Tuesday, January 31, 2006

WBW 18 - wine shops that "feel the love"

Vino 100 Lakeway

Hard to believe another month has gone by already. This month's WBW theme (#18) is a bit different. It's about your wine shop rather than about a particular wine. There are actually quite a few interesting places to shop for wine in the Austin area. But in the sprirt of getting the point across quickly with this post, my recent favorite and one that best suits the theme is the Vino 100 store in the Lakeway area.

A fair number of Austinites aren't going to manage to trek out to Lakeway. But what I've come to like about this place is not only its unique selections, but the way in which it's presented. Their claim to fame is the 100 wines for under $25, and they display each with a little card about the wine that includes their "wine barometer". There's always a tasting of something at the bar there and best of all they've got interesting weekly events going on.

Best of all, of course, is just personal attention. Their "wine guy" is Nat Davis and he does the classes there. The guy can literally talk for hours about wine. He recently moved to this area from NYC and is a graduate of the American Sommelier Association’s Sommelier certification program. The thing I like about him is he doesn't tell you what to like. He instructs and highlights but doesn't attempt to bias you toward the things he likes.

Last night was another class there in Zins and Petite Syrah. No time to post about the tasting now, but will get to that in due course.

Meanwhile, since we're talking wine shops, I have to give runner-up honors to the Austin Wine Merchant. These folks are always helpful and they have the best Saturday tasting going. Always something interesting from noon to 3 on Saturdays.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Trentadue Old Patch Red 2003 Sonoma County Red wine

2003 Trentadue

Tonight I wanted a red wine to go along with a steak - a filet, hand-rubbed with some stuff I got from the Perini Ranch Steakhouse. The Trentadue “Old Patch Red” turned out to be more than a match.

Wish my photography was as much a match. The colors are a little off. Sorry. But then, the unnatural lighting in this room at this time of the evening isn’t perfect.

This wine is a blend of mostly Zinfandel (68%) along with Carignane, Sangiovese and Petite Sirah. The color is an opaque deep ruby red. It has a jammy dark berry taste and a long finish. It has some tongue dragging, mouth gripping tannins that paired up really well with the steak. After opening up a bit, there was a definite note of cherry.

$20, Vino 100, Lakeway
 turned out to be an excellent choice along with beef. I’m liking it a lot! Nicely structured, rich dark berry tasted with a long finish. Drinkable now, but could stand to age a couple years.

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Wine Blog pointers...

I ran across this article on wine blogs written last October, so probably considered old news – especially by internet time standards - but still, an interesting read.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A Burgundy Tasting

I had the pleasure of going to a tasting/class of Burgundy wines the other night at Vino 100. Naturally I took a few notes to capture here. I was surprised though that there were so few people (about 10) at this, but I'm not sure whether they advertise these events other than on their web site. The place isn't big though, so I guess that's about what they can handle. This is the first of what I hope will be many visits for their tastings.

The great thing about this kind of tasting is you get to try several wines (in this case 6) that you wouldn't otherwise be all that likely to try, simply based on price. Or, at least I wouldn’t ordinarily shell out the kind of dough that some of these wines go for. Actually, it turned out that we tasted 7 wines because Nat, the Vino 100 guy that was leading us, brought out another wine at the end. Can’t believe I didn’t make a note of what it was though, other than “Meursault ‘02”.

While my notes are somewhat sparse, here's the list and notes on what I liked, in tasting order. (By the way, prices were revealed after the tasting.) I’ve included links below to the http://www.burgundywinecompany.com web site along with these. It’s an excellent web site with a wealth of interesting information.

Domaine Coste-Caumartin Bourgogne Blanc 2002
 This wine had a definite nose of honey, vanilla, apples and pears. Lightly oaked. An approachable wine and at $18 this was one of the better buys of the night.
Michel Colin-Deleger & Fils Chassagne-Montrachet 2001
 This is a crisply mineral wine that had a slightly yeasty nose. Liked it, but clearly I enjoyed the first one a bit better. Around $55.
Domain J.M. Boillot Puligny-Montrachet Primier Cru Les Combettes 2001
 This was an awesome wine – dwarfing the first two in my opinion. A pleasing nose of pears and oak with round and complex tastes and mouth feel that lingered long on the tongue. At $75 a little out of the “everyday” range. Save this one for a special occasion.
Hubert Lamy Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 2003
 Notes of cherry, violets and rose water. Soft and not too structured. Just a very slight rubbery scent on the nose as well. Around $36.
Domaine Michel Lafarge Volnay 2002
 Some tart cherries, violets and spice with more structure than the previously tasted wine, but still, a light Pinot Noir. Around $50.
Olivier Laflaive Pommard 1999
 By comparison to the previous wine, much fuller, structured and heartier wine. Cherry sucker fruit taste along with cocoa and wonderful long finish. Around $58.

The price of the tasting was $40. Considering the price of wines, not a bad deal. A nice evening out and interesting people to chat with.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


I found a very good web site for local (Austin) area restaurants called foodhawk.com. For being entirely Austin and central Texas oriented, it's pretty nicely done. I gotta believe that if they went to this much trouble that they would expand its reach but who knows. Anyway, looked interesting.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

On a mission... WBW 17 - 1998 NZ Mission Estate Cab Merlot

1998 Mission Cab Merlot

This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday came from the Corkdork, and he asks us to come up with a Kiwi Red. Perfect. I’ve got a couple of those. Too bad today is Saturday rather than Wednesday. I’m behind the curve. Ah well, I’ve been busy. Lenn, WBW was a great idea, but Wednesday is a ‘school’ night! :-) (Actually, it was the night that Texas was playing in the Rose Bowl and all attention in Austin was on football!)

