Monthly Archives: February 2012

Wine(s) of the Week Recommendations: Italian Barolo and Australian Red Blend

Glad to see the Elvio Cogno Barolo recommended this week by Rebecca Murphy in the Dallas News. I spent a day with the winemaker last month and he is an amazing  fellow. Jeff Siegel reports on on a great value from Down Under. Even though winter is winding down in the Northern Hemisphere, we can’t get enough of great red wines, especially when they are also great values. Read on…

Wine of the Week: Elvio Cogno, Barolo DOCG, Cascina Nuova 2006

Source: Dallas Morning News
February 29, 2012
By Rebecca Murphy

Barolo is a magical wine, but it’s not for everyone. For one thing, it’s usually a lot more expensive than this great value wine. It’s not a sipper: It has a lot of acidity and tannins. It requires food.

This one is a magical wine with complex aromas of violets, cedar, strawberries, anise and mushrooms. It has flavors of tart cherries, strawberries, tobacco and anise, with mouthwatering acidity and intense, chewy tannins. Serve it with something rich and creamy like a risotto Milanese or a hearty osso buco.

Nadia Cogno and husband Valter Fissore today run the winery founded by her father, Elvio. It’s a gorgeous property, situated on the top of one of Piedmont’s rolling hills. They produce several barolos, but the Cascina Nuova comes from young vines and is made to be accessible. It’s a delicious way to get to know barolo.

Wine of the week: The Stump Jump 2009

Source: The Wine Curmudgeon
February 29, 2012
By Jeff Siegel

Yet another Australian wine featured on the blog? Hey, the Wine Curmudgeon calls them as he sees them, and if it means changing his mind and admitting that he doesn’t know everything that he thinks he knows, that’s what makes him the Wine Curmudgeon.

Oimage from, to quote a wine drinker named danielbleier on CellarTracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory software): “This is what I am looking for in a $10 wine.”

The Stump Jump ($12, sample), is a blend of red Rhone varietals that includes grenache, and it is all of that. Since it’s Australian, there is lots and lots of red fruit (black cherry?) and it’s not shy about the fruit, either. But the wine is far from one dimensional, with a bit of a middle and even a finish and some tannins — things most cheap Aussie wines don’t bother with since they’re only concerned with making the fruit explode in your mouth. And did I mention that the alcohol is only 14 percent, which is practically nothing for an Australian wine?

One caveat: The Stump Jump, despite its relative subtlety, does need hearty, stick to your ribs food. It is still Australian, and trying to drink this by itself would be an adventure in wine tasting. I drank it with with roasted pork country-style ribs, a fine fit, and it would have paired equally as well if I had smoked the ribs.

Fine wine and mixology go hand-in-hand on Hwy 29 in Napa Valley

Kelli White, sommelier at PRESS – Photo by Clay MacLachlan

During a recent run through the Napa Valley a light went off. Restaurants with a commitment to great cocktails also have that commitment their wine lists. And vice versa. Places like Farmstead and PRESS have inviting cocktail lists and equally enticing wine lists. Often in other places the two don’t go hand-in-hand. What is it about the Napa Valley that these two elements are treated with similar respect?

For one, Napa Valley is devoted to wine. The wine list at PRESS has the most extensive collection of Napa Valley wines in the world. And not just current vintages. I drool looking at the pages of Stony Hill Chardonnay and vintages of Napa Cabernet going back to the 1960’s, and all for very reasonable prices.

The wine list at Farmstead encompasses wines from all over the world, with a nod to unusual producers. Where in the world can one order a liter beaker of Lioco Chardonnay on tap alongside a bottle of Sancerre Rosé from François Cotat?

It’s understandable, though. Both restaurants have owners who also own wineries, Rudd Estate and Longmeadow Ranch. And they also have interest in food operations. But spirits? Whodathunkit?

When I sat down at the bar at PRESS I saw their cocktail list and got really excited. We tried the

PRESS Old Fashion ($11) Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Muddled Huckleberries, Orange, Sugar Cube, Blood Orange Bitters. Served on the rocks.

