grapes reviews wineries

Tasting Domaine Chandon Pinot Meunier 2005

Why does a sparkling wine house make a still Pinot Meunier? As a curiousity, or to help wine people teach about varietals? The latter is always my secret theory. It could also be that someone in the winery is freaked-out-in-love with the varietal, seeking to champion it like Paul Draper did with Zinfandel. From what Domaine Chandon says on their website, the grape grows so well for them in Carneros (one of the few places it’s grown other than France), that they just had to make a stand-alone wine from it.

Pinot Meunier, the grapePinot Meunier is a red grape that is used to blend into Champagne and sparkling wines, like Pinot Noir is. Most Champagnes, white or rose, are blends, with the exception of Blanc de Blancs, which is made exclusively from Chardonnay. Rose Champagnes, though, are blends of white and rose juice from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. It’s generally agreed that Pinot Meunier is a mutation of Pinot Noir, a grand dame of a grape with slutty, mutant ways; Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and even Gamay are also thought to be mutations of Matron Momma Noir.

grapes wineries

Tasting Tormaresca Masseria Maime 2001

Say that five times fast, right? To go for the easy joke, this wine with a mouthful of a name was a real mouthful. (Ba-dum-bump.) Tasted at Lake Travis Wine Trader at one of their Tuesday wine classes, led that week by the exceptionally knowedgeable AJ Hernadez of Republic National Distributing.

Maime LabelAlmost black in color, and nearly opaque. Intensely nutty, gamy nose of tar, amaretto, prune, currant and black pepper. One of those noses that is hard to quantify because it’s so monolithic — you can pick away (at the nose, haha) and capture aspects of it in words, but largely it smells like… its rich, powerful self. I guess Fitzgerald was right: the rich are different from you and me; they’re difficult to describe.

Presents an earthy, chewy palate; not super-fruity in its plumminess, but rich and meaty. There is a scratch of tannin in the velvety texture, like cut glass beads on a plush pillow. Parker, as he gave this wine a 91, recommended that it be drunk between 2006 and 2015. I think we’re still on the early side, but heavens we’re getting there!


If you can’t say something nice…

Speak no evil: I borrowed this cutie pic from, I’ve been a member of this book club for going on two years now, and we have lots of fun. We meet monthly, and communally choose the books that we read. We read literature, non-fiction and modern novels; nothing too long, preferably in paperback, frequently having to do with women. I’m one of the few 30ish women in the group, which is largely 20-somethings, and we’re all women. We meet at different people’s houses every month; everyone brings snack or wine or both.

All of us are wine drinkers, but I am the only real wine geek. Mostly the bottles are around a $10 price-point. There is a slight red-over-white preference.

grapes regions reviews wineries

Tasting Champalou Vouvray Sec 2005

What an delightful wine. Tasted at Cork & Co., a downtown wine bar, as part of an excellent French wine flight, I was blown away by this Vouvray. I had never heard of the producer until I looked them up as part of this post, and I will definitely be looking for their wines again!

Champalou VouvrayPale gold in color. When cold, I detected very pronounced apricot on the nose with some hints of orange blossom. As the wine warmed up, the scent of honey was unmistakable and intense.

There was a peachy sweetness on the palate that was offset by a hint of bitterness and strong minerality, creating an overall marmalade flavor. I was fascinated how the attack (the first flavors detected upon taking the wine in my mouth) was sweet, but then the flavors hit this wall of mineral, which stopped all the sugar but allowed my palate to pass through unscathed. The flavors all but disappeared after the “sugar wall,” leaving my palate seduced and then refreshed and clean, with only a lingering hint of unsweet honey muskiness to show for my swallow.

grapes regions restaurants reviews

Tasting The Crossings Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005

The Crossings Sauvignon BlancI can’t get enough of that tasty, tasty New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.Nothing else quite compares; white Bordeaux can come close, with its filigree minerality and level-headed conjoined twin Semillon. Chilean SB is lemony and fun-loving, bright and fresh as a debutante. There are excellent Cali SBs out there, too, though I’m not a Fume Blanc fan these days. But it’s New Zealand that takes this short-lived, sassy grape and gives it a steroid-injected makeover worthy of Oprah and What Not to Wear combined.

I had a glass of this wine for $7 at Mars Restaurant, at their new location on South Congress, while sitting on their huge patio on a beautiful Texas late-summer afternoon.The sun was dimpling through the huge live oaks, and it was not sweltering. Divine!

