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,,, or any number of other online resources. This is, of course, if you cannot find it locally.

Good luck, stay cool, and have fun.



Spanish Winemaker Meet & Greet Announcement

Hello everyone! We had a great weekend, and a delicious Easter dinner with a brilliant 2006 Pinot Noir made by Ehren Jordan (previous winemaker of the year). We hope that all of you enjoyed your weekend, and that the new week, and beautiful weather are treating you well. Those of you that made it out for ‘Wines With Cool Labels’, thank you! We had a blast, and can’t wait for the next one.

That being said, we have an exciting announcement for you! As many of you already know, we will be having a Spanish winemaker meet & greet on May 5th at Rulis’ International Kitchen. Today, we sat down with Justin & Xabier to finalize the list of wines and winemakers that will be present at the event. We are proud to tell you about this exciting event, and want to let you know to clear your schedules for May 5th. This is going to be an absurd amount of fun based on the stories we heard about a lot of these winemakers, but we’ll let you find out for yourselves upon meeting them.

The final list of winemakers is as follows (in no particular order, and includes some of the wines we will taste from each of them):

1. Ruben Simon–Laxas- 2009 Albariño–Rias Biaxas, Spain

2. Alejandro Migeulez–2006 Abad Dom Bueno Mencía, and 2008 Abad Dom Bueno Godello–Bierzo, Spain (We love these wines!)

3. Paco Puerta–2008 Lorca Monastrell, Bullas, Spain

4. Rafael Cambra–2008 El Bon Homme, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monastrell–Valencia, Spain

5. Felipe Alvarez–2008 Milcampos Tempranillo–Ribera Del Duero, Spain

6. Jose Alberto Casajus–Casajus Ribera del Duero Vendimia Selecion 2006–Ribera Del Duero, Spain

7. Diego Ibañez–2004 Heras Cordon Reserva (Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Graciano)–Rioja, Spain

Just writing about this has me excited! Olena, Chef, and I have tasted all of these wines, and we promise you that this is a wonderful treat. As the date approaches, we will be able to release more information about the Tapas menu for the event. Please stay tuned, and confirm your intent to attend. I for one can’t wait to share a few drinks with these guys. Talk to you soon!


– El Zak

Wine Tasting Reminder

Posted in Announcements, Aragon, Beer, Bierzo, Spain, Texas, wine, wine shop, Wine Tasting by CreativeJuicesWine on March 31, 2010

Hello everyone! Those of you who have stopped by the shop know that we’ve always got something going on. During April, we will be continuing that trend by hosting our Wine & Beer Events (check the Events Tab) every Saturday of the month! We have also started Thursday Wine Tastings every Thursday evening starting at 5pm. Stop by after work to try a few new wines, and maybe take a couple home with you. You’ll get to share your experience with the only two certified Sommeliers in El Paso, us!

In addition, we will be bringing in over 20 new labels over the course of the month, followed by a meet and greet with 8 Spanish Winemakers on May 5th. Details for that event will be posted the beginning of next week. Bottles from two of those winemakers are already on sale at the shop, with more to come after next week. Come out for dinner Wednesday through Saturday and take advantage of retail pricing on all wine. We also offer 50% the menu price on all beer to go.

See you at 318 N. Mesa Street. Cheers!!!

Zak & Olena

Creative Juices Wine Show: Episode 4 (w/Video)!

Posted in Bierzo, Mencía, Spain, Video, wine, Wine Reviews, Wine Tasting by CreativeJuicesWine on February 23, 2010

In Episode 4, Zak & Olena taste a 2001 Bierzo. Enjoy!

Bierzo is in the Northwest Corner of this Map. Cheers!

Creative Juices Wine Show: Episode 4!

Posted in Announcements, Bierzo, Mencía, Spain, wine, Wine Reviews, Wine Tasting by CreativeJuicesWine on February 23, 2010

Hey everyone! We just wanted to let you know that we finished taping Episode 4 of Creative Juices Wine Show moments ago, and it will be up for viewing shortly. This was a fun episode. We’re really excited, so when it posts, please check it out, and let us know what you think! Cheers!

Zak & Olena

Tasting Group Follow Up

Hello everyone! We hope you had a great weekend. As you know, we had the first meeting for our new tasting group yesterday evening. Our topic: Chardonnay’s.  We tasted everything blind (from right to left), and were especially intrigued when the wine in glass #2 was a red wine. As we said, this was the first meeting…we still need to work out the kinks. That being said, it was an interesting addition to our line up.

We tasted in random order, and had no idea which bottle was our own (save wine #2) which added to the excitement. We had guesses on which wine belonged to whom (especially wine #2), but in the end upon revealing the bottles, we were mostly just pleased that none of us brought a terrible wine.