The PRESS Collins ($11) No. 209 Gin, Fresh Meyer Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup & Topped With Soda. Served Tall on the Rocks.

but there were many more drinks we wanted to sample such as

Navy Grog ($12) Lemon Hart Demerara Rum, Meyer’s Dark & Light Rum, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, Fresh Lime & Grapefruit. Shaken and Served over Crushed Ice.

Blood Orange Margarita ($12) Azul Tequila, Blood Orange & Lime, Agave & Cointreau. Served on the Rocks.

Satsuma Sidecar ($12) Roger GROULT Calvados Pays d’Auge, Cointreau, Fresh Satsuma & Lemon Juice. Served Up with a Sugar Rim.

St. Germain Cocktail ($12) St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc, Splash of Soda. On the Rocks with a Lemon Twist.

Farmstead’s cocktail list is simple but elegant. Some of their offerings

Grapefruit Martini ($ 10) Tito’s handmade vodka, fresh grapefruit and citrus juices and simple syrup

Manhattan Classic ($11) Mitcher’s rye, antica vermouth, angostura bitters and brandied cherries

reflect a return to tradition as well as innovative combinations.

All this to say folks in Wine Country are excited about spirits.  I’m looking forward to some new tales of mixologists who find wine as interesting as elderflower liqueur and vermouth.

Stories? Links anyone? I’m looking…

Emerging Wine Trend: Lower Alcohol

Advice you’re more likely to get from friends and family than the experts

photo from

I’ve been toying with the idea as men get older their taste buds develop a “roving tongue,” leaning more towards fuller flavors and possibly higher alcohol in wine. Far from scientific, perhaps there is a need for more ramped up, flashier, more voluptuous wines to hold an aging man’s interest.

Then I sat with Peter Mondavi Sr., the patriarch of the famous family in Napa Valley, over a very old bottle of his wine. He kept talking about the alcohol. “Look at the label, 12%.” He repeated himself, not as an older person who just forgot what they said, but to emphasize how lower alcohol wines can age and still be bright and lively and relevant.

Now a report comes from the Deutsches Weininstitut (DWI, or German Wine Institute), who reports that the Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) are finding wine drinkers switching to lower alcohol wines. On the DWI site they tell of consumers who are concerned that the lower alcohol wines will lack the flavor they have become fond of. Prowein has also commissioned Wine Intelligence, surveying consumers in the US, China, Germany and the UK.

Research suggests educating people to the reality that lower alcohol wines can be fulfilling. My evening with Mr. Mondavi reinforces that idea.

Now if we just get the aging population of men in America to realize those high res trophy wines they are chasing after might not be there in the long run for all their wants and needs.

Prowein sponsored Wine Intelligence report HERE

German Wine Institute site referencing the WSTA report HERE

Giving up high alcohol wines for Lent? Try this dry, delicate Riesling from Pfeffingen

Just as the Lenten season is beginning, many folks are swearing off more potent libations for the next 40 days. What better time than to take up with a low alcohol, food-friendly dry Riesling from Germany? Pfeffingen is a  historic and stylish winery in the Rhine region, the tag line on their web site is: “Those who can enjoy, do not drink wine anymore, but taste secrets.” Thanks to Rebecca Murphy for this week’s recommendations.

Wine of the Week: Pfeffingen, Rhinefalz, Estate Dry Riesling 2009

Source: Dallas Morning News
February 22, 2012
By Rebecca Murphy

Photo by Evans Caglage/DMN

Many wine experts tout riesling as the best white wine, and, why not? When grown and produced in the right place, it has wonderful floral aromas and acidity that give a wine liveliness, structure and longevity. It comes in many styles: ethereal and delicate in the Mosel region of Germany; bone dry, steely backboned and lime scented from Australia’s Clare Valley; and opulent and unctuous from Alsace in France.

This wine is from a region that has been called Germany’s Mediterranean, because it’s warmer than the more northern wine regions. Here the riesling profile is embodied in this wine. It has aromas of roses, stone fruits, peaches and lime with chalky notes. It has dry, yet round citrus and stone-fruit flavors and crisp, mouthwatering acidity. It’s a great match for a shrimp cocktail or crab cakes with a remoulade sauce.

