sevre et Main for…wait for it…$2.15/bottle! Can you imagine? Our first memorable red was an M. Marion Cabernet Sauvignon; no idea what year or where in California it came from, but I can STILL taste the amazing explosion of fruit, see the inky purple color. Cost us all of $4.25! Sigh.

Our wine “thing” (some would call it an obsession, at least for me not without reason) also became a very effective way to expand our social universe as we moved all over kingdom come chasing the medical training thing. The first wine “tasting” we held was in Beth’s Burlington apartment and was co-hosted by my sister, Tracey, a UVM senior at the time. White wine varietals, I think it was. Very few memories of that one, actually, probably because the one memory I DO have is that not a drop of wine was discarded. You know, the “clean plate club” approach to tasting!

On and on we went, our palates expanding with our income, our experiences becoming ever more extravagant along the way. I became an insufferable wine snob, conversant with Parker and the Wine Spectator and unwilling to suffer through anything rated less than 90 from either. Our tastings expanded as well. Those intimate, 6-12 person explorations of something new and different exploded into massive gatherings of 50-75, parties at which we happened to drink wine. In truth, our little diversion, our tiny shared hobby that allowed us to concentrate on our couplehood became too big.

Like work.

Until it went away. Funny, just about the time when we might have had to have an intervention for our dating intervention I got sick. Some sort of GI thing which was made worse by alcohol. Red wine was worse than white wine, was worse than beer, was worse than spirits. No alcohol for me for two, whole years. This, along with a not so little business and financial set-back, Beth’s rediscovery that beer was pretty good, and the Wall Street Journal’s introduction of a pair of wine writers who rated wine with words like “Delicious” and “Yech”, actually allowed me to fall in love with wine all over again. To fall in love with wine for exactly the same reasons and in exactly the same way as I did when Beth and I were squired through the process by Bob.

I stopped reading about wine, stopped checking ratings, and just started drinking wines that made me happy! Drinking stuff that I would rate as “yummy”. We’re on an under $20 white wine kick right now (at 50+ reds are giving us some problems), and we are drinking them together. Loving them, and falling in love all over again. Or maybe more accurately, falling more deeply in love, even after all these years.

With wine and with each other!

Dr. Darrell White can be found blogging at Sky Vision Centers - when he's not enjoying wine with his wife, or doing CrossFit. His bio can be found here.  and you should call his offices for those things eye related in your world.
Or you can follow him on twitter
, and enjoy his tweets!

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Dry Wine Desert in Ohio

Ten years of visiting vineyards, ten years of looking for beautiful wines in any given state's wine making, and ten years of hearing the same thing. Sweet wines pay the bills. It doesn't matter which state on the east coast I've been in, I've heard very few exceptions to this statement from winemakers or winery owners. I've also witnessed first hand the customers who ask for "the sweetest wine you have", without stopping to taste anything else the winemaker might have to offer. So the numbers don't lie, the sweet wines do pay the bills, but are they serving the best interests of wine consumers and a state's wine reputation? The disheartening looks from some winemakers and other customers tell me there's another story that is yet to be told.

Cabernet Franc - courtesy of Red Wines
There are some universal truths to a successful business:
Your product must be one that potential customers want to buy. 
Your product should be of a quality that encourages repeat customers.
You must have passion for what you do, and strive to do it well. 

There are businesses that can be successful in spite of themselves, lacking one or all of these characteristics - but those exceptions are not the standard most business owners want to emulate. We go into business because we feel strongly that we can do something better than or at least equal to what other businesses in the space are doing, we feel we have a good product and people want to buy it, and we have passion for our chosen business and want to share that with our customers. 

So why do I see passionate winemakers who put incredible resources and energy into their vinifera wines giving a back seat to many of those products in marketing and placement efforts? Some winemakers say its because that's what the customer wants, but how would the customer know if what they taste is a small percentage of your product selection? 

