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Maquis Lien Syrah Blend from Chile

Date: Sun, Feb 14, 2010

DescriptionName: Maquis Lien Blended Red Wine
Color: Red
Grape(s): Syrah, Carmenere, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec
Appellation: Colchagua Valley Chile
Maker: ViÑa Maquis
Vintage: 2005
Cost: $17.00
Comments:

Food PairingsMeats & Seafood: Poached, grilled, fried, baked or roasted beef, lamb, pork, game and game birds.
Sauce: Au jus, savory, tomato, mustard, peppercorn
Cheese: Hard goat cheese.
Other:

Taste ProfileNotes: Aromas of blackberries, tart cherries, prunes, chocolate, spice notes and floral characteristics. Tastes of ripe, sweet red and black fruits, spices with good acidity.
Quick Classification: Dry Red

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Petite Sirah from August Briggs

Date: Sun, Feb 14, 2010

DescriptionName: Petite Sirah
Color: Red
Grape(s): Petite Sirah
Appellation: Napa Valley California
Maker: August Briggs
Vintage: 2007
Cost: $38.00
Comments: We drank the 2005, 2007 is the current vintage.

Food Pairings Meats & Seafood: Poached, grilled, fried, baked or roasted beef, pork or fowl.
Sauce: Au jus, savory, mustard, peppercorn
Cheese: Medium and hard cow cheese, medium and hard sheep cheese.
Other:

Taste ProfileNotes: A solid bluebery fruit core framed by dark chocolate with a rustic spiciness and plenty of tannin.
Quick Classification: Soft Red

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Château les Hauts Conseillants Pomerol

Date: Sat, Feb 13, 2010

DescriptionName: Château les Hauts Conseillants Pomerol
Color: Red
Grape(s): Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec
Appellation: Lalande de Pomerol- Bordeaux
Maker: Château les Hauts Conseillants
Vintage: 2003
Cost: $25.00
Comments: No insult intended, but this wine is much bigger than most Pomerols, to the point of being closer to a California than French style wine. We loved it.

Food PairingsMeats & Seafood: Poached, grilled, fried, baked or roasted beef, lamb, pork, game and game birds.
Sauce: Au jus, savory, tomato, mustard, peppercorn
Cheese: Soft or hard goat cheese.
Other: Taste ProfileNotes: A complex mix of fruity and savoury aromas and flavours, with a gentle texture, rounded tannin and superb richness and intensity on the finish.Quick Classification: Big Red

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The Red Kind

Date: Fri, Feb 12, 2010

A birthday card from my wife. I get no respect.

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Wine Loft in Kings Harbor Opening

Date: Fri, Feb 12, 2010

I had the opportunity to visit with John Culkin, the general manager of the Wine Loft Wine Bar opening in Kings Harbor. No you didn’t misread that. Many of us have been waiting for a very long time for this opening and have experienced more than one disappointment when forecast opening dates have come and gone. No kidding, the Wine Loft is actually going to open on Saturday, February 20th at 4:00 pm. John is scrambling to meet this latest date, but inspections are over, staff has been hired and finishing touches are being put on the facility.


The Wine Loft is a franchise operation with somewhere around 20 locations nationwide, including two in Texas, one in Dallas and the Kings Harbor location. The Kings Harbor Wine Loft is the only location owned by this franchisee who resides in Baton Rouge. John describes the establishment as an “upscale bar”, in that it will serve liquor as well as wine and will provide an upscale atmosphere conducive to relaxation and conversation. The décor appears modern but comfortably so, featuring comfortable chairs and couches as the primary seating. There is a loft area that can accommodate private parties, but will otherwise be available for general seating.

The wine list looks well thought out. Opening with a core selection, John may expand the list based on what he sees customers are wanting. The wine selection ranges from value brands to very high end labels such as Far Niente. While I have not seen pricing, John assured me the Wine Loft would be competitive. There is also good geographic variety including Spain, South Africa, Argentina, and of course France and Australia. The Wine Loft will also have a menu of small-plate items and deserts such as lamb lollipops, escargot, filet mignon salad, and molten chocolate cake.

The web site, thewineloftkingwood.com, is being updated as I am writing; hopefully it will be up-to-date by the time you are reading this. The Wine Loft will open at 4:00 pm Monday through Friday, and at 11:00 am on Saturday and Sunday. Closing time will depend on the crowd, but bars in Houston must close by 2:00 am. Note that although on a Saturday, the initial opening is scheduled for 4:00 pm.

