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Showing posts from 2011

Churrascos at Lake Pointe

As a long time fan of the Cordua restaurants, I was pleased when I learned that they were opening a Churrascos near my home . I was fortunate to be able to attend the mock service prior to opening; I had the Churrasco steak dinner that night and it was excellent as expected. We went  again for dinner shortly after that and had another positive experience (our only issue was one wine by the glass offering of decidedly corked wine which was immediately replaced). I had the seafood soup and tenderloin salad that evening and I would recommend both. This morning, we went to try the new Sunday Brunch and we were just blown away. This is by far the best brunch in the Sugar Land area; it is priced at $27 per person and I added the $10 bottomless mimosa option as well. Diverse options range from four different green salads, ceviche, soup, plantain crusted fried shrimp and calamari, an array of grilled veggies, an omelet bar, a crepe bar, a carving station with beef tenderloin and a whole suckl

2010 Duchman Vermentino

In the midst of taking a short break from the study of French wines, I decided to "go local" tonight for dinner with some gulf coast shrimp and Texas wine. The 2010 Duchman Vermentino inspired me to make broiled peppered shrimp with penne pasta in a Romano cream sauce with fresh basil (sadly, the last of the fresh basil grown outdoors until Spring).  Vermentino is a white grape primarily grown in Italy; it is also known as Pigato and Favorito. My expectation for a wine produced from this grape was a crisp, acidic, dry white wine with citrus and an herbal (primarily basil) note.                                   The 2010 Duchman Vermentino is made exclusively from Texas grapes at the Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood, Texas. They provide a tasting note on the back label which I resisted looking at until after I wrote my own. Interestingly, I wrote a very similar note. I give them Kudos for their truth in labeling. Appearance: Clear, pale straw color with a watery rim. N

Henry Fessy Beaujolais

From the Macconais, heading south into Beaujolais where the Gamay grape rules. The typical wine style is simple, fruity and meant to be consumed young, very few will develop interesting characteristics with bottle age. The inexpensive Beaujolais Nouveau with its confected red fruit flavors is always released on the third Thursday in November and is out now in time for your holiday meal. Beaujolais Villages is the next step up in quality and is usually mid-priced. Grapes can be sourced from thirty-nine villages along a series of granitic/schist hills in the north and west of the region. The wine is usually a blend from several villages but can be from one named village. 2009 Henry Fessy Beaujolais Villages Appearance: Clear, pale purple Nose: Clean, medium(+) youthful aromas of fresh & candied strawberries and raspberries Palate: Dry, Medium(-) body, medium tannins, medium(+) acidity with red fruit (mainly raspberry) flavor, medium length. Quality: Good; Drink now, not inten

The Maconnais

Moving south from the Cote Chalonnaise into Burgundy's largest vineyard area, the Maconnais, the climate changes with the Mediterranean influence. This can create riper grapes resulting in fruitier flavors and aromas. About 80% of the region's production is regional level Macon AOC wine with most of the white being labeled Macon-Villages. 2006 Macon Villages Appearance: Clear, pale lemon color with a watery rim. Nose: heavy oxidized aromas Quality: Poor, out of condition Pouilly Fuisse is the principal commune of the Maconnais. The vineyard locations on the bowl shaped slopes maximize sun exposure, this, combined with the limestone based soils produce a style of Chardonnay that should typically be fuller bodied with good fruit and minerality. 2009 Pouilly Fuisse Louis Jadot      Appearance: Clear, pale lemon color with a watery rim. Nose: Clean, medium intense youthful aromas of lemon and peach with some butter. Palate: Medium body and acidity with lower in

