The Rise(?) of Italian Syrah

So when we set our for the evening, I can’t say I was thinking about Syrah!  We are in Italy after all.  We are in Florence specifically.  And this region of Tuscany is the renowned for their Chianti Classico, their Brunello, and, of course, their Super Tuscans.  img_2264
The Wine… (sigh)

So when it came time to look at the wine menu to find something to go with our Involtini, thin slices of beef stuffed with cheese and asparagus, there were several wine list options to choose from.  Ruffino, Frescobaldi and Antinori are largely present on Florence restaurant wine lists, so I was up for other options.   We chatted with our waitress, who recommended the Sommelier to come to the table.  Using a trifecta of languages, English, Italian and some kitchen Spanish, we came to the brilliant idea of Syrah.  Tenimenti Luigi d’Allesandro “Il Bosco” Syrah 2011.

I didn’t take proper wine notes during dinner!  But I haven’t forgetten how good this wine was on this night!  Dark, dark fruit kept fresh and bright with  lively acidity.  Firm tannins balanced out the acid and gave the wine pleasing balance and structure.  And pepper–the wine had some black and green pepper notes that you would expect from Syrah.  This wine has some similarities to Rhone-grown-Syrah.  The price was 40-50 Euro. The wine paired well with the Involtini and our entrees of grilled steak and roasted duck.

It turns out that the Cortona area of Italy has proved itself well suited to the Syrah grape varietal.   It has long, hot summer days with cool nights.  The climate is considered similar to that of the southern Rhone Valley.  James Suckling and Janice Robinson have found favor with Syrah wines produced in this area, but I can’t say the wines have gained great traction here in the United States.  Not to mention, Syrah is certainly a bit of an outlier in the Tuscany region.  Luckily for me, Tenimenti Luigi d’Allesandro has been experiementing with Syrah since the 1980’s and has increased its plantings.  The Il Bosco is 100% Syrah and all Rhone clones grown in three different estate vineyards.  it is aged in used barriques and casks and is aged a total of 36 months.

I’ve done my due diligence on my favorite wine-about-town website: and found only one offering of 100% Syrah from Tuscany.  Favorite Brands distributes Le Macchiole Toscano Scrio from the Bolgheri region.  It looks to be $100+ and therefore a little out of range for the EveryDayCabRene collection of wines.









Portable Wine!

I Love Being Ahead or At Least With the Curve!!

The Wine Spectator 40th issue magazine has an article about canned wine.  One of the photos features cans of Underwood Wine.  For the few of you that follow me, you saw it here first (August 2016)!!img_4667

Wine in Cans for Fishing, Boating or At the table?  You tell me!!

IMG_1541.JPGWines in cans.  How extraordinary!  I recently tried to purchase some French Rose in cans at my local Specs Liquor store.  The wine salesman seemed somewhat appalled that I would ask.  (Honestly, I didn’t blame him.)  Of course, I came bearing my recent issue of Food & Wine magazine that featured not one, but two, French Roses in a can.  He then was more polite about saying they didn’t carry canned wine.

So while I am at Trader Joes to purchase a gallon of milk, I came acress these little canned cuties.  Yes, I somehow ended up in the wine department.  Go figure.  So I scooped them up ($5.95 each, 12 oz).  I left the canned Pinot Noir on the self — it just doesn’t seem possible that you could find good or even okay Pinot in a can.  They may label it Pinot Noir, but it won’t taste like Pinot Noir.  Darn, now I will have to go back to double check-because journalists must investigate.

I shared these cans of wine with a couple of friends.   One of my friends insisted she drink  them from a glass and decreed the idea of drinking wine from the actual can as “horrifying.”  But once we got past that little sticking point–she actually enjoyed them.

These wines come from the Union Wine Co. and the grapes are sourced from somewhere in Oregon.  No single vineyard.  No estate winery.   But don’t hold that against them.  The Pinot Grigio, our favorite of the two, was crisp and dry with flavors of ripe, bruised pear and apples and ripe peach (13% ABV).  The Rose had nice flavors and aromas of peach and strawberry (12%).    Give me a hot day and I would drink either  of them if a host offered one to me nice and cold, and in a good Yeti.  I like many other wines better, but these both have their place… in the sun!!


Ummm…No!  Well…Yes!

