Scenic Root Wine Growers Tasting

Friday, 11/11/16, night at Wine Country Bottle Shop, we hosted a tasting showcasing some wines I have fallen in love with over the last two years. The Textbook and Forager wines. Forager is a more recent crush but I’ll been really into the Textbook wines for a while. We wanted to show everyone what Jonathan and Susan Pey are capable of while producing a range of wines that can appeal to any wine drinker. Who are these two and why should you know them?

Jonathan has lived, learned, and worked with some of the industry’s biggest names and leaders. He’s gotten to work with Domaine Louis Jadot in France, Robert Mondavi, Schramsberg, Penfolds in Australia, and even some Bordeaux chateaux. Susan comes from the service side of the industry and works as Wine Director for a large Bay Area restaurant group. Both are a huge part of what makes these wines great.

Initially it was the Textbook wines that really caught my attention because of their Merlot. I constantly preach about Merlot being overlooked and bastardized when the truth is that it is a phenomenal grape. I really pay attention to a winery that produces a Merlot that is just as well constructed as their Cabernet. Textbook definitely does it. So any project of theirs, I’m pretty much all in.


So what did we taste? We tasted though the 2014 Forager Chardonnay, 2014 Forager Pinot Noir, 2014 Textbook Chardonnay, 2013 Textbook Merlot, 2014 Textbook Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2013 Textbook “Mise En Place” Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon. Here’s what I thought:

Forager Chardonnay, Los Carneros, Sonoma 2014 $23

Nose: Fresh cut apples, a little bit of lemon peel, and some baking spices

Taste: Stone fruit, sharp apple flavors, medium + acidity, and checked baking spice

This is a great Chardonnay to have pair with since the oak isn’t as prominent. It does have some extra zip with the acid so it’s perfect for fish or a fruit and cheese plate.

Textbook Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2014 $25

Nose: Baked apples and baking spice

Taste: Sweet brûléed apples, fresh cut Granny Smith apples, lots of baking spices, medium acidity

Here’s more of “textbook” Napa Valley Chardonnay. It drinks easy with more weight than the Forager. It has much more New World characteristics.

Forager Pinot Noir, Sonoma 2014 $26

Nose: Cherry, cola, pipe tobacco, and slight decay

Taste: Cherries and cola come through, medium + acidity, French Oak hints on the back end

This shows a lot of the Burgundy experience Jonathan Pey has while retaining its California fruit. It drinks the way a Pinot Noir from the area should without being an over extracted fruit bomb.

Textbook Merlot, Napa Valley 2013 $25

Nose: Blackberry bramble, briar, vanilla

Taste: Black fruit, blackberry, sweet vanilla tobacco, medium bodied, medium + tannin, medium acidity

I love this wine. The fruit is balanced with the spice and body. The tannins won’t let you forget you are drinking it. This is a steak wine all day long.

Textbook Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2014 $31

Nose: Blackberry jam, currants, tobacco

Taste: Black currants, vanilla oak, medium + tannin, full bodied

The fruit pops a lot more on this Cabernet than the Merlot. Not in a sweet way, it’s just much more forward and works in tandem with vanilla spice from the oak. The tannins are big but very well integrated. Velvety smooth.

Textbook “Mise en place” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2013 $73

Nose: Blackberry, blueberry, briar, dark chocolate 

Taste: Dark chocolate, black currant, medium + tannin, full bodied

Mise en place is probably one of my favorite phrases. It is a French culinary phrase that means “everything in it’s place” which can apply to just about anything in life. In my opinion, in this situation it’s a reference to where this wine comes from. Mise en place’s grapes are sourced from areas right next to Screaming Eagle, To-Kalon, and Paradigm. It’s a massive wine in flavor with an elegant density. The tannins are big and fine. It’s like they are constantly tapping you on the shoulder saying “remember me? I’m still here.” The alcohol was really in check when I tasted it because it had been double decanted 3 times. And y’all, it still could have used another hour or so in the decanter. The wine will hold up for years and would be a great gift for a collector. If you have the patience to hold it, try to for atleast 4 years. 

It was really fun and a great experience to taste all of these wines together. I have tasted them separately over the last year or so but it was really interesting to have them side by side. I’d urge you to try any one of these that tickles your fancy. Look for more tastings at the bottle shop coming up! 

