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.

How to Wine: 5 Tips for Winning at Wine Tastings

I know that everyone has a preference when it comes to wine. Beverages of choice are such a personal thing that some people have spent years tracking down and honing in on. But what are you missing out on? It blows my mind that some people will pass on tasting a wine because it’s white and not red or vice versa. It almost boils down to economics: you either paid for the tasting or it’s free so by extension , you’re wasting time and money by not tasting everything on the table!  I like to make lists. Here’s 5 tips for getting the most out of your wine tasting experience:    1) Don’t jack with your ability to taste or smell before a tasting. That means save the cologne/perfume for after, don’t brush your teeth and use mouthwash that could dissolve rust from a power tool and wait for the ride home to hot box your car with those cowboy killer cigs. All of those things mess with your ability to accurately taste wine. I know the six people around you would probably appreciate you not trying to cover up whatever you just smoked with a gallon of Bath and Bodyworks finest Pear-Berry scent.    2) Treat it as an opportunity to learn, not as a free pre-game happy hour. Respect the tasting and the time and education of the person pouring for you. Having hosted many tasting myself, there’s a reason we don’t fill the glass up Amy Schumer style. It’s a tasting… If it’s free, that means the house is paying for you to taste that wine. If it’s a paid tasting, that means the house is REALLY paying for the wines they open and pour for you. Ask questions, listen, and pay attention. A lot of times the person pouring wine for you is not from the town you’re in and probably flew or drove in to work that tasting. That being said, It’s totally ok to ask to revisit a wine if you’re on the fence about it. But don’t ask for another shot of wine 5 times. We know what you’re up to.    3) Strike up a conversation with wine pro that’s pouring. They know more wines than the few they are pouring and can probably help you find something if you’re not digging what they are sampling. These people live wine. They study, research, and obsess over wine. They are valuable to you and want you to find something to sip on today.    4) Leave what you think you know about wine at the door and taste with an open mind. Don’t write off a Pinot Noir because you “aren’t into them.” Belle Glos is a completely different Pinot Noir than La Crema. Don’t assume any wine tastes the same because they are the same varietal. And seriously, taste all the damn wines. I get you may not like white wine but this one could be the one that changes your mind. If you hate it, pour it out. That’s why we have dump buckets on the tasting tables. Also, for the record, alcohol abuse isn’t actually something you can get in trouble for outside of college.    5) Never pass up an opportunity to taste. Whether wine is something you’re interested in or not, you are expanding your palate. Tasting more teaches you and your brain to process and differentiate flavors better. It’s not like staying in a Holiday Inn Express or anything but it gives you a better understanding of what you like and don’t like.

Epic Rosé tasting in your backyard

In my experiences in the wine retail world, rosé is most misunderstood style of wine in the world. Or at least Louisiana. “I don’t drink sweet wine,” is the most common write off I hear when suggesting rosé. Some are sweet, yes. But there are a lot, some of my favorites, that are dry and complex. 

 

You can’t learn geography without cracking open an atlas. In that spirit, you can’t understand rosé without cracking open some bottles. Tonight at Wine Country Bistro, there’s a big rosé tasting. 12 rosés for $12. It’s a great opportunity to get in there and try some pink juice. It starts at 5 and goes till 7 at Wine Country Bistro at 4801 Line Avenue in Shreveport, La. I’ll be there, you should be too.

How to Wine: Taste this… Again.

I made a joke a while back about how I never make my mind on anything ’til I’ve tasted it 3 times. Although I’d love to take credit for it, it actually came from an episode of That 70’s Show. The part was Fez explaining to Donna why he has to have sex with this girl 3 times, “Well because the first time I’ll be nervous and then the second time, I’ll have  to please her because I got nervous. Then the third time . . . the third time is when I get funky.” I thought it was hilarious so I started using the Three Times Theory for just about anything I could. How does this apply to wine, beer or spirits? I’m glad I pretended to ask you.

