Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Anna Blooms" in Houston


I had a fantastic time speaking at the "Anna Blooms" Houston event last week where I played host to local lifestyle writers who came to Ousie's Table for some how-to tips on entertaining this spring. 

Attendees tasted both the Anna de Codorniu Brut and Rosé Cava with an array of menu items showcasing the pairing potential of these two wines. Passed hors d'oeuvre ranged from fried oysters and asparagus to crab cakes to lamb in puff pastry and beyond. Guests loved the clean citrus and pineapple character of the Brut and the distinctly different fresh berry component of the Rosé along with the refreshing finish of both wines with the varied menu items.

In addition to holding its own at more formal cocktail or dinner parties, guests were surprised to learn that the low price point made it an anytime wine to make any occasion a bit more special, including enjoying it with popcorn on movie night at home or out on the back patio with the neighbors paired with any salty snack.

Some of the style writers commented on the beautiful new packaging and its potential for everything from "It's a girl" to "Pamper yourself" gift baskets. The look adds a bit of feminine elegance to girl's nights, bachlorette parties, Mother's Day brunch and to bridal and baby showers. 

Although these are stand-alone sparkling wines, guests liked the easy cocktail alternative of adding juice to the wine; from the classic orange and grapefruit for brunch to pineapple juice for Hawaiian mimosas at backyard luaus to cranberry for a pre-Thanksgiving aperitif. The availability of having both at Spec's and the Brut also at HEB makes it an easy go-to choice for year round entertaining.

The ability to elegantly entertain with ease this spring was taken a step further with a floral demonstration and workshop with Sue from Lexis Florist. Guests made their own arrangement of beautiful pastel colored flowers to take home for the holiday weekend. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my day as an “Anna ambassador”. I enjoyed sharing the story of the woman for whom the wine is named while tasting both namesakes with so many great Houston writers and wine professionals.

Ask yourself what you are celebrating this spring, then add Anna to the occasion; she not only makes it more elegant, she also makes it more fun!













related:
Social Media Highlights on "Anna Blooms" Houston
Bubbles and Florals by Lachiquitamissi
Flowers Complete by Inspiration's Muse


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Friendly Wine Picks

Happy Earth Day!
As originally seen in the April issue of Galveston Monthly magazine.

Certified Napa Green for both their winery and their land, St Supery’s Estate Vineyards has produced a crisp, fruity spring sipper. Their 2012 St Supery Sauvignon Blanc has pronounced aromas of grapefruit, guava and lime. It is medium bodied with mouthwatering acidity, the flavors match the aromas with just a touch of bell pepper in the long finish. Approximately $15, try it with tortilla chips with crab and mango salsa.

Benziger Family Winery has been a California leader in producing wines with a conscience. Their entire line is produced from earth friendly grapes from the certified sustainable program that produced the following Chardonnay on up to their organic and biodynamic wines. The 2010 Benziger Carneros Chardonnay is full bodied with fresh aromas and flavors of juicy ripe peach, green apple and coconut, with crisp acidity and a smooth finish. Approximately $12, serve it with grilled chicken and grilled vegetables.

Yangarra Estates produces wine biodynamically in McLaren Vale in South Australia. Winemaker, Peter Fraser grew up on a conventional farm but became inspired to go organic and then biodynamic after attending a seminar that resonated with him on this subject. In regards to some of the more unusual methods, he says “There is stuff that we do that I can’t explain why it works but it does, so I keep doing it. There is no science.” He is certain that he ends up with healthier soil and higher quality grapes. The 2011 Yangarra Shiraz has rich aromas and flavors of blackberries, pepper and potting soil with a full body, sweet ripe tannins, clean acidity and a long savory finish. Priced at $25, try this with Asian spiced short ribs. Check out Yangarra’s Viognier and Grenache, as well.

