Tag Archives: wine

The Wine Bars of Bordeaux, Part I

Big Caveat: I have not yet been to every wine bar in Bordeaux. There is a wine bar on every corner, like Starbucks in Seattle, and (contrary to popular belief), I do go to school and don’t spend all my waking hours drinking wine (although I will admit that we do sometimes have wine at school).

These are three of the wine bars that I’ve found myself going back to, although there are still so many to discover!

  1. Quatre Coins du Vin: The first wine bar I went to, the very first day of classes in October, and the very first day that I knew I was going to love the people in my program. The concept is great: the wine-by-the-glass dispensers (so many of them in one room!) allow you to buy a taste, a half glass, or a full glass, so you can choose the kind of experience you want. Since they have 23 wines available for tasting, and we are (obviously) a group of wine geeks, we opted to taste. And oh, did we taste! From Argentina to South Africa to France, and even a Zinfandel from California, we tasted. The owners, Benjamin Bouet and Chloe Allano, are young, dynamic, love wine, and know their stuff. Would recommend to: anyone looking for a wide range of wines to try in one night. Wine nerds. 
  2. La Conserverie: So welcoming, and such a cozy atmosphere. The wine selection has a range of prices, and you can buy by the glass or grab a bottle from the shelf and drink it there for a small corkage fee. I have never had less than a stellar welcome there. The wine selection may not be huge, but it changes frequently, and I’ve had some really incredibly value wines. I’ve been here several times, both in a larger group and for a quiet drink. It doesn’t hurt that it’s on my favorite street in Bordeaux: Rue Notre Dame. Would recommend for: a glass of wine to unwind with friends after a long week, or date night (for wine nerds). 
  3. Verre O Vin: This is a quiet neighborhood joint that always seems to fill up just after I get there. This is the most versatile of the three, with an extensive list of wines by the bottles but also the cool wine-dispensing machines that make tasting so much fun! The walls are old stone, which is one of the things I love about France, that you can sit and have a drink in old buildings where people may or may not have been drinking wine for hundreds of years. They know their wine here, and can tell you something about every bottle. I’ve seen large parties here, as well as small groups of friends, and couples, so there really is something for everyone. Would recommend to: someone looking for a low-key evening, but who is also a wine nerd. 

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So, if you’re in Bordeaux, these are three not to miss, along with countless others (seriously, wine bars are the Starbucks of Bordeaux). If you have any suggestions for places to check out, let me know; I’m always on the lookout for somewhere new!

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Kicking off the Bubbly Season: Blanquette de Limoux

antech blanquette de limoux

Remember when I jumped on the bandwagon and paired sparkling wine with everything? I’m doing it again! I’ve been buying (and drinking) quite a bit of sparkling wine recently; during the holidays, every wine store and grocery store beefs up their sparkling wine section. Apparently, the holiday season is when the majority of sparkling wine sales happen; Champagne did such a good job convincing everyone that they were the go-to celebration wine that they forgot to market themselves year round! That’s changing now, with a little push from sparkling wine producers,  but clearly the stores expect everyone to buy their bubbly now.

One of my favorite inexpensive sparkling wines is Blanquette de Limoux, which is a sparkling wine made from the Mauzac grape in the Limoux region in southwest France. A fraction of the price of true Champagne, Blanquette de Limoux is tasty and festive, with a range of different producers to try out!

We went to a bubbly tasting recently, and picked up this nice little bottle of Antech Blanquette de Limoux “Nature” Brut, which was their driest style. It set us back about $13, and while it wasn’t quite as good as the $45 bottles of Champagne we tasted, we thought that it was a great bang for your buck. It went really well with our spaghetti squash dinner, for an easy, but festive meal. The lightness of this super dry bubbly really offset the garlicky, olive-oily spaghetti squash (delicious), and made this super-easy dinner feel kind of special!

 

Easy Spaghetti Squash Dinner

Cut your spaghetti Squash in half. Scoop out the layer of seeds.

Drizzle with olive oil and springle with chopped garlic

Roast the squash at 375 degrees for an hour or so, until soft and slightly browning

Use a fork to fluff out the spaghetti-like strands, scoop them into a bowl, drizzle with more olive oil, and add salt and pepper to taste

Pop the Blanquette!

Know Your Grapes: Tempranillo

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jabbarman/4053714843/
photo by bongo vongo via flikr

Tempranillo is one of those grapes that I know a little about, but that I rarely drink.  It’s not as common in Walla Walla, although I can think of four or five wineries off the top of my head that have one. It’s definitely not as ubiquitous as Syrah in this region. I think some people thought  it was going to be the next big thing in the US for wine varieties, but then Malbec kind of took over (probably because it’s easier to pronounce). In the spirit of learning, we themed our tasting group around Tempranillo this week! We ended up with three Washington Tempranillos and one Rioja. 

Tempranillo is a grape that’s mostly associated with the Rioja region in Spain; while Rioja grows other varieties as well, Tempranillo is the predominant grape. There is some Tempranillo in the US as well; as evidenced by the five or so wineries here in Walla Walla that produce it!

