Cincinnati Food and Wine Classic Recap

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It is Sunday afternoon and I am slowly coming down from the food high that I have been riding since Friday evening. I think I can safely say that the first Cincinnati Food and Wine Classic was a solid success with plenty of room to grow in the future. The event took place Friday evening and all day Saturday in Washington Park, with a few surrounding restaurants playing host to various after parties. I was lucky enough to attend both days with a VIP media badge and here are some of the highlights.

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Bourbon Classic 2014

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The Bourbon Classic was held last weekend in Louisville, Kentucky. The event drew bourbon fans from around the country to join with distillers, bartenders, restaurants, and media representatives in celebrating all things bourbon. I was lucky enough to be among them and I left feeling very lucky to be living so close to bourbon country.

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The Run Down of Events:

The event began Friday night with a cocktail competition that paired local bartenders, chefs, and sponsor distilleries in pairing bourbon cocktails with small plates of food. The cocktails were great that night but the food was outstanding, including the best chicken and waffles I’ve ever had. Saturday afternoon began with a welcoming question and answer session with master distillers. MC’ed by Fred Minnick, author of Whiskey Women and bourbon authority for the Kentucky Derby Museum, the question and answer session featured Wes Henderson (Angel’s Envy,) Fred Noe (Jim Beam,) Jimmy Russell (Wild Turkey,) Harlen Wheatley (Buffalo Trace,) Tom Bulleit (Bulleit Bourbon,) Drew Kulsveen (Willett,) Willie Pratt (Michter’s,) Daniel Preston (Widow Jane,) Colin Spoelman (King’s County,) and Dave Schmier (Redemption.) This event was easily the highlight of the day for me. Listening to stories, learning more about the industry, and even witnessing some moments of tension on stage was all fascinating.  We spent the rest of the afternoon in “Bourbon Classic University.” Guests got to attend two classes during the sessions including ‘Bourbon Recollections…A Trip Through Time’ with Fred Noe and Fred Johnson, as well as a variety of other classes like bourbon pairing with cheese, entertaining with bourbon tastings, bourbon and beer, bourbon and chocolate, and home bar essentials.  The final event was a night of bourbon tastings, with books signings from well-known bourbon authors like Charles Cowdery and Joy Perrine.

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You can read a more detailed and bourbon-focused recap of the event over on Bourbon & Banter and Charlie and discussed the event in detail on The Charlie Tonic Hour, but here are a few of the best moments of the event from my point of view.

– Hanging out with Jonathan Piercy of “What’s Cooking Now” and his lovely wife throughout the weekend.

– Spending time with Molly Wellmann at Friday’s cocktail event and seeing Tom Bulleit call her up to take a bow at the distiller’s welcome on Saturday. He credited her, along with countless other bartenders across the country, in helping to bring about the bourbon revival.

– Getting to talk once more with Wes Henderson from Angel’s Envy. Such a down-to-earth and great guy.

– Sitting in an audience and listening to stories from legends of the industry like Fred Noe and Jimmy Russell, as well as hearing the perspectives and explanations of newer and/or non-producing brands.

– Attending a session on bourbon tastings with a rep from Blanton’s that will help me when contacting bourbon tastings in the future.

– Talking with bourbon lovers from around the country and starting to feel more like I am a part of a wider, boozy community.

– Leaving the over priced after-party at Milkwood to go drink bourbon and sodas at a dive bar called The Levee.

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The Bourbon Classic was a success all around, despite the notable absence of one of my favorite distilleries, Four Roses. At a length of just a day and half, give or take a promotional dinner or hung-over breakfast, it is a perfect amount of time to immerse yourself in bourbon and the perfect balance between educational and drinking events. Bourbon lovers in Cincinnati who are ready to take their knowledge and enthusiasm to the next level should definitely look into making the drive south for next year.