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Terroir

Date: Tue, Feb 9, 2010

You say potato, I say patahto. You say appellation I say American Viticultural Area. Whatever you call it, every serious wine producing country has them. It’s a recognition that those things that happen to a grape while it’s growing determine how wine tastes. I was with a winemaker the other evening and he said that what he does as a winemaker contributes only about 10% to the quality of the finished wine. The other 90% is determined by the characteristics of the grapes. It’s all about terroir.

Terroir [tehr-WAHR] is French for "soil," but the word has come to mean much more in the vocabulary of wine. In wine terminology it refers not only to the type of soil the grapes are grown in (chalky, claylike, gravelly, sandy, etc.) but also to all other viticulture, geographic, climatic and environmental factors that influence the grapes while growing. While there is debate as to the degree of influence the grape’s terroir has on the wine, it is beyond question that grapes from some vineyards produce better wines than those same grape varieties grown in other, sometimes quite nearby, vineyards; all other things being equal.

The concept of terroir is the basis for the old world concept of appellation; that is that wines from different regions can be distinctive and unique, independent of wine making technique. This concept of regional uniqueness has grown into the highly regulated European appellation systems that we are familiar with today, including such famous appellations as Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux in France, Chianti in Italy and Rioja in Spain.

In the United States the terroir concept is reflected in our system of American Viticultural Areas (AVA) such as Stags Leap, Lodi, Paso Robles and Napa Valley. There are about 200 AVAs in the United States, with more than 60 of them in California. AVAs come in all sizes, the Texas Hill Country AVA contains approximately 15,000 square miles, while the Cole Ranch AVA, located in Mendocino California, covers less than a quarter of a square mile. Federal guidelines require that 85% of the grapes in a wine have to come from an AVA in order to use that AVA name on the bottle. California state guidelines are more stringent, requiring 100% of the grapes come from a California AVA before its name can be used on the bottle.

Regardless of the actual term used in a particular country, the term appellation is generally accepted shorthand. Pay attention to the appellation when you find a wine you like. The odds are good that you may like wines made from the same grape, but produced by other makers within that same appellation. I’m a fan of Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon from more than one Stag’s Leap winery.

Cellar Notes

I had the opportunity to visit with John Culkin, the general manager of the Wine Loft Wine Bar opening in Kings Harbor. No you didn’t misread that. Many of us have been waiting for a very long time for this opening and have experienced more than one disappointment when forecast opening dates have come and gone. No kidding, the Wine Loft is actually going to open on Saturday, February 20th at 4:00 pm. John is scrambling to meet this latest date, but inspections are over, staff has been hired and finishing touches are being put on the facility.

The Wine Loft is a franchise operation with somewhere around 20 locations nationwide, including two in Texas, one in Dallas and the Kings Harbor location. The Kings Harbor Wine Loft is the only location owned by this franchisee who resides in Baton Rouge. John describes the establishment as an “upscale bar”, in that it will serve liquor as well as wine and will provide an upscale atmosphere conducive to relaxation and conversation. The décor appears modern but comfortably so, featuring comfortable chairs and couches as the primary seating. There is a loft area that can accommodate private parties, but will otherwise be available for general seating.

The wine list looks well thought out. Opening with a core selection, John may expand the list based on what he sees customers are wanting. The wine selection ranges from value brands to very high end labels such as Far Niente. While I have not seen pricing, John assured me the Wine Loft would be competitive. There is also good geographic variety including Spain, South Africa, Argentina, and of course France and Australia. The Wine Loft will also have a menu of small-plate items and deserts such as lamb lollipops, escargot, filet mignon salad, and molten chocolate cake.

The web site, thewineloftkingwood.com, is being updated as I am writing; hopefully it will be up-to-date by the time you are reading this. The Wine Loft will open at 4:00 pm Monday through Friday, and at 11:00 am on Saturday and Sunday. Closing time will depend on the crowd, but bars in Houston must close by 2:00 am. Note that although on a Saturday, the initial opening is scheduled for 4:00 pm.

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Rosso Classic Red Blend

Date: Tue, Feb 9, 2010

DescriptionName: Rosso Classic
Color: Red
Grape(s): 48% Zinfandel, 27% Syrah, 25% Cabernet SauvignonAppellation: California
Maker: Rosso & Bianco winery
Vintage: 2007
Cost: $9.00
Comments: Try this on your guests at your next party.

