New Orleans Sunday: Bacchanal

If you’re ever down in New Orleans, definitely make the time to stop by Bacchanal out in the Bywater. It’s no secret to locals or people that have googled before the trip, but it’s an amazing place nonetheless.

The front shop has a bunch of fun, unique wines that you can buy to-go or open up to take to the back patio. The top bar pours wine by the glass (with a nice Gruner open the day we went!) and the back window serves some small bites. All perfect for a day of sitting in the backyard chatting away or watching the band du jour – definitely check it out the next time you’re in town.

Wine Bar

WSET Level 2

Last Winter (for Valentine’s Day actually), Chris surprised me with the perfect present – a weekend course to gain WSET Level 2 certification. (We took a gamble and skipped Level 1 since we knew a fair bit about wine.)

The course was run by the Napa Valley Wine Academy – a great outfit near downtown Napa. They had a couple different teachers rotate in through the two-day course and it was nice to hear the personal stories of why different people got into the wine biz.

The course itself was structured very well. Everything started with a basic understanding of how wine will impact food (salt, sweet, sour and umami) – and included a little taste test to bring it to life. For example, high acid foods with high acid wines like a Sauv Blanc. At first it seemed odd to start with food pairings, but it was the perfect primer on some of the basic flavor profiles in wine and how to identify them.

From there, we dove into topography and geography, and how they impact soil conditions and the sugar and acid balances in the wine. Chris and I joke a lot that “terroir” is an overused word when people are trying to sound wine-smart, but it really does have an impact.

And of course, we spent a bunch of time on the individual wine regions and notable wines from those areas. I’m still overwhelmed and confused the number of DOCGs in Italy – but convinced that one day I will learn them all.

And last came the test. For Level 2, it’s a series of multiple choice questions. Pretty straightforward, but like the nerd that I am, I studied the night before and crammed during lunch. I couldn’t risk embarrassment since Chris and I were going head to head. I’ll let you guess who came out victorious…


Hungarian Wine Counts & Austrian Adventures

You know how people like to go someplace warm during the holidays to avoid winter blues? Not this gal. Right before last Christmas, we packed up and headed east in search of all the Christmas markets we could find in Hungary and Austria. And they did not disappoint!

Our first stop was Budapest where we quickly discovered forralt bor (the Hungarian version of mulled wine) and made it our personal mission to collect as many mugs as we could over the course of the week. I lost count, but think we came in around 15. Not too shabby! The wine was relatively similar from market to market, but sometimes we found vendors who added their personal touch – a little cinnamon here, a little peach schnapps there…

From Budapest, we popped over to Vienna where we discovered two new varietals that quickly became personal favorites – Gruner Veltliner, and St. Laurent. The former a nice light crisp Sauv Blanc-esque wine, and the latter a mid-body red that’s perfect for pairing with food and comes with a reasonable price tag. I would be lying if I said we didn’t drink a ridiculous amount of both during our time there.

Here are some links to a couple available locally:


St. Laurent:

Austria, Hungary

Linda’s Pick: Domaine du Salvard Cheverny

Last week Chris and I were up in Vancouver celebrating a big birthday for him. (I won’t spill the beans on which one, you’ll have to ask him.) For our celebratory dinner we stopped by Blue Water Cafe for a fabulous dinner, capped off by an even more delicious white Burgundy. Well, I came home tonight with some white wine on the mind and decided to try to recreate this great bottle – except it would have to be about 1,000 miles south, and $80 cheaper.

I swung by the corner Whole Foods (ahh the blessing and curses of a WF nearby) and went looking for something comparable. When I struck out with a decently priced white Burgundy I opted for something geographically close – a 2010 Domaine du Salvard Cheverny Loire white.  And let’s be honest, this is where it becomes an unfair review for this poorly-chosen white wine. I was in the mood for something smooth and mildly full-bodied (oxymoron? I like it) and chose a European Sauv Blanc.

With that in mind, it was a good, albeit slightly typical, Sauv Blanc. A little sharp on the front of the tongue and a little sparking grapefruit-iness with the first couple swallows, but all in all it did its job well. Perhaps the best complement? It didn’t overpower the awesome Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam I had picked up as well. And for $17, it was probably worth the price.

Did it fall a little short of my hopes since I was setting it up to an unfair comparison? Likely. Did it still help ease me into a night of excel sheets? Definitely.


October Tasting: Exploring Oak Minimums & Maximums

Eighteen months in new French oak.  Twelve months in new American oak.  Twelve months in semi-new French oak.  It seems like wineries use these statements on websites and in tasting rooms to express the quality of their wine (and justification for prices in some cases).  We have another idea.  Often over-oaked wines are the result of masking poor quality, but is there such a thing as an under-oaked wine? Unlike alcohol, there probably isn’t a general guideline on the line never to be crossed.

We talked a little bit with a winemaker at Ladera about our idea.  He loved the spirit of experimentation but warned us that we might not find a clear rule.  Oak should be used to add qualities to a wine but ideally in a harmonious way.  I guess for each wine there’s the right mix of oak age.