I’ve always been told, “Order the House Wines in Italy, they are inexpensive and always good.”   Ummm…No!  For the first time this trip, we went for the house red wine–no front, no back, no middle.  The bottled water, from tap I’m sure, may actually have more flavor.  

Then the food came.  Spaghetti al Tonno (Tuna) with capers, tomatoes on olive oil. Suddenly the wine took on a whole new attitude!!!  I actually ordered a second glass.  My 3.5 Euro per glass Vino Della Casa was suddenly a good deal after all.  What was the house wine??   Something local made by the owner’s sister’s second cousin…or something like that.  Glad I ventured in for a glass. 

Notice the olive oil!!  Extra virgin SPRAY olive oil.  A little too much like Pam spray for me.  The balsamic spray–now that’s perfect.  

Wine at 36,000 feet

Altitude effects wine flavors.  I’ve rarely been seated in 1st class, so my  thoughts  are that altitude makes cheap wine taste even cheaper. 

So that’s not exactly true.  Dry wines seem even dryer, tannic wines are even more tannic.  So sometimes an inexpensive red wine with a lot of juice and little tannin is your taste buds best friend at high altitude.  Think Malbec, Montepuliano d’ Abruzzo, or in my case, for this flight a rather juicy Tempranillo.  It worked for both ma AND my 3 oz medium well cooked steak. And let’s face it…only the plane ticket was expensive,  not the wine!!


The Faithful Hound

A good wine with a good storyIMG_1681I wanted to like this red blend because I loved the story behind the name.  I  heard the story at a tasting held by a South African distributor but, for whatever reason, we weren’t tasting this particular wine.  The story was so  touching that the women were close to tears and the men appeared to be squirming in their chairs trying not to display any emotion. Stories obviously make wines very sell-able because they are so memorable!! I never forgot it and I was more than pleased to come across the wine at my local liquor store six months later.

As the story goes, this Stellenbosch winery was purchased and a dog was found outside a cottage on the property.  He had apparently been abandoned by the previous owner.  The dog eventually came to follow the new owners around, but every night he returned to the same spot under a tree, near the cottage, to wait for his old master.   He did this for several years.  Eventually the dog grew old and passed away.  This Mulderbosch wine label honors ‘the faithful hound.’  I get teary eyed just thinking about it.  We all love our dogs so much!

So was it just a pretty label??  The artwork IS gorgeous!!  It was a very solid wine.  It had all the grilled, jammy blackberry and cherry fruit  of a new world wine along with black pepper, leather and  earthy, mushroom flavors often found in old world wines.  The wine had nice acidity and well integrated tannins.  The wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc 45%, Cabernet Sauvignon 29%, Merlot 15%, Malbec 4%, Petite Verdot 4%.  It is very enjoyable especially at a price point of $18 and its made even better by the story!

Despite the fact that viticulture has been undertaken in South Africa for over threee hundred years, South Africa has lagged behind many other countries in developing its fine wine production.  Economic opportunities and investment in the wine industry have improved since the end of Apartheid, but there is still a long way to go.  What this means to the consumer is there are good values to be found coming out of South Africa and the Faithful Hound is one of them.

Sometimes You Get Surprised!

 Big Companies Still Make Good Wine!  Surprise!IMG_1634

Chateau St. Michelle is the oldest winery in Washington state.  Two million cases produced a year.  That is Big.  Huge.   Very mainstream.  However, I cannot lie…I’ve heard they make consistently good wines.  Further looking reveals they were the  Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Winery of the Year in 2004.   I found it  necessary  to get off the beaten path and back onto the wine super highway

I was rather taken aback by this glass!!!  This Chateau St. Michelle Riesling has big flavors of lime, bruised apple, peach and nectarine jumping out of the glass.  Honey and notes of petrol, to me, and minerality, to others, kind of clinging to the edges.  Screaming acidity — ya, I like it like that!  So, I turn the bottle around and look at the back label for more information.  ABV 12% and they have a sweetness scale!  According to the label,  this wine is balanced right smack in the middle of Medium Dry and Medium Sweet.  I consider that to be waaaaaay too sweet and I am not sure how this bottle ever made it into my shopping cart.  But it wasn’t too sweet, at all.

