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Cheaper wines not necessarily bad wines

The wife and I love good wine and have decent knowledge on the subject, but it's not something we're all snooty about.

Sure, we enjoy the occasional splurge-worthy bottle, but we're all about scoring nice budget finds, too. Often, a $10 wine trumps one costing twice or three times as much.  

And yes, we do like tasting wines to discover different nuances and food pairings, but we're not ones to talk about the floral aromas of dandelion or subtle notes of anise seed that we think we might detect. Or is it chamomile and licorice?

We just know what we like when we taste it, and that's good enough for us.

We have this group of friends who are a lot like that, too, and at a party one night they mentioned they'd like to try to learn a little more about wine.

We jumped on that opportunity and recently hosted three other couples for the first meeting of a new wine club.

Truth be told, it was mostly just an excuse to get together for nice drinks, food, music and company on a Saturday night. But through the course of the evening, we did sample a dozen or so different wines of various styles, countries and vintages. During each tasting, I'd share a few things I knew about that wine and others shared recommendations on similar wines they've enjoyed.

It was a fun evening from start to finish, but the highlight for me came when I did a blind tasting after someone commented that they really couldn't tell cheap wine from the good stuff.

"Oh yes you can," I countered.

Although price isn't always an indicator of quality, there's some truth to the saying "you get what you pay for."

So I filled three rows of small sample cups with three different wines — from a $5 bottle, a $20 bottle and a $50 bottle — and had folks taste each one to try to guess which was which.

And for the most part people could tell the difference, with nearly everyone picking the two so-called nicer bottles over the cheaper one. Some actually preferred the $20 wine to the $50. One even liked the $5 option, but realized the others were probably the more expensive before I did my big reveal.

It just goes to show, you don't have to be an expert to know and enjoy good wine.

If it's good to you, that's all that matters.       

I can't wait until next month's gathering!

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Two of the state's leading chefs in the growing farm-to-table movement are joining forces for a series of "Third Thursdays" collaborative dinners at Cafe Cimino Country Inn in Sutton.

Chef Dale Hawkins has been hosting monthly farm feasts throughout the summer at his Fish Hawk Acres farm in Rock Cave. The dinners have been so successful that he and Chef Tim Urbanic decided to team up to bring them indoors during the winter months.

So starting tomorrow, on the third Thursday of each month now through spring, guests will enjoy cocktails and belinis at 5:30 p.m., followed by a five-course gourmet dinner starting at 6 p.m.

On the menu this week:

n Butternut Squash Bisque with Toasted Pepitas

n Arugula and Baby Spinach Salad with an Apple Cider-Leek-Fresh Thyme Vinaigrette and Deviled Egg with Prosciutto Crisp

n Petite Lasagna of Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper with Tomato Coulis

n Cabbage Roll of Pork and Veal in Tomato Broth with Cannellini Bean & Garlic Stew and Heirloom Carrots

n Puff Pastry with Apples, Honey and Cinnamon with Chantilly Cream and Crisp Hickory Nuts

And on tap the evening of Dec. 19:

n Sea Bass Chowder with Arugula Oil

n Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Cabra La Mancha, Sesame Raisin Vinaigrette and Toasted Hickory Nuts

n Potato Gnocchi and Chanterelles with Caramelized Ramps, Bacon, Chives and Pecorino with White Truffle Oil

n Roast Duckling with Pinot Noir Jus, Roasted Root Vegetables, Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apples and Shaved Grana Padano

n Poached Pears with Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Do these menus sound great, or what?

Dinners cost $75 per person and reservations are strongly recommended. For more information, call 877-924-6466 or visit www.cafecimino

Contact writer Steven Keith at or 304-348-1721. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as "DailyMail FoodGuy," on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at http://blogs.daily


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