Do's and Don'ts from a Wine Pro!

By Maggie Walters

I've been in the food, beverage and hospitality scene for about five years now; one and a half of that in wine retail. I've viewed the world of wine from several different perspectives—as a consumer, a salesperson, server, complete novice, and professional. I feel like there's so much confusion about wine (how could there not be, with thousands of grape varieties out there growing from almost every continent) and that's not even getting into service of wine!

I want to help set a good foundation for those of you who are getting just as many mixed signals as I did when I started out (and still do, to tell the truth). 

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1. Don't – get the term "dryness" confused with tannin structure 

This is such an easy thing to get mixed up. Tannins are what give red wine structure, and dry your tongue out. If you've ever tried a wine and your mouth immediately lost all moisture and your tongue felt like a piece of sand paper, you tried a wine with a lot of tannins. The more tannins in a wine, the more severe the sensation. I feel like this often gets mixed up with the term "dry." Dry simply means the wine has no residual sugar, aka it's not sweet. There are all kinds of dry red wines; some are velvety smooth and luscious, others are big, grippy, and bold, and many in-between, but they are all "dry," simply because they're not "sweet."

2. Do – ask for suggestions

I feel like it’s a stereotype that people in wine stores make commission and they're out to "get your money." Nothing could be further from the truth! We get the same paycheck no matter what bottle you grab. Get to asking questions! There are usually a couple of wine pros in every beverage shop excited to share their knowledge with you, even if all you want is a great wine to drink tonight on the couch for under $15 (check out my wine blog, What A Wine Geek Drinks On A Budget Part 1 and Part 2). Trust me, talking about wine and helping you find a bottle is way more fun that pulling inventory from the back! 

3. Do – hold your wine glass by the stem

There's so much talk about swirling and sniffing and picking up nuances -- to me the most important thing before all of that jazz is to hold your wine glass properly. If your hand holds the bowl of the wine glass, your hand will heat the wine too much (the ideal drinking temperature for reds is right under 70 degrees), and most important, your nose will pick up smells from your hand more than the delicious wine in your glass. That bathroom soap you just used is really going to get in the way of your sniffer! 

4. Don't – be afraid to try new things

There are thousands of grape varieties being made into wine and blended together in endless combinations, just begging someone to branch out from their "norm" and fall in love with them. Go to a tasting bar, (we have one at Colonial) try a grape you've never heard of, try a sip of your friend's wine they brought to the BBQ, and get to sipping! It's amazing how many people turn down a free taste of wine! IT'S FREE!! Don't get discouraged when you taste a bad one, you have to kiss a few frogs before you get a prince, right? In my opinion, the bad wines make the really good wines taste that much better.

5. Do – take pictures

I cannot emphasize this more! When you have an enjoyable experience with a wine, whether it’s at a tasting bar, a friend's house, or out to dinner at a restaurant, snap a quick pic. That way, when you go to a wine shop to find this delicious bottle you won't have to try and remember the funky grape name or place (try pronouncing the region Niederoesterreich). It also helps when you're asking for suggestions from a wine expert! A good expert should ask what kind of wines you enjoy drinking—whip out that phone and swipe through those pictures! You'll be happy you did when you get a more specific recommendation for your personal palate!

 

There you have it, my top five tips.

I would absolutely love to hear any feedback from this (or any of my other blogs)! I hope this is helpful, and clears up some confusion. My goal is to help people enjoy their wine more and better the chances of going home with a bottle to love. 

Now get to trying some new wines!

Cheers!

Sustainable, Organic, and Biodynamic. What does that mean?

By Maggie Walters

I wanted to write a blog about the different forms of agriculture that can be used for wine making, what they mean, and what wineries use these cleaner practices.  After all, wine is just an agriculture product.  Before any magazine ad is made or billboard sign posted, a grape vine has to be planted, harvested, and then made into wine.  

Sustainable Agriculture

This means that man-made chemicals are restricted in the vineyard. Grape growers have a more in-depth understanding of weather patterns, so when a vineyard is sprayed for pests or disease outbreak, it can be sprayed at the most opportune time, as opposed to periodic spraying throughout the season. Pest population is controlled more naturally with the encouragement of predators, and growing plants in between vines that attract predators/deter pests. To sum it up, man-made chemicals are allowed in the vineyard, but they're used much more responsibly.  

One of my favorite sustainable farmed wineries is Broadside. They even use "wild" yeast present in the vineyard to ferment the wine instead of buying cultured yeast from a laboratory.

Organic Agriculture

This is an even more restrictive agriculture practice. Only a very limited number of more traditional treatments against pests and diseases is allowed. Organic farmers use more integrated pest management such as creating habitats to encourage predators to live in the vineyard. If a winery wishes to display their organic credentials on their bottles they must apply for certification through a certification body. Many wineries don't apply for certification because it is time consuming and costly, but still choose to follow organic vineyard practices. Several places in the world practice organic farming because the environment doesn't require any chemical sprays due to the drier climate (like Argentina, some areas in Spain, and Alsace France), or they are so windy that pests can't even attach themselves to vines (like the Rhone Valley in France).   

