Creative Juices Wine Blog

Summertime, and the pairing’s easy.

In case you haven’t been outside recently, it’s hot. I’m not just speaking on behalf of where we are, but the majority of the country is feeling exactly what I’m talking about every day. Many of us are experiencing 100 degree plus temperatures on a regular basis, and with it comes a sense of being overwhelmed by drink choices.

It’s too easy to reach for a cold domestic brew after 15 minutes in this heat, which inevitably lead to sweating through two shirts, and virtually passing out. Here are some recommendations for you that don’t start with ‘Bud’, or end in ‘Light’.

If there is on thing we have learned about serving wine, it’s that exploration (for the most part) died with Juan Ponce de Leon in 1521. “I know what I like” is a common phrase from many consumers. That’s not to say that knowing what one likes is a bad thing, but let’s face it, Napa isn’t the only place making wine. Hence, a need for the revival of exploration. This time, with better navigational tools.

For us, hot summertime weather means a break from Cabernet, Syrah/Shiraz, Zinfandel, and anything else that could be used as a club in the event a riot breaks out due to frost-bitten nerve endings during the winter months. It’s a well deserved hiatus for us and all of the abuser friendly wines we love so much. During the separation months, these varietals still see periodic visitation on rainy days, or cool(ish) evenings. In some cases, we get to visit them in the form of Rosés, which is nice. Speaking of Rosés, I feel the need to call men out briefly. It’s ok to drink pink wines. They’re not all sweet. They’re not White Zinfandel or White Merlots. And it by no means makes you look feminine. All you’re really doing is saying, ‘I have a sophisticated palate, and I don’t buy into stereotypes.’ The next time you’re at a wine tasting, give the pink one a go. You may be surprised.

That being said, here are some more heat friendly wines for you to enjoy. The first thing you’ll want to do is avoid heavy oaking. Sorry Cali Chards. Think White Burgundy (Chablis, Côte de Beaune) are great choices, or possibly Viognier from further south in Rhone. Try Sancerre, Alsacian Riesling, Pinot Gris, or Gewürztraminer. These are amazing choices this time of year. Looking for something a bit more crisp, and tropical? Perhaps more floral? How about Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, or some Mendoza Torrontes? If you’ve never heard of some of these, that’s okay. That’s why wine professionals exist. If you’re at a restaurant, ask your server or sommelier what they suggest. We still ask for recommendations when we go out. I frequently ask questions like, “what would you pair with 100 degree heat, a pulled muscle, and the shrimp scampi?” If someone can answer a question like that without looking at you like you’re clinically insane, drink what they recommend. They know what they’re doing. You will also find luck with Grüner Veltliner from Austria, and in a multitude of German Rieslings. Try to avoid a lot of sugar though. Lean towards the dry or Troken end of the spectrum. Don’t let me forget sparkling wine, or Champagne. A little bubbly on a hot day is always the right choice. Celebration or not, bubbles will make you smile. On that note, something a little fizzy that we find does the trick is Vinho Verde. They’re usually pretty inexpensive, and tasty.

If you can’t get over your winter Red kick, that’s okay too. Just back it off a notch. Just switch the regions around a bit. If you’re a Cab or Merlot drinker that only drinks Cali stuff, think Bordeaux for a change. If you’re a big Zinfandel drinker that loves the spiciness and high alcohol content the Zin carries, try going with a Spanish Garnacha, or Côtes du Rhône. You may find a new friend that you never knew existed. Tempranillo or Mencia may also be valid options. Malbec from Argentina or Cahors, France are quality picks for this time of year, though, I find myself avoiding  them for the most part. Pinot drinker? Love California, or Oregon? Try Central Otago, New Zealand. More good options for Pinot fans would be a Beaujolais Cru, or a Dolcetto d’Alba. You’ll find a sense of home with these lighter style reds.

All of these wines are pretty easy to find. In most wine shops, and restaurants around the country, there is someone waiting for you to come in and just ask questions. That’s what we live for. We have answers, and it’s rewarding on both ends. We get to talk about wine, which we love to do, and you get to enjoy something new. Worst case scenario, just go online and check out wine.com, 2020wines.com, winelibrary.com, or any number of other online resources. This is, of course, if you cannot find it locally.

Good luck, stay cool, and have fun.

Cheers!

-Zak

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Creative Juices Wine Show Episode 11: Primaterra Winery

Posted in Italy, Pinot Grigio, rulis international kitchen, Sangiovese, Texas, Veneto, wine, Wine Reviews, wine shop, Wine Tasting by CreativeJuicesWine on March 17, 2010

On Episode 11 of the Creative Juices Wine Show, we taste two wines from the Primaterra Winery in Italy, and receive a phone call from the Mexican Consulate…Enjoy the show! Cheers!!!

