Thursday, July 19, 2012

31. Independence Day & Bastille Day Throwdown: Wine Tasting @ Vinously Speaking

31. Independence Day & Bastille Day Wine
France, U.S., Texas:
captured in gem-like liquid
and sharing my glass.

This past Saturday offered me a chance to enjoy wine at home in San Antonio. San Antonio's newest wine shop, Vinously Speaking, hosted a tasting event that showcased French, American, and Texas wines. When I arrived, not long after the event's start time, Sean and I entered a quiet wine shop. We had time to browse through the eclectic selection (a well-earned adjective) before starting in on the wines.

The small little store greeted us with a French feel. French music, provided by DJ Phylo, and French goodies -- tasty cheeses -- lead us to the bar where owner Ceci Barretto was pouring five French wines. In the back portion of shop, fellow owner Melissa Unsell provided three unique American wines. Melissa had help from Pedernales Cellars own Shannon (pouring a great collection of Pedernales wines), Michelle from Daphne and Lola (offering a beautiful display of jewelry), and great BBQ turkey from Monz Bonz BBQ. How could this not be a good time?

Vive La France!

French -- cheese -- display
One of the themes of the event was a comparison of French and American wines; however, Ceci's five French wines allowed for a direct comparison among the group, no American wines needed.

French White #2

French White #1
  •  Whites: The two whites from Gascony were both dry and crisp with light flavors that were wonderfully refreshing on such a hot, humid July afternoon. What was most interesting was that the two whites came from nearly the same blend of two grapes -- this allowed for great comparison. Both wines, Cedrus le Blanc and San de Guilhem, contain Colombard and Ugni Blanc (I have to admit, thanks to Dry Comal Creek, I enjoy Colombard). The difference was an almost carbonated, sparkling feel in the San de Guilhem. By adding the grape Gros Manseng (a new one for me), the wine tends to pop a bit. These provided a great start to the tasting. 
Malbec Rose'
  •  Malbec: Two Malbec's from Racine de la Terre in Pays d'Oc highlighted a French varietal less associated with France than the New World. The first offering was a dry, rounded rose' that was light and hinted at its fruitier nature. The second, a typical red Malbec, was as expected from a French Malbec. Malbec, no matter the region, has a depth created by its earthiness. In France, this earthiness seems more like tobacco and minerals, creating an edgy depth and complexity. In Argentina, and in Texas, Malbecs are earthy, but the flavor is a smoother one that hints at softened leather and dry minerals. I reaffirmed my conclusion that I prefer New World Malbecs (though Sean appreciates the French ones).
  • Traditional French Malbec
  • Red Blend: We ended with a more traditional French blend, a 2010 Cotes-du-Rhone Linteau Grenache blend. This wine, like so many French blends, needed to be opened up. Once I got a few swirls in and allowed the wine to rest for a few moments, I found a smooth wine that provided minerals and rich fruit. This ended the French selection well -- so much so that I brought a bottle home.
Cotes Du Rhone with Ceci in the background

And the rockets red glare...

The American selection was limited to three choice, but these three showcased the variety of American wines that match well with each region's terroir and climate.
  • White: The Chenin-Riesling blend from Gravity Hills in California's Central Coast surprised me. I am normally not a sweet wine drinker (as many Rieslings are), especially sweet whites (Muscat being the one exception), but this blend's Chenin Blanc softened the Riesling's sweetness and rounded out the wine well. Honestly, I was happy to just have a California white that wasn't a Chardonnay.
  • Red 1: The Mankas 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was next. This dark and earthy Cab was not what I expected.  Normally, I find CA Cabs clear and straightforward, but this delightful wine was hearty and smooth with interesting earth notes.
  • CA Cab
  • Red 2: The standout was a Sangiovese blend from Arizona. This surprising wine was bright, like its home state, and smooth. This wine was fruity and earthy. It rounded out the three wine selection for the US well.
AZ Sangiovese Blend

  Don't mess with Texas!

Pedernales Cellars and their fine selection
We ended our tasting with a tried and true favorite, Pedernales Cellars. This is one of two Texas wineries carried (in quantity) at the shop -- the other is Perissos. Shannon, who is always a lot of fun, shared some top Pedernales picks, like the Vino Blanco, the Texas Dry Rose', and the Armadillo Leap Tempranillo. This selection paired well with the final American wine; another warm region with warm weather varietals. The highlight of the three was the rose'. In year's past, this was mainly Grenache, but it seems there wasn't enough Grenache to finish the batch, so winemaker David Kuhlken added the signature Tempranillo (I cannot say enough about Pedernales' Tempranillo). This addition brought a breath of new life to this already great wine. Suddenly there was a power hidden beneath the dry, fruity flavors of this rose' blend. This wine is now energetic; it has a lush, full flavor that got me ready to face the July heat. I was so in love with it that I made sure to leave with a bottle, and I added it to my must buy list the next time I stop by the winery (soon I hope).

After a nice chat and tasting in back, Sean and I made our way to a bustling front room. In less than an hour, the little shop was almost bursting at its seams. This is a nice change from the past. Ceci and Melissa are the third owners of a wine shop in this spot, and I have witnessed all three (I use to live in an apartment that you can see from the back of the shop's complex). In the early days, they were wonderful but pricey for my limited budget. The next owner provided a limited and relatively safe collection of wines (nice but boring). This great little shop, hidden in a strip mall, back behind an always busy McDonald's, and flocked by office buildings, apartment complexes, and hospitals, is a great addition to the San Antonio wine community, and a touch of fun and class on the Northwest side. And on top of everything else, it is a great destination for Texas wine drinkers, with good Texas options and an array of less common wine choices to appease any palate. And best of all, the prices are reasonable and affordable. I'll be back for the next event and when I need a resupply of wine.
A busy tasting room and a successful event!


  1. WOOOOW! What an incredible recap of the event!! I LOVE IT!! The way you described the wines were spot on! And I really appreciate your attention to details. If anyone has not been to the shop, I feel like after reading this, they will feel as though they have :) ... That being said, I am up to my eye balls lately with finishing my Masters thesis and didn't plan on writing a post for the event, but after reading this why would I want to? Would you be open to guest posting on Vinously Speaking with this article? It would be great to have this on there, have an outsiders opinion? :)

  2. Thank you so much; your timing was great. I would be happy to have the article as a guest post, and I would enjoy being involved more.

    I also understand the thesis stress. I had to get mine done during my final year while teaching and attending classes, so I know how it can suck the time away from everything. However, once it is done, you will feel accomplished and happy; I celebrated for over a week once mine was defended and accepted.