White


I’ll Have Mine On The Rocks

Wine on the rocks? What did you say? That’s right people. Wine on the rocks. I had my first Tincho during my recent trip to Fredericksburg. We visited one of the coolest stores/wine bars I’ve ever been to called House.Wine. You walk into an amazing furniture store and in the back is an awesome wine bar and lounge. Imagine lots of cozy and chic leather pieces with a plasma big screen playing old Humphrey Bogart movies on the back wall. I could have stayed there all day. We walk in and meet Jennifer who coincidentally used to live right here in Houston (and even more coincidentally right across the street from my current house). She gave us the grand tour and told us all about the store and said that we must try a Tincho. It was their most popular cocktail and all the rage in Argentina. A voice pipes up from a couple sitting at the bar assuring us that it is delicious. The best part, she says, is that you can take your drinks to go in Fredericksburg and walk down the street with them. While that was indeed fantastic, the best part of the Tincho was the drink itself.

What exactly is a Tincho? This deliciously refreshing cocktail is shockingly simple. Introduced by an Argentine wine maker, this little number is apparently the most popular happy hour cocktail in Buenos Aires. The wine is called New Age White (there is also a New Age Rosé) which is a slightly effervescent blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Malvasia. The back of the label has a picture on it so when the bottle is turned around you see a painting of a woman. This chilled wine is poured over ice and finished off with a squeeze of fresh lemon. The alcohol content in this wine is only 9% so it doesn’t sneak up on you quite as quickly as some other wines might. The bartender told us they had tried to make this with other wines but it was never the same. This was the only wine it seemed to work with. This was seriously one of the most refreshing drinks I have ever had the pleasure to imbibe. This would be a great cocktail to serve guests at a summer party. It sure helps beat the heat… especially Houston heat which I believe is in a class all its own. I have checked online and Spec’s appears to carry New Age White so if you’re looking for a bottle I would check there first. I highly recommend trying this one at home! Salud!

Advertisements

Swanky Houston Happy Hour

I recently visited Benjy’s Lounge for an after work happy hour with a few of my lady friends and while I felt the happy hour pricing to be pretty weak the experience was still a pleasant one. I had dined in the restaurant for dinner before but never ventured to the Lounge upstairs. It was a great atmosphere with deep, comfy couches and low lighting. There is an outdoor patio that will be great once this Houston weather cools off… maybe around Christmas. If you are a wine drinker, though, you aren’t going to get any sort of happy hour deal on drinks. The only discounts are on the signature cocktails which are mostly martini-style. Happy hour in the Lounge is from 4-7pm. Appetizers are also discounted, though, at $6 each. We shared a few of these and they were all pretty tasty. As for drinks, I started off with a glass of still wine and then decided that I had better kick it up a notch with some bubbles. The situation just called for it… it usually does, though, right?

First let me tell you quickly about the food and then I’ll finish with the most important part… the wine. Like I said before, we shared several of the specially priced appetizers: chicken pizza with manchego cheese, spinach, lemon zest, pine nuts and a garlic confit; beef arepas with griddled corn and jack cheese cakes and something called voodoo cream; smoked salmon tacos with truffled potatoes and grapefruit crème fraiche. My favorite was the chicken pizza which was cheesy and yummy. The lemon zest added a special something that took it from alright to really good. The tacos were a gift from the kitchen on the house which of course made them taste better. The beef arepas wasn’t really anything to write home about. They were OK. The corn cake underneath was the best part. It tasted like polenta which I always enjoy.

Now let us get down to business. I began the night with a glass of the 2006 J Vineyards Pinot Gris from Sonoma County. This Russian River Valley wine was juicy and clean tasting with flavors of apples, pears and tangerine. My favorite part was the smell of honeysuckle when I lifted the glass to my lips. While this wine was lovely, it wasn’t quite what the doctor ordered so I switched it up a little. Next, I had a glass (or two…) of the Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut which is always a classic, and economical, choice in my opinion. This Washington wine is crisp and clean with just a touch of sweetness. It goes down easy but a single sip packs a lot of punch. The Pinot Gris was $10 a glass and the DSM was $8 a glass.

You can see all of the wines Benjy’s offers on their website. While their wine list overall is not exactly extensive, it is creative. I always like seeing a wine list that coaxes customers out of their comfort zones by offering wines that aren’t totally generic. Hopefully it will get some diners to try something new.

