You’ve found another one. Yes, the next “best wine I’ve ever had.” Between us bloggers’ endless roster of must-see’s and your friends’ novel monthly discoveries, where on earth is a boozer to begin? And how socially acceptable is it to try eight new wines at once?
The answer: not just acceptable, but far more educational than buying one new bottle each time. Rather than stocking 4 bottles of a single wine to make it through your week, get one bottle recommended by friends, one suggested by your favorite online wine commentators, one from Wine Spectator or another major wine publication, and one cherry picked from your favorite dining hot spot in town (the bottle will be cheaper retail than on their list). And remember, opening all 4 doesn’t have to mean drinking all 4. Just call up a few fellow winos, check out VoluptuousVines’ latest piece on WhichWinery.com, and learn exactly “How to Taste Wine” like a professional!
5-Courses No Foodie Should Miss
There’s no denying the tables have turned for serious diners. What white table cloth and Cosmos were to the nineties, eclectic gastropubs and pre-prohibition cocktails are to millennial age. Diners flaunt Instagram trophies of wild game, blueberry gastriques, and crispy vegan polenta fries alongside the sommelier’s best pairing or the mixologist’s recent gin infusion. An insatiable seesaw of simplicity and innovation, small plates have taken the forefront as a vehicle to sustain consumer exploration and chef creativity. But among the waves of complex dishes and infinite share plates, the elaborately minimalist style of modern dining has brought us beautifully back to the root of every great dining experience: a well-orchestrated pairing.
The idea of “pairings” has traditionally fallen more in the vinous realm, rooted in the old European adage of “what grows together, goes together.” Wines of Tuscany, Burgundy, Portugal, and Germany find natural harmony with cuisines of those regions. But with a younger average consumer age in our buzzing foodie nation, traditional can hazard boredom for “adventurous” diners.
And after a recent five-course pairing dinner with soon-to-open Austin restaurant Fork & Vine, I’ve never had more faith in eating off the beaten path.
Shooting for a September opening, Fork & Vine will offer unique twists to traditional dishes “without being scary or unapproachable,” according to Executive Chef Camden Stuerzenberger. Nostalgic dishes with creative presentation, intended for guests to explore in any pairing fashion they desire. Under the direction of Austin local Chris Howell, Certified Sommelier, F&V will feature 25 core wines by the glass as well as 25 rotating seasonal options, 16 Texas draught beers and other large formats, and an inventive list of sake-inspired cocktails.
The pairings for last week? Beer. A necessity to the sanity of any wine professional.
Let the pairings begin…
The dinner, hosted by Rogness Brewery in the town of Pflugerville just north of Austin, showed how rewarding a meal can be when you approach it with an open mind and empty stomach. Though beer has a more casual connotation than does wine in the world of “fine dining,” Rogness’s hand-crafted, small batch ales (they only make one lager) each showed evident uniqueness of character and married nicely with Chef Camden’s hearty plates. Forrest and Diane Rogness have brewed beer together for decades, but settled at their current production facility in Pflugerville, where we dined on wooden picnic tables in the middle of their cellar just two years ago. Rogness’s draughts and signature 22oz bottles are poured on-site in the tasting room and sold at over 400 accounts across central Texas.
After a brief welcome from the chef and the brewers, diners dove into a first course of a fresh Watermelon Swiss Chard Salad alongside Rogness’s staple summer Hefeweizen. “A classic wheat beer to combat the Texas heat,” the Hef showed bright floral and citrus flavors, with the telltale banana funk that all wheat lovers go bonkers for. The beer made for an outstanding initial pairing, the body light enough to respect the watermelon and fresh swiss chard with the citrus and wheaty funk flavors cutting right through the salad’s dollop of tangy goat cheese.
VoluptuousVines’s suggested wine alternative for round one?
Trimbach Pinot Blanc – Alsace – With the ample sunshine and cold nighttime temperatures that define this northeastern region of France, this wine would sing bright lemon and tropical flavors with just enough stoney minerality to play lightly with the cheese and not fight the salad’s delicately nuanced flavors.