A Taste of Givry - Cote Chalonnaise

Continuing south into Burgundy's Saone-et-Loire region is the Cote Chalonnaise often said to be Burgundy's best place to find value for your money. As I begin thinking about this, I am immediately sorry that I did not get a Bouzeron Aligote to try because I don't think I have ever tasted one and that would have been fun. It has been added to the list and I will come back to it. Over 60% of the region's production is red wine typically produced in a fuller-bodied, firm style. Givry, one of the principal communes, is home to 26 Premier Cru vineyards. The red wines of this particular area are known for their intense fruit and smooth tannins but are sometimes questioned as to the length of their age ability. 2005 Givry- Les Bois Chevaux Premier Cru Domaine Thenard    $30 Appearance: Clear, pale garnet with a brickish rim. Nose: Clean, medium intensity developing aromas of leather, sage and earth over red fruit. Palate: Dry, medium body/alcohol and medium+ tannins,

Tasting the Cote de Beaune

Continuing down through Burgundy's Cote d'Or into the southern portion, the Cote de Beaune. This area shares many similarities with its northern neighbor as far as climate, altitude and aspect but it has more soil variation promoting the production of red (57%) and more white (43%) wines. The red wines tend to be lighter than those produced in the Cote De Nuits while the white wines deliver concentrated flavor and are considered to be among the best in the world. There are 7 Grand Cru vineyards in the Cote de Beaune and only one produces Grand Cru red but there are numerous Premier Cru vineyards producing both. Although there are 17 principal communes in the Cote de Beaune, I am only focusing on 3 in this posting. The commune of Volnay is home to 30 Premier Crus producing only red wines. Volnay reds are typically soft and aromatic. 2007 Volnay Vielles Vignes - Nicolas Potel   $45 Appearance: Clear, pale garnet with a brickish rim. Nose: Clean, medium intense developed a

Grand Cru from the Cote De Nuits

After a hectic weekend at Reliant Center judging wines for the HLS&R wine competition, taking a little time to relax and think about the Grand Cru wines of Burgundy seemed like a must for today. The northern part of the famous Cote d'Or is the Cote de Nuits which is home to all but one of Burgundy's red wine Grand Crus. The continental climate, the limestone rich clay soil, the average altitude of 1000 feet and the sun exposure of the east facing vineyards all come together to help create Burgundy's most long-lived red wines. Starting in the north, the commune of Gevrey-Chambertin is home to 9 Grand Cru vineyards and 26 Premier Cru vineyards which produce cellar-worthy wines known for their structure and balance. 2006 Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru  Charmes-Chambertin Louis Jadot      $100 Appearance: Clear, pale ruby. Nose: Clean, medium intensity, developing aromas of fresh strawberries and cherries, tobacco and a bit of a violet floral note. Palate: Dry, mediu

Bourgogne Regional Wines

The wines at the bottom of the AOC hierarchy of Burgundy (with just a few exceptions) have the word Bourgogne in their name. There are 25 of these AOCs and they represent over 50% of Burgundy's production. Grapes may be sourced from anywhere within the region or may be labeled with a specific region that the grapes are sourced from (ex. Macon-one of the few name exceptions). Most of these wines can be produced anywhere within the Burgundy region. Tasting Notes: 2008 Simon Bize & Fils Bourgogne Chardonnay $20 I tasted this wine twice within a relatively short time period so I am posting both notes because I thought it was interesting to see what was the same and what had changed. The bottles were purchased from different stores. 09/17/11 Appearance: Clear, medium lemon color w/ a watery rim. Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity developed aromas of green apple, asparagus and canned mushrooms. Palate: Dry, Medium+ body and acidity (MLF), medium alcohol with flavors of green apple, l

2009 Saint-Bris Sauvignon Jean Marc Brocard-Domaine Sainte Claire

Saint-Bris is a lesser known communal AOC in the Grand Auxerrois region of Burgundy located southwest from Chablis. What makes it of particular interest is that it makes its white wines from Sauvignon Blanc rather than from the Chardonnay grape for which Burgundy is famous. 2009 Saint-Bris Sauvignon- Domaine Sainte Claire  Jean Marc Brocard    $18 Appearance: Clear, pale straw color with a watery rim. Nose: Clean, medium- intensity level of youthful aromas of primarily grapefruit with a bit of grass. Palate: Dry, medium body/alcohol and medium+ acidity with tart grapefruit flavors. Finish: Medium- length Quality: Acceptable I was expecting a more aromatic wine with more herbaceousness based on what I have read about this region's typicity. Further research may be in order.

