New Good Taste Report, in BETA

•November 26, 2009 • 2 Comments

A New Chapter
Please come play:
the new site, GoodTasteReport.com .

or

the new blog, GregRandle.com

Both are in BETA mode and are extremely minimal and are consistently being added to. They should be in high gear mid-February, with endlessly growing wine education, interviews, reviews, and general info. I have an enormous amount of information/notes that I have collected since Fall ’08 that I will be adding! Come REGISTER for the site… Thanks for your attention! – gtr

The Clairvoyant Talent Train

•September 10, 2009 • 5 Comments

Talent Reads Customers
clairvoyant decisions

Whether you have two and a half employees at the cool & clever wine shop or 2,000 at the corporate restaurant chain, leadership is everything. Hiring is everything.

The element of the soft skill shows up at the initial interview or it doesn’t. The atom spark, the fever, the sixth sense, humility, graciousness, and most of all empathy. The employee had to show up at your door with these traits. It’s too late to train for these. You can give details or teach the material/product, but you generally can’t teach the soft fire and genuine approach.

Is leadership able to recognize and capitalize on these traits? Talent recognizes talent. If you have lame staff, you have lame leadership. If lame leadership arrives to lead rockstar talent, the talent will run for the plank. You attract your own kind.

Your staff is the primary source of competitiveness and profitability. Your staff keeps you from drowning, hopefully. If you’ve done a good job in hiring, then you must contemplate retention. The costs involved when a good employee walks out the door can be overwhelming. The direct expenses of recruiting, interviewing, training a replacement, not to mention that the replacement may require higher pay/signing bonus and they might not be as talented? The indirect costs of the affect on the workload, morale, and customer satisfaction… Will other staff consider quitting? Will customers follow the employee who left? What about opportunity costs, including the potential knowledge (or special soft-skill touch) that is lost and the work that doesn’t get done while managers and other employees focus on filling the slot and bringing a replacement up to speed, assuming they can get up to speed?

It’s all about the manager. If talent leaves, something had to happen to make the employee consider leaving. Seems to generally be a direct relationship with the immediate manager that determines how long the employee will stay. I know that at my last job I stayed much longer than I probably should have because of my immediate manager and the talent that our team had. Loyalty to companies may be disappearing, but loyalty to colleagues is not. You must create a great environment and train, mentor, motivate, and support your team. Companies that perform the best with their customers are always nuturing their associates. Make your staff want to be there. Give courtesy, respect, and stretch ability to your folks. Talent loss tends to dull a brand’s competitive edge and leads to a decline in quality and customer service. When an environment is good, folks will work for less pay. What your staff wants is recognition and a place they are proud to work. You sense when walking into a wine retailer or restaurant that the team truly works. Customers sense the spirit. Is it alive with a spark or dragging? Nobody wants to work in a toxic environment or with a collection of prostitutes. Killing that atom spark tends to kill the brand. People with choices typically will not work for a nincompoop. People don’t leave companies, they leave bad bosses.

Great wine managers select their people for their talent and specifically soft skills, not strictly the technical side. Most of that can be taught. A person has empathy walking into the first interview or doesn’t. Talented wine folks manage each customer relationship in the most effective manner. The key is to determine how to take greater advantage of what people already do well. It’s not enough to merely hang on to your talented staff; you also need to seize advantage of the unique knowledge, ideas, soft and hard skills they bring to the table. Maximize their strengths as a wine guy or server and take care not to dilute the atom spark that caught attention in the first place.

Then, you’ve gotta train, mentor, motivate, and reinforce. You want team players. Cross-training drives home the fact that you are supported. You are only as strong as your weakest link. The staff knowing the insides and outs of every corner only makes the retailer or restaurant brand stronger. Recall the Truman quote, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Want everyone to do well. Win-Win.

nurture your people

nurture your people

If all your staff is confident and good at what they do, leadership doesn’t have to be there for direction at every move. A good manager sets in motion and the ball rolls on its own. A bad manager has to do it all by himself or “it’s not done right”. Once again, train, mentor, motivate, and support your people. Be right there with them while letting them do their thing…

Slap Me a Saperavi

•July 20, 2009 • 5 Comments

Step Inside the Little Known

Step Inside the Little Known


My first introduction to Saperavi was in 2001. For awhile, I had heard how “incredible” Georgian wines were. Like many similar comments, I dismissed the “incredible” possibility due to the many Georgian Champions’ local experience and global inexperience enthusiasm. Most fans were from that realm (their homeland) and I considered there might be a bit of bias?

I did try several at the time, though. Pretty consistent ‘producer’ to ‘producer’.

They come dry. They come sweet. The dry could surprise most wine explorers. The sweet wouldn’t.

Serious color. Serious tannins. Serious acidity. Fun for the whole family! Saperavi (translates to “dye” or “paint”) is a red wine grape that is named for its dark pink flesh and very dark skins. Originally from Moldova, the land that puts this grape on the map (along with Rkatsiteli, Mstvane, and Tsolikauri) is the Kakheti District of Georgia. In the days of the Soviet Union, Georgian wines were generally thought of as the jeweled crown and it has been said that the land of Georgia (Europe’s oldest wine-producing region) has been producing wine 7,000 to 9,000 years!

Saperavi (especially the dry) tends to have a barnyard, cinnamon, cigar box, soy-sauced mushroom, gamey-plum thing going on, with a sledge hammer of tannins and a lower PH (medium-plus acidity). It can be brilliant for By-The-Glass programs because some will last for days! And with the right amount of serenading to sleep and nightly brushing the bottles “hair”, these wines can age upwards of 50 years, though most fade at 6 – 10 years. The 3 common styles are Saperavi (aged 1 year or less), Kindzmarauli (aged 2 years), and Stalin’s favorite wine Mukuzani (aged 3 years or more). Also seen are Napareuli and Akhasheni. Though, I’m still looking… I’ve never found evidence to support it, but I’ve often wondered if there is a relation to Syrah or Lagrein.

On the downside, Georgia could probably use some updated wine-making techniques. Two somewhat consistent “barnyard” comments on Saperavi are the perceived Brettanomyces (mousey/horse taste) and 4-ethyl-phenol (lopsided leather turned manure smell/taste). At low levels, these 2 things can be considered an attraction in some Rhones and Burgundies, but the recently trendy American Brett love is not for me. And it should also be noted that the days of grape powder blended with spirit to produce “Georgian Wine” are still here, but there ARE some pretty exciting Saperavi wines out there. Go fish.

Thorough Purebred

•July 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment

modern in the father time
“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” – Oscar Wilde

Straight-forward out-of-control liquid speech from wines once made to truly evolve. Not that the 100-yard dash isn’t fun, too, but there’s something rhythmically magical about the long distance runner that I miss with the last decade contenders. The uninterrupted book vs. the sitcom, commercials and all.

Brilliance, in order preference.

1. ‘64 Cheval Blanc St. Emilion $900 A+ -100 ***** 032509
—speechless quiet time/mature & complex/what Heaven pours
2. ’90 Cheval Blanc St. Emilion $1050 A+ -275 *****
—bloodrich/thorough with 20 carressed years to go/Heaven’s back porch
3. ’67 Latour Pauillac $365 A+ +85 *****
—powerful/seamless genius/speaking in tongues/don’t stop
4. ’95 Meo-Camuzet Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux $175 A+ +45 *****
—pretty earth & real/spicebits, chunky meat, delicious oddball
5. ’89 La Mission Haut-Brion Pessac-Leognan Rge $925 A+ -565 ****
—all the darkside/fairly tannic flesh/to be alone/slight heat
6. ’67 Dr. Burklin-Wolf Riesling TBA Wachen Rehbachel Pfalz (375ml) $240 A = ****
—goofy weirdo, but I loved it!/old & oxidized/out of this world

Source of Your Sauce

•June 1, 2009 • 1 Comment

The source of your sauce: Berrys encourages accountable drinking debate…

A new survey from the UK’s oldest independent wine merchant, Berry Bros. & Rudd, reveals concerns about reducing one’s impact on the environment aren’t just the preserve of foodies, with 82% of wine lovers expressing an interest with how their wine is produced and how vines are tended.
However, despite worrying about how their wine is produced, only 15% of drinkers would buy a wine purely because of biodynamic or organic certification. The root of this, however, may be a lack of understanding – with six in ten (57%) wine buffs saying they’d buy more biodynamic wine if they understood how it was grown.

In light of the fact that many wine lovers remain in the dark about biodynamic and organic wine production, with many respondents citing biodynamic methods as ‘mysticism’, Berry Bros. & Rudd is launching ‘Wine Matters’, an initiative to dispel biodynamic myths and encourage wine enthusiasts to have their say on how the wine they buy is produced.

The initiative, at bbrblog.com/category/wine-matters, is an interactive platform for debate with a series of topics and discussions from Berrys’ Masters of Wine and industry experts, including a post from Jasper Morris MW, asking: ‘Biodynamics: Do we believe?’

