Sunday, July 31, 2011

Best Surprise Ever!

The lovely, kindhearted Maximina Martinez gave me this spectacular gift, just because, today! I fully plan on only drinking from this chalis of awesome, I will take it everywhere until people are sick of it. Just so people know who they're dealing with. (got lots of use tonight!)

Thanks Max! Your're the best, good luck on your Pharmacology final, do good and come drink wine! (I'll bring my glass)

Domaine Chandon Pinot Meunier

Domaine Chandon
Pinot Meunier - 2008
Carneros, California

A quick lesson for the non winos out there... Champagne is usually a blend of 3 grapes, chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier, unless it is a "blanc de blanc" (all chardonnay) or "blanc de noir" (the pinots). While chardonnay and pinot noir are common still wine varietals, poor pinot meunier is often left in the shadows, overlooked and unknown.

Imagine my surprise at finding this under appreciated grape available, by the glass no less, at Zambrano's. I was eager to try it.

The bottle says Domaine Chandon wanted to use the grapes they've got for theor sparkling wines and make high quality still wines. I applaud them.

To put it simply: this wine is the bomb.

It is my go to everyday wine. So much so that on my 5+ visits a week to Zambrano's the lovely Teill just pours it for me, she knows it's coming!

The color is a magical ruby meets amethyst right to the edge and a lovely woody-berry-cherry-amazing nose only hints about the delicious in the glass. A deep, smooth, velvety wine melding spice, wood, dark fruit yum opens up in all corners of the mouth. Sturdy enough to stand up to any food, but delicate and demure enough to drink on a hot summer day.

Silky, spicy, delicious. It has more character than a pinot noir, but an inherent softness.

Get it. Drink it. Make this wine well known! Maybe more sparkling producers will use their extra juice to bring tbe world more delicious.

(one drawback to poor pinot meunier... It isn't well known for its ageability, drink young and drink often)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc - 2009
Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand

When I drink a sauv blanc I want the crazy fruity citrusy explosion, and New Zealnd does that style best. This wine is heavy on the fruit and brimming with grapefruit. Crisp and acidic this refreshing and vibrant sauv blanc keeps me guessing. I get the grapefruit of course, but it is nicely balanced with a medley of kiwi, starfruit, with pronounced citrus notes. The lovely fruit salad leaves a long tasty and refreshing finish.

This is a very pronounced fruity wine, but it doesn't have a sweetness to it like some other whites, the clean crisp finish makes this a sublime summer wine. As one of my favorite white grapes I appreciate sauv blanc done well, and I appreciate it even more at a great price, which this one is.

Hahn SLH Chardonnay

Hahn Wineries
Chardonnay - 2009
Santa Lucia Highlands, California

2009 is lauded as one of the best years in recent memory for California chardonnays (thank you Wine Spectator, I still shamlessly read you even if I disagree with your preferential reviews... Steps off soap box), and the Hahn 2009 chardonnay is lovely proof of that.

I am on my great summer chardonnay kick, and this chardonnay is the one I measure all others on.

The nose is a toasty buttery prelude to the toasty-vanilla-butter amazingness that awaits in the glass. Crisp and clean the finish reveals a lingering sweet butter, like a savory buttercream frosting. Amazing and more citrusy and pineappley cold, as it warms the butter flavor is more pronounced and rich. This is all acheived without an interjection of an over oaked wine making.

Basically the perfect chardonnay.

Want further encouragement? I probably go through 2 cases a week at work, and every single person lauds on how delicious it is. That and when people ask for a chard I know they'll love it so I recommend it or just pour it and tell them they will like it, I have a 100% success rate, thankyouverymuch, curtsey.

Get it. Drink it. Thank me later, or call me and we can share a bottle, or just buy me a bottle.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Spelletich Cabernet

Spelletich Cellars Reserve
Cabernet - 2006
Napa, California

I love cabs. I would say it is my go-to variety. I love them all, even a teeth coating tannin-fest or fruit forward oaky cab. Doesn't matter the region even, love love love.

This cab has a nice deep purple color right to the edges. Nice nose of berries and toasty vanilla. From a brand new bottle, been in the glass for 5 min as I checked Facebook and typed this (phone and tablet, I'm so tech savvy). Nice smooth spicy vanilla wood berry flavored. Very yum. Medium tannin, lovely toasty finish. This wine has everything I love about cabs. It is deep and sensuous, silky with a bite and a lingering finish that leaves you satisfied long after your last sip. Delicious. I keep tasting the finish and I want a giant glass, followed by 2 more.

