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Portable Wine!

I Love Being Ahead or At Least With the Curve!!

The Wine Spectator 40th issue magazine has an article about canned wine.  One of the photos features cans of Underwood Wine.  For the few of you that follow me, you saw it here first (August 2016)!!img_4667

Wine in Cans for Fishing, Boating or At the table?  You tell me!!

IMG_1541.JPGWines in cans.  How extraordinary!  I recently tried to purchase some French Rose in cans at my local Specs Liquor store.  The wine salesman seemed somewhat appalled that I would ask.  (Honestly, I didn’t blame him.)  Of course, I came bearing my recent issue of Food & Wine magazine that featured not one, but two, French Roses in a can.  He then was more polite about saying they didn’t carry canned wine.

So while I am at Trader Joes to purchase a gallon of milk, I came acress these little canned cuties.  Yes, I somehow ended up in the wine department.  Go figure.  So I scooped them up ($5.95 each, 12 oz).  I left the canned Pinot Noir on the self — it just doesn’t seem possible that you could find good or even okay Pinot in a can.  They may label it Pinot Noir, but it won’t taste like Pinot Noir.  Darn, now I will have to go back to double check-because journalists must investigate.

I shared these cans of wine with a couple of friends.   One of my friends insisted she drink  them from a glass and decreed the idea of drinking wine from the actual can as “horrifying.”  But once we got past that little sticking point–she actually enjoyed them.

These wines come from the Union Wine Co. and the grapes are sourced from somewhere in Oregon.  No single vineyard.  No estate winery.   But don’t hold that against them.  The Pinot Grigio, our favorite of the two, was crisp and dry with flavors of ripe, bruised pear and apples and ripe peach (13% ABV).  The Rose had nice flavors and aromas of peach and strawberry (12%).    Give me a hot day and I would drink either  of them if a host offered one to me nice and cold, and in a good Yeti.  I like many other wines better, but these both have their place… in the sun!!

Cheers!

Sometimes You Get Surprised!

 Big Companies Still Make Good Wine!  Surprise!IMG_1634

Chateau St. Michelle is the oldest winery in Washington state.  Two million cases produced a year.  That is Big.  Huge.   Very mainstream.  However, I cannot lie…I’ve heard they make consistently good wines.  Further looking reveals they were the  Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Winery of the Year in 2004.   I found it  necessary  to get off the beaten path and back onto the wine super highway

I was rather taken aback by this glass!!!  This Chateau St. Michelle Riesling has big flavors of lime, bruised apple, peach and nectarine jumping out of the glass.  Honey and notes of petrol, to me, and minerality, to others, kind of clinging to the edges.  Screaming acidity — ya, I like it like that!  So, I turn the bottle around and look at the back label for more information.  ABV 12% and they have a sweetness scale!  According to the label,  this wine is balanced right smack in the middle of Medium Dry and Medium Sweet.  I consider that to be waaaaaay too sweet and I am not sure how this bottle ever made it into my shopping cart.  But it wasn’t too sweet, at all.

That screaming acidity that I loved kept any sugar in the wine from being cloying and tongue coating. The wine was refreshing.  My wine instructors have pointed out several times that acid has that effect in wine.  I have often found with inexpensive wines, sweet is still just sweet.   In this case, my mouth’s perception was on the dry side.  That was the real surprise.  And the price is surprising too!  $10.   Available everywhere.

An extra knowledge tidbit…  

When you look at this Chateau St. Michelle Columbia Valley Reisling label, it says, “100% Vinifera Rootstock”.  The fine wine grape species, Vitas vinifera, is susceptible to a microscopic, sap sucking aphid called phylloxera.   Sadly, the aphid was introduced to Europe in the mid 1800’s because it traveled on some vines sent from the United States. Within 3o years the aphid had made its way through much of the Old World vineyards causing almost complete destruction.   Although the aphid  was native to US soils, our native species of grape vines were resistant.   