Morris comments: “Our number one concern as a business is selling the very best quality wine and we are increasingly seeing that biodynamic production methods, given the stringent attention to detail required by producers, result in better quality wine. We want to share this knowledge with our customers and let them know where their wine has come from and how it has been made.”

Berrys will be inviting guest bloggers each week to join the debate including biodynamic wine producer from Rhône, Montirius, and Gavin Partington from The Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

Visit Wine Matters to have your say on biodynamic wine production and learn more about biodynamic viticulture methods. For more on this and other wine topics follow Berry Bros. & Rudd on Twitter.

Berry Bros. & Rudd will also be inviting wine lovers to come to the Berrys’ Factory Outlet, in Basingstoke, for a complementary biodynamic wine tasting on 5th and 6th June and are including an organic or biodynamic wine in Wine Club cases going out to over a thousand members.
-Emily Monsell (Berry Bros. & Rudd)

Austin’s Bill Norris World Cocktail Competiton Finalist

•May 12, 2009 • 4 Comments

Austin, TX – Bill Norris of FINO Restaurant Patio & Bar competes in the United States Bartenders Guild’s World Cocktail Competition in San Francisco on Tuesday, May 12th. As one of ten finalists, Bill once again represents Austin and the South Region.

For fifteen years, Bill Norris has poured drinks in venues from the Jersey Shore to London to New York to Austin. While in New York, he helped to open L-Ray in the West Village with Chef Aaron Sanchez (Isla, Paladar and Mixx) and consulting chef Jimmy Bradley (The Red Cat, The Harrison).

At FINO, Bill focuses on a mix of classic cocktails and carefully crafted original recipes, relying on the best spirits, fresh juices and homemade mixers. He is the Texas Regional Champion in the 2008 Cocktail World Cup, a member of the 2nd Place Team in the 2008 Cocktail World Cup Final in Queenstown, New Zealand and the 2008 Austin Chronicle Reader’s Poll winner for “Best Mixologist.”

The United States Bartenders Guild notified the finalists late Saturday of their advancement to the final round of competition in San Francisco on Tuesday.

The ten finalists represent San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Austin, New Orleans, Chicago, Milwaukee and New York.

WHEN: Tuesday, May 12th
WHERE: San Francisco, CA

For more information about the competition, or for invitations to the event, please contact norcalusbg@gmail.com. Admission is free.

FINO Bar offers over 15 hand crafted house cocktails that utilize fresh juices, house made syrups & bitters. The wine list includes over 100 bottles with selections from across the Mediterranean & United States.
…………………………………………………………………………..

By the way…
Lisa and Emmett Fox hit huge homeruns letting Bill Norris drive the bar and Josh Loving the winelist! Both Bill and Josh make the Fino drink list one of Austin’s best! If you don’t eat there, you should at least start the night on the patio with something to sip.

Cover 3 Austin

•May 8, 2009 • 2 Comments

Finally a restaurant that will hopefully survive this space! Though there seems to be a bit of an identity crisis, it’s a nice addition to the Anderson Lane Restaurant Row. The half-baked, self-promoted as an upscale sports bar concept needs some tweaking. This is more of an inviting, contemporary new American food restaurant that happens to have 15 unobtrusive and muted 52” flat-panel TVs on the wall. Although technically a sports bar, the images of pitcher slamming and wing mastication won’t be observed here. Ignoring the humdrum beer selection, think “Mr. Howell’s Sports Bar” if he never shipwrecked. The TVs are on mute and most are at distantly odd angles from wherever you happen to be sitting.

Endless button-up shirts and polos abound for business lunches, most-likely pulling from Houston’s wait down the street. The Anderson/Burnet neighborhood has undergone such transformation that Cover 3 can scratch an itch that previously needed the Domain or downtown.

Contemporary, orderly, and somewhat cozy, the leather booths, exposed brick walls, granite table tops in the bar area and on the patio seem out of place for the shopping center and sports bar aspect, but this ain’t your grandpa’s North Central Austin. Although, it’s a fairly large space, you don’t feel it. There is still upscale neighborhood warmth. Upstairs in the loft, you feel like you are in a skybox, with red leather couches and chairs, able to watch what’s happening below in the main room or be private.

The white queso style, as opposed to melted/shredded cheese, wasn’t our favorite, but it’s likeable. There’s a pretty serious steak knife in case your dinner companion gives you any lip. The Pacific ahi tuna burger just ended up being a waste of fine tuna, with the flavor of the fish drowned beneath the rest of the sandwich, which was accompanied by an unremarkable Parmesan-dusted shoestring fries. You won’t have any room for any of their desserts, but we urge you to not let that stop you from trying. Journey around Austin for a straight-forward “brownie thing” and you’ll find bla-dom. This one is worth the warm toothsink.

I ate about 40% of my tuna burger and picked at the remaining raw scabs. The waitress didn’t ask if everything was alright, her only downfall. The staff seems like they’ve worked at better establishments for the Austin scene. Enthusiastic and excited to serve.

There’s a great daily happy hour. Cobra Taps that deliver beer and some spirits at a degree above freezing, so quite cold, which may clinch the thirst for a light lager, but kills the weighty side of brew.

The idea is definitely there, it just needs a little tweaking. We have a strong feeling that Cover 3 will find it’s place and this may be opening week jitters (though it’s not the opening week). Nights get busy in the bar area. It’s a great place to happy the hour after work with drinks and appetizers.

Cover 3 Restaurant – Austin

New GTR

•May 5, 2009 • Leave a Comment
I can't wait.

I can't wait.

Sorry for the lack of updates/posts. A new Good Taste Report will surface this Fall. Please feel free to email any press releases, etc.

Thanks for your patience!

Cheers.
-gtr

Austin Wine Distributors Poll

•April 23, 2009 • 3 Comments

With Southern Wine and Spirits hitting Texas, I was curious to see what GTR readers, that were familiar with wine distribution in the Austin area, thought about distributors overall. Obviously, there are other distributors in the Austin area, but I chose these as the “more knowns”. Please take time to vote. Thanks in advance.

Broadbent Selections Tasting

•April 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

A truly warm experience, I recently had the pleasure of hanging out with wine importer Bartholomew Broadbent and Broadbent Selections. The day began with a vertical tasting of Serge Hochar’s Chateau Musar at the Driskill Hotel, reaching back to the ’60s (which I’ll write about separately), followed by a Broadbent Selections Portfolio tasting in the ballroom, siptalk and Ephraim Owens at Vino Vino, Dale Watson at the Continental Club, and the Greyhounds at the Continental Gallery. Talk about great wine, folks, music, and dancing…

Spearheaded in Texas by Riley Gerber of Grape Nutz Wine, the quality of Broadbent’s wines and the sincere people surrounding them is stellar. The Broadbent Selections label gets a GTR Stamp-On-the-Head! Every single wine below is solid and worth buying. The genuine and true people behind the juice remind you what is special and unique about the wine business and how fortunate we are to be in it.

Below is my quick “take” on the wines I tried at the portfolio tasting. I didn’t get a chance to try Dragon’s Hollow, though I wanted to. Both the Musar and portfolio tastings were very well executed. I don’t know why most of these types of portfolio tastings in the industry aren’t more like this. An easy-to-follow, alphabetical note guide that truly goes in order of the wineries? This is a routine procedure, but it is rarely done well. It makes for a much friendlier rhythm, which makes buyers more excited about actually buying… Hats off to Broadbent, Gerber, Virtuoso, the Driskill Hotel, and the wineries.

My order preference.

