Sunday, January 30, 2011

Inwood Estates Vineyards


     While visiting Inwood Estates Vineyards in Florence, Texas, I had the opportunity to talk with proprietor and winemaker, Dan Gatlin. He has been growing grapes and making wine in Texas for 30 years and has experimented with 30 grape varieties in five different vineyard locations during that time. He was one of the first Texas winemakers to realize that the Spanish grape Tempranillo would be a significant grape for Texas. Due to the high mineral content in Texas soil and how that terroir represents itself in certain grape varieties, he is generally a proponent of blending wines rather than producing single varietals.
     The 2007 Tempranillo-Cabernet is a 55% to 45% blend. It was a dark ruby in the glass with fresh aromas of mixed red and blackberries. It was medium bodied with medium+ acidity and high alcohol and tannins. It had a medium-length dried raspberry, mineral-tinged finish. $39.50
     The 2006 Magellan Texas Red Wine is a blend of the five Bordeaux grapes (68% being Cabernet) with a small amount of Tempranillo added to the mix. It was also a dark ruby in the glass with pleasant earthy aromas with dark berries and cedar notes. It was fuller-bodied with medium+acidity and high tannins with 14.4% abv. The dark fruit continues in the flavor with some dried herb notes and a medium+ length finish. $59.50
     The 2007 Cornelius is 100% Tempranillo. This is a wine that will not be regularly produced but was this year due to a unique vintage. Intense red berry aromas, dried herbs and floral notes of violets. Medium bodied with medium+acidity, tannins and 14.4% abv. Flavors of strawberry with cedar notes and a medium+ length finish. $39.95
     I enjoyed all of my tastings at Inwood Estates and would recommend it as a winery to visit. I think both Pinot Noir and Rioja lovers would enjoy discovering these Texas wines.

"Winter Escape" on the San Gabriel Wine Trail

     Yesterday, the wineries on the San Gabriel Wine Trail hosted their "Winter Escape". Wine lovers boarded buses, vans and limos to tour and taste the offerings at five Texas wineries and one wine bar. The crowd was estimated at well over 300 participants with each person receiving a souvenier glass, a wine bottle carrying bag and three tastings at each location complemented with free food pairings. Live music at two of the locations added to the fun.
     We started at Inwood Estates in Florence where Dan Gatlin, the proprietor, was on-site to answer questions and show the facility. They have been making wine in Texas since 1981 and are well-known for their outstanding Tempranillo and Tempranillo blends. From here, we walked to the adjacent property, The Vineyard at Florence. Dan is the winemaker for this label, as well, for neighbor/owner Kambrah Garland and her partner Kris Davis. These ladies have created a beautiful space with their Villa Firenze. This building has a large tasting room, a cafe, spa, art gallery and event rooms. There are also free-standing villas overlooking the vineyards for overnight stays.
    
     From here, we went to Salado Wine Company. This is a new winery and they are still waiting for government approval for their labels so we were not able to sample their own wines. They instead served three wines from other Texas producers from their wine shop. The next stop was down the road at the Salado Creek Winery where we were offered a Pinot Grigio blend, Cabernet and a sweet red wine blend.
     Then it was time to head south to the Georgetown Winery. Winemaker and owner, Dan Marek, was there pouring his White Merlot, Cabernet and Chocolate-Cherry Port-styled wine. The Texas music was playing and the crowd was a rambunctious mix of locals and trail-goers. Our last stop was the Silver & Stone Restaurant and Wine Bar located on the 4th floor of a building in historic Georgetown. Groups of people from the wine trail took their final three tastings outside on the terrace patio with views of the town.
     The weather was fantastic, the trail-goers were excited to try the wines and a wonderful time was had by all with whom I spoke.

Friday, January 28, 2011

2008 Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel

     I picked up this bottle of Seghesio 2008 Sonoma County Zinfandel at the grocery store for about $22. While I had not ever tried this particular version, I had tried most of their line at a Seghesio tasting at the Pappas Grill a while back and I had enjoyed all of their offerings. We kept the "Old Vines" Zin stocked at our house for several months afterwards for barbecue nights.
     In the glass, the wine was a clear, dark ruby right up to the rim. It had intense, fresh aromas of dark fruit and mixed berry with black tea and a bit of a floral note. The flavors were more of the berry mix (blueberry, blackberry and raspberry) balanced with high alcohol (15.5% abv), smooth, medium tannins and medium+ acidity. It had a long, juicy finish with a bit of baking spice at the end. A very good wine at the price point.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2009 Clean Slate Riesling

     The 2009 Clean Slate Riesling is one of my favorite value Rieslings. It is approximately $10 a bottle and is fairly easy to find. It comes from the Mosel region in Germany.
     In the glass, this wine is a pale straw color with a watery rim. It is very aromatic with the scent of lime and peaches with some beeswax and minerality. Flavors of peach and citrus are balanced with high acidity, low alcohol (10.5% abv) and an off-dry, barely perceptible sweetness.
     I like to drink it with spicy take-out Thai food but have successfully served it with Cajun-spiced shrimp with pasta and herb-rubbed turkey with jalapeno cornbread stuffing as well.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc & Warre's Otima 10 Year Tawny Port

     Last night, we went to Max's Wine Dive for dinner. It was busy as usual but we were lucky enough to get the last two seats at the bar. It has been chilly in Houston this week so we have been drinking red wine and eating a lot of meat. We decided to switch things up and ordered the fried chicken (all white meat) to split, after starting with a bowl of truffled mac & cheese. Instead of Champagne (the classic pairing for this meal at Max's), we went economical with a bottle of Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc.
     This classic California sparkler is consistently good. 100% Chardonnay made effervescent in the traditional method. Subtle citrus aromas with fresh-baked bread, a medium-body with a crisp acidity and a light lingering finish. It was excellent alone and even better with our dinner.
     We finished up with Warre's Otima 10 year Tawny Port and a Brown Betty apple dessert. This Port is a pale tawny color in the glass with intense aromas of honey and baked nuts. The sweetness is balanced with good acidity, high alcohol and a long caramel finish. Wonderful with the dessert but delicious alone as well. The perfect way to warm yourself on a chilly night.
     Another great night amongst many at Max's.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Incognito Red Wine 2006

A wet, chilly day made me glad that I had the foresight to purchase everything that I needed to make a beef stew for tonight when I had done the grocery shopping yesterday. I had also picked up a bottle of Incognito Red Wine from the Michael~David Family of Wines. This red wine is a blend made from several grapes (Mourvedre, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cinsault, Carignane, Tannat, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Grenache)  grown in the Lodi Appellation.

The wine was an opaque purple in the glass with a ruby rim. It had intense earthy scents-the good kind, no bad funkiness. Rosemary and sage-dried herbal aromas, forest floor, smoke and savory bacon followed with a minerality and then, lastly, some raspberry/blueberry. It was full bodied and well-balanced with medium+ acidity and tannins and 14.5% abv. Flavors were heavier on the red fruit side, raspberry, red plums but still with the savoriness. The finish was long and dry. I was very impressed with the value and complexity of this offering from Michael-David, purchased for about $16!      

Related posts: Michael~David Wine Dinner at Max's Wine Dive

2007 Ridge "Lytton Springs"

     I roasted a pork tenderloin for dinner last night and decided to open a bottle of 2007 Ridge "Lytton Springs" red wine to serve with it. This wine is a blend of 71% Zinfandel, 22% Petite Sirah and 7% Carignane. 

     In the glass, it was a clear ruby with a rosy-colored rim. It had fresh aromas of blackberry and cedar. It was full-bodied and well-balanced with 14.4% abv, medium acidity and medium tannins. Flavors were more of a mixed raspberry/blackberry with some spicy clove notes. It had a medium+ length, smooth, light fruity finish. Very easy drinking!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Quattro at the Four Seasons Hotel-Houston

     Over the weekend, my husband and I went to Quattro at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Houston. They give you the option of dining in the wine bar with several small plate choices to share priced at $9 and under and a full restaurant menu as well. They have an extensive wine list with over 50 wines by the glass (all available in 3 or 6 ounce pours) and numerous additional bottle choices.


     We opted to sit in the main dining room and started our evening with a glass of Champagne and a shared lobster pasta dish which we followed with the Mozzarella Di Bufala antipasti that we used as a spread on the bread.
     We ordered a bottle of 2007 Provenance Cabernet from Rutherford to have after the Champagne with our entrees. The wine was fantastic; classic Napa Cabernet and reasonably priced. Executive Chef, Maurizio Ferrarese stopped by our table to discuss the menu options. I chose the filet and my husband chose the Osso Bucco. We finished with a glass of Tawny Port and Creme Brulee.
     Our server's name was Savdo (he is from Bosnia). We found him to be well-informed, charming and he provided us with excellent service. We thoroughly enjoyed our evening.
     We learned that in addition to their bar menu and $4 Happy Hour specials, you can request some special chef-created options, all of which we are looking forward to trying in the enoteca the next time we venture downtown.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

2006 Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet

     My husband received this bottle of 2006 Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet from Mendocino County for Christmas. We had just been to see the Roger Waters' show in Houston in November when he played The Wall so it was a fun gift idea for him. I had seen the Wines that Rock at Spec's and had wondered about them but had not purchased any thus far. I was pleased to learn that they come from an environmentally-conscious winery.
     This was an evening when the kids were at home but had their own agendas for later so we were trying to feed everyone quickly so my husband and I could camp out in front of the TV and the fire. I decided that my husband would not mind the cold for the short time that it takes to grill up some burgers. I was making fries, slicing tomatoes, assembling the condiments, etc. I decided to open some wine to help him warm up when he came back inside.  
     I picked the Pink Floyd bottle because it seemed appropriate for a laid back evening at home. In the glass, it was a deep, almost black, ruby color with classic aromas of black fruit- berries & cherries with some smoky cedar notes. It had good structure with medium+ for acid, tannins and alcohol (13.5% abv). More black fruit with pomegranate flavors and hints of vanilla ending with a medium+length, smooth, pleasant finish. Delicious with the burgers and a great deal for around $15. It is definitely a wine that rocks!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2008 Banfi Centine

     I had family in from out of town and I knew we were going to take their kids to the Museum of Natural Science that afternoon so I was looking for an easy dinner for that evening. I ordered a pan of lasagna and bread with herbed olive oil from Carrabba's. I went to HEB to pick up some lettuce for a salad and decided to grab some wine while there. I was going to have seven adults so I wanted to get a few bottles of inexpensive Italian wine. I decided to buy the $11 a bottle, 2008 Banfi Centine Red Table Wine which is a Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
     In the glass, it was a clear, light ruby color. It had clean moderately intense aromas of cherries and plums. It was medium-bodied, 13.5% abv, with smooth tannins and medium+ acidity. It had a light, red fruit finish. Overall, it was a well-balanced, easy-drinker that worked well with the lasagna and would be a great wine to keep on hand to have with pizza.
     I was able to easily feed 12 people well and serve wine to all the adults for about $100 with minimum effort. A good time was had by all and we finished up with a Christmas gift bottle of Moscato d’ Asti for dessert for which I took no tasting notes nor do I even know who was the producer… but the bottle is pretty cute.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2006 Ashwood Grove Shiraz

     We had family over on a particularly mild evening so my husband was grilling ribeyes and marinated veggies for dinner and I had made a pan of scalloped potatoes to accompany it. We had this magnum bottle of Australian 2006 Ashwood Grove Shiraz. It had been a gift and I didn't know much about it but the giver had felt it was a good value wine and I knew this group would be game to give it a go.
     It turned out to be a pretty easy-drinker and, of course, paired well with the grilled food. In the glass, it was a deep, dark ruby right up to the rim. It had intense ripe fruit aromas and flavors of plum and raspberry. Though not particularly complex, it was well-balanced, medium+bodied, with medium+tanins and acidity and had 14% abv. It had a medium length, pleasant, peppery finish. Everyone enjoyed it and the bottle was quickly emptied.
     Looking for it on-line, I could not find a winery link but did see that the current 2008 release sells for about $17 for this size bottle and is available locally at Spec's. I would definitely give it another try, it was a good value wine and it would work particularly well for a large gathering.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cova Wines on Washington

     Last night, we went to the Cova Wine Bar on Washington. It was our first time to go and we had a great experience. The ambiance was relaxed and invited you to stay awhile. We got a table immediately upon entering. 
     I ordered a glass of the 2009 Chateau St. Esteve d' Uchaux "Jeunes Vignes" Viognier from the Cotes du Rhone for $9 and the house-made Gnocchi which comes with six really large sauteéd shrimp with lemon caviar beurre blanc for $18 for my meal. This was a great pairing, the wine had the classic fresh aromas of honeysuckle and peaches with tropical fruit flavors and just enough acid to cut right through the heavy sauce. Absolutely delicious. After my meal, I decided to stay in the Rhone River Valley and ordered a glass of Domaine des Hauts Chassis "Les Galets" Crozes-Hermitage for $14. This wine's good structure was well-balanced with aromas and flavors of herbal earthy garrigue, mixed berries and smoke.
     My husband ordered a flight which consisted of three 2-ounce pours of some of his favorite Napa reds totaling $17 and a $10 pizza Marguerite which he enjoyed as well. He followed up with a glass of his favorite of the three.
     We ended our evening there with a split Bananas Foster Cheesecake and a glass of Quinta do Noval 10 year Tawny Port. It was smooth and balanced with classic nutty flavors and was absolutely fantastic with the dessert's caramel topping.
     Our server was Susie and we enjoyed talking to her throughout the evening. She provided excellent service; she was there when we needed her but did not hover when we did not. She was knowledgeable about the varied offerings of wine by the glass and she was very helpful with our retail wine purchase without being pushy in any way.
     The number of different wines by the glass ensure that there will be something for all to enjoy. The menu ranges from an affordable create-your-own cheese plate to more filling entrees. Both the menu and the wine list offer the opportunity to go big or to go budget. I highly recommend Cova for your next evening out.

