It’s coined in the industry as OND (October, November, and December). The busiest time of the year. The Holidays. A time for celebration. People are spending money on restaurants, good wines, and good times. The focus of the bag is largely dictated by the accounts I see, and this week it was all about red, red wine. Red wines to pour by the glass. Red wines to add to reserve bottle lists. In the name of bag balance (this is a thing), I threw in a bottle of riesling.
Wine: Brooks Willamette Valley Riesling 2013 Grape: Riesling Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon
There’s nothing to dislike about this. This is not your typical riesling. Snappy aromas of petrol, lemon peel, granny smith apple. Unapologetically dry and acid driven. Really tart and refreshing.
Wine: Thevenet et Fils Bourgogne Bussières “Les Clos” Rouge 2014 Grapes: Pinot Noir Region: Burgundy, France
The Thevenet brothers are famous for Chardonnay. I really enjoy most of their offerings. This red is bright cherry, rose petal, and really light and fresh. I really like this wine, and the price makes it an attractive affordable bottle on wine lists.
Wine: Grochau Cellars Gamay Noir Grapes: Gamay Region: Willamette Valley, Eola Amity Hills, Oregon
I’m in love with this wine. I love Gamay. I love Beaujolais. This is super bright, fresh, and fun. The aromas were so expressive, we’re talking methylated cherry, rose petal, and damp forest floor. It’s interesting, bordering on being geeky. One of my personal favorites.
I love Nebbiolo and this wine totally delivers what I expect from the grape. Super traditional. Aromatically complex with rose petals, cherries, tar, licorice, violets, mushrooms. Serious tannins and acidity. Needs food. Fatty, animal foods. If you were planning to enjoy this wine at home I would open it the night before.
Wine: Tres Sabores Por Que No Red Wine Blend Grapes: 58% Zinfandel, 31% Petite Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Petit Verdot Region: Napa Valley, California
This is a Zinfandel based blend, but with structure, complexity, and good acidity. Rich and spicy. A great fall and winter option.
About three months ago I left my restaurant job and took a sales position with a small wine distributor based out of Houston. My job is simple; work with an already established Sales Manager and help grow the market in Dallas.
There’s a ton of potential here. This place is gigantic. There are restaurants, shops, and bars on just about every corner. My job should be relatively simple, since our portfolio is one of my very favorites (we distribute the Rosenthal Wine Merchant portfolio exclusively in Texas).
I thought it might be fun to give you a peek into my wine bag, and tell you about the wines I showed to some of my accounts this week. I had a last minute cancelation, so my bag was kind of light. Here’s a look at the wines that were in it.
Wine: 2014 Domaine Philippe Gilbert Menetou Salon Blanc
Grapes: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Region: Loire Valley, France
When it comes to white wines, the Loire Valley has my heart. Menetou Salon is definitely an off the radar region (the area is immediately west of Sancerre), the domaine grows the same grapes (Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir), and has the same kind of soil (limestone). How did it stack up? Aromatically, this was grapefruit, gooseberry, fresh cut green herbs, and peppers. Flavor wise, this was crazy mineral driven, like the time I licked chalk in elementary school because I wanted to know what it tasted like (no wonder I didn’t have any friends). This is a food wine. Deep down I really wanted to cancel the rest of my appointments, BYOB it up, and eat all the oysters.
Wine: 2013 Domaine Cheveau Saint Amour “Les Champs Grilles”
Grapes: 100% Gamay
Region: Beaujolais, France
I’m not talking about that Georges DuBoeuf Nouveau stuff here, I’m talking Cru Beaujolais. What is Cru Beaujolais, you ask. It’s higher quality Gamay that can bear the name of one of the ten villages on the label. Saint Amour is one of those villages. I end up requesting this sample bottle because I’d never had a wine from this village before, and we finally cracked it open at a staff meeting. This is some fine old vine Beaujolais folks. It smelled like currants, cherries, green peppers, and pencil shavings. Then it opened up and was spicy and light, fruity and fresh, and structured at the same time. It was a favorite with quite a few buyers.
