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Wine Tasting 101

Ready to wean yourself away from the white zinfandels and step into the world of grown-up wine? Shopkeeper and enologist Brian Wright is eager to help. Wright, manager of Wine Crafting (25200 Miles Road, Bedford Heights), is leading a series of educational but oh-so-friendly Wednesday wine tastings at his store, aimed at the casual wine drinker. Each month's "Vintner's Vednesday" focuses on one of the world's winemaking regions, and the upcoming event, at 7 p.m. on December 15, will spotlight California. Participants can sample a broad variety of inexpensive California vintages, while Wright gives them a basic rundown of region, style, and flavor characteristics, and offers tips on label decryption and wine buying. Afterwards, students will take part in a group winemaking session. Make reservations by calling the store at 216-292-BREW. Wright and his family launched Wine Crafting -- Ohio's only make-your-own-wine facility -- last fall. Staffers assist would-be vintners in selecting and mixing varietal grape juices, and then oversee the six-week fermentation process for them and finish up by helping them bottle and label their own personal batch. The business is an extension of The Brewkeeper, the family's microbrewery and facility for beer-making hobbyists.

Say "cheese" . . . Paul Minnillo, chef-owner of the Baricelli Inn (2203 Cornell Road), has a passion for cheese. And now, after three years of planning, he's surrounding himself with the object of his desires. Since September, Minnillo has been shipping in an assortment of fine handcrafted cheeses -- up to 400 cases at a time -- from the Rungis market, near Paris. Upon their arrival, the cheeses -- including farmhouse Bries, organic Alsacian Muensters, and Loire Valley Pico, which Minnillo calls "the greatest goat cheese in the world" -- take a three-week sabbatical in the chef's custom-built cooler before finding their way into guests' tummies. Minnillo also sells some of his bounty to restaurants and markets in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh, as well as to cheese-starved individuals who come to his restaurant seeking out the creamy rounds for home enjoyment.

Lunch your way through the holidays . . . If you share Minnillo's love of fine foods, consider stopping by his restaurant for a weekday holiday lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., between now and the new year. This will mark the seventh year that the Baricelli Inn (216-791-6500) has opened its doors for lunch during the Christmas season, and this year's menu includes such delicacies as baked lobster, roast duck salad, and seafood cioppino. Hungry East Siders can also check out the limited run of weekday lunches at Ruth's Chris Steak House (28699 Chagrin Road, 216-595-0809), 11:30 a.m. through 2 p.m., through December 24. The menu features aged, USDA Prime steaks as well as a few new lunch items developed just for the holidays. West Siders have their own happy alternative in Parker's (2801 Bridge Avenue, 216-771-7130), where chef-owner Parker Bosley greets the holidays with lunches served from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., December 13 through 24. The menu will feature an assortment of fish, meat, and vegetarian entrées.

Correction . . . The web address for Biddie's Bakery is www.biddiesbakery.com.

Tips are encouraged. Contact Elaine T. Cicora at ecicora@clevescene.com

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