2018 Sean Minor 4B Pinot Noir, California

Pinot Noir. It’s the most finicky grape in the game. It has thin skin and is very hard to grow. It has a specific temperature it likes and will throw a temper tantrum if it isn’t right. I always like finding value bottles of this varietal where I can.

Sean Minor Wines is a modern brand that doesn’t own any vineyards. That’s not uncommon these days. But what is, is the choice Sean Minor Wines to only work with sustainable farms out of California and Oregon. Real estate in wine growing regions is expensive so working with farms can be a win win.

The 4B or “Four Bear” is part of their California series that’s meant to reflect the terroir of California, have a broad appeal, and be in an everyday price bracket. As a parent, I love where the name 4B comes from. Originally the brand was called Four Bears because of the husband and wife owner’s children. They have three sons and one daughter. Not to mention when they would do tastings to pick what would be in the bottle, their daughter said it was like watching Goldilocks taste porridge trying to find the one that’s just right.

Photo courtesy of http://www.seanminorwines.com

This was exactly what I expected from a California Pinot Noir. It was bright with full red fruit nose. On the palate it’s medium bodied(lighter weight) with cola, cherries and strawberries. Super soft on the finish. As far as pairings go, we had it with turkey sloppy joes and it was great! Also try it out with burgers or pizza.

Typically, this wine will run you $15-17 a bottle.

5 Favorite Patio Pounders Under $20| March 2017

Patio pounders. I love that phrase. It describes a group of wines I am completely in love with. The phrase is in reference to a sect of crisp wines, usually white wines, that are light in body and high in acid. If that sounds weird to you, then think about lemonade. It’s light and extremely high in acidity. It’s perfect for quenching your thirst on a hot Louisiana summer day. That’s what I’m talking about.

Usually, my favorites aren’t from around here. I’m a fan of Spanish, French, and Portuguese white wines in beautiful weather like this. California, Oregon, and Washington do make some great summertime wines. Most of the time I gravitate towards different styles but there are exceptions. Here are 5 Patio Pounders you need to know about(please note, I purposely didn’t include any roses so I could showcase some great white wines):


Broadbent Vihno Verde, Portugal. We just tasted this one out last week at the bottle shop and it was a huge hit. Super fresh, high acid, and just a hint of effervescence made it popular with everyone. It doesn’t have a vintage because its literally just built to drink fresh. “Vihno Verde” actually translates to “green grape.” Like young green not under-ripe green. Being $11 doesn’t hurt anything either.

Jo Landon La Louvetrie Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Loire Valley, France 2015. If you are eating raw oysters in France, this is the juice you should be drinking. Muscadet often gets confused with Moscato but hey, we all make mistakes. This drinks with zesty lime citrus and a slightly oily texture. Beautiful when paired with salty oysters. $17

Leitz “Dragonstone” Riesling, Rheingau, Germany 2015. You’re judging me for a riesling. Most people don’t know that riesling is actually one of the most versatile grapes out there. It can be super sweet, slightly sweet, dry, or bone dry. This little gem is dry with flavors of white peach, lots of minerality, and a boat load of acidity. It drinks smooth and doesn’t sit heavy. Try it with wasabi drenched sushi and thank me later. $19.99

Tuck Beckstoffer Wines 75 Sauvignon Blanc, California 2015. I know I usually like to drink European white wines but this one was just darn delightful. Citrusy with a tad of grapefruit and maybe something tropical like kiwi with a dry finish. Great Cali juice. $16

Domitia Picpoul de Pinet, Lanquedoc, France 2015. My first love in the patio pounding category. Drinks like a dream and doesn’t break the bank at $14. Zippy acidity and sharp apple-lime flavors. Perfect for Manchego or a cloth bound cheddar. These are built to be drank young so don’t be shy.

These are fun wines and affordable. Try them on your favorite patio or porch while the weather is delightful.

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) 

An Accidental Dinner With Arcadian Wines

When I woke up on Wednesday morning, I wasn’t expecting Wednesday night to end the way it did. I had my weekly meeting at work with the owner and other managers to discuss the last week’s numbers and a plan going forward through the rest of this week. After starting the day off and moving through the rest of it, I managed to get invited to a meeting where one of my wine reps was going to showcase some Arcadian wines at Lucky Palace with Kuan Lim. I had to accept.

