This year I was once again lucky enough to be asked to attend the Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic, held September 11-13 in Washington Park. This year’s event proved itself to be a significant increase over last year, with an additional day of tasting and events on Sunday as well as more things to seek out throughout the weekend. I was immensely satisfied with this year’s event. Last year felt like a wonderful local event with a lot of potential. This year they went a long way toward meeting that potential. The Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic felt much bigger and more vibrant this year, and I was thrilled to see our city producing something that seems destined to grow into a nationally recognized event.
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.
Having attended a few cocktail conferences this past year I can safely say that food and drink conferences are my favorite kind of events. So of course I am over the moon about the Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic that is coming September 12-13th. A weekend of getting to know amazing chefs, learning about food and wine trends in Cincinnati and around the world, and grand tastings every night? Yes please!! I am especially excited about the Four Bourbons, Four Ways being hosted by Molly Wellmann. Tickets are on sale now and are selling fast so get yours today. Here is their official press release with all the important info.
Cincinnati Food & Wine Classic Tickets On Sale Now
First Local Celebration to Offer Grand Tastings, Demos, Competitions, Seminars and After-Parties
Cincinnati, OH – Tickets for the first-annual Cincinnati Food & Wine Classic in Washington Park from September 12-13 are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased at www.cincinnatifoodandwineclassic.com.
“This is a two-day epicurean event designed to capture the energy and enthusiasm of Cincinnati’s dynamic food scene,” says Courtney Tsitouris, co-founder of the Classic. “We’re showcasing local culinary talent and ingredients alongside nationally recognized chefs, wine and spirit experts, beer connoisseurs, authors, journalists, and network personalities.”
The Classic will include two completely different grand tastings on Friday and Saturday evening. Friday celebrates Cincinnati’s “Porkopolis” heritage with Pork Chopped, a competition judged by Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appétit, Keith Pandolfi of Saveur, and Top Chef Masters judge Francis Lam.
Saturday’s grand tasting will celebrate Cincinnati’s finest dining. Culinary demonstrations, wine and spirit seminars, panel discussions, chef competitions, book signings, and a Rising Star brunch take place Saturday morning and afternoon; and five individually themed VIP after-parties at downtown venues will cap off both evenings. A portion of proceeds will go to the Freestore Foodbank, the event’s non-profit partner.
“The word is out,” says Donna Covrett, co-founder and executive director with Tsitouris. “We have a vibrant food, wine, and brewing community that’s getting noticed by others. We’ve piqued the interest of publications such as Food & Wine, New York Times, USA Today, Travel & Leisure, and more as a beautiful city with a quirky-cool community of creative, talented, artisans of all sorts. It’s something to be proud of, explored, and shared.”
Local and national talent has already been confirmed for the event. Names include (but are not limited to):
Jean-Robert De Cavel + Daniel Wright + Michael Paley + Paul Sturkey + Julie Francis + Nate Appleman + Megan Ketover + Jonathon Sawyer + Keith Pandolfi + Jose Salazar + Tony Ferrari + Edward Lee + Todd Kelly + Stephen Williams + David Falk + Anne Kearney + Andrew Knowlton + Francis Lam + Elias Leisring + Nick Marckwald + Jeremy Lieb + Owen Maass + Levon Wallace + David Cook + Cristian Pietoso + Anthony Lamas + Joy Wilson + Jimmy Gibson + Stella Parks + Joel Molloy + Charles Redmond + Rom Wells + Ned Elliot + Anita Hirsch + Mark Bodenstein + Hideki Harada + Michael Worth + Ryan Santos + Kyle Johnson + Paul Barraco + Jim Cornwell + Pat Lafrieda + Vic Vegas
Tickets are priced as follows:
- Grand Tasting Pass ($125): Friday Grand Tasting or Saturday Grand Tasting
- Saturday Savor Pass ($190): Saturday Grand Tasting and 20+ Saturday Educational Experiences (culinary demos, wine and spirit seminars, panel discussions, competitions, and book signings)
- Weekend Revel Pass ($290) Friday Grand Tasting, Saturday Grand Tasting, and 20+ Saturday Educational Experiences
- VIP Pass ($390): Friday Grand Tasting, Saturday Grand Tasting, 20+ Saturday Educational Experiences with priority seating, exclusive VIP lounge, VIP swag bag, and admission into one VIP after party
For more information about scheduled talent, event programming, and ticket purchases, visit www.cincinnatifoodandwineclassic.com.
About Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic
Founded in 2014 by Donna Covrett and Courtney Tsitouris, the Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic is a celebration of Cincinnati’s Porkopolis and fine dining heritage as a longstanding destination for Midwest food, beer and spirit excellence. The inaugural event, located at the doorstep of Music Hall in the historic Washington Park, features local, regional and national chefs showcasing local flavors through tastings, demos, seminars, and parties across the city. For a complete look at what’s in store, visit http://www.cincinnatifoodandwineclassic.com, or follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. #CFWC14
I have two biases that I want to clear out-of-the-way before we get moving along:
- I love every Victory beer I’ve had. Why? Because they make lots of delicious beer.
