It’s Been Too Long

It’s been a while and I apologize. My life got a little busy with a new baby. He’s awesome and I love being a dad. While I’m a dad now, I’m still pretty stoked about my job. I’ve been tasting through a lot of wines and spirits and found a few gems. Here’s some of my favorites:

Caperitif, Swartzland, South Africa

So I know this one sounds weird and out there. Stick with me because this is worth a taste. This is basically like a vermouth. It has a Chenin Blanc based fortified wine with 32 different botanicals from South Africa. Chenin Blanc is one of the largest produced wines coming out of the region. It sometimes goes by the name Steen. Caperitif is an amazing aperitif on it’s own with a twist of orange or lemon. BUT, it makes a great cocktail. Try it with a barrel aged gin.

Erna Schein “The Frontman,” Napa, CA 2014

88% Merlot/12% Cabernet Sauvignon 

This winery makes some serious wines that are crazy fun. My first introduction to Erna Schein was their Saint Fumee red blend. It, exactly like Frontman, has an incredibly gorgeous label. Frontman is a right bank Bordeaux style blend with Merlot dominating. Lots of depth and density. Black and blue fruit on the nose with some dark chocolate. Blackberry and blueberry with some spicy oak in the palate. Medium acidity and medium tannins with a velvety finish. All this make Frontman seem unapproachable to a novice wine drinker. I think this is actually a great special occasion wine for the amateurs that cane really cultivate an appreciation for nicer wines. It’s not cheap, but it’s totally worth it.

Great Raft Brewing’s Creature of Habit Coffee Imperial Brown Ale, Shreveport, LA

Sorry I don’t have a photo of this, I end up finishing them before I can snap a photo. I got this one from the Great Raft Brewing site.

It’s no secret that I love GRB. This is probably one of my favorites that they do. I think the new recipe perfects the beer. Brewed with locally roasted coffee beans, the new recipe increased the alcohol content. It’s got some great roasted coffee note, nice maltiness, and a silky finish. I don’t think I’m off base by saying this is a killer breakfast beer.

Cesar Florido Moscatel Dorado, Chipiona, Spain

I have to confess, I didn’t find this wine. My colleague, Mario, introduced this wine to me at a South American wine dinner of all things. This is a fortified dessert wine and man, it’s uhh-mazing. There’s a little of forest floor/decay on the nose. I know this sounds off putting but it really balances out the heavy caramel, candied sweetness. It was served with crepes with a dulce de leche sauce. Absolutely divine pairing.


2014 CVNE Monopole Blanco, Rioja, Spain

If I can lay my cards on the table, I love Spanish wine and I’m pretty sure that’s not a secret. I fell in love with them a few years ago because I couldn’t afford the good stuff(still can’t FYI). For what I could spend, I didn’t like a lot of the stuff from California at the time. One day my boss turned me on to a little Tempranillo from Rioja and I was completely sold. So that’s my back story with the region. On to the point.

CVNE(pronounced Cune) has been making this Monopole Blanco the exact same way for over 100 years. I’m told it was also the first ever white wine sold in Spain. That’s pretty serious commitment to tradition. 

Real talk: It blew me away when I tasted it. Mainly because most of the buzz about wines coming out of Rioja are about the Reds. You know, Crianzas and all that jazz. Vareitally it is 100% Vera and it is everything I like in a white wine.

Nose: Fresh Apircot, chalk, Wet Stone

Taste: Bright but balanced acidity, lots of symmetry with the fruit and minerality, crisp/clean finish 

(Reminds me a lot of Muscadelle)

Pairings: light pasta with olive oil and tomatoes, charcuterie(if in Spain Jamón, the Margarita Extra pizza from Frank’s Pizza Napolentana

Available for $15.99 at Wine Country Bistro & Bottle Shop

Beard and Barrel went to Spain!

I was lucky enough to to be asked to tour the various vineyard and wineries of the Juan Gil Family in Spain this past June. Because I am a novice traveler, especially world traveler, it has taken me a little more time than I thought to get readjusted to life back home in Shreveport. I do often refer to myself as a hustler and a get it done now kind of guy but I’ll say it was tough getting back to not having dinner from 10:30pm-1:00am. So here it goes.

First of all, it’s worth noting that I before this trip I had never been to a vineyard. This was the first time that I have set foot into a winery. I do think it’s pretty badass that my first trip to a functioning, highly functioning I might add, winery was in Spain. Not California or Washington or even Texas. But friggin Rais Baixas(they grow and produce Albariño there).  

The first vineyards my beard has ever grace in Rais Baxias

It was complete sensory overload to me. The smell of a winery almost smells like a bakery but someone dropped a case of wine on the floor. The huge stainless steel tanks towered over me and sat quietly next to a sorting table and stacks of grape baskets. I felt like I was on an episode of how it’s made when they showed us the intricately mechanized bottling line. The intensity of those moments were so significant because these are things I’ve read about for five years but have never seen in person. The look on my face was complete childlike wonder. 

The towering stainless steel tanks that Juan Gil has custom made for all their wineries. There were about 12 of these at Bodegas Juan Gil.

