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Raise A Glass with A&R’s resident wine expert, Collin Minnis

Laura Dachenbach

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What’s better than a glass of good wine and good conversation? A glass of good wine and good conversation with a wine expert.

Collin Minnis, the Beverage Director and Bar Creative for A&R Creative Group, knows wine. He’s part of the team at The Market Italian Village, and he’s out there on your behalf, finding unique wines that you won’t find on trip around the grocery store. As a demonstration, he pours me a glass of a Julien Sunier Morgon appellation (“a sommelier’s darling”) and we get started.

I confess that I judge a bottle by its label. Fancy labels with calligraphy are boring and intimidating. Pretty wine labels are cool and adventurous. Minnis admits that some young winemakers are responding to that bias.

“The label is part of the game,” he says. “That’s half the battle—getting you to pick up the bottle. There’s some really good, interesting wines that have cool labels.” He shows me a few. A gorgeous white with an abstract, postmodern label that looks like a mural. A fun red with a gnarly grapevine design. So how do I find out what I’m holding in my hand? Is it all kitsch, or an actual package deal?

Minnis demonstrating the perfect pour (photos: Brian Kaiser)

To get a better look behind the label, Minnis mentions the label-scanning Vivino app. But for the most personal advice, Minnis suggests shopping in smaller stores and wine boutiques. You’ll be able to ask more questions, and get answers from the experts. At The Market, you’re going to find intriguing descriptions in place of a point system, descriptions that will invite your questions, such as this word picture for a Concerto Lambrusco:

I drink like a portly, blonde toddler lost in a blackberry patch. How many berries can I fit into my mouth before I choke and die in ecstasy? A frizzante Italian red, this dry Lambrusco is refreshing and vibrant with hits of strawberry, raspberry and blackberry.

 The questions don’t stop there. Looking for a low-alcohol wine? Minnis recommends checking out the Matthiasson Winery, which produces a number of wines from Napa and Sonoma, all with moderate levels of alcohol. Beaujolais reds or Vinho Verdes are also good bets for those not looking to get too buzzed.

The more-educated wine drinker has become a trend in itself, and many of them want to know the answer to one of the more recent controversies to hit the world of wine: Are natural wines a thing, or are they just bad wines?

Natural, or organic wines, are produced using sustainable farming practices and minimal chemical intervention. They also receive a fair amount of criticism for sometimes having a cloudy appearance or “smelling like a barnyard” (or so I’ve read). What’s going on?

“[Natural wine] gets a little bit of a bad rap because there are bad natural wines that people are making and kinda slapping that tag on there just to sell it,” said Minnis. “A lot of times they are going to be like wine you haven’t had before. They can be a little funkier, a little gamier.”

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But natural wines, which can be produced in many ways, shouldn’t all be lumped under the same umbrella. Minnis points to the glass in my hand, which is considered a natural wine. Absent of chemical manipulation, the genuine expression of the grape, many feel, is often captured in a natural wine.

“The idea is basically a ‘less-is-more’ mentality,” says Minnis. “They’re using native yeasts, not inoculated yeasts. They’re unfined. They’re unfiltered. It’s a really good representation of how the grape should drink.”  

Wines are usually filtered through egg whites, so a natural (unfiltered) wine is also ideal for the vegan wine drinker. But the term “natural” is without a clear definition and therefore tends to lump wines of differing qualities together, so again, Minnis suggests looking past the label.

Minnis also shows me some examples of increasingly available orange wines—wines made from white wine grapes where the grape skins remain in contact with the juice, resulting in a distinctive amber color. 

What should be the go-to wine in your collection?

“I think sparkling wines are always fantastic,” Minnis said. “Any time of day, any occasion. It’s fun. It’s enjoyable. You can drink it with food or not. Literally, it goes with almost everything.” 

Given the flexibility of sparkling wines, Minnis predicts that more than just your hipster wine friend will start to party with “pet-nats,” (petillant naturals) roughly the equivalent of natural wines in bubbling form.

Besides quality and uniqueness, Minnis is always on the hunt for a wine with a good story. In fact, one of the wine-of-the-month clubs The Market runs is called “Story Time,” where subscribers will learn about the interesting people and processes behind the bottle. (One of his favorites involves a dirt-poor, yet eventually successful, young winemaker who was disowned after getting revenge on his family’s winemaking process by taking a chainsaw to some oak fouders.)

A wine trend that Minnis thinks needs to die? Wine in a can. Although you’ll find better-grade wines being canned nowadays, it still reminds Minnis of the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode where “The Gang” fills their Diet Coke cans with wine and hits the streets. 

I agree. Give me the cork, the slow pour in the glass any day. That’s why I walk out of The Market with an appropriately-corked bottle of a lovely, straw-colored, fruit-forward, yet floral white that Minnis sells me on almost immediately after a tasting. What is it? Well, I didn’t even bother to look at the label.

Visit Collin Minnis at The Market Italian Village on 1022 Summit St.

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Food & Drink

Brewery District bakery to close after 10 years

614now Staff

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The Brewery District will be sans a bakery in just a few short days.

After 10 years, Kolache Republic will be serving its last pastry on Saturday, February 8.

"We are truly grateful to our community of customers, friends, family and staff who have supported us in our pursuit to bring a unique food experience to this vibrant city as Columbus’ first and only kolache bakery," wrote Kolache Republic on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/Kolacherepublic/posts/3438844786142628

Other than deciding it was "time to hang up our oven mitts and start a new chapter," the Czech pastry shop did not provide a reason for the closure.

If you're planning on showing a lot of love for Kolache Republic before it closes, Kolache recommends calling ahead for any orders of a dozen or more.

Kolache Republic is located at 730 S High St.

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Food & Drink

Hilliard looking to tap into its first brewery soon

614now Staff

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Orlando-based Crooked Can Brewing is targeting a February launch for their new taproom and brewery space in Hilliard, according to Drink Up Columbus.

The 4,000-square-foot taproom will be joined by a 7,000-square-foot patio, which will provide outdoor seating for the brewery as well as Hilliard's Center Street Market, which is expected to open in March.

The taproom will also feature large viewing windows where patrons can get a behind-the-scenes look at Crooked Can's new 16,000 square foot brewing operation.

Once open, Crooked Can Brewing will be located at 5354 Center Street in Hilliard. For more info, visit Drink Up Columbus.

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Food & Drink

Restaurant Week: High Bank’s $20 deluxe comfort food menu doesn’t disappoint

Regina Fox

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If you've sequestered High Bank into strictly a booze category, you're missing out on one of the most well-executed comfort food menus in Columbus, especially during Restaurant Week.

Weighing in at a mere $20 per person, High Bank's three-course menu is so tantalizing, you'll struggle to pick just one dish from each. Believe me, I certainly did.

Course 1: Choice of Garden Salad, Nacho Fries, Loaded Baked Potato, Five Ways Spaghetti

With great power (being tasked with choosing just one starter) comes great responsibility (making sure I pick the best). Luckily, there really is no wrong move.

Ever had Taco Bell's Nacho Fries? High Bank's are better. Crispy, battered fries smothered in melty queso, seasoned beef, refried beans, and a generous heap of sour cream make for an elevated, indulgent, heavyweight starter. The portion is definitely big enough to share, but I wouldn't blame you if you didn't.

Course 2: Choice of High Bank Bacon Cheeseburger, Queso-Rito, Spicy Chicken Sandwich, High Bank Bowl

Since stick-to-your-bones food is officially back in season, you have to get down to High Bank for their fried chicken menu items. The chicken is battered using an incredibly light and crunchy buttermilk, fried, then dusted with cayenne that leaves a warm glow on your palate—not too hot, not too mild.

Restaurant Week features two chicken entrees: the Spicy Chicken Sandwich and the High Bank Bowl.

The sandwich is an instant comfort food classic, but the High Bank Bowl is like the designer version of KFC's Famous Bowl. The mashed potatoes are perfectly salted and buttered, the sweet corn adds just the right amount of sweetness and pop, and the cheese and gravy culminate into a savory sauce. Colonel Sanders would be impressed.

Course 3: Choice of Mint Chocolate Sandwich, Snickerdoodle Sandwich, Oreo Sandwich

At this point, I was almost too full to function, but I had to press on. To absolutely no one's surprise, High Bank's third course did not disappoint.

The Snickerdoodle Sandwich came with two perfectly under-baked snickerdoodle cookies bookending a lump of hard-dip butter pecan ice cream. Drizzles of white chocolate over top sent this dessert into the winner's circle.

I can't remember the last time I felt so repleted, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat, and so should you. At just $20 a head, this is a deal you can't afford to miss.

Click here to check out High Bank's Restaurant Week menu. To learn more about Restaurant Week January 20-25, visit eat614.com.

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