Even though we may come out without any specific outcome, we’re still interested in trying out some wines with a variety of oak aging.  Once again we’re going to reach out to the wine world through Twitter and see if people have some recommendations on Cabs with little or a lot of oak.  If you have a suggestion, feel free to reach out to us as well @youngtastebuds.

Blind Tastings

Chris’ October Pick: Sklyark Red Belly

Skylark Red BellyThe Selection: While out on a date night happy hour, the bartender at BLVD suggested I try a Syrah from Skylark.  I really liked the wine, but it seemed high at $27.  At $20, the Red Belly blend seemed like a good option to try and see if its value matched its price tag.  This wine is a mix of 40% Syrah, 40% Carignane, and 20% Grenache.

According to the K&L website, Skylark comes from two restaurant wine directors – John Lancaster and Robert Perkins.  Guess where they work? Uh huh…BLVD restaurant in SF.  It’s really interesting how many avenues there are to get into the wine business – grow and sell, grow and produce, grow, buy, and produce, or buy and produce.  While each method has it’s advantages and disadvantages, each path can lead to great wine.

What Chris Said: This wine is super young and needs time to breathe, like a full day.  It’s silky on the tongue but the tannins masked any nuanced flavors.  This wine leans towards the fruit side which is odd to me since the Grenache (fruitiest of the 3 grapes in the bottle) is the smallest amount.   Overall, I’m going back and forth between “well-balanced” and “unremarkable”.  I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and call it a solid balanced wine, but I’d love to see this wine with another year in the bottle to its credit.

What Linda Said: Pretty good, but slightly overpriced.  Better than the $30 Cab we had at dinner.

Chris' Pick, Red Wine, USA

Coco’s World: Taking on @TastingRoomCom

The Tasting Room


I have a friend that runs an eco-friendly wine distribution/home delivery company called the20. When I complained about the challenge of getting people to pay high bottle prices for wines they’ve never tasted, he turned me on to this neat company called Tasting Room (@TastingRoomCom). They allow an individual to buy sample pours of a flight of top-notch wines – delivered right to your door. I finally decided to give them a try. They offered single vineyard options, varietal flights (cab/pinot/rose/shiraz) as well as red/white tours of specific viticultural areas, like Napa. My personal bias is typically towards Zinfandel – expecting to enjoy it the most, but the nerd in me opted for maximum value based on the average bottle price of the wines I would taste. The results: Zinfandel $28, Cabernet $34, Pinot Noir $35. The checkout process is an absolute breeze and I waited for my six bottles to arrive.  The total cost for the tasting was $41, which covered taxes, shipping and 6-50ml bottles of wine. Essentially $41 for a half bottle of wine that would otherwise cost $35 (on average). You really need to buy into the benefits of tasting to use Tasting Room, or find an online coupon. Amazingly, my wine arrives at 10:22 AM the next day. Granted it didn’t have far to travel from Santa Rosa to San Francisco, but impressive nonetheless. Included in the Pinot Noir No. 2 tasting were:

’08 Fess Parker – Santa Barbara County ($24.99), @FollowFess
’08 Argyle Reserve – Willamette Valley ($39.99), @ArgyleWinery
’09 Patz & Hall – Sonoma Cost ($41.99), @PatzHall
’07 Gundlach Bunschu Estate Vineyard – Sonoma Coast ($33.99), @gunbunwine
’07 Papapietro Perry Elsbree Vineyard – Russian River Valley ($48.99), @papapietroperry
’08 La Follette – Sonoma Coast ($29.99), @LaFolletteWines

Committing the time, brain power, and wine volume to 300ml was challenging, and unfortunately, the Papapietro Perry fell victim to an after-work-wine-opening- emergency. Whether it was wine quality or circumstance, it was certainly excellent to taste. Surprisingly, the 50ml pour size was generous relative to the quantity you get in most tasting rooms in California. Later, I finally decided to “officially” crack my box of Tasting Room delights both before a meal and with dinner. Five wines was a lot to taste so we opted to put three head-to-head on a blind basis.

Wine 1 – Fess Parker: Typical earthy pinot with berry forward flavor, overshadowed by other wines
Wine 2 – La Follette: Light in color, woody, berries, low earth content, rich flavors, zestiest with food, best of the three with food.
Wine 3 – Gundlach Bundschu: Spiciest of the three, flat finish, low earth, didn’t pair well with dinner

After several tastes, the clear conclusion was La Follette is the bottle most likely to revisit. Overall, the Tasting Room experience is highlighted by EXCELLENT service, great wines, and somewhat expensive for the quantity of wine. However, it is a lot cheaper than driving to Napa and back and the designated driver is totally unnecessary. The best part of this…there are still two wines to taste!

Food Notes:
The wines were paired with burgundy peppercorn tri-tip, spiced garbanzo beans and sautéed spinach with onions and garlic. Despite the packaging and recipe, 140 degree tri-tip is waaaaaaay overcooked. On a second attempt I’d take it out of the oven at 125 degrees.