Thinking about Chablis

The advent of Fall has sent me back into my wine studies and what better place to begin than Burgundy, or more specifically, Chablis, Burgundy's most northerly region. The name Chablis has been widely abused and many do not seem to know that it is a quality Chardonnay wine from a premier French wine region. I recently sat down at the bar of a high-end seafood restaurant in town and when the bartender asked for my order, I asked him if he had any Chablis. His response was to lean in and whisper to me that I must mean Chardonnay as Chablis was cheap California white wine that they did not serve. I could tell that he was actually embarrassed for me and my faux pas. (Deep sigh.) Chablis has a cool continental climate with Atlantic maritime influences which bring a cloud cover that lowers temperatures and slows the ripening process. This is one of the factors that leads to the high acidity for which the wines of Chablis are known. Another important factor is the soil. The Chablis AOC

2008 Lapostolle Clos Apalta

My husband and I shared this bottle of 2008 Lapostolle Clos Apalta at home the other evening over a grilled steak dinner; if this bottle is indicative of the typical quality, it is easy to see why it is consistently so highly rated. In the glass, the wine was a deep, almost black, ruby color with fresh aromas and flavors of ripe mixed red and black fruit with sage-herbal undertones and spicy notes. Perfectly balanced, well-structured with a silky mouthfeel and long finish, an exceptional wine. Highly recommended! We purchased a few bottles of this and I am looking forward to seeing how it evolves. The blend for this bottling is 73% Carmenere, 17% Cab Sauv and 10% Merlot.  It was purchased at The Tasting Room-Uptown for approximately $100. Related post: 2008 Lapostolle Cabernet

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2009

I opened this bottle of Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2009 to serve with the grilled shrimp and creamy pasta that we were having for dinner.  In the glass, it was a medium lemon yellow color with aromas of grapefruit, under ripe pineapple and light oak. Nicely balanced with medium to medium+ body, acidity, alcohol and flavor intensity. Flavors mirrored the aromas in the medium length finish. Recommended, another nice wine at a nice price! Purchased at HEB for about $12.

2005 Peju Cabernet Sauvignon

     I was not very familiar with Peju Province Winery until the Taste Napa Valley Wine Tasting last year where I had the opportunity to talk with owner, Herta Behensky Peju. In between tasting her five fantastic offerings, we talked about family, gardening, organics and going green-all of which is an important part of how this winery is run.      Since the majority of their wines are sold directly through their Rutherford tasting room, I was surprised to find the 2005 Peju Cabernet Sauvignon at my local HEB grocery store which I purchased for about $45. It was a deep garnet color in the glass with pronounced aromas of dark berries, cocoa powder and a touch of cigar. Rich flavors of mixed ripe berries, chocolate and baking spices were balanced by soft ripe tannins, medium+ acidity and a comfortable 14.1% abv. The finish was deliciously long. Highly recommended!

2008 Franciscan Estate Sauvignon Blanc

The 2008 Franciscan Estate Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley was purchased at my local HEB grocery store for about $14 to serve with my also HEB purchased tortilla crusted tilapia that I was pan sauteing and topping with a mango salsa. In the glass, the wine was a very pale straw color with -medium intense aromas of lime, grapefruit and hay. On the palate, dry, medium body, medium to medium+ acidity with crisp, mainly lime/mixed citrus flavors with a bit of minerality and a medium length finish. A good wine at a good price.

