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Free Wine Classes at Gabriel’s


Gabriel’s Superstore, 1309 N. Loop 1604 W., is hosting a series of free wine education classes, starting this Wednesday.

The first class will focus on Old and New World Riesling. Light hors d’oeuvres will be served.

The schedule for April and May is as follows:

April 21 – Old and New World Riesling

April 28 – Argentina’s Signature Varietals

May 5 – Pacific Northwest

May 12 – Aperitifs

May 19 – Regional Shiraz

May 26 – Dry Rosé Wines

All classes start at 7 p.m. For reservations, e-mail Christina at casswillis@yahoo.com or call 210-492-8585.

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Recycle Your Corks


If you’re one of those who has saved up years of wine corks for no reason whatsoever, now’s the time to put them to good use.

Whole Foods Market has partnered with Cork ReHarvest to launch a cork recycling program.

According to a press release from Whole Foods, corks collected west of the Rockies will be delivered to Western Pulp, where they will be turned into recyclable wine shippers containing 10 percent cork. Corks gathered in the Midwest will be sent to Yemm & Hart, which produces cork floor tiles. Corks donated in the East Coast and in the United Kingdom will be transported to Jelinek Cork Group, where old corks will be made into post-consumer products.

“We often forget that cork is a renewable, recyclable material that does not belong in our landfills, said Erez Klein, wine and beer buyer for Whole Foods Market’s Pacific Northwest Region, which first launched the program that is now is being expanded company-wide. “Whole Foods Market is excited to make cork recycling more accessible to our shoppers, and Cork ReHarvest allows us to help sustain cork forests, a critically important resource for our planet, and to do so with near effortless local community action.”

All 292 Whole Foods Markets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. are participating in the program.

For more on the program, click here.

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Want a Great Wine? Check Out the KLRN Winners


Wine lovers, it’s time to stock your cellars. The winners of this year’s KLRN Wine Competition have been announced.

This year, the best in show winners went to a robust Texas red and an icewine made with the uncommon grape Vidal. The champions are the Becker Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Wilmeth Vineyard 2007 and the Jackson Triggs Vidal Ice Proprietor’s Reserve 2007.

The judges sampled more than 500 wines and awarded about 300 gold, silver and bronze medals. The wines were from all over the world, from Spain and Italy to Canada and Australia.

In the end, medals went to a host of well-known wineries, including Trinchero, Sutter Home, Rodney Strong, Franciscan, Banfi and Marques de Riscal.

In addition to Becker Vineyards, Texas wineries to win medals include Brennan Vineyards, Dry Comal Creek, Flat Creek Estate, Grape Creek, Haak, Kiepersol Estates, Llano Estacado, McPherson Cellars, Mandola, Messina Hof, Pillar Bluff, Singing Water, Sister Creek, Texas Hills Vineyard and Water 2 Wine.

For a complete list, click on the PDF link below.

KLRN Wine Competiton – 2010 Medalits

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Poached Pears in Cardamom Syrup


“Erotic with their feminine shape, pears have a provocative flavor, texture and scent certain to lure your lover,” writes Diane Brown in “The Seduction Cookbook.”

Poached Pears in Cardamom Syrup

1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon chopped ginger
1/4 teaspoon whole cardamom seeds
1 stick cinnamon
2 large Bosc or Anjou pears, firm, peeled, stems intact

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In a covered pot, combine white wine, honey, ginger, cardamom seeds and cinnamon. Place pears upright in pot; simmer on low flame for 30 minutes or until pears yield to the pressure of a fork. Serve immediately, spooning additional wine sauce over pears.

Makes 2 servings.

From “The Seduction Cookbook: Culinary Creations for Lovers” by Diane Brown

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KLRN Gears Up for San Antonio Wine Festival


KLRN is gearing up for the annual San Antonio Wine Festival later this month.

To get the ball rolling, the station sponsored its annual Wine Competition at La Quinta on I-10 Saturday. Five panels judged 515 wines in categories that ranged from Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon to Spanish Varietals and Port-style Wines. Each panel of judges, featuring wine professionals, collectors and more, sampled more than 100 wines over the course of the day.

Volunteers and KLRN supporters kept the glasses moving from the pouring area to judging room, whiles the wines from around the country and around the world were graded.

Many of the winners will be featured at the various events, including the Fine Wine & Cuisine Tasting on Feb. 15, the Opener on Feb. 19 and the Champagne Brunch on Feb. 21. For a full schedule of events, including prices, locations and times, click here.

The annual festival is a benefit for the local public television station.

A Malbec round ready for the judges.

A small sampling of the wines to be judged.

Appearance is important.

Sean Ballesteros taking in the aroma.

Carl Dominguez and Charlie Deacon

Looks like we have a few medal winners.