The First Time: You have some idea of what you want it to be.

The thing about wine is that every bottle we look at evokes some thought in your mind. Napa Valley on the label says it will have these characteristics or the label/name is really cool and you just want to like it. You will buy a bottle or order a glass of a new wine with an idea of what you want it to be and sometimes… be disappointed. Thats why we go for it a second time.

The Second Time: You’re comparing it to the first time.

The first time it was lackluster because the wine has a cool name and like a Tinder date, you decided what it should be before you actually knew what it was. Was that a random hook up because you were “Totes tips?” or you trying to make a sexy profile picture(or lets say… a cool wine label) something special you could take home to Mom and Dad? Take this time tasting to let the juice be what it is.

The Third Time: The verdict.

what if i told you

The third time you have officially made a decision on whether you like it or not. You can easily answer the question: Is this a good wine? As well as the hardest question ever posed to a new or even a seasoned wine drinker: What is it you do or don’t like about it?”

There’s nothing worse than having a wine once and loving it then, a couple weeks later, ordering it for a group of friends and it tasting like some busted grocery store crap you’re stuck paying restaurant prices for.

Take your time when you taste so that you can get everything you can out of the wine. The Three Times Theory can help guide you until you get the hang of it. After 6 years of tasting 50 or more wines a month, I still taste(seriously it just tasting… unless its really good)multiple times to get my opinion right. Bottom line is: Keep tasting.

If you have any questions about the Three Times Theory or have a wine question, please email me at beardandbarrel@gmail.com.

Learning How to Wine

Wine has a certain… unapproachable aspect to it. Some people think of it as snobby or pretentious. Others think it’s only for a special occasion. You need to know that idea is wrong. Wine is an everyday thing for anybody. If you think it’s not… Well…

youknownothing

 

That being said, if you don’t know where to start I can help with that.

What I’m going to tell you is absolutely crazy…… Wine. Is. Fun. Tasting it, learning about it, drinking it. Every aspect of it. So why is there this pompous vibe that surrounds it and pushes people away? Probably because some people don’t know enough about it.

Mind blowing fact: Most wine makers are good ole boys that are actually farmers. They spend more time in fields with dirt under their fingernails than in a three piece suit pouring Merlot into a goblet made of diamonds for the King of Canada.

In the beginning the only thing I could say when some asked about the difference between Cabernet and Chardonnay was that one was red and one was white. Seeing rows and rows of bottles when you walk in is overwhelming. Especially when you just wanted to pick up a bottle with a badass label for date night thats under $12.

retail shop pano

So. Many. Bottles.

Staff Picks

Look for a staff picks section. Wines are usually there because they sell a lot of them. Weird stuff doesn’t sell well. Trust me.

Any wine shop worth it’s salt will have employees that WANT to talk to you about wine. Seriously. Wine shop associates are a rare breed of retail workers that, usually, really like what they do and want to tell you about all the cool new stuff they just got in. Sometimes they have wines open that you can taste. Really taste the wine, don’t just try to catch a quick buzz. Give them feedback on what you like or don’t as best you can. And don’t try to talk the way you think they would, “I taste light saddle leather with cassis and bitter cocoa undertones.” I don’t even say crap like that. Be real. Be accurate. Then watch the wheels start turning as Christopher Cabernet tries to pull something just for you out his mental wine catalog.

Every interaction I have with a customer(new or a regular) starts with a conversation. For me to be good at what I do, which I am, revolves around me listening to what you’ve told me about your wine tastes.

You can read about wine all you want but you’ll never learn to swim from watching how-to’s on YouTube. Get in the game. Come see me at a tasting. We do 2 free tastings every week at Wine Country and even have a Grand Holiday Tasting on December 3rd for $10 a person. That’s 16 wines to try for $10. No one should ever have an excuse as to why they can’t go to a wine tasting. Never miss a chance to try something new.

If you have any questions about wine or our tastings, email me at beardandbarrel@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you.