Without further adieu, the write-up:

Wine #1 was the 2007 Shannon Ridge Chardonnay from Lake County, California. This wine had a toasty, vanilla, green apple, peachy, melon (cantaloupe), slightly mineral nose that oozed out of the glass effortlessly. It drank velvety smooth, and had a very nice creamy, cedary green apple, and buttery mouthfeel. This was definitely a well made wine, and would pair very well with shrimp, or oysters, or even a stick of butter. (If you like that kind of thing.)

This bottle weighed in 14.2% ABV, and was a great way to start the evening. Shannon Ridge carries a $15 price tag, and represents that price point very well. This is a worth-while bottle to pick up if you’re in the market for an oaked, but not over-oaked Chardonnay from Cali that won’t break the piggy bank.

Wine # 2 was the infamous ‘red wine’ that we spoke of earlier. In all fairness, the group member that brought this wine received an invitation to the group less than 24 hours prior during our Bubbly Event at Rulis’ International Kitchen. Furthermore, there is a good chance we didn’t mention what the topic was.

Now that the disclaimer is up, we will talk about the wine. Bottle #2 was the Chapillon Cuveé Harmonie 2006, which ended up being a Petit Verdot/Tannat blend from the Aragon region in Northern Spain. At first the nose was a little tight, but then it opened up some black cherry, leather, cherry cola, slate, flint, wet leaf aromas that really made us want to dive in and take that first sip. Once we did, there was more cherry, pine needles, some wet soil flavors, and a little bit of green apple, and grape candies (think Jolly Rancher’s). This was a cool wine, and we’re glad it squeaked its way into the Chardonnay tasting.  Advocate gave it 90 points, and it scored well amongst the group as well. You can pick it up for $12 all around Texas, and probably ‘in your nape of the woods, neck of the wape; How come you’re here?’ Sorry, there will probably be more Caddyshack quotes before this post is over.

Wine numero tres was the Felino Viña Cobos 2008 Chardonnay from Mendoza, Argentina. This is another Paul Hobbs creation, and you can see his fingerprints all over this wine. Advocate went 90 points on this wine, and may have sold it short. This monster weighed in at 14.8% ABV, and rocked our faces off. This is a thick, creamy Chard, that despite sitting on oak for 8 months, wasn’t offensively oaky. Mr. Hobbs knows what he is doing, and you need to just trust him. The Felino was fully of Vanilla, and citrus flavors, with a bit of spice, and even a sugar cookie aspect to it, which is just awesome! On the palate, it coats every bit of the mouth with a thick, buttery, whipping cream feel that tastes of baked bread, and vanilla, with more of that sugar cookie from before. For all of you vegans out there searching for a wine that works with your lifestyle, this is one to add to your list. This is an unfined, and unfiltered Vegan friendly Chardonnay. At $22, it comes with a perfectly respectable price tag, and drinks at a much higher level of quality. The Felino is just well made. What more can we say. Go out and find this wine. Seriously…the post will still be here when you get back…Go!

Wine #4 was the Acre Chardonnay from the Central Coast in California. This bottle retails for about $20, and has a light alcohol percentage of 13.5%. Acre has great straw-green color, and has a very fresh, clean nose. Kind of like a fruit salad. This was the one wine that we (Zak & Olena) scored the same, so we’ll include that we gave it 85 points. Realistically, it’s probably a few points higher, but either way, it’s a pretty good wine. No disrespect to this wine, but it did have a very tough act to follow in the Felino. That being said, it’s a well made wine that for $20 isn’t asking for too much, and delivers delicious fruit aromas and flavors. Despite being oaked, we could barely detect it on the first go around. Once we revisited this wine, it was slightly more prevalent, but well placed.

Our final Vino came from William Fevre. You can’t have a Chardonnay tasting without a white Burg. You just can’t. This wine was the William Fevre Champs Royaux Chablis 2005. From what we read about the bottle, it can lay down or be drunk from now until 2017. Based on its performance during our tasting, we think it could use a little more time. One interesting note that came out of this wine was a crisp lettuce flavor on the palate. Other than that, it was pretty straightforward, and needed to be accompanied by food, which after the tasting we ended up doing with the final 3 wines. The Chablis pulled it’s big-boy/girl pants up and did what it was meant to do. The Acre showed what a $20 Chard from Cali can do, and the Felino (as if it wasn’t already the star of the show) picked up even more steam. It dominated with Chef Rulis’ seafood concoction that had great heat to it, and was full of flavor.

So that’s it kids. 5 wines.  The New World showed well, granted we only had one Old World white representing in the tasting. The Red Blend was a bonus wine. If you have tasted any of these wines, or just feel like commenting, we would love to hear from you. Thanks for reading. Cheers!!!

Zak & Olena

Marques de Riscal Tempranillo-2006

Posted in Castilla y Leon, Spain, Tempranillo, Wine Reviews by CreativeJuicesWine on November 16, 2009

For many of you, this name should sound familiar. The Bodegas de Riscal labels have shielded some quality wine in the past 10 years. Northwest of Rioja from the region of Castilla y Leon comes the 2006 vintage from Riscal. This is the third vintage that we have tasted from Riscal having had the 2003 and 2004 Reserva which come with a slightly higher price tag.