  

What you need to know: Arcadian Winery was started by Joe Davis and is known throughout the wine world for making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in California that could easily be mistaken for the holy grail of those variteals, Burgundy. He started working for California’s Morgan Winery and then went on to work for Domaine Dujac in Burgundy before Arcadian. When he returned to the United States, he brought back with him the methods of the world renown Burgundian wine making philosophies. Now we have Arcadian. Back to dinner.

Now, I’ve had many of the Arcadian wines before and I’ve really liked them. But these were different. Older vintages of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that are consider “library wines.” 2008’s and 2009’s. That may not seem like that old with those 2009 and 2008 Cabernets held in such high esteem, but most people will turn the other cheek when they see a 2008 Chardonnay on the shelf that’s not from Burgundy or some Cali producer like Far Niente. 

These Chardonnays… Were intensely delicious. The “Seirra Madre” Chardonnay saw 3 years in French oak and the “Sleepy Hollow” saw over 4! I was completely wrong in my thinking about what the oak would do. I thought it would’ve created these oaky monsters but what it did was make a soft around the edges, creamy Chardonnay with subtle but very present oak. Joe Davis refers to this as the “boomerang effect” where the oak hits its peak after a certain time and then eases back up on the oak flavors as time goes on. It’s all about finding the sweet spot.

  
The 2009 “Sierra Madre” with 3 years of oak had an earthiness on the nose that reminded me of some mustier older French wines I’ve tasted. The drinkability of this wine was way too easy. Spiced apples, balanced acidity, and a creamy finish.

  
The 2008 “Sleepy Hollow” had to be my favorite. 4 years in French oak(which Joe actually goes to France every year to pick out his trees for barrels) completely changed this one. The nose was completely different and had multiple layers of spice and stone fruit on it. It honestly reminded me of Puligny-Montrachet. Very elegant and firm.

Next we had the Pinot Noirs: 2008 Santa Lucia Highlands and 2008 “Gold Coast Vineyards” from Santa Maria. These areas are already my favorite in California for Pinot Noir so I was beyond stoked.

The Santa Lucia Highlands was, in my opinion, the most Burgundian of the 2. It has bright cherries, big acid, and just a touch of forest floor on it. This is truly a Pinot that you could blind taste a Burgundy enthusiast and they would not be able to tell a it was actually Californian.

The “Gold Coast Vineyard” truly captivated me. It’s so rich without being boastful. It has the elegance and grace of a red Burgundy and the flare of perfectly picked California fruit. The mouthfeel is full and bursting with Bing cherry, light tobacco spice, and an exacted balance of acidity to fruit to body.

  
I want to thank Kuan Lim and Brian Gibbons for letting me join in on the tasting. It wastrels a learning experience and would suggest any one of these wines to Burgundy drinkers as well as loyal California drinkers.

2014 Scholium Project Steverjan Pinot Gris, California

  
Everyone thinks of Pinot Gris as Pinot Grigio. Genetically, yes similar. The names look pretty close, yes. But different beasts and each is their own.

This one though… Take everything you know about Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, and Rosé and just throw it out the window. I mean it’s freakin’ orange. Would we call this orangé? 

Rosé is made by allowing the juice to ferment in contact with the grape skins. The amount of time the skins are in dictates how pink or red the wine will be. Since Pinot Gris grapes have an orange, rusty hue to them… They make it orangé.

Flavor wise, it’s very hibiscus, spice and fresh. It has a interesting tannin structure to it. You don’t really see rosés or white wines with that much detectable tannin. 

Drinking this is a geek fest. It negates everything you’ve studied about and poses new questions you never thought you ask about this varietal. Maybe it is the excitement of not being able to preemptively figure out what it’s going to taste like.

Great job Abe Schoener.

2013 Zocker Grüner Veltliner, Edna Valley, California

  

I know what you’re thinking… “What the Hell is Grüner Veltliner and why am I looking at it?”

