Category Archives: Wine

Store Review: Everything D’Vine

Living in Monroe it’s hard to get downtown for all the excellent things going on every night, as such I feel I’ve let you all down by not doing a better job of getting to an Everything D’Vine tasting sooner. Everything D’Vine is a beer/wine store that’s been open for about 6 or 7 months now. It’s on the far west side of 4th street, so basically go all the way down to central ave and back track a half block or so and look for the red awning.

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The store reminds me of Two-Face from Batman, but not in the killing people/robbing banks kind of way. It’s split in half and you walk in the wine half and it’s a nice wine store with relaxing music and these cool horizontal wine holders on the walls. About half way down the building is an opening to cut over to the beer side. Here you’re just looking at lots of bottles of beer, bare brick walls, and the music selection was more along the lines of Soundgarden than Barry Manilow (I kid, I kid).

I know little of wine so I’ll make no comments regarding their wine selection, however, their beer selection I can attest to. Sadly it’s not a huge massive selection but damn is it a good one! They just don’t have the room to have every beer from every brewery, if you want that you can go to Party Source or Jungle Jims and spend your time trying to figure out what’s great. Travis has taken care of that for you. What bottles (and cans) they have are all great – excellent quality and cover the entire range of beer styles. Though to the dismay of one customer last night there is no Yuengling, which I’m relatively sure is a good thing.

Everything D’Vine has been making moves to be more then just a wine/beer store. Those moves started with tastings almost every Friday night. The tastings are Friday nights 5:30 – 8:30 and Saturday 1 – 6, $15/person for samples of 6 wines and 6 beers + snacks. Not being a wine guy I passed on that action and went straight for the brews, and I picked a great night to go!

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I’m not going to go into super detail on all those but the Missions Shipwreck Double IPA was an unexpected highlight, great IPA action with a solid malt body backing. The Enjoy By and Espresso IRS were also delicious and another surprise for me was the Jolly Pumpkin Maracaibo Special Brown ale, its a Belgian strong ale that shows off everything great about Belgians. Not all tasting line ups are like this, the two Stones really made tonight stand out more than usual.

A bonus to these tastings is that Travis really knows his shit on these brews. So I said they’re making moves to be more than just a store and the first move was the tastings. They’re also doing an educational wine 101 course this week and will soon be doing “celebrity tastetenders” at the tastings. This week’s “celebrity tastender” session is Learn Beer From A Pro: Scott Lafollette of Blank Slate Brewing Co. and I’ve heard rumors that in the future at least one local blogger/tour guide may be doing one. Plus I can say for sure that as soon as my time (and my wife) allows I plan on doing one as well!

Perhaps the best thing about Everything D’Vine is that it is the single most socially active store in the tri-state area that I’ve found so far. Travis has done a great job of covering Facebook (their page), Twitter (their feed), and blog posts (their blog). Better yet not only is he keeping these things up to date with the latest beer arrivals and store happenings but he is also superb at responding to things (which some bigger, alliteratively named, stores suck horrendously at).

Bottom line is that if you haven’t been to Everything D’Vine yet I encourage you to start following them on Facebook and Twitter and go down to the store to check it out. If you’re like me and don’t get downtown often then wait for a Friday night Red’s game and do a little beer tasting then hit the ball park (and don’t forget to stop by the Machine Room in the stadium) or do a tasting and hit the Yard House or Lager House for dinner.

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The Seeker Wines

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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.

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Pinot Noir 2011

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.

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Malbec 2011

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.

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Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

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.

seeker chardonnay

Chardonnay 2011

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.

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Sauvingnon Blanc 2012

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.

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Wine for Beer Drinkers: Where to start?

[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

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Ruby Port: Strong and Sweet

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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.

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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.

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Village Wine Cellar Cellar Dweller Tap Takeover

I spend a lot of time talking about what to drink and not nearly enough on where to go to drink it. This is partly because I’m a lazy shut in and partly because I live in the country. The popular downtown spots to drink are all 45 minutes away from me. Luckily I’ve recently discovered The Village Wine Cellar in downtown Lebanon.

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Wine Wednesday: Dancing Bull 2009 Zinfandel

As I’ve noted before, I know very little about wine. As I do enjoy wine and I am a curious person, I figured perhaps I should make some effort at changing that. Therefore, I’ll be starting a series of posts called “Wine Wednesdays” in which I review a wine to the best of my ability. The wines I choose will meet a few criteria: 1) they have to be affordable; I’m not in the business of buying expensive things that I won’t appreciate in proportion to their cost, 2) they will be locally available, 3) I’ll be making some effort at pairing it with what is for dinner that particular night.

I’ll try to include some information on the type of wine in general and any tasting notes either from the bottle or a different authoritative source. Most of these wines will be chosen either because of a recommendation from someone from whatever shop I’m visiting, from Carolyn Evans Hammond’s “Good, Better, Best Wines”, or from Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Best Buys of 2012.

