I moved to Columbus from Napa Valley in 1996, after spending three years as an editor at the Napa Valley Register. Most people I tell that to look at me like I’m insane – why would anyone move from there? Yes, it’s beautiful, but there is actually a lot about living in such a tourist mecca that is a pain. But there are few equals when it comes to the opportunity Napa affords to immerse in the world’s most wonderful wines. It would come to our office in cases; we’d get bottle after bottle at every dinner we attended; we bought it like water from shops and wineries. And that, I say with a wine key in one hand and Silver Oak souvenir glass in the other, is worth missing. And drinking wine like that takes away a lot of its mystique and just makes it accessible. It’s not about judging a drinkers knowledge or tasting skills – it’s simply about making people want to drink wine.
Thankfully, wines from Napa and countless other prime growing regions around the world are actually not far away in Columbus, and it was with an eye – and palate – toward discovering the best wine tasting experiences in the capital city that I have set off on a new blogging quest to discover the offerings at Columbus’ wine bars. My first stop? Wine on High.
Wine on High
Wine on High is Josh Shapiro’s new take on the former Vino 100 site in the Short North. Josh took over the 789 N High Street location after learning to appreciate good wines from his father while growing up in Wooster, and to refine his tastes while living in New York. Coming back to Ohio with a business degree, Josh saw an opportunity with Wine on High to help other embrace the wine-loving experience through tastings, food pairings and a small but diversely stocked inventory.
A stop at Wine on High can begin either in the downstairs shop, or by climbing the reaching staircase to The Loft, a compact space with a quintet of high-top tables and a quartet of seats at mahogany bar staffed by the lovely Renee Goodan. If you buy a bottle downstairs and bring it up, a $5 corkage fee gets it opened, poured and, if needed, chilled.
But we wanted to live on the wild side and let Renee pick for us a “flight,” where you get 2-ounce pours of four or five different wines for $10 (or three premium wins for $12). Not a bad bargain.
As there were two of us, we mixed and matched our flight, starting with the 2008 Mayacamas chardonnay from Napa’s own Mt. Veeder, a soft white wine that floated scents of pineapple and grapefruit. The ’08 Erath pinot noir from Oregon followed with a spicy black cherry and plum finish that was longer than I expected from its $20 price tag. We visited Spain with the ’09 Can Blau meritage and Australia for Raw Power, from punk wailer Rawley Powers.
We were soon off to Argentina with the 209 El Ganador Malbec before coming home again to Napa Valley with the St. Helena 2008 cabernet from Chasing Lions, a deep bodied wine with complex cherry blackberry elements with a $13 price tag that makes it the store’s best seller.
To further augment our tasting experience, we added a cheese plate of cremont from Vermont, Spanish blue and Swiss Gruyere, complimented by sesame crackers, nits and dried fruit.
Despite the name, Wine on High doesn’t stop at wine. High-end whiskeys and eclectic beers round out the drinks menu, with flatbreads and small plates to pair.
But the best part of the Wine on High experience is just talking wine with Josh, whose untucked-shirt-jeans-and-one-day-beard-growth look belies his extensive wine knowledge. He is the kind of person you’d invite to a party because he seems fun, and then be shocked by how much wine wisdom come with him. When one visitor says she wants to be a more adventurous wine drinker, but her present beverage of choice is Crown Royal Whiskey, he uses that information to match her with the varietal that made her stop, sip and smell the bouquet.
The best part, she told Josh: “I’m so glad you didn’t judge me.”
And that, my friends, is what wine tasting is all about.