That screaming acidity that I loved kept any sugar in the wine from being cloying and tongue coating. The wine was refreshing.  My wine instructors have pointed out several times that acid has that effect in wine.  I have often found with inexpensive wines, sweet is still just sweet.   In this case, my mouth’s perception was on the dry side.  That was the real surprise.  And the price is surprising too!  $10.   Available everywhere.

An extra knowledge tidbit…  

When you look at this Chateau St. Michelle Columbia Valley Reisling label, it says, “100% Vinifera Rootstock”.  The fine wine grape species, Vitas vinifera, is susceptible to a microscopic, sap sucking aphid called phylloxera.   Sadly, the aphid was introduced to Europe in the mid 1800’s because it traveled on some vines sent from the United States. Within 3o years the aphid had made its way through much of the Old World vineyards causing almost complete destruction.   Although the aphid  was native to US soils, our native species of grape vines were resistant.   

To our good fortune, several horticulturists worked on this phylloxera problem and  found that those vitis vinifera vines could be grafted onto a variety of hybridized American root stock  and become resistant to phylloxera. Let those aphid suckers choke on that American Sap! (I think that is how it worked!)  This grafting technique seemed to be very effective.  European vineyards replanted their beloved vines onto the new American rootstock and the vineyards thrived.  All was well until the aphid crossed the ocean again in the early 1900’s and attacked all those wonderful vitis vinifera vines that we had imported from  Europe.  So we had to make the same changes here — European originated Vitis vinifera vines grafted onto hybridized American rootstock.  And just to be sure you understand, although our native species of vines were resistant  to phylloxera, their grapes were not particularly wine worthy.   The vitis vinifera species is the hands down, fine wine making  winner.  Thank God for good science!!!

So, if we were grafting all those vinifera vines onto non-vinifera rootstock, why does the label say “100% Vinifera Rootstock’?  It appears those sap sucking aphids don’t survive well in the sandy, desert soils in Columbia Valley Washington.  Chilean wines are also planted on their original vinifera rootstock.  The Mosel area in Germany, the Greek Islands  and some scant acreage in Montalcino, same way.  Areas of Australia remain phylloxera free due in parts to their soils and also their strict laws regarding the movement vineyard equipment, planting materials, and vines from area to another. 

So, to all my friends looking for some daily consumption wine…grab some chopsticks, order in some dumplings or a little tuna tartare or salmon.  Or just pour.  Pouring is good.  And  $10 to pour a  Chateau St. Michelle  Riesling means you can be downright cheerful about it!!  I love good surprises!

If you want to try a higher tiered Riesling from Chateau St. Michelle, give Eroica a shot.  This wine has been a partnership between Chateau St. Michelle and the Dr. Loosen Estate in Germany since 1999.  Better vineyard site selections mean enhanced flavor and minerality.  $22.  Still a great deal!


Entry Level Cabs-Less than $15

Michael Pozzan Alexander Valley Cab 2014 is easy to drink and its acidity allows it to pair well and show well with a variety of red meats and even red sauces.  It has a long finish   This wine doesn’t scream of vanilla or baking spices even though it enjoyed 12 months in French Oak. .  It’s around town for $15ish. That’s a good deal compared to Silver Oak which also hails from Alexander Valley.  In addition to sourcing the very best fruit, it also undergoes much longer aging.  The 2012 Silver Oak is just being released this week.

Sterling Vintner’s Collection 2014 is a super soft, super smooth Cab.  I think a lot of people would really like it but it’s almost a little flabby for me. It’s got the tannins but the acidity is lacking. But don’t worry, no one will spit it out.  And the nice thing about Sterling is the Vintner’s Collection is their entry level Cab.  The winery offers multiple higher tiered selections. Their Napa Valley Cab is still less than $20.  That might be your best everyday bet.

Two-A-Days: Because I work hard for you!!

Sometimes life takes you in different geographical directions.  It is best to handle all that running around with a glass of wine.