The Pfeffingen 37-acre estate is run by the mother and son team of Doris and Jan Eymael. Riesling is their primary grape, and this one is a great introduction to their talents.

The Stout Report – Wine list migration to iPad – The new, virtual sommelier?

I recently attended a session given by Josh Hermsmeyer, one of the founders of Tastevin, a developer of the software program designed for restaurant and bar use for the iPad.

Pretty cool stuff. The iPad wine list is gaining traction. It is easy to use and, according to their data, it increases wine sales. I couldn’t confirm it with any of the people I know that are using them.

The system allows for the restaurant customer to surf the wine or cocktail list and if wanted, place their order directly to the bar or service bar. This is designed to expedite service and get the cocktail, beer or wine to the table quicker. None of the current users I know of are set up for direct ordering and prefer to take the wine/beverage order table-side.

I was impressed by the functions the system offer. There are photos of the bottle and descriptions of the wines, along with food and wine pairing options from the menu. Other features were showing rankings and vintage information.

You can sort by color size, style, grape, region, or price.

In the old days, if you wanted to remember the wine you just enjoyed, you either had the server write it down for you or have them soak the label off.  Now days you take a picture from your iPhone or scan the QRC code found on many wine bottles.

 The iPad list has a feature that allows you to email it to yourself or even post it to your Facebook page.

I like the look and feel of the list, sure, it’s not paper and takes a little surfing, but it’s very Green. No paper or ink; something I care about.

I like the Back of the House functions that keeps a running inventory and will remove a wine from the list if it is sold out – As the system updates every five minutes. That means No More Out of Stocks on the wines being ordered on a busy night. That is one of my pet peeves. If I have to order more than twice to get a wine, I start pulling my hair out, it’s so frustrating. You pick a wine that has you salivating and then have to reload and try to build up your enthusiasm gain and again.

A friend of mine was astounded by the system and told me that sommeliers wouldn’t be needed in the future. Well, I have news for him, the wines don’t pick themselves. It takes skill and a pallet to put together the dynamics of a wine list. Even with the features of the iPad, it can’t adequately describe a sauce or texture of a dish or the lingering intensity of a wine or how long it should take to “open up”. The iPad can’t open and serve a bottle or decant an older wine to make sure the sediment is left behind.

No, I don’t think sommeliers should be looking over their shoulder. If anything, it takes someone with excellent knowledge of wine, spirits and cocktails to set the iPad system up. It is, as with a traditional paper list, a reflection of the soul of a sommelier. It is their personal statement.

Will this new technology replace wine lists all together?

I don’t see it replacing wine lists on the grand scale, but a steady slow growth in use.

I’m old school and enjoy thumbing through the pages of a wine list; just wish the print was larger……… Guy

Wine Region Snapshots: Why the Old World is fascinated with the New World

Ancient Norse legend has it that when Leif Erickson traveled across the wide sea and “discovered” a new land (America) he named it Vinland. And for 500 years Europeans struggled through crusades and other plagues in search of El Dorado, the legendary “Lost City of Gold.” Perhaps the city of gold was really green?

However one sees the past, though legend or through history (sometimes one and the same), today the New World is an amazing place. And the short video below, dazzlingly beautiful, showcases the evolution of the Chilean vineyards in ways a Stephen Spielberg might imagine.

Concha Y Toro is many things to many people. But they are on the cutting edge of sustainable and organic production in the New World. They are also very large and have the resources to devote to the next generation of wine and winemaking. I think in 50 years we will see a lot of change emanating from the Andes and the folks at Concha Y Toro.

The Serie Riberas wines are a good first step in going forward. Start with the Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva. And proceed on to the future in style.

Why look to the past when the future is so much more attainable?