For the second course, a Beer Cheese Soup with sourdough toast and bacon jam paired with a Boomslang IPL. Though initially hesitant, with haunting notions of jiggly ballpark nacho cheese deterring my palate, this proved to be my favorite course of the night. The soup was rich in flavor, full in body, but kept a surprising lightness and comforting simplicity of presentation. The beer followed suit beautifully. Made in a lager style rather than an ale style, this Indian Pale Lager is essentially a cleaner, crisper expression of the beloved IPA. Maintaining the signature dried fruits, spicy roots, and herbal bitterness of an IPA, this outlier lager brought the same aromatic complexity with less astringency and weight, leaving enough room for the hearty soup’s flavors to shine through. It was an IPA with softer edges and a wonderfully refreshing finish. Drink for summer!
VV’s suggested wine?
Scala Dei Negre – Priorat, Spain – Made from Priorat’s signature Garnacha (Grenache) grape in a ripe, rounded modern style, this wine will express bold, spicy flavors similar to the Boomslang while still keeping a lush enough body to avoid overpowering the dish it accompanies. Much like the IPL’s lighter spin on an IPA, Priorat’s wines offer the same dark, earthy flavors as French Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but are typically less aggressive and more drinkable alongside small plates of this nature.
With the third and fourth courses, we graduated from small plate apps to fully crafted entrees. The first a sweet, savory, and spicy adaptation of classic Fried Chicken, this generously breaded bird was topped with vanilla butter and chili oil, served over a bed of peppery arugula. Its brewed partner? The Vinton Blonde Ale. And while I found myself initially captivated by the beer’s summer fruit aromatics and chalky, almost yeasty flavors, the highlight of the pairing was all about the body. Light but round, toasty but clean and pure on the finish, this beer was strong enough to dance with a hearty fried dish, but polite enough to let it lead.
VV’s suggested wine?
Louis Latour Macon-Lugny ‘Chardonnay’ – Macon, France – Made for everyday francophiles without Grand Cru pricing, the Macon region is my haven for value Old World Chardonnay. Far from the butter bombs Chard’s that often wary people away from the grape altogether, this wine sees just enough neutral oak aging to round out the body yet maintain its purity of flavor. It holds enough flesh to balance out hearty fried chicken, with lively fruit and a toasty chalk minerality reminiscent of the great yeastiness in the Vinton Blonde. A match.com no-brainer for fried chicken.
The fourth course coupling proved just as sound as the third, as the chef and brewmaster both turned up the heat. Succulent Short Rib with a rustic, smoky exterior, the meat’s fattiness and spice were mellowed by a sweet apple BBQ glaze and creamy cheddar mash. Paired astutely with Rogness’s signature Beardy Guard Amber Ale, the sweet fruits and almost caramelized, toasty brittle flavors in the beer made the sweet and savory components of the dish rock out in perfect harmony. The cherry on top? Beardy Guard’s soft spicy finish to bring us full circle back to the dish at center stage.
VV’s suggested wine?
M. Chapoutier Cotes du Rhone Rosé – Cote du Rhone, France – With the same indulgent duality of flavors, this Grenache/Syrah rosé from southern France is sugar, spice, and everything nice. A stunningly dry wine, the silky red fruits from the Grenache dance lightly on a sturdy Syrah stage, making it bold enough to stand up to a hefty slab of pork but soft enough to respect all of the complex flavors on the plate.
Finally, no proper dining experience would be complete without dessert. Rounding out the evening was a dark Chocolate Tres Leches topped with Porter Anglaise. A rich slice of cocoa country heaven, this treat begs for a full-bodied porter. Enter Rogness’s OST Porter. With tantalizing aromas of dark chocolate, coffee, toasted walnuts, and sweet licorice, the flavors of the beer were a bullseye, though the body was surprisingly lean for a pairing of this decadence. The golden rule of any dessert pairing: your drink should be sweeter than your food. Otherwise, the nuances of the beer or wine are lost, and you may as well be drinking water. Lame.
VV’s suggested wine?
Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla, Pedro Ximenez Sherry – Andalucia, Spain – Busting with all the toasty, nutty, syrupy flavors of any good homemade dessert, this naturally sweet, mahogany colored sherry will mirror the caramel sweetness of the porter glaze and richness of the dark, concentrated chocolate flavors. A sublime Spanish touch.