Sunday morning my husband and I found ourselves in the historic area and little shopping mecca of Old Town Spring.  We were so early that not much had opened, so we wandered around window shopping.  I saw one place I wanted to check out when they opened and that was the Envy Wine Room.  I am so glad we stopped in because not only did they have some nice, nice wines (affordable too!!!) but I found a kindred spirit there!! A kindred spirit is worth a hundred bottles of wine!  Effie Stees, the owner, was behind the counter of this wine bar, wine events, retail wine shop, wine accessories, cute as heck clothes and other fabulous accoutrements of retail therapy. So what made Effie a kindred spirit??  The fact that she, like me,  is genuinely excited and happy when she has helped you find the perfect wine or introduced you to a wine that you haven’t tried before and now LOVE!!  That is kindred enough for me.

Chateau La Mascaronne 2015  quat saisons Rose from Cote de Provence

Envy Wine Room

These vineyards are owned by an American businessman who has a passion for restoring old neglected wineries and turning them into fully functioning organic vineyards.   He bought Chateu Miraval in 1993 and sold it in 2012 to Brad Pitt and Angelina Joie. This estate, La Mascaronne, is a more recent purchase.  Bought for the limestone rocks that blanket the vineyards,  it now produces about 10,000 cases of six different wines.  (Think unique and lovingly crafted!!)


This Rose is made with  the red grapes of Cinsault,  Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre (now there is a mouthful of grapes that sound nothing like Cabernet) which are hallmark varieties for Rose and red blends from the Provence wine region.  The wine is not red, because grape juice itself is clear.  It is the contact with the skins that impart the color. If the juice is only in contact with the skins for a few hours, than only a little color is imparted.  Think pink!

This Rose has intense aromas and flavors of  lemon citrus and strawberry with a salty minerality that always makes me think of crab cakes and oysters. This one was enjoyed by my husband  at  the Envy Wine Room in the company of Effie and her assistant, Gabby   I only had a few sips.  Quat saisons– meant to be enjoyed four seasons of the year and by real men, too!!

So that was the noon wine.

We then returned to Houston and decided to lunch on the way home.  We chose Benjy’s on Washington Avenue.  I chose another easy to find Rose´ available by the glass — Gerard Bertrand Gris Blanc 2015.  Pale salmon color but its brisk acidity and bright flavors would allow this to be enjoyed with a wide variety of salads with olives and capers, seafood dishes and even Thai Curry (yes!!!!).  I was having an awesome lunch of lightly grilled Scottish salmon on a quinoa broccoli salad with pine nuts and vinaigrette. The flash fried Brussel Sprout appetizer was pretty darn good, too.  It was a very happy pairing.

Gerard Bertrand Gris Blanc 2015

And if you love the idea of this wine, you can buy it at HEB Grocery for $15.  In fact, their new Instacart service will  deliver it to your door –IN ONE HOUR — just in case you don’t feel like going out to get it.  I haven’t used the service yet, but if I was having a wine emergency….






EveryDay Rose´

Wine is a daily essential part of my life.  I am either tasting it, drinking it, reading about it or studying it pretty much everyday.  Sometimes I do three out of four!  As much as it is a centerpiece of my daily routine, I don’t consider myself a wine snob.  My goal is to find wines that can be enjoyed on a regular basis and reflect value for the purchase.  Sure, I can easily enjoy a $200 bottle of wine… as long as someone else is paying for it!!  That, unfortunately, doesn’t happen often .  It it did, I might be a wine snob — but I’m not.

So unless I win the big lottery (Alas, you have to actually play to win), I will keep writing about the wines that bring everyday pleasure.


Mulderbosch Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon.

You can  now tell your friends you drink South African wine!  Why did I choose this one?  Less than $10.  Lots of flavor.  And it is readily available at your local, un-snobby, retail wine store or grocery.  It really isn’t fun to read about wines that you can’t find near you or, if you do, you can’t afford them.  .

This is not some red wine bled off early in the winemaking process to give more flavor to what remained in the tank.  The Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were grown specifically  to make Rose´.  It is a beautiful deep pink rose color and has flavors of bright cherries, pomegranate, and Fanta orange.   There is a little earthiness that reminds me of woody stems.

I enjoyed this wine with some Thai food.  My Chicken Larb (oddest name ever!) Salad with some red pepper hot sauce washed down very well with this little gem.  My husband liked it with his Thai dumplings.  I also liked it just sitting on our patio.  No surprise there!!  At 12. 5% alcohol you can sip it solo or pair with shrimp, salmon, cheeses, barbecue, sandwiches, roasted pork, fish tacos, etc., etc., etc.  Because that’s how it is with Rose´.