Saturday, June 27, 2009

Café Cabernet's Best Values

Not much is needed by way of intoduction: Café Cabernet has the largest selection of wine in Tallahassee (27 wines by the glass and 800+ bottles) and is a perennial winner of wine service awards. So before going I studied the wine list (all 25 pages) for a solid 2 hours so that you don't have to. Although Café Cabernet sells world class wines, the goal of my visit was to find the best value wines. Here are the best 5 "must try" wines for your next visit Café Cabernet that are around or below $30--in fact I would bet that these wines are good values wherever you find them: (Note: the first 3 numbers are Café Cabernet's unique wine tracking number)

1. (054) Chateau de la Dimerie Muscadet (Melon De Bourgogne, Loire France) $22
2. (180) Stags Leap Viogner (Viogner, Napa CA) $31
3. (181) Robert Sinskey Rose (Pinot Noir, Napa CA) $32
4. (256) Georges DuBoeuf Moulin-a-Vent (Gamay, Burgundy France) $25
5. (697) Cosentino "Cigar Zin" (Zinfandel, Central Valley, Lodi CA) $29

Let me know what you think after your visit.

Finally, there is much more to Café Cabernet than value wines: a good food menu (and chef), a large selection of Scotch and a retail wine store called "The Wine Cellar" to name a few. I will explore more of Café Cabernet in future posts.

And, 'yes', that's me in the clilmate controlled cellar at Café Cabernet, which is accessible through The Wine Cellar retail store. Check it out--there's nothing like it in Tallahassee.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

2 Summer Wines During a Heat Advisory

Well the highs have been 110+ degrees over the past two days here. Among other things, the instructions of local the heat advisory were to stay out of the sun and drink a lot of non-alcoholic beverages.... I played over an hour of tennis today (barely survived) and shared a couple wines last night. I liked the wines more than the tennis.

The first was the Benton Lane Pinot Gris from Willamette Valley, Oregon (pictured below). It showed gooseberry, ripe cantaloupe and flowers on the nose and palate. It started like a New Zealand Sauvingnon Blanc (NZSB) until the flowers appeared. And it had more body than a NZ SB. Although it wasn't as refreshing as Rondolino that I recently tried (my white wine of the moment), overall it was a better wine. Rating = 88. You can pick it up on sale at the Wine Warehouse for $18 and change.
The second wine was a bargain sparkler: La Marca Prosecco (NV) from Veneto Italy (pictured below). What was most impressive about this prosecco was its body and balance, which resembled a $30-$40 Champagne. Now it didn't have nearly the complexity of Champagne, but it overall it was a very good Prosecco. Rating = 87. This Prosecco can be found at Market Square Liquor (Timberlane) for the amazing price of $12.
Both of these are great summer wines and can be found up and down the east coast. If you live locally just remember to drink them safely indoors. Cheers!

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Friday, June 12, 2009

The Best of the Loire

The Wine Warehouse held a tasting featuring 12 wines either from France's Loire Valley or wines that were inspired by this region. Here are the best--pick some up and cool off!

1. Hautes Ouche Rose D'Anjou 2007 (Grolleau, Cabernet Franc, Gamay blend) $11 WW
Nose: fresh strawberry & melon.
Taste: same fruit as shown on the nose; light-medium body; balanced finish.
Comments: for the money this is the best wine in the line up--refreshing & perfect for summer.
Rating: 85
2. Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre 2007 (100% Sauvignon Blanc) $22 WW
Nose: floral, honey & spice (resembling a Riesling), slight body odor component.
Taste: lemon peel, chalk, light body; balanced.
Comments: this wine is for those who love wines with complexity.
Rating: 86

3. Marcel Martin Cremant de Loire Brut NV (Champagne Blend) $16
Nose: muted nose; slight sugar/honey.
Taste: medium body; tight bubbles, dry steely finish.
Comments: this is an interesting change of pace for a sparkling wine and is perfect for the summer heat.
Rating: 85

4. Pearson Cabernet Franc 2004 (100% Cabernet Franc, Australia) $25 WW
Nose: red & black fruit, some gamey-ness.
Taste: red fruit on the attack, black tea & currant on the finish; balanced. Nice wine.
Comments: although summer isn't the best time for reds, this wine had the best of everything: balance, fruit and structure.
Rating: 90.

The Loire Valley is found in the heart of France and winds along the Loire River, France's longest river. The Loire is France's third largest wine region and the largest white wine region in France. Typically, Loire whites are know for being fresh, crisp and food friendly--perfect for summer.

Comments are encouraged!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Visit To Lee's Wine Bar

There’s a new wine bar in town…well, sort of. Lee’s Wine Bar is now open in the Lake Ella Plaza in the exact same location where DeVine Wines used to be. So what’s the difference between Lee’s and Devine Wines? In short, ownership. Whereas Lee Satterfield was part owner of DeVine Wines, he is now sole proprietor of Lee’s Wine Bar. The interior of Lee’s has been redesigned with a more modern and simplified character. (See photo of the newly designed bar, above right.)