How do I know I'd prefer a Cabernet Franc if I all I taste is 5% residual sugar Riesling? I pick that Riesling because I do not know there's something that I'd like better. I settle due to a lack of knowledge, or perhaps decide not to purchase at all. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with sweet wines - on the contrary there is a huge market for those wines, along with many others. But what I do see is a crowded tasting room and a by the taste menu in Ohio wineries that encourages customers to stick to what they know, and not deviate from their comfort zones.

What's a winery owner to do?

Plan a tasting menu for your winery. Set that menu to include the best you are making in the wines you want to promote (the dry wines you are putting so much effort into). Include one or two of your sweet wines to show off those products, and add your ice wine for an additional charge if you need to recoup those costs.

If you want to promote a tasting menu of your sweet wines, reverse the process. Put a few of your dry wines into the tasting. White to Red, dry to sweet. Don't serve sweet white wines before your dry reds. It kills the tasting, and customers will never realize how good those red vinifera wines really are.

Set a fee for your tasting, and try to avoid a "per taste" fee. $5 is an easy number to manage for up to 10 wines. If your customer is thinking about how much each taste costs, she's not thinking about your wines. Most consumers don't need a two ounce pour, somewhere around an ounce will give any taster enough wine to discern the aroma and  flavors. If they are at your winery to drink more than 7-10 ounces via a tasting, they will happily buy a glass of their favorite wine, and bottles to take home. If you want to stick to a two ounce pour, most customers will find that to be a generous amount over the course of 10 wines. And please, provide a dump bucket. Don't force your customers to drink the wine because they feel it would be rude to leave it in the glass for you to pour out in order to go on to the next taste. 

Educate the customers, don't just serve them. Pour each wine into a proper glass as you discuss it - where it came from, what it should taste like. Sell the wine as you watch the customer experience it. This doesn't have to be overdone, but a wine with a story sells better than a wine without. Don't risk the customer confusing your prize winning chambourcin with your award winning Cabernet Franc, or your Pinot Grigio losing its flavors and aromas because its in a plastic cup far away from your tasting associate.

Talk to your customers about your wines, make them excited about drinking the wine you made. That may mean spending more time educating your staff on your products and how to gauge a customer's knowledge level, but it will increase the sales for those wines you hold near and dear to your heart. Today's consumers have done research on your winery before walking in the door. They want to experience the engagement of your staff and if the staff is excited, that feeling is definitely contagious in the tasting room!

Why do I recommend these steps? Because I was a sweet wine only drinker until a tasting room associate got me to taste other wines... now I drink both!

Readers, tell me what you'd like to see in a tasting room. What turns you on, or off, when you head out to taste the grape?

If you are a winery or tasting room manager looking for information on how to best set up a tasting program or train your associates in customer service directed to the educated consumer, contact Southern Wine Trails for assistance. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Orchestral Wine - a Pairing Adventure

Mr. WineOH and I like to head down to Blossom Music Festival during the summer to sit on the lawn, eat gourmet goodies, and partake in a bit of the vitis vinifera while we listen to the Cleveland Orchestra in their summer home. It soothes the savage beast, as they say... or at least it soothes us after a hectic work week. Last weekend we gathered the WineOH eldest child, visiting from Maryland and most recently returning from a trip to Greece (there's Greek wine from that trip... can't wait to try it - Thanks, Ash!), and we headed out for a pleasant evening of music conducted by  Bramwell Tovey, one of the most convivial conductors I've ever had the pleasure of hearing - he actually talks to the crowd... very cool man. This set the mood for a most enjoyable evening.

Image Courtesy of Panoramio
I usually take particular care when putting my meals together for events like this. The music is particularly divine, and so the wine and food should blend seamlessly. I put together a picnic of salame, prosciutto, cheeses, chicken salad, pasta salads, mozz & tomato drizzled with balsamic, olives, a bit of basil pesto and an incredible old world baguette  - with Mr. WinoOH's brownies, of course. We paired this up with The Climber Chardonnay and a random bottle of pinot noir. The Climber is an interesting concept I first discovered at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville, VA a few weeks ago. As much as we like to camp and hike, and prepare little meals to be enjoyed in places inconvenient for glass bottles, we were excited to see this packaging that, once emptied, folds up quite nicely to be hauled out of whatever location we have hauled it into, so it definitely intrigued me.