First of all, it’s a screwtop! It’s not everyday that one gets to drink an Old World wine with a screwtop. It is rather reassuring that whatever they put in this bottle is probably the same as the day they put it on the boat to the New World.  Ahh, screwtops… Either way, we decided to find out if this vintage lives up to previous vintages.

From the start we noticed the ruby coloration that transitioned outward towards the wine’s watery rim. Once we reached the watery rim, we knew exactly what we were in store for. Castilla y Leon is a wine growing region that only harvests its fruit from mature vines. In this wine’s case, we are looking at 30-40 year old vines.

On the nose there is a hint of minerality that is indicative of Old World soil profiles. Beyond the initial pleasantries that this Tempranillo offers, it displays notes of pepper, subtle red fruits (crushed cherry primarily) and a touch of toast, most likely from the 6 months of American Oak this wine saw prior to its bottling.

When consumed, this wine boasts flavors of dark berries (blackberries, blueberries, and black cherries) that lead into a mild clenching of the throat from that oak we talked about. The finish is reasonably long, giving hints of walnut skins. This drinks like a more expensive bottle would. We recommend this bottle to be drunk on its own, or with a Greek style sausage and cheese pizza. We award this bottle of Riscal 2006 Tempranillo a solid 88 points. Go buy a bottle today, and tell us what you think.  Cheers!

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 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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Cuatro Pasos 2007 Mencía, Bierzo, Spain

Posted in Bierzo, Spain, Wine Reviews by CreativeJuicesWine on October 21, 2009

Last night, we opened a bottle of Cuatro Pasos. It is made from 100% Mencía, and comes from the Bierzo region in Northwestern Spain.  If you haven’t heard much about this grape, don’t feel bad.  It’s one of those grapes that there isn’t really a lot of hype over, but there will be.  The same goes for the region from which it is indigenous to.

The people of the Bierzo region have been growing grapes, and making wine for longer than this country has been in existence.  Then again, who hasn’t been?  Mencía, as a grape, is a very exotic fruit that produces some very interesting, World Class wines.  Bierzo is in our opinion, the next Mendoza in terms of wine growing areas.  The transition has already begun, and you will start to hear a lot more about the amazing wines coming out of these Spanish vineyards.

Cuatro Pasos (Four Steps) is made from grapes that are harvested from 80-90 year old vines.  This is a pleasant change from the everyday wines that we’ve grown accustomed to drinking.  Finding a rare varietal such as this, with a low price tag is always a good time.  The question, as always, is it any good?

Our Tasting Notes:

Date   10.20.09
Wine Name Cuatro Pasos
Maker Bodegas Martín Códax
Region Bierzo, Spain
Varietal Mencía
Vintage 2007
Alcohol 14%
Price $13

We tasted this bottle on October 20, 2009.  It came well-equipped with a 90 point score from Jay Miller at Wine Advocate, so it was safe to make an assumption that this was a good value wine.

Cuatro Pasos displays a dark ruby, opaque purple, midnight black coloration .  Luckily for those of us with night vision, it is still clear enough to see through.  You never know what kind of creatures you might meet on a black night.    Its light ruby rim showcases its playful youth, and leads one to believe, as we did as children, that there is a world of possibility in store for us.  That being said, the nose boasts little more than black peppery notes.  (We expected more from the nose, but found its offering sufficient.)  Once on the palette, it is rather dry.  Not unpleasantly so, but dry.  The tannins are short-lived, yet pronounced and well-developed, providing the wine with a solid backbone.  Flavors of strawberry rush in on the attack, but quickly retreat, succumbing to delightful flavors of cherry, blueberry, and black raspberry.  The mixture of red and black fruit comes off as bitter, yet remains balanced.  As the wine finishes, its acidity becomes present, which brings everything together the same way a nice area rug might in your living room.  The only downside is that after 10-15 seconds the flavor fizzes out, providing the same disappointment you might feel if you spilled this wine on that nice area rug that we mentioned before.  We award Cuatro Pasos with 88 points.

Overall, we enjoyed this wine thoroughly.  We were a little surprised that despite being aged in both French and American oak for 4 months, it went undetected.  Don’t let the 88 points we awarded it fool you into thinking this wine wasn’t a tasty treat.  That score is by no means a slap in the face.  Not only will we recommend this wine to friends (and we are recommending it to you now) we will also be drinking this wine again in the near future.

In terms of aging this wine, one will be able to lay this bottle down for the next 4-5 years, but we recommend going ahead and enjoying it now.  To answer our own question, yes, it was good.

Keep checking for future updates as we will certainly be providing them.

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.
Zak & Olena

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