To our good fortune, several horticulturists worked on this phylloxera problem and  found that those vitis vinifera vines could be grafted onto a variety of hybridized American root stock  and become resistant to phylloxera. Let those aphid suckers choke on that American Sap! (I think that is how it worked!)  This grafting technique seemed to be very effective.  European vineyards replanted their beloved vines onto the new American rootstock and the vineyards thrived.  All was well until the aphid crossed the ocean again in the early 1900’s and attacked all those wonderful vitis vinifera vines that we had imported from  Europe.  So we had to make the same changes here — European originated Vitis vinifera vines grafted onto hybridized American rootstock.  And just to be sure you understand, although our native species of vines were resistant  to phylloxera, their grapes were not particularly wine worthy.   The vitis vinifera species is the hands down, fine wine making  winner.  Thank God for good science!!!

So, if we were grafting all those vinifera vines onto non-vinifera rootstock, why does the label say “100% Vinifera Rootstock’?  It appears those sap sucking aphids don’t survive well in the sandy, desert soils in Columbia Valley Washington.  Chilean wines are also planted on their original vinifera rootstock.  The Mosel area in Germany, the Greek Islands  and some scant acreage in Montalcino, same way.  Areas of Australia remain phylloxera free due in parts to their soils and also their strict laws regarding the movement vineyard equipment, planting materials, and vines from area to another. 

So, to all my friends looking for some daily consumption wine…grab some chopsticks, order in some dumplings or a little tuna tartare or salmon.  Or just pour.  Pouring is good.  And  $10 to pour a  Chateau St. Michelle  Riesling means you can be downright cheerful about it!!  I love good surprises!

If you want to try a higher tiered Riesling from Chateau St. Michelle, give Eroica a shot.  This wine has been a partnership between Chateau St. Michelle and the Dr. Loosen Estate in Germany since 1999.  Better vineyard site selections mean enhanced flavor and minerality.  $22.  Still a great deal!

 

Entry Level Cabs-Less than $15

Michael Pozzan Alexander Valley Cab 2014 is easy to drink and its acidity allows it to pair well and show well with a variety of red meats and even red sauces.  It has a long finish   This wine doesn’t scream of vanilla or baking spices even though it enjoyed 12 months in French Oak. .  It’s around town for $15ish. That’s a good deal compared to Silver Oak which also hails from Alexander Valley.  In addition to sourcing the very best fruit, it also undergoes much longer aging.  The 2012 Silver Oak is just being released this week.

Sterling Vintner’s Collection 2014 is a super soft, super smooth Cab.  I think a lot of people would really like it but it’s almost a little flabby for me. It’s got the tannins but the acidity is lacking. But don’t worry, no one will spit it out.  And the nice thing about Sterling is the Vintner’s Collection is their entry level Cab.  The winery offers multiple higher tiered selections. Their Napa Valley Cab is still less than $20.  That might be your best everyday bet.

In Case You Were Asking “Where is the Cab?”

Black  Coyote Reserve 2006 Napa Valley

It is ten years old and it has aged beautifully!  Although this wouldn’t fall into my everyday consumption, this wine is available at Specs in limited quantities (I checked!!).  This is in the $60-$70 range and I feel it was very good for the price.

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A big, Napa cab with flavors of dark berry, dark ripe plum, with some cocoa and baking spice.  The flavor was robust and the tannins were smooth and velvety.  It was so darn easy to enjoy this wine.

The label puts the alcohol at 15.2%, but the leeway on labeling alcohol by volume is 1.5% in either direction.  I felt this one was close to 16%.  At that alcohol level, I recommend and advise that you enjoy it with food!  Something hearty such as red meat, whether steak, brisket, roast in red wine, or lamb.  Enjoy.

Chablis…The Other Chardonnay!!