2004 Rutherford Hill Reserve Merlot

More Mer -love! This time for the 2004 Rutherford Hill Reserve Merlot from Napa Valley. My husband and I shared this bottle after dinner the other evening while catching up on some TV shows on the DVR. Appearance: Clear, deep ruby color. Nose: Fresh red fruit aromas-plums and berries with just a hint of vanilla and cedar. Palate: Dry; balanced, medium+ body, acidity and smooth tannins with rich flavors of mixed red & black berries and milk chocolate. Finish: Long & juicy. *This bottle was purchased by my husband at The Tasting Room-Uptown Houston. He does not remember the price.

2009 Martin Ray Chardonnay

     I purchased the 2009 Martin Ray Chardonnay Russian River Valley at my local HEB grocery store for about $12. I have served it a few times this summer with grilled and pan-sauteed seafood with and without cream sauce and have found it to be another nice wine at a nice price. Appearance: Clear, pale lemon color. Nose: Lemon-butter, baked pear, bit of vanilla Palate: Dry, medium body, medium acidity with lemon, peach and a bit of pineapple. Length: medium

Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut NV

     The Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut NV was part of an impromptu sushi night with some friends during my husband's week long birthday celebration.       In the glass, this Champagne was a pale gold with a steady stream of pinpoint bubbles. Floral aromas of jasmine and lime blossom were dominant with fresh-baked pastry and citrus notes. On the palate, it was dry with racy acidity balancing the mixed citrus flavors and long toasty finish.       Elegantly luscious at $45 a bottle.      

2007 Domaine Faiveley Mercurey

     I was grilling sockeye salmon on a cedar plank for dinner so I decided to open the 2007 Domaine Faiveley Mercurey to serve with it. This red wine is a Pinot Noir from the Mercurey commune in the Cote Chalonnaise subregion of Burgundy, France.      In the glass, it was a sheer garnet color with medium intense fruity aromas of red cherry, strawberry and raspberry with just a hint of an earthy underbrush. It had a medium body with medium smooth tannins and medium+ acidity balancing the primarily juicy red cherry/berry flavors and just a bit of an undefined herbal note ending with a medium+ length finish.      Quite delicious alone and with the salmon. A very nice wine for approximately $30 at Whole Foods.

Francois Labet Cremant de Bourgogne Brut NV

     I purchased the Francois Labet Cremant de Bourgogne Brut NV at Spec's for about $15. I served this as an aperitif recently. Though not particularly complex, I was impressed with the quality for the price.      In the glass, it was a pale lemon yellow with abundant bubbles. It had light aromas of fresh apple and a bit of toast. It was dry and crisply acidic. Perfect for a before dinner drink or to use in sparkling cocktails. We did not finish it that night. I closed it and put it in the fridge before dinner. Two evenings later, I was reading out by the pool and decided to pour myself a glass (okay, two glasses) and it was just as fresh and fizzy as the first night. A good sparkling wine at a good price!

1998 Gaja Barbaresco

     While I generally think of Nebbiolo wines as something to drink in the winter, I decided to break my "rule" the other night and opened a bottle of 1998 Gaja Barbaresco on a hot, Houston summer evening. My husband's birthday is at the end of the month and we tend to celebrate for a good portion of July. He wanted a dry-aged rib-eye steak that we had seen at Whole Foods for dinner. This is why I try to keep him out of the grocery store, as this is not what I would typically pick on a hot Thursday night, but it is not my month we are celebrating.      The label looked a little aged and the cork broke in half when I was opening it, I was hoping that I had not held this one too long. I decided to decant it although that proved unnecessary as most of the sediment was all stuck to the side of the bottle that it had laid on.      In the glass, it was an opaque brick red with an orange rim. It had a medium+ intense bouquet of violets, leather, ripe red cherries and fennel.