Today’s wine is Dancing Bull’s 2009 Zinfandel. Dancing Bull wines are all over the place and, true to form, I actually found this on the shelf of the CVS downtown for $7.99, which is about a buck under retail prices. It was one of the wines listed in the “Good, Better, Best Wines” (in this case, under the best category for its varietal and price point).

Zinfandel isn’t a red varietal I drink very often, so I thought it an appropriate choice for the first entry into this series. A bit more about Zinfandel, via good ‘ol Wikipedia:

Zinfandel is a variety of red grape planted in over 10 percent of California vineyards. DNA fingerprinting revealed that it is genetically equivalent to the Croatiangrape Crljenak Kaštelanski, and also the Primitivo variety traditionally grown in Puglia (the “heel” of Italy), where it was introduced in the 18th century. The grape found its way to the United States in the mid-19th century, and became known by variations of the name “Zinfandel”, a name of uncertain origin.

The grapes typically produce a robust red wine, although a semi-sweet rosé (blush-style) wine called White Zinfandel has six times the sales of the red wine in the United States. The grape’s high sugar content can be fermented into levels of alcohol exceeding 15 percent.

The taste of the red wine depends on the ripeness of the grapes from which it is made. Red berry fruit flavors like raspberry predominate in wines from cooler areas, whereas blackberry, anise and pepper notes are more common in wines made in warmer areas and in wines made from the earlier-ripening Primitivo clone.

From the Dancing Bull page:

No shortage of flavor here. Blackberry, black cherry and raspberry mix with spicy notes of pepper and vanilla, making our Dancing Bull Zinfandel one of the best things to ever happen to barbeque. Originally introduced under the Rancho Zabaco label, our Zin remains a fan favorite for its bold, award-winning style. Pair this smooth, spicy wine with braised pork ribs and burgers, or try it with pasta in a rich tomato sauce.

Well, enough from the folks who actually know things about wine. What did yours truly think?

This is, as the description above states, a very “berry” forward wine. My palate can’t pick out the individual fruits, but they are definitely there. There’s also a touch of spiciness. At almost 14%, it’s pretty full-bodied. In my opinion, it’s a little too sweet and fruit-forward. I wish it was more dry, for sure. Between the fruit and sweetness, it’s not particularly complex and is a touch cloying. For $7.99, it’s not bad value, but I’m not sure I would buy it again. Even in the $5-8 range, there are better options out there, at least in my opinion. If you like fruit in your wine, though, this will definitely for you. The Party Source carries the 2010 version for $8.99, which I assume is right around retail.

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A Night of California Wines at Final Cut Steakhouse (Hollywood Casino)

[Participation in the event reviewed below was provided to me free of charge. Samples of any  other gifts have no effect on any review written by me, except that I WILL review what is provided to me. – J]

The good folks at  Final Cut Steakhouse and the Hollywood Casino (Lawrenceburg, IN) were kind enough to host me as their guest for a California wine dinner hosted by Gallo Family last Thursday. I was intrigued for several reasons.

The first and foremost is that my wife and I desperately needed a date night. As those of you with children may know or remember, you don’t get too many romantic nights out when you have an infant daughter (bless her heart). In the immortal words of Donna from Parks and Recreation, sometimes you have to Treat Yo Self. The other (perhaps more legitimate reason) is that while I enjoy wine and drink it relatively often, I know next to nothing about it. I know I like red and don’t like white(though this will be proven incorrect later), I know I largely find bottles I like and stick with those, and I know I often pick bottles based on label art. I needed a primer and a five-course dinner paired with different wines seemed just like what I needed.

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California Wine Dinner at Final Cut Steakhouse (September 27)

[Disclosure: I will be attending this dinner, gratis, as a guest of Final Cut. I’ll put up a review of the event soon afterwards, which will also include this note.]

I was invited to what looks to be a delicious dinner at Final Cut Steakhouse, which is located in the Hollywood Casino (Lawrenceburg, IN). A couple of the QCD authors went to a beer dinner hosted at the same venue (which sadly, I couldn’t make, but Tom covered well) and the food looked delicious. Well, it looks like I’ll get to see for myself and will let you know how it goes! If you’re interested in joining me, see the details below.

The menu:

California Wine Dinner

Goat Cheese Salad
capriole goat cheese, roasted beets, herb crisps, honey-yuzu dressing
MacMurray Pinot Gris

Sauteed dayboat Scallop
shallot compote, country ham, tomato oil
William Hill Napa Chardonnay

Pan Seared Duck Breast
israeli cous cous, smoked apple butter, pomegranite reduction
Bridlewood Syrah Blend

Roasted Tenderloin of Beef
potato puree, hen of the woods, zinfandel reduction
Ghost Pines Cabernet Sauvignon Blend

Mascarpone Cheesecake
citrus-graham cracker crust,tangerines, hibiscus sorbet
Mirassou Moscato

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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

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