Bidding adieu to the Cordon Bleu

Cordon Bleu Friday was my final day teaching the introductory wine class at Dallas’ Cordon Bleu. As much as I enjoyed it — and I enjoyed it very much — the class was more work than I had time for. For one thing, it cut back on the Wine Curmudgeon’s wine drinking.

I’m going to write a longer piece about my experiences (that’s a hint to any magazine editors reading this who need a clever, well-written, thoughtful article), but I do want to offer these observations:

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Wine of the week: Avalon Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

image Time was, the Avalon was $10. The Wine Curmudgeon used to drink it by the case, buy it for visiting wine types and make them guess how much it cost (one of these days I’ll have to share the story about the Avalon and the visiting Australian wine marketer), and recommend it at every opportunity.

It’s not $10 any more (closer to $15, though you can find it for $12 every once in a while). But it’s still one of the best values in the wine world, with almost all of the rich, fruity character of Napa cabernet at one-half to one-third the price.

How does Avalon do it? For one thing, the company only makes cabernet. For another, it doesn’t own land or  touristy production facilities. It’s based on the French negociant model, which allows it to keep costs — and prices — down.

Serve this with a Father’s Day barbecue. Or buy a case and toast Dad with it throughout the year.

Barefoot wines: Value or just cheap?

imageWine Curmudgeon note: This post is attracting so much traffic that new visitors should know that I wrote another Barefoot post in September 2010 — Barefoot wines (again): Value or just cheap? It updates this post and offers some thoughts on the Barefoot merlot. There is also a review of Barefoot riesling, written in December 2009.

Original post: Barefoot Cellars wines get a lot more publicity than most inexpensive wines. The $6 cabernet sauvignon and merlot showed up on The Wine Trials' top 100 list. The $6 pinot grigio earned raves last week from the Wall Street Journal's respected wine columnists, John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter. And the $10 extra dry sparkling wine got a gold medal at the prestigious Dallas Morning News competition this spring.

Is it time for the Wine Curmudgeon to take another look at Barefoot?

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Tuesday tidbits 29

? Texas wine competition:  One of the Wine Curmudgeon's favorite events to judge is the Lone Star International, held each year at about this time. It includes not only Texas wines, but entries from around the world. I can't judge it this year (I'm in Houston on another assignment), but I will check with a couple of pals to find out what tasted good and what won.

? Heavy metal wine: Just in case wine from the Rolling Stones isn't enough, how about this? Queensryche frontman Geoff Tate is going to make a red wine from Washington state, called Insania. Sigh. What's next? Fleetwood Mac white zinfandel?

? In a recession? Those of us wondering if we're officially in a recession need look no further than this news release, for a Brazilian rum called Leblon Cachaca. The release isn't on the web site, so I'll quote: "What's the cocktail of the 2008 recession? Many are pointing to the Caipirinha, the Brazilian national cocktail made with Cachaca, Brazil's national spirit. After all, who knows how to muddle through an economic crisis better than the Brazilians?" Glad we have that settled.

The basics of enjoying wine, part I

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This is the first of a three-part question and answer series about wine basics. The second part will run June 6 and the third part on June 13.

It's summer. It's warm. You want a glass of wine. But you don't know a chardonnay from a cabernet. What's an aspiring wine drinker to do?

Have no fear. The Wine Curmudgeon is here. In fact, The first question people always ask me about wine is how to get started drinking it. For some reason, Americans are convinced that wine is not something to drink with dinner, but a secret holy society that requires rituals and initiations to understand.

This is silly, and I ?m proof of that. Today, I ?m a wine writer and educator who travels throughout the wine world. But 20 years ago, I was a sportswriter who drank Miller Lite and thought wine was something that only snooty people did. If I can learn about wine, anyone can. My biggest regret is that I didn ?t start sooner. I missed drinking a lot of good wine.

Hence this Q and A, which is enough to get almost anyone ready to look at their glass, take a sip, and sigh.

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