Grüner Veltliner is a special wine to me. It was one that stumped me when I first started in this industry and my customer basically made fun of me for not knowing what it was. “Never. Again.” I told myself.

So this is a type of wine that is generally from Austria, not “give me a coat bro” not “Guhday mate.” Not normally from Edna Valley, Cali, but we’ll take it. Zocker Grüner Veltliner, which is 91 points from Wine Enthusiasts, is pretty close to Austrian style but has a little something different. It smells like a dry Riesling but reminds me a lot of super acidic stainless steel chardonnay. Lots of bright lemon zest, straw flavor and green apple with a dry, acidic finish. Great with spicy foods like crawfish. Say “Hell yeah” Louisiana for something else to make our food more delicious… As if we needed help with that.

For around $20 a bottle, give it try if you’re into dry summer whites and even some village level Chablis.

2011 Joseph Jewell Halberg Vineyard Pinot Noir

  

I’ve always refered to Pinot Noir as the great red wine equalizer. It’s not too heavy for someone who likes lighter style reds and it’s not to light(depending on the producer) for the crowd that digs the heavy set wines like Cabernet or Merlot. Accessibility is how I would pitch them. Normally I throw out wines the are in an everyday range($9-19 per bottle), but every now and then you need to treat yo self. 

Joseph Jewell has multiple single vineyard Pinots that all have their own character. (Single Vineyard means that the grapes that make up the wine come from 1 vineyard in 1 place from 1 area in 1 county in 1 state from 1 country) I had the opportunity to taste the Russian River Valley’s Halberg Vineyard Pinot Noir. 

Nose: flint, eucalyptus, cherry tart, wet stone

Palate: very elegant, finessed fruit, cherry with a slight minerality and balanced but with a slightly higher acidity and a light-medium body

This is a total gem at about $55 a bottle. Although, I don’t think this wine is for everyone. Pinot Noir enthusiasts would fall in love with this very small 147 case production wine. Now I’m not talking about the Wagner Family wine drinkers of Belle Glos or Meiomi Pinot Noirs. I’m talking about your Morgan single vineyard drinkers or Arcadian out of Santa Lucia Highlands. 

Cline Cellars Tasting

Yesterday I was able to sit down with the regional rep for Cline Cellars. Now, a lot of people know Cline because of red blend called Cashmere. Cashmere has kind of been the iconic Cline wine in this area of Louisiana over the last couple of year. It’s a blend of mainly Mourvedre(53%), Syrah(25%), and Grenache(23%). Cashmere is so named because of how silky, smooth it is. It absolutely lives up to the name. It also is a wine with a cause. Fred and Nancy Cline have donated over $270,000 to breast cancer research and have an active partnership with Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

Since I’ve sold Cashmere for years, I was looking forward to tasting some of the other wines I’d never had. I was very pleasantly surprise at their drinkability and value.

ClineLineup

First off, lets take Rosé. It’s made from Mourvedre and is part of their “Ancient Vines” series because the vines have been producing fruit for 80-100 years. Super impressive for it’s price point. It has balance to the extreme. Beautiful acid structure complemented with fresh strawberry. This little ditty definitely falls into the Patio Pounder category. For around $10, it’s tough to beat.

Cline also makes a pretty tasty Pinot Noir as well as a Chardonnay. The grapes for both are Estate Grown in Sonoma. Which means Cline actually grows and maintains the grapes on land they own. They aren’t buying their grapes from another winery. Aaand fun fact: La Crema sourced their Sonoma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fruit from Cline until very recently. So that means that if you dig on La Crema Chard or Pinot, you should try Cline’s. 

The Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is a crisp one. No oak or butter bomb. Light vanilla and baking spice paired with that golden apple flavor. It’s kinda Cali Chard 101. A good, everyday value for a Cali Chard drinker priced around $12.

ClinePNPinot Noir. Every one loves it so every one wants to grow it. Unfortunately, not every one does a good job of it. That’s not the case here. Cline’s Pinot Noir really delivers for under $15. It’s got all the things I love about Pinot without punching me in the throat. Cola, cherry, and a hint of smokey bacon fat(yeah, I said it) with a silky pajama pants finish. Definitely my favorite of the group.

