Category:Wine news

Tuesday tidbits

? Beard award nominations: The James Beard awards, the food world’s equivalent of the Oscars, has announced its 2008 nominations.  What is most noticeable are the categories that didn’t include any Dallas-area restaurants, especially outstanding wine service. Many people here think this is one of the best restaurant cities in the country, but this does not seem to be the view elsewhere. Personally, I’m not surprised about the wine snub. Save for a couple of places like Pappas Bros. and Cafe on the Green, this is a lousy wine restaurant town. Prices are way too high and wine lists are predictable and unimaginative. They’re also sadly lacking in Texas wine, which is unacceptable in a town that prides itself on regional cuisine.

Bottle Image ? A $3 wine winner: Oak Leaf Vineyards, run by the negociant firm The Wine Group, has won a bunch of medals, including a gold for its chardonnay, at several recent wine competitions. It’s available only at Wal-Marts that sell wine for $1.97 in California and $2.97 elsewhere.  I have not tasted this brand, but will do so and report back. The Wine Group is best known for buying the Big House labels from Randall Grahm a couple of years ago.

? Italian wine class: Alfonso Cevola, who is extremely tolerant of the Wine Curmudgeon’s personality, knows more about Italian wine than almost anyone. So it’s a big deal that he is going to hold a three-part Italian wine class in Dallas, starting at the end of this month. It will cover northern Italy, central Italy, and the South and the islands. The sessions are a warm-up for more in-depth classes later this year for Intermediate and  advanced Italian wine lovers. You can register on line or contact (214-794-0978) for information.

Tuesday tidbits

? Cheap Chilean wine: Spend any time with Chilean winemakers, and you notice two things. First, how young everyone in the business is, and second, that the inexpensive wines are so well made. Case in point: Calina, some very nice $8 wine from a company affiliated with Kendall-Jackson, made by winemaker Marcela Chandia. I didn’t ask (politeness, of course), but she graduated from college in 1999, which means she probably isn’t 30 yet. I was especially impressed by the chardonnay, with more fruit than oak, and the carmenere.

? Rosenblum update: Top zinfandel producer Kent Rosenblum reports that he will stay with his winery for three years after it was bought by massive Diageo. Rosenblum told the San Francisco Chronicle that Diageo was clear that it wouldn’t make big changes. “They want to keep the culture,” he said.

image ? Paul Newman wines: Yes, that Paul Newman. His Newman’s Own food company has released a California cabernet and chardonnay, about $16 each. The project is a joint venture with Rebel Wine, which is affiliated with Three Thieves, best known for the quality wine it sells in jugs and juice boxes.

Tales of wine service woe

image Barbara Werley, one of the world’s best sommeliers, is going to speak to my Cordon Bleu wine class today. Each class does a session on wine service, and I usually bring in a guest speaker (being a screw top guy myself).

I’ll write something about her visit on Monday. Today, though, I thought I ‘d ask the visitors here to share their worst restaurant wine service experience. Tell it in the comments, and the one that seems the goofiest (as chosen by me) gets a prize — a copy of a new cookbook called Small Plates, Perfect Wines.

And I’ll get things started with this, which happened at a well-known neighborhood Italian restaurant in Dallas:

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Tuesday tidbits

? If you can have wine jelly. …: I have no idea what to make of this, so I’ll just report it. An Arizona company is selling something called  wine fragrances and body rubs, made from grape seeds. And, yes, the prose is just as convoluted as some wine writing: “… the complex scent of oranges and tangerines,  with hints of rose. …”

? Big prices for Aussie wine: Barossa Valley Ares Shiraz, Aphrodite Cabernet Sauvignon and Aerope Grenache — all produced by Two Hands Wines —  fetched $130,000 at the Naples Winter Wine Festival last weekend. Those are impressive prices for Australian wine, which tends to lag behind Bordeaux and Napa at these sorts of events.

? Costco and the three-tier system: More news, not necessarily welcome for consumers, from Costco’s long-running attempt to overturn Washington state liquor laws that regulate the prices the chain can charge for beer and wine. A federal appeals court upheld state laws that allow the Washington State Liquor Control Board to prohibit discounts, require wholesale distributors to charge uniform prices to all retailers and require a 10 percent markup. The wine industry has been following the Costco case, since its ramification could affect how wine is sold in the rest of the country.

Texas wine festivals

The most important — the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival — attracts national attention. But there are half dozen others this spring.

This is not surprising, given wine’s increasing popularity. There are 155 wineries in the state, including some three dozen in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

?It has been an amazing experience, ? says Caris Turpin at Lightcatcher Winery in Fort Worth. ?We never thought we would have done so well so quickly. We had no idea we ?d get this kind of response. ?

Hence, seven big-deal wine festivals in the state through the end of the spring:

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Tuesday tidbits

? Rosenblum sells out: One of the best independent California wine producers isn’t independent any more. Rosenblum Cellars, which specializes in zinfandel, was bought yesterday by Diageo. The massive multi-national paid $105 million for the winery, which had been owned by by the Rosenblum family since 1978. Kent Rosenblum, a vet, started the winery as a sideline, making just 400 cases his first year. (In fact, Rosenblum still owns a vet practice in northern California).

This is the second of the big three zin producers to go corporate, with Ravenswood Winery selling to Constellation Brands in 2001 (resulting in a surprising drop in quality). Only Ridge Vineyards remains independent. Expect to see the new Rosenblum drop some of its less high-profile wines, like its fun and well-made Chateau La Paws red and white blends, and focus on more expensive zinfandels. No word yet on how much the Rosenblum family will have to do with the winery once the sale is final.

? Bring on Alsace: Gil Kulers at Wine Kulers (love that name) writes about one of my favorite subjects, Alsatian wine. Most of it is a great value, most of it is white, and most of it pairs with sausage."This may shock the steakhouse crowd, which would be lost without its alcoholic, over-oaked cabernet sauvignons," he writes. "After all, how can a measly white wine stand up to all those types of foods, especially heavy dishes featuring Alsace’s renowned sausages and game preparations?" That’s my kind of wine guy. 

? Super Bowl wine: The Wine Curmudgeon, who once toiled as a sportswriter and hopes never to have to do it again, is well aware that there is a football game on Sunday. He’ll just be doing something else. But for those of you who do want to pair wine with football, this is the time to break out the jug wine — the 1.5-liter bottles of grocery store brands such as Meridian, Woodbridge, Glen Ellyn and the like. There’s nothing actually wrong with them, especially when people are eating nacho-flavored corn chips.

Students pair wine with food

Maybe there is something to this teaching business.

My first class at the Dallas Cordon Bleu took its final Friday, and the results were impressive. The test was simple: Match a five-course meal with wine, and I used dishes that these first-year students had either learned or that had simple ingredients and techniques, like pot roast instead of Beef Wellington.

Their job was not to pick a right or wrong wine. Instead, it was to pick a wine and explain why it went with the dish. In this respect, there were no right or wrong answers. If someone could make an argument for white zinfandel with pot roast, they got full credit. That no one tried to do that also struck me as a good sign.

After the jump, the menu and a look at their choices:

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