BYOB Homework

October 27th, 2012

With only TWO weekends left before this year’s European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC) in Turkey, I decided that I’d procrastinated long enough on my EWBC-Eve BYOB homework assignment…that is to get a bottle of wine to bring to the event. The BYOB event takes place the night before the conference starts at the host hotel (this year the Izmir Hilton). Everyone brings a bottle from their respective “homes” to share. It’s a great way to mix & mingle with old friends and make new ones while sampling and sharing about wines from all around the world. 

Tim secured his bottle of Kinkead Ridge 2010 Cabernet Franc a week or so ago.  So to be different, I decided to go after a Kentucky-side of the Ohio River Valley for my 2012 EWBC BYOB bottle. Looking online at what was available on the shelves to purchase, I saw lots of StoneBrook Winery listings. StoneBrook is a very local winery here in our region, only about a 20-minute drive from Cincinnati in Camp Springs, Kentucky.  With so little time before our trip and so much still to do, I didn’t think I had time to actually visit StoneBrook Winery. After a bit more online probing, I discovered that the winery staffs a tasting kiosk at Newport on the Levee every Friday 5-10pm and Saturday 2-10pm. For those not familiar with the Cincinnati area, the Levee is a commercial development consisting of restaurants, bars, AMC theatre, shops and our regional Aquarium. It’s located on the banks of the Ohio River — directly across from my office on E. Pete Rose Way — on the Cincinnati, northern-side of the river. 

I had planned on just walking across the People Purple Bridge (once a railroad bridge across the Ohio River) and leaving my car at work, but today had gotten colder and colder and wetter and wetter, and I had to work late, and I’d taught two Jazzercise classes, whine…whine…whine, so I opted to just drive and pay $5 to park in the Levee garage. So on what was probably THE wettest, coldest Friday night yet this fall, I was excited to stay indoors and taste some new wines!

I found the kiosk just inside a shop called “Art on the Levee” (shop faces the AMC ticket windows on the Plaza Level). Two ladies had just sat down, so I joined them and in came Jack. Jack explained the process: for $5.30 we could sample several wines and pick the one we liked most for a full pour. I wouldn’t call Jack a sommelier or wine connoisseur.  He obviously worked for StoneBrook and was familiar with the wines, but I’d give him the title of very friendly wine pour-er. Jack together with the outdoor patio furniture seating created a very casual, zero pretentious, no snooty-tooty wine tasting = perfect for Newport on the Levee!

We had no food to nibble on, so you might want to save your movie popcorn or bring a something with you.  Jack kept things simple and straight-forward, “Tell me what you like?” “Red or white?  Dry or sweet?” Nothing complicated on this cold, wet Friday night in northern Kentucky.

I had learned while visiting their website (  that StoneBrook has alot of fruit wines, so if you ever wanted to sample pomegranate or blackberry wine — you’ve found the place where you can go for it and see if you like it. I’m not a sweet wine person, so I veered away from the fruit wines — plus I was on a mission to secure my BYOB for Turkey!  So, I started with what the wine “menu” card listed as a one of SouthBrook’s dry whites. I took a little sip of the Estate Reserve and would characterize it as a sweet white wine. Jack tried to persuade me to finish my tasting, so he could pour me a second wine, but I politely refused and he tossed it out for me (trying to share with him my “mission”).

Jack suggested that if I thought the Estate Reserve was “sweet” that I should move on to the two StoneBrook red wines he had available to taste. My next wine was of their Cab Franc.  The immediate thing you taste is the oak.  The Cab Franc wasn’t one dimensional, but I wouldn’t say it made it all the way to 2D. It just didn’t have a big, full, rich flavor, but then Cab Franc is not my thing.

Before I moved on to the other red wine, Jack said, “there’s something I want you to try and I’m not going to tell you what it is…you try and see if you can guess what it is.”  He pulled out a skinny, frosted bottle of dark “wine” and I was guessing it was some kind of fruit wine. I tasted it and it had a distinctively strong flavor, a tart sweet like cherries. He told me it was Blackberry wine mixed with port! StoneBrook calls it Black Knight. It was a lovely color and I thought that the balance a creamy-rich dessert like hot bread pudding with vanilla ice cream would compliment this “wine” really well. It could be poured on top in lieu of a thick blackberry sauce.  I could see such a dessert served in a high end restaurant.

 The only other red to sample was the Chambourcin — which is fun to say, “Sham-byurr-sain.” It isn’t a very dry red wine. Compared to the Cab Franc, it had dimension, full flavor and a “story.” I knew instantly that it was my BYOB! I finished my sample with no problem. It’s a very. smooth drinkable wine, meaning you don’t need food to go along with it = which I like. But it did make me crave a few little chunks of salty, dry cheese like some parm. It’s not a wine to die for, but I think it will respectfully represent our Ohio River Valley at EWBC.

I passed on having a full glass of the Chambourcin (by this time it was just about 8pm and I was ready to get home and eat some dinner), but the two ladies were still sampling in search of finding their favorite. One of the ladies asked to taste the Vidal Blanc which is what I thought from their website that StoneBrook was best known for, but Jack didn’t confirm this with me. The Vidal (pronouced like in Vidal Sasson) Blanc was listed on the tasting menu as a sweet white, so I was going to skip it, but when Jack brought it out to pour, I saw that it was in a cobalt blue bottle. I HAD to taste it — I mean how perfect would it have been to bring a Kentucky wine IN a Kentucky blue-colored bottle to Turkey!

It was good, it was fine, it was sweet. It actually tasted similar, but a little better, than the first wine I tasted — the Estate Reserve.  The lady loved it and proceeded to get the Vidal Blanc as her full glass of wine. I didn’t get which wine her friend chose, but they took their full glasses and walked around the “Art on the Levee” store which was filled with paintings from — what I guessed — were local artists. I saw lots of colorful Cincinnati skylines, a Mr. Redlegs painting…landscapes and abstracts. I didn’t take time to walk around, but it seemed like a very nice setting to sip your wine and stroll amongst the art.

So, there you have it! A nice little Friday night. Perfect with a girlfriend or two — to stop by, drink a little wine before going upstairs to see a chick-flick — you will likely enjoy any movie alot more after a bit of wine. And you’ll want to get some movie popcorn for sure!  = The salty to go with all that sweet StoneBrook Kentucky wine!  AND, more importantly, I got my BYOB homework finished before the start of the weekend!

One Response to “BYOB Homework”

  1. Mark R says:

    Hey I may check in on this from time to time. I’m not much of a wine lover because after all there is Kentucky bourbon. Anyway it is interesting that you mention StoneBrook which is spittin’ distance from my back porch.

    My sister Nancy and her husband Ray grow the grapes for StoneBrook’s Vidal Blanc and have for several years. That is until this year when their lives have forever been disrupted. Grape growing takes tremendous effort, dedication, and commitment not to mention passion and good bit of good fortune from Mother Nature. Over the years all three of my daughters have worked at Nancy and Ray’s vineyard in caring for the plants as well as harvesting the crop.

    As a Kentuckian I feel very proud that you are carrying a Kentucky product halfway around the world to share with others. That alone could be worthy of a story in Kentucky Living Magazine. You may already know that Kentucky has invested seriously with farmers and other land owners in the production of grapes. Apparently Kentucky ’s soil and climate is ideal for grape growing and there is significant legislation underway to provide tax incentives to growers and wine makers.

    Sorry to ramble—have a great time!

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