Austin Wine Shops events

Amazing Austin Tasting Alert for 3/30/2011

If you are in Austin and happen to be free between 4 and 6 pm today, I highly recommend you go to Austin Wine Merchant and taste wines from Tablas Creek.  I will not be able to attend, alas!  But everything Tablas Creek does is phenomenal, and you will not regret the expenditure of time.  Winemaker Tommy Oldre, will be there – ask him about his trip to Chateau de Beaucastel last year.

AWM tastings are awesome, anyway.  And they discount the wines they’re pouring, usually.  Which, FYI, is not to be sneezed at when you’re tasting Tablas Creek wines – they’re not ruinously expensive by a long shot, but they are high of quality and priced fairly given that fact.

Oh!  And I just noticed… dude.  Dude.  They’re going to pour the Esprit de Beaucastel Rouge 2008.  (expletive)   That is some gen-you-wine premium juice, Austin.  If you can possibly manage it, get your wine drinking self to this tasting, my friends.  And then tell me what you thought!   You don’t mind me living vicariously through you, right?  Awesome.

Austin Wine Shops regions reviews wineries

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.

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.