Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Winey Nights Out: Find Your Local Wine Bar and Uncork!

As you may know if you read this blog regularly, I am the parent of a West Point Cadet. Go Army! Beat Navy! OK, now I can continue.

Since West Point is not your typical college experience, to say the least, the parents of the Cadets come together in Parents' Clubs across the country. The Winey Hubby and I are blessed to have an amazing group of parents in our Ohio area. They are there for support and encouragement and to answer any questions about the school, the Army and military life in general.

wine bottles outdoor shot Hob Nob, Parker Station, Hayman & Hill, Meeker Wine, Borealis White
The evening line-up
Oh and did I mention that they are a ton of fun? Maybe more than a ton, but that's all I'm admitting to in writing! It's a beautiful thing when you join a club and find some genuine friends there. I mean, sure we all have West Point in common, but when that common thread becomes a true friendship? I'll toast to that.

So about a week ago, some of these wonderful friends and I and the Winey Hubby had a get together at a local haunt, Riverside Wine & Beer Bar, in Kent, Ohio. I am going to speak about this bar in particular, but I just know that you all have such venues near you. Very casual, very relaxing, great selection of nibbles and bites and an amazing wine list. Riverside's patio has a gorgeous view of the Cuyahoga River and nearby train tracks. It's also a wine store, and on certain nights there are no corkage fees. A corkage fee is charged by an establishment for opening and serving your bottle of wine. It applies to wines you bring in yourself from outside. But since Riverside is also a store, it's so much fun on "no corkage nights" to wander around the store, pick your bottle and have them serve it to you on that gorgeous patio.

So, eight of us settled in on the patio for lovely summer evening of sipping and talking and nibbling. We decided that the best way to sip was for each of us to pick a bottle and share it with everyone. Kind of like our own impromptu wine tasting. This is the best way to do these type of nights because you wind up drinking wines you'd never think to try. It's a win-win situation all around.

First up for me was Borealis White Wine (2011, 11.5%, Oregon). I was very happy to discover that this was an Oregon wine, as so many people have so many good things to say about that region. It's a blend of Riesling, Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer and is as crisp and bright and lively as The Northern Lights it's named after! One to buy if you like lighter (not really sweet) whites.

Next up was Parker Station Pinot Noir (2010, 13.5%, Central Coast, CA). And by Parker I mean Fess Parker, the actor who will forever be thought of as Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone! The friend who chose it said he wanted me especially to try it, since we share a love of red wine. This was a lovely Pinot Noir - plum and cherry and toasty oak. Another success story in my search for a good Pinot Noir.

I love hearing how people pick out wines, and my girlfriend, after wandering through the store, decided upon Hayman & Hill Meritage (2010, 13.5%, Monterey Co, CA).
Why did she chose it? Because the winemakers names were the same as one of her married sisters! A fine reason as far as I'm concerned! Meritage must be made from at least 2 grapes on the "approved" Meritage label, and these folks went above and beyond that! It's a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc! Lots of berry flavors in this, but the oakiness saves it from being too fruity. If I had to say, this was my least favorite of the bunch, but to be fair, it was going up with some stiff competition.

My contribution to the evening was Hob Nob Chardonnay (2010, 13.5%, France). I found it in the store, and since Hob Nob's Pinot Noir is one of my favorite wines (see Winey Tasting Notes: I REALLY Needed Some Hob Nob Pinot Noir) , I decided it was high time we checked out its sister wine. Pear and oak, with a hint of cinnamon dominate this one. It's not a light Chardonnay of the unoaked variety, but it's not big and buttery either. It falls somewhere in the middle. A great wine chilled and sipped with all that cheese and sausage we ordered.

And last but not at all least, out came Blankenheim's Frankenstein Formula 5 (Meeker Wines) (NV, 14.6%, CA). The absolute hit of the evening with everyone there. It is a red blend of 11, yes I said 11, red wines: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Merlot, Barbera, Carignane, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Petit Verdot and Malbec. No wonder they call it Frankenstein - cobbled together from so many different parts, but a wonderful creation in the end (yes, I consider Frankenstein to be a great creation - book or movie, you choose.)  A very high alcohol content but such a well balanced wine that we didn't know what hit us. The flavor was dark fruits with some green spices (thyme, oregano) and a touch of oak to give it some body. A big red, sure - but not a scary one (despite its namesake). Very drinkable. As we proved dutifully. (see picture for number of bottles)

So thus ends my winey travels through a very entertaining and educational evening with friends. I encourage you all to find your own local wine bar and sip away an evening with friends. It'll do your heart (and your taste buds) good!

Cheers!

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