1. ’02 Louis Guntrum Riesling Auslese Oppenheimer Sacktrager $32 A +9 **** 042009

2. ‘nv Ferreira Tawny Port 20yr. Duque Braganca $69 A+ -5 *****

3. ‘nv Broadbent Madeira Malmsey 10yr. $43 A -2 ****

4. ‘nv Delbeck Brut Heritage $60 A +9 ***

5. ‘04 Guntram Eiswein Penguin Silvaner(or Ries?) (375ml) $59 A +5 ***

6. ’06 Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional $100 A -34 ****

7. ’05 Quinta do Crasto Donna Maria Teresa $150 A -36 ***

8. ’07 Machherndl Chard $(?) tl26 A **

9. ’06 Quinta do Crasto Riserva Old Vines $40 A -4 ***

10. ’04 Vilafonte Series M $49 A +13 ***

11. ‘nv Broadbent Madeira Rsv 5yr $23 A -1 ***

12. ‘nv Delbeck Brut Heritage Rose $80 A- -24 **

13. ’04 Vilafonte Series C $67 A -3 ***

14. ‘nv Broadbent Port Auction Rsv $22 A +2 **

15. ’06 Louis Guntrum Riesling Niersteiner Bergkirche Kab $22 A- +2 **

16. ’98 Musar Rouge $50 A- -3 **

17. ’04 Warwick Three Cape Ladies $25 A- -1 **

18. ’02 Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande $19 A- +7 **

19. ’07 Warwick Cab Sauv First Lady $(?) tl24 A- **

20. ’06 Warwick Pinotage Old Bush Vines $20 A +4 **

21. ’08 Weinert Carascal White $14 A- +2 **

22. ’08 Machherndl Grun Velt Steinwand Smaragd $23 A- -1 ***

23. ’06 Warwick Shiraz $20 A- +7 **

24. ’07 Machherndl Grun Velt Steinwand Smaragd $23 A- -4 **

25. ’07 Machherndl Grun Velt Kollmutz Federspeil $19 A- +3 ***

26. ’08 Machherndl Grun Velt Kollmutzt Federspeil $19 A- -1 **

27. ’05 Pago de Larrainzar Red $60 A- -33 *

28. ’07 Quinta do Crasto White $22 A- -3 **

29. ’08 Warwick Sauv Blc $20 A- +3 **

30. ’03 Weinert Malbec $23 A- -4 **

31. ‘nv Ferreira White Port $17 A- +9 **

32. ’04 Musar Cuvee Blanc $19 A- -3 **

33. ’07 Quinta do Crasto Red $20 B+ -4 *

34. ’06 Louis Guntrum Riesling Dry $14 B+ -1 **

35. ‘nv Montsarra Cava $19 B+ -2 **

36. ’08 Spy Valley Sauv Blc $19 B+ -3 **

37. ’05 Weinert Carascal Red $14 B+ +1 *

38. ’07 Spy Valley Riesling $20 A- -4 *

39. ’07 Aresti Merlot $10 A- +3 **

40. ’07 Louis Guntrum Riesling $14 B -5 *

41. ’06 Casa Ferreirinha Esteva $14 B+ = *

42. ’07 Spy Valley Gewurz $20 B+ -5 *

43. ’08 Aresti Carmenere $10 A- +6 **

44. ’07 Aresti Cab Sauv $10 B+ +5 **

45. ’07 Aresti Pinot Noir $10 B+ +4 *

46. ’07 Aresti Gewurz LH 375ml $15 B+ +4 *

47. ’08 Aresti Gewurz $10 B+ +1 *

48. ’08 Aresti Sauv Blc $10 B -1 **

49. ‘nv Broadbent Vinho Verde (’07) $10 A- -1 ***

……………………..

……………………..

WINERY INFO

(Aresti)

(Bodega Weinert)

(Delback, Port, Madeira, Dragon’s, Hollow)

(Ferreira, Casa Ferreirinha)

(Louis Guntrum)

(Machherndl)

(Montsarra Cava)

(Chateau Musar)

(Quinta do Crasto)

(Pago de Larrainzar)

(Spy Valley)

(Vilafonte)

(Warwick)

Free-for-All for Six (4/09)

•April 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment
Brenham Around the Corner

Brenham Around the Corner

Not blind tasting. Chateau Randle.

My order preference.

1.  ’90 Vega Sicilia Ribera del Duero Unico 13.5% $375 A+ -150 **** 041409

—a no brick baby/Pwrfl, dense/blk chry, cassis/Pomerolesque, somehow

2.  ’63 Nieport Colheita 20% $400 A+ -200 ****

—alive & kickin’/just about perfect/swt almond, hazelnut, toffee & caramel

3.  ’77 Dow’s 20% $175 A = ***

—at peak/blueberry, boysenberry, blk pepper, & lingering mocha

4.  ’86 Gaja Sori San Lorenzo 13% $300 A- -140 ***

—crimson/autumn mulch/thin prune/lil past, but still strong

5.  ’00 Fontodi Sorbo 14% $50 A +14 ***

—muscular blk cherry/damp earth, truffles, grandpa’s old leather wallet

6.  ’01 Viader Napa 14% $75 A- -43 *

—light smoked plum and lead/approachable last stop

7.  ’06 Juan Gil Monastrell Jumilla 14.8% $16 B+ = *

—great background music/wood, blackberries, graphite, ripe youth

8.  ’08 Mourgues du Gres Costieres Nimes Galets Roses 13.5%

—light, friendly, & fresh strawberries/raspberry

9.  ’06 Grape Creek Bellisimo 13.5%

—overpriced, but drinkable Califruit TX wine

10. ’97 Fontodi Sorbo 13.5% $65 C -40 corked

La Condesa Austin

•April 16, 2009 • 3 Comments

“Welcome to the Modern Museum of Mexican Street Food”

Following the street food trend of taking traditional dishes and executing them in a modern fashion, La Condesa has created a mania in Austin’s warehouse district. This little sister of the Dallas Victory Park original tries to distance itself from the older, big-haired, sibling; the menu and vibe are very different.

From the cut cinder blocks on the bar wall to the framed steel windows and shrub landscape, this is cool clever modern. Playa de Carmen, anyone? A leg-tease peak into the glassed stairway that leads to the “pretty people” Malverde tequila bar upstairs leaves you wondering if you’ll make it up to Heaven. Though the kitchen towels for napkins and the soundboard ceiling tiles dilute the scene a bit, the tiles do seem to help with the noise. The front row view of the Spaceballs’ Star Destroyer (City Hall) out one window and Teuscher Chocolatier out the other will remind you that Austin is going through a metamorphosis and you are sitting in the center of it. La Condesa is unique for Austin.

There is a serious amount of attention that goes into the flavor of most dishes.

The yellowfin Tuna Tostada is the perfect warm-up exercise, with pickled cucumber, chipotle mayo, and crispy shallots. We might only suggest that they capitalize MAYONAISE on the menu. Though the Mango y Jicama with Shrimp salad is a hit, you might want to wear a bathing suit to wade in the serrano dressing. The Cochinita Pibil Berkshire pork is meticulously tender and you can taste the charcoal. The nonpareil Camarones Al Pastor’s achiote-guajillo chile and grilled pineapple hold a delightfully smoky and sweet balance, though some might say the pineapple is a bit much. Favorite treat is probably the Hongos y Huitlacoche, with wild mushrooms, huitlacoche, oaxaca cheese, epazote (Mexican wormseed seasoning), and truffle oil. Everyone should order this.

There is a heat theme that carries through most of the dishes, almost like there is an over-compensation to prove there is flavor. The ketchup based Vuelve a La Vida “Come Back to Life” ceviche, with the traditional 2 packets of soda crackers on the side, is longing for a plastic kid’s Luby’s bib, a milkshake straw, and most importantly…for seafood. The Acapulco ceviche is a safer bet.

Outside of the bar area, service needs to step it up. On one visit, the waiter had visited our table 4 times and hadn’t noticed that we were all out of water. There were only 2 other tables in the restaurant. Maybe they have to run “out” for water because the dishwasher seems to have issues, too. Not sure if it was intended as hip modern art, but the plates at our table had leftovers from previous guests stuck to it. Service needs to step it up.

The service seems to be stronger in the bar. Lana, the welcoming, spicy, comfortably-informed, bartender believes in what La Condesa is doing and the excitement is contagious. The spirits menu has over 70 tequilas and 10 mezcals, including tequila flights. There are several house specialty cocktails we recommend including the “El Cubico”, “El Guillermo”, and “Alma Blanca”. In place of a margarita, the El Cubico is whole leaf tobacco-infused Sauza Hornitos reposado, Navan vanilla liqueur, lemon, grilled pineapple juice, mescal essence, volcanic saffron-infused salt rim. Can we get an ashtray for this drink? The 4 main infused salt rims drive the cocktails home. The wine list is fairly playful (for Austin) with about 25 wines, ranging from $26 to $80 a bottle. Red or white Sangria is available by the glass or pitcher. On a different dirty dish visit, a Caipirinha glass arrived with a heavy shade of lipstick rim that didn’t match my outfit. After pointing it out to the waitress(who did offer to bring another one, though we were leaving), she didn’t take it off of the bill. Every visit there has been some dishwashing discrepancy.

Ignore the wobbly tables (2 of 3 visits), dirty dishes (which is worse… the fact that the dishes are dirty when they arrive at your table or the fact that the staff doesn’t notice/care?), misplaced dining chairs, imaginary empty water glasses at your table, and you’ve got a hit on your hands. Though not worth the hype, it is probably worth taking the afternoon off from work to take siesta with friends in the bar!

La Condesa Comida y Tequila

Trockenbeerenauslese Elysium Factorie

•March 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment
Happy Orchestra

Happy TBA Orchestra

In transcendental preference.

