Delicioso Tempranillo, Spain 2015

I never really put stock in labels and I don’t shop by them. Yeah, they catch your eye but most of the time I wonder what an extravagant label is hiding. Is it there to look pretty on the shelf and to hide a subpar wine? Maybe. Simple labels are more attractive to me personally because it feels like its more to the point. No flashy distractions from what’s in the bottle.But honestly if you put a pig on the label, I’m going to try your wine. Maybe I actually do shop by labels…

Sight: Ruby-Garnet 

Nose: Red fruit, cherries, briar, lavender

Taste: fresh red fruits, currants, cherries, stems, lavender comes through, medium acidity, medium tannin, short finish

This tempranillo is build for speed. It’s ready to drink now and should be. It has a lot of fruit presence that isn’t competing with the wood/briar/stem flavors that create a beautiful contrast. Structurally, it’s fun and easy. This isn’t a wine to lay down and see how it ages. It is for sure a wine to buy by the case as a house red. Definitely a bargain for burgers, pastas with red sauce, charcuterie or on it’s own.

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Don’t Worry, I’ve Been Drinking Lately.

It’s been too long my friends. Finding extra time to write has been a bit difficult lately but, we’re going to get right back at it. So what’s new? I’ve been working with some new people that are very well educated on wine and have been working in the restaurant/hospitality business for many years. They’ve brought a new set of eyes to my work and helped expose and educate me on a lot things. It’s been a really humbling experience but also extremely valuable. In this business of drinking for a living, you can never assume you know everything. Because someone will always come along and prove you wrong.

Here’s something I’ve been schooled on: Argentina wines. Once believed to be strictly Malbec country with some smatterings of Cabernet. A lot of these wines are starting to give California Cabernet a run for their money. Seriously, the money though. They aren’t $15 a bottle but the $30 Argentina bottles can give a $50 Cali Cab some serious competition. There are are a few that I’ve run into that deliver on a grand scale if you like a big, fruit dense red with a smooth but grippy tannic finish.  


Ben Marco “Expresivo” from Mendoza, Argentina is a solid buy at $30. It’s a big, densely fruited red. Opaque in color and aromatically it’s a black and red fruit quaffer. But how does it taste? Bulky and balanced. Lots of dark cherries, blackberries, some baking spice, sweet pipe tobacco, and richly apparent tannins. This is a solid steak night pairing. 


My most frequented bar these days is my couch. I’ve had a resurged interest in classic cocktails. I feel like they are the bone structure of modern cocktail culture. The classics are the beverage architecture I build on and tweak. My main stay at home has been an Old Fashion. I’ve even lured a friend or 2 over to visit with the offer of one. Here’s how I make it:


My personal recipe is boozy but I really just use the whiskey and sugar as a constant to test bitters, if that makes sense. But here’s my recipe: 2oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon, a bar spoon of 1:1 simple syrup and 4 dashes of Aromatic Bitters(Angostora) and 2 dashes of Orange Bitters. Drop all those ingredients into a frozen rocks glass and stir with a bar spoon. The frozen glass is part of the craft of it drink. It truly makes the difference. Then I add a large, single cube of ice(specialty ice cube tray you can get just about anywhere) and stir till chilled. Then I take a large swath of Orange peel an express the oils directly over the glass and drop it in. Enjoy. 

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) 

Kiepersol Winery: The Real Deal in Texas

A while back, a got a call from one of my wine reps telling me he just gotten some wines from a winery they just picked up and wanted to taste them with me. He tells me they are a Texas winery and I, like most people, didn’t have much experience with Texas wine. For all I knew, it could have been some good ole boy mashing up grapes in his backyard and putting the juice into an old Jack Daniels bottle. (That wasn’t the case for the record) I do trust this rep and know he wouldn’t bring me something he didn’t think had potential with the shop so I took the meeting. He stopped by introduced me to the Kiepersol Winery out of Tyler, Texas.

I tasted through the wines and I was very impressed. What I really liked about them was that they weren’t trying to be something they weren’t. The wines were truly a reflection of the terroir. There wasn’t any funny business about trying to make their Cabernet Sauvignon taste like a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or having their Syrah be a chewy monster like an Australian Shiraz. They were authentic. I picked a couple up and even put the Syrah by the glass at one of the restaurants.

Kiepersol is a winery and distillery (they make Dirk’s Vodka, Pierre’s Rum, and Jimmy’s Bourbon) in Tyler, Texas with a Bed and Breakfast as well as a steak house on property. They are an estate winery, which means all of the wines they produce are make from grapes they grow. In the words of Marnelle de Wet Durrett (Winemaker and Estate Manager), “If we don’t grow it, we don’t make it.” That philosophy goes hand in hand with their selection of varietals they produce. For example, the climate and soil aren’t good for Pinot Noir or Chardonnay so they don’t grow it. Seeing that a majority of wineries produce those varietals but most fall short of having actually good Pinots and Chards because of natural conditions, I respect the hell out of that decision. They produce somewhere around 18 labels (Blends and single varietals).

 

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to take a Saturday trip with my wife over the state line to see Kiepersol’s facilities. The trip was a pleasantly under two hours and was an easy drive. When we got there, we went straight to the distillery tasting room to check out some of the spirits. We were greeted with Moscow Mules made with Dirk’s Vodka and homemade ginger beer. They were delicious. We were introduced to all of the spirits and even got to see a bit of the distillery and the barrel room. As it turns out, the distillery was built on a salt dome that happens to be on top of a Jurassic aquifer so there is water coming out of the ground that is more pure than the water the city purifies at state regulations. (At the time of this article, the actual distillery tour that takes you into the distilling area is closed to the public because it is harvest time at the winery)

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Getting schooled on Kipersol’s Distillery’s history and processes. And of course tasting.

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Specialty cocktails at the distillery.  Highly recommend the Blackberry Bourbon Sour.

After that tour we hoped over to the winery’s tasting room and started moving through the wines that we don’t have access to in Louisiana. I was impressed by their Rose made of Malbec; the “Steen” which is a South African Chenin Blanc/Loire Valley Vouvray style white blend, and their “Stainless Steel” series of reds which is a true reflection of the Texas terroir. Shortly after we got there, the winery tour started which took us through the vineyards and into the actual winery to see the tanks, barrel room, and bottling line. We even got to pick some Sangiovese grapes off of the vine and eat then in the vineyards.

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Neck deep in some Texas Sangiovese.

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Those tanks though.

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Cellaring some Texas juice.

We finished off the day eating dinner in their steak house, which was incredible, and took a snooze in the B&B. The whole experience from start to finish was great. Kiepersol is the real deal. Do us all a favor and taste some Texas wine with an open mind. Do it or I’ll blind taste you and you won’t even know.

 

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.

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.

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.