Food PairingsMeats & Seafood: Poached, grilled, fried, baked or roasted beef, lamb, game and game birds .
Sauce: Au jus, savory, tomato, mustard, peppercorn,chil
Cheese: Hard cow and sheep cheese
Other: Spicy foods and cuisines

Taste ProfileNotes: Aromas of raspberries, cherries and cloves with just a hint of cola; flavors of boysenberry pie, plums, cherry and mocha.
Quick Classification: Dry Red

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Wild Horse Cabernet Sauvignon

Date: Mon, Feb 8, 2010

DescriptionName: Wild Horse Cabernet Sauvignon
Color: Red
Grape(s): 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec, 4% Merlot, 4% Petite Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc
Appellation: Paso Robles California
Maker: Wild Horse Winery
Vintage: 2007
Cost: $19.00
Comments: We drank the 2004. 2007 is the current vintage.

Food PairingsMeats & Seafood: Poached, grilled, fried, baked or roasted beef, lamb, game and game birds.
Sauce: Au jus, savory, tomato, mustard, peppercorn
Cheese: Soft or hard goat cheese, hard cow and sheep cheese
Other: Chocolate

Taste ProfileNotes: Rich aromas and flavors of cherry cobbler, baking spices, cedar, and clove, followed with a voluptuous mouth feel.
Quick Classification: Dry Red

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The Prisoner Blended Red

Date: Wed, Feb 3, 2010

DescriptionName: Prisoner
Color: Red
Grape(s): 46% Zinfandel 26% Cabernet Sauvignon 15% Syrah 10% Petite Sirah 2% Charbono 1% Grenache
Appellation: Napa Valley California
Maker: Orin Swift Cellars
Vintage: 2008
Cost: $32.00
Comments:

Food PairingsMeats & Seafood: Poached, grilled, fried, baked or roasted beef, lamb, game and game birds .
Sauce: au jus, savory, tomato, mustard, peppercorn,chil
Cheese: Hard cow and sheep cheese
Other: Spicy foods and cuisines

Taste ProfileNotes: Deep, dark garnet color with a clean and bright red band in the rim. A blend of ripe berry and cherry with just a hint of new oak.
Quick Classification: Dry Red

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Palo Alto Red Blend from Chile

Date: Wed, Feb 3, 2010

DescriptionName: Palo Alto Reserve Red
Color: Red
Grape(s): Cabernet 60%, Carmenere 25%, Syrah 15%
Appellation: Maule Valley Chile
Maker: Palo Alto
Vintage: 2007
Cost: $10.00
Comments: Prominent tannins

Food PairingsMeats & Seafood: Poached, grilled, fried, baked or roasted beef, lamb, game and game birds.
Sauce: Au jus, savory, tomato, mustard, peppercorn
Cheese: Soft or hard goat cheese, hard cow and sheep cheese
Other: Chocolate

Notes: Taste ProfileIntense flavours of blackcurrant from the Cabernet Sauvignon mingle with Shiraz’s wild blackberry and Carmenère’s soft spice to create a full-bodied wine.
Quick Classification: Dry Red

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Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon

Date: Fri, Jan 29, 2010

DescriptionName: Geyser Peak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Color: Red
Grape(s): Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Alexander Valley California
Maker: Geyser Peak
Vintage: 2007
Cost: $12.50
Comments: A very good Cabernet Sauvignon in this price range, however this wine's very apparent tannins are not for everyone.

Food PairingsMeats & Seafood: Poached, grilled, fried, baked or roasted beef, lamb, game and game birds .
Sauce: Au jus, savory, tomato, mustard, peppercorn
Cheese: Soft or hard goat cheese, hard cow and sheep cheese
Other: Chocolate

Taste ProfileNotes: Deep, inky crimson in color. Its aroma offers rich berry & ripe fruit flavors of blackberry & black cherry explode on the palate & are supported by a backbone of firm but fine grained tannins. Cassis scents with notes of smoke & sweet vanilla.
Quick Classification: Dry Red

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Pucker Up

Date: Tue, Jan 26, 2010

Tannins are the reason that many people don’t like red wine. When you drink a young Cabernet Sauvignon, that puckery, astringent feeling that fills your mouth is caused by the tannins in the wine. Notice I didn’t say that you taste the tannins. Tannins are tasteless and odorless; you feel rather than taste them. Tannins contribute (or detract) from what is called the mouth feel of wine. There is a tendency to confuse tannic with dry. Dry means not sweet, as in low sugar content. A dry wine can also be tannic, but all dry wines are not tannic.

Tannins react with proteins, such as the ones found in saliva, causing the astringent sensation in your mouth. Tannic red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, are frequently paired with high protein foods, such as red meat, to minimize the wine’s astringency. Some wine drinkers like the mouth feel that moderate amounts of tannins provide, most novice wine drinkers do not. The control of tannins is a key factor in producing quality red wines.