Zak & Olena

Tasting Results

As promised, we attended a tasting put on by Billy Crews with Jessie Griego of Fiasco Fine Wine out of Santa Fe, NM. This proved to be a very worthwhile event, as the wines we very good. We tasted 12 different wines from around the World, and each brought something interesting to the palate. Overall, the wines were quite good, although as with any tasting, there were a couple that may not have been the winemaker’s best effort.

That being said, let’s get into our tasting notes, shall we? We will list, and talk about the wines in the order that we tasted them, which Jessie Greigo did a great job organizing.

The first wine was the Nino Franco ‘Rustico’ Prosecco di Valdobbiandene, Italy (Non-Vintage). This was a great way to start off the night, and had a great nose, full of floral aspects with a bit of citrus. There is a nice transition into a calm minerality that gives way to a green apple, and a little fresh pear (that was actually mentioned in the tasting notes provided by the distributor). Overall, we enjoyed this wine quite a bit, and gave it 89+ points. It was quite pleasant to have a sparkling wine to start the night, since we realistically don’t taste nearly enough of it on a regular basis.

Wine #2 was Honig Sauvignon Blanc from California. This is a wine we have tasted before, and enjoyed it then as well. The nose was unmistakable, and exploded with grapefruit, and grassy notes that really shine when flavors of lime make an appearance. This is a wine with great crispness that we gave 88 points, and had it not been for the next wine, would have come home with us.

Our third wine was Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes, from Argentina. The nose on this wine stole the show, and was exactly what a textbook Torrontes should be. Susana Balbo is also known as the “Queen of Torrontes” according to our tasting sheet, and this is the reason why. Although it is considered an ‘entry-level’ wine, this drinks with much more authority. There’s not much left to say besides the fact that we scored it 93 points, and there is currently a bottle of it in our wine fridge. We should note that Wine Advocate awarded this wine 90 points, but sold it short in our opinion. Great wine!

In case you’re tired of reading, don’t worry, we only have 9 more wines to go!!

That being said, let’s move on to #4. This wine is yet another selection from Crios de Susana Balbo, and is her Chardonnay. 89 points from Wine Advocate. This wine has good color, which is a straw-canary yellow that gives away at least one detail about this wine that we soon found out about upon giving it a sniffy-sniff. Oak Monster! (Sorry Gary V.) We had to borrow some terminology on this one. This is a big oaky chard that one would expect from Cali, but it came as a bit of a surprise coming from Argentina. Let’s put it this way…there was nothing wrong with this wine, and we’re sure that this is the kind of wine that will appeal to a wide array of palates, but there’s a little too much tree bark on this one. We came up a couple points apart on this one, so we’ll average our scores to give it an 86.

The fifth wine broke the white wine run, and sent us to Italy. we had a Fontanafredda Barbera that received 88 points and a Best Value award from Spectator. This wine has a very pleasant mouthfeel that gives way to round, soft tannins. There is a lot of vanilla on this one, but it’s not offensive in any way. There is good dark fruit on the nose, but not quite as much on the palate. Overall, this is a pretty tasty wine, and we agree with the 88 points Spectator gave it.

Wine numero seis was Lang and Reed Cabernet Franc, from Cali. This one ranked pretty highly for us, and had a good distribution of pepper and currant flavors. The balance of acidity and soft (friendly) tannins left us thirsting for more. This wine, although tasted in the middle (normally a forgotten spot in the line-up) demanded a certain degree of respect, and wasn’t one to easily forget about. We went 89+ points on this Cab Franc, and appreciated the New World approach to this wine.

Number 7! Hey Mambo “Sultry Red” (or as a few of our fellow tasters referred to it “Slutty Red”) from California was another star from the night. This is a wine made by the “Other Guys” from Sebastiani (who are wine gurus). This blend of Syrah, Barbera, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Alicante Bouchet had a very smoky nose that right away lead us right into it’s meaty body and explosive flavor. During the tasting we said that this wine would go great with pizza. Later, after the tasting, we shared a bottle of Hey Mambo with Chef Rulis over a Pepperoni, Sausage, and Jalapeño pepper Pizza. ‘Twas delish. Furthermore, we drank it out of paper cups (because sometimes it’s worth the sacrifice) and it still scored 89 points. Very good wine.

8: Marietta Celars Zinfandel, Cali. Awesome! Very nice nose. We pulled clove, violets, peppers, and a bit of cedar from this big Zin which weighs in at 15.2% abv. Marietta Zin is full of blackberry flavor, and coats the entirety of your mouth. This, for the record, is the other bottle that made it back to our wine fridge. 91 points.