Friday, January 7, 2011

2009 Secreto Carmenere

     A busy day with my daughter yesterday had left me without a dinner plan and with no will to go out. We went into Whole Foods to search for inspiration before heading home. The guy behind the fish counter started chatting us up and offering samples. I ended up purchasing blue-crab stuffed salmon filets. This is the kind of thing that I never buy as I make great seafood stuffing but I was looking for convenience. 
     I went to get a carton of milk while my daughter went to check out the beauty supplies. This (inadvertantly) led me through the wine section to get back to her. I got distracted and started looking for a particular Texas Viognier that I had been wanting to try (they were out of it), glanced over the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir sections (nothing grabbed me) and ended up looking at the Carmenere section which seemed to have expanded since I had last looked at it.
     My daughter came to find me at this point. She saw the 2009 Secreto de Viu Manent Carmenere and commented on the label and said, "why don't you try that?" This is not how I usually pick wine but I looked at the $10 price and thought, why not. 


     This wine came from the Colchagua Valley in Chile and is 85% Carmenere and 15% unnamed. It was an opaque purple with a ruby rim. It had medium-intense aromas of cherry, vanilla and cedar with fruit flavors of pomegranite and cherry with some vanilla. It was medium-bodied with medium tannins, 14.5% abv and medium+ acidity. It had a medium length, slightly sour cherry finish. While Carmenere is probably not the varietal I would pick to serve with this meal again (it wasn't bad together, nor was it special), I would try this with a cheeseburger if I had another bottle. A simple wine with a simple dnner.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Three Sparkling Wines

     When I was asked by my guests what they should bring to a holiday dinner, I requested an inexpensive sparkling wine for the pre-dinner hors d'oevres. Dinner was going to be heavy and the red wine would be flowing later so I wanted a light wine to go with small snacks while we waited for everyone to arrive. It was great fun tasting and comparing the different bubbles. 
  • Riondo Pink Spago Argento-Veneto Italy This vino frizzante blend of Prosecco and Raboso grapes made via the Charmat method was an easy drinker. It was a clear pale pink with medium intense aromas of strawberries with a hint of roses. The crisp, fresh berry fruitiness was rounded out with tart acidity and 10.5% abv. I think it would be fabulous very-chilled by the pool in the summer or for an all-girl wedding shower on a weekend afternoon. $12
  • Louis Perdrier Brut Excellence-French Sparkling Wine or Vin Mousseux. This was a well-balanced pale yellow wine with small fizzy bubbles. It had very light citris aromas with even lighter hints of yeast, good acid and 11% abv with a bit of minerality in the dry finish. A fun, budget bubbly. $12
  • Chandon-California Brut Classic- A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made bubbly in the traditional method. Bright, fresh aromas of apple and lime with flavors of apple and subtle hints of toast and vanilla ending in a crisp, dry finish. A bit more complex than the Louis Perdrier and more elegant than the Riondo. The group favorite. $17

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ruinart Blanc de Blanc & Rose Champagne NV

     We began our New Year's Eve celebration with Ruinart Blanc de Blanc NV Champagne. We served it with a cold spread of salted almonds, organic potato chips with sea salt, mild cheddar and smoked swiss cheese and fresh raspberries and blackberries. Warm appetizers of crostini with chevre cheese melted on top, broiled shrimp in lemon butter and roasted potato skins topped with bacon, cheese and sour cream were brought out next. All of these worked wonderfully with this style of Champagne. In the glass, this wine was a pale gold color with endless bubbles. It had crisp aromas and flavors of peach, lemon and grapefruit which rounded out into a medium-length creamy finish.
     This course was followed with the Ruinart Brut Rose and broiled lobster tails with melted butter. In the glass, the Rose was a salmon-pink and equally effervescent. It had fresh, fruity aromas and flavors of raspberry, cherry and orange peel which ended with a medium-length, tart berry finish. After midnight, we finished the evening with large strawberries and melted dark chocolate for dipping. Absolutely delicious!
     I think the antique bottle shape is what initially attracted us to the House of Ruinart Champagne. It always makes a unique impression upon serving but the quality of the contents is why we continue to purchase it.


Happy New Year!

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