Tannins occur naturally in the skin, stems and seeds of wine grapes and to a lesser degree in the oak barrels in which wine is aged. The amount of natural tannins found in grapes varies with the variety; Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo and Syrah being among the most tannic grape varieties. Both red and white wine grapes contain tannins. However since the process of making white wine immediately separates the juice from the grape skin and seeds, very few tannins are transferred to white wine. On the other hand, the process of making red wine requires the juice be left in contact with the grape skin and seeds for a long period of time. This prolonged contact with the grape skin and seeds contributes the red color and much of the complexity that characterizes red wines. It also allows tannins to be transferred to the red wine.

As a wine ages, its tannins will be chemically transformed and become softer to the taste. Tannins also act as a preservative, protecting the wine as it ages. So highly tannic wines require aging before they can be fully enjoyed and those same tannins protect the wine from spoilage during the aging process. There are artificial methods of removing tannins during the wine making process as well as artificial methods of increasing them if desired.

Most wine makers don’t want to put their tannic wines in a cave for 10 years before they can sell them, so blending has become a standard practice. Blending a tannic Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot or some other less tannic grape variety can create a wine that, while a blend, has many of the favorable characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon without the harsh tannins. So blending can produce drinkable young wines and allow the wine maker to sell his product more quickly after production.

Cellar Notes

I need to update last week’s Wine by the Glass column. Since writing the column I have gotten into the habit of actually counting the number of by-the-glass wines on restaurant wine lists. I am happy to report that Raffa’s, Zammitti's and Carabbas all have 18 or more by-the-glass wines on their lists. Larry Martin has just revised the list at Zammitti's and has added some great new wines.

Here are three wines you might want to try. The Benziger has more tannins than the Estancia; the Fume has none. These and many other wines are posted on my blog at www.virtualwineknow.com.

Name: Benziger Cabernet Sauvignon
Color: Red
Grape(s): Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Sonoma County California
Maker: Benziger Family Winery
Vintage: 2005
Cost: $20.00
Profile: Spice, berry flavors, black currant, cherry, chocolate, tobacco, plum and vanilla flavors. Full bodied, dry.

Name: The Fume Sauvignon Blanc
Color: White
Grape(s): Sauvignon Blanc
Appellation: Sonoma Country
Maker: Murphy-Goode
Vintage: 2008
Cost: $11.00
Profile: Crisp, citrus, green apple, melon, light, dry. Also known as Fume' Blanc

Name: Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon
Color: Red
Grape(s): Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Paso Robles California
Maker: Estancia
Vintage: 2006
Cost: $13.00
Profile: Black currant, cherry, plum and vanilla. Full bodied, dry.

A note about vintage – If you can’t find a vintage shown in Cellar Notes, with some significant exceptions, you may find the next vintage year very similar. Modern viticulture and production methods have reduced, although not eliminated, dramatic year-to-year variation.

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Benziger Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma

Date: Mon, Jan 25, 2010

DescriptionName: Benziger Cabernet Sauvignon
Color: Red
Grape(s): Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Sonoma County California
Maker: Benziger Family Winery
Vintage: 2005
Cost: $20.00
Comments:

Food PairingsMeats & Seafood: Poached, grilled, fried, baked or roasted beef, lamb, game and game birds .
Sauce: Au jus, savory, tomato, mustard, peppercorn
Cheese: Soft or hard goat cheese, hard cow and sheep cheese
Other: Chocolate
Wine ProfileSpice, berry flavors, black currant, cherry, chocolate, tobacco, plum and vanilla flavors. Full bodied, dry.

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Liar's Dice Zinfandel from Murphy Goode

Date: Fri, Jan 22, 2010

DescriptionName: Liar's Dice Zinfandel
Color: Red
Grape(s): Zinfandel
Appellation: Sonoma County California
Maker: Murphy-Goode
Vintage: 2007
Cost: $16.00
Comments:

Food PairingsMeats & Seafood: Poached, grilled, fried, baked or roasted beef, lamb, game and game birds .
Sauce: au jus, savory, tomato, mustard, peppercorn,chil
Cheese: Hard cow and sheep cheese
Other: Spicy foods and cuisines
Wine ProfileA robust red wine not to be confused with White Zinfandel. Raspberry, blackberry, boysenberry, cranberry, black cherry, plum, licorice, spice, cinnamon, black pepper and earth. Full bodied, dry.

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