food & wine pairing grapes regions reviews

Tasting Domaine Andre Brunel Grenache 2005

So after some disappointing explorations of some smaller Austin wine shops, I finally took the time to really explore the Austin Wine Merchant, and I must say I was very pleased with what I found there!  They have an exquisite French selection, some off-the-beaten path Italian reds, and they sell bin-ends for a tidy discount, which allows me to build a cellar with things I probably wouldn’t normally pick up.  Why is it that $5 or $10 off a bottle makes it nearly irrisistible?  Madness!

Another nice thing about the Austin Wine Merchant is that they actually have some reasonably priced bottles, which is sometimes hard to find in collector-oriented stores!  I picked up this Domaine Andre Brunel Grenache, a Vin de Pays de Vaucluse, for only $5.99! 

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Book review: The Wine Roads of Texas

Wine Cowboy HatI am not a Texas native. My husband is a 5th-generation Texan, and loves his state as only a Texan can. When we drive through the countryside, he’ll comment on how a certain famous battle happened in this town, or how that area was colonized by the Old Three Hundred. You have to drive a lot in Texas; I think it’s in the state constitution somewhere.

If you don’t live here, you probably haven’t tasted a Texas wine. I know I hadn’t, until I moved to Austin. And there’s a good deal of wine to taste, really: Texas is fifth in U.S. wine production, after California, Washington, New York and Oregon. All in all, Texas makes about 1.5 million gallons of wine every year, and about 95% of it is consumed in Texas. Are we bad sharers? Well, it’s not like you’ve been asking for any.

Wine Blogging Wednesday

Wine Blogging Wednesday Logo Contest

One of the aspects of my new job as Empress of Marketing for this general contractor that I find the most pause-giving is that of the layout and design. Other than my experience on my high school newspaper, I don’t have much of a background in layout, but I feel I can muddle through there. Design, however, in its visual art component, is something that I struggle with in concept and practice. I couldn’t draw my way out of a paper bag (which would be awkward if I ever randomly morphed into that “You Know My Name Is Simon And The Things I Draw Come True” guy), and when I see some of the stuff designers come up with, I am mystified as to how they even thought that shit up.

So I might fiddle around with some ideas for the Wine Blogging Wednesday Logo Contest, but I harbor no illusions that I might actually win. I will definitely take to heart the excellent recommendations from Tom Wark as I fiddle. But you — are you good with the graphics? Worldwide fame certainly awaits you if you can create the new WBW logo. Your deadline is March 31, so you’d best get to cogitating!


Things you don’t know about me

OK, dramatic efforts have returned to the back burner again for a while, and cedar levels are low. I think we might be back on for regular wine blogging! Thanks for your patience, those of you who stuck around. I’m still recovering somewhat from my over-scheduling, so here’s some filler while I catch my breath.

There are lots of things you don’t know about me, and some of them I’m not telling. Here’s what I will publicize on the inter-webs:

I’m a copy-cat. I swiped this idea from Erin at My Life in Vino, who swiped it from This Fish Needs a Bicycle. So I’m a double-copy-cat.

grapes regions reviews wineries

Tasting Tablas Creek Vermentino 2006

I got a Tablas Creek VINsider club membership for Xmas from my beloved this year, and couldn’t resist opening one bottle of the six right away, because I’m undisciplined like that.

Tablas Creek VermentinoPale straw in color. Very, very green on the nose, with a slight copper penny whiff of mineral, and lots of lime zest and honeydew melon.

Lovely minerality and acid on the palate, with prickles on the sides of my tongue. Delicate herbal flavors of chive and thyme, with lemon/lime-coated honeydew and green apple. Exceptionally refreshing and well-balanced. A great quencher of a wine, with lots of style. Yum.

Tablas Creek Vineyards was founded in California’s Paso Robles region by the Perrin family, famous winemakers of Chateau de Beaucastel, the iconic Chateauneuf de Pape, as well as other great Rhone wines, and Robert Haas, a highly influential American importer. They imported all their vines from the Rhone, and all of their wines are made from estate-grown fruit. They also farm organically and have a minimalistic approach to winemaking, meaning they try to fiddle with the wine to the least amount possible. General Manager Jason Haas has a blog, and posts interesting stuff a couple times a week on average.

The grape Vermentino is best known as an Italian varietal, grown all over the country but with distinction in Tuscany, Liguria and Sardinia.  It’s thought to have been brought over from Spain in the Middle Ages.  In southern France, the same grape is called Rolle, and vinified in Provence and Corsica, the latter of which is really well-known for its great Vermentino-based wines.

When Tablas Creek was purchasing vines from the Perrin’s source in France to import to America and grow in Paso Robles, the nurseryman recommended that they also purchase some Vermentino, as he thought it would thrive in the rocky, limestone-rich soils (which makes me wish some Hill Country winery would plant them some Vermentino.  Spicewood Vineyards?  Are you listening?).

Tablas Creek originally tried to blend the Vermentino into their other whites, but the wine was so distinctive that they ended up bottling it by itself.   They bottle all their Vermentino with a Stelvin closure (which is a fancy kind of screwcap).  The minerality makes it a great pairing for shellfish and the citrus and herbal qualities make it a natural for Mediterranean cuisine as well.  A little pricey at $21 or so, the wine was impressively well-made and it was interesting to taste a US Vermentino, for sure.  If you’re into obscure varietals and you don’t mind plunking $20+ for a light, refreshing, sporty white, this is your bottle fa shizz.



From the Spanish preocuparse, this adjective can mean (1) busy, (2) worried and (3, rather as it might literally translate) preoccupied. OK, really the Spanish for busy is ocupada, but preocupada always had the connotation for me of one who is busied with herself.