Wine: 2013 Aurélien Chatagnier Saint Joseph Rouge
Grapes: 100% Syrah
Region: Northern Rhone, France
Aurélien Chatagnier started his own domaine when he was in his early twenties. He doesn’t come from a winemaking family, but he started tending the vines as a teenager at Domaine Jamet, and François Villard finally encouraged him to make wine on his own. His wines are one of my favorite portfolio discoveries. This screams Syrah. It was peppery, blackberries, black olives, peppercorns, and smoke in the glass. The palate was all about texture and balance. Elegant. So so good.
When people find out I’m a wine professional, the most frequently asked questions I get are “Will you teach me about wine?” and “Where’s a good place to buy wine in Dallas?”
I think the answer to the last question is a little more complicated. When I’m not buying bottles through work, I’m visiting stores around town sourcing off the beaten path juice for tasting groups. I recently launched a bi-monthly education class for our staff. We started off by studying the principal grapes of the world, and moved on to famous growing regions, all the while developing their tasting skills.
When I first arrived in Dallas I was convinced my career was taking a colossal step backward. The food and beverage scene was radically behind the times compared to other cities a fraction of its size. With that said, great restaurants are opening up all the time. Smaller distributors are representing wines that deserve our attention. Bottles that are unique, balanced, well priced, and thoroughly delicious. Vinos I hope to see more of on restaurant lists and store shelves.
There are a lot of corporate, big box stores you can buy booze from here in Dallas, but I don’t ever send people there. I believe in small production wines and boutique shops, where the price point might be a touch higher, but the quality is something you can taste in the glass.
Here’s a short list of my favorite places to buy juice in Dallas.
Undeniably my favorite place in the city to purchase wine and booze.
I send everyone here, and most have never heard of it. You can usually find me on Saturday afternoons, taking advantage of one of their free tastings, and buying bottles for the staff to taste. Their staff is knowledgable, and they have a huge French selection.
Wine isn’t their only forte; they also carry a great beer, sake, and liquor and spirit selection too. When I’m trying to find a relatively obscure bottle for my home bar, odds are I can find it on their shelves.
Don’t miss the staff value shelf in the store, as it’s the place where you can find great wines for under $20 a bottle. Whether it’s everyday drinking bottles or blow the budget with special occasion bottles, Pogo’s has you covered.
I don’t know who’s doing the wine buying here, but it’s pretty spectacular. I want to be friends and drink wine with them because we love the same bottles. The selection is straight out of my handbook, from Dönnhoff Riesling to Teutonic Wines from Oregon, Cru Beaujolais to Provence Rosé.
You can also grab a great cup of coffee made with Stumptown espresso, hot and cold sandwiches, fresh produce, and flowers.
What this selection lacks in size it makes up for in substance. Every cheese you purchase comes with a wine recommendation. If you love stinky, alpine cheese you can grab a wine there made to match it perfectly.
Scardello boasts one of the most amazing cheese selections in the city, and you can taste just about anything in the case. I can’t get out of this place for under $100. I go crazy and buy all the delicious things.
I love Lillet. It’s spring in a bottle; the flowers are in bloom, the winter chill is gone, the sun is shining, and I can enjoy the outdoors before it starts to get really hot.
When I first came across this recipe in the New York Times cookbook I wanted to make it. Amanda Hesser’s notes on this recipe intrigued me, “modeled after Lillet and far more delicious.”
What kept me from making it was the cost, and the time. Seven bottles of Sancerre and a bottle of vodka. 40 day and night maceration time. Purchasing corks and cheesecloth online. It’s a project. But like all of my favorite projects it’s primarily hands off.
So when a work colleague posed interest and agreed to split the cost we spent the morning assembling this. I passed over Sancerre for an affordable white Bordeaux made exclusively of Sauvignon Blanc. We got the vodka on sale. It’s the perfect time of year to find various types of citrus and grapefruit at the market. The stars aligned for this one.
The end result will make eight 750 milliliter bottles, so I plan to keep one on hand as a last minute food gift. That’s if they last that long.
Start with a sterile 3 gallon or larger bucket or crock (I’m using a stainless steel pot). Thinly slice the grapefruits and lemons, rind and all, and toss them into the bucket. Add the split vanilla bean and sugar. Pour the wine over the citrus and sugar. Add the vodka, and stir well.