Bunbury Beer Bonanza

OK, 19 may not be a “bonanza” but I love to alliterate and 19 standard craft beers + 1 specially brewed craft beer is pretty damn good for a place with a “Bud Light Stage.” Here’s the list of the standard craft beers:

Mt. Carmel Amber Ale
Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold
Great Lakes Wright Pils
Great Lakes Commodore Perry
Great Lakes Burning River
Angry Orchard Crisp Apple
Unita Hop Notch IPA
Unita Wyld Organic Pale Ale
Magic Hat #9
Pyramid Heffe-Weisse
Highland Gaelic Ale
Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat
Sierra Nevada Torpedo
Sierra Nevada Summerfest
21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon
Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ale
Victory Summer Love
Victory Prima Pils
Anchor California Lager

Cincinnati’s own Christian Moerlein is also brewing a special beer just for this event, the Bunbury Bavarian Pale Ale. Here is Moerlein’s blurb on this beer:

A new star is being discovered this summer – Christian Moerlein’s Bunbury Bavarian Pale Ale is ready to take center stage at Cincinnati’s greatest summer concert. Bunbury Bavarian Pale Ale showcases the unique characteristics of a traditional Ale, while boasting the flavors and aromas of German noble hops. The malty backbone imparted by Pilsner and Munich malts is accented by delicate floral and fruity notes thanks to a generous late kettle hop addition and dry-hopping. The crisp, refreshing result makes Christian Moerlein’s Bunbury Bavarian Pale Ale a headliner at every venue.

ABV: 5%
IBUs: 40

I haven’t had the Bunbury Bavarian Pale Ale yet but look forward to having it as soon as I hit Bunbury on Friday. Follow me on Twitter @Tom_Aguero as I’ll be tweeting my thoughts on the brews, the music, the food, and the whole Bunbury experience in general. Finally I’m no music blogger so check out Each Note Secure for great info on the bands at Bunbury but personally I’m psyched about the following less well known bands:

Night Terrors of 1927

The Features

WALK THE MOON (from Cincinnati)


Black Joe Lewis

Of course it’s likely needless to say I also can’t wait to see FUN., Cake, MGMT, and The National.

FULL DISCLOSURE: We were contacted by the PR firm working with Bunbury and were given the opportunity to apply for media passes which, to my pure amazement, they gave me! To our readers, and any companies interested in sending me stuff, giving me free stuff impacts the review in only 2 ways. That I WILL review it and that and I WILL write a blog post about it. Giving me free stuff does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to go buy it.

Listermann Brewing Company presents Volksfest July 27th, 2013


Some news from our friends at Listermann:

Introducing, the newest festival hosted by Listermann Brewing Company: Volksfest! Volksfest is a festival for the people of Cincinnati, brought to you by your favorite local craft breweries. Held July 27th at Listermann Brewing Company in Norwood, Ohio, Volksfest will feature beers only from local breweries. The word Volk in German means people, and Cincy’s brewers have decided to come together once again to show our customers just how much they mean to us. There will be live music all day, performed by local musicians (Bands yet to be announced). Several different food vendors will be on hand to serve a wide range of food. The idea behind Volksfest is lower ABV and session beers for the hot summer days in July. There is no cost to attend Volksfest, just pay for whatever you eat and drink! The celebration begins with kegs and eggs in the tasting room at 9 am and ends once the music stops playing at 11 pm.

The breweries involved are: Blank Slate, Fifty West, Christian Morelein, Rock Bottom, Rivertown, Mt. Carmel, Mad Tree, Cellar Dweller, Wiedemann, Quaff Bros, Rhinegeist, Triple Digit, and Listermann. Some of these breweries are making beers JUST for this event!

Listermann Brewing Company has teamed up with the German-American Citizens League of Greater Cincinnati to host the event. They will be bringing an authentic German feel to the festival, as well as booths, banners and parades to talk about their respective clubs. The ceremonial keg tapping of the Listermann Volksfest Lager will be held at 4 p.m.

Like the Oktoberfest and Starkbier Fest previously held at LBC, this event will be family and dog friendly. More info on the music and food vendors will be provided later. The event will start at 9 a.m. with Kegs and Eggs in the tasting room.

