wine bars

House Wine Bar

A friend and I dined the other night at Casa de Luz, an awesome place to eat some delicious vegan fare.  After, we walked over to House Wine, a new-ish wine bar (I’ve been out of the wine bar scene for so long, it may be 2 years old for all I know) near Lamar and Barton Springs Road.  All I had with me was my phone, so pardon the grainy shots.

My friend ordered the Muscadet they were pouring, and that’s one of the things that should send you right down to this spot – they are pouring a Muscadet.  And multiple Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays and Rieslings and white blends and… well, 33 white wines and 43 reds.  And 5 or six sparklers, as well as some 6  sweet wines.  All the bottle prices are pretty reasonable, and basically any flight is $15.  If you like variety, and I know you do, gentle reader, this is your place.  Variety Central!  It’s like they opened it just for you!

I ordered a flight of three Malbecs: the Llama, Terra Rosa and Tomero.  All from Mendoza, all around $9 per glass.  The flight setup was very sensible, given that all wine is served at a bar for the patron to carry with her to a table.  I was there to socialize and not to scribble wine notes, so I don’t have tasting notes for you, but the Tomero was my favorite.  The other two were more tannic and might have been happier with food.  The Muscadet was really lovely, with tartness as arresting as a slap in the face from an old Southern lady.

Oh!  And Sundays they do a great deal in which they pour all the wines by the glass half-price, as long as the bottle’s already open (usually from the night before I bet). And they do wine cocktails!!! I love wine cocktails!  I’m going back just for the cheese plate and the wine cocktails.

What other things do Austinites care about in a wine bar?  Let’s see.  Big patio.  Dogs allowed on patio.  Street parking.  Probably gets crowded at the bar when it’s busy.  Minimal food but interesting cheese and chocolate. Good happy hours.  Go see them; I bet you’ll like it too.


wine bars

Wine Bar Espionage

The GroveOn my way home from work, there’s this new wine bar called The Grove, on Bee Caves Road just west of 360. It’s actually called a “wine bar and kitchen,” and its ALWAYS packed. Seriously. The place shares a strip mall with a Jimmy John’s, a nails place and a Reids cleaners, and when I drive by at 6 or 7 every weeknight, the parking lot is invariably full.

I turned into said parking lot to check things out last night, and snapped a few pics from my car, feeling like an unsophisticated Kinsey Millhone. I even went to the lengths of going inside to scope the place, and looked at the wine list though I did not have time to have a glass — we grouted the kitchen floor last night at Castle Scamp, an activity which I can not, dear reader, recommend to anyone for any reason.

There was a small bar with tables (packed), a restaurant floor of tables (packed) and a large outdoor patio (empty because we were expecting rain last night). The list offered about 10 flights that seemed to range from $11 to $16ish, and a long, extensive by the glass list on top of that, and a long bottle list on top of that. I did not get a look at the menu, but this is definitely worth investigating when I can finally shake the dust of home improvements from my heels and venture back into the world of wine again!

Have any of you been here? Is it a chain, or a local sensation? I’ve done no research, I admit, but I’m dying to know if this place is a gem or a gyp… discuss!

food & wine pairing reviews wine bars

Tasting Saint Cosme “Les Deux Albion” Cotes du Rhone 2005

Saint Cosme and listJeepers, it’s been a week since I stopped in to Vino Vino for a glass of wine to let stupid Austin traffic die down. VV is one of those places that make me really wish I lived closer to town. They have engaged, educated servers who provide a cozy experience for someone just wandering in by herself. The bar is dark, but with warm light spilling from lamps and bottles lining the walls. In another two months, when the Texas Heat of Death begins to really hit its stride, this place will be a cool, soothing godsend.

Plus, they’ve got a hell of a sense of humor. I had to try the Saint Cosme at $9 a glass because of the following description on the list:

“There is no reason to believe this wine isn’t made by elves… or gremlins, trolls or fairies for all one can find out about it on the internets. I’ll have to wing this one. This wine is 100% syrah or 50% syrah and 50% white clairette or the love sweat of rutting goat-gods which has been bottled by little, bitty people with their teeny tiny hands and shipped to us by winged squirrels.”

I mean, seriously – how do you NOT taste a wine written up like that?

I personally found it to present dusty, heady raspberry aromas, white pepper, slight truffle and some of that umami edge of aged cheese.

On the palate, it’s crispy with tannin on the edges with an ooey-gooey fruit center. This wine gets a tight grip on your lips and teeth and proceeds to spew all over your tongue with earth and brick-house raspberry goodness.

Saint Cosme labelMy bartender tasted it for the first time near where I was sitting, and I overheard her comment that the wine “smells like Jewish Christmas.”

I chose the country pate to go with my wine, despite the bartender’s recommendation of the “Portuguese gumbo” soup, and I probably should have gone with her idea. The pate was excellent, don’t get me wrong, but it was too rich for the Cotes du Rhone. Or rather, the wine’s tannins met their match with the fatty pate, but then the acidity just went crazy. It was much better when I added some red onion, capers, olive or a cornichon. I bet it would have been great with a thinly sliced tomato, too.

Vino Vino will open most everything on their shelves for a nominal fee, and their wine by the glass list is really unusual. They’re pouring a Franciacorta, a Dolcetto and a Corbieres, among other gems. Lots of wines you’ve probably never heard of, but all of them good.

events wine bars

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? 

reviews wine bars

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.

wine bars

My Local: Lake Travis Wine Trader

LTWTI taste a lot at Lake Travis Wine Trader: it’s close to my home, there’s a wide selection of wines, and they have lots of interesting tastings. I only really discovered it when I started this blog — when I had made the decision to write this thing, I couldn’t figure out how I would manage to taste enough wines to keep a blog filled up! I don’t drink wine every day, and I couldn’t even remotely afford to buy enough full bottles of interesting wine to keep me blogging regularly.

LTWT to the rescue! They offer more than 30 wines by the glass, and offer tasting portions of all of them. Their list changes pretty regularly, and they also offer six different flights of four wines each, if you want to taste wines against each other. I love tasting wines in flights — there’s something about the contrast of multiple wines that are similar but different that really makes me feel like I am tasting profoundly. I especially enjoy tasting similar varietals from different regions around the world: it’s so interesting how different soils, weather patterns and winemaking can make the same grape into such different wine.

wine bars

Viva Vino 100 Lakeway

Decided to try a new wine shop/bar last night, and hustled my scamp over to the Vino 100 in Lakeway, whose claim to fame is “100 wines under $25.” It’s in this little strip mall on 620 (what isn’t?), relatively easy to find, and pretty close to my house, if you’re wondering why my nose is always all up in the Lakeway shit.

I’m no posh Steiner Rancher, gentle reader; rather, Le Chateau du Scamp is in an extremely modest subdivision near Hamilton Pool. I was reflecting as I drove out into Lakeway yesterday evening that it’s all very well to live within one’s means, but it helps that one has Nice Places To Go so close to home.