As the city of three rivers, we have a unique opportunity in Pittsburgh to go out on a boat to see the sights basically any time of year. Even a short sightseeing cruise can be a great time, especially in the early fall when the weather is just right. If you’re in the mood for a longer cruise, with a more educational side and some great barbecue, the locks & dams cruise is right up your alley.
But what is our favorite cruise offered by the fantastic Gateway Clipper Fleet?
Once a month from June through October, the Gateway Clipper hosts a wine tasting dinner where you can enjoy a delicious meal, soak up the sights from the Mon, the Al, and the O, and of course, taste some terrific wines. In June, we went on the Wines From Around The World cruise, and we had a wonderful time. Once we enjoyed the best of Niagara winery tours. It’s a new experience this time.
As you step onto the boat and check in, crew members hand you the first wine of the night. For this cruise, that wine was the Fairvalley Chenin Blanc from South Africa. We learned that chenin blanc is the most widely planted grape in South Africa, and we could see why. It was pleasant and crisp, with hints of lemony stone. It was just the right wine to start off our muggy, drizzly evening on the boat.
Alongside the first wine, we enjoyed a variety of delicious appetizers. The earlier you arrive on the boat, the more time you have to taste these delights. Boarding begins at 5:30, but the boat doesn’t leave until 6:30, so you have a good amount of time to sip & snack while waiting to depart. On this cruise, we had some incredible pulled pork sliders with chow-chow slaw, blue crab fritters with creole remoulade, and a variety of veggies, cheeses, fruit, and bread.
As the boat begins to sail away from the dock, your host for the evening will tell you a little more about the wines you’re drinking. As certified Wine Nerds, this was the most interesting part of the evening for us. Our servers brought around the next two pours, so we could taste the reds side by side.
The servers also brought around our entrées. And the food on the Gateway Clipper? It is so good.
Husband got the cornbread dusted Pierre chicken breast with cheddar grits, braised greens, and Brunswick stew broth. He loves grits, but even I, a non-fan, found these to be savory and wonderful in texture.
For my meal, I had the grilled angus beef coulotte steak with charred onion potatoes, baby portobellas, topped with a pimento & barrel bourbon glaze. SO GOOD. The beef was perfectly cooked, and it almost melted in your mouth.
Even better news? The two wines paired with both of these dishes like a dream.
The red wines were from Portugal and Greece. The Portugal wine was the Duorum Tons de Duorum Red, an easy-sipping wine with a velvety mouthfeel and flavors of dusty plums. These grapes grew in a hilly, difficult terrain, and the efforts of their struggle were well-reflected in the final product.
The Greek wine, the Gai’a Notios Red, was another easy-drinker. Known as ‘the blood of Hercules,’ the wine produced from Agiorgitiko grapes can cover a large range of flavor profiles. This example was mellow, with little hints of sponge, and a lightly woody flavor that made it a versatile pairing that went with both the chicken and the beef.
After dinner, we somehow managed to make room in our tummies for dessert. Both the lemon square and the fudge brownie were terrific: soft and moist and the best finish to that amazing dinner we could think of.
And even though it did, we definitely want to try to get in another cruise before the season ends! The remaining wine cruises for 2016 set sail on August 18, September 22, and October 20th. Perhaps we’ll see you aboard one of them!