1. ‘01 Robert Weil Riesling TBA Kiedrich Grafenberg (375ml) $175 A+ -25 *****

—Holy Cow Genius! / return-to-church wine! / tropical yemen, earl grey, spicy peach

2. ‘96 Darting Scheurebe TBA Durkheimer Fronhof 7.5% (375ml) $112 A+ -30 *****

—The first kiss that mattered / dense / clove, creamy, over-ripe peaches

3. ‘02 Alois Kracher Scheurebe #5 TBA Zwischen Den Seen (375ml) $68 A+ +9 ****

—Junior Wells standing on a harpsichord! / sage, cinnamon-honey in a bear hug

4. ‘92 Muller-Catoir Rieslaner TBA Mussbacher Eselshaut (375ml) $122 A+ -42 ****

—smoked bacon-fat, psycho-rich, perfect peach & apricot balance

5. ‘96 Pra Recioto Soave 13.5% (375ml) $68 A -24 **

—lost a lil viscosity, but brilliant nonetheless / lemon, lime, and light potpourri spice

A Greek Nut Afternoon Pairing

•March 17, 2009 • Leave a Comment
My Sunny Almond

My Sunny Almond

An afternoon delight.

Almonds and the search for wine-clapping compliments. Classics and the unknown. Friendly with so many sippers.

Years ago, a friend used to force 3 raw almonds down me a day. It can’t go unsaid without pointing out the evolution from that experience to my over-the-top addiction to Fino Restaurant’s fried anchovy-stuffed olives as an accompaniment to the following concert.

Sweet and bitter.

Sweet – Delicate and slightly sweet. The ones you know. The ones you want. The ones below. Rogue Bitter – More for flavor extracts and orgeat syrup.

What better way to spend the afternoon than in the company of whole, broke, raw, marcona, roasted, and smoked almonds to see who plays best with which wine. Pulling out the exit ramps from the ship of almondland, the chance encounter of the perfect pairing came to the following light. The winners of the tasting all tickled for more!

Beer, with its low acid – ale or pilsner (cheater. is this wine?)

Chard in general, but especially Chablis

Northern Rhone Syrah, especially Cote-Rotie with smoked almonds

Madeira on the richer side, Bual or Malmsey

Port, vintage or tawny. Couldn’t make ruby twinkle.

Sauternes, Barsac, Monbazillac

Sherry, fino or manzanilla, but the fat side works, too

Muscat, Vin Santo

and the king of most partnerships …Champagne.

Calcium, fiber, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, and vitamin E never hurt nobody. Well… there was that one time.

South by South Wine XI (3/09)

•March 16, 2009 • 4 Comments
The Afterempties

The Afterempties

The 11th Annual South by South Wine.

Not Blind Tasting. Chateau Randle.

Saturday, March 14, 2009.

Six in the evening.

Only 52 weeks till the next round! Start training now for SXSWine XII.

A sincere “Thank You” to the 49 co-hosts. The graciously giving players make this night what it is. A throw-down/bow-down to Swoop Events and 2 dine 4 Fine Catering for the palate yummies and making the night flow. Always done perfectly. I’m talkin’ Ronnie James Dio Rock!

Although there were many highlights, the most talked-about of the evening seemed to have been: ’85 Salon, ’05 Huet, ’95 Raveneau, ’82 Gloria, ’01 d’Ampuis, ’95 Vieux Telegraphe, ’93 Poderi Aldo Conterno, ’01 Gaja Darmagi, ’99 Gaja Gromis, ’97 Radikon, ’82 Montecillo Gran, ’37 Warre’s, ’04 Quinta da Leda, ’00 Rafanelli, and ’05 Metisse…

Bottle List – 141 wines.


FRANCE

Champagne………………………………………..

’85 Salon Le Mesnil blc de blc

’88 Salon Le Mesnil blc de blc

’95 Clouet Brut RD

‘02 L. Aubry Le Nombre d’Or Campanae Veteres Vites

‘nv Billecart Salmon Brut Rose

Loire………………………………………..

’04 Olek-Mery Chinon Cuvee Des Tireaux

’05 Huet Vouvray Demi-Sec Clos du Bourg

’05 Olek-Mery Chinon Des Tireaux

’05 d’Espire Savennieres Cuvee Espciale

’06 Clos Roche Blanche Touraine Cab Franc

’06 Dom Pallus Chinon Pensees de Pallus

’06 d’Espire Savennieres Cuvee Especiale

Burgundy……………………………………………

’95 Raveneau Chablis Vaillons 1er

’01 Prince Florent de Merode Corton “Les Bressandes” Grand Cru

’03 Marche aux Vins Volnay Les Brouillards

’03 Joseph Drouhin Chambertin Grand Cru

’04 Remi Jobard Meursault Les Genevrieres 1er

Bordeaux………………………………………………….

’82 Gloria St. Julien

’95 Haut Batailley Pauillac

’96 Pontet Canet Pauillac

’98 Beau-Sejour Becot Saint Emilion

’00 Virginie de Valandraud Saint Emilion

’00 Prieure Lichine Margaux

’01 Leoville Barton St. Julien

’03 Guiraud Sauternes

’05 Leoville Barton St. Julien

’05 Batailley Pauillac

Northern Rhone……………………………………………..

’97 Guigal Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde

’97 Guigal Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde (2nd btl)

’99 Guigal Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde

’01 d’Ampuis Cote Rotie

’01 Guigal Hermitage

’05 Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie

Southern Rhone………………………………………………

’95 Vieux Telegraphe Chat-du-Pape

’98 Monpertuis Chat-du-Pape

’99 Solitude Chat-du-Pape Barbarini

’01 Boisrenard Chat-du-Pape (magnum)

’03 Autard Chat-du-Pape Cote Ronde

’04 Solitude Chat-du-Pape

’05 Roger Sabon Chat-du-Pape Prestige

Provence/Jura/South………………………………………………………

’95 Bousquet Jurancon Clos Bousquet

’00 Montbourgeau L’Etoile Cuvee Speciale

’04 Ch Simone Palette Rouge

’05 Clos Ste. Magdelaine Cassis

’05 Jacques Puffeney Arbois Rouge Poulsard M

‘nv Parce & Fils Banyuls Mas Blanc Hors d’Age

ITALY

Piedmont……………………………………………………….

’93 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo (magnum)

’96 Rocche dei Manzoni Barolo Cappella S. Stefano

’97 Rocche dei Manzoni Barolo Cappella S. Stefano

’99 Gaja Gromis Barolo

’01 Produttori Barbaresco Ovello Riserva

’01 Giacosa Falletto Barolo

’01 Gaja Darmagi

’03 Bianchi Gattinara Valferana

Venezie Giulia………………………………………………..

’97 Radikon Oslavje Riserva Ivana

Tuscany……………………………………………………….

’95 Querciabella Camartina

’01 Excelsus

’01 Castello di Ama Vin Santo

SPAIN

’81 Montecillo Rioja Gran Reserva

’82 Montecillo Rioja Gran Reserva

’85 Montecillo Rioja Gran Reserva

’87 R. Lopez Heredia Rioja Gran Reserva Tondonia

’91 Montecillo Rioja Gran Reserva

’98 R. Lopez Heredia Rioja Reserva Tondonia

’04 Vall Llach Priorat

’04 Torre Muga Rioja

’04 Clos de L’Obac Priorat

’04 Manual de La Osa La Mancha

’05 Magana Merlot Navarra

’06 Licinia Licinia Madrid

’06 Hornillos Ballestros Perfil de Mibal Ribera del Duero

’06 Exopto Rioja

’07 Raul Perez Albarino Muti

‘nv Jorge Ordonez Moscatel Victoria Malaga

‘nv Gonzales Byass NOE PX VORS (30-150 yr. old) Jerez

PORTUGAL

’37 Warre’s Reserve Tawny 60yr

’89 Casa Ferreirinha Reserva

’96 Casa Ferreirinha Reserva

’97 Quinta Do Crasto Oporto

’00 Quinta dos Roques Touriga Nacional Dao

’01 Quinta Do Crasto Maria Teresa Douro

’04 Casa Ferreirinha Quinta Da Leda Douro

GERMANY

’99 Wegeler Riesling Spatlese Mosel

‘02 von Nell Ludovico Brut Mosel

’02 Louis Guntrum Riesling Ausl Oppenheimer Sacktrager Rheinhessen

’04 Louis Guntrum Silvaner Eiswien Penguin Rheinhessen

’05 Fritz-Haag Riesling Brauneberger Jufer Sonnenuhr Kab

’05 von Beulwitz Nies’chen (Riesling?) Auslese Alte Reben Mosel

AUSTRIA

’92 Kirchmayr Riesling Solist Wachau Loibenberg

’95 Kirchmayr Gruner Veltliner Solist Wachau Wunderburg

AUSTRALIA

’93 Grange

’99 Lehman Shiraz Eight Songs

’02 Glaetzer Amon-Ra Shiraz Barossa

’02 Mitolo Shiraz GAM

’06 Tatiarra Cambrian Shiraz Heathcote

’06 Glaetzer Amon-Ra Shiraz Barossa

CALIFORNIA

‘85 BV Georges de Latour

’92 Grgigch Hills Cab Sauv

’94 Freemark Abbey Cab Sauv

’95 Beringer Cab Sauv Private Reserve

’95 Ch St. Jean Cinq Cepages

’96 Beringer Cab Sauv Private Reserve

’96 Robert Strong Symmetry

’97 Robert Strong Symmetry

’98 Sean Thackrey Orion

’98 Rafanelli Zin

’98 Cain Cab Sauv (barrel sample)

