If you are searching for a wonderful wine country experience, it is only a short drive up I-90 to Geneva, Ohio, to the Grand River Valley. I recently stopped by the Ferrante Winery and bumped into owner/winemaker Nick Ferrante.

We talked about his recent awards in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. After tasting a couple of wines, Ferrante invited me to come back on May 4 to tag along on a Behind the Vine Barrel Tasting event. I must say I had a great time.

Ferrante was a humble host. Our group got a welcome glass of their 2017 Gewürztraminer that took a Best of Class award at the San Francisco competition. I read about the award in a California wine publication recently, and was happy to get the opportunity to sample this awesome Ohio white.

We then followed Ferrante to the huge fermentation tank room where they have wine stored in many 1,600-gallon stainless steel tanks awaiting the optimal time for bottling. Our next sample was their 2018 pinot grigio right out of the tank.

"This wine is still a few months from bottling," said Ferrante. "It hasn't gone through filtration." That will take out some of the cloudiness of the wine. "But it's almost ready," he said.

For me, it was really cool to taste the juice in its early stage of becoming a finished wine. Ferrante fielded questions and explained the process throughout the tour. After sampling the Golden Bunches riesling, we went to the barrel room to taste their 2018 cabernet franc out of the barrel.

I could tell this one will be special. Our host explained the nuances of French Oak verses American Oak barrels and their role in the wine-making process. This was all wonderful, but I mistakenly thought this was the end or our winery experience.

Then Ferrante invited us to follow him to a small room in the winery restaurant to do a little food and wine pairing.

A beautiful plate of bri pesto crostini, prosciutto, sage and wild mushroom pastry pursettes, filet mignon gnocchi skewers, and almond biscotti greeted us upon arrival.

Four glasses of perfectly paired wines made the experience complete. After tasting the 2018 cabernet franc from the barrel, we tasted the 2017 cabernet franc that was just released. It was magnificently paired with the filet mignon/gnocchi skewers topped with a balsamic reduction.

Ferrante was excited.

"This is the best cabernet franc we've ever made," he said. "And we've made some good ones."

The two-hour experience was grand. It's something I had only done in California wine country. And $25 was a deal.

Two more barrel tastings are planned for June 15 and July 13 at 11 a.m. Another cool event planned is the Vintages in the Vineyard on Sunday. For $20 guests can taste four new wine releases, paired with small bites, in the vineyard with winemaker Nick Ferrante.

 

Read more of Phil Masturzo's wine stories at www.ohio.com/akron/writers/phil-masturzo. Contact him at philyourglass@gmail.com.