The 2010 Coyam is a red wine blend made from biodynamically grown grapes from the highly regarded Colchagua Valley in Chile. This wine has aromas and flavors of ripe raspberry and plum with sage and a touch of graphite, it is full bodied with moderate, slightly grippy tannins, clean acidity and a long herbal-laced red fruit finish. I tasted this with winemaker, Noelia Orts, recently where she expressed the Coyam winemaking philosophy was “not to make coca-cola, but to express the year.” 2010 was a colder than average year with heavier than normal spring rainfall, the warm, dry summer led to concentrated aromas and colors in the fruit and in the wine. It is priced at $29, serve this with coffee rubbed filet and mushroom risotto. Emiliana Organic Vineyards also produces affordable organic wines from Chile under the labels Natura and Nova and a higher-end biodynamic premium wine called Ge.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spanish Wine under a Houston Sunset


I was asked to speak about Spanish wine and to conduct a tasting at the 30th birthday party of Kyla Kennedy on the rooftop patio of her and her fiancé, Jonathan Garrett's home this past Saturday. They invited a great group of friends with a new interest in wine tasting. Jonathan had the idea after the two had watched the movie "Somm" and had become interested in learning more about the wines of the world. 



For our tasting tour of Spain:

  • Anna de Coderniu Brut Cava* - Guests loved this Spanish sparkler! They found the history of the winery interesting and enjoyed the refreshing style of the wine. The birthday girl named the subtle tropical and citrus aromas like a pro.
  • 2012 Burgan's Rias Baixas Albarino - Guests talked about the fresh peach aromas and the crisp taste. Many felt this could be their summer sipper. 
  • 2012 Raimat Costers del Segre Albarino* - Guests were interested in learning about this lesser known area, the innovative winery and how the more extended time on the lees affected the texture of the wine. 
  • 2012 Naia Rueda Verdejo - Many found the aromas and flavors to be too subtle while others embraced this varietal as the type of white wine for which they had been looking.
  • 2012 Juan Gil Jumilla Monastrell - A party favorite, this varietal was new to all the guests. They loved the ripe black fruit, the spiciness and the interesting bit of earthiness. 
  • 2008 Vina Pomal Rioja Reserva* - Rioja was the red wine of Spain with which guests were most familiar although not many had not tasted it. Guests enjoyed the pronounced aromas and flavors naming characteristics like cherry, berries, vanilla, cedar and incense. They were interested in learning about what Reserva means and the different oak barrel options available. A couple of the men at the party commented that it made them want grilled meat.

Happy Birthday Kyla! 
It was wonderful to meet you and Jonathan and all your friends. 
I enjoyed hearing all the new wine drinkers Wine Thoughts and sharing a night of Spanish wine with you!


*Media Samples


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Terroirs & Signatures de Bourgogne Tasting in Houston - A Selection of Old Vintages

During the Terroirs & Signatures de Bourgogne Tasting in Houston last week, local wine trade and media professionals had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the wines of Burgundy. The day started with a seminar on the age ability of Burgundy wines from less than perfect vintages led by BIVB Marketing and Communication Chairman, Francois Labet and Jay Youmans, Master of Wine.

Jay Youmans led the tasting while Francois Labet shared his first hand experiences making wine during the years from which the chosen wines came.


My Notes:

The Whites from the Handpicked Selection of Old Vintages 

2004 was a more normal year with good ripening due to good weather prior to harvest. It was a better year for whites in the Maconnais, while most whites from this year have either peaked or are nearing that point; there are still some good ones to be found.
  • 2004 Chateau de Beauregard Pouilly-Fuisse, Vers Pouilly – Still fruity with lemon citrus, nutty with mushroom. Balanced, round, long rich smoky finish.
1998 had heavy early rain but finished dry and it had higher than normal yields for whites which can lead to lesser quality. Many white wines have reached their peak from this vintage as it is 16 years old but some vineyards produced wines that are still evolving in surprising ways. We tasted two examples of this, one from the north and one from the south, each interesting in completely different ways with no loss of quality.
  • 1998 Domaine Trouillet Pouilly-Fuisse, Aux Chailloux- fresh aromas of yellow apple with honey, surprisingly young tasting, crisp, long finish.
  • 1998 Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 1er Cru, Les Fourneaux- Very evolved, mushroom, citrus, clean, nutty finish.
2003 was hot and sunny leading to rich, ripe wines with lower than normal acidity, atypical for Chablis in particular. Considered more of a drink now vintage at its time, it is still fresh and interesting over 10 years later.
  • 2003 Domaine Alain Geoffroy Chablis 1er Cru, Fourchaume- Clean, ripe peach aromas and flavors, white pepper and mineral finish.
The Reds from the Handpicked Selection of Old Vintages