This sublimely drinkable cab is easy to drink alone, is sturdy enough to drink with a big steak, but subtle enough to go with shellfish. Mmmm, I am thinking about this wine with some lobster...

Marques de Gelida Cava Rose

Marques de Gelida
Brut Reserva Cava Rose (100% Pinot Noir) - 2006
Catalunya, Spain

I do not drink pink wine. I have this terrible fear someone will see me drinking a rose and think it is white zin, thus dashing my (in my mind anyway) awesome reputation for drinking good wine only.

Pink bubbly I can get behind. Usually sparkling roses have only the slightest tint of pink pale like a bubbling pink diamond (I like pink diamonds, hint hint boyfriend), but this one is a lot more pink, like a glmmering sapphire (I also like these).

It has the same yeasty citrusy nose of most sparkling wines. Nice tingley tiny bubbles that feel fuzzy on the tongue. Nice and crisp and refreshing, I get more of a sparkling cranberry-apple cider taste than a biscuity flavor common to bubbly. A very nice refreshing option, like a pre-mixed poinsetta, different than most. A nice after dinner wine or in middle of the day relaxing poolside staring at the hot pool boy... You know, whenever.

I don't think I could do more than 2 glasses of this, so I would recommend sharing, the color makes it most festive so try a baby shower or bachelorette party or girls' night in. I am all for equality, so I will recommend it for a fantasy football draft too... Too far? Just try it, it is tasty.

Spell Zinfandel

Zinfandel - 2006
Amador County, California

The daughter of Spelletich Cellars owners branched out and made a wonderful and unique zin, and I am not just talking about the psychadelic label (although it is pretty cool in a world of blah labels, 10 points for style).

Let me begin by saying this wine might be the biggest fruit bomb ever to pass my lips. It doesn't drink like the zins I am used to, it's an explosion of super ripe fruit and berries with a knockout alcohol content (16.5% who wants to get tore up?), but there is no alcohol burn or lingering astringent taste. No way, the explosion of fruit covers just about everything. Medium oaky, nary a tannin, and a bit of spice in the mid-palate makes this one yummy wine.

I would say this bottle of delicious is parked midway between a pinot and a cab as far as body, and would provide an excellent stepping stone into zins or a step up from pinots for novice red drinkers or peole who like silky fruit heavy wines.

This wine is hard to come by, my bar has it, so does Zambrano's, but I haven't come accross it in the store. Direct from the winery one of my regulars found it for $16.99 a bottle, which is a downright steal (she thought so too and bought a case after trying it the first time).

I highly recommend!

E. Gugal Cotes du Rhone

E. Gugal 
Rhone blend (mostly grenache) - 2007
Appellation Controlee Cotes du Rhone, France

I know, I know, another Rhone blend! Shut it, I like them and it is a good summer wine. And as I have said before, they're all very different. This is a happy medium, like if the Schild GMS and the St. Cosme had a baby wine.

While the varietals in the blend are not listed, the ruby color and juicy finish scream grenache. It is a light, fruity, soft, medium-bodied wine with hardly a hint of tannin. A perfect sipping wine, best served a little cooler than room temperature.

This is a tasty blend brimming with red cherries, soft wood, and subtle pepper on the mid-palate. The pepper is more pronounced as it warms, but never reaches overwhelming since it enhances the fruit and gives depth as opposed to competing with it.

My favorite Rhone thus far. One of my regulars who was a timid pinot noir only drinker loves this and has excitedly begun a quest to out drink me in Rhone blends (not gonna happen sister), a great "try something new/different" wine and great for the summer since it isn't too heavy and chills nicely without losing it's oomph.

Woolaston Pinot Noir (2006)

Pinot Noir - 2006
Nelson, South Island, New Zealand

New Zealand makes a great pinot and a great sauv blanc, so naturally I was intrigued to try it (that and the Steelers drank us out of it, twice, during the Super Bowl, that has to count for something). This winery is certified organic and is praised for their sustainable agricultural practices... Being nice to the earth and making wine? Yes please!

I was sadly underwhelmed. Surprisingly astringent and tannic for a pinot. I get hints of rhubarb and red fruit, but I lose it in the harsh finish. The bitter alcohol finish lingers agonizingly.

The bottle was new so I decided to let the wine decant in the glass for 30 min to see if any of the harshness dissipates (I sipped a lovely French Rhone blend in the meantime, see E. Gugal)...

Ok, much better. It opens to a nice spice and wood with a delightful dryness, a bit unexpected from a pinot I would usually expect a silky light fruit. The nose reveals dark fruit and warm oak. A decent heavy (for the varietal) dry pinot.

