Tuesday, 2/27, Little Rock, AR

"Wine is Art!". So sayeth the Chinese lady in the WSJ article today about French vineyards trying to make inroads into the Chinese market which, apparently, is somewhat unsophisticated when it comes to wine. An individual was quoted as saying they had seen a somewhat wealthy Chinese man buy, on a regular basis, $2,000 bottles of Lafitte and mix it with Coke. That hurts! Well unfortunately today's wine can't be compared to the Lafitte nor can it be called art. In fact, I don't know what to call it except not good. I've reviewed this Chilean vineyard's Sauvignon Blanc and gave it 3 corkscrews because it was a decent bottle of wine. This varietal doesn't measure up. Not bad color but very little aroma, more light-bodied than I would expect from a Chardonnay and too much acidity that made for a less than memorable finish. My cost on this one was $6.99/bottle which was way too much for this wine. I give it 2 corkscrews due to lack of taste and value and will not purchase it again. I'll buy their Sauvignon Blanc but not their Chardonnay. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, Drink Wine!


Mon., 2/26, Little Rock, AR
No review of wine today but I do want to discuss wine store trends and hopefully get some feedback on likes and dislikes. As you may, or many not know, I'm on a 5-year quest to open a very unique wine store in Little Rock, Arkansas and I want to incorporate some of the ideas I've seen and read about. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted various wine store trends. Some I like and some I don't think I will try to adopt. Before I go into that I would like to recommend Saint Brendan's Irish Cream Liqueur. I've got a little tasting glass that holds about 2 ounces that I filled last night as a nightcap. I've had this, as well as Bailey's, in the past and have to say St. Brendan's is my favorite, and it is considerably cheaper than Bailey's. A great Irish Cream/Coffee drink recipe follows at the end of this post. I found it at a restaurant in Geneva, Illinois, 302 West (no longer in business), and the bartender surprisingly gave me the recipe.
Wine Store Trends I'm thinking about adopting
1. Tasting notes- My own tasting notes displayed with every bottle and a copy of said note included with every purchased bottle. Also computers placed throughout the store where customers can scan a bottle and the screen displays all sorts of info about the wine as well as tasting notes and food pairings.
2. Purchase History - Have my store's check out register record every wine purchased by customers name/store card so that a well received wine can be remembered if the customer forgets but wants to repurchase a wine.
3. Handpicked wines - A section of the store devoted to wines from small producers that are unique and not readily available. I intend on getting a wholesalers license in addition to a retail license so that I can source wine not represented in Arkansas. Believe me, there are many that aren't!
4. Weekly tastings - Probably Friday-Sat. afternoons, using real stemware and in a dedicated part of the store where comfortable chairs and coffee tables are arranged. I'll also try to have reps from the vineyards at tastings as often as possible.
5. Wine Dinners - Dinners at partner restaurants where a variety of wines/food pairings can be tried. On-the-spot ordering from attendees who want to purchase featured wines with home delivery included.
6. In-Home Tastings - I would schedule in-home tastings with a minimum 4 or 5 couples or 10 singles highlighting different wines. I would likely partner with a catering firm to offer appetizers to accompany each wine. After the nights presentation I would take and fill orders from the attendees with extra wine brought specifically for the event.
That's some of the things I'm looking at doing. Comments, suggestions would be most appreciated. The recipe I promised follows. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, Drink Wine!
302 West Coffee Drink
Lime Juice
Grand Marnier
Saint Brendan's Irish Cream
Whipped Cream
- Pour lime juice onto a saucer. Mix equal parts cinnamon and sugar and also place onto a saucer. Taking a red wine shaped stemware, dip edges into lime juice then into the cinnamon sugar mix. Add 1 shot of Grand Marnier. Light with a long match and swirl in the glass to caramelize sugar. Be sure to carefully extinguish the flame. Add 1 1/2 shots of Irish Cream then fill to top with coffee. Top with whipped cream. Enjoy!