Coco's World, USA

July Tasting Results in October…Whoops

washington reds

July was a slow month.  August saw a trip to Ireland plus a new job for Chris.  September Chris traveled 3 out of 4 weeks. Now it’s October and we’re back and finishing off our July tasting and getting into our October tasting.

We cracked these bottles open late in July on a random weekend.  Something along the lines of “Linda, we should taste these soon.” <pause> “Ok.”  I poured first for Linda, and we switched after she finished the 4th taste.  Looking over these results, I think it reaffirms that people experience wine differently and wine changes character even after a little bit of oxygen.

Overall we agreed on the value of Chateau Ste. Michelle (List $10.99, Chris $12, Linda $20) and the Columbia Crest (List $10.99, Chris $15, Linda $15).  We split on the Karl Claret (List $21, Chris $7, Linda $20) and the Gramercy Cellars (List $35.99, Chris $30, Linda $25), but we will definitely remember the Gramercy name in case we see it in a restaurant.

Overall, I was impressed with Washington State.  I think there’s a lot to be explored and without the hype of California or Napa, they are very reasonable.

2007 Gramercy Cellars “Lagniappe” Columbia Valley Syrah ($35.99) – “strong on the tannins” “rich flavors” “would like to let it breathe some more” “lots of awesome potential” “darker in color than others” “deep, awesome smelling” “sweet licorice” “good finish” “not much fruit” “hints of pancakes or beignets”

2007 Robert Karl Columbia Valley Claret ($21.99) – “vanilla oak with bacon and salt” “front of the tongue felt like curling up due to the tannins” “not much fruit” “strong nose that was worrisome” “delicious and light going down” “pinot qualities” “good on it’s own, minus the tannins”

2008 Columbia Crest “H3″ Horse Heaven Hills” Washington Merlot ($10.99) – “not memorable but pleasant” “oak + vanilla + tannins + little fruit” “almost too soft on the tongue” “had a napa smell on the nose, so expecting bigger flavors” “hungry for more tannins”

Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Merlot ($10.99) – “vanilla oak smell” “butterscotch, almost Werther’s Original” “smooth on tongue” “little tannic” “stick heat” “no much fruit” “rich and berry” “slight high alcohol burn down the back of the throat” “Yummy” “would be great with meat”

Blind Tastings, Merlot, Red Wine, Syrah, USA

YTB 2.0 – New Perspective

chicago bean

Chicago Bean

With every side project, it’s smart to take some time to reflect – on how it makes you feel, on the commitment, on its value.  Over the past month and a half, we’ve done some of that thinking (along with a trip to Ireland and a new job for Chris = busy busy).  Now we’re ready to reemerge a little wiser, organized, and better suited to share our wine experiences with you.

I spent most of August rethinking our site, our content, kind of our contribution (albeit small) to the wine community.  I’ve spent a bunch of nights tweaking our design through much CSS trial and error.  Much like a new haircut, I hope you notice the new font, masthead, social buttons, Facebook comments, larger wine map, more images and even photos from a new camera (finally went DSLR).  I’ll probably keep fidgeting with the site on an ongoing basis as I brush up on my HTML and CSS skills.

The bigger change comes from our thoughts on our writing.  While we’ll still write up our thoughts on blind tastings, picks of the month, trips to wineries, add in a little more about things we learn along the way, and let our friends throw in some ideas.  Beyond that, we’re gonna keep the blog simple.  Instead of spending time on figuring out how to post 3 times a week, stretching to come up with ideas, we’re gonna spend that time trying to start a dialogue.

We’ve setup some specific search terms on Twitter through TweetDeck that hopefully will give us the opportunity to share our opinion directly with people looking for suggestions and recommendations on things we have thoughts to share.  Ideally this gives  us the opportunity to share with people who don’t frequent wine blogs or follow wineries on Twitter or Facebook.

After 6 months of blogging about wine, it’s pretty apparent that wine writers write for wine writers.  While we’ve gained a lot of knowledge personally from this balance, I feel as though it’s limiting.  There will always be a winemaker, sommelier, or wine critic who has a better palate, notes, and writing.  I’d like to find an opportunity to do a little more and reach out to other people who are curious about wine.

We’ll keep writing for ourselves to learn more about wine, but we’ll also write for others since sharing is more important than pageviews.


Chris’ July Pick #2: Evodia Granacha ’08

Evodia GarnachaThe Selection: Once again, I dipped into the May Top 10 list of the Reverse Wine Snob for some inspiration and selected the Evodia Granacha ’08 which will set you back about $8.  My first pick from RWS was the Folie à Deux Ménage à Trois Red which split votes in our household.  Interestingly enough, RWS published a new best list for July and both bottles fell out of the top 10.  Guess someone is discovering some newer better wines.

I had high hopes for Evodia since my previous Spanish Garnacha was Filon, which literally reminded of me bacon in an “I can’t believe this hasn’t hit the baconsphere yet” kind of way.  Granted that was one of my last sips at the Wines4Japan benefit, but I maintain my tasting note accuracy since others sensed the pork delicacy as well.

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Chris' Pick, Grenache, Spain