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Learn More About Wine the Best Way Possible: By Tasting It


Want to learn more about wine and spirits? Check out the following classes offered by Cecil Flentge of Grapes and Groceries through the Northside Adult & Community Education program.

The best way to learn about wine is by tasting it.

The best way to learn about wine is by tasting it.

World Class Wine from Oregon: If people had known how great the wines would be in Oregon, the Oregon Trail would have been blazed much sooner. While apples, roses, and hops are big for the upper left hand corner of the U.S., they also have many beautiful wineries. Whites and reds are great, and they lend themselves to food so instructor Cecil Flentge will prepare dinner to go with the wines and talk with you about the wines. Sept. 24, 2013, 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall, 9944 Leslie Road, Helotes, (210) 688-3090. (That is Leslie Road where it intersects Braun Road.) Visit http://www.zionsa.org/directions.html for a map. Materials fee: $18 (payable to instructor).

Traditional Bourbon – It’s Not just From Kentucky: The definition of bourbon? There are many places that follow the required tenets of proper bourbon distilling that are not from Kentucky. Here is a chance to learn a bit and taste a few. Flentge will discuss the basis of what makes bourbon and and even get into food pairings. He will also prepare a few dishes to taste along with the bourbon. Oct. 8, 2013, 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall, 9944 Leslie Road, Helotes. (210) 688-3090. (That is Leslie Road where it intersects Braun Road.) http://www.zionsa.org/directions.html for a map. Materials fee: $18.

Champagne, Sparkling, Cava, Prosecco — All Bubbles: Sparkling wines, like Champagne, are always a celebration. But have you tried bubbly wines from other countries? This class will show a wide range of tastes and styles in the realm of sparkling wines. Flentge will give information about the wines, food pairing, and no one has to get married to try these. Not sweet and sweet wines as will be tasted. A buffet of goodies will be provided to help you enjoy the wine. Oct. 15, 2013, 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall, 9944 Leslie Road, (210) 688-3090. (That is Leslie Road where it intersects Braun Road.) http://www.zionsa.org/directions.html for a map. Materials fee: $18.

What wine style do you want to learn more about?

What wine style do you want to learn more about?

Sweet Wines and Dessert Wines: There are those that scoff at sweet wines. Fine, their loss. But Port, Sherry, Sauternes, et cetera are wines no knowledgeable wine aficionado scoff about. But there are so many more sweet wines, some that are planned for dessert, some that can pair with savory dishes. Flentge will lead you to some sweet conclusions and pair foods with the wines to show their many uses. Nov. 5, 2013, 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall, 9944 Leslie Road, Helotes, (210) 688-3090. (That is Leslie Road where it intersects Braun Road.)  http://www.zionsa.org/directions.html for a map. Materials fee: $18.

The Wines of Southern France: Provence, Languedoc, Minervois all make very tasty and reasonably priced wines in red, white, and pink! Sample wines while pairing them with foods to help you visualize an afternoon in Narbonne or Marseilles. Flentge will lead the exploration and prepare the dishes. Nov. 12, 2013, 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall, 9944 Leslie Road, Helotes, (210) 688-3090. (That is Leslie Road where it intersects Braun Road.) http://www.zionsa.org/directions.html for a map. Materials fee: $18.

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Summer Wine: Roses and Rosé Strewn About


By Cecil Flentge

Rose bottle rose 2I am as guilty as anyone of misquoting Shakespeare when writing about rosé wines.  You could try something about “Putting the rosé in your cheeks …” but that sounds too much like I am a lush and that is just out of style.

“It rosé to the occasion …” is rather obscure and Neil Diamond’s lawyers would be all over me if I used “Cracklin’ Rosie.”

But this one is simple, it has roses on the label, roses on the cork, roses imprinted in the name, the bottle is a rose, and there is a very nice French rosé inside the bottle.  So I have to be describing the new arrival at “my” H-E-B, Cote des Roses.