2006 Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva

     I almost didn't bother to write this one up.  I opened the 2006 Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva to have on Friday evening. I had three hungry teenagers at the table for dinner that night so I made a fried cheese and zucchini appetizer and sandwiches from Wednesday's leftover meatballs.       The wine was very closed- Low aromatics combined with less than expected acidity and a light, indiscernible red fruit flavor. My husband and I each had less than one glass. I re-corked it and left it on the kitchen counter.      While preparing dinner the following night, I poured myself a glass. It was more aromatic and had a stronger cherry/berry flavor but it was still not very interesting. Overall, calling it acceptable is about as excited as I can get. Approximately $22 at Spec's.

Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva 2006

Simple family dinner at home on Wednesday night- spaghetti with meatballs, salad and bread. My dad brought a bottle of Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva 2006 to have with it. In the glass, the wine was a medium ruby with a garnet rim. Medium intensity aromas of ripe black cherry with cedar and a bit of tobacco. Medium body, medium+ acidity and tannin balancing concentrated cherry/berry and licorice flavors. Smooth medium length finish. Very easy-drinking and enjoyable for about $20, recommended!      

2010 CUMA Malbec

     I made veggie tacos with black beans, grilled onions, bell peppers and squash with guacamole and pico de gallo on corn tortillas. I decided to open a bottle of 2010 CUMA Malbec by Michel Torino. This wine is made from organic grapes sourced from the Cafayate Valley in Argentina. An organic wine with my vegetarian meal seemed appropriate. I had purchased this bottle at my HEB grocery store for approximately $12.      In the glass, the wine was a deep purple with a ruby rim. Jammy aromas of black and blueberries prevailed with an herbal note of tarragon. It was medium everything-body, acidity, alcohol and tannins (which were very smooth and sweet). The flavors mirrored the aromas with the addition of chocolate-covered cherry in the medium+ length finish. It was a very fresh (lighter than I expected) Malbec which is perfect for the hot summer and light grilled meals. A very good wine at a very nice price. 

2008 Bonterra Merlot

     Grilled hamburgers topped with blue cheese on the dinner menu at home the other evening seemed the perfect match for one of my HEB grocery store wine buys. I opened the 2008 Bonterra Merlot from Mendocino County. This Merlot-based wine which has some Syrah, Zinfandel and Carignane in the blend is made from organic grapes and was purchased for $11.75.      It was a dark ruby in the glass with medium intense aromas of mixed ripe black fruit with light oak. It was well-balanced with medium acidity, alcohol and tannins with flavors of plum, cranberry and a bit of vanilla. It had a smooth, medium length finish.      We really enjoyed it- the best value priced Merlot that I have had in awhile!   

Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir at Gaido's in Galveston

  We were in Galveston over the Fourth of July weekend. On Saturday night, we went to Gaido's  for dinner. The best pairing of the evening was the Watkin's Bisque with the 2007 Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir. I did not take tasting notes. The bottle was $55 in the restaurant but only about $22 retail. It is one I plan to keep at my home. I think it will be fantastic with grilled sockeye salmon this summer. *  I did end up purchasing this to serve with grilled sockeye salmon. The price was $30 locally at Spec's instead of the $22 (which makes me feel better about the price at Guido's). Only the 2008 was available.  In the glass, it was a pale ruby with aromas of fresh red berries and cherries and floral notes of violet. The medium acidity, smooth tannins and 14.2% abv   balanced out the flavors of raspberry, red cherry and a nice dose of black tea. A very good young, fresh and fruity Pinot Noir. * 2nd note added on 07/13/11

Tasting Chablis

     Yesterday, I attended a Chablis Training Seminar and Tasting held for wine trade professionals and media. James King, of The Texas Wine School , ran the training sessions for the Burgundy Wine Board in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Houston. 2009 Petit Chablis, La Chablisienne (approximately $15) Almost clear, watery color. Light body. Crisp acidity. Apple, lemon, bit of salty minerality in finish. Excellent with any savory puff pastries, light seafood or alone, as an aperitif. 2009 Chablis, Domaine Daniel DAMPT et Fils (approximately $18) Almost clear, watery color. Somewhat closed, less aromatic. Light body. Crisp acidity. Grapefruit. 2009 Chablis Premier Cru-Montmains, Domaine VOCORET et Fils (approximately $22) Light lemon color with green glints. Ripe pear and buttery aromas and flavors with floral notes and a bit of peach. Medium body. Crisp, yet with a softer mouthfeel. Medium+ length finish. Good with any seafood particularly with a buttery sauce. 20

