May 29, 2008
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 me 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.
May 24, 2008
Demystifying White Wine
I used to only equate white wine with Chardonnay. It was the only white wine I ever bought and I felt like I was really branching out because I would try a new one every once in a while. I was under the horrible misconception that I didn’t like any other type of white wine because it was all just too sweet. Well that’s just ridiculous.
I think I finally started exploring other whites after visiting a few restaurants that offer wine pairing suggestions on their menus. I love it when restaurants have this because it gives me a chance to try new wines without risking too much because I already know they will go with what I am eating. One Houston restaurant that offers this type of menu is the Glass Wall in the Heights area. Their menu is ever changing because the chef uses local ingredients and creates his menu based on what is in season and available locally. I love it. They have wine pairings under every single item on their menu. The last time I was there I tried a Pinot Gris that was out of this world. It was an Oregon wine by Wine By Joe. I know that sounds like it would have been made in someone’s basement but please do not let the label throw you. This wine is fantastic. It is crisp and clean and just makes you feel like you’re in the midst of Springtime. You can buy this wine for about $19 online or if you can find it in a store. If you order straight from the vineyard you will get it for $14. I tried to find it at Spec’s here in Houston and they didn’t have it – nor had they ever heard of Wine by Joe. That’s their loss because it’s delicious. This wine offers flavors of pear and apricot with grassy undertones and a hint of vanilla. Very fresh tasting. It was paired with crab cakes and what a wonderful combination that was!
So this wine really opened my eyes to the fact that I like Pinot Gris! Interestingly enough I had always turned my nose up to Pinot Grigio. I thought it was the sissy white wine for little girls, not real wine drinkers like me. How silly did I feel when after a little research I learned that Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same thing… color me embarassed. Pinot Gris is the type of grape but it’s just called Pinot Grigio in Italian. Californian versions are also called Pinot Grigio sometimes because the wine tastes more like the Italian varieties than say the French which are a bit sweeter and not quite as dry. So basically whether the label says Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio you are dealing with the same grapes. Tomato Tomahto as they say.
While we’re on the topic of the same wines posing under different names, let’s talk about the mysterious Fumé Blanc. What is Fumé Blanc? I’ll tell you. It’s the exact same thing as Sauvignon Blanc. Robert Mondavi is actually responsible for coining the phrase Fumé Blanc when his Sauvignon Blanc wasn’t selling. He saw that the French versions like the Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre were being widely accepted and enjoyed so he just took the Fumé and threw it in front of the Blanc and the rest is history. Fumé literally means “smoke” but it’s not because of the flavor of the wine but because the fog in the vineyards looks like smoke. You learn something new every day!
If you are stuck on one wine like I was I seriously suggest broadening your horizons and trying some new things. There are so many wonderful wines out there waiting for you! You’ll probably be surprised at what you find.