Thursday, March 15, 2012

Grand River Valley Winegrowers Cool Hosts Of 9th Annual Ice Wine Festival

The flier for the 9th Annual Ice Wine Festival, hosted by the Winegrowers of Grand River Valley sports a photo of snowman in the middle of a swirl of snowflakes. The recent summer-like weather would reduce Frosty to a puddle of water in a flash but provides great traveling weather for visitors to Ohio’s wine country.

That was the case last weekend when we dropped in at the festival, which runs for three Saturdays in March. The festival continues this Saturday (March 17) from noon to five.The five participating wineries are Debonne Vineyards, Ferrante Winery & Ristorante, Grand River Cellars Winery & Restaurant, Laurello Vineyard and St. Joseph Vineyards. The cost is $6 per person for ice wine samples plus a complimentary appetizer. You can read more tickets, etc. at the link below the story.

Green Dragon and I aren’t big sweet wine drinkers, but appreciate the artistry and hard work that goes into making this tasty elixir. The grapes are harvested when frozen then immediately pressed. Here’s an important secret – taste in very small sips to enjoy the nuances and not be knocked out by the sugar.

This is one of the biggest events in Ohio wine country nestled near Lake Erie and in between Madison and Geneva. One winemaker told us that more than 600 people visited during the first Saturday of the festival – that’s a huge crowd for some mostly small wineries.

The festival is a blast. The wineries are rocking and people are in a boisterous and friendly mood. The sunshine and sweetness made it a great getaway for Green Dragon and me. We also enjoyed our stay at the Quail Hollow Resort in Painesville.

We started our visit at Laurello, which has a great tasting room plus a wide range of tasty wines. Our next stop was Ferrante. As usual, this winery is a class act. Most of the ice wine we sampled was from Vidal Blanc, which is perfect for this type of wine and thrives in our area. A few also offered ice wine from Cab Franc. The Cab Franc icewine at Ferrante was awesome with concentrated cherry and raspberry flavors. Green Dragon chose their Vidal Blanc ice wine as her favorite.

St. Joseph Vineyards Pinot Vista tasting room was next. It’s open, airy and a big improvement from their original tasting room. St. Joseph is known for their award-winning Pinot Noirs, but we sampled an awesome 2009 Gamay that is delicate but nicely structured with light fruit. They also produced a standout Late Harvest Vidal Blanc (the conditions weren’t cold enough to produce a true ice wine.

We headed to Debonne next, but the parking lot was full and it was as crowded as a Justin Bieber concert (is that dude still popular?). We pulled out of the parking lot and noticed a sign for South River Vineyards. They’re not a member of the winegrowers association, but they are one of our favorite area wineries.

It was also packed, probably more than it ever was when it was a church. We squeezed in and took a break from ice wine by sampling the Karma (Cabernet blend) and Dry Riesling. It was a massive party that we enjoyed from a prime viewing location. All was fine until we got up to leave. My jacket sleeve brushed against the wineglass sending it shattering on the floor. The hundreds of people in the room became silent – and then broke out in applause, which I acknowledged with upraised hands.

We cruised to Grand River Cellars and enjoyed our ice wine in their cellar, a first for us, while chatting pleasantly with another couple. GRC offered sparkling Vidal ice wine, which had enough frizzante to make it tickle. One of the best on our trip.

The only down note on the trip was when we tried to visit Farinacci Winery. This was at the farthest westerly part of our trip and we had good reports from our tasting team members. It was closed. On a Saturday? With hundreds of wine lovers roaming around just a couple miles away?
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We zipped back to an old favorite, Harpersfield Winery. Their beautiful estate wines rate among our favorites in Ohio. I enjoyed the unique Musette blend of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin (highly recommended). Green Dragon was sippin’ on a pre-release Pinot Gris.

You’ll be pleased with a visit to any of this wineries no matter the season – but if you can, catch the last Saturday of the ice wine festival before it melts away!
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