’99 Guilliams Reserve

’99 Pride Mountain Claret Reserve

’99 Flowers Pinot Noir Camp Meeting Ridge

’99 Burgess Cab Sauv

’99 Barnett Cab Sauv Spring Mtn

’00 Sine Qua Non Viognier Noble Mr K Alban

’00 Spottswoode Cab Sauv

’00 Beringer Cab Sauv Chabot

’00 Rafanelli Zin

’00 Mondavi Cab Sauv Reserve

’01 Pride Cab Franc

’01 Guilliams Reserve

’02 Stanton Cab Sauv Napa

’02 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cab Sauv Cask 23

’02 BV Cab Sauv Clone 337

’02 Clos du Val Cab Sauv SLD

’02 Guilliams Reserve

’02 Clos Pegase Cab Sauv Hommage

’03 Rudd Chard RRV Bacigalupi

’04 Saxum Broken Stones

’05 Metisse Cab Sauv

’05 Lewelling Cab Sauv Wight

’05 Spottswoode Cab Sauv

’05 Kapcsandy Napa State Lane

’06 Landmark Chard Overlook

’06 Lewis Syrah

OREGON

’01 Solena Syrah Del Rio Vyd

ARGENTINA

’78 Weinert Carrascal Lujan de Cuyo

’03 Salentein Malbec Reserve Mendoza

’04 Catena Zapata

‘nv Luigi Bosca Extra Brut

CHILE

’06 Lapostolle Clos Apalta

BULGARIA

’02 Damianitza No Man’s Land

CANADA

’07 Cave Spring Cab Franc Niagara

…………………………….And don’t forget the 2 dine 4 eats………………..

assorted imported & domestic cheeses, featuring sliced fruit, assorted olives and crostini

crab salad on bruschetta

sun dried tomato and fresh basil goat cheese terrine

spinach and artichoke dip & salsa with tortilla chips

vegetarian panini grilled eggplant with roasted peppers and mozzarella with herbed aioli

petit muffaleta

wild mushroom ajillo empanada

fried shrimp with remoulade or cocktail sauce

seared sesame ahi tuna wonton with wakame salad and wasabi mousse

chicken pibil and muffaletta with black beans and guacamole

braised beef short rib gougeres

lord byron truffles and assorted 2 Dine 4 cookies

Whitebread Illusion of Choice

•February 26, 2009 • 1 Comment
bread

gtr whitebread goggles

The wine doldrums are available at most convenience-factor retailers and one-stop retail consumption vacuum warehouses.

Avoid them. Support the palate ticklers and shop wine where it counts. Search out the wine folks that search themselves, at a venue that exudes knowledge share and life epiphanies. You’ll know when you’ve found them.

No identity. Much of what I try on a daily basis at many different price points tastes like “a red wine” or “a white wine”. I have few clues as to what the wine is or where it is from. Sales people use the same terminology/marketing/adjectives over and over in their sales pitch (”this Pinot Noir is very Burgundian in style”, “hands off winemaking”, etc.), losing term definition and rarely reaching goal. Working backwards from a blind perspective, I end up with “the liquid’s color” in conclusion. Nice. Factory-tasting juice made more for numbers on paper than enlightenment. Trigger rarely pulled. “Wa-hoo” shotgun in the dark approach vs. surgery. Would it sell? Probably, but we already have hundreds of boring options that fit that bill. What makes this boring wine better than that one? Margin? Market promotion? Relationships and favors? Inexperience?

Austin has many warehouse-type formats/stores to buy wine, loudly claiming to have 3,000 to 7,000 wines. That’s great. I have a lawn with millions of grass blades, all scientifically unique (… not sure how much residual sugar is in each one, though…). Do you need thousands of wines to get the point across? How many wines do you really need? A large selection of what, exactly? How many of those bottles have merit for a placement on the shelf or wine list?

When you filter the white bread out, you’re left with the worthy few. Probably won’t find the worthy few while you are picking up some milk, buying diapers, or paying for gas. Probably won’t find them stacked at the County Jail visiting room… I mean warehouse wine & spirits “store”. Why would I shop at a “large selection” retailer that carries many of the same spiritless wines I could buy at my local supermarket that I must go to anyway for my daily needs (unless they truly happen to deal with fine wine, too, which a few of those examples DO exist in the U.S.)? Or I guess I could shop at the “large selection” retailer for their unknown “control brands” with bla-dom on the palate and huge margins ripping me off. Corporate/Machine chains carry corporate/machine products… corporate/machine wine. It’s how they are successful. Generally, they don’t waste their time with attention to wine typicity or mom and pop passion. There is little Quest for the Best.

It’s about the pump. Dehumanization. Liquid Superficiality. It’s not worth their time. It’s strictly about product quantity and numbers. Vintages don’t matter. It’s about the lowest common denominator. Fast food and the commodity prey. You might as well be buying Spam. They tend to deal more with the “strictly order-takers side” of big importers and distributors that ALSO don’t have time for attention angles. They have corporate red tape to get new wines setup, price changes, and strongly prefer to not have wines with lower production that might run out of stock. (Runs true with restaurant chain wine lists, too) There has to be large-enough production to be worth the trouble. The small, cool-and-clever shops ARE willing to “waste” their time. This doesn’t mean that the smaller shops have a better selection or have more educated talent working the floor, necessarily. It’s just that you might be dealing with the actual buyer or someone who “has a say” in purchasing, which potentially can add a lot to your wine buying experience. And hopefully, you ARE dealing with someone who is talented and works at that cool & clever shop because he wants to tickle, give, and impart brilliance discovered. And I’ll add that the large importers and distributors tend to have a cool & clever wing, too, but it tends to be more of an “add-on portable” at the back of the building and you must enter through a broken window in the lightless-cobwebbed basement, while Marilyn Manson/Vincent Price techno music plays at 18 RPMs in the background.

Austin has many “convenience” liquor stores with a pretend, on the side, wine set. Most of the wines you find at those stores you can purchase next door at a grocery store, and probably at a lower price. Why would I shop at a convenience retailer that carries many of the same moth-eaten wines I could buy at my local supermarket (possibly next door) that I must go to anyway for my daily needs? Aside from also purchasing hard alcohol there, it’s about in and out.

gtrforest

“fogslide” gtr ’98

Austin has a few cool-and-clever shops that are trying to inspire attention. Identity novelties. Hopefully dealing more with fine estate wines (vs. sourced grapes, lower operations cost per bottle, endless supply), these stores tend to deal with many distributors, don’t have to play the field as safe, as the handsell pays their bills.  Most big chain buyers consider multiple distribution houses a headache. It can be a strength of a cool-and-clever shop to do business with many suppliers, sourcing rockstar juice from passionate producers with homemade cookies in the oven, and a homegrown intensity for what’s in the bottle.  These stores should rarely carry grocery wines, not even as a loss leader unless some aspect of the clientele just requires it… These should exist to turn the customer on, educate, and separate. Give the customer a reason to go there, as a destination. Lead. Lead. Lead. Pull. Push. Slap. Inspire. Kickstart. Pull. Lead. Lead. Lead.

I will say that grocery can help “spread the wine word”. In Austin, for instance, many of the grocery stores have a huge selection of wine (many with 2 sides of 100 foot long aisles), some with wine stewards to help guide the customer. Much of the wine tends to have little personality or little distinct geography traces, and relies on the stand-out factor being price. HEB, a San Antonio-based Grocer, has many wines that in other wine markets wouldn’t be considered “grocery wines”, but in Austin due to the very competitive wine market, are on an 80,000 sq. ft. grocer’s shelves. I love my local HEB Supermarket, but please, I beg you to leave the grocery black hole to toothpaste, band aids, and toilet paper.

All wines taste the same. All music sounds the same. All foods taste the same. All people think the same. All political views are the same. All art is the same. All religion is the same. You get the point. Help break the white bread cycle, the illusion of choice.

The invasion.

California Cabernet Sauvignon (2/09)

•February 11, 2009 • 1 Comment
AL13 Cab Pedestal

Alan Cano Cab Pedestal

Blind Tasting.  Chateau Wood.

Group’s Order Preference.

