Monday, September 2, 2013

Next Stop: Chalet Debonné Vineyard

The next winery on our list was Chalet Debonné Vineyards, just a short drive from our first stop, Grand River Cellars, in Madison, OH.

Like Grand River, Debonné boasts a restaurant, indoor and outdoor seating, live entertainment, a gift shop, and a tasting bar.  Debonné also sells wine for charity; an undisclosed portion of the proceeds from each bottle of Pour Donner sold goes toward People In Need, Inc., of Delaware County, Ohio.

Chalet Debonné is unique in that they make their own beer at Cellar Rats Brewery.  This on-site brewery and beer tasting room adds an interesting dynamic that is perfect for couples comprised of one wine drinker and one beer drinker- everyone wins!  I rarely drink beer anymore and I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen the Bear with a brew since I've known him, so we can't speak to the quality of their beer but, in theory, this is a strategic business move to help broaden Debonné's customer base.

A few other notable things Chalet Debonné has to offer include party rentals of various parts of the winery such as their outdoor pavilion and gazebo, events such as jazz festivals, hot air balloons, classic car shows, and personalized wine labels which are perfect for a special occasion.

If you're a shopper or looking for a present for a wine lover, Debonné's gift shop is also more diverse than other wineries.  One thing I have learned from visiting quite a few places is that many will carry the same kitschy items as the rest, and Debonné has some of that, but they also have a lot of unique items we had not seen before.  For example, that is where I purchased this nifty apron!

As for the actual wine experience, the Bear and I had been here together previously so we had an idea of what to expect.  We knew that this winery is heavily invested in the entertainment aspect of the wine business, which generally means a greater menu of sweeter wines, larger crowds, and less opportunities to talk to the tasting staff about the wines.

This experience was no exception.  But, at least we knew what was coming, which helped soften the blow.

The tasting bar was crowded but we managed to find two seats.  It took a minute to get service, which wasn't surprising, and we ended up splitting a dry tasting tray.  The dry varietals tray consists of á Cab, Chambourcin, a Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blend, a Pinot Noir/Syrah blend, Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay Reserve, and their standard Chardonnay.  There was no souvenir wine glass included with this one, which was kind of a bummer.

One thing to keep in mind while tasting at Chalet Debonné is that Debonné's owner, Tony Debevc, is also in charge of wine production at Grand River Cellars.  If you go to both, you will notice some of the wines are almost identical, just with different names (and prices).

Starting with the reds, the á Cab is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Chambourcin.  It is aged in oak and has some bell pepper in the nose and is a full bodied wine that would require a bold main dish if it were to be paired with food.  The Cab/Cab blend is forgettable. The Cabernet Franc almost diluted the Cabernet Sauvignon, and there is some Syrah in the blend as well.  It is very bright and light tasting for a blend with Cabernet Sauvignon and is relatively disappointing.

The Chambourcin has some black cherry in the taste and it is pretty tasty for a Chambourcin, which is traditionally a wine that will get you silly without even knowing it.  Though it generally has a higher alcohol content, this Chambourcin isn't too dry, and the black cherry isn't too sweet.  This is one I would go back to try again.  The Pinot Noir/Syrah blend is very interesting, with notes of vanilla and coffee in the taste and a remarkable finish for a red.  The typical acidic, dry feeling that reds leave in the mouth is absent, which was refreshing.

Moving on to the whites, the Chardonnay Reserve is an oaked Chard that wasn't quite what we had expected.  I like to be able to taste the oak and the Bear prefers oaked wines that taste like you're drinking the tree itself and neither of us feel this is up to par.  Aging Chardonnay in oak usually gives it a more robust flavor but this is flat tasting and unexciting.  The Pinot Gris has a little of the hazelnut flavor from its description, but I didn't get any apple, floral notes, etc., that it supposedly has.  The Pinot Gris also qualifies as flat, I would even go as far as boring.

The standard Chardonnay is a 2010 that had a bold, crisp apple flavor that popped as we drank it. For being aged in stainless steel, I am impressed.  This is a perfect wine to pair with a mild-flavored meal but also good to enjoy on its own.  The apple flavor is very fall-like and this, like Grand River's Chardonnay, would also be a good autumn wine.  Keep in mind, Grand River's wine production is at the hand of Debonné's owner, which is likely why the stainless steel Chardonnay at each winery tastes nearly identical.

The Pinot Grigio is a 2012 vintage that outshined the rest of the wines we tried here.  It is slightly (very slightly) sweeter than a normal dry Pinot Grigio, but it is smooth from start to finish.  It would be a great wine to pair with any food or to enjoy outside on a warm evening while watching the sunset.  It had a crisp, refreshing apple taste and a little bit of caramel in the nose.

We ended up taking the 2010 Chardonnay and the 2012 Pinot Grigio home.
2010 Stainless Steel Chardonnay

2012 Pinot Grigio
We were both surprised by Debonné's wines this time around.  The 2012 Pinot Grigio and the 2010 Chardonnay are definitely winners, as is the Chambourcin.  There are also plenty of sweet wines that we didn't try, so if you or someone you know is looking for something on the sweeter side, Debonné may be a good choice.  Also, they're reasonably priced which is helpful for any wine drinker on a budget.

Be aware that Debonné will be crowded more often than not, which makes it difficult to get any wine education from the tasting servers.  If you're curious about these wines but don't want to or can't make the trip to Madison, some Debonné wines are available at local grocers, liquor stores, convenient stores, or drugstores.  Debonné's website also has an eShop available and can ship wine anywhere in the state of Ohio, or wine can be ordered by calling 1.800.424.WINE.

Thank you for visiting!  Up next will be our journey to the wineries down South River Road.  As always, enjoy the wine (or other drink of choice), but please do so responsibly.  Cheers!

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