Cover the bucket tightly with plastic wrap and let stand in a cool, dark place for 40 days. A basement or closet are fine. For the first seven days, stir the grapefruit wine once a day to dissolve the sugar and draw the citrus oils from the rinds. After the first seven days, stir once every two to three days.
After 40 days, strain the wine through a strainer or sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth into another large sterile bucket. Discard the vanilla and citrus.
Part 2: Bottling
Have eight scalded wine bottles on hand.
Using a funnel, decant the wine into the bottles, leaving 1 to 2 inches of space at the top. The recipe states to boil new corks (that you can buy on www.thegrape.net) and seal the bottles.
I’m going to look into the bottling process more and write a follow-up post because I believe it will require the purchase of a corker, and the jury is relatively mixed on boiling corks before sealing bottles. I’m pretty glad I have 40 days to figure it out.
Trisaetum (the winery’s name is a hybrid of their children’s names) was our last stop in the Willamette Valley.
The sun finally peeked out the afternoon we visited their winery. I don’t know what it is, but when the sun comes out in the Northwest every color is illuminated. I think I might have forgotten how beautiful a place it is.
In 2003, Andrea and James Frey founded Trisaetum (tris-say-tum) to produce Pinot Noir & Riesling. The family owned winery is located in the city of Newberg, in the Ribbon Ridge AVA, and produces small lots of delicious Pinot Noir and Riesling from its three estate vineyards. The tasting room is really bright with lots of windows, and houses some of James amazing artwork.
We enjoyed all of the wines, and I came back home with a bottle of their Chardonnay. Oregon is producing some really delicious Chardonnay right now, I think it might be the state’s next big thing. It should be, because it’s delicious.
Visiting wineries now that I work in the wine industry adds an interesting dynamic to the visit. I find myself asking tons of questions about farming methods, yeast strains, annual production numbers, and if they’re looking for interns for next year’s harvest.
Maysara was a last minute addition to our tasting schedule. My friend is a wine distributor in Texas, and her company just added Maysara to their portfolio a few days before our trip. She made the appointment here three days before we arrived in Portland so she could familiarize herself with the wines.
Their property is one of the most stunning pieces of land in Oregon. You take this windy road alongside the mountain all the way to their tasting room and cellar area, passing by rows of vines, small lakes, and adorable animals. Their facility, which looks like a massive reclaimed wood and stone airport hangar, took six years to construct, and every piece of material used in the buildout came from the property.
Maysara is a family-owned winery, and each member is involved in the day-to-day business. We spent the morning walking around the facility and tasting through the wines with Tahmiene Momtazi, the winemaker, and her father Moe, the founder. I loved their concrete egg fermented Pinot Gris and both their whole cluster Pinot Noirs.
Beautiful wines made by beautiful people. Seek them out in your local area if you can.
Here are some shots of their property from my camera lens.
Pairing wines with a holiday meal freaked me out before I studied wine. To be honest, pairing wine and food in general still makes me a bit nervous. Some ideas sound amazing in your head, and when you try them together you quickly ask yourself, WTF was I thinking?
Now, I believe that if the food is good, and the wine is good, you’re going to have a good meal. I pay less attention to pairings, but ultimately strive to find wines that are lower in alcohol, higher in acidity, are fruity and both earthy. You know, those delicious wines.
Thanksgiving menu is the hardest to pair. It’s not because of the turkey, because all wines go with turkey. Okay. It’s because there’s a ton of different kinds of food on the table. You have turkey, but you also have cream-laden mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, vegetable sides, pecan pie, stuffing, and green beans and mushrooms.
I just returned from a trip to Oregon where I bought a lot of wine, so those bottles will be gracing my dinner table this year. Oregon is usually where I turn to first for Thanksgiving pairings, because this is ‘Merica. This year, I’m also adding a few wines from France, because, well, France makes some really sexy, delicious juice. The kind of juice you want to hoard all for yourself and not share with anyone because deep down you’re a really terrible, selfish person.