1.  ’04 Burgess Cab Sauv (Hicky)

2.  ’01 Pine Ridge Cab Sauv Stag’s Leap District (Booty Call)

3.  ’02 Hewitt Cab Sauv Rutherford (Tequila)

4.  ’04 Hawk Crest Cab Sauv (Kisses)

5.  ’04 Cosentino Cab Sauv Hoopes Ranch (Roses)

6.  ’98  La Sirena Cab Sauv Napa (Champagne)

7.  ’05 Nickel & Nickel Cab Sauv Copper Streak (Beach Glass)

8.  ’06 Conn Valley Cab Sauv Prologue (Ring)

9.  ’05 Philip Togni Cab Sauv (Children)

10. ’04 Sauvage Cab Sauv Block 4 (Ruffie)

11. ’02 Crozes Cab Sauv Napa Reserve (Headache)

12. ’96 Saddleback Cab Sauv Napa (The Nudge)

13. ’97 Glen Ellen Cab Sauv Reserve (Guitar)

14. ’05 Ch. St. Michelle Cab Sauv (Poem)

15. ’01 Beringer Cab Sauv Bancroft Ranch (Money)

16. ’97 Saddleback Cab Sauv Napa (The Look)

17. ’96 Sullivan Cab Sauv Rutherford (Teuscher)

18. ’05 Oberon Cab Sauv Napa (Apology)

19. ’97 Ravenswood Cab Sauv Gregory (Bath)

20. ’00 Merryvale Cab Sauv Beckstoffer Clone Six (Vacuum Cleaner)

21. ’95 Van Der Heyden Cab Sauv Napa (Pistol)

22. ’96 Truchard Cab Sauv (The Clap)

……………………………………………………………………………..

……………………………………………………………………………..

My order preference.

1.  ‘04 Burgess Cab Sauv (Hicky) $28 A +18 *** 021009

2.  ‘05 Philip Togni Cab Sauv (Children) $116 A -50 ***

3.  ‘06 Conn Valley Cab Sauv Prologue (Ring) $23 A +31 ***

4.  ‘04 Hawk Crest Cab Sauv (Kisses) $10 A- +34 **

5.  ‘02 Hewitt Cab Sauv Rutherford (Tequila) $85 A -21 ***

6. ‘02 Crozes Cab Sauv Napa Reserve (Headache) $80 A -36 **

7. ‘01 Beringer Cab Sauv Bancroft Ranch (Money) $70 A- -34 ***

8.  ‘04 Cosentino Cab Sauv Hoopes Ranch (Roses) $65 A- -19 **

9. ‘00 Merryvale Cab Sauv Beckstoffer Clone Six (Vacuum Cleaner) $80 A- -54 **

10.  ‘05 Nickel & Nickel Cab Sauv Copper Streak (Beach Glass) $70 A- -41 **

.drop off.

11.  ‘01 Pine Ridge Cab Sauv Stag’s Leap District (Booty Call) $76 A- -53 *

12. ‘05 Oberon Cab Sauv Napa (Apology) $16 B+ = *

13. ‘95 Van Der Heyden Cab Sauv Napa (Pistol) $50 B -39

14. ‘04 Sauvage Cab Sauv Block 4 (Ruffie) $65 B+ -44

15. ‘96 Truchard Cab Sauv (The Clap) $29 C+ -19

16. ‘96 Saddleback Cab Sauv Napa (The Nudge) $60 B+ -41

17. ‘05 Ch. St. Michelle Cab Sauv (Poem) $10 B =

18. ‘97 Ravenswood Cab Sauv Gregory (Bath) $46 F -38

19. ‘97 Saddleback Cab Sauv Napa (The Look) $60 C+ -51

20. ‘96 Sullivan Cab Sauv Rutherford (Teuscher) $54 F -47

21.  ‘98  La Sirena Cab Sauv Napa (Champagne) $120 F corked

22. ‘97 Glen Ellen Cab Sauv Reserve (Guitar) $7 F

Teuscher Austin Opens!

•January 29, 2009 • 2 Comments

teuscher

Godsend Teuscher is now available in Austin!

For years, Austinites have had to order from one of the other stores throughout the country. Overnight shipping can kill ya and now you can put that investment into more “chocolate reasons to live”. You will hypnotize new clients and make loyalty-addicts of your current.  …Not to mention the one you’ve been stalking for 13 months will finally “see the light”.  People at work will wonder why you’ve gained 65 pounds yet always have a permagrin on your face. Flown in every Monday from Switzerland, you will end wars with these chocolates!

I drove by early Tuesday afternoon (January 27, 2009), as I have done for months in anticipation… and finally saw an OPEN sign. Yee-Haw!  I purchased a breve while I was there, which was just about perfect, too… By the way, they have a Clover Coffee Brewer. Please go pay them a visit. The Champagne Truffles are unlike any I have had and I’ve had many.

Chocolate epiphany. Bloody Chocolatier Genius!

From Angus Black, proprietor, formerly of Teuscher Beverly Hills:

“Our chocolate shop will be open from 10 am until 6 pm Monday through Saturday, and noon until 5 on Sunday.  Our coffee shop (we offer a full line of coffee beverages in addition to the delicious chocolates) is open beginning at 6:30 am Monday through Friday, at 8 am on Saturday, and at 9 on Sundays.  Please come down and be among the first in Austin to try our indulgent truffles and our quality coffees!  We have a full line of velvet heart boxes for Valentine’s Day, so it’s the perfect opportunity to share a bit of luxury with someone you love.  Our chocolates arrived from Zurich yesterday (Monday the 26th ), so they are at the very peak of their perfection.  We look forward to seeing you.”

teuscher Chocolates & Coffee of Austin

409 W. 2nd St.

Austin, TX 78701

512-236-1657

Wine Sets of the Ungabunga

•July 7, 2008 • 3 Comments

gcellar

Restaurant Wine Lists and Retail Wine Sets.

Wine lists are generally organized regionally, varietally, by progression, color coded, by price, or a blend of the bunch. Organizing the retail wine set by varietal could very-well be the future for retail. Currently, this is common in restaurants.

Most of the restaurant lists I’ve helped have been set by varietal (I don’t expect the consumer to be fluent in wine geography) or the progressive, by the body weight of the wine (which I’m not that big a fan of). I believe that both of these options equalize the playing field. Ordering wine from a list can be risky. Taking advice from a waiter or retail wine steward can be, as well. Like a good butcher, your experience and expense might just rely on them.

On the retail side, organization usually reigns in geography, followed by varietal. My question is whether the future of retail wine sets will be organized by varietal. It appeals to the ungabunga side of U.S. shopping. Though not traditional or classic, it’s probably smart.

Pick pinot noir on a restaurant list, for example. Instead of having California pinot noirs separated from other pinot noirs on the list, maybe having California, Burgundy, Oregon, and New Zealand all mixed together under “pinot noir” spreads the wealth. If anything, it tends to hurt California pinot noir sales. It helps Burgundy. It helps Oregon. It helps New Zealand.

A wine list is essential and the presentation is extremely important. It can overwhelm or educate. A good one will sell you wine without much intervention. The current trend on restaurant lists is for more “by varietal”. Retail continues to stay aligned with “by place of origin”. For many consumers the crossover from California Pinot to French Pinot can be a big valley to cross. Some may say that placing all pinot noirs in the same pile dilutes the respect Burgundy deserves. I understand that and mostly agree. But, let the juice speak for itself.

After all, many “by varietals” are actually blends disguised as single varietals.

Let’s pick on “single varietals”, use pinot noir as an example, and consider the differences in wine laws. Notice the following discrepancies in labeling

When a pinot noir is from Burgundy, it must be 100% pinot noir. By law. (wink.wink.)

When a pinot noir is from Oregon, it must be minimum 90% the varietal listed.

When a pinot noir is from the south of France, it must be minimum 85% the varietal listed.

When a pinot noir is from California, it must be minimum 75% the varietal listed.

This means that the remaining percentage can generally be whatever. Syrah anyone?

Sounds dishonest, doesn’t it? Who wins here? It’s a marketing game.

Obviously, education is the key. But, does everyone want to be educated?

More to come, but I’ve got to go right now. J

Get It On With Dr. Wine Guy

•July 7, 2008 • 2 Comments

A wine guy is like a wine doctor. When you walk into the doctor’s office, hopefully the doctor will ask you many questions. Do you have insurance? J How can I help? Where does it hurt? How long have you had this problem? Are you allergic to anything? What kind of shape are you in? But what happens when the “wine doctor” doesn’t understand your language? This happens the majority of time because we all grew up eating different things, experiencing different things, and many of us in different cultures. Are you a hamburger, mayo-only, with a Coke dieter? Did you grow up on Saag Paneer? Are you a Tofurkey lover? Our habits and experience make our definitions and our definitions are all different. Obviously, the doctor will have no idea where you are coming from or your version of the wine descriptors you use.

