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Published: Thursday, 4/20/2006

Wine tastings grow in popularity and fun

Red or white? Wine, that is. What's your preference? It's fun to talk about, fun to have with dinner, and fun to sip while chatting. As people are exposed to a variety of wines they want to become more sophisticated in their selections, if the popularity of wine tastings is any indication. Restaurants, wine shops, and distributors get in on the act, and many times charities reap benefits, too.

REAL Seafood hosts wine tasting dinners regularly. When I attended the April 11 Australian Wine Dinner, about 30 of us sipped an Angoves Nine Vines Rose as we stood by the Maumee River's edge on a perfect warm evening. In keeping with the Australian theme, some of us tried throwing a boomerang, but the brave ones were those who didn't take cover when their fellow guests sent some flying back into the crowd.

Guests enjoyed an Australian Wine Dinner recently at Real Seafood at the Docks. Guests enjoyed an Australian Wine Dinner recently at Real Seafood at the Docks.
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A different wine was paired with each course. I was lucky to have Jennifer Sullins of Heidelberg Distributing at my table; she added a few extra details about them.

The guest wine host - Scott Callahan of Trinchero Family Estates in California, who is of Australian heritage - gave us tidbits of information about the wines. For instance, Mr. Callahan said Australia is different now than in the old days of Crocodile Dundee and backwoods pubs - wine consumption in Australia is about three times greater than that in the United States. He added that there are some 82 wine regions in Australia.

Real Seafood's staff members, including Simon Pesusich of Mainstreet Ventures, who planned the menu, outdid themselves, according to Mr. Callahan. "They made the meal as authentic as if we were all dining in Australia," he said. They even served Vegemite, an Australian spread, which looked like a dollop of hot fudge topping, but ohhh, it tasted more like strong beef bullion. The meal included poached prawns, Chilean Sea Bass, and pan-seared Australian lamb loin. Wines ranged from Angoves sauvignon blanc to reisling and shiraz. After everyone indulged in a few more samples, Mr. Callahan invited them to try playing the didgeridoo, a long instrument made from a tree branch.

The evening was topped off with a Rosemount Old Benson Tawny Port wine served with a dessert of Pavlova with mascarpone cream and kiwi and passion fruit coulis.

Among the group were Andy and Sue Utley, Julie Oswald, Sue and Scott Burke, Chris Perrine, and Mainstreet Ventures guru Mike Gibbons.

Scott Callahan serves wine to Suzanne Haley, left, and Mary Ripinski during the wine dinner.
Scott Callahan serves wine to Suzanne Haley, left, and Mary Ripinski during the wine dinner.
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DIVA restaurant also has wine tastings; in fact, there is a wine dinner tonight that will feature pea and avocado soup, Hawaiian opa, quail, morrel tamales, pan-seared elk scaloppini, and more. Diva's Friday night wine tastings are popular, too; the next one is April 28.

SEVERAL area wine shops offer tastings. The Vineyard at the Westgate Village shopping center has weekly tastings as well as special wine dinners. On Tuesdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. one can pay $5 to sample the new wines in the shop. Or come by Thursdays from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. for wine tastings with different themes. Saturday night there will be a Cinco de Mayo-themed wine dinner, a gourmet-style event with South American wines to match each course - call the wine shop for details. Its Spring Distributors Tasting is April 28, which will include light appetizers, wines, and a chance to talk with the distributors. One could also attend the "So the Children May Hear" wine tasting and auction May 12 for Toledo Public Schools, presented by Quota International. The event is $50 per person and includes wine, food, and music for listening and dancing.

THE Andersons has wine tastings on Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Maumee and Talmadge Road locations. One can sample four wines served with cheeses and breads, for 50 cents to $3.50 per sample, depending on the price of the wine. The Woodville location has tasting from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.

Walt Churchill's on Briarfield Boulevard also hosts regular wine tastings.

Aficionado Wine and Cigars in Perrysburg offers weekly wine tastings from 5 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for $10 per person, which includes, of course, wine, plus cheese, crackers, and grapes.

MAUMEE Wines has wine tastings for private parties complete with a five-course dinner. Vintage Beginnings offers wine tastings Monday through Saturday for $2 per person.

LOCAL distributors, including Berman Wines and Heidelberg, get in on the act with their own tastings. Heidelberg is hosting a wine tasting at its headquarters on April 27 for members and guests of the Press Club of Toledo.

Space is limited, so call the Press Club at 419-474-8216 as soon as possible if you want to sip wine and schmooze with news-makers and shakers.

SEVERAL charitable organizations, including the Kidney Foundation, Mobile Meals, the Sight Center, and the Victory Center, have hosted wine tastings as fund-raisers and have been quite successful.

On a smaller scale, a Wine & Micro Beer Tasting was held a few months ago at Maple Grove Golf Course for Bedford's Relay for Life May 20-21 for the American Cancer Society. The evening, held in conjunction with Flick's Party Store, was hosted by Deb Lagger, Julia Stewart, and Jessica Wexler, members of the Monroe Road Elementary Hoofers relay team. They netted nearly $500.

SIP a little, bid a little, and taste some more. The Waterville Chamber of Commerce presented its sixth annual Wine Tasting and Auction last month at the Pinnacle and raised $5,000 and a lot of fun.

Tables were filled with wine glasses just waiting to be used as the 180 guests sipped this and that and nibbled throughout the evening on heavy hors d'oeuvres plus a chocolate fountain, and enjoyed coffee.

A silent auction was open during the social hour, and cheeses were served during the tasting, which included Blue Moon Riesling with a mild cheddar, Echelon Pinot Grigio with a swiss, Lapostolle Chardonnay with a mild brick, Querceto Chianti with a provolone, and B.V. Signet Merlot with a smoked gouda.

A live art auction run by Jason Whalen, assisted by "Vanna White," aka Kara Thomas, was held throughout the evening. This auction was conducted without auction paddles or numbers, just winks, blinks, nods, and a slight wave of a hand. So, those who talk with their hands had to be careful, or Mr. Whalen might point to them and say "sold!"

Chamber president Doug Hayward of Sky Bank was assisted by his wife, Jayne, and Karen Masters of Buckeye CableSystem and Lynn Eicher of Fifth Third Bank.

Among the guests at the Chamber event were Paul and Julie Croy, Sherrie and Dick Luetke, Dave and Cindy Kersher, Joe Bublick, Brad and Cindy Wilson, Mike and Liz Swanton, Gigi and Jim Kapela, Pia and Jim Crum, and Dave and Lou Ann Zuchowski.

CHARMED and Cherished: A Wine-Tasting Event with a silent auction, was presented recently by Cousino's at Navy Bistro in conjunction with Ahava Ministries. More than 400 participated. There were four different wines and lots of great hors d'oeuvres to sate appetites. The $25,000 proceeds benefit the ministries Special Guest Program.



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