Clif Family The Climber Chardonnay
This is an unoaked chardonnay in a totally collapsible package with a non-drip plastic spout. Anyone who has tried to hike or camp with a buda bag knows that 75% of the time you are going to get leakage. This spout is actually, truly, non-drip - no leakage. This package is produced with an 80% lower carbon footprint than the equivalent bottles and produces 90% less waste. For us outdoor enthusiasts, that's always a bonus, and the empty weight is a breeze compared to humping a glass bottle off a trail for 5 miles. As a member of 1% for the Planet, CLIF family donates 1% of all Climber pouch sales to Trees for the Future. Another bonus for the environmentally conscious - and the fact that this pouch holds 2 bottles of wine makes any outing a value for $17 retail. 

So, we have nice, convenient packaging and an environmentally sensitive company... what else?

The wine itself is a pretty standard unoaked chardonnay with some sharp acidity on the palate and a crisp apple aroma. In the realm of unoaked chardonnay, in the price range, and with awesome packaging, I consider it a contender. If you are used to California oaky chard, this is NOT your wine. I paired it with some pretty indigestion inducing foods (namely some salads with peppers, spiced olives and at least one heavily seasoned and Italian dressing laced dish) These were not the best pairings for this wine. In the future, I'll go with fruit salads, crostini topped with cheeses and dried fruit, and other slightly sweeter dishes to balance out the acidity of the wine. Clif Family says its best enjoyed with good food and good company, I'll agree with that whole heartedly, just don't pair it with acid heavy foods.

Overall, this was a good wine to take to the lawn at Blossom. We enjoyed sipping on it once the brownies came out,  and not hauling an empty glass bottle was convenient for repacking our little cooler to trek back to the car. I do wish that the little plastic cap that comes off the top of the push button would actually go back on. Taking the wine in and out of the cooler, I was concerned that the button would get inadvertently pushed (and I'd have this concern in a pack as well) We were fortunate that the button is not that sensitive, but having the cap would definitely ease my mind in a hike-in situation. Wine down the back of your leg as you hike into camp, anyone?

I recommend this for value and packaging. Better than any boxed unoaked chardonnays. Nice QPR for the intended use.

Next weekend, we will be heading out with the Climber Cabernet. I'm thinking steak tartar and pickled beets? Ok, maybe not.

*wines provided by Clif Family for review.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

#GDandBurgers - A Pairing Adventure

Food and Wine pairings are one of my passions. Putting the perfect morsel together with whatever wine I'm considering for the evening is a habit of mine that drives my other half crazy sometimes. But on a particular night in July when @winetwits paired up #GDandburgers – the man was oh so happy to indulge. French wine and sliders – he was in heaven.

It was all Eat. Drink. Love.

With a little wrangling, and more than a few tweets culminating in receiving our tasting kit in Charlottesville, VA at the Wine Bloggers Conference, without ever meeting the great guy who had hauled it all the way from New York – (sheesh, thanks for all your hard work with that – love Ohio shipping laws!) We brought home a box of Georges Dubœuf wines and some killer recipes from Chef Bob Waggoner. Ever the purist, I set out to purchase all the necessary ingredients from our local vendors to make slider representations of all 3 recipes to pair with the three wines... we invited a few neighbors over and it was on.

All wines were chilled for 3 hours before serving, and then set out to gradually warm. The Julienas was decanted and then chilled.

First wine paired was the 2009 Beaujolais-Villages, for which I prepared angus sliders stuffed with bacon, shallots, rosemary and New York aged sharp cheddar. This was the easiest “drinker” of the wines – and conversation flowed around the smoothness of the gamay and the price ($9.99 retail) – making this a crowd favorite for an everyday wine.

