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While I’d say I love wine, I would not call myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination. I felt discouraged at any early attempts to develop a palate when I found out I was allergic to red wine a few years ago. I hadn’t really drank a lot of white wine before then and was all of a sudden told that’s all I could drink.
Since then, I’ve tasted my share of white – I know I like Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, and I’ve never enjoyed Chardonnay. But I’m definitely more of a “recreational” wine drinker. I’m not knowledgeable about pairing wine and food, and I’ll admit that I’ve bought a bottle of wine on more than one occasion because I liked its artwork.
So when WhyCLE mentioned a Wine and Cupcakes event, that definitely got my attention as a fun way to educate myself more.
The event was hosted by Tammy Coulson from Miss WineOH (you can find her on Twitter at @TLColson). In September, she went from only offering tasting parties for private groups to hosting unique wine experiences throughout Northeast Ohio.
Wine and Cupcakes was her first public wine tasting event in Cleveland.
After a delicious meal at Flying Fig (I stuck to a salad and the buratta cheese plate so that I wouldn’t be too full for cupcakes), WhyCLE, HungryinCLE and I headed next door to Market Ave. Wine Bar for the Wine and Cupcakes tasting.
I love Market Ave. Wine Bar. It was one of the first places I went to in Ohio City because of a book club I used to be in. I hadn’t been in a while so it was nice to visit again.
The tasting was in the back room, which is a fun, comfortable and ecletically decorated space (kind of reminded me of Touch Supper Club’s back room). After settling into a few of the club chairs and couches, we readied ourselves for wine.
Before I get into what was served, I need to take a moment to thank both Tammy and Market Ave. Wine Bar for being the most understanding hosts.
When you sign up for a wine tasting, you’re tasting wines that have been selected for you by someone else – it’s all about the adventure. In looking at the menu, I knew there would be a few red wines on the list.
However, I decided to still go because a) there would also be cupcakes from A Cookie and A Cupcake in Tremont and b) it was a fun night out with friends.
Because I didn’t want them to waste a pour of red wine on me, I emailed Tammy ahead of the event to ask if I could have soda or water during the red wine pairings. Instead, she notified Market Ave. of my allergy and they worked to find an alternate white wine pairing for the cupcakes.
That’s AMAZING customer service and I am really grateful they went above and beyond — huge thank yous to Tammy, Joy Valentine and everyone at Market Ave. Wine Bar.
Our first pairing was a 2010 Golem Riesling with a lemon cake cupcake topped with a strawberry balsamic vinegar icing. I really liked the Riseling because it wasn’t overpoweringly sweet but had a dryness to it that worked really well with the light flavoring of the cupcake.
This pairing was very well-balanced in regards to the sweetness and acidity of the drink and food — however, I could have very well enjoyed both of them separately. I would have liked to have tasted more of the balsamic vinegar in the icing but the lemon and strawberry flavors definitely made up for it.
Next up was a 2010 Louis Laurant Vouvray with an almond cake cupcake and roquefort icing. Almond’s a flavor that not everyone likes, but I do so I really enjoyed this cupcake. The fruitiness of the wine was selected to pair specifically with this almond flavoring. While I didn’t prefer the wine on its own, I really enjoyed it when mixed with the cupcake.
For the third pairing, everyone was served a white cake cupcake with maple bacon icing paired with a 2009 Bella Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir. Because of my allergy, Market Ave. substituted a Spann Chardonnay Viognier blend for the pinot noir. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a huge fan of Chardonnay. It was the first white wine I ever tried and the bitter, heavy oakiness always left me dissatisfied.
I say this because out of all of the wines I had at the tasting, this was my favorite. I was told this likely has to do with the Viognier that’s blended in, which contributes a lot to the wine’s aroma and taste (the aroma rivaled that of the pinot noir). There was a substantial body to it that paired really well with the bacon cupcake, which was again my favorite — because, well, it had bacon in it.
I was happy to learn Market Ave. Wine Bar also sells bottles and I enjoyed the wine so much I bought one to take home — as an added bonus it was relatively inexpensive (I paid around $12 for it).
A cherry chocolate cupcake with salted caramel icing followed. This cupcake was paired with a 2009 The Velvet Devil Merlot. My substitute was a Geil Scheurebe Kabinett, a hybrid grape with some Riesling in it. Like the Vouvray there was a fruitiness that complemented the saltiness of the icing.
By the way, salted caramel — I don’t know why I didn’t have much of you before recently, but you’re my new favorite flavoring on desserts. Regarding the wine, there was some citrusy tastes to it that I’d like to pair with dinner one night – so I might need to go back and pick some up.
We ended with a dark chocolate cake with cinnamon icing paired with a 2005 Norman The Vocation. My substitute was a Midnight Cellars Chardonnay. I did some research on Midnight Cellars and read they use French – instead of American – oak barrels during production. Which explains why that aspect of the flavoring is not as overbearing as the Chardonnays I used to drink.
Although neither the wine nor the cupcake in this final pairing were my favorites of the evening (I don’t enjoy cinnamon that much), they had A LOT to live up to after the first 4 pairings and were still good in their own right.
Along our wine tasting journey, Tammy talked about each wine and why they were paired with their respective cupcake. The best part about the conversation was how gracious and approachable she was, bringing a bit of Southern Hospitality to the Cleve. She made wine tasting very accessible — even for a novice like me.
My favorite part was her encouragement to try a lot of wine so that you can figure out what you like and don’t like, and ultimately choose to drink something because you enjoy it. As she explained, each person’s palate is different so just because a wine is extremely expensive, touted on tv by a food expert or has a high rating, doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily like it more than a $10 bottle of wine you can pick up at Heinen’s.
Miss WineOH has a lot of upcoming wine-centric events. The next Cleveland wine and cupcakes will be in January with other events listed on their Events Calendar. She also hosts events in my home state of Virginia and North Carolina and can do private events and wine hikes as well. More info can be found here.
Miss WineOH 411: