Author Archives: scamp

Tasting Rene Barbier Mediterranean White NV

The clever folks at Good Cheap Vino clued me into the fact that Cost Plus World Market is having a white wine sale all month long.  As Jeff Lefevere at Good Grape writes in his post about World Market, it’s a good place to find decent, reasonably priced wine that is terribly likely to have a little class.  I don’t think they have the best deals in Austin, for the record, but this particular sale brought them down about a dollar a bottle lower than comparable stores… on most things.

Plus, I could bribe the toddler to stay in the cart while I stocked up with a small blue froggie.  (I’m virtually certain Specs does not stock bath toys. Hint, hint, y’all.)  And yes, I take my preschooler wine shopping.  How else is she going to learn?

So Good Cheap Vino was interested in the Bogle Chardonnay ($8.99), Pacific Rim Riesling ($9.99) and Hess Sauvignon Blanc ($11.99), among others – which definitely piqued my interest.  However, once I made one round (and with the family budget in mind), I set myself the challenge to “get down, girl, go ahead, get down.”  And whaddyaknow if I didn’t walk out of that store with 8 bottles of white for $60 (plus $3 for the above-pictured blue froggie. He goes “puff-puff-puff.” It’s pretty awesome.)

But the most exciting thing… do you want to know the MOST EXCITING THING?  The thing that will probably get me BACK to Cost Plus World Market, heaven help me?

Dude.  Dude.  This $3.99 Rene Barbier Mediterranean White.  It’s sick. I want to bathe in it.

And it’s only $3.99, SO I CAN AFFORD TO.

Lemon yellow in the glass. Lemon/granny smith nose, floral notes and a whiff of the seaside. Bright and lively on the palate with just a feint of sweetness before the refreshing lemon/lime flavors and the edge of the edge of petillance chase that off. Nice medium weight, and a respectably long finish of mineral and (hey, what a coincidence!) lemon peel. Really delicious. Yum.

Rene Barbier is a pretty respected winery in Spain (owned by the Ferrer family – they of Freixenet – since 1984), and from what I can tell their Mediterranean White (also comes in Rose and Red, btw) is Made For the USA.  Which, um, yeah – cool with me.  I’m going to drink the crap out of this wine over the summer.

The region spouting this tasty jooce is Catalunya, which is the most northeastern area of Spain, on the Mediterranean.  The grapes in the wine are a blend of Xarel-lo, Macabeo, and Parellada – all grapes used in Spain’s signature sparkling wine, Cava.

The alcohol level is higher than my other go-to summer wine, Vinho Verde, at around 11.5%.  Which is fine, since this is a lovely food wine – anything you can imagine squeezing lemon on will pair well with this.  And the food will soak up some of the alcohol you’ll have ingested when you realize that somehow you’ve drunk half a bottle all by yourself.

When you go get some – and I encourage you to do so in the next couple of weeks, before the price goes back up to $5.99 – please don’t buy it all.  I’m almost done with this bottle already.

Tasting Santo Cristo Garnacha 2008 Wine Blogging Wednesday #71

Here’s how it went, today at 5:50: “Hm, I guess while the kiddo is watching a special treat TV show before dinner, I’ll surf around wine blogs for a sec.

Wait, is it Wednesday?

Wait, isn’t there a WBW coming up?

Wait, is today the effing 16th?

GD it, I was going to drink that crisp white in the fridge tonight.

Hell.

Do I even have any Rhone varietals in the closet?

Cotes du Rhone, Morgon, Bourguiel… Oh!  I forgot about this little Garnacha.

Campo de Borja, cool.  $7.50, easy to open for no other reason than blogging.

Plus, that’s all I’ve got that works.

OK, let’s crack it open, snap a photo and get to writing.”

So I poured out a glass and got started 10 minutes before dinnertime.

This is a pretty little wine; purple in the glass, with ruby-red tints, it smells of raspberries and mint. Tart on the palate, with pepper and flavors of unripe blackberry now, as well as a hint of… tar?  Then the tannins come and chase everyone out of the room; the finish is pretty long, with cane berry flavors re-emergent and lingering.  A decent level of complexity for this wine I spent $7.50 on at Austin Wine Merchant, though more of a quaffing wine and less of a food wine, to my mind at least.

I am confident of the latter statement because I happened to make barbecued chicken thighs, anasazi beans and baked sweet potato fries tonight for dinner, which was, I thought, fortuitous.  I like Rhone varieties with barbecue flavors – Syrah especially, of course – but Spanish Garnacha can be so heavily extracted that they can sometimes pull off that sweet fruit/charred notes match.

With the Santo Cristo, though, the barbecue sauce on the chicken really brought out the tarry notes in the wine.  Maybe if there were more acidity in the wine to offset the tomato… but the creamy sweet potatoes and beans didn’t match very well either.  If I knew then what I know now about this wine, I’d put it with a fattier meal, like a grilled sirloin, or maybe just not tricky-dick barbecue sauce.

Garnacha is my ticket in to Wine Cast’s Wine Blogging Wednesday #71 because it is the Spanish version of Grenache, that staple grape of the Southern Rhone.  Grenache/Garnacha is a high-producing vine that is known for its spice, ample berry fruit and high sugars (which translate to high alcohol).  When the Spanish vinify their really old, old vines, however, the resulting Garnacha wine bears only superficial resemblance the French Grenache.

OK, so this is probably my worst WBW post ever.  I did not plan, so I have not had time (had people over this evening after I got the kid to sleep, and it’s late – for me at least – now) to really research the producer or write a cogent breakdown of the region or the grape. I really like the Campo de Borja region for wines that drink way above their price tag, just so you know.  And I am in favor of Rhone varieties wheresoever they are planted.

Drink Garnacha.

Scamp out.

Wine Flour? Wine Flour!

I was listening to a KCRW Good Food podcast today and heard about this new (to me at least) product called wine flour. This company Vinifera For Life out of Canada makes it – and has been doing so since 2006 – so it’s not like this is breaking news, just to be fair.  But now this firm called Marche Noir makes food for sale using wine flour made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, including brownies and pasta.

Wine flour is made from the grape skins and seeds (sometimes called pomace) that are left over from wine making; Vinifera for Life sources its product from the Niagara wine region in Canada.  You may recall me mentioning that most of the taste of a wine comes from the grape’s skin; grape skins are where polyphenols like tannic acid, anthocyanins and flavenoids live, and winemakers generally get those compounds into wine by crushing grapes and letting the juice extract flavor and color for a period of a couple days (in the case of rose) to a couple weeks (in the case of red wine).  One of the most famous polyphenols in wine is called resveratrol, which is famous for its anitoxidant properties and other reputed health benefits.

It’s the health benefits of resveratrol that has been garnering a lot of internet interest in wine flour.  I confess that my interest is more from a taste perspective: I keep thinking about what one could do with a pasta that tastes like Cabernet Sauvignon.  My favorite notion is a blue cheese alfredo sauce with toasted walnuts; blue cheese and walnuts are great together and are also great with Cabernet.  Other interesting pairings might include shredded duck breast tossed with cabernet pasta… what do you think? How would you prepare the perfect dish of cabernet pasta?

Unfortunately, I have yet to be able to talk myself into paying $8 for the pound of pasta and another $8 for shipping it to lovely Austin, Texas from California.  I can’t find a local producer of wine flour pasta, and I confess that I am too lazy/busy to make my own.  So I guess I’ll have a lot of time to kick around recipe ideas in my head… until I get over my cheapness, or Whole Foods decides to pick up Marche Noir’s fascinating new products. (hint, hint)  If you’ve tried something made with wine flour, or worked with it yourself, I’d love to hear about it!

Tasting Zolo Bonarda 2009

Honestly, I don’t know how this bottle even got into my cellar.  It looks like something I would buy; (1) it’s Argentinian, so reasonably priced, (2) interesting grape and (3) just plain fun to say.  Heh, kidding on number three.  I don’t buy wines because they’re fun to say.  Much.

Bonarda is a super-prevalent grape in Argentina and nowhere much else.  In California, it’s called Charbono but doesn’t enjoy the same level of popularity. Bonarda (or Charbono) is used generally as a blending grape due to its ink-dark color and intense tannins.

Evidently Argentina is experimenting with single-variety Bonarda wines. Cool! Zolo is a wine brand made by Finca Patagonias; they mostly do Tapiz, and describe themselves as “one of the most technological wineries in Argentina.” Which, totally not trying to be condescending here, cracks me up.  That usually tells me that they’ve got solid grapes, maybe always have, and now focus on the science of making large quantities of stable, crowd-pleasing wines. Fair enough.

The color is all Heart of Darkness, all the time in the glass.  The nose is pretty hot, with stewed blackberries, jammy jam and dusty earth notes.  The palate is spare – prunes are hanging around, and there are certainly tannins, but there’s also enough acidity to keep them from waking the baby.  And then there’s that smoky, toasty, don’t-call-me-fruity-or-I’ll-punch-you finish.  Something about this wine makes me think of… leather.  Not black leather, as the color would lead you to believe, but the dark brown leather of good riding boots.

All the dark tones of this little goth number make me think of what to pair it with.  Duck confit? chocolate coated pepper steak? boiled leather aux herbes?  Actually, the chocolate isn’t far off the mark – I snuck some dark chocolate chips out of the freezer, and they’re a hit.  But the smokiness of this wine makes it an excellent wine to go with my husband’s favorite food… Texas barbecue.  Yep, 12-hour smoked beef brisket would totally make out with this Bonarda.  They can get all intense and philosophical together, and talk about how they hate their parents.  It’s a date.

 

The best money you’ll hardly notice spending on wine paraphernalia

I was talking last weekend to someone (at our incredibly successful fundraiser, in fact; thanks to all who attended and gave!) about champagne and sparkling wine and how much we both love it. This is no secret to anyone who knows me – I am a fiend for the bubbly. Anonymous Nice Wine Lover Lady and I were in the same boat as far as number of wine drinkers in our homes – that number being one, each – and she was expressing regret at how it was so difficult to find good sparkling wine in splits, etc.

And I was all, dude! Champagne stoppers will change your life! And she was polite about it but possibly didn’t understand the part about Changing Her Life, but she will, if she ever gets a champagne stopper.

This cheap little apparatus is a rubber stopper with hinges, and it clamps onto the top of your only-just-touched bottle of bubbly to keep it fresh and sparkly for days! Days, gentle readers! Days of drinking a beautiful, petillant, refreshing, goes-with-any-food glass of the good stuff.

No one can be sad when they’re drinking champagne, unless it’s flat. A decent champagne stopper is like your frugal bubbly wingman. Get you one, and never cry again.

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.

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.