This is from the Gerard Bertrand family of wineries ($13) and is sourced from the Languedoc in southern France.

Fact:  The bottle is clear glass to show the copper tinged, pink of the wine.  A cantaloupe, peach, and über-ripe pineapple fragrance which is a departure from the cherry-watermelon of many rosé wines.  The aroma is echoed on the palate with a mineral finish that is reminiscent of pink sea salt (maybe a rosé de sel?).  Dry, fruity and flavorful throughout.

An imprint of a rose on the bottom of this rose is a wonderful signature.

An imprint of a rose on the bottom of this rosé bottle is a wonderful signature.

 

Feeling:  My companion’s immediate reaction to “What does this wine make you think of doing?” was “Drinking it while I admire the bottle.”

It is an unusual bottle with the base being a dramatic imprint of a rose and it did bring to mind giving it as a gift wrapped in green tissue, inverted, so that you could present a ‘rose.’

But to more immediate gratification, serve with scallops or shrimp, maybe wrapped in prosciutto, maybe just crumbled bacon on a seared scallop – ah, the salty-crispy bacon, the sweet, unctuous, scallop, all enrobed in the peach-melon of the wine … bon appétit!

 

Cecil Flentge is a San Antonio wine educator for professionals or novices and a restaurant/bar consultant. Restaurant events or home tastings. Questions? Email cecil@wine2you.com

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Get a Taste of Italy in the Hill Country – Duchman Vermentino 2010


duchmanBy Cecil Flentge

Duchman (pronounced Duke-man) Family Winery in Driftwood, Texas, specializes in wines made of grapes commonly thought of as Italian. Sangiovese of Chianti fame and Montepulciano, which is grown extensively in the Abruzzo region, are two examples. Their Vermentino (pronounced ver-mehn-TEE-noh) follows in the same vein. Most famous in northern Sardinia, this Texas edition is both a surprise and a delight (pronounced Good!). It is available at Twin Liquors for about $12.

Fact:

Made from 100 percent Texas grapes grown in the Texas High Plains AVA (American Viticultural Area), this robust white evokes lime and citrus blossom on the nose. It has the appropriate mouthfeel, a smooth viscosity found in classic Vermentino wines, and the flavors flow to pear, lime and grapefruit with a nice minerality lingering in the finish. The alcohol does not give any harshness, even though it is high at 14.4 percent, and that is a side benefit of the rich presence of the grapes’ glycerol. Overall, a nice Vermentino from a new area.

Feeling:

This so calls to be a brunch wine! Delicate enough to caress lobster or shrimp salads, robust enough for a plate of braised clams, and crisp enough to mingle with the tastes of the sea in oysters on the half shell. But just chill it and taste the welcome that it gives.

Cecil Flentge is a San Antonio wine educator for professionals or novices and a restaurant/bar consultant. Questions? Email cecil@wine2you.com.

 

 

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Wine: Thinking Inside the Box


By Cecil Flentge

Box wine, bag-in-box, evenflo bottles for adults.  Yes, that is what I am telling you.  But what would you expect?  I already have jumped the natural cork boat for the screwcap bottle, is it that much of a surprise that I might try the dark side of wine – the box?  I have tried several and the most important thing I have learned is that they are not all bad.  A few are quite pleasant and you cannot beat the convenience or price.  The labeling is different than it used to be.  A box wine was called, “Juicy White” or “Burgundy” (even if it was from California).  It was made by, wait, let me get my magnifier, the print is just too small, oh here it is, AmalgaMuck industries.  Vintage?  We don’t need no vintage!  But times change and now we have a winery that also sells wine in glass bottles, doin’ da box!  Why?

They’re cheaper to produce and that means cheaper to buy.

They’re lighter, so even if the box holds the volume of four bottles of wine, it isn’t that heavy.

They stay fresh longer, so if you only drink a glass a day you can enjoy the last glass as much as the first.