Yellow straw in color.Luxurious nose of sweet gooseberry, perfumed honeydew melon, and very green grass.SweetTart lemony flavor on the tongue evolves into fresh pink grapefruit, with a mineral bite to it of almost-bubbles. A Crystal Light tanginess traipses along the mouthwatering finish. Feels like the Goddess of Spring just slapped my mouth awake with a newly-mown lawn and a bag of Ruby Red grapefruit.

industry press

Zines, zines, zines…

Wine AdvocateI’m shopping.  When I started this experiment of writing about wine, having been out of the business for what seems like forever but is actually only 2 years, I promised myself that if I stuck with it I would budget in a few wine magazine subscriptions.  I hadn’t maintained my trade subscriptions because it was a little too painful reading about expensive, interesting wines when I didn’t have the money to buy them and no one to discuss them with; but I’m feeling frisky, baby, so watch out!

Back when I was a wine rep, I exhaustively read consumer-oriented publications, because that’s what affected my customers’ shelves and lists.  It was important for me to know what trends were affecting their sales (and therefore my own).Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, Decanter, and Food and Wine.  Talking to a wine bar owner lately, I’ve learned that Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar affects sales here in Texas (or at least here in Austin), though it didn’t seem so big an influence back in the USVI.
Wine Spectator

My inestimable former boss BG, would also get more trade-oriented subscriptions; we shared, of course, and I always enjoyed reading Wine & Spirits, Quarterly Review of Wine, and Restaurant Wine.  He particularly swore by the little-known gems he would find in the latter, and I must say that he was right on the money when he ordered something for our territory based on a review from RW. BG was a traditionalist and liked to get the printed magazines; I needed information fast, even from back-issues, and needed to be able to search wine ratings, so I liked the online subscriptions.  At WA and WS, you can search their databases for wine rating scores, which is super-useful for wine reps whose customers respond to ratings. (Is that redundant?  Does anyone sell wine to people who are not affected by ratings?) 

Restaurant Wine


So, I’m working on a budget, and I am no longer driven by the need to find the next new 92 pt wine that retails for less than $10 (though I’m not opposed to it).  I’m interested in reading articles on industry trends and winery profiles, but I’d also like to hear about cool new bottles of deliciousity.  I like the immediacy of online subscriptions, but then there’s something satisfying about getting something in the mail every month, too.  Plus, I’m not always near a computer.

What would you recommend I buy, if we were to keep at a budget of about $200?  What wine publications are most useful and rewarding for you?  Which ones feel like the best bang for your buck?  Where do you find your precious nuggets of wisdom?

events reviews

Event: Spec’s Tasting Tuesday

I had a freaking fantastic time at the Spec’s at Brodie Lane Tasting Tuesday the other day! It’s a neat event that occurs the second Tuesday of every month. You pay $10 and get a Riedel white wine glass (probably from the Vinum series, but who cares, it’s crystal and you get to take it home!), and there are little stands all over the store giving out food and wine samples. The night I was there, which I think is typical, they tasted 20 different wines.

With your fancy new glass, you are also given a sheet of paper listing all of the wines being poured, with location of the tasting stand and prices for the wines. All wines being tasted are on sale for that night, and all of them were under $20 per bottle, so it’s a very affordable opportunity to stuff your cellar full!

grapes regions reviews

Wine Blogging Wednesday #37: Tasting Argiolas Costera 2005

Argiolas CosteraDrink Indigenous is this Wine Blogging Wednesday‘s theme.

Well, I’m a dumbass. I thought that the dominant varietal in this wine, Cannonau, was indiginous to Sardinia, one of the Italian islands. Wrong! It’s largely thought that Cannonau was brought to Sardinia in the 18th century from Spain — general consensus seems to be that it’s a derivative of Garnacha, or Grenache. Dissenting Italian opinions here. If a grape has been grown in a region for 4 centuries and has its own name, isn’t it indigenous by now? Probably not. But I tasted this wine up good, damn it, and so you’re going to hear about it.

Deeply purpley-red in color. Immediately in the glass, there’s a dusty-earthy nose, maybe cedar notes, with black licorice and ripe bing cherry. When it opens up, it’s got really ripe, sexy fruit. I can see why Parker gave this a 91 — it’s totally his style! And for only about $14!

