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Blog Swap: MissWineOH says, Wines you HAVE to try

Today is the Ohio Blogging Association‘s Cleveland November Blog Swap. As part of it, I’m happy to introduce you to Tammy, Chief Tasting Officer at MissWineOH . On this day, bloggers from around the Northeast Ohio area are guest posting on one another’s blogs as a way to get to know each other in our blogging community. For a full listing of blog swap participants, please visit Poise in Parma today.

I met Amanda at a Wine and Cupcakes event recently, and we have a shared love of the city of Cleveland and its culinary and wine delights. I’m happy to be swapping blogs with her today and sharing some of my favorite wines.

Many of us head out for social gatherings or parties in restaurants during the holiday season. And many of those events are held in our local restaurants, where some of the best chefs in the country make their homes – and their incredible food. Some of Cleveland’s best restaurants also have some pretty intimidating wine lists. When you are blessed with great food, you can also be cursed with the “what do I pick off this wine list?” dilemma.

Your first avenue of information should always be the sommelier if he or she is available – a good sommelier can recommend the perfect wine to compliment your palate, your food and your budget.  Your second avenue, however, can be this list.

As I’m a huge fan of eating in my neighborhood, these picks are from Tremont restaurants, but these wines (or very similar ones) are widely available.

Lolita

Chef Michael Symon’s bistro is reflective of his love of Cleveland. Funky, locally inspired and always changing. One of my favorite things there is the early and late Happy Hour menu. 

Nessa, Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain, 09 8.50 gl – 34 btl 
This spanish white has abundant peaches and pears and a crisp minerality that will blend seamlessly with the Lolita Happy Hour mussels (only $5!).

Revelry, “The Reveler”, Colombia Valley, 08 (Petite Verdot, Merlot, Cab)
10 gl – 40 btl

Washington State makes some great wines, and I love that this one uses Petite Verdot as the primary grape in the blend. It’s inky in color, and you’ll like the chocolate and coffee flavors on the finish. It’s an INTERESTING wine – in that “wow, pretty cool, I’ll sip and savor this a while” sort of way. And I love putting the Lolita burger with it.

Parallax

While Parallax has a lovely by the glass menu, their strength is in their bottle selections. They specialize in asian fusion and seafood – and they have a sushi menu!

Sauvignon Blanc, St. Supery, Napa Valley 2010 – 40 btl
Grapefruit and lime are the highlights with this wine, but it’s not overly tart like you will find in many New Zealand Sauv Blancs. This one is a perfect complement to the asian fusion and seafood that dominates the menu at Parallax. I love to order this and an assortment of sushi and settle in for a sensory feast.

Pinot Noir, The Four Graces, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 09 – 72 btl
While on the higher end, this pinot noir is one of the best you will find on a restaurant list in Tremont. The subtle fruit and soft tannins on this pinot serve any of the meat dishes well. I particularly love it with the Duck Confit and brussel sprouts.

Dante

Dante is a great place to stop in early or late if you find yourself having trouble getting a dinner reservation. They have a lovely bar, 2 pages of wines by the glass and 50 wines under $50 to pair with Chef Dante Bocuzzi’s incredible menu. Their wines reflect the Italian influence of the food.

Vernaccia, Le Rote, San Gimignano, Toscana, 08 8 gl – 32 btl
A Tuscan Vernaccia at this price in a restaurant in Tremont, I’m all over it. Vernaccia is a grape grown and pressed in a particular town in the Tuscan region of Italy (San Gimignano), and this particular wine is medium bodied and just the right balance of acid and fruit. You’ll want to make sure it is well chilled. Pair it with the octopus, or any of the fresh seafood dishes for a little slice of Tuscany in Cleveland.

Barbera d’Alba, Boffa, Buschet, Piemonte 08 11 gl – 44 btl
A quintessential Italian red, the Boffa is a dry selection made from the barbera grape. This wine has some spice on it, but I’d pair it with the venison or polenta, depending on which direction your culinary tastes lead. This wine also works well for the vegetarian dishes on the menu.

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One piece of advice I always give: Ask for a taste if you are unfamiliar with the wine. The worst possible thing they can say is “no” – and I’ve never had a sommelier refuse a taste.

Do you have favorite dishes you don’t know what to drink with? Just ask!

Happy Sipping!

MissWineOH's Wine and Cupcakes at Market Ave. Wine Bar

A wine tasting with cupcakes? MissWineOH is onto a good thing!

Have you entered the Cleveland LEGO KidsFest giveaway yet? You only have a few more days — the winner gets 2 free tickets to this awesome LEGO extravaganza at the I-X Center.

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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.

Girls night out with old and new friends (photo from WhyCLE)

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. 

The back room of Market Ave. Wine Bar is where we enjoyed our evening

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. 

So many cupcakes! (photo from WhyCLE)

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).

The bacon and salted caramel icing cupcakes were two of my favorites

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. 

Tammy - our host and wine guide for the evening (photo from WhyCLE)

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.

Since I couldn’t taste the red wines, check out WhyCLE’s recap as well as Miss WineOH’s tasting notes for the event.

Miss WineOH 411: