by Sandra Crittenden

by Sandra Crittenden

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sugar Land Wine and Food Affair

The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair took place at various venues throughout Sugar Land last week. While I did not attend the On the Rocks Bartender Challenge, the Scotch Whisky tasting, the Churrasco Chef dinner or the Sommelier Secrets Lecture, I did have the opportunity to attend all three of the big weekend events.

Friday night, The Grand Tasting took place in the Town Square Marriot Ballroom. The room was packed with party-goers tasting the many special Chefs' creations while sampling the wide assortment of wines from around the world. One of my favorite tastes of the night was the elk carpaccio created by Vail, Colorado Chef Kelly Liken which I washed down with some Malbec made by Ryan Levy pictured at right, the winemaker for Nice Winery.

The festivities continued on Saturday afternoon at the more casual Sip & Stroll held on the Imperial Sugar property. The Houston Blues Brothers performed outside on the patio while guests strolled through the historic buildings where food and wine options were abundant. For best bite of the day, I was torn between the shrimp salad roll by Houston's own Randy Evans of Haven and the lobster roll by Shanna and Brian O'Hea from the Kennebunk Inn in Maine, both of which I personally enjoyed with a glass of Cava. In addition to the many wine selections, the iced tea was flowing freely and the Mint Juleps from Maker's Mark were a crowd favorite.

The final event was the International Bistro Brunch held in Sugar Land Town Square with food and wine pairings from around the world. People were lining up well before the 11:00 am start time in anticipation of what was to come. Salsa music was being played on the steps of City Hall as guests strolled in to try the many offerings. The line was long at both the Bloody Mary booth and the Paella stand. Lots of sparkling wine and cold beer were on hand to cool you down but the weather was absolutely beautiful and everyone seemed to enjoy the day.
As the saying goes, Life is certainly sweet in Sugar Land!

Cremant de Limoux

Paella & Albarino

Local Salsa & Bloody Mary Mix

Kingfisher Indian Beer

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tasting Spain - Some White Wines with One Rose

From Rias Baixas:
2008 Bodegas Montecillo Verdemar Albarino 
Clear, medium straw color. Clean, medium- intense youthful aromas of grapefruit and grass. Dry, medium- body, medium+ acidity, medium alcohol with diluted flavors of citrus pith and a medium- length. Past its prime.

2010 Abadia de San Campio Albarino
Clear, medium lemon color. Clean, medium intense youthful aromas of peach and lime. Dry, medium- body, medium+ acidity, medium alcohol with flavors mirroring the aromas and a medium+ length. Good+/ drink now.

From Rueda:
2010 Herederos del Marques de Riscal Verdejo 
Clear, medium straw color. Clean, medium- intense youthful aromas of melon and pineapple. Dry, light body, medium+ acidity, medium alcohol with slightly diluted flavors of under-ripe pineapple and a medium length. Good/ drink now.

From Catalunya:
2010 Vina Esmerelda- Torres (85% Moscato and 15% Gewurztraminer)
Clear, pale lemon color. Clean, medium+ intense youthful floral aromas of citrus blossoms and roses. Off-dry, medium- body, medium acidity, medium- alcohol with flavors of orange pith and a short length. Acceptable.

2007 Fra Guerau Montsant Rose (50% Syrah, 25% Garnacha, 25% Merlot)
Clear, pale garnet color. Clean, medium youthful aromas of strawberry and orange zest. Dry, medium body, light tannins, medium acid and alcohol with a spicy strawberry flavor. Good+/Drink now.

All of these wines are available locally, priced between $10 and $15.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Almost Lost Thoughts

In the past few weeks, I have gotten way behind on things about which I wanted to post. To name a few, this would include notes on: a beer, saki and cider tasting, a Sherry tasting, a bottle of Cabernet from British Columbia, a Mexican Merlot, a few bottles of Romanian wine, Krug Grande Cuvee Brut Champagne, Pierre Peters NV Cuvee de Reserve Blanc de Blancs Champagne, some of Napa Valley's finest: 2006 Darioush Merlot, 2006 Dominus, 2006 Quintessa and last but certainly not least, the Houston Bloggers Dinner at Ciao Bella.

