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) 

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.  

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.

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.

Don’t Celebrate, Just Drink Champagne

A lot of people think that Champagne is only a celebratory beverage. Personally, I think a small victory Tuesday morning, is worth celebrating with bubbles on Tuesday evening. That being said, I’m going to say something you need to hear: It’s okay to drink sparkling wine anytime you want!

So let’s shed some light on sparkling wine.

First of all, I’m sure you’ve seen the word “Brut” on a bottle of bubbles. Basically, that can let you know how dry the wine inside is. From driest to sweetest it goes like this: Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Sec, Demi-Sec, and Doux. So if you like it really dry and crisp, go with Brut. If you like it kinda dry with just a little bit of sweetness, grab a bottle of Extra Dry. Side bar: I always thought it was weird that Brut was drier than Extra Dry. Maybe next time they make laws, they’ll ask me what I think. They won’t.

Not all sparkling wine is Champagne. It can only legally be called Champagne if it is from Champagne, France. That’s right kids, Champagne is actually a place in France right next door to Paris. “Well, what do they call sparkling wine that comes from France thats not made in Champagne?” Glad you asked. They call that sparkling wine Cremant and it usually comes from the Loire Valley or Burgundy and is pretty damn good.

The rest of the wine world has their own names for the sparkling wines they produce.Some of the more popular ones outside of France are Italy’s Prosecco or Spain’s Cava. Both have more attractive price points than Champagne. Usually $9-16.

torre-oria-cava-brutI’m personally a fan of Torre Oria Cava Brut ($8.99). Delicious in flavor and price. Torre Oria is crisp and easy. It’s dry but not bone dry. If you’re into fresh bubble guzzling without dropping a lot of money, this is your winner. It’s also a perfect ingredient for Champagne cocktails like a Man-mosa. A Man-mosa is a cocktail my friend Kevin showed me whilst day drinking in Austin, TX a couple years back. I may or may not have tweaked the recipe. Day drinking and cocktail experimentation can make details a bit fuzzy. For a tasty treat, add a shot of your favorite gin or vodka to your Mimosa and there you have it. I prefer gin, it adds a nice botanical freshness to breakfast.

I should let you know, I’m not hating on Champagne. Some of my favorite wines I’ve ever tasted are full-blooded Champagne. Like Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose ($100). Seriously, Dionysus kissed the vines in that beautiful soil of northeastern France and made one of the finest sparkling wines in the world. Light and elegant with subtle, seductive raspberry flavors.Billecart-Salmon-Brut-Rose

 

There are other countries producing some great bubbles. These days, South Africa is killing it. Look for Graham Beck Brut or the Rose. They make it the same way they do in Champagne. And of course Cali does a bang up job with stuff like Domaine Carneros Brut.

Since I can’t afford to drink Billecart Rose on a regular basis, I’ve had to find some lower tier juice thats delightful and affordable. I hope this sparks an interest in bubbles for you.

If you need suggestions on wine for the holidays, have any other wine questions or need day drinking tips, email me at beardandbarrel@gmail.com.

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.