LOS COWBOYS Torrontés – Summertime, and the Sippin’ is Easy

Los Cowboys Torrontés

Back in the day, at the old wine shop, I championed this grape as an affordable, daily alternative to Viognier. Drinking Torrontés, a grape primarily found in Argentina, is like a breath of fresh air; the aromas and flavors are refreshing, with a floral sensation that is quite captivating when the wine is well-made. My favorites in this category will be quite dry, with no sweetness to them, yet the fruit will be unmistakable, with that tell-tale tropical quality of mango or papaya combined with a citrus quality that will have you thinking of oranges or nectarines. The perfect summer quencher, Torrontés wines should offer some crispness, as well, due to a natural acidity; we’re not talking French Chablis, though. So try these wines with lighter fare but I don’t particularly care to pair them with oysters – grilled, seasoned fish dishes, however, work quite well.

Important to note is that Torrontés wines drink best young, allowing the fruit to best express itself, so look for the recently released 2009.

The best of the current lot I’ve recently experienced comes from Los Cowboys. Being a Natural Wine fan, as I am, I like what these folks are up to, check out the link….

I’ve found it on-line, using wine-searcher.com, for about $7-$8 bucks, so do your research – Texas retailers are generally too high; you can thank our Texas wholesalers for that!

All the best!





Yet another bottle that exemplifies one of my proverbial answers to that almost weekly question posed by friends and family, “Hey Christopher, what ‘cha drinkin’ these days?”

I once shared the tale of a full afternoon tasting event that involved several wines from this importer, an afternoon degustation that I can still taste on my palate and that continues to reverberate across my taste-buds. One such wine of that afternoon was the value jewel I routinely order in case lots for weekly quaffing; the wine I’d like to introduce to all of you, again, for the first time.

And while Dressner is one of the wackiest men I’ve ever Twittered or Facebooked with, thanks to his “one-of-a-kind” personalities (to put it as politically correctly as possible), don’t let that come between you and this fantastic value from the South of France.

And like I always advise, buy it through www.winesearcher.com … Texas retailers are far too pricey, thanks to our 3-tiered system and the ridiculous profits taken by useless Texas-based wholesalers.

Check it out in more detail here (BTW, THE CURRENT VINTAGE IS THE ’07):


ConoSur Pinot Noir “Bicycle” Label

Although my wine shop has been closed for more than 15 months, family and friends continue to inquire as to my drinking preferences.

Imported by one of the most respected French import houses, a company that brings many of my favorite Burgundies to America, this affordable Pinot has been poured at my house now for 3 vintages. Totally packed with flavor, including classic Pinot “correctness”, acidity and that “somewhere-ness” we call terroir, this sub-$10 jewel is a must have!

I buy it on-line from several sources, as Texas retailers are ALL overpriced (including the “Rabbit” in Houston), so be sure to do as I do and use www.winesearcher.com for the best price (generally $8-$9 on-line).

And follow me here a bit more; as I share more finds, a bit more often…

All the best in wine and life.


ConoSur Pinot Noir “Bicycle” Label  

(Sustainably/Organically Produced):

Pinot Noir.

GOOD Wine in H-Town @ <$10 Part III

Hello again value hunters: 

Now we come to phase III of this multi-part series, a series I launched into with all the gusto my Grandfather carried to the pulpit every Sunday morning for his weekly sermons on faith and salvation.  Grandfather was a preacher, a real fire and brimstone kind of man, living his spiritual life on the Pentecostal side of the Good Book.  He instilled in me a kind of passion; a passion that often spills through in my writings on subjects of the vine.  A passion that may at times, as did his preaching, confound readers as to the precise direction of the prose.

The goal of this series, dear readers, if I may regurgitate, is singular in its direction: to bring to my readers (clients if you will) wines that currently reside not only in my place of business as items for sale, but also in my family’s home as daily drinking wines.  As Sally once said, “I like these, I really like these…”  Or something to that effect.  And I sincerely believe that you too will find these bargains, well, likable….