(Prices included in this article are an estimation and not exact) 

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You’re Over Thinking It

Don’t get me wrong, I love it when someone is really interested in wines or spirits that I’m vibing on. I love the conversation and comradery that take place in the moment. As someone who spends majority of my free time studying and working on my personal knowledge of the beverage universe, it’s validating in a way. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. 

We, as wine and spirit professionals, spend an enormous amount of time on education. We obsess and pour over every bit of written word or fruit liquid we can get our hands on so that we can properly assess and satiate your appetite. You don’t need to spend all of your time researching the best value red and white wine that won’t destroy your bank account because you have a party coming up. You don’t need to stress about the expensive bottle of whiskey you are getting your boss for Christmas this year. Should you use Roederer Estate or Torre Oria Cava for your Mimosas? I say you don’t have to do this, because we have already done the work for you. 


Personally, I’ve tasted a lot of wine I thought was great but the price didn’t match or it was too niche and I didn’t have anyone in mind that I could have introduced it to. We even use a grid format in tasting to make sure the wine is balanced and not flawed. Some are more sophisticated than others but I like the WSET level 3 grid for wine tasting. You don’t always have to use the grid but in a professional sense, it creates a good structure for building muscle memory when it comes to breaking down wines of all price points and regional specificity. If I can find a $18 wine that drinks like a $40, then I’ve done my job. Consistency is the only way I can accomplish that. 


It takes time for us to learn how to decipher what a customer really wants that comes in and says, “What’s your best red wine for $20?” The amount of questions that spew from my mouth when I hear that is me trying to figure out what you like and don’t like. There are a ton of incredible wines from $18-25 and the process is all about getting you what you want. There’s no quick, “This is the best $20 wine you’re looking for. Have a good day” response. I’m not trying to talk over you at all, I just want you to get your $20’s worth. In most cases, we can read between the lines and see that you don’t care about which AVA your Chardonnay comes from, you just want it build for spend and to work for the money. Then that, is an easy answer. 

Good servers, great bartenders, proven wine shop associates, and sommeliers don’t do well or last long without a thirst for more knowledge. If it makes a diner’s experience in the restaurant better or a customer that trusted us to pick out wine for Supper Club not worry about that aspect of hosting, then we’ve done our job. 

Now, if you are really interested in our areas of interest then, by all means, read and research your heart out. The beverage industry if full of areas of interest and you can spend a lifetime studying it and never hit everything. Hell, I’m happy to sit and talk wine, whiskey, cocktails, or pairings with you all day. No beverage is off topic.  

When to Cellar: Worth the Wait?

After spending a significant amount of time in wine cellars this week, it had me thinking about cellar management on a large and small scale. Most of my friends have small wine racks in their kitchen rather than 200 bottle cellars but are they using it correctly? Here are a few, easy guidelines for people that buy wine to drink now or have a few special bottles and are looking to start collecting.

First of all, it’s important to know that just because it’s wine that doesn’t mean it’s will be better in 5 years. How do you know that without being a sommelier or a hobbiest oenophile? Easy. If you spent less than $20 or it has a screw cap(also know as a Stelvin enclosure), it’s meant to be drunk within a year or two max. Here’s why: at under $20 it’s usually meant to be consumed immediately. You wouldn’t pay $50 for something you intended on drinking every single day. If you can, that’s awesome and good for you. With the screw cap, the enclosure itself doesn’t allow the wine to age at the same rate as a cork. There are a few higher end wineries that have gone to all screw caps but most that you will encounter in the local wine market are meant to be enjoyed now.

Next, if you’re going to collect wine, you need to have a place to store it. My suggestion is a cool, dark place like the corner of your closet at least until you can get a wine refrigerator. A rack on your kitchen counter isn’t for wines you are saving for a special occasion. It’s for wines you want to drink on Thursday. With all the fluorescent and natural light as well as the varying temperature due to sunlight and cooking, it could damage the wine. When aging wine, you need to know what wine needs to do that. It’s a consistent temperature and little to no light exposure. Whether you plan to have it on your first anniversary or you fifth, wine needs consistency in storage.

When you do finally make the decision to get a temperature controlled wine refrigerator, you’ll need a system. I think one of the easiest systems is the rubber band system. It’s easy. All you have to do is put a rubber band on the neck of bottles you are saving or that are more expensive so that you and everyone else that has access to you selection knows that those aren’t to be touched. It’s so easy because no matter how many bottles you’ve had, you can always feel that rubber band when you reach for the next bottle.