Wine(s) of the Week Roundup:Languedoc Wines from Gérard Bertrand Shine

A recent trip to Montpellier for the Millesimé Bio , the largest gathering of organic wines in the world, provided some standout examples of “green” winemaking combined with a market ready approach.  Gérard Bertrand is one of those shining examples, confirmed by these two recent reviews from Rebecca Murphy and Jeff Siegel. Great values and user-friendly wines from one of the rising regions of dear old France. Have at ‘em!

Wine of the Week: Gérard Bertrand Château l’Hospitalet, Côteaux du Languedoc, La Clape, La Reserve 2009 

photo by Evans Caglage, DMN

Source: Dallas Morning News
February 15, 2012
By Rebecca Murphy

La Clape, in the Languedoc region of southwestern France, is quite near the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, at one time the current land area was under the sea. It’s like being in a bowl surrounded by mountains. At some of the lower elevations, cellphone service is impossible. It’s an unusual area for wine grapes and Gérard Bertrand, a former internationally famous rugby player, has made his headquarters there in the stunning l’Hospitalet estate.

La Reserve is a well-integrated blend of syrah, grenache and mourvèdre. It has deep, dark color, with rich aromas of black fruit and strawberries, wisps of spicy black pepper and a touch of savory, leathery notes. On the palate, it has luscious berry and strawberry fruit, vanilla and hints of herbs such as anise and thyme. It is medium bodied with supple tannins, and it would make a great companion for a lamb roast.

Wine of the week: Gérard Bertrand Crémant de Limoux 2009

Source: The Wine Curmudgeon
February 8, 2012
By Jeff Siegel

The holiday that must not be named is next week. You want to buy sparkling wine. But sparkling wine, being sparkling wine, is expensive and confusing.

CremantNot to worry. The Wine Curmudgeon is on the job, as always, looking out for everyone caught between bubbly’s rock and hard place. The Bertrand ($15, sample) is sparkling wine from France that isn’t made in Champagne, which is why it’s one-third the price of entry-level Champagnes. Better yet, it has much more than one-third of the quality, and is a tremendous value.

It’s made using the same method as Champagne, and it uses more or less the same grapes (including pinot noir, which is not common in sparkling wine made in France outside of Champagne). That’s one reason why it delivers so much value; its grapes are grown in the Limoux region in the Languedoc, where land is a fraction of the price of Champagne.

This is not as simple a wine as its price would indicate; the pinot noir gives it an edge that others don’t have. Look for very crisp apple fruit and an impressively long finish (lemon zest, maybe?). And you can impress everyone with your bubbly knowledge: If the wine says Cremant on the label, as this does, that means it’s sparkling wine made in the traditional method but not in Champagne. Highly recommended, and sure to impress whoever needs impressing next week.

Hot Brand Alert: Entwine ~ Wente pairs with Food Network and a Rising Star is Born

The word synergy is often overused, but this post illustrates how a little collaborative energy can really propel wine into a new audience. Wente has paired up with The Food Network to create Entwine. Check out the short video below and this link from Shanken News Daily, highlighting Entwine as one of the fasted growing Hot Brands of the year. Rolled out last August, Entwine includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay offerings priced at around $13 a bottle. The brand sold 152,000 cases in just five months on the market in 2011, according to Wente Vineyards CEO Carolyn Wente. “I expect it to be above half a million cases within two years,” she says.”

Hey, Food Network folks, what’s next? How about partnering up with the hottest food category going these days, Italian/Mediterranean. If interested, I have an Italian family that would love to partner with you. Give us a shout.

Interview with the winemaker: Josh Baker of Edna Valley Vineyard

Good energy and enthusiasm from the young winemaker at Edna Valley Vineyard, Josh Baker. An iconic winery for the Central Coast, Edna Valley started in 1980. A testament to it’s maturity and energy is that this brand is still climbing the charts, growing steadily. Good things from California! Check out the short video below…

Italy Sparkles (and Endures) in Wine of the Week Reviews

Two of my favorite Italian wines from two of my favorite wine writers, Becky Murphy and Jeremy Parzen, highlight the this week’s “wine of the week” offerings. The Lambrusco is a revelation, having written about it in 2010. The Selvapiana is an old friend. Glad to see these wines endure and continue to give pleasure and are recognized by experts as well.