If you do the math, there are 20 to 24 glasses per three-liter box, so at least three weeks to consume.  No problem because the wine does not have air in contact with it until it is in your glass.  The oxygen in air is what makes the wine taste bad after a few days.  But a regular bottle?  Five or six glasses at one a day?  Man, the last two glasses will be a little tangy! Or you will just throw it away. (You could still cook with it.)  Wine in a box will last at least six weeks after you open it.

Big House, Unchained Naked Chardonnay, California 2011

Available at H-E-B for $18/3 liter box

This particular wine has the hardest to open box-spout arrangement I have encountered.  Most of them have a punch out circle and a fold-out flap.  You punch the hole and move the flap to pull the spigot forward.  Then move the flap back to hold it in place.  This one just has the hole and my blunt digits could not do the job so I opened the top of the box, pushed things out where they needed to be, taped the top closed.  Then, since it is a Chardonnay, I needed to chill it.  You have to give four hours at least to chill that big a bag of wine, so plan ahead.  On the other side, once you have it cold, you could take it out on the patio and it will stay cold for an hour or more.

But this is a huge preamble to the main event, how does it taste?

Fact

A light yellow wine in the glass with moderate fruit on the nose.  Apple, lemon, and a hint of pear notes that repeats on the palate.  Decent weight on the tongue with persistent fruit flavor throughout the short, dry, finish.  The wine is not bone dry, but it is not one you would casually call sweet.  Since I know you are thinking it, no, there is no metallic/odd/chemical/whangy taste at the end.  I know because I was in an anticipatory cringe expecting it to happen!

Feeling

I am working at making dinner, yes – a guy slaving over the hot stove for his honey!  It makes me want to taste something cold so I do and it feels nice.  I do not have to think about, “But if I open a bottle, I won’t be home until late tomorrow night and then I am out with friends the next and it will go bad by the time I get back to it.”  I just get me a glass, or a half glass, or a glass and an eighth, and relax. It matched well with a lightly curried chicken and at 90 cents a glass, a steal!

 

Cecil Flentge is a San Antonio wine educator for professionals or novices and a cooking instructor. Restaurant events or home tastings.  Questions? Email cecil@wine2you.com

 

 

 

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Wine Review: Santa Rita Cab Tastes Great and Promises More


By Cecil Flentge

Santa Rita Winery, Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley 2009

I like good wine.  I like to save money.  I love good, inexpensive wine.  So when I looked in the cellar for something to go with what I call ‘Salsabury Steak’ (hamburger, Italian sausage, salsa – made into a patty) the wine right in front of me beckoned. A Santa Rita 2008, I found it scrumptious, I wanted more.  But now the wine on the shelves is the 2009, would it be as good?

Fact

This estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon comes from vineyards located in Chile’s Maipo Valley, just south of Santiago.  As you take in the aroma, you get a hint of smoke and cedar, then the ripe cherry laced with earthy minerality.  The flavors built as I sipped with cherry, coffee, and grilled radicchio bringing depth and richness.  The tannins are there but subdued by the balanced acidity and long finish where, after a few minutes, there was a definite cocoa component. I expect that this wine will improve for a year or two and hold for several more.

Widely distributed, this wine is available at HEB for $9.

 Feeling:

With or without dinner, this wine was the ever comfortable friend that told my tongue just what it wanted to hear.  The match with the richly flavored beef and pork patty was perfect.  The spicy salsa took nothing away from the wine and the wine wooed a bit more fun out of dinner.  Trying 2008 sent me looking; the 2009 tells me I can relax and depend on this winery.  So buy a case!

Cecil Flentge is a native Texan who tours wine regions, offers wine education classes, and writes an eNewsletter about wine and food. Contact him at cecil@wine2you.com.

 

 

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Barbecue Wine? Here are Some Good Bets for Under $10.


