blogosphere frivolity reviews

Tasting Domaine Ste Michelle Brut NV

It’s Oscar night.  Chez Scamp never watches the Oscars, but we’re breaking our custom… for what reason I have no idea.  We’re about 7:48 in right now, and I can’t say I’m really sold on the decision, but I’ve decided to pop a bottle of bubbly, so I’m likely to see it through.

Domaine Ste Michelle is one of my favorite “mixer” bubblies, so I’m actually going to taste the wine on its own as well as made into a mimosa and a poinsetta – which is bubbly mixed with cranberry juice and triple sec; I meant to make poinsettas over Christmas sometime, and I will confess that the cranberry juice has been waiting in the very bottom and back of my fridge, unopened since December.

Let’s start with the wine unadulturated: color is a perfectly respectable straw yellow in the glass.  Perlage (that’s fancy wine talk for bubbles) is quite fine, which testifies to the stunning high quality-price-ratio that DMS delivers.

Yummy green apple and lemon on the nose – as well as a mild undertone of earthiness. Palate of self-same lemon and quince (which is an appley-pear taste, if you’ve never had a quince) with a crisp, refreshing acidity that bounces around your mouth and leaves you wanting another sip.  SUCH an incredible value for about $10.  Seriously.

Why is it that I adulturate this wine again?  I seem to consistently forget how good it is.  Don’t forget like I do, gentle reader!  Remember! Buy this wine!  Drink it every day!

Anyway, I’ve mixed the drinks – and the glass of straight wine is gone – so let’s move on to the mimosa.

Color is, well, obviously, orange.  OK, I’ll dispense with the traditional structure of a Scamp tasting, because if the nose on a mimosa doesn’t smell like orange then I don’t know what.

Oscar Sidenote: wow, Anne-Hathaway-Singing-At-The-Oscars-And-Doing-The-Wolverine-Thing? So unutterably hideous.  Upside, we then get to look at Dame Helen, who makes me want to dye my hair white.

Anyhow, DSM Brut makes a good mimosa – it brightens up the orange juice with all the lemon, and the sweetness of the orange makes the wine even more suck-down-able.

The poinsetta… is interesting.  Without the triple sec, the drink is painfully sour.  The triple sec takes the edge off, but there’s still a definite bitterness here.  I can definitely see this as a sharp contrast to a heavy holiday brunch, bracing after a night of caloric overindulgence.  As an independent cocktail, I can’t recommend it, and I like sour/bitter drinks (I’m famous in my family as the only one who can happily drink Campari).  If you’re planning your Boxing Day Brunch and wondering how to balance the homemade cinnamon rolls, cheesy egg & sausage strata, and leftover pumpkin pie, this might just be your ticket.  I’m not finishing it tonight, even though Anne and James Di are about as cloying as an entire pan of frosted baked goods.

The mimosa was gone in about as long it took for Cate Blanchette to lead us through the clips of makeup nominees.  Oh, Rick Baker.  I love effeminate straight men with pure white ponytails.

OK, Wine Scamp out – there’s some serious laundry yet to be folded up in here.  For true Oscar liveblogging and general awesomeness, check out Kari Anne Roy’s hilarious Haiku of the Day.  I aspire to her life on multiple levels.

grapes reviews wineries

Tasting Tablas Creek Tannat 2005

This poor wine – somehow, I have let it molder age in my cellar for what is probably WAY too long, but Tablas Creek built this thing, and they build them to last, my friends. Let’s see how it’s drinking. This post is being taped before a live studio audience. (At least, I think the cat is still alive. Granted, he has not moved in a while.)

The wine is Dark. Joseph Conrad Dark. Pink Floyd Dark. Pretty intense nose – hot (which means I can smell the alcohol) and dusty, with a generous note of pepper and some vague tobacco-ey hints. Wow, I may not have over-aged this. Cool. Crap, I should have opened it for a special occasion. Oh well.

Palate is pretty flat. Crap, I seem to have over-aged this. Cool, it didn’t ruin a special occasion.

But wait, Tablas Creek’s own vintage chart says this wine is in its early maturity! I guess I need to let it open up. Granted, it’s been in a glass for at least 30 minutes, but maybe that’s not enough for a 6 year old Tannat. OK, let’s cut to commercial information about Tannat.

Tannat is originally from the foothills of the Pyrenees, in southwest France. It’s a highly tannic grape, known for having lots of spice and dark, dark fruit. And spice. These days, the people who drink the hell out of Tannat are the Basques and… wait for it… Uruguayans. Yep, there is more Tannat grown in Uruguay than in France – in fact, one third of all wine made in Uruguay is Tannat. Random, huh? Now I know two things about Uruguay – 98% literacy rate and seriously suckers for Tannat.

Oh look! Wikipedia says that Basque settlers brought Tannat to Uruguay. OK, that makes sense. Shew.

Tasting wine again – yes, it’s opening up now. OK, good – I can be chagrinned about the lack of a party; that’s always a better thing to be bummed about than over-aging your wine.

One thing I can assure you: if you drink a generous helping of this wine with nothing in your stomach but spaghetti squash and chayote, you will probably have a headache in the morning. I’ll report back about that.

On the subject of food, this wine would be awesome with some of those Central Market truffles I finished two weeks ago. Also, it would be tasty with a big, thick steak or some duck or pate or other fat-rich plate of goodness. Even well aged, this wine is all about the tannins.

Finally, 90 minutes after pouring, getting that smooth plum and blackberry fruit on the palate. This is really coating, rich stuff – stick to your teeth kind of wine. And spice-er-iffic: LOTS of cigar box, pepper, herb and other earth scents on the nose now. Fuck, I love Tablas Creek. They ferment the shit out of some grapes, y’all.

Surely there is some decent chocolate somewhere in this house.

I’m not sure how easily you’ll run across this vintage in your average wine store, but if you happen to find the current vintage of Tablas Creek’s Tannat, know that it will age beautifully for at least 6 years, and that it’ll take a while to communicate all its flavors once you pour it into a glass. It runs about $25 per bottle – I got mine when I was part of the winery’s wine club – and is well worth the cash.

Austin Wine Shops events

Think, think, think…

Surprise! I’m leading a wine tasting in less than two weeks. I wonder what I remember about wine after 2 years of not really writing or reading much about it?


I was actually super-nervous about this, going down to Twin Liquors, which is a sponsor for the event, Hawthorne Montessori School’s Casino Night and Silent Auction. Barrett Nicholson, the GM of Wholesale for Twin, very kindly agreed to help me pick out the wines, and since I didn’t want to waste his time, I went down early to scope out the selection, which was excellent.  In the end, I picked all the wines myself with the help of The Really Nice Guy Behind The Counter Whose Name Might Be Bill – thus saving Barrett lots more time than either of us anticipated.

My working theme for this tasting is “Best Value Wines That Only Insiders Know About” – I may need some help tightening up that title – and the inspiration comes from periodic wine shopping trips I take with some girlfriends to Austin Wine Merchant on Saturdays when the store holds their wine tastings. My friends and I taste what’s on pour, and then I shop with/for them, helping them stock up their cellars with wines I know are good and that I know they’ll like. It’s mutually beneficial, because I get to shop for wine, which I love, without having to buy all the wine I love, which would put me in the poor house. And then my pals get the benefit of a personal wine buyer.

Wine can be such an effed-up business. There are so many variables that affect how a wine tastes, and you so rarely get to preview what the stuff is actually like. No, you have to plunk down $6-60 to see if that pretty rose with a heart on the label is even worth buying – imagine if that was the purchasing model for a pair of jeans or a book.

But if you have ever worked in the business, you learn a few predictors of quality. And if you have tasted lots and lots of wines (ahem), you also up your hit rate in imagining what a wine will taste like before you get it home.

Since I’ve been OUT of the business for so long (6 years now, but who’s counting?), I was particularly nervous about picking out the wines for next week’s tasting, because I was sure I wouldn’t recognize any of the brands and hot tickets any more. Imagine how my ego was soothed by 30 minutes of browsing in Twin’s wine stacks, recognizing old friends (wine, not people (though some wine makes me happier to see than some people, I admit)) and new efforts by producers I know I like. It was almost depressing, to see how far the business hasn’t come without me.

And I am supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-excited about this tasting, now! I picked out some really, really obscure wines that are HUGE values, and I will be researching them over the next week in hopes that their producers have some good stories to tell. I can’t WAIT to introduce 20 people to these 4 wines they’ve never heard of and would never pick out for themselves! Each costs about $10 and drinks like a bottle that costs at least twice that. That’s the kind of wine I’m most passionate about, if you were wondering – Really Cheap And Really Good.

Maybe I haven’t lost my mojo after all.