Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chenin Blanc - A Chameleon Grape

Chenin blanc is the white chameleon grape from the Loire, France, morphing and blending into its environment. In France it is known as Pineau de la Loire, in South Africa as Steen, and it is known as Pinot Blanco in Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Argentina. Chenin's versatility stems from its high acidity. It can be used to make sweet wines, dry wines and even sparkling wines.

For an off-sweet to sweet Chenin Blanc the usual aroma and flavor profile is floral, honey suckle, honeydew or canteloupe, with a possible hint of vanilla or sweet wood.

For an off-dry to dry Chenin Blanc the usual aroma and flavor profile is apple, lime and pear with hints of vanilla and honey.

Some of the more notable places you will find Chenin Blanc are Sauternes, a desert wine usually blended with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, Crémant de Loire sparkling wines, and Vouvray makes off-dry style of wines.

I personally knew very little about the versatility of Chenin Blanc and didn't realize how many wines it is used in. I love desert wines, so I am a fan of Sauternes. I've also tasted a Vouvray of which I also liked. If you drink whites and are looking for a new white to try, get Chenin Blanc. I think you'll enjoy it.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Ike, The Tasting Room, and Normalcy

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike many were looking for a way to relieve stress, wanting some human interaction and above all, a sense of normalcy.

My wine bar had power and minimal damage. I thought it was crazy that my wine bar was open on Sunday for business and that my manager had asked for anyone that could work, to please come in and pick up the shift. I honestly didn't think anyone would show up, employees or Guests.

I ended up going in around 3:30 just wanting to help out if they needed it and if they didn't, I'd get online and touch base with all those not in Houston. What I saw was kind of amazing. A lot of people were there and it almost looked like any other day except for the downed trees and our broken Willow (of which all that work there, love).

I got to sling some wine, order some food and listen to what other people were going through with Ike and no power or running water. Many who were spared the worst, were hopeful and thankful. I could tell our Guests were glad to be doing something as simple as drinking a glass of wine and to just get away even if only for a half hour.

I am happy I went in to work and glad that management decided to open. It helped a lot of people to relieve a bit of stress and time to enjoy what they do have instead of dwelling on what was lost. Kudos to the The Tasting Room and all those other establishments that opened as soon as they could to help ALL of us feel a bit of Normalcy.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Two Hands Gnarly Dudes 2006

I went out with a couple of friends of mine last night. We all work at the Uptown's The Tasting Room (TTR) and when we go out, we usually drink beer so that usually means we drink at Champps.

Last night was different though, we all wanted to drink wine, but not at TTR. We chose Max's Wine Dive since we get the employee discount there (it is owned by TTR) and of course the food is goooo ooood.

We decided on the Two Hands Gnarly Dudes 2006. I've had it before and like it very much. This wine is on the more mid-range as far as price, going for about $40-50 a bottle.

It is an Australian Shiraz and is characteristic of one. It is fruit forward, good alcohol, and firm but not overpowering tannins. The fruit is dark; cherries, blueberries, with a bit of spice and hint of milk chocolate. It is supple on the tongue and has a lingering finish. A very nice bottle.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Cork or Screwcap

I want to ask you a very personal question and you don't have to answer if you don't want to. Do you prefer a natural cork, synthetic cork or a screwcap for your wine stopper?

Working at a wine bar, I have had guests that asked for a wine and when I brought it to the counter, saw that it was a screwcap, and outright refused the wine and asked for something else. I have to admit that I was anti-screwcap for awhile too.

My personal distaste for the screwcap came about not because it may affect the taste of the wine, but because I liked the tradition of uncorking a bottle of wine. It is a ritual that has been done for years and takes practice and skill. I didn't want to give that up.

So what is my current opinion now and why?
I have leaned towards screwcaps, but after reading this article I am leaning back towards natural corks. The caveat here is the cork has to come from a major producer of cork that has taken the proper steps to insure the cork's quality. The difficulty here is how do we know where the cork came from until after uncorking?

What are the natural cork issues?
Natural corks have (had) 3 main issues. A mold called Trichloroanisol (TCA for short), also called cork taint, adversely affects the flavor of wine. Oxygen ingress, the cork allowing varying amount of oxygen into the wine, was thought to affect the wine too (this has been disproven). Lastly, synthetic corks and screwcaps were introduced providing "better" alternatives to natural cork.

Do the synthetic corks and screwcaps have issues?
Yes, through scientific testing by Amorim's onsite labratory and in conjunction with the University of Bordeaux, it has been show that synthetic corks allow oxidation from the outside air (ingress) and fail to keep their seal over time. Screwcaps do not allow any air in, but that causes 'reduction' (sulphide problems) which also adversely affects the flavor of wine.

Also, these two types of bottle closures are far less "green" and eco-friendly.

On a related note... A natural cork's structure is 90% air and it does not allow any outside air in. The oxidation that occurs is only from the oxygen that is released from the cork inside the bottle.

What is Cork doing?
The cork industry acknowledged the issues and has introduced new methods to improve the quality of their cork. They've learned how to reduce and/or eliminate cork taint, the primary reason for cork's decline. They are spreading the word about how eco-friendly natural cork is and they are letting people know that the other closures have their weaknesses too.

For a very good and detailed article please read: "Cork fights back"
For more information about how and what cork is being used for check out Cork Facts. Cork interior in the Mercedes concept car!

For me, I'm glad to know that the ritual and tradition of opening a bottle of wine will be around for many years to come.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Beaux Frères Vineyard Pinot Noir

The Beaux Frères Vineyard Pinot Noir is easily one of the best Pinot Noir's I have ever had and certainly the best this year.

These are the tasting notes from the wine maker:
This wine is deep ruby to the rim, with sweet black cherry and cassis fruit... The Willamette Valley cuvée is an up-front wine with medium to full body, beautifully pure fruit, supple tannin, and a good vibrant acidity giving the wine a freshness to go along with its fullness and palate-pleasing style.

I agree with their tasting notes and would add some ripe strawberry and a little spice to the flavor profile for the bottle we had. For those that like a fruit forward taste, easy silky tannins, and some body to their wine, this is the wine for you. It is not cheap and will cost you around $80-$100/bottle.

Definitley a wine worth saving for a special occasion.