SoVino: Round Two

After the little preview I got while out with Andrew for my birthday, I had to make a second trip to SoVino and see what else it had to offer. The whole experience was fantastic! Both owners (Manfred Jachmich & Elizabeth Abraham) were there mingling with patrons (which I loved) and couldn’t have been any nicer. I think it is great that they are so involved with their business. This time I went with three friends and we had dinner as well as wine.

The food menu is as creative as it is delicious. We started with the Bruschetta and then I had the Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Pistachios. For my entrée I ordered the Mussels which were really good. They had an excellent flavor and I would definitely order them again. They were served over a polenta cake with a mushroom ragout. Mmmm mmm. My friend Catherine ordered the Short Ribs served over Gruyère polenta. Wow. Next time I am there and feel like drinking red wine… watch out! Short ribs all the way! AJ and Lauren split a Pizza and the Shrimp and Grits which was very tasty but really spicy so watch out if you don’t like spicy food! If you do, you’ll love it!

Speaking of wine… let’s get to the good part! First of all, let me say how great our waiter/wine guide was. His name was Jesus and I hope that some day you are lucky enough to have him as your server. We had such a wonderful time talking about the wines we were trying and you could tell he was genuinely interested and excited about the wines that they offer. He had a great knowledge of all of them and even wrote down a few more suggestions for me to try on my own. Since a bottle doesn’t go too terribly far with four people, we were fortunate enough to get to try several of the white wines on their list. We actually started with some sparkles (Catherine called ahead and they had it waiting on ice for us at our table) for a belated birthday toast for me and then also for a congratulatory toast for Lauren and AJ who just got engaged. We had plenty of reasons to celebrate!

We definitely got the night started off right with the Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé which is a sparkling wine made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. This rosy French treat was crisp with light flavors of strawberries and cream. It was fruit forward but not too sweet. Overall, it was very enjoyable. After we were done toasting, we moved on to still white wine. We began with the 2006 Alexana Pinot Gris by Revana Family Vineyards. This is a fairly new winery and this was their first Pinot Gris and it was lovely. It had flavors of citrus and honey with just the slightest hint of creaminess. I think it was lacking a little in structure but it was still good. They have a vineyard in Napa where they produce Cabernet Sauvignon but this was a project out of Willamette Valley, Oregon which is known for great Pinots. Interestingly enough, the owner of the winery, Dr. Revana, is a local cardiologist here in Houston. Next we tried the 2007 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. I really enjoyed this wine because it was drier and sharper which I prefer. It definitely had some grassy flavors going on and Lauren made the comment that it smelled like Christmas trees while Catherine said it tasted like cactus. I plan on trying this one again at home. Jesus was kind enough to bring out a few little tastes for me so I could sample a few other wines. One I honestly can’t say that I was crazy about but I am really glad that I tried it because it was by far one of the most different wines I have ever tasted. It was a 2007 Colomé Torrantes from Salta, Argentina. It had a soapy, bitter taste (think arugula) and the most interesting part was that the flavors hit the roof of my mouth and not my tongue. I thought I was going crazy but he said that he thought the same thing and Catherine agreed with me as well. I had just never tasted a wine like that in my life. He said that he did not like it the first time he tried it but it has grown on him and now he quite enjoys it. I would try a glass again just for research purposes but I don’t believe I’ll be buying a bottle any time soon to drink at home. He also gave me a little taste of the 2007 Graffigna Pinot Grigio which he said is currently one of their best sellers. It is from San Juan, Argentina and I can see why it is popular. While there really isn’t anything extraordinary about this wine, it was very crisp and clean and tasted like you were biting into a fresh green apple. It is a perfect summer wine. When they brought out our dessert (Cranberry Bread Pudding and S’Mores… yum and yummier) they also brought out a dessert wine for us and it was really good. We had the Two Hands, Brilliant Disguise Moscato Sparkling 2007 from Barossa Valley, Australia. Dessert wines are still fairly uncharted territory for me so I was glad to have the recommendation. So far I have no complaints!

SoVino has quickly become one of my favorite Houston wine bars and/or dinner spots. The atmosphere is right up my alley and you can’t beat the food and wine selections. While the wine list isn’t huge, I believe they are going for quality over quantity as every wine I have tried there has given me something to write about and I can’t say that for a lot of places. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and I can not imagine going there and not having a fabulous time. I will definitely be back soon!

