I received this article from Food & Wine today and thought it was too good not to share. It breaks down all the different aspects of wine tasting and gives ways to practice! Have fun!

http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/wine-tasting-workout-train-yourself-to-be-a-better-wine-taster?xid=WINELIST091912WineTastingWorkout

“How fair is a garden amid the toils and passions of existence.”

Tiny Boxwoods is a true gem hidden in the heart of Houston. You can’t see it from the road as there is no signage. You have to know where you’re going or you’ll miss it. This is one of the reasons this lovely spot is in fact so lovely! It honestly feels like a true escape from the city. Tiny Boxwoods started as an espresso bar in a nursery and garden center and (maybe last year?) began opening for dinner and has blossomed into a beautiful dining spot. Every time I visit I leave happy and satisfied. When you arrive and enter through the garden gate the beautiful green lawn and the walls of flowers surrounding the patio welcome you into another world where faeries might exist.

Luckily there is abundant seating on the patio so if the weather is nice this is the ultimate place to dine or sip al fresco. The young chef, Baron Doke, consistently comes up with creative menu options with a rustic French flair. The food never disappoints and the wine hasn’t either. He’s super friendly and charming and gets out and speaks to the patrons and will discuss the food with you. You can tell he’s genuinely excited about what he does and that love comes through in his food. I’m told he chooses the wines on the wine list as well but if that is incorrect someone please tell me. Whether it is him or someone else, they always have a great short list of wines to choose from.  While some restaurants offer wine lists long enough to rival the dictionary, Tiny Boxwoods goes the complete opposite direction. Clean, concise and creative are three words I would use to describe the wine list at Tiny Boxwoods. I love trying new wines and they always have something new to taste.

The last time I was there, our fabulous server was chatting with my husband and I about wine and he mentioned dessert wines (not on their menu at the time). He said they were thinking of branching out and adding the to the wine list soon but were still playing around with the selections. When I expressed interest, he set up a dessert wine flight for me that was out of this world delightful. I was like a kid in a candy store and way too excited to play it cool! The sad part is that I took detailed notes on my BlackBerry so I could post on here about my delightful experience and then I lost my notes when my phone ran out of memory… I was sick. So while I can not tell you about the specific wines I tasted that night, I can tell you that I had such a terrific time and tasted some delicious wines and fantastic food and would recommend the experience to anyone. We dined inside the cafe that night and the ambiance just added to my pleasure filled evening. Vintage French music played, the wine flowed and the food thoroughly impressed.

If you feel like escaping the hustle and bustle of the city for a night I highly suggest you pay Tiny Boxwoods a visit for a little taste of garden magic!

What a wonderful whirlwind life has been lately! This won’t be any surprise to any parents out there but it was sure a shock to me… my life has really changed! I’ve traded in my wine glasses for baby bottles as of late but I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and things will calm down a bit once we’re out of this newborn phase (all the parents out there are saying “Yeah right!”). Ok a girl can dream… Anyway, my husband and I had our first night out in December (umm we’re now coming up on April if that gives you any indication about how behind I am with this) and it was fabulous! Still, though, while I’m out I’m constantly thinking of the little one and wondering what she’s doing. That didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying the delicious wine and food we had that night, though!

We went to dinner at Azuma as I was craving sushi non-stop the entire time I was pregnant! I’m sure our waiter thought I was crazy because I ordered enough sushi for about three people and just plowed through it! It had been a long time coming and I wasn’t feigning a dainty appetite. It was delightful! I enjoyed a clean, crisp glass of champagne (Chandon Classic Brut if memory serves… always a favorite) with my sushi but was saving my real wine delights for Cova next door. We walked over after dinner and it was packed as always. I always enjoy the atmosphere in there. I ordered the Sexy, Silky and Sensual wine flight which was completely enjoyable. The first glass was an old favorite of mine that I had sort of forgotten about, Laetitia Pinot Noir ’07. I was so happy to become reacquainted with this lovely wine and it was even better because we also ordered the Sarah’s favorite brownie with caramel topping for dessert and it was a sublime pairing. I was in Heaven and this was just the first glass. The dessert really brought out the creaminess in the wine and the warm, smooth caramel undertones. My mouth is literally watering as I’m reliving this in my mind. It had a little bit of lavender on the nose which always reminds me of the lavender fields at Becker Vineyards in Fredericksburg. One of my favorite places. The second offering in the flight was new to me, Cru Pinot Noir ’07 from Vigna Monte Nero, CA. It was totally different from the first glass and I never was able to really get my head around it. It had a tangy, meaty smell which reminded me of jerky. It had a clean finish and very little aftertaste. I’m sure if I would have ordered this on it’s own it would have been fine, but it just did not flow with everything else I was tasting that night. Definitely the odd man out. The last glass was Ancien Pinot Noir ’07 from Carneros, CA. I’m a sucker for Carneros Pinots so this was definitely more my speed. It reminded me of the Laeticia a little bit because of the floral hints on the nose. It had a warm, buttery flavor and a smooth texture. There was a slight hint of raspberry on the nose and palate. This would be a great holiday party wine. It was very good and I would definitely order this and the Laeticia again.

All in all it was a great night out with the hubby and I thoroughly enjoyed myself! I no longer take for granted nice meals and nice wine. It’s become such a treat but still nowhere near as sweet as the little treat I have at home! Cheers to all the parents out there! I get it now!