 

Even though there are universal terms that the wine community uses, the definitions differ. Someone’s full-bodied, dry red is someone else’s light-bodied, kinda sweet red. Are we speaking tablespoon of turbinado sweet or biting into an apple sweet? A great wine guy will hold your hand and ask many specific questions about your experience to learn your palate, where you’ve been and where you want to go. If you walk into a shop and ask for a full-bodied, strong, and serious wine and the wine guy puts a bottle in your hand… (This is what people are used to.) I vote that you run. This is not a wine guy. This is a sales guy with bottles of wine to sale. A sales guy will point at magazine scores or stacks of wine cases without learning your palate. A great wine guy wants to figure out where you are, create comfort and trust, and most importantly help you get the best of breed for you.

 

A wine guy is extremely important. The right wine guy can save you enormous time and money and bring intense liquid epiphanies to your life. And chances are that the right wine guy also has many other experiences (epicurean delights, recipes, restaurants, travel destinations, etc.) that he can share with you. After all, that’s why most of the serious wine guys are in this industry to begin with. It’s a lifestyle. It attracts a certain perspective and romance.

 

The best way to let your wine guy get to know where you are coming from and your definitions of the terms you use is to name specific wines you like and maybe even more importantly don’t like! Give feedback. Assuming the wine guy is familiar with the wines you name, he should have some sort of grasp on your angle. Usually there is a pattern. Sometimes there isn’t, but usually the wine guy will get a better picture of your idea of dry, acidity, tannins, alcohol, and style. Even if you don’t recall the specific vintage, there is generally a “house style” of a winery. Juicy-fruit or dirt in your mouth, there is a wide range…When you are at a restaurant for dinner, write down the wines you liked or didn’t like and keep them in your wallet for your wine guy. At a friend’s house? Get in the habit. Find a shop you trust. Find someone you click with that is willing to play at your speed. Looking for a killer sweet red? How about Melnik (Bulgaria), St. James Velvet Red (Missouri), or old faithful Peteroa White Zin (Chile). All extremely different. All brilliant in their own style and accords. A great wine guy tries wine all week long filtering out the lesser for the more. Even if your tastes don’t align with his, he’ll know exactly where you want to go (hopefully!).

 

Most people don’t take advantage of the experience and education of the wine talent out there, but I assure you that your wine guy can be an enlightened guide. Why “get along” when you can “get it on“?

Wine For Sale in Texas

•April 24, 2008 • 10 Comments

For Sale in Texas Only indicates that a label exception has been made. Labels are required to list the source of grapes. If a winery doesn’t want to use an appellation (usually because they are importing grapes from out of state) then they can leave the appellation off, ask for an exception with the caveat that they use the “For Sale in Texas Only” notation on the label.

Now, a winery might get an exception or use the notation for other reasons, so that is not a hard and fast rule, but if there is no appellation listed, you can rest assured that they are importing grapes from California, New Mexico, Oklahoma or somewhere and they don’t want their buying public to know that. They may even be blending their own grapes with out of state grapes, importing made wine and bottling it, importing juice, grapes or even bottled but unlabeled wine. There is nothing illegal about the practice, but it is a bit deceiving to make people think they are buying wine and supporting the Texas winegrowing industry.

When purchasing Texas wine, look for “Texas”, Texas Hill Country, Texas High Plains, or even a county name on the label. It can’t use a vineyard name if it is not in an AVA. If you don’t see anything like that AND it has For Sale in Texas Only, you are buying imported juice.

Ribera del Duero (4/08)

•April 10, 2008 • 1 Comment

Thanks so much to Lauren and Stephen Shallcross for hosting this round. Having never done a Ribera Tuesday, it was a welcomed theme with the perfect amount of players.

With the arrival of the 2008 vintage, Ribera del Duero will join Priorat and Rioja in the V.I.P. Lounge as only the 3rd region in Spain to have the Denominacion de Origen Calificada (DOCa) certification.

Blind Tasting. Chateau Shallcross.

Group’s Order Preference.

1. ’04 Pesquera Ribera del Duero (frisbee)

2. ’05 Atauta Ribera del Duero (speedo)

3. ’04 Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero (ventures 8-track)

4. ’01 Eital Ribera del Duero (jimmy buffet)

5. ’06 Vina Sastre Ribera del Duero (judy bloom novel)

6. ’05 Gouguenheim Tempranillo (camera)

7. ’04 Mibal Ribera del Duero (dress shoes)

8. ’04 Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero (dog)

9. ’04 Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero Malleolus (paddle ball)

10. ’04 Pesquera Ribera del Duero (sand)

11. ’04 Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero (pepper)

12. ’05 Numanthia Numanthia (crabs)

13. ’04 Atauta Ribera del Duero (tent)

14. ’04 Pesquera Ribera del Duero (sand pail)

15. ’96 Rauda Viejo Ribera del Duero (umbrellaellaella)

16. ’06 Vizcarra Ramos Ribera del Duero Senda del Oro (flip flops)

17. ’06 Reinares Tempranillo (bikini)

18. ’04 Torrederos Ribera del Duero (industrial sun block)

19. ’05 Atalayas de Golban Ribera del Duero (birthday suit)

20. ’04 Vizcarra Ramos Ribera del Duero Torralvo (ice chest)

21. ’04 Condado de Haza Ribera del Duero (kite)

22. ’05 Puygueraud Cotes de Francs (visor)

…………………………………………………………………………………..

…………………………………………………………………………………..

My order preference.

1. ’04 Atauta Ribera del Duero (tent) $42 A+ +34 **** 040808

2. ’05 Atauta Ribera del Duero (speedo) $42 A +22 ***

3. ’04 Hornillos Ballesteros Mibal Ribera del Duero (dress shoes) $20 A +14 ***

4. ’05 Numanthia Numanthia (crabs) $66 A- -22 ***

5. ’05 Atalayas de Golban Ribera del Duero (birthday suit) $22 A +2 ***

6. ’04 Condado de Haza Ribera del Duero (kite) $26 A- -8 *

7. ’04 Vizcarra Ramos Ribera del Duero Torralvo (ice chest) tl19 A- ** lil corked

8. ’04 Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero (ventures 8-track) $30 A- -14 *

9. ’04 Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero (dog) $30 A- -14 *

10. ’04 Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero (pepper) $30 A- -15 *

11. ’04 Pesquera Ribera del Duero (sand pail) $30 A- -11 *

12. ’05 Puygueraud Cotes de Francs (visor) $24 B+ -7 *

13. ’06 Reinares Tempranillo (bikini) $8 B+ +2 *

14. ’05 Gouguenheim Tempranillo (camera) $11 B+ -1 lil corked

15. ’96 Rauda Viejo Ribera del Duero (umbrellaellaella) $17 C+ -10 corked/tired/compromised

16. ’06 Hermanos Sastre Vina Sastre Ribera del Duero (judy bloom novel) $20 B+ -9

17. ’04 Torrederos Ribera del Duero (industrial sun block) $11 B+ =

18. ’01 Eital Ribera del Duero (jimmy buffet) $17 B+ -7

19. ’04 Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero Malleolus (paddle ball) $30 B+ -15

20. ’04 Pesquera Ribera del Duero (frisbee) $30 B+ -11

21. ’04 Pesquera Ribera del Duero (sand) $30 B+ -12

22. ’06 Vizcarra Ramos Ribera del Duero Senda del Oro (flip flops) $15 B+ -5

South by South Wine X (3/08)

•March 17, 2008 • 3 Comments

Genius Godsends to Gary Chancellor for sharing his beautiful vino playground and hospitality! Truly the perfect host… Sprinkles of epiphany goodness all around 2 Dine 4 Fine Catering for the delicious yummies and attention to detail. Trying to keep the human count to under 50 folks was a bit of a challenge, but well worth it. What a beautiful evening…

Most-talked about of the evening seemed to have been ’88 Mission Haut Brion, ’95 & ’01 Leoville Barton, ’96 Cos, ’01 Darmagi, ’05 Gros Jean Frere, ’99 Valdicava, ’03 Pergole, ’93 Grange, ’97 Leonardini, ’99 Colgin, ’02 Darius II, ’01 Von Strasser, ’04 Sea Smoke, and ’96 Dauvissaut…

The Liquid Element ( 120 bottles )

FRANCE………………….