Voice & SoVino… So Wonderful

If my birthday celebration was any indication of how this year is going to turn out, I think 26 is going to be pretty great. After a night spent with family and friends on Friday, Andrew and I had Saturday night to ourselves and it was such a treat. Ever since Voice opened in April at Hotel Icon in downtown Houston, I’ve been itching to try it. I’ve also wanted to try SoVino for a while now and I was so pleased with both places!

Mandee & Andrew At SoVino

Mandee & Andrew At SoVino

Walking into Voice, the decor and design of the resaurant are immediately impressive. It’s very cool and classy but fun at the same time with black and white cowhide barstools, velvet patterned drapes hanging from the very high ceiling and ornate gold trim everywhere. Leather chairs made for comfortable dining but we were seated at a table for two and it was so long that it felt like we were a mile away from each other. That was the only part of dinner that I didn’t love. It made it difficult to share things, which we always do, and even to have a conversation. The one thing that made up for the lack of gab was the awesome music they had playing in the background. Everything from the Rolling Stones to Michael Jackson made dinner a lot more entertaining. Enough about the atmosphere, let’s get to the good stuff. Food and wine!

We ordered by the glass since I was in the mood for white and he wanted red. They could have offered a few more options by the glass but overall their wine list looked pretty impressive and was very well priced. I would say it was definitely one of the best value wine lists I have seen in Houston. I thoroughly enjoyed my 2006 Van Duzer Pinot Gris from Willamette Valley, Oregon. It was light, crisp and refreshing which is exactly what I wanted and expected. It was structured and balanced with a clean finish. It would go well with at least half the menu which made ordering dinner especially easy. I started off with the Mushroom Soup Cappuccino which was heavenly. Crimini mushroom soup topped with truffle foam and porcini powder. It almost plays with your mind a little when it first arrives in front of you in a coffee cup because it truly does look so much like a cappuccino. I then had the Maytag Blue Cheese Salad which was good but nothing to write home about. Andrew ordered the Asparagus Salad and they looked almost identical while they sounded completely different on the menu. For my entrée I had the special which was a Tazmanian Trout which looked and tasted like salmon. It was very good but I would order something else next time. Andrew started with the Composition Of Local Heirloom Tomatoes with goat cheese, black mission figs and arugula… very tasty but exactly what you would expect. I like that all of the ingredients are local. His entrée was to die for! He ordered the Venison Sous Vide with a sour cherry sauce. My mouth is watering just typing about it right now. It was so tender he didn’t even need a steak knife. It also paired beautifully with his Australian wine, a 2005 Loose End GSM (Grenache, Shiraz and Merlot) from Barossa Valley. It was fantastic and definitely a wine I plan on seeking out to enjoy at home. Perhaps the most exciting part of this meal were the Truffled Parmesan French Fries. Yes I said Truffled Parmesan French Fries. Little bites of HEAVEN is what those were! It was just silly how good they were. I would say they were better than dessert which is true blasphemy for a sweet-eater like me. Speaking of sweets… I can’t really complain. While it looked like they had several yummy choices, our waiter decided to order for us which we were ok with. Normally I wouldn’t have been but I think I may have been a little bit high on truffled french fries and my judgement was impaired. Before my delectable Study in Chocolate came out (and Andrew’s Warm Chocolate Cake) we had a champagne toast to celebrate my birthday. Like I always say, you can’t properly celebrate without some bubbles. We each had a glass of Leon Palais Brut Blanc de Blancs from Champagne, France and it was perfect. It was, in my opinion, everything a good glass of bubbles should be. It wasn’t too sweet, it had a gorgeous single line of bubbles coming straight up the middle of the flute and it went down easy. It was so good that it left me wanting more… which led us to SoVino.

Birthday Wine

I am actually headed back to SoVino this weekend because I didn’t get enough of it on my first trip. The atmosphere was fantastic. Here we were able to sit next to each other which was nice since we were so far apart at dinner. The lighting was dim and romantic, the music was good and the company was better. I decided to stick with bubbles and enjoyed two marvelous glasses of Mumm Napa Brut Prestige. I actually liked the Leon Palais better but would be happy to order this again as well. Andrew drank the 2003 Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa which of course inspired me to go on some sort of rant about Oberon, the King of the Fairies, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That’s about as intellectual as I got that night. My brain was too overwhelmed with delicious food and wine to think about anything else. It was all in all perhaps the best birthday I have had to date and I am so excited to see where this year takes me!

Cheers!