Mostly Tempranillo is considered to be a pretty tannic wine, although winemakers can make it more drinkable right away, depending on their winemaking method. I’ve been shopping around for Tempranillo on some online wine stores, and there are some older Rioja Tempranillos available for pretty decent prices; if you’re into mellower wines, these will probably be the Tempranillos to check out!

What does Tempranillo taste like? At the tasting, the common thread seemed to be a spicy kick to all the Tempranillos. Some of them were more baking spicy (like nutmeg) and some leaned more towards hot spicy (like chipotle and paprika). Tempranillos are often pretty fruity as well, and some of the Walla Walla bottles had some of the meatiness that characterizes a lot of Walla Walla wines. Mostly, they seemed to be medium-bodied with moderate acidity and fairly high tannin.

What to eat with Tempranillo: Because it’s so bold, Tempranillo can really stand up to some heartier dishes; a spicy nut mix or bean dip for appetizers, and maybe a spicy chili for a main dish or rice with chorizo!

What are your favorite Tempranillos? This is a grape I’d like to explore more!

What I’m Drinking: Old Seven Hills

So, tonight we broke open that bottle of 2000 Seven Hills Syrah at dinner with some friends, and it was so fresh tasting for 13 years old! As per Walla Walla, it was a funky, earthy Syrah, and some good fruit still. We were all pretty impressed, especially as it opened up. And then our friends pulled out a bottle of 1998 Seven Hill Merlot, and that was also fresh and bright, with some tannin to it still. I’ve found that Washington Merlots age better and hold their fruit longer than Washington Cabernets do, while it seems to me like it should be the other way around.

Either way, it was really neat to taste a couple of old wines from a Walla Walla winery known for its long-lived vintages!

What’s the oldest wine you’ve ever tasted?

Music for Drinking Wine

So, you’re settled in with your glass of wine, and maybe a book, and then you notice how quiet- too quiet- it is in your home. Your wine music is missing! Maybe you haven’t discovered your wine music yet, but don’t worry; here is a solid start at building a wine drinking playlist.

I like to start with something easy and beautiful, like the sound of Josh Groban’s melodious voiceSometimes I’ll just cycle through all the Josh Groban cds I own and call it a night. Pairs well with lightly oaked Chardonnay or a delicate Pinot Noir.

Sometimes, though, you’ll need something a little more substantial for your wine. For those of you with a big Syrah or Cab, I will point you to Carl Orff’s masterpiece Carmina Burana. If you’ve never listened to the entire hour-long stunner of a performance, grab yourself a bottle of wine and get listening! You’ve probably heard the first movement, in every dramatic action/adventure movie ever, but the piece is full of surprisingly beautiful movements.

Every so often, after a glass or two, I find myself watching videos of college a capella groups. This is for any type of wine, anytime, anywhere. Start with U of O’s On the Rocks and the oldie-but-goodie Straight No ChaserGo from there.

This is just the wine-fueled musical evenings envisioned by a former choir nerd. What sort of music do you like to listen to with a good glass (or bottle) of wine?

All About Bordeaux: A Website

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Okay, I know we’ve already talked about Bordeaux, but I came across this beautiful website today, and I wanted to share it with all of you. It’s run by the Bordeaux Wine Counsel and is meant to provide a comprehensive introduction to Bordeaux wines. It has information on the different regions of Bordeaux, how to understand Bordeaux wines, how to taste and appreciate them, and where to buy them. My favorite part is this Bordeaux wine finder that’s rounded up a bunch of different Bordeaux wines from $10-55, and has links to where you can buy them. It makes me want to go back to Bordeaux!

I spent way too long poking around this site; it’s well organized, has lots of info, and is lovely in and of itself! 

Winery Spotlight: Kerloo Cellars

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Sometimes customers tell me that the wineries who have tasting rooms in downtown Walla Walla aren’t as good quality as the wineries just outside on the south side or east side. Kerloo Cellars is here to prove them wrong! 

I first heard about Kerloo through some friends who told me about their killer Syrah, but because their tasting room hours are sadly limited (Fridays and Saturdays only), I never made it out to taste. Luckily, I found out through facebook that they were open late for Spring Release last week, and I was able to just make it in before they closed! I’ve had their Temperanillo before, if you remember this post, but I’ve never tried anything else from them, so I was really excited to see the Majestic and a Syrah-Grenache on their tasting bar. Both were delicious; the Majestic (a Rhone-style table blend, grapes from Columbia Valley) was a little lighter, with great fruit and some of the savory qualities I expect now in a Syrah or Syrah blend, and the Syrah-Grenache (grapes from Snipes Mountain) was dark and savory, but with almost a floral quality to it as well, which was surprising.

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The tasting room itself is small, as you can see, but was a really calm and soothing place in a sea of busy and crowded tasting rooms. Sonja, who runs the tasting room, is smart and knowledgeable both about wine in general and Kerloo wines in particular. This isn’t the sort of tasting room where you might stop for a picnic or to lounge and have a glass or bottle; this is your good old-fashioned, no-frills wine tasting room, meant to showcase the wines themselves.

