Our Family Road Trip to Memphis

I don’t often get to take road trips anymore. A full-time gig and being a new dad(6 months, what?!) forces you to reprioritize your life. Luckily, my wife Jess has an adventurous soul and pushes me to take time to explore. So when she came to me and said we needed to take a weekend to go see some family in Memphis, Tennessee I was game. The tricky part was that we had to have a plan for everything what with the kiddo. Excited, we planned to leave Shreveport, stop in Little Rock(halfway for diapers and food), then on to Memphis. Jess is such a researcher, she plotted out the trip and found a brewery that served bbq in Little Rock… That’s why I married her.

We left late(of course) Friday morning but managed to land at Lost 40 Brewing in Little Rock around 3pm. When we opened the car door in the parking lot, I knew we were at the right spot. I was hit with smell for freshly brewing beer and the sweet smokey aromatics of slow cooked bbq. We didn’t spend a ton of time here but we maximized what we had.

We ordered a flight of their beers that included Trash Panda, Forest Queen, a sour beer, and the Double Snake Party DIPA. It should be noted that if you have pork belly on the menu, we WILL order it. That was our favorite thing besides the beer and the sorghum-black pepper pecans.

Sorghum-Black Pepper Pecans

I loved the Pale Ale. Crushable and light. It wasn’t too hoppy but had such great balance. This is definitely a great beer to mow the yard with or to sip on at the beach. I actually bought a 6 pack on the trip and I was out by Saturday night. Don’t worry, I was sharing.

Photo curtesy of www.fayettevilleflyer.com

Photo curtesy of http://www.fayettevilleflyer.com

Jess tends to be more of a hop head than I am so she was really into the Double Snake Party DIPA. She doesn’t drink quantity so to her it’s all about the quality of what she’s drinking. Lots hop here which lended itself to a great freshness. It was full with that hoppy-citrusy sweetness but balanced with bitterness. At 10%, that’s the only one you’ll need. We also picked up a pack.

Back on the road. We hit Memphis and went straight to see some family. At the door I was greeted with homemade pizza and Knob Creek. Maybe that’s why I really love Memphis. Something to think about.

Saturday afternoon in Midtown Memphis, just to break up the beer, I went to a great spot called The Second Line at the recommendation of a friend. This is a killer, casual restaurant and bar by New Orleans native Chef Kelly English. Chef Kelly worked for Chef John Besh for a while in New Orleans before permanently setting up shop in Memphis. Over the years, he’s accumulated a ton of awards from James Beard Award Semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast to Memphis’ “Prince of Porc” in the national Cochon555 competition. At The Second Line, they specialize in Memphis inspired New Orleans cuisine. I parked at the bar and grabbed a glass of Anne Amie Pinot Gris(Willamette Valley, OR) while I was waiting on Jess and her sister to arrive. It just so happened Chef Kelly was working in the front of the house that day and we were able to chat for a while. I’d describe him as super approachable, classy, and what Danny Meyer would call a Hospitalitarian. Pimento Cheese and Andouille fries were legit. When we get back, I’ll for sure pop in again.

Photo curtesy of The Second Line Instagram

Saturday afternoon in Memphis, we went to Wiseacre Brewing Company. Full disclosure, this was my second trip to Wiseacre. It was first recommended to me by Andy Nations from Great Raft Brewing in Shreveport. Jess also told me about it since she lived in Memphis for a few years and used to frequent it.

Wiseacre is family friendly so we brought Ward with us. Not his first trip to a brewery(thanks for passing that law Shreveport). They have a small tap room and a large outdoor area with tables and patio games. It was cold but the brewery was packed. Maybe it was just a Saturday afternoon, but I think it’s just a great quality, local product.

I grabbed a pint of the “Gotta Get Up to Get Down” Coffee Milk Stout and loved it. I remember them not having it my first trip two years ago so I was really excited. It was dark and rich without being bitter. Texturally, it was silky and has this gorgeous coffee note on the end like a coffee ice cream. It’s not sweet but it is a milk stout so it’s innately a little sweeter than an normal dark beer. As one of my friends said, “Definitely my favorite coffee stout that isn’t barrel aged or a breakfast stout.” Needless to say, I grabbed a sixer for the road.