One of my favorite organic wine importers is Kermit Lynch. Every wine he brings into the U.S. is from an organically-farmed vineyard. He imports everything from France and Italy, which consist of farmers who have been operating organically from generation to generation. Just look for the Thomas Jefferson picture on all of his bottles.

Biodynamic Agriculture

This agriculture practice was actually developed by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner and Maria Thun in the 1920s. Biodynamic agriculture adopts organic practices but also incorporates philosophy and cosmology. Grape growing practices are aligned with the cycles of the planets, moon and stars. "Preparations" are used in the vineyard, which are homeopathic remedies/homemade fertilizers. This is a very in-depth practice and involves a lot of TLC. I know this may sound like some serious hippy wine, but the very prestigious and pricey Cristal Champagne is a biodynamically farmed vineyard. Vineyards can apply to be dynamically certified, but they can also have these vineyard practices without being certified.   

Two of my favorite biodynamic wines are Gerard Bertrand Kosmos and Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon. Both are big, heavy reds that will go excellent with heavy proteins like steak. Kosmos even has the solar system etched into their front label! The winemaker for Kosmos won't even allow tractors into his vineyard for fear of gas emissions tainting the flavor of his grapes. That's a lot of love for his grapes right there!

There are so many more wineries that I have not listed in this blog, just for the sake of length. If this is something you are interested in or passionate about please come see me at Colonial and I would love to introduce you to some amazing wines out there that have cleaner agriculture practices! 

Eye-Catching Labels, Delicious Wine

By Maggie Walters

No judgment here, we've all selected a bottle of wine just for the label. Sometimes you'll find yourself standing in front of a giant wall of wine bottles, every label blending into the next; until, like a beacon of light or the Holy Grail, one label will stand out from the rest. 

It could be a beautiful limited-release bottle with commissioned artwork for the label, or simply a cute fuzzy animal; but something about that label stood out from the others. 

When going to a dinner party, wine is a great go-to for a host gift. And who doesn't want a handsome bottle to present? I'm here to make some recommendations for great wines with great labels! Whether it be for a gift or for your own personal label collection, you will not be disappointed with the contents of these bottles! 


Melee Grenache, St. Helena, CA

This wine is a Tuck Beckstoffer colab, for all of you Beckstoffer fans!It's big, it's bold, and it's delicious.
This is great with heavier proteins, or, in my opinion, on its own if you enjoy heavy reds. 

 
 
The 2012 vintage Melée Grenache showcases how great Grenache can come from California. Sourced from two unique steep hillside vineyards, one in the central coast and one in Mendocino, this wine offers a kaleidoscope of aromas emerging from the glass. Hints of baked summer fruits, white pepper, lavender, underbrush and dry aged meats lead to an incredibly focused, yet elegant, balanced and graceful mid-palate. The finish is a blockbuster that exudes both power and finesse. This is truly a wine for the ages.
— Melee Wine Co.

Moon Duck, One Time Spaceman GSM Rhone Blend, Paso Robles, CA

Another big red that I love to pair with grilled food (especially BBQ).
This features a very futuristic label, so if you have any science fiction fans in your life, it’s a great conversation piece!

 
 
Observe the glory of the blue hue in this violet brew.  With aromas of purple fruit and fudge that do not budge this is a saucy tasty roux. The candied violet will bring a smile lit with hints of chocolate, plum and stew. A generous end to this rich dark blend will leave you feeling new.  So go ahead and open another and make a friend or two.
— The Authentic 3 Finger Wine Company

Cote des Roses, Rose from Languedoc, France

This is the only wine I'm writing about that doesn't technically have an interesting label, it is the bottle itself that stands out from the rest. The bottom of this bottle is in the shape of a rose to honor the region of Cote des Roses (slopes of roses). The wine itself will not disappoint either! It's rosé season and this wine is full of crisp, refreshing acidity that leaves you wanting more.   

 
 
A soft, pale, brilliant pink with bluish tints developing over time towards more orangey nuances. The bouquet releases aromas of summer fruits, cassis and redcurrant. Floral notes of rose along with hints of grapefruit complete the picture. The finish is fresh, offering notes of candy. On the palate the impression is fresh and full, with great aromatic persistence and balance.
— Gerard Bertrand, wine maker

Charlotte Red Blend by Charles Smith from Walla Walla, Washington

Blend: 47% Mourvedre, 37% Grenache, 6% Syrah, 6% Counoise, 4% Picpoul

Splurge alert! A little on the pricey side; but worth every penny. I recommend coming in on Wine Wednesday to get a 20% discount. 

If a wine can be described as feminine, this is it. It’s floral, elegant, and more reserved compared to the bold reds listed above. Charlotte is a deep, complex wine. Sip after delicious sip, this wine continues to open up and seemingly develops more flavors right in front of you.  

 
 
Charlotte, the wine, named after Charles Smith’s daughter born in 2012. Complex aromas of hibiscus, savory herb, cured black olive. On a feminine frame, but with a willful spine of minerality as they age. They both will become more and more beautiful.
— Winemaker

Label shopping doesn't always have to be frowned upon. You just have to know what to look for. Sometimes snazzy labels are all about marketing, and not so much about the wine. But there are wines out there that are the best of both worlds.

