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):
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
Well it’s certainly been interesting out here for the past few weeks, that’s for sure! I’ve witnessed countless hours of research, paperwork and travel, all aimed at the final goal of launching a new winery permit. For the folks following the blog, you’ve come to understand the heartaches, the headaches and the occasional triumphs I’ve endured through this process. I thank you all for following, and now I have an announcement – and an invitation.
Through my work to form this new winery, I have met a kindred soul. You that have read the blog and bought some of the wines have undoubtedly recognized the similarities in taste between the offers emanating from Mr. Smith’s collection and the wines once so proudly displayed on the tables at my former establishment. But what makes these offers from Mr. Smith even more appealing, and what has brought he and I together for our new found union, is the manner in which Mr. Smith brings these wonderful vinous specimens to the State.
I am pleased to announce that I have a limited number of seats to offer to the first 20 couples to respond to this letter – no later than tomorrow, the 22nd of April at 5PM.
Mr. Smith, owner of French Country Wines and I will be hosting our first private wine tasting together at his winery-licensed facility here in the heart of Houston TX.
This tasting of some of the finest, naturally-bottled, artisanal, (some 100% bio-dynamic) wines takes place tomorrow night, Wednesday the 22nd, from 6-7:30 PM at French Country Wines (2433 Bartlett, Houston 77098).
During this tasting, Mr. Smith and I will discuss the wines and the concept behind our mutual work together, explaining in greater detail the work being done to eliminate the antiquated 3-tier system that sets to punish the consumers of the State.
The wines will be offered for sale – AT DIRECT FROM THE WINERY PRICES – and you’d better be certain that these are wines that yours truly is already deeply in love with and currently stocking at home.
I have seating available on my ticket (read: free) for 20 couples – MAX.
To attend as my guest, respond via email, including your phone number so that I may call to confirm and establish your new account with the winery.
And do it now, seating at these events is always limited and the winery is always PACKED!
All the best in wine and life,
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
Houston Wine Idealist
One of the finest aspects of this country’s fourth largest city, this city known as Houston Texas, is its inhabitants’ eager ability to embrace new and exciting trends. “Feast”, that funky, fantastic creation by the eclectic, tattooed English duo of Knight and Silk, where diners will be just as shocked as overjoyed by the culinary ingenuity, has become an almost instant hit for we adventurous types. And then there is “Beaver’s”, a place that entered this world as a self-described “ice-house” that now turns out such culinary shockers as Spam-based dishes on a Sunday brunch menu. You read that right: Spam (the other canned meat): smoked, served with fried eggs and available with a side of one of the most freakishly wonderful Bloody Mary’s you’ll EVER try to down. And the response from those of us in the know: “Keep it comin’ Monica & Co., we’re all in!”.
So it should come as no surprise really that I fully anticipate, and rightly expect in fact, the good folks of this adventurous city to wrap their arms around this latest discovery of mine. With more than 25 years experience in the fine wine business, I now find myself covering the wine world from a very different perspective. Looking at the wine business as a consumer’s proponent, self-charged with the goal of ferreting out this City’s most unique and consumer oriented wine establishments, I take to the streets on a daily basis to visit the unheard-of and the multi-unit chains alike. This recent discovery of mine, while established for a couple of years now, falls squarely in the consumer’s best friend camp.
The place is called French Country Wines (2433 Bartlett / 713-993-9500 http://www.frenchcountrywines.com/index.jsp) and if you blink as you drive down Bartlett, just a couple blocks off of Kirby drive, you’ll pass right by. In fact, if you don’t know that Bartlett is the street between South and North Blvd, you’ll hit I-59 and never know you’ve missed it completely, just as I did on the first Saturday I stopped by. “Look for the blooming bougainvilleas out front and that’s our building…”, was the best description of the front entrance I received over the phone the day I called for directions.
Now if you’re expecting a typical store front, or even an electric sign that might be visible at night, you need to prepare yourself. First off, this is not a retail shop – this place, owned by a very sharp, very forward thinking, very savvy Investment Banker / Attorney / Retired Francophile by the name of Thomas Smith – is a winery. To explain: Mr. Smith established himself as a winery to allow him to work directly with wine-makers in his favorite regions of France. Through his work, he brings these gems – most of them organically produced and / or biodynamic that I’ve tasted – right to the consumer here in Houston, direct from the estates of the very people who bottle the wines in the first place.
The shop itself defies all previous descriptions you have in your mind as to a retail shop, too. There are no wine racks, no visible inventory upon entering and no cash registers or employees. Until Mr. Smith escorts you to the properly cooled warehouse, to the far end of the facility, you’d have no idea there was any wine here at all. But once you enter this 55 degree room, now you know the story.
Here Mr. Smith stores up to hundreds of cases of wine on warehouse styled wire racks at cellar temperature until orders come in from local restaurants or private clients. Mr. Smith also hosts in-shop tastings from time to time for his private list of clients, and these cases will serve to satisfy the orders he hopes to receive at the close of those events as well.
But what most excites me, as a man of wine from more than two decades past, is not only Mr. Smith’s fantastic selections, but his absolutely untouchable prices. Many folks in the game of acquiring unique wines (not just expensive wines mind you, for Mr. Smith has a lot of great stuff under $20, too) spend their time with a free service called http://www.wine-searcher.com. This free on-line service brings to light the misconception that places such as Spec’s, for example, offer the best prices for wine. By using this same service, I was able to confirm that Mr. Smith not only offers the best prices on his wines for the Houston shoppers, but his prices are simply the very best in the entire country!