All of these were certainly "thought inspiring"  but the clock is ticking so I decided to summarize what a few weeks looks like in the life of someone who is trying to stay on top of the world of wine and beverages before these thoughts were just "lost" for good. 
The Beer, Cider and Sake Tasting: After over 20 bottles of beer, I am still pretty much of a Hophead but I knew that going in. I certainly enjoy a good brew but I was not really inspired to start blogging beer, cider or saki. Of interest to me, mainly because I had not ever had it, the nigorizake Snow Beauty which includes the lees and gives the sake a milky appearance.

After having been a part of 4 or 5 Sherry tastings within the last two years, my thought remains the same after this one...Sherry is never going to be for me. I get its historical significance, I understand the unique way it is made but I personally cannot get past the fact that I just don't like it so I will not actually be commenting on it.

This next bottle is not available in the Houston market as far as I know which is a shame. A friend had a friend traveling in Canada and he brought it home and she was kind enough to share it (Thank you, Yvonne!). The 2009 Blasted Church Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot from Okanagan Falls, BC. A nice balance of fruit and structure, absolutely lovely. If you are traveling there, it sounds like a great place to check out. 

The 2006 Don Luis Cetto Seleccion Reservada Merlot from Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico, was brought home from Mexico by my brother-in-law who was kind enough to share it with me. The wine had a beautiful nose but was just a little thin on the palate for my taste. Another lady in the group, however, thought it was fantastic. Unfortunately, I did not get a very good bottle shot of that one.

Romanian wine...In a short time span, I read a posting about a Romanian wine, tasted a few of their wines in a classroom setting and then went to a friend's house who just happened to be serving a white Romanian wine that she had just had in a deli in New York and had really enjoyed. My main thought- Romania is around 10th or 11th in world wide wine production, I guess we are going to be seeing more of it in the Houston market.

Champagne thoughts, so unlike me to let these slip by. No surprise, they were crisp, bubbly and delicious. One big house bottling, Krug Grande Cuvee Brut NV Champagne and one grower bottling,  Pierre Peters Cuvee de Reserve Blanc de Blancs NV Champagne. Two different evenings with only happy thoughts and memories involved and absolutely no spitting required.

Two ridiculously over the top Napa Valley splurge bottles, I know. They were, however, everything that they should have been and you do have to wash your dry-aged ribeyes down with something.

The 2006 Darioush Merlot was enjoyed with friends at the BRC Gastropub. By that, I mean that 3 couples sucked down 2 bottles in record time. Yummy aromas and lush in your mouth. A terrible picture, I know, but I was not with people who are used to the restaurant photoshoot which is a beloved activity of my fellow bloggers.
Speaking of my fellow bloggers, I did not want to miss the opportunity to say how much I enjoyed the mini Houston Wine Bloggers summit last week which was set up by DoBianchi at Ciao Bella. The food was outstanding, the conversation was fascinating and the wine was a diverse assortment of  deliciousness. Absolutely looking forward to doing it again soon!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Some Random Tasting Notes

Wines from a Blind Tasting Practice:

Muga Rioja Seleccion Especial Reserva 2005   $30   
Appearance: Clear, deep ruby with a pale ruby rim.
Nose: Clean, medium intense youthful aromas of  mixed almost jammy black & red fruit.
Palate: Dry, medium body, medium+ tannins, acidity, and finish with sour cherry and vanilla flavors.

Dunn Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet 2004     $80
Appearance: Clear, deep garnet with a pale garnet rim.
Nose: Clean, medium+ developing aromas of ripe blackberry and cassis with some chocolate and cedar.
Palate: Dry, medium+ body, tannins, alcohol, acidity and finish with flavors mirroring the aromas.

Clementin du Chateau Pape Clement - Graves 2005    $35        
Appearance: Clear, medium garnet with a pale garnet rim.
Nose: Clean, medium+ developing aromas of tobacco and black fruit with just a hint of green .
Palate: Dry, full body, medium+ tannins, acidity, alcohol and with the flavors mirroring the aromas with the addition of minerality in the medium+ length finish.

Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 2006     $32
Appearance: Clear, deep garnet with a pale garnet rim.
Nose: Clean, medium intense developing aromas of smoked meat, herbs, red fruit and mushrooms.
Palate: Dry, medium+ tannins, medium body, alcohol, acidity and finish with flavors mirroring the aromas.

All four of these wines were very good and could probably be held but you may as well enjoy them now.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Reviewing Germany - A Taste of Nahe & Franken

The small Nahe region lies between the Mosel and Rheinhessen on steep south facing slopes along the Nahe River. Riesling is the most widely planted variety. Dornfelder and Muller-Thurgau are also important. The climate is warmer than the Mosel so their Riesling may have a riper fruit quality.
2010 Neuschwanstein Castle Riesling
Clear, pale lemon yellow color. Clean, medium intense youthful aromas of peach and lime blossom. Off dry, light body, low alcohol, high+ acidity with low flavor intensity and a short finish. Acceptable.

Franken is in the eastern part of the growing region and has a more extreme climate. Muller-Thurgau and Silvaner are the most important grapes.
2008 Castell-Castell Franken Silvaner Trocken
Clear, pale lemon yellow color. Clean, medium intense youthful aromas of lemon, almond and an unidentified floral note. Off dry, light body, medium alcohol, high acidity with a slightly bitter lemon pith / almond skin medium length finish. Good.

Related post:
Reviewing Germany-Tasting the Mosel
Reviewing German-Tasting Rheinhessen
Reviewing Germany-Tasting the Rheingau

Friday, April 6, 2012

Reviewing Germany - Tasting the Rheingau

Rheingau is a small but important region which has its vineyards located along
the slopes of both the Rhine and Main Rivers. It is protected from northern cold winds by the Tannus Mountain but the moderating effect of the rivers is the main environmental influence. The soils are a combination of weathered slate and quartz which retain and reflect heat. 80% of the land under vine is planted to Riesling which is typically produced in a fuller body, drier style though some sweet BA and TBA wines are produced as well.

2010 Schloss Vollrads Riesling  
Clear, pale lemon color. Clean, medium- intense youthful aromas of lime and citrus blossoms. Off dry, light body, low alcohol, medium acidity and length with citrus flavors.  Acceptable, not typical/drink now.
Around the village of Assmanhausen is a long tradition of producing Pinot Noir, known as Spatburgunder, which is considered to be some of the best in Germany.

2007 August Kesseler Spatburgunder
Clear, pale garnet. Clean, medium- intense fully developed aromas of leather, dank earth and baked red fruit. Dry, medium body, alcohol, acidity, tannins and length with an odd brackish water taste. Not recommended.

A bit of a disappointing tasting.                                                                                   

Related post:
Reviewing Germany-Tasting the Mosel
Reviewing German-Tasting Rheinhessen

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Reviewing Germany - Tasting Rheinhessen

     Rheinhessen is Germany's largest region for area under vine with a wide variety of grapes grown. It is very diverse with the wines it produces, both stylistically and quality wise.                
2008 St Gabriel Liebfraumilch (Muller-Thurgau blend)
Clear, pale lemon yellow color. Medium- intense developing aromas of lemon with some kennel notes. Off dry-medium dry, light body, low alcohol, short bitter lemon pith finish. Not recommended.

2008 Twisted River Dornfelder $8
Clear, deep purple color. Clean, medium youthful aromas of red and black cherries. Between dry and off dry, medium body, alcohol, acidity and tannins with low flavor and a medium- astringent finish. Acceptable.

2009 Fritz Windisch Openheimer Krotenbrunner Rheinhessen Riesling Auslese $14
Clear, pale lemon color. Clean, light youthful fruity aromas of citrus. Medium sweet, medium body, medium acidity, medium- alcohol with flavors of ripe pineapple and peach with a medium finish. Good/ drink or hold.

Related post: Reviewing Germany - Tasting the Mosel

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Reviewing Germany - Tasting The Mosel

The Mosel wine region of Germany is along the river valley of the Mosel River from Koblenz to Luxemburg. The climate is continental with cold winters and warm summers. Over half of the vineyard area is planted to Riesling. Some of the vineyard area is on flatter sites producing lower quality wines often from other varieties.