Sun., 2/25, Little Rock, AR

As you can see I've given my highest rating to today's featured wine. Now I know that a lot of you wine aficionados are going to scoff at that rating when I tell you how much it was, but good wine is good wine! I get as much pleasure, if not more, at finding a great, inexpensive wine as I do a great, expensive wine. I guess it's because an expensive wine "should" taste good while an inexpensive, dare I say cheap wine, technically should not. I'll save the price until the end but this has to be the bargain find-of-the month if not the year. Just prior to the Academy Awards coming on, it's #1's favorite night of the year and what kind of husband would I be if I didn't suffer through it, I uncorked the one bottle of 2005 Bohemian Highway Chardonnay I picked up yesterday at T's place. Now normally I would try to link to the vineyard website which was listed on the back of their bottle but evidently they are spending all of their time making great wine or have gone out of business, I'm not sure which! I'm hoping it's the former and not the later. After my experience with this bottle I'll be stopping by for a lot more when I'm over near his store on Tuesday. This wine was full of fruit aroma and oak, all nicely mixed together. When I poured our glass we both were struck by the freshness of the grape and the smoothness of the oak. The tastes of the melon and pears danced around our mouths as we took this most excellent wine in with just the right amount of acidity. I had to give this one 5 corkscrews due to its excellent flavor and taste and due to the tremendous value this wine provided at my cost of, drum roll please, $3.99/bottle. Just an excellent, excellent find!
On another note, not wine-related at all, I have to admit that I watched Oprah's special on the Academy Awards with #1 on Friday? night. Now normally I would count this as wasted time but Sidney Poitier did say something that stuck in my head and I wanted to share it. He said that his father told him "That the measure of a man is how he treats his children". Man if that is not something all of us fathers could live by I don't know what is. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, Drink Wine!


Sat., 2/24, Little Rock and Sherwood, AR

Up at the crack of dawn today, 7:30 a.m., which is several hours later than I normally get up but I sure could have stayed in that warm bed another couple of hours with no problem. I attended a quick POA meeting to discuss various items related to Chenal Valley and then stopped by the next door neighbors to head to Sherwood where T has his store. J.S. picked up two cases while I held it to 6 bottles as I'm pretty flush with wine right now. The rainy day in Arkansas met with a lull so I headed to Sam's with my little girl and stocked up on essentials, and not-so essentials, and came back to prepare the King Crab Legs I picked up at Sam's. Great deal at $7.00/lb which is unheard of. But enough of that and on to my review. When I first picked up the bottle of Little Black Dress Chardonnay I figured it was just another gimmicky label designed to get the uneducated wine buyer to part with their hard earned money. But being the adventurer I am, and always looking for new labels to try, I picked up a bottle and parted with my $8.99. When I uncorked this bottle and poured into my glass my nose was met with aromas of melons, apples, pears and just a slight bit of oak. The taste did not disappoint as the aromas I had smelled were followed up with crisp citrus and apple flavors on the tongue with just the right amount of oak. This wine went perfectly with the King Crab and although I wavered between 3 and 4 corkscrews my final rating is 3 corkscrews. At the $8.99 price I can only classify it as having good taste and good value. I wish I was rating the website of Little Black Dress because I would give it 5 corkscrews plus. You've got to check it out as it is really a clever way to promote your wine. They even have a link where attractive young ladies have posted their stories about their "Little Black Dress" and I'm not talking wine now! Great job LBD Vineyard! Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, Drink Wine!