2006 was warmer and sunnier than normal, this created fruitier and less structured wine.
  • 2006 Maison Albert Bichot Gevrey-Chambertin, Les Murots- this wine breaks the rules of the vintage as it was very structured, very masculine with “more shoulders” per Jay. Rich berry flavor, black tea and a long finish.
2005 was another warm year but it came with uneven rainfall and only average sunshine. Still a young vintage, the wines need more time to become more rounded.
  • 2005 Domaine des Remparts Irancy, Les Cailles- black potting soil, cherries and minerality.
At ten years old, the 2004 red wines of Burgundy are considered ready to drink now. This more normal vintage has crafted very aromatic and balanced wines. Francois called it a “grower’s vintage”.
  • 2004 Domaine Henri de Villamont Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru, Les Baudes- Dried fruit with a slight cured meat nuance, interesting, less ripe and more tannic than the others. Of this wine, Jay said that “texturally there is more there”. Francois said this wine seemed to be aging more quickly and cited August hail damage to the grapes.
  • 2004 Domaine Georges Lignier Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, Les Combottes- Red berries and baking spice, smooth finish.
2003 was an early harvest after a hot year and it created a unique vintage of red wine. Fuller bodied with lower acidity, the wines are aging surprisingly well.
  • 2003 Domaine Capitain-Gagnerot Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru, Les Charnieres- no notes
  • 2003 Chateau de Santenay Beaune 1er Cru, Clos du Roi- Raspberry, minerals, smooth finish.
  • 2003 Domaine Meo-Camuzet Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru, Boudots- Strawberry, cherry and black tea with a long finish.
2002 was a fantastic year which created great Pinot Noir wine that is showing well now according to Jay Youmans. It was very dry with a cool summer and had ideal conditions at harvest. The wines we tasted from this year were some of my favorites. Francois says these wines are perfect for aging or enjoying now.
  • 2002 Domaine Chanson Beaune 1er Cru, Clos des Feves, Monopole- Sweet, ripe strawberry aroma and rich flavor, supple, bit of earth and mineral, long finish. Upon tasting, Francois Labet remarked that it was “drinking marvelously with huge livability” and the group consensus at my table was that it was “difficult to spit.”
  • 2002 Maison Louis Jadot Santenay, Clos de Malte- smooth, red berries, very drinkable.
  • 2002 Domaine Parent Pommard 1er Cru, Les Epenots- fresh cherries, more tannic structure but still easy drinking.
2001 brought a mix of conditions, a cool frosty spring with a wet summer followed by a heat wave leading to a longer harvest. The grapes were in good condition and the wines created were balanced and structured with a range of aromas.
  • 2001 Domaine Rene LeClerc Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru, Combe aux Moines-Cherry, black tea and baking spice.
  • 2001 Maison Lou Dumont Corton Grand Cru- “power, richness and strength mellowed by age” per Francois Labet. Balanced structure, cherries and mint.
1999 was an ideal year though slightly warmer than normal which led to a higher volume year. It also helped to create very rich and aromatic wines.
  • 1999 Jean-Philippe Marchand Gevrey-Chambertin, Vieilles Vignes- Fresh red cherries and berries, leather and spice. Ripe and structured.  Jay felt it was fully mature now and Francois felt it could still go on to be even more. I would choose to have it both now and later.
1998 brought heavy rains and hail to some areas but a dry September led to a successful harvest.
  • 1998 Domaine Taupenot-Merme Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru- Surprisingly fruity and tannic. Pronounced aromas and flavors of black cherry with leather and spice, smooth finish. Francois Labet says that it isn’t quite ready to drink now despite its 16 years but our table felt it could easily be enjoyed.
The BIVB certainly showcased the age ability of the wines of Bourgogne with this seminar and tasting. We experienced some fantastic older Burgundies and learned that you shouldn’t be afraid to buy a bottle with some age even from a less than perfect vintage. Jay summed it up with this final thought, the wine of Burgundy “doesn’t need to age to be good but you are rewarded if you wait.” 



