Cleveland’s unpredictable weather played a role in July’s Cleveland Wine Festival, with so many other elements of the fundraiser focused on “Unique Cleveland” that a renegade thunderstorm fit in well with the celebration.
So extensive that it covers two days, the Cleveland Wine Festival draws hundreds of visitors to Voinovich Park, at the base of East 9th Street. Longtime Clevelanders remember the site as the home of Captain Frank’s, now long gone. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum draws more visitors anyway. Just as supporters arrived after work, so did a violent storm cell. Organizers put the event on an hour hold, and evacuated guests to the Rock and Roll Hall, where we watched the storm come and go, like clockwork, in an hour. After the strong shower, the sun emerged to give us a beautiful sunset behind multicolored clouds.
Tenting provided not only shelter, but a festive mood to the event. Diverse Cleveland guests wore dress clothes from work, and those who came later, shorts and T-shirts. Especially impressive was a strong showing of 20-somethings who were convivial and interested in learning more about wine. The rain canceled a demonstration by Chateau Ste. Michelle culinary director John Sarich, but he got a “second chance” the next day.
With grocer Giant Eagle presenting the event, wines were chosen for their value. Few of the wines retailed at more than $15 a bottle, and many were well under $10 a bottle. Cleveland tastes prevailed. Knowledgeable vintners and distributor representatives poured samples and answered questions, but there was no snootiness. Several Ohio wineries were represented, as well as those from the Finger Lake region of New York. Cleveland is a great market for those wines made primarily from Catawba grapes.
A convenience at this event was the wine order form. Guests could purchase the wine at the event, and have it delivered at the Giant Eagle at Westlake or Rocky River.
The Cleveland Wine Festival benefited the Bright Side of the Road Foundation, which provides education about and research dollars for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. More commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease,” ALS has no known cause or cure. Significant research on ALS is done locally at the Cleveland Clinic.