Thanks to all of my years working in great wine-friendly Los Angeles and Boston restaurants, I take wine drinking very seriously. Wine can elevate a meal. A well made wine can highlight the subtle nuances of an herb or delicate ingredient. Searing acidity can cut through the fat of a juicy piece of meat and clean the palate for the next incredible bite. One sip of an extraordinary little known wine or a well aged investment bottle and your tastebuds are on a journey to a distant locale; great wine can lift you out of your comfort zone and put you in a place you’ve never been to before. Wine can relax, blur reality and show you life in a whole new way.
Not content with the question “can I have a glass of white wine?”, I often push my restaurant customers to define what it is they like about wine so that I can expose them to something new and different. When someone tells me “I only like a buttery Chardonnay,” I hear a challenge to offer a new way of seeing wine. Perhaps they like residual sweetness. Maybe they like clean flavors. Perhaps they just need to be talked to with kindness and shown the way into a whole new world of flavor.
Vino time is a very special moment in the household of Food Woolf. Usually enjoyed late at night at the end of a long day of waiting tables or during dinner to elevate the flavors of a home cooked or restaurant meal, Vino time is when we clear away the mental clutter of the day to focus on the enticing flavors and aromas of what’s in our glass. In hopes of bringing some great wine values and amazing finds, my husband Hans and I have decided to start Wine Woolf to share with you what great wines (or beer) that we have found at local stores or discovered at the restaurants we work at.
If you only like chardonnay or big reds from California, our wine picks will most likely be unfamiliar or seem esoteric. Perhaps they are. But the wines we seek out are high in complexity, deliciously easy drinking and always AFFORDABLE.
Great reds for steak
This week we fired up some tasty grass-fed steaks from La Cense Beef and tried them along side our hand-picked adult beverages.
Just the fourth national release of Syrah for Tablas Creek, a Paso Robles vineyard, this wine is definitely a keeper. Though located in the heart of juicy wine territory in Paso Robles, these talented wine makers craft their wines with European techniques–making most, if not all their wines, beautifully nuanced. We’ve been fans since the beginning and have the scars to prove it.
Nose: Crushed stones, black cherries. Finishes with a touch of anise. This syrah was drinking well in the tasting room so we absconded with half a case of the stuff without breaking the bank.
Taste: Savor the black fruit, white pepper, and pork fat. That’s right. We said it! Pork fat! And that fat played real nice with our Montana cut of beef.
**We’ll be writing more about Tablas in the future, for sure, but in the meantime, if you come across a bottle of Tablas’ Counoise anywhere, buy it! Throw a bottle or two in the fridge and save it for a perfect wine moment.
(we didn’t take a picture of this bottle, but here’s a photo of our wine making friend Chris Keller to entertain you!)
Bandol, La Bastide Blanche, 2006 ($26)
From one of the best appellations in Provence comes this deep, blackberry laden, bitter chocolate-dripping Mourvedre. The vines are grown traditionally in stony soils using organic fertilization. Grapes are all hand-picked.
Nose: Blueberries and mocha. Elegant and classy.
Taste: Juicy on the tongue and structured like your grandmother’s armoire. This wine plumps up with a little fat (say a great, marbled steak). This beautiful Bandol also loved the marbling on the rib-eye we sampled. Top notch wine paring for steak!
We coaxed this bad boy off of a shelf at Corktree Cellars Wine Bar and Bistro in Carpenteria. Maybe it was the wine twig hanging on the label that caught our eye, or maybe it was the approachable grape of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that made this wine hard to resist.
Nose: Bright fruit with crushed herbs. Rustic.
Taste: Nice balance of jam to tannin ratio. Raisinated, but smooth. Deep color. We loved the fact this wine was extremely affordable. Great choice for Top Sirloin.