2008 Two Hands "Bella's Garden" Shiraz

     My husband cooked ribs for dinner on Sunday evening so I opened a bottle of 2008 Two Hands "Bella's Garden" Barossa Valley Shiraz.        In the glass, the wine was an opaque purple color with pronounced aromas of ripe black fruit dominating with some oak and chocolate. In the mouth, the wine was full-bodied with medium acidity. It had concentrated mixed fruit flavors of dark berries and plums with vanilla and some smokey notes balancing the high alcohol and tannin. It had a slightly spicy, long length finish. Absolutely fantastic with the ribs.      The "Bella's Garden" was an excellent example of the typically high alcohol, inky mouthfeel, boldly fruity Shiraz that can come from the Barossa Valley. Priced at approximately $60.

2008 Taz Pinot Gris

     Last night, we went to Corelli's, an Italian restaurant near our home for dinner for the 2 eat for $19.99 Tuesday special. During the summer, they don't charge a corkage fee, so in keeping with our cost conscious theme, we also brought along one of my inexpensive grocery store purchased white wines, the 2008 Taz Pinot Gris from Santa Barbara priced at approximately $14.      In the glass, the wine was a pale lemon color with medium intense aromas of ripe peach, honeysuckle and a bit of pineapple. It was medium body with medium+ acidity and had light fruit flavors of lime and pear. The wine was more in the style of an Alsatian Pinot Gris than an Italian Pinot Grigio.      The dinner special consists of one split appetizer (we chose the shrimp scampi), 2 salads (my husband had the house while I chose the Caesar) and 2 entrees from a set list (He had the Chicken Parmesan and I had the Cheese Ravioli in cream sauce with pesto and caramelized mushrooms and onions). The wine  

1999 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino Riserva

      After a couple of days of drinking whites, I decided to serve a bottle of 1999 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino Riserva that we have been holding. I had made Rolled Stuffed Eggplant for dinner and wanted some good Italian red wine to go with it.       In the glass, the wine was a brownish red color with medium intense aromas of dark cherries and berries, cocoa and floral notes. It had a medium+ body, high acidity and very smooth medium+ tannins with flavors of the ripe dark cherries and berries, black tea, vanilla and a bit of spiciness in the long finish. Absolutely delicious!       I am not sure what this cost as I bought it under special circumstances a few years ago. It is an outstanding example of   Brunello di Montalcino if you can still find it. You may want to decant first, it was throwing sediment.

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut NV Champagne

     The Nicolas Feuillatte Brut NV Champagne was part of my 10% off any six wines purchased at my local grocery store which means I got this bottle for about $25 (the most expensive of my affordable whites to try for summer sipping). I bought this to be paired with my National Lobster Day dinner that I cooked last night.      In the glass, the wine was a pale gold with small fizzy bubbles. The aromas were fairly light in intensity but were mostly of indiscernable red fruit, pumpernickel bread and honey. On the palate, a medium body with crisp acidity but a bit more sweetness in the finish than I was expecting. The bubbles were not quite as long-lasting as I would hope. Overall, however, I would say that it was a good bottle and reasonably priced for a Wednesday night Champagne/lobster dinner at home.       I served it with broiled lobster tails with lemon butter, roasted zucchini, bell peppers and fingerling potatoes with fresh rosemary and mixed berries for dessert. I felt that