Friday, 2/23, Little Rock, AR

Today's reviewed wine is from the "ghost" winery as far as I can tell. What do I mean by ghost? Google Silver Ridge anything and you won't come up with a website for them. I never go to a vineyards website until after I've tried their wine and made up my own mind as to what I think about it, but I do like to see how they describe their own wine. I wasn't able to do that with this one as they seem to be keeping a low profile. If you know anything interesting about this vineyard let me know as I've reviewed two of their wines now and would like to see their full offering.
To be totally honest on this one I've got to tell you that I only paid $9.56 for this bottle and as you know from my previous reviews, I don't think good, and I mean real good, Pinot Noirs are available at less than $16-20/bottle and that's just a starting point. This 2005 Silver Ridge Pinot Noir was no exception. Very light, somewhat ruby color in the glass, not a whole lot of distinguishable nose to it and very light-bodied in the mouth. The thing I did notice with the nose and the taste was a very strong earthiness. I think the French call it terroir and this wine, for its lack of anything other than that, seems to exemplify terroir. It just smells and tastes very earthy! Very little tannin noticed and really not a whole lot to recommend this wine other than it is an inexpensive way to have a little, however little, taste of Pinot Noir. I gave this 3 corkscrews because I would drink it again and it is at the lowest end price point that I think you can find drinkable Pinot Noir. Pick this one up for a Tuesday, hanging out watching something on T.V., just gotta have a drink of Pinot Noir, kind of night.
On the retail wine planning I noticed an article in the Wall Street Journal, ( see snippet following post), regarding wine futures and how individuals with money to burn are investing in futures as an alternative investment. I'm doing further research into this and plan on offering wine futures when I open my store. I haven't noticed any of the wine/liquor stores offering that in Little Rock and quite honestly would be surprised if any did! As I've written before, all are combination wine/liquor/beer stores and therein lies the problem. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, Drink Wine!
Wall Street Journal 2/23-2/24
"Wine is trying to mature -- as an investment.
Amid booming interest in alternative investments ranging from art to collectible coins, wine-focused investment products are starting to appear. Their goal: cash in on soaring interest among consumers and collectors, not to mention prices that are barreling ahead for fancy vintages.
One of the latest entrants, the London-based Fine Wine Fund, launched in August, is structured almost like a hedge fund -- the highflying, lightly regulated investment pools catering to wealthy investors. It charges a 2% annual management fee and keeps 15% of the profit as a performance fee."


Thurs., 2/22, Little Rock, AR

For those of you who've been reading my reviews and recommendations and providing a lot of great feedback I want to say thanks and hope that I'm able to provide a little something to the world of wine. That being said you'll notice that my review today is of a wine, the 2005 Sebastiani Pinot Noir, that I reviewed just a short time ago. My reason for a do over? #1 and I opened the second bottle of the Sebastiani that we had for which I had not planned to review again but there was so much difference in the two bottles that I just had to write an updated review. In preparing this review I looked at what was different from the first bottle to the second and one major fact, that jumped right out at me, had to do with handling. I opened this bottle and let it breathe and come to room temperature over a 2 hour period. I think this one factor made a world of difference. When I finally poured the first glass the dark ruby red color and cherry nose had my mouth watering in anticipation. After a swirl or two I took my first drink and was met with a full-bodied explosion of concentrated cherry and smokey oak flavors. The finish was absolutely perfect with soft tannins and no after bite. I gave this one 4 corkscrews this time which is an upgrade over my previous 3 corkscrew rating. Great taste and great value at the $16/bottle price and another lesson learned on this long wine journey. Some wines live up to their full potential right after opening and others, such as this one, need time, sometimes hours, to come alive and show what they're really made of. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, Drink Wine!


Wed., 2/21, Searcy, Beebe & Little Rock, AR

"Chardonnay Nu: 'Naked' Chardonnay - no malolactic fermentation, no new oak, no extra flavors to compete with the natural apple, citrus and floral characteristics of the Chardonnay grape. A cool fermentation with a selected yeast strain was followed by minimal handling to allow this wine to showcase itself as naturally as possible. Naked Chardonnay - we think it is worth the effort and trust you will to". - David Noyles, WINEMAKER
Straight from the bottle and probably the most accurate label I've come across in all my days of drinking wine. As my earlier reviews have stated, this is a great wine and it was all we had tonight. Now I know I sound like a paid flak, I guarantee you I am not, and if I ever do submitted reviews it will be with the understanding that I will give an unbiased review and recommendation, or lack thereof. Just wanted a shout out to David Noyles and say that if he ever reads this to keep making wine the way you are making it. You're on to something wonderful!
Short recap on daily doings. A quick trip to Searcy, Arkansas turned into a long trip to Beebe, Arkansas. I was going to see a man who another person had given me his address to that was supposed to be in Searcy but alas it turned out his address was in Beebe. 3 hours roundtrip but accomplished what I set out to do. Nothing to recommend, or not recommend, in either town as it was all about business today and no tourist activity occurred. If there even is tourist activity that could occur. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often, Drink Wine!


