No matter what the occasion, when seeking a new beer or wine to please your palate, you would do well to answer these two crucial questions:
What do you usually like? And how adventurous are you?
That’s the advice meted out by Chris Dillman, wine steward at Giant Eagle Market District in Upper Arlington’s Kingsdale shopping center. He would know – prior to taking on his daily duties helping customers navigate Market District’s extensive beer and wine options, he worked as a sommelier at restaurants such as the Refectory and Rosendale’s.
In the fall, Dillman recommends a pinot noir or barbera with fall flavors such as mushrooms, dolcetto with root vegetables and veltliner with other earthy flavors. But wine suggestions change more often than the seasons do, he says.
“The seasons don’t just stop one day,” says Dillman.
Fall also means tailgate parties. If you’re going to bring wine to a tailgate, lighter whites and reds would be the best option, though beer might be more compatible, says Gary Vara, beer and wine team leader at Market District.
For tailgates, Dillman recommends doppelbocks and, for the more adventurous souls, hickory-smoked German rauchbiers. Generally, good fall beer choices include Oktoberfest lagers and wheat beers, which won’t be so rich as to overwhelm the flavor of food – it’s better if one’s beverage does not dominate everything around it, says Dillman.
With its 800 beer selections and 3,000 wine selections, Market District tries to offer a little (and, in some cases, a lot) of everything.
With beer, the goal is to strike a balance between popular domestic brews and appealing craft beers, which are growing rapidly in number and renown.
When it comes to wine, top-rated wines have their own special section, as do staff picks and best buys. Staffers have a great deal of latitude in their wine choices, making it easier for them to find great close-out deals, make special orders or stock the next big thing.
“With our flexibility here, we can bring in a lot of different things,” Dillman says.
If a recommendation from one of the beer and wine section’s 12 staffers isn’t enough, Market District patrons can try the store’s beers and wines without even leaving the store – customers may consume 25 ounces of beer or 10 ounces of wine per day. With beer, it’s as simple as picking out a bottle, popping the top on the bottle opener installed at the drink station and enjoying.
On the wine side of things is the store’s Enomatic wine dispenser, from which customers can buy 1-, 2- or 5-ounce tastings of any of the 16 wines (eight red, eight white) on tap. Typically, the wines showcased will be new additions to the store’s stock, obscure wines the customer likely has not seen before and high-end wines whose per-taste prices are far less intimidating than their per-bottle prices.
“Roughly every two weeks, we rotate the selections,” Vara says.
Customers can enjoy their beer or wine with some food from Market District’s café, or – as many customers do – just do their grocery shopping with a glass of wine in hand.
For a more immersive wine experience, from 6-8 p.m. each Friday, Market District hosts Food and Wine Fridays, offering samples of six unique wines as well as food samples and cooking demonstrations. One Friday a month, six beers are added to the night’s offerings.
Each Food & Wine Friday has a theme. For example, one event in July was called “Patio Pounders,” focused on wines to enjoy outside on the patio, and featured Jaja Sauvignon Blanc, Castelvero Cortese, Royal Chenin Blanc, Ceviche Sauvignon Blanc, Charles & Charles Rose and Foris Gewurztraminer.
The store also offers a “wine school” program – a two-hour class featuring eight wines and three or four small plates – the third Tuesday of each month.
Garth Bishop is editor of CityScene Magazine. Feedback welcome at email@example.com.
Story and photos by Garth Bishop