I hope you enjoy these wines as much as I do, and I hope they add to the conversation wherever you go!

Cheers!

SPRITZERS

By Maggie Walters

The sun is shining, flowers are blooming, shorts are being unfolded from winter storage, and porches and patios everywhere are begging to be enjoyed. Entertaining outside is a favorite in my family this time of year, and the beverage of choice with this beautiful sunshine, is bubbles. I wanted to share a few of my favorite spritzer cocktails that showcase spring flavors! 

My goals are to mix up the flavor profile every time we get together and feature something with only a few ingredients that can be made on the fly. I usually serve my spritzers in stemless glasses. There's no need for flutes with these bubbles!

In all of these cocktails I suggest you use the Prosecco of choice; my personal go-to is La Gioiosa. It's a classic that's refreshing and almost always on sale for around $12!

Here are 3 of my go-to spritzers:


Gin & Fizz

Citadelle gin is a French gin that is floral and herbaceous. I like it in this cocktail because elderflower liqueur is French in origin as well.
These two pair beautifully with the crisp, clean bubbles from the La Gioiosa.

  • 2 oz. Citadelle Gin
  • 0.5 oz. Elderflower Liqueur, like St. Germaine
  • 4 oz. Prosecco of choice

Add gin and elderflower liqueur to a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a stemless wine glass and top with prosecco . 
Garnish with mint leaves and/or cucumber slices. 


Holland Bottom Farms Spritzer

It's strawberry season in Arkansas!! What better way to enjoy these than making a bubbly cocktail?

  • 2 c. Fresh Strawberries, stemmed and halved
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • Prosecco of choice

Slice strawberries, de-stem thyme, and macerate in a bowl with a healthy sprinkle of sugar (about 1/4 cup).
Let sit in refrigerator for about 30 mins. 

Spoon desired about of strawberries and juice into wine glass, top with prosecco.
Garnish with fresh strawberries on rim of the glass and/or a stem of thyme.


Aperol Spritz with a Twist

You can view my previous blog on how to make a traditional Italian Aperol spritz here.

  • Orange sherbet
    – I like to get the sherbet made with real fruit that doesn't have a lot of sugar added to it. The more tart, the better!
  • 1.5 oz. Aperol 
  • Prosecco of choice

Scoop a small amount of orange sherbet into each wine glass, pour aperol over the sherbet, and top with prosecco.
Garnish with an orange slice if desired. 

Girl Scout Cookie + Wine Pairing

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By Maggie Walters

It's that time of year again, GIRL SCOUT COOKIE SEASON!!  It brings out the kid in all of us, and sends us searching for the nearest friend with the "hook up" to the goods.  Whilst hoarding these delectable treats from family members, today we can enjoy something we could not as kids --  pairing them with wines!  Let me be your guide for this exciting time of year.

Here's the breakdown of perfect pairings:

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Do-si-dos & Samosas
paired with: Taylor Fladgate 10 year Tawny Port

Why: What gives Tawny Port its "Tawny" Color is oxidation. This not only affects the color, but the flavor profile. Think nuttiness, butterscotch, chocolate, and ripe berries. What better way to pair Do-si-dos, a peanut butter cookie filled with more confectionery nut butter, and Samoas, a cookie coated in caramel, dark chocolate and toasted coconut, than to bridge those delicious flavors in a wine? 


Savannah Smiles (lemon cookies)
paired with: Michele Chiarlo Moscato d' Asti

Why: This Moscato is delicate, sweet and expresses flavors of peach and orange blossom with a slight spritz. Not only will the textural component be fun to experience with this pairing (think crunch and bubbles), but the delicateness and citrus/fruity flavors of the wine and cookie really hit it off. If anyone out there is doing a spread for a get together, throw some fresh fruit in the mix and you have a party!


Thin Mints & S'mores
paired with: Rosa Di Rosa

Why: Think rich, ripe, red and dark fruit, dark chocolate, and a refreshing finish of mint, and you have this pairing with Thin Mints. This is hands down my favorite pairing (I'm partial to Thin Mints). The wine really makes this a decadent treat. Rosa Di Rosa pairs well with chocolate, so there's no surprise that it is a big hit with the S'mores, cookies filled with chocolate.  


Trefoils
Paired with: Leonard Kreusch Piesporter Michelsberg Riesling Auslese Mosel

Why: The cookie is buttery, crunchy, sweet and lingers on your palate with vanilla. What better way to accentuate this buttery cookie than with a late harvest Riesling? This Riesling offers rich pear, sweet melon, and a refreshing palate cleanser of citrus. It's almost like a fruit pastry in your mouth with both flavors combined. 


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Tagalongs
paired with: Justin Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles

Why: I wanted to do a more familiar pairing for at least one of these cookie pairings; that being chocolate and a jammy California Cab. The Tagalong with the cab is going to create a "PB&J" experience. And who doesn't love the sound of that?