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. 

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.  

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.