Just in case anyone has been wondering where I ran off to… I promise I’ll be back! Rumor has it wine’s not so good for you when PREGNANT! Yay! That’s right, I have a tiny little bun in the oven so my wine tasting had to go on hold for a while. My little one is due in October so my palate will be rested, refreshed and ready to go this winter! I have a few older reviews I’ve written and not posted that I’ll put up for the time being. So in the meantime, my friends, have one for me!

Mandee

“When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine, that’s amore” – Dean Martin

Santa Margherita Chianti Classico 2006My new Italian love. Sophistication starts immediately with a gorgeous bottle that looks older than it is, like you might have to blow a bit of dust off the label. Deep reds and gold hues give  overt impressions of good taste and class. Inside, the contents are just as elegant. Medium bodied wine with a smoky, structured backbone. It was absolutely delicious with the papparadelle from La Vista that I picked up for dinner that night.  It suited the hearty mushroom ragout and goat cheese perfectly. I beheld rich aromas and flavors of coffee and tart plums with a chocolate, caramel and toffee aftertaste. It was a stunning combination. Well balanced and smooth, it was extremely easy to drink. I found this new favorite for about $23 and it gave me more than enough reasons to seek it out again. I highly recommend this gorgeous wine. It obviously works with Italian food but would be just as lovely for a cozy evening curled up on the couch with your own amore (ok so I’m not Italian…). 

2 Brothers & A Blackout

I think this might well be one of those wines destined to always be surrounded by a story. Reading on the bottle about how these two brothers came together to create a tribute to their mother and raise money to fight the Big Tattoo Reddisease that took her life is one of the reasons I bought this wine in the first place. Well, that and the fact that this looked like a wine that didn’t play around and after the day I’d had, I didn’t need any wimpy wine. Big Tattoo Red from Chile is a 50/50 blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah, promising a glass filled with some substance.

So I buy the wine. I go home and decide that I’m actually so tense from the day that I need a hot bath (a very rare occasion indeed for me to actually sit still long enough to just sit in a bathtub). I pop the cork (actually I twist the cap but that doesn’t sound as dramatic), pour a glass while the water is running and immediately a delicious aroma fills the air. Now I’m getting excited. Should I get some candles to make it even more relaxing? No, I don’t feel like finding any, I thought. I step into the bath that I accidentally made so hot it felt like it was almost boiling… oops. I finally settle in and take a sip of my wine. Wow. Just what I needed! Ripe berry flavors fill my mouth and I’ve decided I like this wine. A lot.  

Hold that thought… PITCH BLACK. That’s right. My power goes out. I should have lit the damn candles! First I go into panic mode as I am, as previously stated, in the bathtub. I can’t see a thing and my first concern is how to scramble out of the slippery tub (I am now completely aware of the danger of bath oils) without spilling my precious wine and soaking my Blackberry. I tried to think of where all of those decorative candles I had stashed randomly around the house were and set out on my wild goose chase. I might as well have had my eyes closed. Now where are my matches?? Finally I find some supplies and decide that the universe must be trying to tell me something. I’m going to finish my bath and try to relax without any distractions (including light… so overrated) and figure this mess out later. So I lit a few candles and settled back into my steaming hot bath with my lovely glass of wine… oh yeah, I also happened to pick up the bottle whilst on my hunt for candles. I mean, who knew how long I would be in there?

Honestly, I’m glad it happened. It forced me to sit back and actually take a deep breath and fully accomplish what I had set out to do… unwind. It allowed me to clear my mind from the day’s stresses and discover a beautiful wine created for a beautiful reason. It was rich and flavorful and I thought it tasted just like fresh blackberries. A bit tart in the beginning, it opened up and relaxed, softening as it had time to breathe; not unlike myself that night. I would suggest this wine to anyone who is looking for a bold red wine with a lot of personality and style. It was complex and well structured and a great value at only $10. Big Tattoo Red gets a BIG recommendation from me. Bottoms up! 

Max’s Brunch Started Me Off On The Right Foot!

Max's Wine DiveOne of my most favorite things in the whole wide world is BRUNCH so what better way to kick off 2009 than with a tasty mid-morning meal (and mimosas…obviously) from Max’s Wine Dive? They even offered the standard black-eyed peas and sauteed petit greens as a starter for good luck and money in the new year. I want to make sure I get all the help I can get as I am determined to have a fabulous year! Black-eyed peas and greens don’t typically get me too excited but these were extra yummy.  The mimosas were just right (only a hint of OJ for color) and my omelet was fantastic! For a mere $3 per mimi you get a lot for a little which is just how I like it. I had the truffle and cheese omelet which is sadly no longer on the menu but they made it for me anyway. Fluffy eggs filled with creamy goat cheese, Gruyere, provolone and black truffle cream. I add prosciutto to mine to take it up to an even higher level of deliciousness. I wasn’t so crazy about the potatoes or grits on the side but the main event was so heavenly I hardly cared. The Texas toast had to be an inch and a half thick and it tasted homemade. Next time you’re looking for some Sunday mid-morning magic head over to Max’s Wine Dive. You’re sure to leave with a smile! (Next time I’m trying the fried egg sandwich… it looked amazing!!)

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