By Cecil Flentge

In San Antonio, we tend to make our barbecue with rich seasoning and a healthy touch of smoke.  There are many variations and techniques, but it really gets down to just one seasoning touch when matching wine and barbecue.

Sweet.

Maybe it’s sweet from the local honey that is added to the sauce, or the agave nectar that is the secret ingredient, or the cup of brown sugar that is part of the dry rub, but there is a sweetness.  This is where we often find confusion when making wine selections.  If you take a bite of a good brisket sandwich with a little barbecue sauce on it and then take a sip of a dry (opposite of sweet) California Chardonnay, the wine will taste sour.  Imagine eating a praline for dessert and then a grape.  The grape would taste sour because your tongue is still comparing it to the super sweet praline.

The same thing happens in matching wine and food in general — or barbecue and wine specifically.  The wine needs to be as sweet as, or a little-sweeter than, the food you are pairing it with.  Here are a few wines that can complement your ‘cue.

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Riesling, Washington 2010

This one has been in the market for a decade or more, but for $7 at Target, it is a great value.

Fact: A light apple-lemon nose.  Crisp, Granny Smith apple flavors with a citrus finish.

Feeling: Relax and enjoy.  This is a friendly wine that will clear the palate between bites of a Carolina tangy, mustard-barbecued chicken.

Oveja Negra (Black Sheep), Reserva, Maule Valley, Chile 2010

This is a white wine, or is it a white rosé?  The combination of Sauvignon Blanc grapes (white wine) with Carmenere grapes (red wine) would make you think it would be a rosé, but it is not.  Still, there are some ‘not-white’ flavors in this $8 wine from CostCo.

Fact: A tropical fruit, melon, and tart cherry nose.  Tropical fruit flavors with a steely mineral seasoning and still a hint of the cherry flowing into a slightly off-dry finish.

Feeling: Sitting in the shade at the picnic table with slices of dry rubbed, smoked brisket displaying the red line inside the crusty edge.  No sauce, just a juicy bite, followed by the cold ambrosia of the wine, keeping you cool and ready for the evening.

 Black Opal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia 2009

This is a familiar label that I had not tried in a few years, $8 at HEB.  Australia has had even more trouble with drought than we have in San Antonio.  The silver lining is that this can make for some very concentrated grapes, as demonstrated here.

Fact: A fragrant bouquet of blackcurrant, mint and spice gives way to black cherry and red berry fruit flavors.  Only a little sweetness on the finish but the overall fruity richness lingers.

Feeling:  The ribs are ready and you have been waiting for this all day.  You take a sip of wine, chilled for thirty minutes in the refrigerator, it tastes like chilled blackberries.  Let the feast begin!

Renwood, BBQ Zinfandel, California 2006

Renwood has a long history of making very good Zinfandels and Cabernets.  But finding one for $9.99 at H-E-B and with enough age to mellow, well, that is great!

Fact: Blackberry and cherry aromas that developed over a half hour.  A lighter color than some Zins, but full of red and black fruit flavors with nutmeg and star anise woven throughout.  A smooth finish of blackberry and coffee on the finish with only mild tannins – a benefit of the age of the wine.

Feeling: The name was a direct challenge.  If the wine was for BBQ, then I had to make some barbecue.  I mixed up a rub, slathered it on some pork chops, put them on the smoker for about twenty minutes, and poured some wine. Oh yeah, teamwork is great!

Freixenet, Carta Nevada Semi-dry Cava, Spain, NV

Spanish sparklers are always a value and this black label example is true to form.  Sold almost everywhere for $9-10, it has soft bubbles and a rich flavor.

Fact: Overripe apple/pear packed into fresh baked bread jumps from the glass to announce this wine.  Light apple and peach flavors with a hint of lemon and a fruity finish.

Feeling: Pop!  The sound of the cork heralds good times ahead.  In Texas, barbecue is a celebration of our heritage. Spain was part of that heritage so bring on the Spanish bubbly!  Sparkling wine makes anything special and you are worth it!

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