Tuesday, 2/20, Little Rock, AR
After a long day at the office, I got home about 8:30 p.m., I came in, kissed #1 and the kids, and popped the cork on a 2005 Coastal Ridge Chardonnay. There's really not a whole lot I can say about this wine. It's your typical melon, pear, oak-flavored Chardonnay with nothing special to grab your attention. It's the kind of wine I bought when I first started drinking wine that back then I would have thought was really great and I probably would have had no problem taking this to friends as a wine gift. Alas age and experience have affected my tastes in everything and this Chardonnay is the last thing I would take as a gift. That being said I only paid $5.99/bottle and at that price I would classify the Coastal Ridge as an every day, just wanna have a glass of wine without too much thought, type of wine. It's drinkable however don't expect complex flavors and a unique experience because you'll be disappointed. I give this one 3 corkscrews because it's not a bad wine, it just is what it is, and at the price point I paid you really don't have too much at stake. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often!


Monday, 2/19, Little Rock, AR

This bleached blonde beauty is reminiscent of fresh green apples, pineapple and has hints of hibiscus blossoms. The concentration of zesty lemon and gooseberry fills your mouth leaving notes of thyme and melon behind. The bright acid in this wine gives you a zing while the fruit keeps your mouth watering for more. That's what the winemaker notes say on the Smoking Loon website but now let me tell you what I think. This wine was light golden in color like a good Sauvignon Blanc should be and upon opening I could smell a little lemon and some type of melon. Once it was in the glass my first, and subsequent tastes, revealed a light-bodied, somewhat pedestrian wine. I couldn't pick up any of the thyme and quite honestly don't know if I want to. For some reason thyme just doesn't seem like it should be in wine. Now I love thyme in a lot of dishes, just not in my wine! I did taste melons, a little bit of lemon and just a slight bit of grapefruit although not too much as the last thing I want is a grapefruit-flavored Sauvignon Blanc (see New Zealand for that). I struggled with giving this one 3 corkscrews, almost giving it the dreaded 2 corkscrews, as I would probably buy it again just not at the $8.99/bottle price I paid. I see this at being worth more in the $4-5 dollar range although even at that price I won't rush out to buy anymore. Okay I've changed my mind and I'm downgrading this one to 2 corkscrews! Not sink-worthy but not a wine I will buy in the future. Glad that's done.
#1 and I saw Breach today at the Rave theatre in southwest Little Rock and I've got to say it was a very good movie. My one complaint, and man is it my pet peeve, was the loudmouth woman behind us who halfway through the movie decided she needed to comment on every scene. I came very close to turning around and asking her if it was her first time to see a movie in a theatre and letting her know that most people who want to carry on a conversation don't have to pay $8 a piece to sit in a crowded theatre to do it. If you're reading this and you're guilty of this please do all of us movie goers a favor and stay home next time. Movie was entertaining none the less. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often!


Sun., 2/18, Little Rock & North Little Rock, AR
Right off the bat let me tell you that I am not the biggest fan of Merlot from any vineyard so I want to say I do have a bias in reviewing them. I approached this bottle, however, with an open mind so that my bias towards the grape would not affect my review. This one was filled with dark fruits as the color in my glass was typical of what I expect out of a rich, full-bodied, Cabernet Sauvignon. The Blackstone Merlot, from Sonoma County, had an intense flavor, almost too intense, of cherries and spices with a heavy mouth feel and it was almost too sweet for my liking. Nice firm tannins with a little oak thrown in for good measure balanced the sweetness somewhat but not all the way. I'd like to add that I had this one by itself and not with any type of food so it may be better when accompanying a nice beef filet or braised lamb shank. I gave this one 3 corkscrews as I paid $5.99/bottle and it had what I would say is good taste and value at that price point. That being said, I wouldn't pay any more than that! One positive I did discover when reviewing this wine is the Blackstone Winery website . Check it out if you get a chance as it is very well done and interesting to visit.
#1 and I had a chance to catch up on 2 Desperate Housewives episodes we had Tivo'd, as well as one The Office as the in-laws graciously agreed to have the kids over to spend the night hence our short trip to North Little Rock, or "Dogtown" as it used to be called. Supposedly the story is that people who lived in Little Rock would cross the river into North Little Rock to let out any dogs they didn't want, hence the name. Just a little Arkansas trivia for you! Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often!


