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A winner-worthy evening of wine

When I came to Buffalo 32 years ago, I didn’t know about the Junior League or the Decorator’s Show House. Then I met Mary Jo Hunt.

Mary Jo is one of the most passionate volunteers I have ever known. She quickly took me to school, and I learned about the great work the Junior League of Buffalo does for our community.

Raising money for worthy charities and also beautifying classic homes is an important part of what they do.

The Buffalo News partners with the Junior League to magically create the Decorators’ Show House every other year. When it came time for the 2019 Show House on Lincoln Parkway, as its co-chair, Mary Jo as asked me how I could personally help raise money for the Junior League’s marquee fundraiser. I offered to host a dinner and wine tasting for eight—an evening to be auctioned off—with Giancarlo’s kindly treating the winners to a five-course gourmet dinner paired with the wine I selected for the occasion.

Madonna Bonitatibus was our auction winner, and while my wife and I didn’t know our guests for the evening going in, we made friends with them right away.

The 5-course menu

  • Sweet Pea Arancini
  • Heirloom beets three ways salad
  • Ahi tuna and couscous
  • 6 oz. filet mignon
  • Chocolate mousse cake

The wine tasting lineup

These are the vintages I pulled for the winners’ sampling pleasure:

2013 Charles Smith Viognier Lawrence Vineyard
About $25
I had two bottles in my cellar, and I wasn’t sure if the wine was over-the-hill, but I thought this would be a fun way to start the evening. The wine had a beautiful golden color and a little sweetness. I tasted a little apricot.

2013 Williams Selyem Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Around $70
When you see any of the Williams Selyem Pinot Noirs, splurge on a bottle. They have never let me down. I love the cherries and other light fruit, plus wild flowers too. This wine is a great food wine. I enjoy it with any kind of fish, but I especially like it with wild Sockeye salmon from Alaska.

2016 Avennia Arnaut Syrah
Washington State, $60
I am in love with Washington Syrahs. They have amazing dark fruit and a spiciness that engulf your taste buds. Avennia is a discovery that I made about five years ago. Their Syrah compares well with others that cost quite a bit more. I haven’t seen this wine locally, but I am very encouraged to see many wine stores and restaurants offering all types of Washington wines.

2016 Caymus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley, California, about $100
Caymus is one of the great names of California Cabernet. They have produced great wines for many decades. It’s worth the price—many California Cabernets of this quality are selling for much more. This wine is loaded with dark fruit, chocolate and everything you can imagine a big bad Cabernet should have. All of our guests love all the wines, but this was the big boy.

Always a memorable meal

Every year I get invited to my good friends Irv and Ron’s family dinner in Omaha, and I really look forward to it. Ron’s wife Chris somehow brings it together, she is awesome. And each year I get to meet some of the most interesting people, enjoy wonderful food and drink some excellent wine, too.

This year’s menu was stellar. The wines served were both from Paul Hobbs. He’s a native of Western New York and I love his wines. His California Pinot Noir and Cabernet are delicious, and
I relish every chance to taste them. They are not inexpensive but match up well with other top-level California wines.

The Chardonnay featured is everything you’d expect from a California Chardonnay. This wine, available in Buffalo for around $50, shows citrus, nice acidity and mouthful of spice. The other wine that was served was a Paul Hobbs CrossBarn Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a very affordable Hobbs and it is delicious. Tons of fruit including blueberries, raspberries, plums and more. I totally enjoyed this and at about $50, this is a winner. I think this wine will get better as it ages and should be good for at least another 10 years.

Warren T. Colville is publisher and president of The Buffalo News.

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