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Wine 101 at the Wine Room - PHOTOS

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

As someone who’s never attended an official wine tour, I become really puzzled when experts talk about wine. They talk about nose, legs and other body parts—I sheepishly raise my hand and ask where the nostrils are—and I typically leave more confused than when I arrived.

When Buffalo.com was asked to check out the Wine Room, 5651 Main St., Williamsville, yesterday, owner Neil Kratzer provided a crash-course of seven different wines, explaining both the origins and practical uses of each while discussing the flavors in layman’s terms. Through a combination of white and red wines—including a few “outside-the-box” options—our team blended valuable knowledge with a mellow buzz.

Here’s a quick rundown of the wines we tried:

1) Steampunk Cider, 7%: A particularly autumnal wine (how pretentious did that phrase sound?), Steampunk is garnering local attention, just as much for the founders’ attire as their creative product. Kratzer gushed over the quality of Leonard Oakes Estate Winery in Medina, who uses 11 different varietals of fermented apples. While the term “new age dessert apples” on the label confused me a great deal, this sparkling cider was both crisp and not exceptionally dry.

2) Franz Reinhart Riesling, 9.5%: A sweet German wine from a climate that most resembles ours in Western New York, the Franz Reinhart Riesling white wine was sugary at first but not obnoxiously syrupy at the end. One interesting fact that Kratzer mentioned: when it comes to Reinhart Rieslings, check the color of the bottle. Blue means sweeter, green means neutral in flavor and brown means dry. Good to know.

3) LiBella Pinot Grigio, 12%: LiBella, a product of Shaw Vineyards near Seneca Lake—not far from Watkins Glen, was described as “light and refreshing” with notes of peach and apricot. The fruit flavors weren’t particularly strong in this white wine, perhaps because New York vines are much younger than most European vines, as the age of the vine correlates with the intensity of flavors. Kratzer said that our local vines are usually between 60 and 80 years old, while foreign vines span as many as three generations.

4) Dornfelder Sun Garden Pinot Noir, 9.5%: Constructed to pair nicely with German food—like sausage, for example—this pinot noir wasn’t sweet but not feeble in flavor, either. Since the Dornfelder marked our first red wine, Kratzer passed along a useful tip in refrigerating red and white wines. Red wines should be refrigerated right as your guests arrive so, when they’re served, the liquid is 10 degrees below room temperature. White wines, on the other hand, should be put in the refrigerator an hour before guests arrive so it’s 20 degrees below room temperature.

5) Root 1 Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5%: Look at that alcohol content! Kratzer described this Root 1 as a “meal-in-a-glass,” a product of Chilean grapes that was impressively potent. This wine isn’t for the novice drinker—it’s a little startling, frankly. Black currant, mocha and cherry flavors were apparent but not in our typical American understanding of cherry and mocha—they were much more bitter and muted.

6) Paumanok 2009, 12.5%: Kratzer’s introduction of the Paumanok, a rather hoity-toity sounding French Bordeaux, quickly led to a tangent of appropriately pairing wines to food. The owner said that his goal is to pair so smoothly that the diner “never realizes that three bottles of wine were consumed” in the meal, as the flavors of the food don’t overpower the wine and the wine doesn’t contrast too strongly with the meal. The Paumanok wasn’t as bitter and full-bodied as the Root 1, but it’s still a wine I’d only eat with food.

7) ChocoVine Dutch Chocolate, 14%: Swiss chocolate and red wine? Not too far from drinking straight Bailey’s liqueur, the ChocoVine was very thick and creamy, another choice that felt like a “meal-in-a-glass.”

TAGGED: neil kratzer, paumanok, red wine, steampunk, white wine, williamsville, wine, wine room

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  1. John Tschamler October 17, 2012 @ 6:12pm

    The Wine Room in Williamsville, NY is an outstanding small business, with a great proprietor, Neil Kratzer. If you have never been there, check it out! Make sure you engage Neil in conversation. He’ll tell you whatever you need to know, especially about wine.