So with pants unbuttoned and my mind blown open, I concluded my first official beer pairing dinner with a reinvigorated respect for the art of pairing. Whether an organized dinner like that hosted by Fork & Vine and Rogness, finding a wine to suit two different entrées when you’re out for date night, or just an evening in with homemade paninis and toasty golden lager, two is always better than one.
Pair with flare. Don’t leave your dinner lonely.
Visit Rogness Brewing tasting room @ 2400 Patterson Industrial Dr. Pflugerville, TX 78660
Look for Fork & Vine’s soft opening this September 2014!
Photo Credit to:
Oscar Montes Iga, MC, ECWA, CSW, CBS
Wine Judge, TWJ
Let’s face it… It’s Summer. It’s hot. Tannic red wines, I want not.
Check out VoluptuousVines’ guest post on the newly launched, online social wine forum, WhichWinery. We’ve given a quick glimpse at just why Saugivnon Blanc is your ticket to “go green” for Summer!
A few rec’s by VV:
Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – Casablanca, Chile – $10
Honig Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – Napa Valley – $15
Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – Marlborough, NZ – $17
Henri Bourgeois Sancerre 2013 – Loire, France – $22
Clark-Claudon Wild Iris Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – Napa Valley – $28
Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – Napa Valley – $35
Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – Russian River – $40
“What is your most popular bottle?” A concern much too often placed ahead of, “What tastes good to me?” Leaving countless shoppers at the mercy of marketed trends and blamelessly blind to alternative varietals and styles that might actually fit their palate better than another Kim Crawford or Belle Glos. But ultimately, wine is fad. Like any other business, any other industry, it is driven by temporal trends, waxing and waning in light of consumer swings and media hype.
Example A: Chardonnay. After its dominance at the top of American markets in the 80s and 90s, Chardonnay’s reputation among “sophisticated drinkers” swung drastically from household staple to social faux-pas. From KJ to ABC, the widely embraced “Anything but Chardonnay” acronym became a staunch sentiment of resistance to over-oaked, intensely ripe, buttery California Chardonnays of the late 20th century.
Ultimately, though, Chardonnay itself is not to blame. It is a reflection of its roots and its raising – where it’s grown and how it’s handled in the cellar. With its inherent flavors fairly neutral, Chardonnay is more susceptible than many other grape varieties to fall in and and out with the fads. And though open-mindedness is resurging in the market today, Chardonnay’s flamboyant reputation is still so pervadingly tarnished among “hip” drinkers, that I have, on multiple occasions, been questioned by peers when ordering a classic French White Burgundy. Shocked by my choice, exclaiming, “Chardonnay? I thought you were a wine person?” Last I checked, the Burgundians were pretty adept wine people themselves.
The good news is that after four decades of bi-polar stylistic trends, many west coast Chardonnay producers are finding confidence in their vineyards and their instincts rather than complying to demands of the mass market, and have created some beautifully balanced “NABC” wines.
Not Another Buttery Chardonnay.
There’s no excuse not to celebrate the virally intoxicating #WineWednesday during the festive summer months! Whether along side KLG&Hoda for AA’s favorite morning show, around the pool with friends, or at a local wine tasting in your area, commit to exploring new bottles you didn’t know you loved starting this June, 4th, with VoluptuousVines.
Featuring a flashback showing of the original Grease and two flights of refreshing Spanish rosés and rocking red Tempranillos.
Austin area locals email to RSVP you and your vino-loving crew:
Austin 1370TALK’s “He Said She Said Radio” guest features VoluptuousVines to talk wine & sushi!
In spite of Austin’s ubiquitous reputation as the foodie paradise of Texas, I’ve yet to see the sushi scene rise to the caliber of other major epicurean cities. Not to say that there aren’t folks committed to quality, traditional style sushi in the city. But in a city currently waist deep in the brisket, bacon, and craft beer trends, finer style, Japanese cuisine can get pushed to the wayside by more “trendy” style dining.