If buying a bottle I would decant no less than 30-45 minutes, I get the feeling this is a "better the next day" wine.

**We now carry the 2008 of this wine, going to re-taste and see if there are vintage variations, aka see if it gets better.

Deerfield Zinfandel

Zinfandel - 2005
Buchignani Garcia Vineyard
Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California

Deerfield usually does it right and they succeeded again with their old vine zin. According to the bottle the vines are upward of 70 years old, and it's a single vineyard too, both very excellent signs that the contents are delicious.

This is a nicely balanced zin. The nose is a fruity-spicy mix with a hint of wood. On the tongue the licorice, chocolate, fruit and pepper are perfectly balanced and each sip reveals a different facet depending on the part of the palate it hits. It opens nicely over a few hours and has a velvety finish with a soft lingering acidity.

I like it. We have it at $120 a bottle, I don't $120 like it, a good option if you can grab it at a lower price, I would say I $50 like it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Crios Torrontes

Crios de Susana Balbo
Torrontes - 2010
Salta, Argentina

Torrontes is a relatively new variety for me to get into. I am a big chewy red girl who cut my teeth on Argentine malbecs and Aussie shiraz, but I am beginning to dabble in light whites. I first tried Torrontes at work ("taste all you want, just don't get drunk" they tell me, love my job!) and was intrigued by the different flavor profile and wanted to try more (plus it fits right into Boyfriend's palate).

The Crios torrontes was as I expected, very light in color with a floraly-herbaceous nose with sparks of grapefruit, honeysuckle, and melon. It tasted exactly like it smells. I was struck how much this version presented itself as a grassy sauvignon blanc. It was a bit one note and almost too sweet for me. This is an excellent after dinner white for people looking for something with a floral character but is not as perfumey and sweet as a muscat.

Boyfriend liked it, I wasnt thrilled, but I didn't dislike it. It wouldn't be my first choice but I wouldn't turn it down either.

Numanthia "Termes"

Numanthia "Termes"
Tempranillo - 2007
Valdefinjas, Spain

Cef Zambrano (owner of my favorite wine bar and retail shop here in Ft. Worth) recommended this to me when I came looking for a bold interesting red (all these summer whites are great, but I need teeth staining bold every now and again). He proudly told me this wine just got a 92 from Wine Spectator, I generally find thier ratings to be inaccurate, wrought with favoritism, and douchey so I wasn't impressed initially, but I was eager to try something Cef spoke so highly of.

It. Blew. My. Mind.

I've had the 100 point Penfolds "Grange", and this was better.

At Cef's recommendation I let it decant in the glass for 30 min while I whipped up late night spicy chicken spaghetti. It sat there dark purple with ruby edges beckoning me and trying my patience (not my strongest virtue). After the obligatory wait time I gave it a sniff, chocolate covered cherries with a hint of wooded licorice rewarded my patience. The Boyfriend who "didn't want a glass" and proceeded to steal mine threw in his couch commentary "it smells like candy!"

When I finally took a sip my mouth was filled with a velvety lucious wine that exploded with flavors of chocolate, wood, spice, and a toasty almost nutty finish. The layered richness was perfectly balanced, no over-powering tannins or alcohol to detract from all the good. I could see this cellaring and improving, but knowing how good this is, it is unlikely it would last 48 hours at my house.

How much was this bottle of amazing? $31.00 yes, that cheap. Go buy it now. You'll thank me, I sure know Cef is getting a hug from me for this wonderful gem.

And yes, it was even better with the spaghetti.

Schild Estate "GMS"

Schild Estate "GMS"
Rhone blend (Grenache, Mourvedre, Shiraz) - 2009
Barossa Valley, South Australia

I like Rhone blends. I like the juicy meets peppery melding of grenache and syrah/shiraz. Of course the ratio of each, combined with the old vs new world winemaking style, you never quite know what to expect with these wines, you could get a pepper bomb like the St. Cosme or you could get this GMS...

This blend is possibly the grapiest wine I have ever had. It almost finishes like those grape gummy fruit snacks, great for my inner kid, but very surprising to my palate. Yes, wine is made from grapes, but rarely do you find such a pronounced statement of that flavor in wine.

On the nose I get currants and cherries. It is an easy drinking wine, showing excellent juiciness and the fact it is unoaked allows for the fruit to finish smoothly and linger.