- I have yet to love a barleywine. Why? No idea but I keep trying them and waiting for that to change.
I really don’t know why I’m not a fan of barleywines. Lots of people seem to love them but I just think they are OK at best. I’ve contemplated that my disinterest could be related to the name, though I know quite well that this beer has nothing to do with wine. Wine is fermented from the juice of grapes, beer is from barley. A barleywine is only wine like in its strength (ranging from 8 to 12%). I find that unlikely and really think that I just haven’t had one that I really “grabs me”. I continue to persevere and assume that one day my palate will change and I’ll fall in love as has happened with stouts and sours.
Back to #1 and my love of Victory beers. They make quite a few delicious beers all of which I’ve had (those of which make it to Ohio) and enjoyed. Somehow I missed this one before and then they took it out of rotation 2 years ago. Luckily they’ve brought it back this winter and I picked up a bottle as soon as I could find one. Here’s what Victory says about Old Horizontal:
As much as we love to see you here enjoying our beer, we encourage you to buy a bottle of this one and head home to savor it within the comfort and love of your own retreat. There you’ll discover why ‘horizontal’ is in the name.
Massive amounts of barley malts, combined with fresh harvest American hops make it aromatic and spicy on the nose. Floral, fruity aromas slide into honeyed malt depth with lingering sensations of candied and citrus fruit. Late warming alcohol brings all of these flavors into wonderful harmony to finish.
When I first had Cellar Dweller last year I was not quite amazed. I remember trying 3 or 4 and found them all to be good, not great and certainly not astounding. That changed drastically a few weeks ago at Village Wine Cellar in Lebanon. I had the Doorbell IPA that went through a Hop Rocket right before kegging and man was it amazing (sadly as I found out there has only been one sixth-barrel of that so far). That motivated me to get me off my ass, pay a visit to the Cellar Dweller, and help you all know a bit more about them.
The fist things to know is that, as of now, Cellar Dweller is one guy, Steve Shaw, and he’s in a… well, in a cellar. Unlike most breweries who own their own warehouse, Cellar Dweller has the advantage of being beneath the Valley Vineyards Winery. Steve is part of Valley Vineyards family and they were happy to lend him a hand when he got the idea for Cellar Dweller.
Those of you who know me know that I know my way around booze and I also know my way around steampunks. (If you don’t know what steampunk is, think Jules Vern carried into the 21st century.) So it is fitting that I first discovered The Seeker Wines through the steampunk world. A friend of mine is a representative for Seeker Wines and he also hosts one hell of a room party. But when I got the chance to review Seeker Wines for my podcasts, I was thrilled to try them somewhere other than a party at a steampunk convention. Being constrained by a corset and already drunk are not the ideal conditions for a thoughtful and balanced tasting.
The Seeker Wines is a small, family owned company that seeks to source the best family owned wineries around the world and to bring them to the world with elegant labels and affordable prices. They have also hitched their wagon pretty firmly to the steampunk movement. Each wine has a whimsical flying contraption on the label and a steampunk explorer character who supposedly “discovered” the wine in some far off place. It has been awhile since I studied world explorers in 5th grade and at first I thought these were actual historical figures. Then I noticed that many of them were wearing goggles and one talked about fighting a giant metal octopus on his journey. I realized my mistake quickly at that point.
Seeker Wines currently has three red and two white varieties available and so we did a two-part tasting on the podcasts. The Charlie Tonic Hour Episode 67 features the reds which I am reviewing here, and for the whites you can listen to Bottoms Up Episode 8. So without further ado, here is what I think of each of the wines.
Discovered: In France by Colette Bourgogne
Winemaking: “Cold maceration” “Fermentation in open-top barrels” “Maturation in tank on light lees”
Tasting: “Red fruit and spice” “Balanced acidity and ripe fine tannin” “Food friendly
Just to be honest to my own limitations, I am sadly unsure what many of winemaking phrases mean but I did gather that this is a wine that is not aged in oak and I could tell that right away. The fruit is more forward in this wine and there is a lightness and brightness that you don’t get from oak-aged wine. I found the tannins rather strong and it does have a very long finish. Personally I felt that the sweeter, fruitier notes on the front were a little weak in comparison to the strong finish but it does balance out better after breathing for a bit. Overall this is all an enjoyable wine but not one that I would seek out if it was inconvenient.
