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Wine, Culture, South Bend

Courtney Cox | Friday, September 14, 2012

Anyone who says South Bend lacks high culture hasn’t heard about the Wednesday Wine Walk.
This fun event takes you through eight restaurants once a month for a sampling of fine wine and great food.
The crowd was mostly middle-aged people looking to sample good wine and good food, but it was much less intimidating than I first expected.
We started at The Vine.
The first dish was volcano shrimp paired with ZED sparkling Moscato Rose. The shrimp could have been spicier but when paired with the Rose it seemed very light and fresh.
The second dish was a Greek chicken meatball paired with Firesteed Pinot Gris. The meatball was a little on the chewy side and a bit underwhelming.
The final dish at The Vine was a stuffed mushroom paired with Cayalla table wine. While the Cayalla seemed a little bitter the stuffed mushroom was excellent.
After The Vine we moved on to Club LaSalle, the third floor lounge of LaSalle Grill.
All three wines served at LaSalle Grill were from Australia and were paired with perfectly sized portions of the best food of the night.
The first dish was Barramundi fish and chips paired with Chateau Tanunda Riesling. The pairing of a thin waffled potato chip with a tender fish was delicious and the Riesling was crisp and refreshing.
The second dish was a shish kebab of New Zealand lamb loin paired with a blend of Shiraz and Mourvedre from South Australia. The wine blend was a little heavy and the lamb was just nice.
The third dish, my favorite of the night, was a wagyu beef slider paired with a Grand Barossa. The slider was the perfect tiny portion of succulent beef with a house made pickle.
It was done just right and paired with one of the best red wines of the night. It was smooth, not bitter and just right for the burger.
We moved down Michigan Avenue to Trio’s restaurant and Jazz club.
Trio’s focused more on the wine and less on the food. They offered cheese, vegetables and a meat platter.
The first wine, a Pinot Grigio, was meant to be paired with the vegetables.
The second wine, a Valdiguie from an Indiana based vineyard, was wine worthy of the made-in-Indiana label.
We moved to the exotic with a Spanish Rioja as the third wine. It was meant to be paired with meat or dark chocolate, but as no chocolate was available we settled for the meat plate that was on the mediocre side.
Next stop on the wine tour was Café Navarre.
They offered wines from Maryhill vineyards in Washington state paired with tombo tuna, gazpacho and beef short rib pasta.
The tuna was a bit intimidating because it was served raw, but paired with the Maryhill Pinot Gris it was less frightening and light.
The gazpacho was great but would have benefited greatly from being served with a spoon. The restaurant only offered forks for the tuna and pasta, which was to the detriment of the gazpacho. It was served with a Chardonnay from Maryhill. I typically steer clear of Chardonnay but this was much less harsh than other Chardonnays I have had before.
The final course, the short rib pasta was delicious and filling. It was the largest portion of the night and was served with a Merlot from Maryhill. The Merlot was a little on the bitter side and I was told it was a little closer to a Cabernet than the typical Merlot.
I ended the night at the South Bend Chocolate Café.
It was certainly the most crowded of the venues and would have been much more enjoyable if there were a more open setting.
They put a dessert twist on the evening that served as the perfect ending point.
The first chocolate offered was a dark chocolate toffee paired with a Rose, the second offering was a milk chocolate cherry truffle and the third was a dark chocolate peanut cluster paired with a Riesling.
All were excellent because you really can’t go wrong with chocolate and good wine.
It was difficult to see what wines you were drinking because they didn’t have menus in easily available areas and it was a little less informative than the other restaurants but enjoyable nonetheless.
It took about three hours to get through the first five restaurants at a relaxed pace and was a little on the difficult side to make it to the other three restaurants because they weren’t located in the same area.
It was an informative and low-key night perfect for small groups of friends.
Next month’s Wednesday Wine Walk is an homage to Oktoberfest. Each restaurant will serve beer samplings from area breweries.
The Downtown Dining Alliance has found the perfect way to get people out in Downtown South Bend and it was a great way to showcase their unique restaurants in a creative way.