These are laws but they will for sure help you get started in you wine pursuits.

Patricia Green Sauvignon Blanc, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Oregon isn’t necessarily known for it’s Sauvignon Blanc. When you think of that varietal, your mind usually wonders to New Zealand, France, or even Napa Valley. Oregon is world famous for their Burgundian styles of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Through what we’ll call research, sharing a bottle or two with some friends in the wine biz, I found out that before the great Oregon Pinot craze there were actually a lot of Sauvignon Blanc planted. Pinot Noir got popular and they pulled a lot of it Sauv Blanc out and replanted the Pinot. Thankfully we have producers like Patricia Green.


Patricia Green is a pretty well respected name in Oregon Pinot Noir. She makes many single vineyard Pinot Noirs that are a bit pricey but definitely well worth it to anyone who is a fan of the region. But we’re not here to talk about her Pinots. This Sauvignon Blanc blew my mind.

On the nose, it has the most beautiful tropical skittles fragrance. Dead serious. No grapefruit or green bell pepper. Full notes of passion fruit and kiwi.

Those flavors come through on the palate perfectly. Acidity is very present so that the sugar-sense of all those rich fruits don’t over power the mouth-feel. Most of the time, a wine with this profile will fool you into thinking it’s sweet. That is definitely not the case here. Fresh, fruity, and crisp are the only things you’ll be able to think about in regards to the finish. That and wondering how many bottles you’ll be able to keep.

It’s great wine to pair with humidity, which we have plenty of around here in Shreveport, Louisiana. Also try it with arugula based salads, your favorite sushi roll or shellfish.

2013 Bovio “Il Ciotto” Barbera D’Alba, Italy

I’m slowly becoming acquainted with Italian wines. In the past I would just tell you all Italian wines taste like band-aids, are way too dry, and have too much acidity. Slowly I’ve come to the see the beauty that is Italian wine. Still, I consider Italy to be my weakest subject in the wine world. That being said, I do take every opportunity I can to taste and learn about the region. Speaking of, check out this one:

  
Bovio “Il Ciotto” is a Barbera. That’s the grape varietal. As of 2000, it is the 3rd most planted grape varietal in Italy.  D’Abla means “of Alba” which is an grape growing area in Italy. You may have seen this Italian regional terminology on Moscato d’Asti bottles. That means it is a Moscato from Asti. Now that we’ve all passed Geography, on to the juice.

On the nose, this Barbera smells like the gooey filling of a cherry tart with a hint of Thyme. Drinking this wine is an adventure. Starting with an attack bright acidity, its quickly followed by cherry and pomegranate, lightly herby, and a rustic-tannic finish. Rustic because it’s not velvety but the balance on this thing is incredible. Acid, dryness, and texture. Bovio hit through the cycle on this one.

It’s $20 and a great bottle to have with pizza or seared duck breast.