We have a new Facebook page, Volksfest Cincinnati , and twitter account, VolksfestCincy, so join the conversation on those for the most up to date information.

For special accommodations or questions, call Listermann’s at 513-731-1130 or email Jason at or Kevin at We look forward to seeing you July 27th! Prost/Cheers!

Vinoklet Wine and Art Festival

Going to wineries in Ohio has always struck me as being a lot like going to casinos in Indiana. It’s a pale imitation of the real thing that is only for the hard-core addicts. Rather than feeling transported to the hills of Napa it has always done more to remind me that I’m stuck in the midwest and trying to make the most of it. But sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do and on Saturday this girl had to get a pedicure with her mom and then go drink some wine.

Vinoklet Winery and Restaurant is located on 30 acres just off Colerain Ave. It is Hamilton County’s only working winery and a popular wedding spot as well so I am surprised it has taken me this long to visit. I have to admit the grounds were absolutely stunning. As soon as we pulled in I found it hard to believe that we were minutes from the endless strip malls, box stores and the ever-present mount Rumpke. Instead you see endless hills covered with grape vines and dotted with ponds.

The annual Art and Wine Fest is apparently a pretty big deal because when we arrived they were already laying down straw so we could park in a muddy field and they would soon be using a shuttle to get people in from the afore-mentioned box stores. Undeterred by the crowd we quickly made our way past the art and straight to the wine.

I don’t know if this was due to Ohio’s crazy complex alcohol laws or a quirk of the winery or both, but you had to buy tickets to pay for all of the food and wine, you could only buy those tickets with cash, and no change was given from the tickets. Kind of a pain in the ass but don’t worry, there was an ATM charging huge fees in case you didn’t bring cash.

Once we got past the hassle of the tickets it was actually a lovely afternoon. The weather was perfect, the musicians were great, and the art was, well it was pretty typical of a summer festival. Pottery, jewelry , leather work and photography were all to be found. I have a huge respect for anyone trying to make a living by creating something and talking to the vendors was the second best part of the day, (I highly recommend Lily in Flux.) The first best part was buying a bottle of wine to share with my mom and my friend and drinking it on a hill while talking and listening to music. Being able to buy a bottle of wine and drinking it on the grounds was what really separated this from your typical summer festival and made it well worth any hassle to get to that point.

Angie and I enjoying the Festival.

And as for the wine itself? I paid $5 to try their six standard wines, their award-winning premium wines were extra, and the of the six I’d say three were drinkable. Because of the high heat, grapes grown in the area tend to be sweeter and so I was not surprised that four of the six wines were very sweet, but I did enjoy their drier wines. Both Cincinnatius, the dry red wine made from the chanbourcin grape, and Tears of Joy, a lighter white made from the vidal grape, were quite enjoyable to drink as we walked the grounds. The Sunset Blush is similar to a white Zinfandel and even though it was too sweet for my tastes, I thought it was better than a typical white zin. And to speak in defense of small, midwestern wineries I will say that it was interesting to try wine made from grapes other than the big names we all know and love. Vinoklet serves food of varying degrees of formality depending on the day but if I were to return anytime soon it will be for their Wednesday night “Cigars and Guitars” event where you can get a spaghetti and meatball buffet, buy and smoke premium cigars and enjoy some acoustic guitar music while to sample the wine.

Vinoklet Winery & Vineyard on Urbanspoon

Brews, ‘Breds, and Brats Craft Beer Festival at Turfway Park on September 15

This event flyer was passed on to me from the folks at Turfway Park. It seems like a unique event; where else will you be able to sip craft beers and put some cash down on a longshot at the same time? It looks like a mix of the Big Boys (Sam Adams, Leinenkugel, Harpoon, etc.) and local breweries (Great Crescent, Rivertown, Mt. Carmel, Red Ear). Anyways, it’s always great to see new events celebrating better beer, so here’s to a successful day at the track!