Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Canadian Wines Quench The Thirst For Quality At Cleveland’s Fabulous Food Show

Earlier this month I recorded a first. For the first time Green Dragon and I attended the Fabulous Food Show at Cleveland’s I-X Center. To make an enjoyable time even more fun, we served as volunteer wine pourers at the Grand Tasting Pavilion.
We got the gig at the invitation of Marianne Franz, the founder of the American Wine School. The wine school provides the captains for the 19 different booths as well as the speakers for presentations in the wine theater.
Suitably attired as wine ninjas in the required all black clothing, we showed up at the sprawling I-X Center and Marianne was soon leading a band of us to assignments at different booths. At first she gestured to the Wines of Italy booth, but I was locked in on the Canadian Wines booth.
It turned out to be a savvy selection. We soon discovered that we had visited all three of the Canadian wineries that were being served: Chateau Des Charmes, Vineland Estates Winery and Inniskillin. This is a trio of top shelf producers with wines we typically have to travel hundreds of miles to sample.
Tom Baker was the AWS captain assigned to work with us and we were soon chilling the wine and getting the booth set up. Our lineup consisted of:
  • Chateau Des Charmes: 2008 Aligote, 2006 Old Vine Pinot Noir, 2007 Riesling and 2007 Rose.
  • Vineland: 2011 Cabernet Franc, 2011 Chardonnay, 2010 Semi-Dry Riesling, 2008 Dry Riesling and Vice (a vodka and ice wine blend).
  • Inniskillin: 2007 Ice Wine
After a slow start (what, people don’t like to start drinking wine at 10:30 in the morning?) we became one of the most popular booths. The wine samples were issued in exchange for tickets – and the $60 per half bottle Inniskillin was just one ticket – the same as a Kendall Jackson Chardonnay that retails for $12.
Each wine was great, but I have to single out the CDC Old Vine Pinot and the Vineland Dry Riesling as being particularly outstanding. I’m confident in saying that we had the best Riesling in the 2.2 million square foot I-X Center. You could try a nice trio ranging from dry to the still not very sweet CDC Riesling.
Our booth backed up to the Pinot Noir stand. We were separated by only a curtain and soon they were swapping California Pinot samples for a sip of ice wine (for educational purposes only!).
We spent a full day on our feet but Tom occasionally turned us loose to roam the Fabulous Food Show. I had a chance to attend a seminar on the art of blending and even drifted into the International Beer Festival to see what the hop-heads were imbibing. There were 500 craft beers from which to choose.
Of course there were culinary stars – we saw Martha Stewart whip up some desserts, Alex Guarnaschelli make a pasta dish and Marcus Samuelson judge the Great Sugardale Bac-On (a bake-off featuring bacon). There were samples a plenty and also the huge By Hand Fine Art & Craft show.
It was a treat to pour these outstanding Canadian wine. (Occasionally I had to sample the wines to make sure they were drinking properly!) Many who stopped by the booth shared tales of their visits to the three Ontario wineries.
There were others who were trying Canadian wine for the first time.
This was our first visit to the Fabulous Food Show, but certainly won’t be our last. I also want to put in the plug for Cleveland’s American Wine School. They offer great educational programs and events in addition to their work during this recent food fest.
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