By: Courtney Dabney
|What makes an expert? Dana Schrick estimates that she tastes and judges more than 5,000 wines each year and says, “I love to dissect a wine and jot the findings in my journal, and I really enjoy arguing about a wine to the point of having to open another bottle to continue the discussion.”|
Guides to the Grapes: Local wine experts talk about what’s trending now.
When thinking of an expert to discuss wine trends, long-time wine aficionado, Dana Schrick, co-owner of Schrick’s Liquors, comes to mind. Her husband, Keith, is from a long line of wine enthusiasts. The Schrick family pioneered the legal sale of alcohol in Parker Country, spearheading three elections over a 14-year period to change the dry laws in Hudson Oaks. When Dana married Keith in 1972, she embraced the wine life and continues to be very active in the wine world, increasing her knowledge each year.
“Schrick’s Liquors was the first liquor store in this county in more than 100 years,” she says. The wet status finally became law on Oct. 10, 1992, and the Schrick’s license was received just weeks later, on Nov. 19 of the same year. They opened their store with the proverbial 99 bottles of wine on the wall. That inventory has grown each year, and they now offer more than 5,400 different wines on a daily basis.
As far as trends go, Schrick sees steady habits in local wine drinking. “Ever since the movie Sideways a few years ago, our Pinot Noir section began to boom, and it doesn’t look like it is going to slow down any time soon,” she says. “We sell Pinot Noirs from around the world, and they come in every style. We have customers who enjoy the lighter ones to the Pinots who can walk the walk and talk the talk in terms of bouquet, body and length of finish.
When describing a wine, I am prone to use colorful and descriptive analogies instead of wine terminologies. Mac McDonald from California makes Vision Cellars Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County, and I refer to it as my Sophia Loren because of its brilliant balance, beauty and sophistication. I can still see Sophia, in her long white evening gown, gliding across the stage and into the arms of her leading man. This Pinot literally floats over your tongue as if it was dancing. Then there is the John Wayne-styled Pinots. With the Sojourn Pinot Noir, Gap’s Crown Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, I envision John Wayne striding up to mount his handsome horse and galloping off into the sunset. When you drink the Sojourn, it is rugged and bigger than life on the first sip but steadily evolves like the sun setting on the horizon.”
She notes that in our area, a third of her wine customers drink sweet reds or whites, and the other two-thirds drink dry reds. “I have not seen any change in this trend in 22 years other than people tend to be drinking wines of a higher caliber,” she says.
Schrick does see seasonal trends, noting that in the fall months, drinkers of Pinot Grigios and white blends move toward Sauvignon Blancs and more oaky Chardonnays.
She continues, “As our hunters go east or west, more Malbecs, red Zinfandels, red blends and Cabernet Sauvignons follow them to their camps to be drunk with the wild game they cook over their open fires.”
Bobby Cox has been growing Texas wine since 1972, with his first commercial vineyard planted in Lubbock in 1979. This adds up to a lot of experience, and he says he is still learning every year. He sees two interesting trends in Texas wine drinking which involve varietals and blends.
1. Varietals. The Texas wine industry market is learning to accept lesser-known European varieties that grow well in our area. These are different from the commonly known wines from California. Wines that grow well in our area include reds such as Aglanico, which is a very important grape of southern Italy. “The consensus of the industry,” says Bobby, “is that it is the third most important vine of Italy, and it is doing well in the Lubbock area, with the Oswald family planting 7.8 acres, making them the largest growers of this grape in the U.S.” He sees two more important reds, Montepulciano and Carignan. Montepulciano, an Italian vine, has adapted well to Texas conditions, and Bobby says it makes an excellent well-colored red wine that accompanies hearty Italian food especially well. The Carignan, a vine of Spain and French, blends well with two other Texas-growing vines, Mourvèdre and Tempranillo. White wines include Roussanne, a grape of southern France that fits our Texas climate well and makes a big, rich, silky, impressive wine. He names Trebbiano, a vine very important in both France and Italy, but not grown much in California. This vine is adapting especially well in the Texas high plains regions.