Wine of the Week: Cleto Chiarli, Lambrusco di Sobrara DOC, Vecchia Modena Premium NV

Source: Dallas Morning News
February 7, 2012
By Rebecca Murphy

Maybe the only time you’ve tried a lambrusco, it was a sticky sweet, somewhat bubbly red wine. It seems that only recently have we started seeing serious lambruscos in the market. Take this one from Cleto Chiarli. It’s lightly sparkling with red berry fruit with a dusty mineral note, and a lively acidity giving balance and a clean finish. It is great with salty foods such as prosciutto di Parma or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, which, like the wine, come from Emilia-Romagna.

Cleto Chiarli was the founder of the winery in the 1860. He had been the manager of a trattoria in Modena, where he made lambrusco for his guests. Today, the company has several estates with more than 1,000 acres of property, about a third planted in vineyards. Much of the rest of the property provides sustenance for cattle that provide the milk for making Parmigiano-Reggiano

 Wine of the Week: A Red That Lasts for Days

Source: The Houston Press
February 7, 2012
By Jeremy Parzen

​After what’s your favorite wine?, the question that I get asked the most at wine tastings and seminars is how do you make wine last after you’ve opened the bottle?

My initial answer is drink good wine: Wine with high acidity will last longer once opened; acidity is one of the key elements that give wine its longevity.

photo by Tracie Parzen

Then I offer my technical advice: If you’re only going to consume a few glasses from a bottle, pour the desired amount into a glass vessel (which doesn’t have to be a decanter, by the way; any carafe — glass, ceramic, crystal — or even a measuring cup will do) and then immediately recork the wine — red or white — and put it in the fridge. Wine ages rapidly when it comes into contact with oxygen. By recorking and chilling the wine, you will slow this process.

Tracie P has been nursing our eight-week-old baby Georgia and she only drinks a glass of wine at dinner these days. On any given night, we might only consume a half of a bottle of wine.

And so I decided to conduct an experiment with one of our favorite bottlings of Chianti Rufina (100 percent Sangiovese) by Selvapiana (above), opening the bottle on a Monday and drinking one glass every evening through Friday (Tracie P had the sixth glass).

Of all the Chianti subzones, Chianti Rufina is my favorite. It takes its name from the village of Rufina (pronounced ROO-fee-nah, not to be confused with the family and estate name Ruffino, pronounced roo-FEEN-noh, a winery in Chianti Classico). Rufina lies at roughly 400 meters above sea level and your ears pop as you drive up to the town: The elevation — the highest in the entire Chianti appellation — is ideal for growing grapes with high acidity thanks to the cool summer evenings that prolong the ripening process, allowing the grapes to mature more slowly and to achieve greater acidity levels.

When I first opened the wine it stunk. I attributed this to what is called volatile acidity, or VA in winemaking parlance. It’s considered a flaw and is often encountered in traditional wines like this one in which some oxidation during winemaking may result in acetic acid, giving the wine an initial vinegar aroma. The VA quickly blew off and the wine began to reveal its black cherry and red stone fruit aromas, but it remained very tannic, “closed” and “tight” as we say. I let my first glass sit for about an hour before I revisited it to discover that the fruit was gradually emerging, although still dominated by the tannic structure.

As I returned to the wine each night, the fruit flavors became more and more pronounced, and by the fourth night, Thursday, the wine had come into nearly perfect balance, the savoriness of the tannin complemented by the fruit like a wild turkey drum stick and cranberry chutney.

On the last night of my experiment, Friday, the wine started to lose some of its brightness but was still delicious and thoroughly satisfying. I enjoyed every last drop, thinking to myself, not bad for a wine that costs around $17 in our market.

You should be able to find it at Spec’s, and I know there are number of Houston restaurants that feature it on their lists (Plonk and Trevisio). It’s one of the best deals in town and one of our standbys at home.

You just need the patience to let it be the gift that keeps on giving…