Volunteers Jay McCracken and Pie Alvarado making sure all the glasses are spotless.

Volunteer Leslie Campbel takes a quick break.

Volunteer opening a bottle.

(Photos: Nicholas N. Mistry)

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Wines for the Big Feast


WinesOnRack2

When you’re planning your big meal this holiday season, make sure you include wines as part of your menu.

Most wouldn’t serve the same wine with beef tenderloin that they would serve with turkey. A hearty, robust California Cabernet Sauvignon would overpower the turkey; a Sauvignon Blanc that would complement the turkey might get lost in all that beef.

So, the following are a few suggestions of wines to pair with a variety of main courses. Just remember: When in doubt, a brut sparkling wine, from Spanish Cava to French Champagne to Italian Prosecco, will go with just about everything but dessert. And it certainly is festive.

Beef tenderloin: This is the dish that’s perfect for your big California Cabs and Merlots as well as a Bordeaux, a Spanish Rioja or a Chateauneuf du Pape. From Italy, a Barolo, a Barbaresco or a Brunello di Montalcino would all suffice. But there are problems:

  • If you are serving this with a complex sauce, choose a wine that is less complex.
  • If you are blackening the beef or using a spicy rub, then forget the Cab or any big red wine and stick with something lighter and fruitier, such as a young Shiraz or Sangiovese. A sparkling Shiraz with spice would be fine, but this wine does not appeal to all, so don’t spring it on people unawares.
  • If you’re roasting beef, also consider a Malbec, a hearty, rustic red wine most famously made and consumed in Argentina — where the per-capita consumption of beef is one of the highest in the world.

Lamb: Syrah or Shiraz has enough fruit and acid to work well with lamb. If you’re cooking it on a rotisserie or grill outside, put some of the smoky flavor up against a good Argentinian Malbec or a South African Pinotage, a red wine with a robust character.

Pork roast: Pork might be light in color, but it is richly flavored, especially if you’ve put a spicy rub on it. We think a fruity Cru Beaujolais or a New World Pinot Noir, from California or Oregon, would be good. A few names: Rodney Strong, McMurray Ranch, Morgan Winery, Amici, or try the very good Ponzi, from Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Turkey: If the turkey is blackened, we’d like it with a spicy Zinfandel. If it’s not, a Zin might still work, but lighter wines, such as a Gewürztraminer, would give you some acidic edge to cut through the fat and spice to complement the light flavor of the white meat.

Duck: Duck, simply roasted, is a perfect match for Pinot Noir. But few prepare it simply. So, follow these rules:

  • If you’re making a sweet-sticky sauce, such as orange or sweet cherry, or using a spicy rub, then go with a sweet wine. It could be a Riesling with some sweetness or it could be a Mavrodaphne Patras, a naturally sweet red from Greece. Moscato d’Asti or Muscat Canelli, with its tinge of orange flavor, is another good match.
  • If it’s spicy, think Zin again.

Goose: Goose is a fatty meat, like duck, so whatever you choose will need some heft, acidity, a little spice.  A Zinfandel that is not too heavy (ask the wineseller about this) would be a good choice, but also consider some of the white wines from the Alsace or Germany — dry or off-dry Riesling could work, too.

Shellfish: Champagne is made for lobster, whether you are serving it steamed or covered in a creamy sauce. Here again, choices must be made based on your recipe. If you are making a sweet thermidor sauce, you want an off-dry Champagne (the wine must always be sweeter than the food you serve it with). If the sauce is not sweet, then a brut Champagne or a California Chardonnay should be ideal. Sauvignon Blanc is perfect with oysters and scallops, but also consider a steely French Chablis. A Riesling with a touch of sweetness is excellent shrimp in a spicy sauce. Moving to the Old World, don’t forget the edgy Sancerre, or even a Sancerres rosé (usually made from Pinot Noir), if you’re lucky enough to put your hands on one.

Vegetarian feast: Take your tip from your main course. If it’s something earthy, like portobello mushrooms or potatoes, think Pinot Noir or French Burgundy.  If it’s lighter and sweeter, including onions or carrots, think about a German Riesling, a spicy Gewurztraminer or a sparkling wine labeled extra dry (which means it has some sweetness to it).

(Photos: Wong Mei Teng)

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Thanksgiving Wines, From Traditional to New


MulderboschFinding the right wines to serve at Thanksgiving is never an easy task. You have to start with what you’re serving.

Get beyond the turkey and look at your side dishes. Are you having candied yams and a sweet cranberry relish? Mashed potatoes and stuffing? Green bean casserole? All of the above?

Each of those foods calls for a separate wine, so you may want to have a couple of glasses on the table or offer a couple of wines to suit people’s tastes.