BORDEAUX………………

’88 La Mission Haut Brion Pessac Leognan

’95 Leoville Barton St. Julien

’95 Canon La Gaffeliere St. Emilion

’95 Clerc Milon Pauillac

’95 Calon Segur St. Estephe

’95 Baron De Rothchild (Lafite)- Pauillac

’96 Cos Estournel Saint Estephe

’98 Vieux Chateau Certan Pomerol

’98 Smith Haut Lafite Pessac Leognan

00 Leoville Barton St. Julien

’00 La Fleur de Bouard – Lalande de Pomerol

’01 Leoville Barton St. Julien

’01 La Fleur de Bouard Lalande de Pomerol

’03 Cos Estournel Saint Estephe

’03 Le Cloitre du Chateau Prieure-Lichine –Margaux

’03 Rauzan Segla Margaux

’04 Leoville Barton St. Julien

 

BURGUNDY…………………

’01 Prince Florent de Merode Corton Les Bressandes Grd Cru

’01 Jean Grivot Nuits St. George Aux Boudots 1er

’01 Girardin Charmes Chambertin Grd Cru

’03 Marche Aux Vins (Joseph Voillot?) Volnay Les Brouillards 1er

’04 Prince Florent de Merode Corton Clos du Roi Grd Cru

’04 Champans Angerville Volnay

’05 Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet Boudriotte

NORTHERN RHONE…………

’96 Chapoutier Cote Rotie

’99 Guigal Hermitage

’01 Chave St. Joseph Offerus

’05 Chatagnier Saint Joseph

 

SOUTHERN RHONE, ETC…………..

’99 Beaucastel Chat-du-Pape

’00 Les Hauts de Montmirail – Gigondas

’00 Vieux Telegraphe Chat-du-Pape

’03 Paul Autard Chat-du-Pape Cote Ronde

’03 Saint Cosme Chat-du-Pape

’03 Gros Nore Bandol

’05 Faillenc Sainte Marie

ITALY……………………..
PIEDMONT/NW…………………

’97 Cascina Morellino Barbaresco Ovello

’01 Gaja Darmagi

’01 Cavalatto Barolo Rsv Bricco Boschis San Giuseppe

’01 Boglietti Barolo Fosatti

’01 Cogno Dolcetto d’Alba

’05 Gros Jean Frere Fumin Merletta

 

TUSCANY…………………..

’99 Valdicava Brunello Madonna Reserva

’99 Casanova di Neri Brunello

’99 Tenuta Friggiali Brunello

’01 Casisano-Colombaio Brunello

’03 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte

 

TRE VENEZIE………………

’91 Brigaldara Amarone

’93 Brigaldara Amarone

 

SPAIN………………………
’00 Abadia Retuerta Palomar

’04 Conde Neo Punta Escencia MAGNUM

’05 Numanthia Termes

’05 El Nido

AUSTRALIA/NZ……………….
’93 Penfold’s Grange

’96 Eileen Hardy

’97 d’Arenberg Dead Arm

’97 Penfolds Cab Sauv 707

’98 d’Arenberg Dead Arm

’99 Jasper Hill Georgia’s Paddock

’00 Jasper Hill Georgia’s Paddock

’04 CraggyRange Syrah Le Sol

’04 Philip Shaw 17

’06 Molly Dooker Shiraz “Blue Eyed Boy”

 

USA………………………….

CALIFORNIA BORDEAUX VARIETALS…

’91 Mt. Veeder Cab Sauv

’94 La Jota Cab Sauv Howell Mtn

’94 Pahlmeyer Merlot

’94 ZD Cab Sauv

’95 Larkmead Cab Sauv

’95 Freemark Abbey Bosche

’95 Rubicon

’95 Kathryn Kennedy Cab Sauv

’96 Montelena Cab Sauv Estate

’96 BV George Latour Cab Sauv

’97 Whitehall Lane Cab Sauv Leonardini

’97 Von Strasser Reserve MAGNUM

’97 La Jota Cab Sauv Howell Mountain

’97 Swanson Alexis

’97 Von Strasser Cab Sauv Diamond Mtn MAGNUM

’98 Araujo

’98 La Jota Cab Sauv Howell Mtn. 17th Anniversary ed.

’98 Pahlmeyer Merlot

’98 Far Niente Cab Sauv

’99 Colgin

’99 Dominus

’99 Guilliams Reserve Cab Sauv

’99 Mount Veeder Reserve – Bordeaux Blend

’00 Dominus

’00 Pride Claret Reserve

’01 Darioush Darius II

’01 Von Strasser Reserve MAGNUM

’01 Jacob Franklin Cab Sauv

’01 Flora Springs Cab Sauv Hillside Reserve

’01 Karl Lawrence Cab Sauv Rsv Herb Lamb

’01 Robert Sinskey Meritage

’01 Gary Farrell Cab Sauv

’02 Darioush Darius II

’02 Pahlmeyer Merlot

’02 Vine Cliff 16 Rows Cabernet Sauvignon

’03 Sequoia Grove Cab Sauv

’03 Clos Pegase Cab Sauv

 

CALIFORNIA PINOT NOIR……

’04 Sea Smoke Pinot Noir Southing

’05 Kosta Brown Pinot Noir Cohn

 

CALIFORNIA OTHER…………..

’99 Benessere Phenomenon – Tuscan Blend

’03 Robert Biale Zin Black Chicken

 

OREGON …………………………

’05 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir Beaux Freres Vyd

’05 Soter “Beacon Hill” – Pinot Noir

 

WASHINGTON…………………..

‘03 Quilceda Creek

 

CHILE…………………………….

‘00 Montes Folly

 

DESSERT VEIN

’03 Darioush Shahpar Late Harvest

’03 Far Niente Dolce

’05 Bernadins Beaumes de Venise Muscat

‘?? Delesvaux Coteaux du Layon St. Aubin

 

BUBBLES VEIN

NV Pierre Peters Les Mesnil Sur Oger Grd Cru

NV Laurent-Perrier Rose Brut

’96 Moet & Chandon Millesime Blanc

WHITE VEIN

’96 Vincent Dauvissaut Chablis Les Clos Grd Cru

‘06 Kistler Chard “Les Noiseliers”

’05 Dampt Chablis Vaillons 1er

’05 Seguinot Bordet Chablis

’05 Chateau Pech Redon – Coteaux Du Languedoc – La Clape

… and Fuller’s London Pride on tap for an intermission!

Vines With No Soul

•March 7, 2008 • 1 Comment

One of my favorite parts of playing with wine is the continuous learning-curve epiphany. It’s that whole “the more I learn, the less I know” thing. This rings as true in wine as it does in life.Anybody can walk into a retailer and pay an exuberant price for a cheap-tasting wine. Many of the ‘high-rated’ and ‘cult-status’ wines are great and goofy examples of these ‘auto-pilot’ and ‘resting-on-their-laurels’ blindfolded non-performers. I consider many wines to be extremely overpriced, one-dimensional, and tasteless… especially many of the new world, high alcohol, 18-wheeler-stylin’ fruitblobs.

I’m on a personal campaign to find what I refer to as “Stamp on the Head Wines”, high quality wines that are best-of-breeds in their genre and pricepoint. Occassionally, it is refreshing to have a Cab that actually tastes like Cab. I don’t mind paying serious money for a serious wine, but don’t charge me pretentious prices for seriously plastic-passioned wannabes. Scrape off the makeup and give me an honest wine that actually has character…
Now, don’t take me wrong. I love soul-less, thoughtless, and loveless wine as much as the next guy, but please don’t charge me over $6 a bottle for it…

In order preference.
1. ‘03 Haut Bages-Liberal Pauillac $31 A +5 *** 042406
—It’s a Boy! A few wanted bruises/solid middleweight/currAntly flexed
2. ’03 Moulin de la Gardette Gigondas Ventabren $29 A -3 **
—white peppered-black olive & wild mushroom pizza
3. ’02 Ch Potensac $26 A +6 **
—Las Cases’ Delon Family/black currants, earth, berry plays bass, perfect acidity
4. ’02 Rsv de Comtesse Lalande Pauillac $28 A +4 *
—Pichon Lalande’s 2nd/typical blackberry and herbal cherry-dropped middleweight
5. ’03 Ch La Fleur St Emilion $29 A -2 *
—raisin, plumtime, dark chocolate, with a berry-zip on the side
6.
’01 Les Ormes de Pez St Estephe $30 A = **
—a consistently well-structured straight shooter/Spice with a tad

Station Imports with Penny and Andy Loving

•February 27, 2008 • Leave a Comment

In order preference.

1.  ’03 Rippon Pinot Noir Central Otago Lake Wanaka 13.5% $41 A +5 *** 022708

2.  ’03 Shaky Bridge Pinot Noir Central Otago 14% $35 A +9 ***

3.  ’04 Kawarau Pinot Noir Reserve Central Otago 13% $32 A- +4 **

4.  ’05 Rippon Osteiner Central Otago Lake Wanaka 13.5% $16 A- = **

5.  ’06 Kawarau Pinot Noir Estate 13.5% $27 A- -1 **

6.  ’06 Sleepy Dog Pinot Noir Central Otago 13% $30 A- -4 **

7.  ’06 Sleepy Dog Chard C.O. Blair Gunn Block 13.5% $18 A- +3 **

8.  ’06 Shaky Bridge Rose Pinot Noir Central Otago $17 A- -1 **

9.  ’05 Freefall Sauv Blc Marlborough 12.5% $17 A- -1 *

Station Imports wanaka.jpg