How to Wine: 5 Tips for Winning at Wine Tastings

I know that everyone has a preference when it comes to wine. Beverages of choice are such a personal thing that some people have spent years tracking down and honing in on. But what are you missing out on? It blows my mind that some people will pass on tasting a wine because it’s white and not red or vice versa. It almost boils down to economics: you either paid for the tasting or it’s free so by extension , you’re wasting time and money by not tasting everything on the table!  I like to make lists. Here’s 5 tips for getting the most out of your wine tasting experience:    1) Don’t jack with your ability to taste or smell before a tasting. That means save the cologne/perfume for after, don’t brush your teeth and use mouthwash that could dissolve rust from a power tool and wait for the ride home to hot box your car with those cowboy killer cigs. All of those things mess with your ability to accurately taste wine. I know the six people around you would probably appreciate you not trying to cover up whatever you just smoked with a gallon of Bath and Bodyworks finest Pear-Berry scent.    2) Treat it as an opportunity to learn, not as a free pre-game happy hour. Respect the tasting and the time and education of the person pouring for you. Having hosted many tasting myself, there’s a reason we don’t fill the glass up Amy Schumer style. It’s a tasting… If it’s free, that means the house is paying for you to taste that wine. If it’s a paid tasting, that means the house is REALLY paying for the wines they open and pour for you. Ask questions, listen, and pay attention. A lot of times the person pouring wine for you is not from the town you’re in and probably flew or drove in to work that tasting. That being said, It’s totally ok to ask to revisit a wine if you’re on the fence about it. But don’t ask for another shot of wine 5 times. We know what you’re up to.    3) Strike up a conversation with wine pro that’s pouring. They know more wines than the few they are pouring and can probably help you find something if you’re not digging what they are sampling. These people live wine. They study, research, and obsess over wine. They are valuable to you and want you to find something to sip on today.    4) Leave what you think you know about wine at the door and taste with an open mind. Don’t write off a Pinot Noir because you “aren’t into them.” Belle Glos is a completely different Pinot Noir than La Crema. Don’t assume any wine tastes the same because they are the same varietal. And seriously, taste all the damn wines. I get you may not like white wine but this one could be the one that changes your mind. If you hate it, pour it out. That’s why we have dump buckets on the tasting tables. Also, for the record, alcohol abuse isn’t actually something you can get in trouble for outside of college.    5) Never pass up an opportunity to taste. Whether wine is something you’re interested in or not, you are expanding your palate. Tasting more teaches you and your brain to process and differentiate flavors better. It’s not like staying in a Holiday Inn Express or anything but it gives you a better understanding of what you like and don’t like.

How to Wine: But First…

One of my absolute favorite pastimes is sitting at a friend of mine’s house while we drink wine and talk about how to change the world or at least up the game. I think I always leave feeling empowered to do great things. And that’s the wine talking.

Last time we had this dinner/wine/infant fest(that’s people, in your late 20’s slash early 30’s, all of your friends seem to have babies), I started thinking about the wines we drank and how I wished we had opened the second bottle before the first. What does it matter, you ask? We drank the bigger wine first and made the second kind of subdued. Then I thought to myself, “Hey! Maybe some people want to know more about the order you should taste(or drink) wine!” And that’s brought us together today.

Believe it or not, there is a method to our wine-ness. The very basic rule of thumb is lightest to heaviest. We’re talking density here, not color. Most of the time you’d want to drink white wines before reds. Unless it’s sweet. Sugar will destroy your palate and add a sweetness to EVERYTHING else you taste. Sometimes it can make a rustic, earthy wine seem much fruitier than it is. Then, after you finish that wine, you’ll still have no idea what it really tastes like.

So here we are at fun dinner at a friends house and we’ve got 4 wines. A nice Cali Pinot Noir, a bold Cabernet, a crisp Pinot Grigio and a jammy Zinfandel blend. What to do, what to do?

wine-tasting

Uhhh…. Wait, what?

Start with your Pinot Grigio. Typically they zesty and fresh with a light body. Easy drinking and gets you loosened up for some serious wino-ing. Next should be the Pinot Noir. These are the delicate flowers of the wine world. (Well, unless you’re drinking the super big ones like the Belle Glos Pinots) These tend to be lighter, fruiter reds with a very smooth finish.

Now here’s the real dilemma : Cabernet first or Zinfandel blend. They are both bigger wines than the first two. But which is the biggest? Go Cabernet first. Usually they have an elegant style with big red fruits and a slightly dry finish. Most of the time it’s a toss up on the depth of a wine unless you’ve had it before. You’re not going to ruin anything if you’re wrong. I promise. Go with your gut. Or whichever label is the most brutal.

Finish up with the Zin blend. They are famous for rich, jammy fruit and usually have a grape like Petite Sirah, Petite Verdot, or even Merlot or Cab to bulk it up so that it has a huge mouth feel.

Other good rules:

If you buy and really nice, more expensive wine you’ve been eyeing, drink that first or second. As you drink more, the alcohol takes effect and your palate gets worn out. You won’t be able to taste everything that it’s showing you.

Having a bigger red at the end? Go ahead and open it up early so it can breath a bit. Oxygen can really open up a wine that’s not quite ready yet. That means more bigger fruit, complexity, and depth. I mean who has years to wait on wine to be ready, I’m ready now dammit!

Truly, you should always drink what ever wine you want, what ever way you want, when you want. Keep an open mind though, you never know what you’ll find.

As always if you have any questions, shoot me an email at beardandbarrel@gmail.com and follow me on Facebook and Twitter for new posts.