Black Slate Riesling 2009 -  $12
Clear, medium lemon yellow color. Clean, medium intense youthful aromas of pineapple with a touch of honey and canned vegetable. Off-dry, medium body, medium+ acidity, medium- alcohol with flavors of peach and pineapple with a medium+ length. Good/Drink now.

Dr Karl Christoffel Riesling 2010 -  $7 
Clear, pale lemon yellow color. Clean, medium- intense youthful aromas of lime and peach. Off-dry, light body, medium+ acidity, medium- alcohol with diluted flavors of green apple with a short length. Acceptable+

The region's reputation for quality comes from the historic Mittel Mosel where Riesling dominates the vineyards on steep, south-facing slopes on the famous blue Devonian and red slate soils. Many villages known for high quality Riesling are located here such as Bernkastel, Graach, Piesport and Wehlen. Much of their reputation comes from wine produced from the grapes of high quality single vineyards on the best part of the slope. Confusion, however, may occur when reading the labels where a vineyard name may follow the village name. Understand that some of the names are of high quality smaller single vineyard sites while some may be a huge grouping of vineyards with variable quality.

Grans-Fassian Piesporter Riesling Kabinett 2007 -  $24
Clear, pale lemon yellow color. Clean, medium intense developing aromas of kerosene and peach. Off-dry, medium body, medium+ acidity, low alcohol with flavors of juicy peach, citrus, honey and some minerality with a long length. Very Good/Drink now.

Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken 2007 - $25  
Clear, medium straw color. Clean, medium intense developing aromas of kerosene, peach and lime. Off-dry, light body, medium+ acidity, medium alcohol with flavors of green apple and lime with some minerality with a medium+ length. Very Good/Drink now.

Markus Molitor Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett 2008 -  $15 
Clear, pale lemon yellow color. Clean, medium- intense developing aromas of kerosene and peach. Medium dry, light body, medium acidity, low alcohol with flavors of  peach and citrus with a medium- length.  Acceptable+/ Drink now.

Dr Karl Christoffel Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spatlese 2010 -  $20
Clear, pale lemon yellow color. Clean, medium intense developing aromas of kerosene and citrus pith. Medium dry, light body, medium acidity, low alcohol with flavors of  peach and orange and a bit of minerality with a medium length. Good/Drink now.

Monchhof Robert Eymael Urzig Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese 2009 - $30
Clear, medium straw color. Clean, medium intense youthful aromas of citrus blossom, lime and a hint of kerosene. Medium sweet, medium+ acidity, low alcohol with an orange cream medium- length finish.

Eifel-Pfeiffer Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese 2010 - $20
Clear, medium lemon yellow color. Clean, medium- intense developing aromas of citrus blossom peach and lime. Medium sweet, medium body, medium+ acidity, low alcohol with fruity flavors of ripe pineapple and peach with a bit of sweet grape flavor and a long length. Good/Drink now or hold.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Beerenauslese 2006 -  $30/ half bottle
 Clear, medium gold color. Clean, medium intense fully developed aromas of nectarine, pineapple and marmalade. Sweet, medium+ acidity, low alcohol with pina colada flavors, a medium+ length with a slight mineral finish. Very good/ drink now or hold.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Michael Martini at Spec's Downtown

     A couple of friends from one of my wine classes suggested we attend a Louis M. Martini tasting at the downtown Spec's last week. Winemaker Michael Martini was there to present five of his wines and regale us with stories about growing up in one of  California's well known wine making families.
     We started with the 2009 Sonoma County Cabernet priced at approximately $12. Simple, black fruit with soft tannins.
     Next, we compared the 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet and the 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet which Mike called his "every night at home drink". He explained that the 2009 growing season had been cooler than normal resulting in higher acids than usual. The Alexander Valley Cabernet had a pronounced blueberry character while the Napa had more of a black cherry quality. They are priced around $25.
     The 2008 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon at $65 followed. The Monte Rosso Vineyard is located on the southwest side of the Mayacamas mountain range in Sonoma Valley. I have this marked as my favorite but I did not make a note as to the why so I guess that is a 'lost thought'. We ended the tasting with the 2008 Napa Valley Lot 1 Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a limited bottling (450 cases this year) and it is priced at approximately $120 and it delivers all that you expect when you think of Napa Valley Cabernet.