One of my very favorites, a wine Mr. Smith personally placed in my hand after getting to know me, was the 2007 Domaine Rouge-Bleu Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Mistral. A fantastic, 400 year old, recently converted to organics farm, this Domaine boasts vines of more than 70 years in age. The color and the aromatics of this wine more closely resemble the triple digit beauties from Chateauneuf superstars I’ve consumed over the years and the flavors on the palate truly justify the lofty praise from wine critics world-wide. One taste and most any wine lover would part with a couple of twenty dollar bills. But Mr. Smith sells this extravagant beauty for a mere $16!
As Houston’s open-minded, adventurous inhabitants continue to soak up the hot trends in food that promise to keep this town talked about in the papers from coast to coast, I for one (as a serious wine lover) truly pray that these same folks embrace this cutting edge retailer I’ve discovered off of Kirby Drive. His style, his wines and the shop itself are like none other this great city has ever encountered. And that’s exactly the sort of place we so desperately need to keep the cool and hip focused on hanging in there with us all.
All the best in wine and life,
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
Houston Wine Idealist
Continuing now with the reviews of locally available GREAT wines at smokin’ prices, I stopped by what promises to become my personal wine shop yesterday. Having not yet informed the proprietor of my intentions, thus thinking perhaps I should ask for his permission before blurting his name out in these pages, I rang his bell and entered his warehouse. The lights were still off when I arrived at nearly noon yesterday, indicating a private sort of man and a shop very much to my liking, and after our friendly salutations, I asked him if he’d like to visit a certain web-site.
This was the proprietor’s first visit to my blog and upon first arrival he was obviously surprised. “Well, there’s our wine”, he exclaimed, naming the Berthet-Rayne from Monday’s blog post by name, pronouncing the Domaine’s title with a nearly perfect French accent. I took a seat and proceeded to tell him my story, the story of Houston Wine Idealist.
Explaining that I find myself now the Houston consumer’s proponent, a man self-charged with locating great wines, preferably naturally made, organic, at the very least bio-dynamic at prices unmatched anywhere in the country, I began to see this shop owner’s eyes light up. I could sense that my new found role as Houston Wine Idealist was stirring something in his imagination, obvious even more as he began to describe in greater detail additional wines he wished for me to share with my readers. We were on to something, I concluded, and the two of us continued to explore this man’s business.
Thomas Smith, owner of French Country Wines, the source of Monday’s Berthet-Rayne, today’s wine, and many more to come for these pages, comes from an Investment Banker’s background, having additionally spent many years as an attorney. I suppose he’s one of the lucky many we read about these days: folks who enter the wine business with plenty of capital, a love for the juice of the vine and dreams of the wine business as a fun hobby; not so much a career but as something to do with all that retirement time on their hands. I must admit how I envy the man, for his smile and upbeat attitude truly runs counter to every article published these days as to the state of the finer wines in the market; this guy seems genuinely positive about the future of “Fine Wine”.
That’s not to say Mr. Smith is immune to the occasional scowl, by no means at all. One mention of the word Spec’s turns his smile immediately to a pucker, as if lemon juice had hit an open cut on his hands. “Folks constantly ask if my wines are available at Spec’s”, he gruffs, “as if all the work I do to discover and bring these wines to Texas could be replicated by those guys.” Further discussions regarding the local three tier system winds him up even further. “These big distributors will do anything for Spec’s, with no consideration for the independents, Spec’s is their sole concern.” Seems Mr. Smith has fallen victim to the machine in his short time as a merchant as well. Here’s hoping that the positive energy that dominated our time together, and the great wines I’ve enjoyed so far will win the day for Mr. Smith.
I, for one, as a passionate consumer’s proponent, need a shop of this ilk!
Especially for wines like this:
2007 Domaine Rouge-Bleu Cotes Du Rhone Cuvee Mistral
71% Grenache, 19% Syrah, 8% Mourvedre, 2% Roussanne Dry Red Table Wine
Cotes Du Rhone, Southern Rhone, Rhone France
Review by Christopher Massie
Wine Idealist #1, (March 2009)
“An OUTSTANDING wine worth your serious attention that will impress and offer memorable drinking experiences.”
Drink: 2009 – 2015+
Best possible price located as of this review: $16*
“Our first sign of greatness lies in the color of this beauty: a deep ruby hue, very, very purple right to the rim. This color coats and stains the glass, indicating ripe and healthy old vine grapes. A glance at the back label reveals chapters: 75 year old Mourvedre, 75 year old Grenache, indeed, we’re dealing with an estate holding seriously aged parcels.
Your nose will capture these aromatics from an arm’s length. This is another organic farm, a pristine winery in that sense, that has immediately captivated this taster. Viewing their blog, with pictures of gnarled old Carignan vines has captured my attention, very nearly as much as this aromatic profile. The farm itself here is 400 years old, and these now 75 plus year old vines offer your sinuses a cornucopia of the most naturally produced, mind pleasing nuances one expects from single vineyard, triple digit CDPs.
— Christopher Massie
*for information on acquiring this wine, at the price I’ve located it for, e*mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org
All the best in wine and life,
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier