Friday, July 10, 2009
We drove to Ohio for the long 4th of July weekend to visit family, friends, and the Great Lakes Brewing Company. GLBC is like Coors used to be, in one way only, in that you can only get it regionally. We're grateful for holiday gifts of it in December, but it can't be shipped in the hot summer months, and no one wants to come visit us this time of year, either.
The group shared several pitchers of the thematic and refreshing Independence Ale, described as An American Red Ale with crisp hop flavor. At 6%, it was also one of the more drinkable over a long afternoon. Even the non-craft beer drinkers seemed to enjoy it. Another group enjoyed several flights, which is a tasting size portion of 6 or so different types of beer (also done with wine and liquor).
Flights are a great way to sample what's available at a place you've never been before settling on what you'll have in regular portions. They're also fun for a party at home. Choose a theme and have guests bring, for example, a South American Malbec. Disguise the bottles in brown paper bags, each with its own number that corresponds to the list that you'll create out of sight of the guests. Or, simply pour the flights as they do at the restaurants and place the glasses on a numbered paper placemat. You'll all get to try new wines and choose your favorites.
Before driving into downtown Cleveland along the southern Lake Erie shore, we stopped at Slyman's for their six-inch tall corned beef sandwiches. You have to split them with another person they're so large, even though you'll want to eat one all by yourself. The line was out the door, as usual. It's so worth the wait. The corned beef is still warm, and it's so much leaner and fresher than you can get at the deli counter at the supermarket.
That evening we headed east to the border of the smallest and largest counties in Ohio (according to my future brother-in-law, Dave): Lake and Ashtabula. Many years ago, I'd been to the Ferrante Winery, but I had no idea how many (twenty-one) vineyards had popped up since then. It was like driving through a more verdant Sonoma or a smaller scale horsey Virginia. My sister Geri was at the ready with a map, and we chose two nearest the Slovenian country gathering place, Pristava, which means "bonfire" where we'd stay the night at the cabin built by Dave. We spent most of the night at Debonne Winery with a few hundred other imbibers and their children. Several bottles of their Cab Cab, Raspberry Riesling, and Harmony later, after the sun set and the band played their last cheezy song, we departed from our umbrella table perch atop the hill and drove down the road to the South River Vineyard, which is in a converted church, Methodist from what I recall. I hesitate to even mention it since I'd like to keep the place all to myself, but I would like it to stay open so that I can go back once a year. It was nearly closing time, but my sister convinced the very nice proprietor, whom she kept referring to as "Father", into selling us two bottles. The pinot noir was excellent, and I've put in a request for a bottle at Christmas. We meandered our way through the moonlit night down a path to a large, well-built pavilion with a massive stone fireplace and many Adirondack chairs, probably made by nearby Amish craftsmen. Our jovial group probably sunk the hearts of the clove cigarette-smoking threesome staked out in front of the excellently-laid oak fire, but we enjoyed ourselves immensely. I can't wait to go back.