Having a sparkling, a dry white, a subtly sweet white, and a red usually hits the mark. Here’s what I’m pouring this year, along with some honorable mentions from other areas of the world.
Wine: NV Champagne Roger Coulon Heri-Hodie Grande Tradition Brut
One of my best friends is now a distributor of Rosenthal wines here in Texas, so I’ve had access to some really delicious stuff through her lately. This is one of those bottles. It’s easily becoming one of my favorite Champagnes. It’s floral, fruity, but still full bodied and fun. If you’re looking for a bottle of bubbly that is more affordable than those coming out of Champagne I love Cremants. They’re sparkling wines made in other regions of France. If you like the bubbles it’s quality juice for much less money.
Grapes: Blend of Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Muscat
Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA
What I love about Brooks more than anything is they take aromatic varietals like Gewürztraminer and Muscat and give them a good acid structure so they finish crisp and bright, and not flabby and flat. This has a small amount of residual sugar, which makes it a great match for foods with a little bit of sweetness and spice. It’s a crowd pleaser that is delightful and delicious. New York Times agrees, listing it as one of their favorite Thanksgiving Wines.
If you have green things on the table (read: vegetables) it’s good to have a wine that can bring out those flavors. This totally fits the bill. This is concrete-fermented and has a really lovely texture and great acidity. One of my very favorite Pinot Gris coming out of Oregon right now.
Pinot Noir is on my Thanksgiving table every year. Wanna know why? Because it’s awesome, that’s why. It’s delicate, expressive, and Oregon reds marry fruit and earth beautifully together. I think wines from this area are the gateway to the old world. This wine has tart cranberry and cherry flavors which makes it an ideal match for Thanksgiving day fare.
Averna is an amaro (which means bitter). It’s a digestif that is steeped with herbs, citrus rinds, and roots that is later sweetened with caramel. It is sweet, thick and has a gentle herbal bitterness. After a heavy meal like this one, it’s a great thing to sip post-slice of pie on the rocks with an orange wedge. It’s also awesome in cocktails.
What wines do you plan to drink this holiday season?
When I was young, a wise co-worker once told me that your 20’s are a terrible time, and your 30’s are amazing by comparison. I’m sure she was trying to make me feel better because I had just been dumped, yet again.
Her reasoning was that your 20’s are a perpetual state of inner confusion; you’re still trying to figure out who you are, and what you want out of life. By the time you hit the big 3-0 you have the big things figured out.
That may not be true for all, but it definitely was true for me.
I attended college later in life, and at 28 I found myself at an academic crossroad. I couldn’t put it off any longer – I finally had to declare a major. I was studying science and math in hopes of going into medicine, and while I truly enjoyed the subject matter, a career in the health care field didn’t feel right.
Spring Break arrived quickly, and the next thing I knew I was visiting my best friend in France. Already a budding food and wine professional back home, she coordinated visits to nearby wine regions and tastings. It was there, in the barrel room at a family-owned winery in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, that I fell in love with wine. Once I returned to the states I read every wine book I could get my hands on, finished up my Philosophy degree, backpacked around Europe, and enrolled in culinary school.
The idea was to always work in wine, but I wanted to understand food and flavor better. After graduation, I fell down the rabbit hole and cooked for a while. Once I arrived in Dallas, I enrolled in wine school and transitioned back to the front of house restaurant life.
Now I’m a Sommelier, and I train our staff on food and beverage production. I don’t make the kind of money I could have in health care, but deep down I really don’t care. I’m passionate about food and wine, I love what I do, and can’t imagine working in any other field. I wouldn’t change a thing. I guess that’s the key to getting to know yourself as you age.
Last week in Oregon I had a wine-tasting experience that rivaled that pivotal time for me in France, and it was at Brooks Winery in Amity, Oregon. I have loved their wines for years, and visiting only helped to reinforce my adoration for them as individuals, and as a winery.
Our incredible host, Gerry with a G, sat down with us and poured a myriad of wines, told the heart-string pulling story of how the winery came to be (you can hear all about it in the film American Wine Story), and gave me detailed resource materials on Biodynamic Farming I plan to share with our team.
I may have also eaten some Pinot Noir grapes off of the vine. Man those puppies were sweet.