Discovered: In Argentina by Esteban Colombo
Winemaking: “Hand picked” “Cold maceration” “Aged in French Oak for six months”
Tasting Notes: “Black cherry and dominate spice” “Smooth and robust with a spicy finish”
Very much spicy and woody nose and a big bold taste. You can pick up on the oak very definitely. Unlike the Pinot Noir, this one did not calm down as much after breathing. This was one of Charlie’s favorites but for me I felt the oak was too dominate. However I could see this one working well with a steak or some strongly seasoned barbecue. On its own it might be too much but when paired with a flavor that can stand up to it I can see it improving.
Discovered: In Chile by Isadora Cortez
Winemaking: “Cold maceration” “3 pumpovers per day” “Aged in 20% new oak, 50% American/French for 5 months” “Reserva-level Cabernet Sauvignon”
Tasting Notes: “Ripe black and blue berries with a touch of vanilla” “Creamy tannins” “Beautiful structure with chocolate and toffee”
This one was the clear taste winner for both Charlie and myself. It helps that Cabernet Sauvignon is my usual go-to variety of red wine but this is a particularly complex yet well-balanced Cabernet Sauvignon. It is one of the few wines that I find the vanilla flavors to be really apparent but at the same time it is not overly sweet. In this wine the oak aging really does add a subtle and lovely hint of chocolate that rides just under the berries and then finishes with an assertive but not intimidating show of spice and tannins. I highly recommend this one.
Discovered: In California by Wolfgang Masterssen
Winemaking: “Ferment 12 days at cool temperatures in stainless steel tanks” “5% Gewürztraminer grapes for floral notes and richness”
Tasting Notes: “Light scents of citrus and floral. Flavors of ripe pineapple, golden apple and Anjou pear are balanced by citrus notes and a smooth, creamy finish.”
I do prefer un-oaked Chardonnays to oaked so this wine started with an advantage for me. The fruit is much heavier than any floral notes for me. Pear, citrus, and pineapple came over much stronger than anything else but it does have a really nice creamy mouthfeel. Good but not mind blowing.
Discovered: In New Zealand by Captain Cornelius Weatherbee
Winemaking: “Cool fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks to capture fruit purity. ” “Aged on fine lees two months for added weight and richness.”
Tasting Notes: “Prominent fresh acidity which is balanced by an intense core of fruit where characters of lime and apple come to mind.”
This is one of the more unique Sauvignon Blancs that I’ve ever had, and I’ve had quite a few because it is my mom’s wine of choice. It has a a stronger bouquet than is typical for this wine and a really nicely complex flavor. This is the first Sauvignon Blanc I’ve had that has a mint taste, and it came across very distinctly in addition to lime and apple flavors. Very light and bright, the flavor has an almost sparkly quality to the tongue even though there is no carbonation. And yet there is also an undertone of earthiness. Almost a moss flavor that does balance the spark and spice of mint and citrus. This was my favorite of the whites and one that I will consider ordering for my mom to get her opinion.
If you want to try some of these lovely wines yourself you will have to order them from your local wine shop or online merchant. Or I have a more fun proposal for you. Seeker Wines is the official wine of The Steampunk Empire Symposium here in Cincinnati. At the show parties both nights, The Seeker Wines will be available to try for all party goers. Despite what I said that the beginning of this article, parties at cons might not be the best place for serious tasting, it is officially the most fun way to try a wine.
[Ed.: Today we have a guest post from Adolpho Nunez (@CincyBeachBum on Twitter), a volunteer who responded to my call for some help on the wine front. Hopefully this will be the first of many times we’ll be hearing from him!]
As drinkers, we’ve all had different reasons for picking up a glass of wine at one time or another: maybe we want to impress a date, or its a grown up party your significant other is making you attend, or maybe that’s all the wedding was serving. For one reason or another, there will come a time when wine will be the drink of the moment. And, as with any drink, why not enjoy it?
Personally, I consider myself a beer guy, but I’m not a homebrewer. I never got caught up in the “craft” of craft beer. I’m the same way with wine. I’m simply on the hunt for a drink that lifts my spirits, complements my meal, or numbs my head. I’ll take two of the three any given Friday.
With that being said, its easy to be intimidated by knowledgeable drinkers in both the beer and wine camps (“snobs” if you want to call them that). But, here’s the thing. Most people can’t tell the difference between a 10 dollar and a 100 dollar bottle of wine, so with that in mind, I’ll be focusing on those great bottles you can take to a party that are under 20 dollars, which will make people will say “Damn, that guy knows his wine”
But, to start, here is a quick rundown of some resources to help you get started on your quest to become a more well rounded drinker, because no one is paying me to tell you what to drink (yet….) Continue reading “Wine for Beer Drinkers: Where to start?”
There are many frustrating experiences in life. Like paying $33 for a bottle of wine at a restaurant that you know retails for about $10. Or finding a beer you love and being unable to find it for sale. Or being unsure where to take a date for a good meal that’s not too expensive. Luckily the Dilly Cafe in Mariemont can help you with all of these things.
