Sunday, September 1, 2013

Stop Number One: Grand River Cellars

The first leg of our tour through the Ohio Vines and Wines trail began Thursday, August 22nd.  We had the intention of purchasing at least one bottle from every winery we visited, and we ended up being extremely successful.  Our first day was our longest day, as we hit nine wineries.

Needless to say, I was exhausted and went to bed around 8:30 that night.

Our first stop was Grand River Cellars, formerly known as the Grand River Wine Company, in Madison, OH.   Grand River Cellars is a participant in the Ohio Wines VIP program.
In addition to wine, they have a delicious (and reasonably priced!) menu for anyone looking for a more restaurant-style experience.  Grand River has a small gift shop, indoor seating, a beautiful tasting bar (that I wish I snagged a picture of), a gorgeous patio with fountains and a stage for live entertainment, and they even have a nice screened in area for an outdoor-ish experience for anyone who doesn't truly like to eat outdoors (like me).  Anyone who chooses to sit outside gets a bit of free comic relief on the patio!
Photo courtesy of our friend, Mike.
We didn't eat here on our trip but we were very tempted to do so; everything looked really good and there wasn't a dish listed that I wouldn't try.  That in itself is an impressive feat since I have a "selective palate," AKA, I'm picky as heck when it comes to food.

Grand River Cellars offers a souvenir wine glass with a tasting tray which is a very nice touch, and unfortunately, it's not something often seen anymore.  Another stand-out aspect of this winery is that two of their wines, Austin's Red and Austin's White, are sold for a charitable cause.  $1 from each sale of these wines is donated to the Northeast Ohio Autism Group.

As for the wine itself, we split the dry tasting tray and the overall impression we had was that the wines weren't bad, but they weren't anything we were going crazy over, either.  The Bear isn't traditionally a Merlot drinker, but the Merlot Reserve struck his fancy.  It was the first wine we tried, and it was smoky with a little bit of pepper, more like a Zinfandel than a traditional Merlot.  The other reds we had tried- the Merlot, Grand Red, Austin's Red, and the Red Zinfandel- left us both a little underwhelmed.  In their defense, the Merlot Reserve was a hard act to follow.

Being more of a white wine drinker, I was really excited to move on to that part of the tray.  The Pinot Grigio grabbed my attention immediately because it is one of my go-to favorite grapes.  It was good, had pretty decent body, but I would have considered it semi-dry instead of dry.  This is an "after a long day at work" wine- the kind of wine that is good enough to relax with, but not so over the top good that it should be saved for the perfect dinner or a special occasion.  Austin's White is a Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Vidal Blanc blend, and the Vidal Blanc is fairly present in the taste which made it a little too sweet for me.  Austin's White is a good wine to give someone if they're trying to transition from sweet wine to dry.  The Riesling was really, really sweet to me, and with 2.5% residual sugar, I can understand why.  It wasn't my favorite, and it isn't bad by any means, it just isn't for me.

Per some online recommendations, I added on a tasting of the White Fox which was reviewed so highly, it sounded like it was going to be the best wine on the planet.  For some people, that may be the case, but for me it was a typical Niagara- sweetness that can be smelled a mile away and leaves that sticky-sugary taste that is reminiscent of the after effects of a Jolly Rancher.

This wine should be served with a pamphlet on how to test your blood sugar.

The Chardonnay stole the show, hands down.  I wasn't particularly excited about it when I saw it was unoaked, but for a stainless steel Chard, it was good.  Really good.  So good in fact, that we decided this was going to be the bottle we would take home.  It was described as having a green apple and pear nose and a citrus finish.  I didn't quite get the pear as much as the apple, and the apple was a little more present in the finish than any citrus notes, but it was delicious nonetheless.  With the green apple being so pronounced, this is a great fall wine; just in time for apple picking season!  It would pair well with foods as the dryness and crispness of the wine wouldn't overpower the main course, but it can easily be enjoyed on its own as well.
The 2010 Chardonnay we purchased alongside our souvenir tasting glass. 
One final thing that the Bear and I thought was really neat about this winery was the sign by the road, seen upon exiting, that shows the names of and distances to other local wineries.  Many other wineries have signs just like this, but this in the best condition and is the most up to date one we've seen so far.
We had our work cut out for us!
Overall, our experience at Grand River Cellars was a good one.  If we lived closer, I could see it being a place we would go more often.  The prices per bottle were a little higher than I expected for some of the wines but nothing was outrageously overpriced; all are available for purchase online and can be shipped anywhere in Ohio.  Grand River generally offers more sweet wines but the Chardonnay and the Merlot Reserve are excellent options for those who like their wines on the dry side.  The Bear and I ended up returning for dinner here the following week while visiting a few Vines and Wines wineries we couldn't hit on our vacation.  We both really enjoyed our meals, so be sure to check back for a full review after we've wrapped up the posts about our trip!

Thank you for reading!  Please remember to drink responsibly and have a safe and happy holiday weekend!  Cheers, all!

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