If I’d had to look around a bit for a red from NZ in the Austin area, what I’d been able to come up with would have been pretty limited. Sigh. Don’t even think of going to your average grocery. I pulled in to Grapevine market today – and oh what an awesome weather day it was here in Austin today. Top down weather - and I mean the car! Oh, sorry, back to Grapevine and the point. Funny, they were in the midst of an inventory and their stock was as depleted as I’ve ever seen it. They had a few Sauv Blancs from NZ, but otherwise nothing.

I had intended on heading down to Central Market anyway for the stuff I can’t usually get elsewhere and I looked around there a bit too. Mind you, I had this Mission Estate already sitting out but I was out and about anyway and figured why not look at what the offerings were. Better, but not much. They did have, however, one Hawkes Bay Cab/Merlot blend. I didn’t buy it.  

So the Mission Estate Cab Merlot I had set aside was going to be it. Click the image to follow the link to the winery site. I really liked this wine. You don’t see the Cab/Merlot blend done much in this neck of the woods, but it seems to be a popular choice in NZ, and Australia for that matter.

Ah, ok, the wine. It’s 77% Cabernet Sauvignon and 23% Merlot and was on French oak for 22 months. The opaque purplish red wine had a sharp note of cedar on the nose. Tannins were firm but balanced along with a fruity, dark berry taste with a full body and long finish.

In some ways, the wine in this case is almost secondary for me. What? Yes, beyond the wine, drinking this wine evoke memories of a place I really enjoyed visiting. Napier, in the Hawkes Bay area, is just a pleasant little town. It sits on the east coast of the north island of New Zealand and I found it to be a wonderfully livable place to be. I was there for only a short time, but I’d go back. And I’d stay longer and just hang out. There aren’t really a lot of tourist attractions – unless you like wine and small town life –but this is the sort of place I could get used to. I stayed at the Seaview Lodge, which is essentially a home stay B&B. The host was very helpful. In fact, he pointed me to Mission Estate winery. If you get there too, I’d love to hear about your experience.

Bonus pic: click the wine bottle shot above to link over to Mission Estate. Click here for a shot I took January 2005. Compare the two and you’ll get some perspective. Oh, and as you can see, it was raining the day I was there. 

I don’t remember what I paid. Bought at the winery and it was just one of the favorites I tasted that day.
 typifies the sort of thing I like so well I can’t do anyting other than give it 3 glasses. I’d buy or have one of these every day.

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wine? no coffee! a Short please

No surprise, I drink a lot more coffee than I drink wine. So I couldn’t help link over to the Slate article on the ‘elusive short cappuccino’. There was actually a story on NPR early in December on this same subject, so Slate’s a little late to the game, but personally I was jazzed about finding out I could get a smaller cup and started ordering ‘shorts’ the same day I heard the radio story. I’m sure I’m not the only one. If I’m buying a morning coffee – which I avoid unless I’m running late and can’t make my own – I gotta get something larger. But after lunch or dinner, the short suits me fine.

'waiterrant' on ordering wine

I ran across this list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to ordering wine in a restaurant earlier this week on waiterrant. It was linked off reddit’s ‘hot’ page, so obviously I wasn’t the only one that thought it was interesting reading. And it means people are truly interested in the subject. Lot’s of people are intimidated by ordering wine in restaurants. ‘Course, it doesn’t hurt to have a catchy title like “How To Order Wine Without Looking Like an Asshole” to grab some attention too. If you’re the sort that would come by this ‘blog, you’re not likely to find a whole lot of insights in the post, but waiterrant is usually kind of fun reading regardless. I especially like #26 in his list.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

2000 Argyle Brut - Ringin' in the new year

2000 Argyle BrutThe busy holiday season has made it kind of tough to keep up a regular 'blog routine. Which is a shame, of course, because this blog is about wines I try and here we've been in one of the busiest times of the year when it comes to imbibing. No doubt there have been a few interesting wines along the way and in between during the past couple weeks, so I thought I would start the new year off with a reasonably appropriate (timely) wine.

I personally chose the 2000 Argyle Brut sparkling wine to ring in the new year. I don't generally go out of my way for sparkling wines - or for that matter, New Years Eve parties. But the Christmas & New Years holiday time is one of the few occasions when I make a point to look for something sparkling. This time, I wanted to find something from Oregon, and this one didn't disappoint. Why Oregon? Hmm, good question. I can't really lay a finger on it, but on top of just having a soft spot for Oregon, I thought maybe I could find an interesting sparkling wine from the US at this time of year.

As it turned out, among the many sparkling wines at the Austin Wine Merchant late last week, this was the only Oregon sparkling wine they had. (Apparently they had one other, but they were out of it at the point I got there.) At $17.50, there wasn't a whole lot of downside to giving it a try.

This wine is 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir. I found a very pleasant taste of apple tartness along with the bubbly and a hint of yeasty bread dough. Much fuller body and longer finish than the 'party champagne' I'd had earlier in the evening. It got thumbs up from the 3 others that tried it as well.

About $17, Austin Wine Merchant, Austin ($20 at the Whole Foods up the street)
some excellent bubbly. Would definitely get it again.

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Just a poll - red or white?

I ran across this cool polling gizmo done by dPolls. I think they do it better than most. I couldn't help but drop one into a post to just see how well it works. Anyway, what's your favorite? Come to think of it, I could imagine using this sort of thing often.

Create polls and vote for free. dPolls.com

about | ratings images courtey of Jason Lewis