I have a difficult time finding a Chardonnay that I like.  They are often too round, too full bodied and taste too much like Butterscotch, or, if from Burgundy, they are too expensive.   Very lovable, but expensive.
Chablis hits the right summer notes EVERY time.  Crisp, lemony melon.   Long finish.  Perfect with seafood, salads with chicken, oysters     And I get excited when I find a half bottle on a restaurant wine list.  Perfect to share with a good friend over a summer lunch.  Benjy’s on Washington Avenue has a nice half bottle list.  My friend, Melone is going to enjoy being introduced to this wine!  She always lets me choose, because she knows I’m  a little adventurous!

So when you go to your wine store, look for a Chablis or Premiere Cru Chablis. NO Petite Chablis–despite sounding small and boutique, Petite Chabis is the bottom of the barrel, so to speak.

Grand Cru Chablis is the pinnacle of Chabli.  It comes from ONE perfect 250 acre parcel of southwest facing hillside,  that is divided into seven vineyards —  Les Clos, Blanchot, Bougros, Valmur, Valdesir, Preuses and Grenouilles.   The soils in this parcel are comprised of ancient marine fossils, and mineral rich clay.  This lime studded (Kimmeridgian Clay) soil gives wine a chalky minerality that sets it apart from lesser quality Chablis.  Some of these Grand Cru wines may age in oak, but it will never be overwhelming.  Grand Cru vineyards make fabulous wines that are typically  not for everyday consumption pricing.  At least not at my house.

The William Fevre 2014  basic Chablis that I enjoyed with lunch is $22-27 a bottle.   And in between, you have the William Fevre Premier Cru ‘Les Lys’ for $30-33.  (Premier Cru is also seen as 1er Cru). The pinnacle William Fevre Grand Cru ‘Les Clos’ is typically $50-65.

I  can’t encourage you enough to add Chablis to your wine drinking repertoire.  It’s typically un-Oaked (or only lightly Oaked) flavor is taut and it thrums with fresh, clean minerality. Big flavors but still polite and delicate.  It really is the other Chardonnay.  The precise, trim, angular sister to anything you’ve tried from California.

Wine & Paint Samples

 

What does wine have to do with paint samples???IMG_1223I look at that answer as the Rule of Threes.  It seems to take me at least three paint samples (sometimes five) to find the right color.  And I like to taste wine in groups of three.  Three of the same varietals.  Three of the same wines from different years.  Three of the same varietals from different regions.  Five samples could always be better, but if I’m tasting alone or with my husband,  I am trying to make sure they can be finished before they go bad!

My example today is three different Rieslings.

IMG_0921Dr. Loosen 2014 Blue Slate Riesling Kabinett.    This Riesling comes from the Mosel River Valley in Germany.   Germany is cold!!  Growing wine in optimum vineyards on the hillsides of the  Mosel River means the grapes have a little temperature protection from their proximity to the river and receive heat from reflected sunlight, which promotes ripening.  The dark blue slate also absorbs the sun’s heat much like black asphalt in the south!  Vineyard location along the Mosel is EVERYTHING  in determining the quality of wine.

This wine is labeled Kabinett. This is a measure of ripening.  These cool climate grapes are picked relatively early in the harvest season and have a lower alcohol level of 8 -9%.  Unless the label tells you the wine is Trocken (dry) or Halbtrocken (off dry) OR has a level of sweet to dryness scale on the back label, it can be a little bit of a guess.  In this case, the wine is on the semi-sweet side.  ($16-18)

Kung Fu Girl 2014  Washington State Riesling  A great value wine from Ancient Lakes in Washington State.  These grapes grow on steep cliffs on the Columbia river.  Beautiful flavors of lime, peaches and minerality and an alcohol level of 12%.   This medium bodied wine is a house favorite at our home for our frequent dinners at our favorite BYOB Asian restaurants, Vieng Thai on Long Point, and Vinh Hoa for seafood on Bellaire.  Off dry, this wine has the perfect amount of residual sugar to tame the hot peppers that we can’t help but loving in our spicy dishes.  ($12-13)