We also picked up some Tiny Bomb Pilsner. This is, from their offerings that I’ve tasted, the most crushable. Fresh and light. It reminded me of the Great Raft Brewing’s Southern Drawl, which is my “I don’t want to make a decision, I’m just going to order this beer because it’s always fantastic” beer choice. It has cereal layer with a light hay note and a dry finish. It’s a light-medium bodied beer that you can do some work with. An easy day drinker.

I guess our little, weekend road trip to Memphis ended up being majority about beer. That usually happens. It either revolves around beer, wine, cocktails, or food. We really enjoyed all of the spots we hit. Looking forward to the next trip.


Baller Budget Bubbles

So at the end of the year, everyone is looking for a nice bottle of Champagne. I love it because it’s a truly under appreciated wine. Sparkling wine in general. A lot of people think of it as only a celebratory wine because it’s “expensive.” Naahhhh. There are some incredible sparkling wines that are totally wallet friendly. First of all, let’s talk about sparkling wine itself.

Most people us Champagne is used as an all encompassing word for sparkling wine. They could mean Champagne, but chances are they are looking for Prosecco or something to make Mimosa’s with at brunch. Here are the basics:

Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France. That’s right, it’s a region and not a grape. True Champagne is usually above $40 a bottle depending on the producer. Any other sparkling that comes from France is usually referred to as Cremant. Prosecco is Italy’s version of sparkling wine. It’s extremely popular in restaurants around town(Shreveport-Bossier) and usually ranges from $9-25. There are some exceptional higher end Proseccos around. Cava is Spain’s sparkler and also is usually very affordable. Much like the others, it’s crisp and dry. North America doesn’t actually have a name for it besides Sparkling Wine. There are some pretty great ones out there and they range all over in price

These are a few of my favorite “Baller Budget Bubbles:”

Monmousseau Brut Etoile, Loire Valley, France $12

This little gem has been one of my favorites for years. It’s remained pretty consistent in price and always consistent in flavor. It’s made with one of Loire’s best varietals, Chenin Blanc, and it’s produced with the same method that Champagne is. It has stone fruit flavors(green apple/pear), plenty of minerality, and it’s sweet. Just a bit fruity from the Chenin Blanc.

Serenello Prosecco Extra Dry, Italy $16

This is the Prosecco that we pour by the glass at Wine Country Bistro. It’s not super dry but has beautiful aromatics of white flowers and stone fruit. High acidity and a clean finish make it great for everyday.

Montmartre Brut, Tournan, France $9

This guy right here. Inexpensive and over delivers. That’s a deadly combo. This is what’s called “Blanc de blancs” which means only white grapes, like Chardonnay, were used to make this wine. Montmartre is bone dry and has a fresh, slightly fruity feel. This is super easy to drink solo or great for sparkling wine cocktails like Mimosas or French 75s.

Sparkling wine doesn’t just have to be for special occasions. If you look, there are some great quality ones available in our market that won’t give you a headache after one glass or cause you to have to break out the credit card. Bubbles are meant to be consumed everyday. I don’t think anyone’s day would be worse if there was a glass of bubbles waiting for them when they are done.

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.


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.


Teutonic Wine Co.’s “Bergspitze” Pinot Noir, Oregon 2014

So this wine caught me way off guard. I’ve not known myself to be the biggest Oregon Pinot Noir fan. It could have been a few things that factored in but I was really impressed by this gem. The only problem was that I bought what was left in the state for the Bottle Shop and found out it won’t be available anymore. Ya win some, ya lose some.

This wine is a geeky favorite of mine now. I love that it is whole clust fermentation which means the grapes weren’t destemmed. That imparts an earthy tone to what could be an overly fruity wine. To me, this wine has it all. The big plus of this purchase for us is that it was marked at a discounted rate so heck yeah, down side is the price will be higher than $24 if we are ever able to get any more.

Sight: Ruby

Nose: Black cherry, cola, tobacco leaf

Taste: Big cherry-cola flavor, fresh earth, tobacco-tea leaf, medium + acidity, medium tannin, short finish

The long and short of it is that I think this a great Pinot Noir repping Oregon terrain. I has everything I’d expect and maybe a little bit extra to keep me interested. I think under $30 this is a great wine to take home and I’d be extremly satisfied paying around $60 in a restaurant. I’d be interested to taste this again in a year or so to see the effects of the whole cluster fermentation. All in all, great buy around that $30 range.


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.


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.