Today, I bring to you the White Wine Buy of the Quarter.  A wine that is just so darn quaffable that practically every work-day, by about 5:30 or so, I find myself reaching into the ‘fridge behind me for another taste.  This is one of those inexpensive South American Chardonnays that stands head and shoulders above the ocean of plonk that cascade across thoughtless shelves we encounter daily as we make our way through to the dairy aisle.  So delicious in fact is this un-oaked Chardonnay that bottles of it have invaded the top shelf of my own refrigerator at home.  The “Big Game” will see many bottles of this one tossed back, for sure!

Just a bit of back-ground tells us that this is the second label from a highly regarded and oft-high scoring property in South America: Estampa.  Located in the Colchagua Valley region, Estampa sources their second label grapes from vineyards planted alongside a mountain range where subsoils are granitic with clay loam as well.  This sub-soil, plus a consistent lack of rainfall during crucial harvesting months, offers optimal conditions for producing surprisingly high-quality varietals at fantastic price points.  With attention to harvesting reasonably low yields, Estampa consistently offers consumers some terrific bang for the buck!


2007 Estacion Chardonnay
Estacion / Estampa
Chardonnay Dry White Table Wine
Colchagua Valley, Chile, South America

Review by Cepage Noir
E*Newsletter Winter 2009
Rating: 87 points
“A Very Good wine of excellent character that often belies its price point.”
Drink: 2009 – 2011

        “Pale straw yellow in color; clarity right to the rim indicates some drinking years ahead for this charmer.  Aromatic notes of fresh pineapple, ripe yellow banana, white peach and fresh flowers sing from the glass and are never encumbered by oak in any way.  The flavors too are terrifically fresh, bright, zesty and brightened by nuances of the freshest fruits of that white peach and hints of pineapple from the aromatics.  This is medium bodied, slightly plump in the middle and totally fresh and almost Macon-like with just a hint of minerality on the zesty, palate pleasing finish.  What a delicious mouth-full of wine.”
                — Cepage Noir

GOOD Wine in H-Town @ <$10 Part II

The Series Continues…

For those still with us, today marks the latest installment in a multi-part series offering to bring vinous salvation to those in desperate search for the types of wines an honest wine merchant would not only offer for sale, but actually consume in the privacy of his own home.  These are wines yours truly pours, drinks and quaffs while the family busily prepares a Tuesday night bath; wines that actually have a place in my personal wine racks.  And while it has become tearfully obvious that H-town’s wine drinking public has grown terribly suspicious of its merchant’s selections in this sub-$10 price point, be soothed dear readers.  THIS merchant, for one, is truly on your side.

Our premier offer in this series, a wine that now rests in my racks at home, destined for nice Steak Panini, was one referenced and reviewed exclusively by yours truly.  I recently addressed the notion of retailer as reviewer and the thoughts that some in the business and I share on this notion.  And while I thought I made a relatively strong point when I presented my case, it continues to appear true that, at least in H-town, people require the words of PAID, professional critics to guide them in their wine purchases.

Perhaps this need for guidance from someone that one is paying for a review, as opposed to someone one is paying for the wine, stems from the oft-heard stories I have collected over my ten years as a retailer here in H-town.  It’s a constant and consistent report from folks; far too often they have been the victim of unscrupulous merchants.  To that, once again, all I can offer is my promise, words that have been my guide and my slogan for as long as I have been in the business: “Dedicated to the discovery and enjoyment of the World’s Greatest Wines.” 

BUT, to make the decision making process easier for the jilted many, today’s offer comes with that all important Parker-ization.  I love it, too, for those seeking my advice.  I have for many years; in fact, I first imported the wines of Roquebrun as far back as the early 1990s.  But we’ll leave that for another day.  Let’s hear from the PAID experts today:


2006  Cave de Roquebrunn Coteaux du Languedoc Col de Lairole
Proprietary Blend Dry Red Table Wine
Coteaux du Languedoc, Languedoc Roussillon, France
Review by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (D.S.)
Wine Advocate # 178 (Aug 2008)
Rating: 86

“A very good wine displaying various degrees of finesse and flavor as well as character…” Robert Parker
Drink – 2009+
Estimated Cost: $9+
        “The 2006 Coteaux du Languedoc Col de Lairole a blend of Carignan and Grenache with lesser amounts of Syrah and Mourvedre is a sappy, rustic, slightly gamey, black-fruited, medium-bodied red that will do service over at least the next year. The smoky, resinous, and toasted nut overtones one associates with Carignan on these schistic soils is present in spades in this remarkable value. The coop of Rocquebrun, located in the Saint-Chinian appellation, puts their name on the capsules and in tiny print on the labels of their wines, so that the brand designations appearing after the appellation in my descriptions are those that you will find prominently displayed.”