Mandee

Sweet Sweet Summertime

Masi Masianco Pinot Grigio

So maybe this wine isn’t so sweet but it sure does remind me of Summer. Thanks to Kaleb at Cork Café for introducing me to this lovely little Italian treat. While I have lately come to enjoy the lighter whites, I took to this one even more than usual. I think it’s because it was not what I expected. I believe the little twist comes from the blend of the pinot grigio grapes with verduzzo grapes (25% worth). So while you are still getting the classic white fruits of the pinot grigio you also get the pleasant surprise of almond and pineapple flavors along with a little bit of creaminess brought in by the verduzzo. The bright acidity is balanced out by just a hint of brown sugar sweetness that lingers on the tongue. I felt like this wine had more structure than most pinot grigios I have tried. If you are looking for a refreshing Summer staple this wine definitely fits the bill. It would be a great accompaniment with many foods as well. I believe you should be able to find a bottle for around $15 in stores. Salute! 

Delightful… Delicious… Delovely

Ella said it best… “Delovely” is the most accurate word I can think of to describe this delectable 2005 Carneros Chardonnay from Domaine Chandon. Typically known for it’s delicious sparklers, Chandon deserves recognition for its still wine as well. I was quite impressed. The price tag isn’t too bad either… $17 at Spec’s in Houston. Worth every penny. This golden California variety has delicate aromas of lightly buttered toast, toasted marshmallows and vanilla bean crème brûlée. Makes you want to lick your lips, doesn’t it? Mmmm hmmmm…

Once it makes its way into your mouth you are flooded with flavors of vanilla custard and crispy sugar which go back to those toasty aromas of brûlée and marshmallow. The flavors are slightly oakey and not too sweet at all. The acidity in this wine is very well balanced. The bottle notes state that it also offers layers of apple and orange blossom. The apple flavors are very mild, subtle and definitely red rather than green which is what I usually equate with white wine. I’ll be honest, I have no idea what an orange blossom smells or tastes like so I’ll have to take their word on that. All I do know for sure is that I will buy this wine again. And again.

When Will I Ever Learn?

I need to stop telling myself that I do not like things. Often I am wrong and that limiting sort of mindset has been keeping me from enjoying all sorts of delicious wines over the years. Well, consider me reformed. I came to this realization last night in the refrigerated wine cooler at Rice Epicurean (their wines are overpriced by the way). I was just looking for something nice and light to help me wind down my very long day. I had a little talk with myself as I perused my options. Do I go with an old favorite or do I branch out and try something new so I can write about it on my blog? I’ll be honest… I put a lot of stock in the blurbs on the back of bottles. I don’t know quite enough (YET) to feel comfortable with using the clues on the front of the label (i.e. vintage, region) to be able to feel like I know what a wine will taste like. Hey, I’m getting there. Anyway, I had already decided I was going to be adventurous and I just needed to read a few labels to figure out which wine I wanted. The label on the back of the 2006 Hogue Fumé Blanc enticed me, despite its claim to be “fruit forward”, so I tried it. Wise choice.

Honestly, I can’t say that I always agree with the descriptions after tasting a wine. That leaves meHogue Cellars disappointed. This one was right on the money which left me thrilled because it was all I was hoping it would be and exactly what I was looking for last night. The wine promised crisp flavors of lemon zest and herbs with a fruity (this is where I learned my very valuable lesson) yet dry finish. I have been telling myself all this time that I really did not prefer “fruity” wines. I liked “dry” wines. Wait… wine can be BOTH???? I get smarter and smarter every day. As I unscrewed the top (yes this is acceptable these days) and poured my first taste I swear I saw the tiniest bubbles in my glass! It could have just been the pour but I truly believe there were some lingering. Regardless, anyone who knows me knows how I feel about bubbles in my glass – they always get a thumbs up. I was off to a good start. My first sip was so delicious that I wanted to take many more sips immediately. I restrained and took my time. I enjoyed my wine with a light salad and it went very well with that. The winery recommends it with chicken salad or raw oysters. I believe it would be fantastic with either, especially the oysters. Yum. This wine is from the Columbia Valley region of Washington State and has a delicious price tag as well, coming in at around $11 a bottle. You can’t beat that. It is fermented in a tank rather than in barrels so as to keep that refreshing acidity. This is definitely a wine I will go back to. I enjoyed it so much and was extremely pleased with the acuracy of its description. Bravo Hogue Cellars. I applaud you.

Cheers!

 

Next Page »