Monday, March 31, 2014

Tasting with Mark Beringer of Artesa Vineyards & Winery

I was pleased to have the opportunity to taste the current selections of Artesa Vineyards and Winery with winemaker, Mark Beringer, while he was in town. We sat down together at Cru Wine Bar on upper Kirby to talk about not only the five years that he has put into Artesa but where he started and how he feels about where he is now and what he is doing.

Growing up Napa for Mark meant growing up as a country kid. Napa had not yet become the wine destination that we all know and love today. As a direct descendant of Jacob Beringer, the co founder of Beringer Vineyards, Mark did have many opportunities to immerse himself in all the various aspects of the wine business. He started on the low end stocking shelves and cleaning up in his parent's wine store when he was young. His uncle put him to work at his winery while Mark worked on his degree in enology in college. This was followed by a short stint at Glen Ellen and then a more illustrious career at Duckhorn from 1992-2005. After a few years of consulting, Mark joined the Artesa team in 2009. The first few years that Mark was at Artesa, he was working with the previous wine maker's wine. He had a different vision for the wine that he wanted to create. 

The current selections were all overseen by him from start to finish so he was proud to show the direction that Artesa is taking their wine. As a Napa Valley native and someone who has worked the harvests for Napa and Sonoma for almost 30 years, he has great knowledge of what the different vineyard sites are able to produce. He blends these component wines to create a consistent, easy drinking style. He uses less new oak in order to showcase what the terroir creates for the more affordable Carneros line while the more expensive and complex Estate Reserve wines spend a bit more time aging in new oak barrels.

The Tasting:


  • 2012 Carneros Chardonnay (SRP $20) - An ideal growing season, this wine delivers the bright fruit character that Mark says you should expect from Carneros, fresh aromas of honeysuckle, citrus zest and ripe peach with matching flavors, a medium body with refreshing acidity and a smooth, mineral-laced finish.
  • 2011 Estate Reserve Napa Valley Chardonnay (SRP $40) - A low yield year after challenging weather, the component wines were sourced from the estate's best vineyard blocks and fermented and aged in French Oak of which 50% was new. Malolactic fermentaion and aging on the lees created a rich and more full bodied wine while still maintaining its fresh fruit character and food friendly acidity. It had pronounced floral aromas of citrus flower with apricot and lemon flavors and a long mineral-laced finish from the vineyard's gravelly soil.
  • 2012 Carneros Pinot Noir (SRP $25) - The house wine at Mark's home, this had aromas and flavors of cherry and strawberry with a bit of toast, medium body, smooth moderate tannins, fresh acidity and a long red fruit finish.
  • 2011 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir (SRP $40) - Floral aromas of fresh rose petals with raspberry and cherry aromas and flavors, this wine was medium body with smooth moderate tannins, fresh acidity and a long slightly spicy finish.
  • 2010 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $45) - Pronounced aromas and flavors of rich, ripe blackberries and cassis with a full body, smooth ripe medium + tannins, fresh acidity and a long, toffee and black fruit finish.

All Recommended! 
The Carneros line is widely available in town and you should expect to see more of the Estate Reserve selections on restaurant menus.

Friday, March 28, 2014

2010 Jordan Russian River Valley Chardonnay

One of my husband's business associates stopped by after work. As he is a lover of Chardonnay, we opened up a bottle of the 2010 Jordan Russian River Valley for our before dinner drink. 

It had fruity aromas of apple, apricot and grapefruit with matching flavors, a medium body, refreshing acidity and a long citrus and mineral finish. Delicious with cheese and crackers, it would be even better with broiled lobster and drawn butter.

Highly recommended at approximately $25.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

2012 Ipsum

The 2012 Ipsum is a 100% Verdejo wine sourced from vines that were grown organically in a high elevation vineyard in Spain's Rueda region. The wine was fermented with the grapes' natural yeast and aged in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation for a pure interpretation of what this terroir can produce.

I really enjoyed this refreshing wine and I will be looking for more! It had fresh aromas of citrus blossoms and peach with flavors to match. It had a medium body, medium + crisp acidity with a clean, mineral-laced citrus finish. The perfect patio sipper for spring and summer, highly recommended and a great deal at $12! 

*media sample