Drinking GOOD Wine in H-Town @ <$10

Hello Value Hunters,

Today begins a new series for me, new in SO many ways.  Being in the business as long as I have has afforded me the opportunity to personally witness a time in my life when the price for a really delicious bottle of wine easily hovered around $10.  You, too, may remember those happy days known as the 1980s when even Classified Growth Bordeaux from “The Vintage of the Century” cost less than the price of an average bottle of Pinot Grigio does today! 

But times have changed, dramatically, as we well know, and all things near and dear to us have escalated exponentially – seemingly overnight.  And one of these items sky-rocketing in value and costs faster than most is wine.  The cost for a bottle of wine, if one sits down and does the math, has out-paced practically every other “non essential” item in our lives in terms of price increases since the 1980s.  The rise in price for a “Cult” California Cabernet or First Growth Bordeaux, if you were so inclined to draw up THOSE charts, would sicken you!

And what about all those “World’s Greatest Wine Values” we once read about?  I remember the days of the early 1990s when we as consumers and merchants continued to enjoy a bounty of great wines for less than $10.  In fact, I still have in my collection of magazines issue 79 of the Wine Advocate wherein Parker, in 1992, reviews pages of glorious wines for under $10.  This same issue also shines like a beacon on the reality surrounding the prices for another prized region’s wines: Chateauneuf du Pape. 

Not to get too far off track here, but back in 1992, we could still score a highly collectible (and YES, you all know what that means, we’re all grown ups here) bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape for about $15 to $18!  Try asking for that today.  That’s Cotes du Rhone pricing!  And some of the better single vineyard or pure Grenache / luxury cuvees of Cotes du Rhone will set you back even more than that.

OK, OK, so what are we as daily wine drinkers in this “New America” supposed to drink?  It’s simply not politically correct to boast about that expensive ANYTHING anymore.  And I actually have folks walk into the store, seemingly agitated, asking my opinion on the expansion plans of these mega-retailers selling cheap booze and knock off wines on every corner here in Houston.  “Don’t these people know that greed is NOT good anymore” is a general mind-set of a growing number of neighborhood shoppers.  So, if the high-end wines are out, and the mass produced and marketed stuff being forced on us by greedy corporate empires isn’t setting well with you either, what’s the answer?


This series is dedicated to discovering as many wines as possible in that ever-shrinking category I like to call GOOD wine under $10. 

Put another way, these are wines, all costing at or under $10 per bottle that I would personally drink (1) at home, (2) with my wife over one of her home cooked meals after she works all day and then works until 8 PM lovingly putting our daughter to bed waiting for me to get home from work, (3) with family and friends, or (4) with any expert, wine critic and / or wine professional / oenophile that wanted to see if I had a clue what I was talking about.

I hope you have fun with these.  I certainly intend to have as much fun writing the continuation of this report as the introduction!


2003 Vina Mayor Crianza Ribera del Duero
Vina Mayor
100% Tinta del Pais (Tempranillo) Dry Red Table Wine
Ribera Del Duero, Castilla y Leon, Spain

Review by Cepage Noir
E*Newsletter Winter 2009
Rating: 87 points
“A Very Good wine of excellent character that often belies its price point.”
Drink: 2009 – 2013

        “From a very good, yet overlooked vintage in the Ribera, comes this 100% Tinta del Pais (the local name for Tempranillo) offering a youthful, medium deep color that is ruby to the rim and almost gem-stone in color.  Fourteen months in American oak barrels results in delicious and forward aromatics of baker’s chocolate, coffee bean, chicory, vanilla and full on toasted nuances that are well integrated and alluring.  The flavors are mature and full of red fruits and that chocolate / toasted nuance from the aromas and also include vanilla and a basket full of baker’s spices that suggest a great pairing with savory meat dishes or spice rubbed meats on the grill.  Just a delicious mouth full of deeply flavored, medium bodied, mature wine. ”
                — Cepage Noir