The long pleasant finish makes it a great choice for solo drinkability, but I would take it to a cookout, plunge it in the beer ice bucket for a short spell and enjoy the juiciness opening up as it warmed up (plus it's a screw top, good for the casual outdoor gathering).

This is a great wine for Pinot Noir drinkers wanting to branch out, or heavier red drinkers in the summer. Also as a Rhone lover it is a refreshing break from the traditional French peppery blends.

Inama Vin Soave

Inama "Vin Soave"
Garganega - 2009
Verona, Italy

First of all, I have never even heard of the varietal garganega, I mean really, it sounds like a venereal disease, and not the good kind (ahem, Jordan).

However, this "smooth wine" is quite good! A very light color, like watered down ginger ale and a light citrusy nose. The wine drinks very crisp with a light apple finish. As it warms a slightly oaky vanilla taste lingers at the finish blending nicely with the not-quite-honey woody sweetness when it is colder. Like a smoother, softer chardonnay or more involved pinot blanc.

Excellent all purpose, smooth, drink alone white. I like it best very cold.

Butter by JaM

Butter by Jam Cellars
Chardonnay - 2009
Napa, California

I love Jam's cab and blend, so naturally I was expecting big things from this wine, and I can say I was not disappointed!

Those of you that know me know my general aversion to chards (the only Chardonnay I ever liked was the villan in Footballers' Wive$ who famously said "darling, the bottle IS the new glass"), I normally find them icky and unimpressive. Much to my surprise this wine actually put me on my summer chardonnay kick, it's that good.

In the glass it has a light gold "vegetable oil" look with a good even tone. Immediately I was struck by the toasty vanilla nose, it burst out of the glass and could be smelled throughout the room. When I finally closed my eyes and sipped it I found light notes of honey, light oak, light spice, and of course warm butter. Delicious! It acheives a very nice buttery lingering finish without being over oaked.

The weight and creaminess of this wine makes it perfect to drink alone, but it is sturdy and bold enough to hold up to a rich fatty ribeye (which we of course ate with it). As the bottle warms from fridge cold the toasty vanilla becomes more prominant.

I love this wine and I cannot reccommend it enough. If you find it, buy it.

More important, Boyfriend likes it.

Chateau St. Cosme

Chateau St. Cosme
"Les Deux Albion" - 2008
Rhone Blend (predominantly Syrah)
Cotes du Rhone, France

Pepper explosion! I am almost unable to taste anything but the white pepper! Now I have been known to enjoy a nice peppery wine, but this is too much. I get a nice nose of red berries, but the potential of a spicy juicy blend is lost by the overwhelming finish. The lightness of the grenache is lost in the overbearing old world syrah.

I wouldn't drink this alone but with a heavy gamey meat, the sweetness of lamb could help balance the finish.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Some people call me a wino.
Others call me a wine snob.
Most call me bartender and shake their empty glass at me or snap their fingers and do a finger wavy thing at me (I really hate that).

I am an oenophile who has embarked on a never ending journey to drink every wine, visit every vineyard, learn and experience every aspect of wine from the vine to the bottle to my tongue.

Currently, I bartend in a wine bar in Fort Worth, Texas. Before you laugh, it's an amazing place to be. With such an entrenched beer culture and such a fledgling wine industry Texas is ripe for earning it's Wino status. I have so many people come through my bar doors thinking they know everything about wine or too timid to try anything new. I probably spend 90% of my time asking questions to identify what people are REALLY asking for. It sometimes gets repetitive, and it is often time exhausting trying to convince a middle aged woman Zinfandel is not actually pink, but it has it's moments. I can still gleefully recall a staunch Pinot Noir drinker trying a Rhone blend and falling in love and a fearful White Zin drinker getting excited over an Argentine Torrontes.

I am always trying to document and explain wine for people. I try to outline what they like and why they like it. After working so hard on getting their palates satisfied I am often asked "well, what do you like?"... to which I normally respond "well, it depends on my mood really". When really I am painfully trying to sort through the bajillions of wines I've had over the 12+ years I've been drinking wine (Mom, it was all legal, the drinking ages in Argentina, England, and Australia are lower than here).

I now fit the cliche "I've forgotten more about wine than some people know".

I aim to stop that. DING! Light goes off in my wine cloudy brain....

Before I begin my quest for my Sommelier certification Summer of 2012 and my formal enological and viticultural studies the Spring of 2013 I should probably get all my tasting notes together in one place.

I should probably SHARE those notes with everyone, because, well, everyone keeps asking me about wine all the time and truly great wine finds and pairings need to be shared.

Welcome to my palate, let's get drinking!