Sat. 2/17, Little Rock, AR

As many of you who have started reading my reviews and recommendations will notice, both of the featured wines are ones I've reviewed before. So rather than a re-review you can link to either here or here or just scroll down and find out what I thought of both of them. I'm crazy about them, to say the least, as is #1, so after The Departed arrived from Netflix Saturday afternoon we decided to have a nice, relaxing dinner and accompany that with the two Chardonnay's we've discovered that we've both really been enjoying. Check out my reviews and go find both of these as soon as you can then let me know if you agree or not. Now in regard to the movie I can recommend it as well although be forewarned that it is a bit, that's an understatement, violent and the last ten minutes or so will have your heart pumping. In fact so much so that #1 and I stayed up for another hour or so after the movie enjoying another glass of the Kunde so we could get our heart rates down. Entertaining none the less. A quick "cute kid" story that I have to share. I'm riding back from the store with my 6-year old boy when he tells me that he heard a story of a man getting frostbit and having to have his toes cut off. He proceeded to ask me what all you can do, or better yet what can't you do, once you have no toes. I told him that it would be hard to play baseball, football, soccer, all the stuff he likes, then he weighed in with his list. He tells me that you couldn't play freeze tag, you couldn't jump on the trampoline, but you could play Simon Sez. Then he quickly corrected himself and said "Oh no. You couldn't play that either because if they said Simon Sez touch your toes you'd lose". The thought process that little minds go through! Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often!


Friday, 2/16, Little Rock, AR

Hard to believe but in less than a two-week period I've come across two, incredible Chardonnay's that I will continue to drink for the foreseeable future. First it was the Kunde Estate Chardonnay and now this 2002 Beaucanon Estate Ehlers Lane Chardonnay from Napa Valley. One thing I'd like to point out is that both of these wines are non-malolactic which is something I've recently discovered and will be on the look out for more. If anyone knows of other non-malolactic Chardonnays being produced out there please email or add a comment as I'm going to be on the hunt for more produced that way and would love to be pointed in the right direction. This Beaucanon had a very fresh aroma of honey, green apple and a slight amount of lemon when I opened it and swirled it around in the stem. Flavors of melon, maybe a little vanilla and lemon/apple greeted my tongue upon my first taste along with a high acidity and just an excellent, overall balance. I also tasted just a hint of oak but nothing like a lot of "in your face" Chards that come out of California. This Chardonnay is medium weighted on the tongue and has a "fresh" quality that is hard to put into words and although it is not as heavy as a lot of Chards it has a huge concentration of flavor. I got this one at $6.99/bottle and have seen it on Beaucanon's website for $16.00/bottle so I consider this a KILLER deal! So good of a deal that I plan on picking up a case of this from T as quick as I can before he runs out. I easily gave this one 5 corkscrews and will add it to my list of favorites! Not sure how readily available this is where you live but I would even recommend buying this from their website if that's the only place you can find it because I think it is good enough to justify the $16 they are asking.
Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often!