The grilled portabella slider was the burger favorite – topped with eggplant, green onion and tomato after basting in some beaujolais, it was hard not to love this burger. I'm not exactly a mushroom fan, but have a feeling this one will reappear on my menus. When paired with the 2009 Brouilly, I found it to be absolutely divine. With a retail price of $13.99, this fitted into most “good dinner” budgets in the room. It was chewy, very berry and very much a stand out wine. Dubœuf believes this one can lay down for about 24 months – based on the tannins, I'd agree with that assessment, but I wouldn't go much past that.

The last burger (wow... three huge and delicious sliders... I could already hear the elliptical downstairs calling my name) was a turkey burger with sundried tomato and basil sauté. This one also called for arugula and grilled red onion stuffed into a pita. While I had some trouble finding pitas that were not too big, and not too small (cue Goldilocks here....) I did find a work around and got all of that goodness stuffed into an appropriate package. This one was paired with the 2009 Julienas Chateau des Capitans which showed a spicy richness and tight tannins, along with pepper and licorice on the palate. Although we decanted this one for several hours prior to serving, it was still very tight and not the favorite of the evening. I left it decanted overnight however, and found it much more open and flavorful the next day. At $17.99 retail, it was closer to a “special night in with a steak” sort of wine for this group and with all the decanting needed, the consensus was that this was one to buy and keep for a few years to let it settle down.

Preparing the burgers just before showtime was the key to making it all happen. I heartily encourage anyone doing a twitter tasting to dedicate someone to tweeting, recording and snapping pictures, as it is nigh on impossible to host an event and do any sort of substantive tweeting. We did manage to participate in the conversation, though our video feed of Chef Bob never did work properly - but it was a struggle even for my multitasking brain. 

Many thanks go out to our neighbor Becky, who provided positively scrumptious cheese filled dates wrapped in bacon as an appetizer. They paired very well with the Brouilly and the Villages wines we were sipping pre-gnosh. Compliments to the vendors from West Side Market in Cleveland for providing all my ingredients from one amazing local source – save the fresh herbs, which came out of my balcony garden. And also to Winetwits for getting this all together – absolutely loved the pairings and the idea.

Lets do it again!
Eat. Drink. Love. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

What you need to know about #OHwine at #WBC11

Southern Wine Trails is presenting Ohio Wine at the Other 46 Tasting tonight for the North American Wine Bloggers Conference. The winery we will be pouring is Ferrante Winery from Geneva, OH. 

Ferrante Winery is a family owned and operated winery. In 1937, Nicholas and Anna Ferrante established the winery in Cleveland's Collinswood area. In the 1970's, their sons Peter and Anthony built modern wine making facilities in the family's Harpersfield Township vineyards. In the 1980's, their families developed a thriving restaurant to showcase wine and food. 
         The menu then, as now, included Ferrante family favorites such as pizza della casa, spaghetti and meatballs, vitello scallopini and many more. All, of course, to complement the subtleties and nuances of the vintages from the cellar. 
         On November 4th, 1994, the operation was interrupted briefly by a fire. Gone were the dining and tasting rooms and many artifacts. Fortunately, a firewall saved the wine production facility, cellar and warehouse. 
          In early 1995, the Ferrante family pulled together body, mind and spirit to create the new home they have today. They are excited about the future of the Ohio wine industry and continue to develop award winning wines and fine dishes in the kitchen. 

The wines being poured tonight are: 

2010 Golden Bunches - Dry Reisling, Signature Series - Grand River Valley $14.99
1.54% RSV 
American Fine Wine - Gold
Finger Lakes International - Silver
Taster's Guild International - Silver
Pacific Rim International - Silver
Beverage Tasting Inst. - Silver
LA Wine - Gold
Winemakers notes: 

2010 Cabernet Franc, Signature Series - Grand River Valley $15.99
American Fine Wine - Bronze
Finger Lakes International - Gold
Taster's Guild International - Silver
Pacific Rim International - Silver
Winemakers notes: 

If you have additional questions, please drop me a note, or a tweet - I'm happy to answer anything I can about Ohio Wines! Stay tuned next week for video from Nick Ferrante, wine maker at Ferrante Winery and Ristorante.