2009 Mossback Chardonnay

     It isn't even officially summer yet but it is already hot in Houston. This makes it a good time to try some affordable easy to find white wines to sip on the patio while waiting for the seafood to come off the grill. I made a quick trip to my local HEB where I purchased 6 assorted bottles with a 10% off discount. The first from my line-up was the 2009 Mossback Russian River Valley Chardonnay priced at approximately $17.      In the glass, the wine was a bright lemon yellow with medium intense aromas of pear, citrus and a hint of jasmine. On the palate, it had a full body with fruit flavors that mirrored the aromas and balanced the high acidity. It had a medium length, lemon butter finish. A classic Chardonnay in the French Chablis style.      I served it with grilled salmon on pesto pasta with diced heirloom tomatoes and Caesar salad and it worked quite well. I think it would also be good with any lemon-butter seafood or chicken dish.       A good value for a very good w

Brasserie 19

      For my birthday, my husband and I went with some friends to Brasserie 19 , a relatively new restaurant on West Gray in River Oaks. From the moment that we stepped out of the car at the valet stand, we received fantastic service, starting with enthusiastic greetings from the staff working the patio to the instantaneous seating at our reserved time and continued care at the table throughout dinner. The entire restaurant remained full during our time there.      Having eaten many times at the Tony Mandola restaurant that was at this location prior to this restaurant opening, I was pleased to see a new brightness in the decor. A glass window looked into the room where the cold seafood platters were prepared and it all looked delicious. There had been a chef change since we had made our reservation. Chef Michael Gaspard, who we love from the Pappas Wine Dinners had designed the menu but Chef Antoine Ware, formerly of Catalan, was now running the kitchen. The wine list arrived in the

Napa Angel and Star Angel by Montes

      TGIC Importers hosted a tasting of some of their best wines at The Tasting Room-Uptown on Wednesday evening. On hand were some of the winemakers and winery representatives to answer questions about the various selections. With a line up of over twenty wines, the stand outs for me were the offerings from Montes USA. Winemaker Jorge Gutierrez was pouring tastes of four new wines being produced in Napa Valley and Paso Robles. Originally from Chile, Jorge is now enjoying living in California and was quite passionate about Montes' new wines.       The 2006 Napa Angel Reserve is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon with some Syrah. The grapes were sourced from various vineyards in Yountville, Coombsville and Oak Knoll. The higher end, Napa Angel "Aurelio's Selection" is 100% Cabernet sourced from premium vineyards in Oak Knoll and Yountville.      The two wines from Paso Robles were the 2007 Star Angel which is 100% Syrah and the higher end 2007 Star Angel "Aurelio'

2007 Opus One

     Another fantastic wine from our dinner party line-up! The 2007 Opus One Napa Valley Red Wine is a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec.      In the glass, the wine was a deep, dark ruby. It had pronounced aromas of mixed blackberries and raspberries, earthy forest floor and a bit of smokiness. It was well-structured with a full body, high acidity and sweet, ripe tannins with flavors of the same mixed berries, licorice and espresso in the long finish.       Another wine that is not on my everyday drinking list at approximately $180 a bottle. However, when you are looking to splurge on a complex drinker, it is an absolutely outstanding wine!

2007 Joseph Phelps Insignia

     Over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to enjoy some special Napa Valley wines. I will be posting my tasting notes for each one separately. My absolute favorite was the 2007 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Valley Estate Grown Red Wine. This was brought by one of our guests for a dinner party my husband and I hosted. This wine is a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot.      It was a deep purple in the glass and it had pronounced black fruit aromas with violet floral notes and a slight bit of dried herbs. Smooth was my first thought upon tasting it. It was full bodied with high acidity and silky tannins which were  perfectly balanced by the rich flavors of blackberry, creme de cassis and dark chocolate. It had a long, dark fruit finish.      Absolutely outstanding++! At approximately $180 a bottle, it is not your everyday drinker but it is definitely a truly fantastic wine.