Lee’s Wine Bar is open but technically its status is only a “soft” open—they still plan on finishing some decorating and tying up other loose ends. The grand opening is expected to take place sometime in the next few weeks. There is no food sold at this time but there are plans to do so after the grand opening. They also plan on launching their new website in the next few weeks. So although Lee’s hasn’t had its grand opening, it is stocked with a full list of wines that include a good variety of sparklers, whites, reds and ports. The wines that make up the list represent today’s most popular wine regions, e.g., Mendoza (Argentina), Jumilla (Spain), Columbia and Willamette Valleys (Washington state), Sonoma & Napa Valleys, as well as wines from countries such as Austrailia, South Africa, France and Italy. The stemware at Lee’s is some of the best in town. Another nice feature of Lee’s Wine Bar is that patrons can receive a taste of wines that they think they might like before purchasing a glass (or bottle). The staff are knowledgeable—I spotted a copy of the Wine Bible on the bar which is always a welcome sight for someone like me who wants to know about the wines (and grapes that make up the wines) that I’m drinking.

On to the wines.... I tried two whites (Hugo Huber Grüner Veltliner and Pacific Rim Dry Riesling) and four reds (Gougenheim Malbec, Carchelo blend, Barnard Griffin Merlot and The Four Graces Pinot Noir). All of the whites that I tasted are well-known value wines and were drinking well. I enjoyed the reds that I tasted more than the whites because they had had some complexity to them.
The reds that I tasted were all average to above average--the Four Graces was the best. But I also liked the Gougenheim, because it didn’t have the typical Malbec flavor profile, i.e., ripe fruit, caramel (read: oak), etc.; and the Carchelo, which showed black fruit with black tea element on a dry finish.

Compared to other wine bars in Tallahassee, Lee's has one of the better wine list
that shows that Lee pays attention to the current wines scene. And Tallahassee should be thankful for this. I think, however, that the wines by the glass are a little pricey. I know that this claim moves the discussion into the domain of business which is complicated and which I don't wish to enter here--this is just an observation from a consumer. One potential solution to this, however, is to sell half-glasses like some wine bars in bigger cities, e.g., San Francisco, etc. (Note: I am not aware of any wine bars or restaurants in Tallahassee sell half-glasses, but its time that some started.) Another observation that I realize is more idiosyncratic is that the list of wines in Lee’s is displayed on a large chalkboard that hangs on the wall showing the wine and producer. Presenting the wine list in this way gives the feel of an unpretentious wine bar, which is nice. And although I’ve seen wine bars outside of Tallahassee display its available wines in this manner, I like to know the region and grape varietal(s) of the wine when deciding what to drink. (Note: the staff did answer all of my questions about region and grape varietals that I had.) In Lee's defense, I understand the difficulties of maintaining a hardcopy of a wine list that can (and typically does) change daily. Regardless I will be returning again after the grand opening to try some new wines with food… that’ll be another post.

Leave a comment about anything found above or the following: have you gone to Lee’s? What did you think?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rosé Rumble

On the one hand, summer in the south is a time for BBQ. And BBQ means big flavor which convention says requires bold red wines (think Zinfandel, etc.) for pairing. On the other hand, for me and most others the summer heat and humidity of the south make a big, warm (i.e., room temp) red wine just unpleasant drinking. Because of the summer weather people typically drink a chilled white wine. The problem with this summer custom is that white wine just doesn't stand up to the bold flavors of BBQ. So we’re faced with the following frustrating and seemingly inescapable dilemma: either we eat BBQ or drink white wine. Right? Wrong—drink rosé with summer BBQ! Many rosés have just enough body to stand up to BBQ and are served chilled so it isn't unpleasant to drink in the summer. (Note: there are light red wines that are more compatible with the summer heat. If you insist on drinking one of these light red wines in the summer heat, throw it in the refrigerator for a half-hour to give it a slight chill will make it easier to drink.) Therefore I've purchased two rosé wines that are available in local Tallahassee wine merchants for under $20. Each wine was purchased at different local merchants. One good thing about rosé is that typically it isn’t as expensive as red wine. (The most expensive rosé sold at the Wine Warehouse right now is only $13!) I’ve chosen French rosés (each coincidentally from Provence) because in my experience they tend to have complexity, i.e., showing a variety of aromas and flavors. Furthermore, the French have been making these wines for decades. So the stage is set for Battle Rosé!

Here are the wines:

1. 2008 Mas de Gourgonnier Rosé (Les Baux-de-Provence, Red Blend) Purchased at
Market Square Liquor Timberlane , $17 + tax (pictured left, above)
  • Color: Scarlet. Beautiful color.
  • Nose: Cranberries, orange peel. Nice nose.
  • Taste: Cranberry, blood orange; some alcohol shows up on the finish; full-bodied rosé.
  • Taste with BBQ: Pairs well with simple dry rub on the pork & chicken, and hides some of the alcohol on the finish.
2. 2007 Atmosphere Vin de Pays du Var (Provence, Provence blend) Available at the Wine Warehouse $12 + tax (pictured right, above)
  • Color: Pastel pink.
  • Nose: watermelon (evolving into pink grapefruit over time), steely.
  • Taste: Pink grapefruit; chalky; balanced; easy drinking.
  • Taste with BBQ: quenches the heat of the chili; refreshes the mouth.
The Gourgonnier is clearly the bigger rosé of the two. Just after opening, the Atmosphere is ready to drink and is refreshing. On day 1 the Atmosphere wins Battle Rosé.

UPDATE, Day 2:
The Gourgonnie
r has lost the alcohol on the finish and really developed into a clean, focused and seamless integration of strawberry, minerals and saline. One of the best ros
és I've ever had..... Wine is a moving target!

The Atmosphere has begun to fall apart just slightly, but is still drinkable.

In round 2 the winner is clearly the Gourgonnier.

Leave a comment: what’s your favorite local pink wine that you’ve had recently?