2. Blends. Prime French wine blends mix grapes that are complementary to each other. French wine makers grow a large variety of grapes so that they can have plenty of choices from which to choose for their blends. This gives them options to mitigate yearly differences in growing conditions. Bobby explains, “In Texas, our premium reds might one year be 90 percent Cab, and then the next year 40 percent Merlot, depending on growing conditions. The high plains areas need this flexibility to survive our weather, and some of these blends just flat taste good. Blends such as Carignan and Mourvèdre.” Bobby is encouraged by the youthful involvement in the Texas world of wine. “Young, energetic, adventurous wine growers are pushing the envelope on creativity, mixing new blends and planting new vines, happily leaving some of us old timers in the dust,” he exclaims.
|Chester Cox, sommelier at Kent & Co.|
Reading the Signs of the Wine
The sommelier brings you the bottle of wine and pours you a small sip. You put the glass to your lips and breathe in, expecting exotic nuances of juicy cherries intermingling with ripe plums and delicate violets. But instead, you get a nose full of your grandmother’s musty, moldy basement. This doesn’t seem right. But are you sure? Is it you or the wine? To be sure, it’s good to know the most common wine faults so you can identify them when everyone is looking for you to OK that $100 bottle you just ordered.
To learn about the most common wine faults, we contacted Chester Cox, sommelier at Kent & Co Wines. He identified five faults for us and here they are.
“If you’ve ever had the opportunity to smell a corked bottle, then you know what I mean by the smell of dreaded moldy newspaper,” says Cox. A corked wine can be caused by several things. Commonly it is caused by a cork that has been contaminated by a certain airborne fungi. If the bottle is closed with a contaminated cork, the fungi slowly leach into the wine, creating the obnoxious smell. Nothing to do but open a new bottle.
If you open a bottle and it is too young, the fruit is so closed that it has no aroma. Some would say the wine is tight. You might have good luck allowing the wine to breathe for a while.
This wine smells like vinegar. If the vinegar smell is too strong, there is no saving this bottle. But if it is only a slight aroma, you might actually enjoy it.
Excessive Hydrogen Sulfides
This usually happens during processing when the wine doesn’t get enough air. This causes an off odor, similar to hard-boiled eggs when they are sliced open. Depending on your nose, this wine can be completely flawed or just a little funky. It may or may not blow off. Though the smell is offensive at times, the wine is safe to drink. It’s your choice.
This happens and sometimes it’s a huge mess. It doesn’t automatically mean the wine is bad. Some really good wines have come from bottles where the cork shredded upon opening. But if the cork crumbled because it was brittle and dried out, the wine was probably stored for a long time standing upright instead of the preferred side storage. This usually results in oxidized and undrinkable wine. But if the wine tastes good, simply strain out the cork bits and enjoy.
Serving Basics: Knowing a few tips for properly serving a bottle of wine can make all the difference in its taste, whether it be a $4 or $99 bottle. Here are a few basic steps to remember.
Proper Temperature The most important step is to serve wine at the temperature that will bring out its best attributes. For the best flavor, white wines are served chilled and reds at slightly cooler than room temperature, since “room temp” is usually around 70 degrees. In the middle of our hot Texas summers, I like to lightly chill red wine before serving. Some friends of mine put their reds in the freezer for 30 minutes and call this perfect.
Why is the temperature so important? If a wine is too cold, the flavors don’t show through. It’s like eating frozen chocolate - it’s almost tasteless since the cold masks the deep flavors. Whites that are served straight from the refrigerator don’t have a chance to fully develop the full flavors drinkers are looking for. On the other hand, if a red wine is too warm, the alcohol tastes will dominate, covering up the subtler, more enjoyable nuances.
Whites: 48 – 54 degrees
Rose: 50 – 54 degrees
Reds: 61 – 66 degrees
Sparkling: 45 – 47 degrees
Correct Stemware There are myriad shapes of wine glasses for all kinds of wine. If you tried to collect each style, you’d need to hire a carpenter to build you a new pantry. To keep it simple, start out with two styles: wide, large-bowl glasses for red and taller, slimmer ones for whites. Here’s why: Red wines need to be exposed to oxygen in order to fully develop. The wider bowl allows more surface for the air to touch the wine and creates the intricate aromas and flavors. This wide glass also allows your nose to fully take in the aromas that are rising from the wine.
Glasses for white and rose wines are narrow shaped, helping the wine stay cooler longer, at the same time allowing the aromas to properly reach your nose. Yes, when drinking wine, it’s all about the olfactory.
