Wednesday, August 27, 2014

M is for Marvelous

On my recent stop at Pairings, Ohio's new wine and culinary education center, I tasted a red that blew up my ideas about what could be made from local grapes. The explosion came courtesy of the 2012 Meritage from M Cellars in Geneva. It's a blended Bordeaux-style wine, made with cabernet sauvignon, cab franc, merlot and petit verdot, aged in Hungarian oak. Grower and vintner Matt Meineke calls it  a field wine, meaning the fruit is all picked and fermented together, and he's the only registered producer in the state. More importantly, it's a fantastic, full-bodied sophisticated wine with whispers of berries, smoke and wood. Curious about the who, what and why of this 2-year-old winery, I made it my business to go there the following day.

It's a beautiful spot — acres of grapes, a patio overlooking the fields, a handsome modern tasting room and spacious airy dining room where Meineke, his wife Tara and guest chefs host occasional and exclusive wine dinners. In fact, the next one, a celebration of corn and tomatoes is scheduled for September 5 and the menu prepared by Bob Sferra looks amazing.  I had a chance to preview all Matt's wines that will be served and some not yet available ones as well, and they're all pretty amazing too.

His gruner veltliner, uncommon for this region, is unfiltered with intense notes of apple and pear. He's offering another lovely white, Rkatsiti, that is new to me and made from an ancient Ukrainian grape. Matt describes it as "sauvignon blanc without the grass." I love his dry riesling, and the soon-to-be-released 2013 vintage is even better than the year before  — a terrific balance of acid and fruity with a bigger mouthfeel and his earthy rose. The pinot noir is sturdy and round with lots of baking spice flavor. None are typical for this region.

Jillian Davis, owner of Toast, told me she always tries to keep something of theirs on her list." I agree that the wines are surprising and head and shoulders above what anyone else is doing in this area. I keep telling people they're not just good-for Ohio wines. They're good wines!"In Cleveland, some of his wines are also available at Flying Fig,  Bin 216 and the Market Avenue Wine Bar. But the weather's still fine, the drive is short, and the experience such a nice one, so I suggest planning a trip to M Cellars for a tasting of your own.

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