Trimbach 2012 Riesling Alsace, France    This family winery has been engaged in making wine since 1626.  Alsace is sunny!  It receives very little rainfall throughout the year.  Its climate gives the grapes plenty of time to ripen and you can feel the ripeness in the fuller body of the wine.  (12.5% alcohol)  This is the driest of the three wines and it is truly dry, but with pleasant fruit flavors.   This is dry enough that I would not eat it with hot and spicy foods.   This would be excellent with sushi, shellfish, grilled fish or a summer day.  ($18-$22)

For students of wine, Trimbach Riesling  is a CLASSIC!   It is fun to compare it to other producers and to Riesling from other regions.  All of these wines should be available at your larger liquor/wine retailers and some at well stocked wine departments at your grocery store.

Enjoy,

CabRene´

 

Two-A-Days: Because I work hard for you!!

Sometimes life takes you in different geographical directions.  It is best to handle all that running around with a glass of wine.

Sunday morning my husband and I found ourselves in the historic area and little shopping mecca of Old Town Spring.  We were so early that not much had opened, so we wandered around window shopping.  I saw one place I wanted to check out when they opened and that was the Envy Wine Room.  I am so glad we stopped in because not only did they have some nice, nice wines (affordable too!!!) but I found a kindred spirit there!! A kindred spirit is worth a hundred bottles of wine!  Effie Stees, the owner, was behind the counter of this wine bar, wine events, retail wine shop, wine accessories, cute as heck clothes and other fabulous accoutrements of retail therapy. So what made Effie a kindred spirit??  The fact that she, like me,  is genuinely excited and happy when she has helped you find the perfect wine or introduced you to a wine that you haven’t tried before and now LOVE!!  That is kindred enough for me.

Chateau La Mascaronne 2015  quat saisons Rose from Cote de Provence

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Envy Wine Room

These vineyards are owned by an American businessman who has a passion for restoring old neglected wineries and turning them into fully functioning organic vineyards.   He bought Chateu Miraval in 1993 and sold it in 2012 to Brad Pitt and Angelina Joie. This estate, La Mascaronne, is a more recent purchase.  Bought for the limestone rocks that blanket the vineyards,  it now produces about 10,000 cases of six different wines.  (Think unique and lovingly crafted!!)

 

This Rose is made with  the red grapes of Cinsault,  Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre (now there is a mouthful of grapes that sound nothing like Cabernet) which are hallmark varieties for Rose and red blends from the Provence wine region.  The wine is not red, because grape juice itself is clear.  It is the contact with the skins that impart the color. If the juice is only in contact with the skins for a few hours, than only a little color is imparted.  Think pink!

This Rose has intense aromas and flavors of  lemon citrus and strawberry with a salty minerality that always makes me think of crab cakes and oysters. This one was enjoyed by my husband  at  the Envy Wine Room in the company of Effie and her assistant, Gabby   I only had a few sips.  Quat saisons– meant to be enjoyed four seasons of the year and by real men, too!!

So that was the noon wine.

We then returned to Houston and decided to lunch on the way home.  We chose Benjy’s on Washington Avenue.  I chose another easy to find Rose´ available by the glass — Gerard Bertrand Gris Blanc 2015.  Pale salmon color but its brisk acidity and bright flavors would allow this to be enjoyed with a wide variety of salads with olives and capers, seafood dishes and even Thai Curry (yes!!!!).  I was having an awesome lunch of lightly grilled Scottish salmon on a quinoa broccoli salad with pine nuts and vinaigrette. The flash fried Brussel Sprout appetizer was pretty darn good, too.  It was a very happy pairing.

Gerard Bertrand Gris Blanc 2015

And if you love the idea of this wine, you can buy it at HEB Grocery for $15.  In fact, their new Instacart service will  deliver it to your door –IN ONE HOUR — just in case you don’t feel like going out to get it.  I haven’t used the service yet, but if I was having a wine emergency….

Cheers,

CabRene´