Bubbly wines are best served from slim, flute-shaped glasses. The tall, thin shape keeps the bubbles sheltered because the wine stays cool longer.
Stemless glasses are trendy now and work well. The only drawbacks are that your hands on the bowl tend to warm the wine (especially sad for whites) and create smudges that take away from the visual beauty of the wine.
REMINDER: Store wines on their side to keep the cork wet. Keep them away from direct sunlight and direct heat such as household vents.
How long does it take to warm up a white wine from the refrigerator? Most fridges are set at about 35 degrees, which is much too cold to serve. After removing whites from the fridge, give them about 25 - 30 minutes to warm up.
How do you decant your reds? Pouring your red wine from the bottle into a wine decanter does several things. It removes any sediment from the bottle, while adding valuable oxygen to the wine. Allowing the wine to take in air makes it easier to detect their subtle aromas. Since we have only four types of taste on our tongues (bitter, sweet, salty and sour), our noses give us many more “taste” sensations. Reds “come alive” when they are allowed to mix and mingle with air.
How do you read a wine label? There are five things to take note of on a wine label.
Varietals: This is the variety of grape used to make the wine. In the US, a wine label stating a particular varietal, such as Chardonnay, Merlot, or Zinfandel, must contain at least 75 percent of wine made from that grape.
Appellation of Origin: The appellation is the wine’s geographic origin, and it is listed with the type of wine. In Europe, this is the most important information on the label. Most serious European wine drinkers can predict the wine’s taste from the location of the vineyard. Here in the U.S., drinkers seem more interested in the wine varieties. However, if an American Viticultural Area (AVA) is listed on the label, 85 percent of this wine must be from that region.
Vintage Date: This date tells the year the grapes were harvested. In the U.S., 95 percent of the wine must come from grapes picked in the declared year. This is important to drinkers who know which vintages are considered better for various types of wine.
Brand Name: This is the name of the winery that produces the wine. Large wineries often use several brand names. Often, wine is private labeled for specific restaurants or stores.
Estate Bottled: “Produced and bottled by” tell the location where the wine was made (not necessarily where the grapes were grown). “Estate bottled” indicates that the winemaker owns or controls the vineyards where the grapes were grown and that the winery was physically located on this estate.
What is that sediment anyway? The dark grainy stuff found in older bottles of red wine comes from the ingredients the wine was made from, such as grape skins, stems, yeast and other organics. Over the years of being in the bottle, these tiny particles settle out of the wine and drift down to settle on the bottom of the bottle. They aren’t harmful but are often bitter.
Local Wine Events
Bites & Flights
Barking Rocks Winery
Times Ten Cellars
D Vine Wine
Kent and Co Wines
101 W. Magnolia
The Monday Mix: Kent and Co offers 150 different wines by the glass, and after a busy weekend, they always have a few open bottles in the cellar. This is your chance to get a great glass of wine at an even better price. The selection is what they currently have open, and the quantities will vary based on the amount of wine remaining in the bottles. Throwback Thursdays: Kent and Co collect great vintage wines, and they feature one each Thursday.
Max ‘s Wine Dive
Put a Cork in It
Sera Dining and Wine
Sauced Up: Cooking With Wine
The most important thing to remember when cooking with wine is to only use wines in your dishes that you would drink. The function of wine when cooking is to enhance and accent the flavor and aroma of food and not to mask it.
Port Wine Jelly
Serve this wonderful jelly as a side with turkey or chicken. Dollop on top of cream cheese or goat cheese for a delicious spread on crackers.
3 ½ cups port wine
In a large, non-reactive pot, stir together wine, lemon juice, and pectin. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Bring back to a boil and boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and use a slotted spoon to skim any foam off the top.
Orange Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry
1/3 cup white wine, such as Riesling
In a small bowl, stir together wine, soy sauce, orange juice, vinegar, and water. Set aside.
Chicken Asparagus Risotto
4 ½ cups chicken stock, kept warm over low heat
In a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons butter and olive oil. When hot, add rice and shallot and cook, stirring, until rice begins to have a slightly toasted aroma. Add wine; cook and stir until all wine is absorbed.
Judie sits down with wine expert, Chester Cox, of Kent & Co., to find out what to look for when you uncork a bottle of wine to see if it passes the taste test.
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By: Courtney Dabney