“Experiencing Wine” at West Chester’s Wine C.A.R.T.
Back in our college years we became beer connoisseurs to the point of knowing every jingle and catchphrase. After beer came mixed drinks, and after that, well… The next step up was a bit harder for us. We were afraid to conquer that final frontier of the adult beverage world: wine. Our reasons were simple. Wine and its drinkers are snooty and posh, and the whole scene is just too uppity for our plebeian tastes.
In the interest of putting that myth to the test, Cincy Chic editor Amy Storer, PR specialist Dana Wiskur and intern Regan Coomer visited the Wine C.A.R.T. in West Chester, where, as it declares, wine is experienced.
A combination wine bar and bottle shop, when you walk into the Wine C.A.R.T. you are instantly aware of literal walls of wine. Wall-to-wall wines in bottles of every shape and size paired with color-splashed artworks made the posh part of the wine equation pan out. But snooty? Not so much.
Our Cincy Chic entourage was warmly greeted by owner Chris Waugh and established on a cushy couch before Chris explained the meaning behind C.A.R.T., which stands for Courses, Art, Retail and Tourism.
Once we were given an overview of what the shop is about, we decided to take the plunge and taste a flight of wines. We were brought trays of three glistening goblets of pink, white and gold liquid and told the real reason youre supposed to hold the glass by the stem: the heat from your hand could affect the taste of the wine youre drinking. Neat, huh?
We were given three samples of wine numbered one through three (the brand/type would be revealed afterward) and implored to take our time tasting each one. We were told to smell it, swirl it around in our glasses and take tiny sips, allowing the flavor to permeate our senses. We ate a cracker between each one to cleanse the palate, something of great importance when a taste of a prior wine is left in your mouth to change the next samples flavor.
We learned that a wine flight (a.k.a. the tasting pours (2.5 oz.) of different wines served next to each other) can be related to one another by grape varietal, geographic region or style. The flight we were given was actually an Ohio wine region flight.
During the tasting, Jim Carr, the Wine C.A.R.T. wine director, showed us how wine and tourism are definitely intertwined, especially here in Ohio. Carr talked about Nicholas Longworth, a Cincinnati lawyer, who planted Catawba vines near his home on the Ohio River. Jane Wakerman, assistant director at the Wine C.A.R.T., says you can even still see some of Longworth's grape vines on the hill of Mt. Adams.
Waugh, Carr and Wakerman were friendly, funny and very unpretentious. They were ready and willing to answer any questions. Even the ones that make it obvious that you're not a wine connoisseur, or anywhere close to being one. So, Cincy Chic's Storer ventured out to ask "what are people looking for when they swirl around the wine in the glass?" Wakerman, with a warm smile, said that they are swirling it to open up the wine since it's been cooped up in the bottle so long. "The air helps it breathe and open up, especially with red wines." Hmmm, that snooty stigma didnt pan out either.
We later learned that Waugh has an education background and there's a strict "no question is a dumb question" philosophy at the Wine C.A.R.T. We encourage you to visit and ask some really dumb questions to put that philosophy to test.
Interested in learning more about wine at the Wine C.A.R.T.? The shop offers informal and formal courses about various aspects of wine, from a general introduction to white wine to Italian Beauties, a course dealing with wine solely from Italy. It also showcases local art, sells wine and is involved with tourism with it's affiliation with Ohio Travel and Tourism and the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Informal courses begin the moment customers walk in the door, Waugh says. They can sample a wine, ask a question or chat with an employee. The best time to come for one-on-one time is Tuesdays and Wednesdays from noon to 9 p.m.
Formal courses, available for parties of any kind or just because, feature blind tastings, wine/food pairings and wine history. Given enough time, the Wine C.A.R.T. can create a course about any aspect of wine you or your party is interested in.
However, you dont have to be a wine newbie to enjoy this shop. Veterans can come for the atmosphere and social time, (the Wine C.A.R.T. is hoppin Friday and Saturday nights till 11 p.m.) or arrange advanced courses in the art of wine.