On the tongue, it gives up some plum flavors (you know how the skin is a little sour? like that) and has a note of tar, mixed with a slightly minerally tone. It’s rare for me to detect minerality on the palate of a red wine (it’s much easier for me taste that flavor – like rocks in your mouth – in whites), but here it is! Happy Mouth Co-op, membership: me.

I kept thinking “boy, I bet this would be great with food, like a nice strong cheese” and so I made myself a piece of whole wheat toast with a gorgonzola cream cheese spread. Loveliness! The spicy acidity of the gorgonzola was a nice complement to the earthiness of the wine, and the fat in the cheese spread really smoothed the wine out. Those Eye-talians know how to make us some food-appropriate wine, yo.


Out of Step

When I was in the wine business, I had lots of people that shared my interest in wine, and who were just as excited as I was about tasting something or learning something new. We would gabble to each other about the latest neat wine we’d tasted in Advanced Winespeak, referencing winemakers and varietals and sub-regions… gobbledeegook to other people, but fun times for us wine nerds.
What if your wine tastes are not the same as those of your friends? If you are an experienced wine nerd like me, your idea of a great thing to bring to a party is an exciting wine. (Actually, the very notion of an “exciting” wine might just brand you an insufferable wine nerd right out of the box.
Also if you are like me, a wine that excites you may not excite the rest of your party. You may be bringing Chablis to a party of I-only-drink-red-wine-because-it’s-the-real-shit drinkers. When invited to a fish fry, you may be dying to drink that sassy Provencal rose that you picked up for next to nothing, while everyone else is studiously ignoring what they think is your nasty imported WhiteZin. You might want to serve a pleasant chilled Beaujolais to your guests, but they’re convinced that they don’t like anything but Merlot.
I know everything teeIt’s harder for me to enjoy a bottle of wine I’ve brought to someone’s house if I’m the only one drinking it. Even if I’m hosting, I feel bad if no one enjoys the wine I’ve chosen for the night. Maybe it’s just my insufferable need to please, or my indefatigable desire to widen people’s wine horizons. Quite possibly, it’s just the lonely road of the wine “expert.” As your interest in wine grows, and thus your education about wine deepens, you very well may find that not everyone shares your enthusiasm. Shocking!
Similar is the path of the die-hard foodie. I am fascinated with cooking and new flavors. I am very lucky in that my husband is very willing to try new things, but the truth is that my interest in food far outstrips his. In fact, I’m more interested in food than nearly anyone I know. At this point in my life, I can share my passion for new cuisines and techniques but by and large I entertain only myself with my elaborate dinners and wide arrays of hors d’oeuvres at parties.
What I’ve noticed, though, is that people are much more willing to try new things in food than they are in wine. Or maybe I’m better at cooking than I am at wine recommending? Commending a wine, when you Really Know About Wine, can be a big responsibility. At least, I’m always worried that people will blame themselves if a wine I recommend to them fails to please their palate. I Know What I’m Talking About, so if I think something’s tasty I must be right, right? Wine mystique makes the question of taste, like Pepsi vs. Coke, into a question of expertise and sophistication. I bet Coke wishes it could put that much pressure on its prospective consumersAnyhow, poor old me and my elevated tastes, right? Paranoid about my queer little bottles and what the neighbors will think! I guess my real message is the same old, same old: try new things, and trust your own sense of taste.
Do you have specialized interests that leave you alone in a crowd? Please share your experiences with the entire class via your fancy comment!


Tasting Seeberger Riesling 2006

Seeberger RieslingYellow straw color. Simple yet powerful apple on the nose, with slight hints of violet. Palate echoes the green apples, good amount of sweetness here; medium acidity does not balance it out, unfortunately. There is a persistent minerality on the finish that doesn’t quite deal with the sugar, either, but it is varietally correct.

I bought this on the recommendation from the Austin Chronicle’s article on boxed wines; it was their most recommended white of all the 50 wines they tasted. It cost me $14.99 for a 3 liter box, averaging out to $3.75 per bottle. I was disappointed in it, but now that I do the math, I’m a lot happier with it! It’s sweeter than I’d like it to be (if you haven’t figured that out yet), but it is varietally correct, and I’ll just drink it with spicy food. Wines that lean toward sweetness make an excellent pairing for spicy foods — the sugar stands up to the spice and keeps it from overwhelming the palate. My friend J is coming to town for ACLFest; maybe I’ll make my favorite Thai red curry for her.  Between the two of us, we can kill this box in a few days, I’m sure!