With the candied yams and the relish, both loaded with sugar, you’ll want a sweeter wine, something like a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer from Washington state. That’s because your wine should always be sweeter than the food you’re pairing it with or the wine will taste shrill and bitter. Hogue Cellars and its sister label, Genesis, make fine examples of both starting at about $10 a bottle.

HogueReisling2

Hogue Cellars Riesling

If your plate will be filled more with roast turkey, mashed potatoes and a not-too-herbal stuffing, then think about a Chardonnay or a Burgundy (either white or red, but not California’s “hearty Burgundy” out of a jug). The bold flavors of these wines will bolster the meal without clobbering it into submission.

An elegant Pinot Noir, with plenty of acid, is supremely food friendly. Fine examples of this can also be costly. But, we like the 12 Clones Pinot Noir from Morgan, which runs in the $20s. If you want to spend more, Morgan has a line of single-vineyard Pinots as well, each equally stunning.

Another red suggestion could be a Rhone blend, either from France or the United States. These are lighter bodied wines that won’t clobber your dinner with its brashness. Llano Estacado Signature from Texas is a fine example of this at a reasonable price of about $10 a bottle.

There are many lighter-styled reds that are very good matches with giblet gravy or a gorgeous goose. Inexpensive Spanish Tempranillo or Garnacha, Chilean or New Zealand Pinot Noir, Beaujolais Villages, and even Italian Montipulciano reds can slip right into your Thanksgiving dinner beautifully.

Cool, refreshing rosé certainly pair well with many Thanksgiving favorites. The acid cuts through the sauce of the green bean casserole and gives turkey a little pick-me-up. Plenty of youthful rosés from the southern hemisphere have begun appearing in the market now, with the Mulderbosch Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon ($12-$16) being a perennial standout. Also, be sure you’re purchasing a dry rose — white Zinfandels and other blush wines will be sweeter.  (So, maybe have those with the candied yams!)

If you have to have Cabernet Sauvignon, especially a big one in the California style, then feel free to do so. But think about serving it after dinner, so you can enjoy the wine on its own and be thankful for every drop in your glass. Remember, these wines are more geared to go with beef than turkey. Serving one will only help disguise all the flavors of what you’re eating.

If there is one ubiquitous wine for the multifarious dishes on the Thanksgiving table, it might be the most logical choice for a celebration: sparkling wine. Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, all sparkling wines and all worth exploring. An off-dry Prosecco like Zardetto often sells for $10-$15, while the ever-reliable Domaine Ste. Michelle series from Washington state sells in the same price range. We recently judged a wine competition where both the Korbel Brut Rosé and the Korbel Blanc de Noirs (very light rose color) took top prizes. These are under $15.

You could also use a less-expensive sparkler in the following Thanksgiving-inspired cocktail, the Relish: Mix 1/2 ounce cranberry juice and 1 ounce orange juice in a Champagne flute. Top with chilled sparkling wine. Serve.

Bonnie Walker and Cecil Flentge contributed to this article.

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Young or Aged, Zinfandel Is an American Treasure


RavensWoodLogoThe 2006 harvest in parts of California was problematic, with late rains affecting the quality of some of the grapes.

Zinfandel would have been a sure target for spoilage because it’s a thin-skinned grape that’s packed tightly in clusters. Extra rain could create the perfect breeding ground for mold.

Yet you’d never have known that anything was amiss that year from a recent side-by-side tasting of eight 2006 bottlings from the near-mythical three R’s of the Zinfandel world: Ridge, Rosenblum and Ravenswood. (Red Zinfandel, of course, not white.)

The wines, poured during the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, ranged in style from the sleek world of Ridge Vineyards’ Lytton Springs to the jammy fruit bomb of Rosenblum Cellars’ Rockpile Road. As Helen Mackey of Rosenblum said, “Zinfandel has so many different personalities.”

All showed depth that went beyond first impressions and excellent structure, leading moderator and Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser to proclaim that “any of the wines on this table (can age) 12 to 15 years plus.”

Yet they are also enjoyable now because of their youthful fruitiness.

That begs the question: When do you drink Zinfandel?

There are two camps on this issue.

One would have been horrified that more than 50 people paid to taste excellent wines so young and rob them of the chance to gain greater complexity with age. “The more mature a good Zin gets,” Master Sommelier Joe Spellman said, “the more it behaves like other good wines.”

The other side preaches that it’s best to drink a Zinfandel the moment it is released, as if each drop had flowed from the fountain of youth and would lose its power with age.

There’s no winner in this argument. It inevitably comes down to personal tastes and how much storage space you have to let a wine age. (Though in an era when 90 percent of all wine is drunk within the first month of purchase, you know where the vast majority of drinkers end up.)

