Category:Wine trends

Tasting five really expensive wines

image And each was impressive — not just to me, but to the other 56 people in the room. But impressive is only part of the story.

The tasting was a promotion for Terlato Family Vineyards, which produces a red Napa blend called Angel’s Peak. We tasted the 2004 vintages of Angel’s Peak and five of Napa’s biggest names: Silver Oak, Insignia, Opus One, Episode (another Terlato product), and Dominus. The idea? Taste each wine blind, so we weren’t swayed by price or reputation — and then see which wine that a knowledgeable group of drinkers enjoyed the most.

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The ongoing discussion about restaurant wine prices

This is actually one of the biggest issues in the wine business, in that markups are so high — often three or four times the retail price — that they dissuade customers from drinking wine.

It’s also, to be fair to restaurants, not as simple as it looks. Yes, prices should be lower (and the Wine Curmudgeon has made this point many times), but some restaurants have legitimate reasons for what they do. I’ll write more about this soon, but I did want to share something that I came across while researching restaurant wines lists (hey, someone has to do it).

In Dallas, a bottle of the basic Veuve Cliquot sells for about $42 retail. Check out the prices on these wine lists — if anyone can explain it, please do:

? $95, at a trendy Mediterranean restaurant frequented by 20- and 30-somethings.

? $95, at a high-end New American that’s popular with critics and people who eat at places the critics recommend.

? $95, at a new Italian restaurant that the food intelligentsia has been fawning over.

Wine tasting season gets underway

The Wine Curmudgeon always makes people laugh when he tells them that the wine business is hard work. Well, get ready to laugh, because this is the beginning of the new release season.

That means that over the next three months or so, I will be at a lunch or a tasting three or four times a week, sampling various new vintages. It means paying careful attention when a very enthusiastic winemaker describes his harvesting techniques or her favorite clonal selections. (Are any readers bored yet?)

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Another wine class takes its final

My second Cordon Bleu wine class finishes its three-week session today with its final, and I was again impressed with how far they have come in such a short time.

This is not so much a reflection of my skills as a teacher; I’m still a work in progress in a lot of ways. Rather, it’s about what the chef who teaches the basic baking class said: “If you give them the information, and you show them why it’s important that they know this, it’s like a light bulb goes off over their heads.” And, he added with a laugh, it’s always a pleasure to see the light bulb go off.

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Students learn about wine service

The wine service class for my Cordon Bleu wine course is among my favorites, mostly because the students are always so amazed at the skills involved,

Last week’s was no exception. Barbara Werley of Pappas Bros. was calm, cool, confident and professional and they loved it. It’s impressive to see someone use a waiter’s corkscrew to open a bottle of wine in so few motions — and, as Werley pointed out, without making any noise.

Also of note:

? Werley runs a 33,000-bottle wine cellar, which elicited more than a few stares of disbelief.

? Pappas’ most expensive wine is an 1847 Ch teau d’Yquem, the French dessert wine. It runs about $70,000 for a half bottle. Students love to hear about wine prices, since they can’t believe anyone would really pay that much. Note to anyone with the cash: Yes, the d’Yquem is probably ready to drink.

? Music to my ears: Werley talked about food and wine pairings, and her most important piece of advice was to do just that — advise. If your customers don’t like a wine, she said, it doesn’t matter how good you think it is. The best wine is wine they like. If they want to drink riesling with steak, help them find the best riesling they can afford.

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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