Monthly Archives: December 2007

WineBat Tales: The Rhone

French Wine mapLast Monday was the WineBat Rhone tasting at Green Pastures. Six wines were presented for blind tasting, accompanied by some light apps, which were delish. Check the compiled results of the tasting here.

Food included charred beef with truffle oil and manchego, bacon-wrapped cherry-stuffed quail breast, blackened oyster with chimichurri, and dates stuffed with boursin — the latter of which was a huge hit at my table! There was a nice big crowd for this tasting, as you can see.

CrowdDamon told us ahead of time that we would have one Rhone-inspired new world wine in the mix of six, so I was on the look-out for that one, but I confess I didn’t peg it. Here is a list of the wines we tasted, from my most favorite to my least. The first three, to be fair, were pretty-much tied for first place with me:

Tasting TableE. Guigal Hermitage 1999, $70-110: 100% Syrah. Plummy, with a huge stank on it. Funky delicious barnyard aromas of manure and wet hay, with raspberry fruit and a whiff of bermagot. This is a monster nose, very heady and interesting to sniff. On the palate, black pepper, raspberry preserves and violets. Scratchy tannins, but a very stylish wine. I represented Guigal when I worked for a distributor, but I’ve never had a chance to taste their Hermitage. This was a knock-out, a beautiful example of the way the French can make a Syrah that has just as much power as an Australian Shiraz, but frequently much more fascination.

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Bubble Fest at Vino Vino: Be There!

Girl on a CorkSo the guys at Vino Vino (4119 Guadalupe Street, Austin, TX 78751) are, for some reason I do not understand and yet heartily applaud, free pouring sparkling wine tomorrow, from 1pm until every bottle in the place runs dry (or 5pm, whichever comes first). 

And when I say free pouring, I mean FREE.  No money, unlimited bubbly.  Seriously.

They’re also pouring off all their sweet wines.  I hope this does not mean that they’re giving up on their Exceptionally Progressive Sparkling Wine Program and trying to ditch all their inventory in one fell swoop, because that would make me sad. 

I was over there the other night and enjoyed a gorgeous pink sparkler, the Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose if I remember correctly, for only $20.  (Sorry, no tasting notes, but the perlage was positively minute and the wine was delicious.)  Service was a delight and the prosciutto sandwich was lip-smacking. 

Vino Vino’s wine selection is wonderful and whimsical, and they offer 15% off of any six bottles of still wine you buy and 10% off any six of sparkling.  Because their markup on sparkling wine is so low.  Because they really want you, their valued customer, to discover the wide, wonderful world of bubbly.

I’ll be drinking stars tomorrow.  Will you? 

Four Calling Birds, Three Pinots Noir…

ErathI tasted these three wines in a flight at Cru on Second Street, simply ages ago. I enjoyed my visit; Cru has a respectable wine flight program and an interesting menu, including cheese flights. The ambiance is a little more restaurant than bar, and I get why people call it Dallas-influenced because its ambiance is more formal than most Austin wine bars I’ve visited.

Erath 2006 Oregon Pinot Noir, $19 retail: Light garnet, almost cranberry juice in color. On the nose, strawberry and cranberry cocktail, with some black tea with bergamot. Very Oregonian to me: light and elegant without all the dirt. The tea aroma is quite pronounced.

Palate is a good, tart cranberry with some mushroom in the mid-palate; the finish has some earth on it which gives it some weight. Not spicy, but not harsh and not a fruit bomb. Slightly silky; like a duet of cranberry and earth.

Dick Erath is like the inventor of Oregon wine, practically. He founded his winery (now owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates) in the Dundee Hills in 1967. Thirty-four vintages later, he’s still growing grapes and blowing minds. This wine was closed with a screw-cap, which I applaud. Continue reading

Tasting Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs 2003

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs 03Shazam! Love it. Guzzled before Thanksgiving dinner.

Straw yellow in the glass with pinpoint bubbles. Nose is yeasty/bready, with lemon, green apple, vanilla and orange blossom scents. Decadence! On that palate, it’s very clean with a sharp tart lemon and some granny smith apple. There’s a hint of bread dough, which persists on the palate and develops into a yeasty bite on the finish. Refreshing but complex; very well balanced and delicious.

You can not go wrong with sparkling wine, my friends! It pairs with everything, including eggs, and even cheers up Eeyore. Gloria Ferrer is one of my favorite California sparkling houses; you can’t beat them for classy bubbly at a temptingly reasonable price.

Did I ever tell you about the time in the Virgin Islands when I was invited to some long-time residents’ traditional Christmas Day Champagne Brunch, in which every guest had to bring a bottle of bubbly? Great food, great wine… and that was the day I learned that 5 bottles of sparkling wine is too many. (I learned this valuable lesson that afternoon and late into the evening as I lay on the bathroom floor of my apartment, waiting for the plumbing to stop swirling around me.) It’s good to know how much is too much, and now I know to stop at four bottles of bubbly. Heed my warning, gentle reader: stop at four.

Gloria Ferrer the person is married to Jose Ferrer, whose family owns the honkin’ huge cava house Freixenet. Evidently Jose and Gloria vacationed in Sonoma in the 80s and liked what they saw, so they founded the first sparkling wine house in Carneros in 1986. The winery has a strong emphasis on research; they seem to have spent lots of time finding just the right clones of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for their 335 acres of vineyards. They make still wine now, too, though I’ve never tried it.

To reiterate, I think Gloria Ferrer makes some of the classiest California sparklers you can buy for the money. There is other Cali bubbly I enjoy and admire enormously, but when I want to drink a $14.76 bottle that fizzes like I dropped $30, GF is my BFF, for sure.

Tasting Yalumba Y Series Shiraz-Viognier 2006

Picked this one up as a 6th wine to round out my discounted half-case at Grapevine Market for about $10.50. I’m a huge fan of this varietal combination, so I was curious to see what a Yalumba would do with it.

yalumba shiraz viognierDeep purpley-red in the glass. Whopper of a nose with blackberry, roasted meats, a powdery floral note like perfumed dusting powder, slight tar and some menthol. Lots going on in the olfactory realm here; I love that top note that Viognier gives to Shiraz when they blend, and this had it, though not in spades. On the tongue there was some tart cherry or unripe blackberry, with some tarry or possibly graphite notes. The mid-palate was rather lacking here, but not a bad wine for the money at all.

Deb’s Key West Wine & Gardening blog reviewed the 2005 Yalumba Shiraz-Viognier, quite favorably, and What To Drink Tonight liked the 2004 as well, so you can see that this is a pretty reliable producer, year to year.

Yalumba bills itself as Australia’s oldest family owned winery, and I must say I’ve always been quite impressed with their price-quality ratio. Founded in 1849 by English brewer Samuel Smith in the Barossa Valley, the name of the winery means “all the land around” in the one of the aboriginal languages. Evidently Yalumba was the first to commercially plant Viognier in Australia, in 1980. I do like their Y Series Viognier, which is from the Eden Valley, and is a great value.

The practice of blending red Syrah and white Viognier to make one wine comes from the Cote Rotie, in the northern Rhone Valley in France. The Cote Rotie region is famous for some of the world’s finest Syrah bottlings, and wine laws there allow for up to 20% of the red wine to be Viognier. Check Wine Library TV’s review of 4 Cote Roties here.  In practice these days, most Cote Roties are 100% Syrah; but I must say I dearly love how Viognier can act as a Wonder-Bra for Syrah, lifting and separating, as it were, the Syrah’s floral components, while adding its own rich floral element. There’s something very yin-yang about these two grapes, and I’ll make jump into that tao every chance I get.