BB Riverboats began with a deceptive motto and a fleet of zero. In 1977, Ben Bernstein opened a restaurant in a converted steamboat, whose motto was “The Romance of Riverboat Dining.” Intended as tongue-in-cheek, the motto instead confused customers, who arrived hoping for a scenic cruise down the Ohio River. To placate his clientele, Ben Bernstein went into business with riverboat industry veteran Betty Blake, and BB Riverboats—named for their shared initials—was born.
Now run by Bernstein’s son, BB Riverboats has increased its fleet to three vessels, including the Belle of Cincinnati, a riverboat outfitted with Victorian details and two climate-controlled decks. On daily cruises down the Ohio, historical narration complements the scenery, while passengers play swashbuckling games and learn to read treasure maps on family-friendly pirate cruises. On the company’s dining cruises, visitors drink in the scenery while noshing on a Hawaiian buffet spread or sampling award-winning wines from StoneBrook Winery. Additionally, holiday cruises honor occasions from Valentine’s Day to Thanksgiving.
When the sun sets on the Baker-Bird Winery, and its proprietors depart, the sturdy stone walls come to life, whispering stories across the expansive space. They rehash the 150-year history of the estate winery, which sheltered women and children during a key Civil War battle. Their tales outline the German immigration, which brought those wishing to cultivate a new life to the region to work the rich Kentucky soil. Then the sun rises, and the walls close their stony eyes, allowing the winery's history to speak for itself through guided tours.
In the warm afternoon, groups wander amid framed historical photographs, documents, and wooden cabinets lined with wines, artisanal cheeses from Kentucky, and exotic chocolates. Because all proceeds from the sale of the wine goes to restoring the historic estate and supporting Kentucky farm families, visitors can feel that they?ve done a good deed without rescuing a cat from a tree and taking it to see the ocean for the first time.
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Craig and Laura Decker seem to have a difficult time making up their minds. They also seem to have a knack for turning this indecisiveness into an advantage at every turn. When it came to opening their new business, for example, they briefly wondered whether it should feature a wine shop, a wine bar, or a gourmet bistro. Their solution? All three.
This spirit of inclusivity pervades The Wine Guy Bistro, where the Deckers pair seasonal wine varietals with globally inspired cuisine. Rather than choose between European elegance and New-American pizzazz, they settled on a compromise they describe as “Old World chic.” This label suits a menu that features small plates of housemade meatballs and bruschetta alongside assorted cheeses from around the world. The focus on small plates is in keeping with the Deckers’ have-it-all mentality and gives diners the option to sample several dishes without having to barter with adjacent tables.
With more than 15 locations nationwide, Wine and Canvas commissions accomplished artists to spread the joy of painting during informal painting classes. These talented brush wielders guide students of all abilities through a landscape, portrait, or abstract artwork via step-by-step instructions. Though each Wine and Canvas location is home to an art studio, the classes are taught in students’ living rooms or at local hot spots—many of which mix up tasty drink specials during classes. Instructors provide their artists-in-training with all the supplies they need to create eye-catching masterpieces, from paints and canvases to Ouija boards with a direct line to van Gogh. Though adult painting classes are Wine and Canvas’s bread and butter, they also help little ones unleash their creativity and satisfy their sweet tooth with Cookies and Canvas classes.
The Cincinnati Film Festival showcases moving pictures from all over the globe from October 8 to October 16. Your all-day pass (a $20 value) gets you access to a full day of screenings and workshops. Start your cineday with the Shorts Block 9, a collection of short films playing at the Esquire Theater, and then hop over to Main St. Cinema to catch "Runaways: Producing In Ohio," as a panel of local industry insiders discuss the past, present, and future of Ohio film production. Locavores can cheer on hometown heroes at the Esquire during 48 Hour Film Project: Take 2, a mash-up of mini-movies produced by Cincinnati filmmakers, before indulging in behind-the-scenes voyeurism with a screening of Saturday Night, a 90-minute Saturday Night Live documentary directed by actor James Franco. The weeklong film fest's Awards Gala will be held on Friday, October 15 at Memorial Hall, where a special award will be presented to musician/TV personality/producer Nick Lachey for his contributions to the local production community. A ticket to the gala (a $25 value) gives formal-loving filmophiles an excuse to break out tuxes and ball gowns, as this gala is black-tie optional with a required tweed-based business-dress minimum. Check the program guide for a complete list of screenings. Organizers recommend you arrive at all events 30 minutes ahead of time to procure the best seats in the house, away from the permanent front-row installations of 10-gallon hats and actual honey-filled beehives.
At Z Place, oenophiles sample a medley of newly discovered domestic and imported wine varietals along with handpicked pairings of complementary cheeses. Douse your mouth with red selections including the medium-bodied merlot—which harmonizes with tangy gruyere, parmesan, and gorgonzola—as well as the mildly fruity cabernet sauvignon, complemented with nutty and sharp cheddar and blue cheese. Feta, goat cheese, and asiago bring the tart notes of the sauvignon blanc to life like a lime playing a kazoo. Grab a grape-blooded partner for a sipping soirée within Z Place's charming pale-yellow and red confines, littered with an abundance of wine bottles, high-top tables, chalkboard signage, and a Persian rug.