Number 9 was another selection form Marietta Cellars, the Petite Sirah. 2006 vintage made from 76% Petite Sirah, 22% Syrah, and 2% Viognier. There was a lot going on with this wine, and for the most part, that was a good thing. After a bit of initial confusion that left one of us tasting grape cough medicine, a re-visit cleared things up, and smoothed things over. It has a very candied finish, and tannins that will leave your mouth able to sand down the side of a barn. We gave this one 87 points, but will say that this was popular amongst the vast majority of tasters tonight.

La Posta Cocina Blend from Argentina was our next wine. The nose on this wine is absolutely fantastic, and we could smell it for hours. This is a blend of 60% Malbec, 20% Syrah, and 20% Bonarda. They all seem to work in perfect unison for this wine, but we were not surprised in the least. La Posta put out pretty amazing wines consistently, and always for affordable prices. We think this is an 89-91 point wine, and highly recommend that you go out and find either this bottle, or something with a similar blend. Tikal Patriota is a similar style wine from the same region, and more or less, grapes that would be worth picking up if you’re in the market.

The last two wines are from Susana Balbo. Remember her from earlier? Both are Malbecs, however the first is from her Crios line (which is more introductory). That being said, this was not by any means our favorite wine of the night. We’re sure that Susana Balbo is the nicest lady in the whole World, and it would be great to have half of the winemaking talent she possesses, but the Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec is just not good. We wanted to like it, especially since her white wines that we tasted were so well put together, but we didn’t. The nose is a little bit like wet leaves, and there is a distinct cow pie smell that rips through this wine. Fortunately, the flavor isn’t quite as pungent, however it doesn’t really make up for it, as a lot of the flavor is masked by the off-putting aromas. We would love to have tasted the same bottle that Wine Advocate dropped 90 points on, but we did not have that opportunity. We will pass on this one, and give it 78 points. The second malbec was definitely a refreshing bounce back from the first, but wasn’t anything special. Again, Wine Advocate gave up 91 points that we weren’t able to see. The oak really masks the fruit on this one, which leaves it a little bland overall. We’re going to go with 84 points, and a pass.

In closing, we had a great time tonight. This is what wine tastings are supposed to be like. Jessie Griego from Fiasco Fine Wines was very knowledgeable, and passionate about wine, which we always appreciate. We had a great conversation with her, and were impressed with the presentation. We look forward to her next visit, as well as the selections that make the trip with her.

All of the wines we tasted tonight retail for under $25, and with the exception of the last two are definite purchases at this low price point. We’re not sure which of these wines will be available at Billy Crews, but it is certainly worth looking into. We will absolutely be checking back on a few of these labels. Cheers!!!

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Wine Class Follow Up

Posted in Classes, Italy, Spain by CreativeJuicesWine on October 25, 2009

Last night, we held our second wine class at Rulis’ International Kitchen.  The topic of discussion, in case you missed it, “Italy and Spain.”  We wanted to thank everyone again for coming out.  We truly had a fabulous time, and look forward to the next class on Saturday, November 14th, when we will be discussing the wines of Argentina and Chile.

The same concept will apply for next time.  We will be tasting 8 wines from Argentina and Chile in combination with traditional cuisine from both of these vibrant South American countries.  This class will be quite possibly our most exciting yet!  There are so many wonderful wines (that possess amazing value) from these two countries.  The ability to pair food and wine takes on a whole new meaning when an Argentinean Malbec meets grilled meats or sausages, or a Chilean Carmenere joins forces with breaded lamb chops.

Join us on Saturday, November 14th at Rulis’ International Kitchen at 318 N. Mesa, El Paso, TX 79901 from 6pm-8pm as we explore the wines that everyone in the “New World” are going crazy for.  The cost of the class, once again will be $35. You can make a reservation by calling 915.541.9990.  For additional information you can also check http://www.rulisik.com under “Special Events” on the main page.

In addition to a blind tasting at the beginning of class, we will also be offering prizes to be announced during class.  Thank you, and we hope to see you there!

Zak & Olena

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Wine Class: Spain & Italy

Posted in Classes, Italy, Spain by CreativeJuicesWine on October 20, 2009

As a follow up to our California 101 class on October 10th, we will be hosting our second class this Saturday October 24th on the wines of Italy and Spain.  Our first class was a huge success, largely due in part to the amazing pairings provided to everyone by the amazing chef Rulis.  The idea behind the class, in case you missed the first one, is to educate a group of our peers in a relaxed atmosphere about the joy of pairing food and wine.  We taste, and discuss 8 different wines, and pair them with cuisine according to which region we are focused on during that particular class.
We sincerely hope that you can join us this Saturday for our continuation of wine education.  The location will be Rulis’ International Kitchen, 318 N. Mesa (In the historic, Hotel Cortez) El Paso, TX  79901.  For more information, please contact Raul Gonzalez at 915.541.9990.
Thanks!
Zak & Olena



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