Fun fact: La Crema used to source their Sonoma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fruit from Cline. So that means that if you dig on La Crema Chard or Pinot, you should try Cline’s.

Give me shout if you’re into or have questions about these wines.

Wine Review: 2012 True Myth Cabernet Sauvignon

To quote a friend and colleague of mine, “I need another cab like I need a hole in my head.” The wine business is littered with California Cabernet Sauvignon, or cab. It’s the wine of steak and the champion of Napa Valley. I do love drinking cabs, but they aren’t my go to. Nothing against them at all, delicious wines. Speaking of delicious cabs, lets talk.

When I first got in the wine game, one of the areas I realized I liked almost everything I tasted from was Paso Robles. For all my searching, I couldn’t seem to find a bad wine from there. That holds true today. I found one of my favorite cabs before the holidays and I’ve been trying to put it in everyone’s glass I can since.

True Myth is a cab that represents everything great about Paso Robles. Rich fruit with just the right amount of earthiness. They also source their fruit from the legendary Justin vineyards in Paso.

Basics on fruit sourcing: Lots of areas produce grapes to sell to wine makers. Not all wine makers have their own vineyards and not all farmers make wine so it’s pretty common practice for a lot of vintners. Mind = Blown.

FullSizeRenderTrue Myth doesn’t need a lot of time to open up. Its ready to drink the minute you pop the cork. Your full attention is demanded by aromas of cedar, vanilla and jammy blackberries. Rich fruit with tobacco, lots of oak and spice will run rampant in your mouth and finish with the softest, velvety kiss. It’s definitely a full-bodied red that’s not too dry.

The real insanity here is that this cab is only $18. Finding wines like True Myth get me excited about wine all over again. Super excited. Awkward that you are this excited about wine excited.

If you’re interested in trying a bottle, email me at beardandbarrel@gmail.com and I’ll get you set up.

Wine Review: 2013 Vending Machine Winery ‘Peep Show’

Anyone that has spent any significant amount of time in the bottle shops I work at has heard me talk about or had me try to sell them a wine from Vending Machine Winery. Monica and Neil, the husband and wife owners, are crazy passionate about three things: wine, New Orleans, and tennis. Oh, and darts. They are probably the most disarming people to talk to about wine. Literally, they make you want to love wine whether you already do or not. They are wine distributors for Neat Wines of Metairie, Louisiana and sell some of the finest wine you can think of. So think about that for a minute. Their job is to sell killer wines…. They make killer wines…. Do the math…  I’ll just leave that thought right there and move on to their first release of Peep Show.

Monica and Neil

Katy Touchstone of Southern Fork Catering, Monica & Neil of Vending Machine Wines and I after an incredible Robert Foley wine dinner we hosted at Wine Country Bistro a couple years back.

 

Starting out, I’ll tell you this isn’t your normal white wine. No Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc over here. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it though. It means, with a varietal break down of 34% Roussanne(roux-sann), 33% Marsanne(Mar-san-aye), & 33% Viognier(Vee-yan-yay), you should try it without any preconceived notions about what you think it should be. Cote du Rhone style white blends can be intimidating if you’ve never had one before but this one, haling from El Dorado, California, is not. It’s just delicious.

peep showNose: Tropical fruit, peach, super floral, and honey suckle.

Palate: At first is was a little subdued. My fault for tasting it while it was too cold. A wine this expressive doesn’t need to be drunk ice cold. You’ll miss so much if you do it wrong. (Pro-tip: Pull your white wine out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before you want to drink it for an unrestrained taste) Fresh peach is definitely there up front. Great balance all around. Peep Show drinks easily and super clean. Caution: This is a dangerous wine. Only buy in multiple bottle increments. You’ll be mad if you only have one.

This is probably on the best offerings you’ll find in this category at $20 a bottle. Also, you’re kinda drinking local cause Monica and Neil are from New Orleans. As is the artist that does the art work for all of their labels, Grant Schexnider. The juice is actually made in California by Sarah and Christopher Vandendriessche, of White Rock Vineyards.

Hit me up at beardandbarrel@gmail.com if you’re in the Shreveport-Bossier area and want to get a few bottles or have any questions about any of their other incredible offerings.