Thurs., 2/15, Perryville & Little Rock, AR
Well if you've never been to Perryville and Perry County, Arkansas, let me tell you something. They don't call it the only county in Arkansas without a red light for nothing! On top of that it is a big, land-wise, county so you would think by now they would have gotten a red light but alas it hasn't happened yet. Beautiful country but didn't appear that there is a whole lot going on there. But I digress and the only reason I mentioned it was to illustrate my need for a nice glass of wine after driving all over the countryside on a cold, winters day.
I chose the 2005 Sebastiani Pinot Noir as it came with a good recommendation, was selling for around $16.00/bottle and I just had a taste for a nice Pinot. This wine had a very dark garnet/ruby color that had me looking forward to it and the nose was filled with just the right amount of cherry, a slight hint of oak and a little bit of spice that I couldn't identify at first. As I tasted it the subtle cherry flavors filled my mouth as did hints of strawberry and it finished with an extremely soft tannin. Although this is a good tasting wine I really expected a little more at that price point. It didn't have the body I expected when I first poured it and really didn't have any "wow" factor at all. I think this is a wine that will get better with age and if I opened it a year or two from now I wouldn't be surprised if I had a much higher rating. I may grab a bottle and put it away just to test my theory. Based on the price I paid for this one I gave it 3 corkscrews as it would probably be a good value a year or two from now, is okay to drink right now but I expect will get better, and I wouldn't hesitate to drink it again. Maybe it will even get up to 4 corkscrews down the road but only time will tell.
On the retail wine store planning front I been trying to decide what the best way to display wine is. I've been to Wineracks.com and they have a host of configurations to choose from and whenever I go into a wine store I take careful note of what I like and dislike regarding their displays. Another item I'm considering would be to add an Enoround to my location. The only hold-up at this point is the cost as I don't see how it would pay for itself in the short-term. Several of the bigger wine stores in Chicago were starting to put these in right before we moved but I don't know how well they have been received and Chicago has much more liberal liquor laws than Arkansas. We're in the Bible Belt here and it wasn't until a year or two ago that you could even hold wine tastings in a store. Even now you have to pay a $1,000.00 annual fee for the privilege. Hopefully with the Supreme Court decision regarding interstate wine shipments coming down, Arkansas will finally enter the 21st century. At least one can hope! Let me know your thoughts on displaying, both good and bad as I really want to have a store set-up that makes it easier for my customers to explore and identify new wines to try and who better to suggest ideas then fellow wine lovers? Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often!


Wed., 2/14, Valentines Day, Little Rock, AR

Don't want this to be the "lazy blogger" post but it just so happened that we had two favorites tonight that have been reviewed before. One, the Seghesio Barbera and the other the Kunde Estate Chardonnay. Now the fact that it was Valentine's Day night did in fact have a little to do with it as #1 wanted a nice, relaxing night in front of the fire and she requested both of the referenced wines and who am I to deny a woman, especially on Valentine's Day? As they say, "A happy wife, a happy life"! and I do indeed like a happy wife. Link to my previous reviews and you'll see just how much we both like these wines. I promise a new wine review tomorrow, (I'm looking at a Pinot Noir from Sebastini to taste), and will let you know what I think. Hope all had a great Valentine's Day with your spouse and/or significant other. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often!


Tues., 2/17, Little Rock, AR.
I learned, or should I say, relearned another lesson of wine tasting tonight.
And that lessson is to never judge a wine right after you open it! When I first opened the Casillero del Diablo from Concha Y Toro the first aroma that hit me, and boy did it hit me, was an overpowering smell of grapefruit. Now one of my absolute prohibitions is on Sauvignon Blanc that tastes like grapefruit juice and if you've ever had just about any Sav from New Zealand, that's what you're gonna get! Now I know that's a wide brush to paint with but I've tried numerous New Zealand Sav's and have yet to find one that wasn't overwhelmingly grapefruit tasting and that's what I thought I'd gotten with this Chilean wine. If you know of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that goes against that mold please let me know as I'll find it, try it and write a review. But enough about the Kiwis and back to this Chilean production. Regardless of my initial nasal reaction, the wine had a light yellowish/gold color in the glass which brought back memories of great Sauvignons I've had in the past but I didn't hold out much hope that this one was going to stand up to those. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised! After I allowed the pour to breathe and the wine inside warmed up just a little, maybe 10 minutes or so, a fresh and crisp bouquet with hints of gooseberries and tropical fruit had replaced the initial grapefruit onslaught. On the palate, this wine was elegant, round and not heavy at all and was balanced by a crisp acidity that made for a nice finish. My second glass was even better than the first. I picked up this one at $6.99/bottle and based on that price I gave this one 3 corkscrews for good value and good taste. Remember, don't judge a wine immediately after you open it as it may end up surprising you given a chance. Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often!