During this week’s segment of Austin’s 1370 TALK He Said She Said Radio show, I paired up with one of West Austin’s undiscovered greats, Tadashi Sushi. Located in the Hill Country just outside of downtown, the guys from Tadashi reinvigorated hope in my quest for good sashimi. With the restaurant’s GM and Executive Chef as the “he said’s” of the evening, the three of us collaborated on four different sushi and wine pairings for He Said She Said listeners.
Though authentic sake may be the most obvious pair for Japanese cuisine, sashimi, nigiri, and classic sushi rolls can actually be a sommelier’s dream! Delicate but savory with a delicious myriad of intricate flavors all wrapped up in one little bite, the pairing potential is endless!
But for beginners who may be recent graduates of California Rolls and Barefoot Pinot Grigio, just remember to “Stick to the C’s!”
The Versatile Values of Spain
As is true in learning any foreign language, the best way to develop a true cultural understanding of a place isn’t an 8-day vacation of high end hotels and bustling tourist spots where everyone speaks English. Rent a car, drive the streets, eat local, and drink the wine. Yesterday, I did this in Spain. Well, I did it in Austin. And I mostly only drank the wine. But after 7 hours of regional maps, group study questions, and a collective 30 wine flight of solely Spanish wines, I ought to be reciting the country’s anthem and hand-making paella.
Though my Spanish is still laughable at best, I must share with you a few of the stand out Spaniards from yesterday’s tasting. The roster included everything from a quirky, every so sparkling Txakolina, to a still Cava blend, to traditional white and red varieties from headliner regions of Spain, to four vastly varied rosés for palate cleansers at intermission. A small country packing a big punch, Spain has more acreage planted to grape vines than any other worldwide, and it’s traditional meets modern attitude toward winemaking makes it easy for you to find a wine for every fiesta.
Rather than recanting a thirty wine play-by-play with the phenolic and structural tasting notes of each wine, I’ll share with you the front runners of each of our seven flights, and just what kind of kind of summer party they’re made for.
Just last night, I had the opportunity to share some exceptionally sexy, undiscovered wines with a group of fabulous ladies in the Austin area. Many of them bogged down with traveling husbands, endless emails, and “mommy brain,” which they assured me is a real thing to look oh so expectantly forward to later in my future, they reached out to VoluptuousVines for an in-home Rx of a night of sips and stories with a sommelier. So for relentless women who dream of diapers and see Angry Birds swarming in their sleep, VoluptuousVines swooped in to have them feeling free, sexy, and liberated by six new wines to keep on stock for the whirlwind months of Summer Vaca.
Here are some of the wines we loved. Ask your local vendors and somm’s where to find bottles in the same great styles, turn off mommy brain, and enjoy your summer too!
Italian wine has adopted an unfortunate reputation as “classic,” which to many wine drinkers translates to boring and inaccessible. And while the Italians inarguably stand as one of the longest and largest producers of international quality wines, their potential to modernize and shake things up for millennial drinkers are finally beginning to surface among consumers. In the same way fashion, food, and music seem to be driven as much by fad as by the content of the product itself, so too do certain wines from certain regions fall in and out of trend. And luckily for us, Piedmont is coming back in style!
Covering the most northwesterly corner of Italy, Piedmont, or Piemonte in Italian, literally translates to “foot of the mountains,” as it sits nestled cool and self-contained in bosom of the French and Swiss Alps. Vintners of Piedmont are known for their serious, prudent, and diligent winemaking practices, which have solidified their #1 spot as the leading producer of DOC/DOCG wines (the highest quality ranking) in Italy for centuries. Identifying more with the French in terms of viticulture and style, Piedmont’s wines yield honest, site-specific wines that are made from a number of 100% single grape varieties cultivated almost exclusively within the region’s boarders. In a country where blended wines are the norm and mass, million case producers are common, most Piedmont wineries remain small, family run, own merely 5-25 acres on average.
Much like Burgundy the quality and subsequent prices of Piedmont wines vary vastly, from every day drinkers and extraordinary hidden values to high-end artisan bottles that will unlikely ever pass my lips.
But the beauty of Piedmont’s classic, true-to-their-heritage wines is that “down-home” is back in style. And not just with wine!