Part casual but classy restaurant, part wine and beer store, and part bar, The Dilly Cafe manages to wear all of these hats without sacrificing any of them. I know avid beer lovers who make the trip to Mariemont just to find a favorite beer that is unavailable elsewhere and I’ve taken my wine-loving mom here for dinner and a bottle. The ambiance is great for a date. There is usually an acoustic musician of some kind playing but it never gets in the way of conversation.
It seems like it could be difficult to combine a retail shop with a quality dining experience and I can think of other places that have attempted such a feat and failed. The Dilly Cafe does have really well-done American food, including incredible burgers and a decent selection of vegetarian options in addition to more formal dinner offerings. It also has an incredible beer selection that is available for sale right at the back, behind where the tables are all arranged. But the corridor that is created by the way the tables, hostess station and bar are arranged means that you don’t ever have casual customers squeezing past you while you enjoy your meal.
The thing that really makes the Dilly Cafe stand out as a restaurant is the attached wine store. There is a nice selection of wine available by the glass or bottle on the menu but for an even wider selection and better price, you can purchase a bottle at the wine store and for a $5 corking fee you can enjoy it with dinner. Better yet, on Mondays and Tuesdays there is no corking fee at all, making this the only restaurant I know of that can offer the holy grail: retail priced wine with dinner. Or lunch for that matter.
Every time I have been the staff is friendly, the food is good, and the atmosphere is relaxed and inviting. So if you are a beer snob, a wine lover, or just someone who likes good food at a decent price I recommend you give this place a try.
Thanks to the wonderful Cincinnati photographer and blogger 5chw4r7z for use of his pictures. He is a big fan of the Dilly Cafe as well apparently.
Sometimes it’s hard to separate an alcohol’s cultural, historical, and social qualities from the qualities of the alcohol themselves. When I first started drinking bourbon I wasn’t immediately able to enjoy sipping it neat but there was something there that intrigued me so I hung in there until I could but it’s hard to say if it was the taste or the combined qualities of history, Kentucky pride, and just plain attitude that kept me coming back for more. Drinking is aspirational in many regards. We drink what we want to become.
Now I’m not saying that I want to become a high society grandmother or an English lord, the two people who come to mind when I think of port. But I did know a very cool, slightly well to do family in England that loved to drink port. Add that bit of personal history to the lengthy history, tradition, and rules that surround port and I have to admit there is something there that intrigues me. So when I tried the wine for Episode 55 of The Charlie Tonic Hour and found that despite the overwhelmingly sweet flavor I was nonetheless intrigued, I couldn’t say for sure if it was really the taste I was enjoying or the history.
Just as true champagne can only come from the Champagne region of France, a true port wine can only come from the Douro region of Portugal. Port is a fortified wine, meaning that brandy or a neutral grape spirit is added during the fermentation process. This stops the fermentation and leaves lots of undigested sugar in the wine, yet still results in a stronger than average wine. This was originally done because wine from Portugal tended to spoil during the long boat ride to England and fortifying the wine gave it a longer shelf life, but it continues today because of tradition and taste. The result is a wine that is very sweet while still being stronger than average, usually between 18-22% abv. The port I tried was a Ruby Port, the cheapest and most commonly available variety, from the Kopke Winery. Kopke is the oldest brand of port, having been founded by a German family in 1638. Through the years the winery has passed through many hands but still bares the same name and is still produced in the same region.
The taste of Ruby Port is sweet. There is no way of getting around it. Really, really, sweet. But unlike a Riesling or a Moscato it did not seem quite as sickly. There is a strong under flavor from the brandy and the tannins grip your tongue on the finish. The strength that lies just under the surface keeps the sweetness from becoming cloying. That said, this is not something that I would enjoy drinking on a regular basis. It’s not a wine that you can sip half-heartedly while talking with friends or watching a movie. It grabs your attention and I have to respect that. So there is something there I like, even though I can’t honestly say at this point if I am enjoying the unique flavor of the wine or if I am an enjoying nostalgia for my time in England combined with a hint of history and culture. Either way, I will not be letting this bottle go to waste but I’m not sure I’ll be buying another anytime soon.
Fancy name for a fancy style of beer. The style is a blending of 2+ lambics of different vintages. In this case Rivertown blended a 1-year old lambic with a 3-year old lambic, which is slightly curious because Rivertown’s barely been open for 3 years. So this 3-year old lambic must be from their first batch or something like that, kinda cool. Something else before moving onto the beer is that Rivertown is spelling it geuze whereas everyone else spells it gueuze. Hopefully one of the guys from Rivertown will drop a comment about why they choose to spell it that way or if it’s just a typo on the packaging.