2007 Nickel & Nickel Harris Vineyard Merlot

     This 2007 Nickel & Nickel 100% Merlot is sourced from the Harris Vineyard which is located in the western Oakville area of Napa Valley. Appearance: Clear, deep, dark ruby Nose: Pronounced aromas of red fruit-raspberries, strawberries and cherries with smokey cedar. Palate: Full body, medium acidity and medium+ sweet, ripe tannins. Concentrated dark berry flavor with vanilla and a bit of nutmeg. Finish: Long Quality: Very Good+ Price: $45 related post: 2006 Nickel & Nickel Kelham Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

2002 Dom Perignon Champagne

My husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary this weekend with a bottle of 2002 Moet & Chandon "Dom Perignon" Champagne. It was spectacular as expected. Appearance: Clear, pale gold with long-lasting pin-point bubbles. Nose: Pronounced floral aromas of jasmine with juicy nectarine and pineapple with a bit of flint. Palate: Dry, full-bodied, crisp acidity with flavors of brioche, peach and honey. Length: Long Quality: Outstanding            Price: $135

2007 Luna Howell Mountain Merlot

     More Mer-love! The 2007 Luna Vineyards Howell Mountain Napa Valley Merlot is an outstanding example of just how good Merlot can be.      In the glass, the wine is a clear, dark ruby color with medium-intense aromas of ripe dark fruit, both blackberries and black plums, with vanilla and baking spices. On the palate, it is perfectly balanced with a medium+ body, medium+ smooth, ripe tannins and medium acidity with 14.7% abv. The flavor mostly mirrors the aromas but with a more concentrated blackberry note and a bit of chocolate in the long finish.      Truly fantastic! Related postings: 2007 Luna Sangiovese Reserve 2007 Luna Vineyards Napa Valley Red Wine 2005 & 2006 Luna Cabernet Reserve

2nd Annual Ruinart Champagne Challenge - Houston

     I applied to participate in the 2nd annual Ruinart Champagne Challenge . The Guild of Sommeliers and Ruinart Champagne were hosting the event in five US cities. They were choosing 100 wine professionals nationwide with 20 contestants at each competition. The locations were in New York, Las Vegas, Chicago, San Francisco, and Houston. Each city's winner would win a trip to Champagne, France and a $1000 scholarship with the Guild of Sommeliers and the runners-up would each receive a magnum of Ruinart Blancs de Blancs.      My application was accepted and I was invited to compete in the Houston challenge held at Brennan's-Houston restaurant. Participants arrived at 11:00 AM to compete in a blind tasting of sparkling wines. After 40 minutes, contestants turned in their tasting notes and were engaged in a short lecture from Frederic Panaiotis, Ruinart Cellars' Master, on the "Physics behind the Fizz" with a question and answer period. We then adjourned to anoth

Notes from a "Wines of Southern France" Tasting

2009 Pere Anselme Cotes de Provence Appearance: Clear, pale pink Nose: Medium intense aromas of red berries, rosewater, apple  Palate: Dry, medium body and acidity, light tannins; Tart strawberry, saline minerality Finish: short Quality:  good-very good       Price: $10 2009 Domaine du Paternal "Couronne de Charlemagne" Cassis Blanc Appearance: Clear, pale lemon Nose: Light intensity aromas of dried herbs, white flowers and kerosene Palate: Dry, medium body, medium+ acidity; citrus & dried hebs, slight saline minerality Finish: short Quality:  acceptable-good        Price: $18 2008 Vordy-Mayrannes "Old Carignan" Rouge Appearance: Clear, medium ruby Nose: Medium intense aromas of black cherries & red berries, forest floor, smoke Palate: Dry, medium body, medium+ tannins and acidity; Dark berries, dried herbs and black tea Finish: medium Quality: good-very good         Price: $15 2009 Maison L'Aiglon Grand Reserve Saint Chinian Appear