In the world of Ridge wines, Zinfandel is a loose term, according to the winery’s national sales manager, Dan Buckler, because the world isn’t prominent displayed on the label and it isn’t bottled by itself. The ’06 bottlings feature Petite Sirah and Carignan in the blends.

The winery uses only American oak, which might lead you think the wines would be bolder than others, yet one taste of either the Geyserville or the Lytton Springs would lead you think otherwise. Supple tannins, restrained fruit and mineral notes gave both wines a refinement that showed how elegant this wine can be. A 16-percent addition of Petite Sirah was noticeable in the Lytton Springs, but again it was more structural and a broadening of flavors than it was the bombast that makes petite sirah so beloved among a growing number of wine drinkers.

Joel Peterson at Ravenswood uses only French oak for his wines. But, again, that doesn’t automatically lead to a more restrained style.

“The beauty of Zinfandel is the wide range of fruit you get,” Gaiser said after tasting the Ravenswood’s Old Hill Zinfandel, made with fruit from 135-year-old vines.

Flavors of everything from cranberry to black cherry to plum can appear, and in this case, the fruit had a chalky component as well as a touch of mint mingled in. A note of fennel could be detected on the Barricia, while the Teldeshi was all intensity, in terms of both fruit and tannin. The Teldeshi was a wine that “either needs some time or needs something that you go out and grill the hell out of in the back yard,” Gaiser said.

The three wines from Rosenblum Cellars were a study in contrasts and commonalities. The full-bodied Rockpile Road packed a wallop of fruit flavors. Carla’s was more acidic with notes of black raspberry and leather, and Harris Kratka was jammy with strong tannins and a hint of white pepper.

Yet all three shared a common touch of licorice under all the fruit, and an intensity that came from judicious oak usage (Rosenblum uses both American and French oak, mixing the flavors in service of the grape).

Styles are not the only variable when discussing Znfandel. The prices of the eight wines ranged from about $18 to $55 a bottle. And the alcohol level varied, too, those these were largely under 15 percent, while others on the market can top 17 percent.

Though debate still rages over the origins of the Zinfandel grape, it has generally come to be regarded as the American varietal. And that is what the panel was designed to celebrate, while honoring the memory of Donn Riesen, former Ridge president and longtime Zinfandel advocate, who died in January.

After tasting the array — and drinking every last drop of several favorites (the two Ridges, the Ravenswood Old Hill and the Rosenblum Rockpile Road) – it seemed almost superfluous when Gaiser asked, “Do we all have a happy glow for Zinfandel?”

Now, if only I had just one of those Zins with a plate of braised short ribs …

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Spec’s Coming to S.A.


wine Spec’s Wine, Spirits & Finer Foods is opening a store in San Antonio, in the Live Oak area, according to a spokesperson for company president John Rydman.  Details are still being worked on and more information will be available soon, she said.

The store is at 14623 IH-35, and is about 6 weeks away from opening.

Spec’s is known for its great wine selection as well as other beverages and spirits.

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Stomp!


GrapeStomp1The rains stayed away from Vintage Oaks in New Braunfels Saturday, where the second annual Texas Hill Country Wine Trail Championship Grape Stomp was held.

That meant a crowd of more than 300 enjoyed the largely outdoor afternoon party, which included tastings of Texas wines, snacks from local vendors and, of course, the chance for people to get their feet all purple from pressing grapes or personalizing T-shirts with some juice.

GrapeStomp2Dozens of couples stomped their way through barrels of grapes, competing with each other to see who could press the most juice in 10-minute increments. One competitor, bearing the name tag “Mad Mommy” stomped her way through a load of grapes. It was fun, she admitted, but it was also not as easy as it might appear.

Keeping the action going was the music of local favorites Jazz, Blues and Diamonds, which offered a lively mix of old favorites that had people on the dance floor while the stompers danced and pressed what they could in the barrels.

Some of the wineries on hand to pour their products included Dry Comal Creek, located just across Route 46 from the new subdivision where the party was held, as well as Becker Vineyards, Pillar Bluff Vineyards, Grape Creek, Stone House Vineyard, Fall Creek, McReynolds, Three Dudes, Flat Creek Estate, Texas Legato Winery, and Driftwood Estate.

Dry Comal Creek also offered up a frozen sangria that sent people back for seconds. Here’s the recipe for the tangy treat:

David’s Sangria-Off Champion

1 (12-ounce) can frozen limeade concentrate
1 (12-ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate
1 bottle Dry Comal Creek Foot-Pressed Red
2 liters grapefruit soda

Mix together limeade concentrate, orange juice concentrate and wine. Place in freezer until slushy. Add grapefruit soda and serve.

From Dry Comal Creek Vineyards and Winery

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