I was amazed at the scenery on the drives, there were a lot, and the actual vineyards where the grapes grow. At the time I was there, bud break had happened 3 weeks prior. That’s when the grapes actually start to flower. Most won’t we ready to harvest till around September. The soils that these beautiful wines group out of was so crazy. In Rais Baixas and Rueda, the vines grew out of sand. Like on a beach sand. In Jumilla, the Monastrell, grows in direct sunlight out of basically rocks. 

I was showing some southern hospitality to the 100 year old Monastrell vines.

We visited 9 wineries across the country in 5 days. If I wanted breakfast, I had to be up and out of my hotel room usually by 7am and the vans were loaded and left by 7:30. Most of the drives in the morning were about 4-5 hours and the drives in the afternoon were about 1-2 hours. I stayed in a different hotel each night except for the last 2 nights in Barcelona. It sounds much more intense than it was. I was traveling with some amazing people from all over North America that are just as passionate about wine as I am. The whole time I was there, I was in great company and excited for the next stop.

Insert trip photos:


The Spanish countryside


These aquaducts ran through the entire town of Segovia which was one of my favorite places we stayed.


Part of the tour at Shaya in Reuda.


The barrel room at Bodegas Juan Gil


Lunch time at Bodegas Juan Gil


You had me at Jamón. Most restaurants had this set up with pig legs curing behind the bar. Amazing.


Look at those vines growing out of rocks!


Baby Garnacha grapes

Jordi(the GM of the entire Juan Gil Estate), me, and Migel Gil after an amazing dinner


Night life in Spain at a Safari themed bar with Andy from Arizona and Bill(possibly the realest guy around) from Hawaii


Beautifully presented in a giant cast iron pan. Potatoes, eggs, wild mushrooms, and sausage.


My road warriors and I.


After lunch at Bodegas Can Blau


Super talented yet super awkward street preformer in Barcelona


Amazing open market in Barcelona. More fresh fish, just butchered meat and cured meats than you could ever image.


Yep. Giant pig head at a food and wine festival on my last day in Spain in Barcelona.


 From the trip, my favorite winery to visit was Juan Gil in Jumilla. That’s their flagship winery and the largest. They produce Juan Gil Monastrell out of there and I’d put that wine for $18 up against any Cali red for $20-29 all day, everyday. It has rich dark fruit and spice with curves like a woman out of a Foxxy Shazam video. The alcohol is high at 15% but you don’t taste it. That being said, my favorite wine I had while there, which I have had before, was the Kentia Albariño from the winery Lagarde Condesa in Rais Baixas. There is something romantic about having a glimmering glass of white wine that is crisp and refreshing while the chef is shucking oysters the came from probably no more than 15 miles from the vineyard. Kentia has the incredible tropical flavor of Sauv Blanc without the grapefruit bite and weightiness. 
Now, I’d love to breakdown each vineyard I went to but that post would be insanely long. I’ll say that if you’re interested in hearing about it, shoot me an email at and we can meet up, I’ll bring a bottle or 3 of Spanish wine and we can clear our schedules and talk it out. H


Beard & Barrel goes to Spain

I am so excited to announce that this Sunday, June 7th, I am boarding a flight and heading to Spain! I’ve been invited to visit and tour the vineyards of the Juan Gil Wine Family throughout the country’s various regions. I’ll be there for five days meeting wine makers, tasting wine and walking through vineyards. This is one of the greatest honors I have had in my professional career. I’m so thankful and excited to taste some of my favorite wines in the world while I’m standing right next to where they are grown. Follow my Instagram, @juddsmithbeardo, for photos and I’m sure that I will have atleast one blog post about it when I get back.



2013 Vi Novell, Montsant, Spain

Some of my favorite things in the world to indulge in are pork, wine and whiskey. Like Meatloaf said, “Two outta three ain’t bad.”

Here we have a sexy little number from one of my favorite regions in Spain, Montsant. They produce rich and deep reds that can fool you into thinking your drinking some Cali juice if you were blindfolded and couldn’t see the spanish label. Most they produce Monastrell(Mourvèdre in France and ‘Merica) but also some Garnacha and Syrah. 

“Vi Novell” means new wine. And what is pretty righteous about this particular juice is that it is made through partly traditional methods and Carbonic Maceration. CM basically is a process of fermentation that causes the grapes to ferment in their own skins and then burst! How rad is that?! The process usually yields a fruity, acidic wine that’s meant to drink immediately. Since they go straight from making juice to bottle, drink up.

Anyway, the wine right?

On the nose, it seriously smells like someone smoked some delicious peppered meats and handed it to me in a baseball glove covered in dark fruit. Smokey, peppery and fruit rich. Tasting it… It’s a beast. Deep and dark fruits like currant or cassis with that pepper and a little earthy truffle to get your tongue perked up. 

Great with wild game like rabbit or quail but definitely a worthy companion to suckling pork or country ham.

If you dig earthy Cali Cabs or Syrah’s and want to spend about $13 for a bottle, get you some.