All of these apply to me of late; hence this lame apology for my neglect of the Scamp this last Week Or So. I’m still struggling with the stupid cedar pollen allergy I have developed in earnest, and thus can’t taste much. Additionally, I’ve got a performance of a short play (which I co-wrote) this coming Thursday at the Hyde Park Theater’s FronteraFest; if you’re an Austinite and wish to see me in 3D, do scamper on down at 8 pm for the show. Tickets available online at the link, or at the door. There will be two of us on stage; I am the rounder one. If we are Popular and people Vote For Us, we’ll perform again this coming Saturday for the Best of the Week show.

Also, I’ve accepted a new position with a competing general contractor; I’ll be working as their marketing and HR person, which is much more to my taste than the soul-killing dullness of the administrative work I’ve been doing for my current employer for nigh unto 2 years now. I’m incredibly sad to be leaving the wonderful people I’ve been working with for so long, but I’m also very excited to have some work that is challenging and might require the use of my brain. Nonetheless, it was a difficult decision (shockingly to everyone who’s had to suffer through my bitching about my job for so long), and the resultant emotional turmoil has been taking up rather a lot of my time.


I should be back in the saddle again after this week, and I’m sorry to be so lackluster up until then. Usually February is my Cruelest Month, but evidently this year it’s been moved up a bit. Thanks for your continued patience and interest — I’ll have a post or two this week, and more sustained jollillity is soon to come, cross my heart.

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Wine Blogging Wednesday #41: Friuli Whites

I really didn’t want to get a Pinot Grigio for this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday tasting of Friuli-Venezie Giulia whites, hosted by Fork & Bottle. I know that if they make Pinot Grigio well anywhere in Italy, it’s in Friuli, but still. There are all these other interesting white wines coming from this region, not the least of which is Tocai Friulino. I’d been reading all about them in Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy, the book we’re reading right now in our Wine Book Club. And then, two things happened.

Italo Cescon Pinot Grigio 2006First, I decided that my unreasoning, stubborn resistance to Pinot Grigio, even when I knew it would be well made and really interesting to drink, is unnecessary and stupid. Great wine is great wine, no matter how many people make plonk from the same grape all over the place. Second, I saw this adorable bottle with its cute little twig wrapped up in ribbon and a strong recommendation from the wine buyer at Specs. Cute, almost definitely good, and cheap? Italo Cescon Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave DOC 2006 here we come!

The twig, by the way, called a tralcetto in Italian, is attached to the bottle as a tribute to patriarch Italo’s grandmother Anna, who had a practice of keeping a bit of dead grapevine in her pocket after harvest as a remembrance of the vine’s rebirth in the spring. Or at least, that’s what the back label said.

Anyway, here goes tasting wine with one nostril tied behind my back:

grapes regions wineries

Tasting Vina Antigua Sangiovese-Bonarda 2006

For me, January is a month of financial abstinence; whether I spent too much on Xmas gifts, or I have newly resolved to be fiscally prudent, I tend to cut way back in January. This does not mean that I stop drinking good wine! Well, it didn’t until I moved to Austin and developed a dreadful allergy to cedar pollen.

But in the one day in a fortnight that I am in possession of two working nostrils, I am still able to open a bottle of wine without breaking open my piggy bank. In the spirit of January and the economic asceticism you, too, may be practicing, this month I’ll be reviewing about 6 wines that I bought at Specs for less than $7 each. They’ll have to come in spurts, depending on pollen levels. It’s supposed to rain this week, and I have high hopes!

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Flora Springs goes solar

What does this do to the carbon footprint of a wine? 

According to a story in Wines & Vines this Tuesday, Flora Springs, the Napa Valley winery owned by the Garvey and Komes families, has installed enough solar panels on a hillside behind their winery to power all of their yearly red wine production. How many solar panels does it take to power a year’s worth of red wine from Flora Springs?  435 SunTech panels at 170w each, that’s how many!  That covers over 6,000 square feet; they installed the panels on an elevated platform to allow for shady storage below.  Isn’t that clever, now?

Flora Springs takes its sustainability pretty seriously.  They’re in the process of getting all of their vineyards certified as organic, which takes 3 years in California.  About 70% of the vineyards will be certified organic by 2009.  No word if they’re planning to convert the white wine production to solar too, but kudos to Flora Springs!  They make great wine, and now there’s a great excuse to drink more of it.

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Well, someone at should be fired by now.  Alder at Vinography broke the story (which was originally published in the Wine Market Report – 8k download here) to the blogosphere a couple of days ago.  Get this: organized a sting operation in Washington state, in which – or stooges thereof – ordered wines from 29 different online wine retailers that could not legally ship to Washington, and then they turned the names of the law-breaking retailers in to state authorities.

Ironically enough, Washington prosecutors have no jurisdiction over out-of-state retailers who ship to Washington despite stupid protectionist wine laws that prohibit such activity.  The only people who could be in legal trouble from Washington state authorities would be people who actually ordered the wine, breaking the law while actually in Washington state!  Wut?

No company with this much of a rat-like approach to business, coupled with a severe lack of cognitive processing ability, should be allowed to have a link on this site.  Wine Scamp is no place for snitches, nor for tattle-tales.  So I’ve taken their ad off the site, and I hope you’ll join me in a boycott of for here on out.  Mostly for being morons, and then also for being wine law vigilantes.  Oops, I repeated myself.

I must join Tom Wark in directing your attention to the supreme response to’s perfidy, that of Emily and Stephan at — it’s both brilliant and hilarious — located near the end of the comments to the post on Vinography.