Find them downtown, kitty-corner to the Marcus Whitman hotel, every Friday and Saturday 11-4.

Definitely make this a stop on your wine tasting tour or even on your way to lunch downtown; Kerloo is worth a visit at least. And pick up a bottle of the Majestic; I did!

How to Drink Good Wine on a Budget

St Emilion

The hardest part about drinking wine is that it can get pretty expensive, especially if you want to be drinking good stuff. I won’t lie to you; sometimes I struggle to keep my wine budget at a reasonable limit because there is so much good wine in Walla Walla. I want to pay my rent, though, so I follow a few tips to keep my wine spending within my means!

1. Set a budget. This can be a large budget or a small budget, depending on how much you make, how much you drink, and how much you spend on average for a bottle of wine. I don’t go out to restaurants too often, and I don’t do a whole lot of shopping (on account of the limited options for shopping in Walla Walla), so most of my “fun” money goes to wine. I have a pretty large wine budget, but it’s my job and my hobby, or at least that’s how I rationalize it. However I rationalize it, though, I keep an eye on my wine budget, so I never spend more money than I can afford on wine. If wine is not as big in your life, make your budget a little smaller; you can always cut out other extras to make more room in your wine budget later.

2. Drink less. This was a big one for me. If you open bottles less frequently, you can make them better bottles. Instead of drinking a $10 bottle every night, drink a $30 bottle one or two nights a week! When my boyfriend and I drink wine, we usually finish the bottle over a couple nights, so you can still have a glass every night and save money, if you’re an every night kind of drinker.

3. Make it count. When I started really paying attention to my wine budget, I started planning specific wines to drink with specific meals. You can open a nice bottle once a week with a great meal, and it’s a way better experience than downing several bottles of bad wine a week. It’s a more fulfilling way to experience wine, and you can learn about wine pairings while you do it!

4. Look for great value wine, especially imports. If you look carefully, you can find all sorts of great wines for low prices. One way to drink good wines on a budget is to watch out for imported wines. Argentinean and Chilean wine is often great quality for less money, and there are places to find French, Italian, and Spanish wines for nice deals. Wine is, on the whole, so much less expensive in Europe and South America (except for some of the big name wineries in Bordeaux and other famous wine regions), that you can get good prices on it, even when it’s imported. I like wine shopping at Esquin in Seattle (if you give them a call, you can order over the phone!) and Trader Joe’s, whenever I’m near one.

5. Go wine tasting. Especially if you’re in Walla Walla, or one of the other wine regions with relatively low tasting fees. Some wine stores have free or inexpensive tastings once or twice a week. When I was a student here in Walla Walla, someone gave me this advice, and it was right on. For $5 or so, you’ll likely get the equivalent of a glass of wine, and you can try different wines. If you’re looking to educate your palate about good wine, this is the way to go. And it leads me to my last tip for the day:

6. Learn what you like. This way you’ll never spend money on a bottle you hate. Sure, it’s good to experiment, and you might not love every bottle you buy, but you have a way better chance of drinking wine you enjoy if you know what you like. Go wine tasting. Have wine tasting parties with friends. Read blogs like this one. 

 

There are other ways to stick to a wine budget and/or maybe you just need will power of steel. Or you can cut out going to the movies as an outing, and that’s at least one bottle of wine right there! 

 

True Story: Sending Notes Like it’s 4th Grade

photo by c.mcbrien via flikr
photo by c.mcbrien via flikr

True Story: I am a 4th grader at heart. I wasn’t sure I wanted to admit this publicly, but I have been sending notes to Spencer at El Corazon Winery, scribbled on business cards and scratch paper via tasting room customers that I’ve sent their way, pleading for them to set aside two bottles of the El Corazon rosé for me. I wasn’t sure any of the notes actually made it to them, so I finally just gave them a call to ask them to hold some for me, but I still find the idea of sending notes between wineries way fun.

Also, I am really excited about this rosé (I know, I know…I will move on to other types of wine soon, I promise!); I got a chance to taste it the other day when one of my friends/coworkers opened a bottle, and it was (as he put it) the BOMB. Apparently there were only 2 more cases of it left when I called, so I’m glad I didn’t just rely on my notes. I’m hoping they remember to save those two bottles for me!

Varietal Spotlight: All About Cabernet Sauvignon

If you like wine, it’s hard not to know Cabernet Sauvignon. Although it’s not the most widely sold red wine (that would be merlot), it’s widely grown and recognizable by almost everyone who drinks red wine.

What is Cabernet Sauvignon?

Cabernet Sauvignon is the result of a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc way back when, which produced a thick-skinned, durable, and delicious grape that went on to become one of the stars of the Bordeaux region in France and, later, in almost every grape-growing country in both Old and New world wine regions.

Where is it grown?

Lots of places. France (particularly in the Bordeaux region), Italy, Spain, Chile, Australia, California, Washington, you name it. Almost every country that grows grapes has cab, and they all turn out differently. Regions with cooler weather will produce cabs with more vegetal flavors to them, and hot weather regions will make cabs with lots of ripe fruit and berry.

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