Rodeo Houston Wine Experience 2017

Howdy, wine friends! If you live in Houston then you already know what time it is! It’s Rodeo season! It’s been over a year since the last time I attended, but I’m back and checking out the wines of course!

So, this year, the Champion Wine Garden features more than 70 award-winning wines from the 2017 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition. There is literally something for every palate—red, white, sweet, dry, bubbly to wines made in Texas and internationally. The menu can be quite overwhelming, but there are volunteers available to help you decide. Wine is served by the glass and bottle. Prices by the glass range from $6 to $14, while prices by the bottle range from $20 to $140. I also noticed that the wine garden also sells snacks. You can purchase a cheese plate for $18 and/or charcuterie tray for $28. The Wine Garden has everything to make your wine experience complete.

During my visit, I started with a white wine and end with a red—just to make sure that I could try both. You know I’m a sucker for buttery Chardonnay and a friend of mine told me I had to try the 2015 Rombauer Vineyards because it was all that and more. The Rombauer Chardonnay did not disappoint! It was all types of buttery deliciousness! It had aromas of ripe apples, citrus, and melon. On the palate, you could definitely taste the oaked buttery flavors with a hint of creme brulee sweetness. Now a glass of this Chard ran for $14 and a bottle goes for $58. Next, I tried the 2015 Don Rodolfo Art of the Andes Pinot Noir. If I’m going to drink a red, 9 times out of 10, I’m going to choose a Pinot hands down. Now, I’m typically fond of Pinot Noirs from the Wiliamette Valley, but those were not on the menu. Instead, I opted for one from Argentina…reds tend to be very good from this region. Yup! And, I instantly fell in love with this red. It was sooooo good from the very first sip. You know I had to do my happy dance. Don Rodolfo Pinot has raspberry and cherry notes—very beautiful. On the palate you get those same cherries with hints of blueberries. I  liked it soooo much that I want to find it in real life and add it to my wine collection.

I had a good time at the Wine Garden and wished I could’ve tried more wines. There is still a week left of the Rodeo, so if you haven’t gone (and even if you’ve been several times), it won’t hurt to go back again just to try the wine. It really is a great experience!

Ogun Art + Wine Grand Opening Recap

Hey wine friends! I know I’ve been M.I.A lately. Lo siento mucho!!! Still trying to get adjusted to my new work life. It’s been crazy busy, but I promise I’ll be back to my regular blogging routine soon.

Okay, so let me catch you up on my latest wine adventure. I was invited to the grand opening of a new wine bar called Ogun Art + Wine over the weekend. I was super excited to attend. You know wine and art are two of my all time favorite things! But unfortunately that’s where the excitement ends for me. The night ended up being an epic fail for the books.

Epic fail might be a little too harsh, but let’s just say I wasn’t pleased with my experience and here’s why…

Ty’s Takeaways…

Location: So, let me start with some background about the place. Ogun Art + Wine is located off of Washington Ave and Studemont in  a little shopping strip in Houston. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Absolve Wine Lounge, but Ogun is now in that space. I’m not sure what happened to Absolve and I can’t say that I was sad to hear that it was gone. Definitely wasn’t on my list of top wine bars in the city. However, having a wine bar in that location is a nice addition to the Washington Ave area.

Parking: Parking was horrible! Perhaps it was because of the grand opening event, but the lot was packed. They had $8 valet parking available and you know the only valet I recognize is complimentary! I drove around and around trying to figure out where I could park for FREE. There’s a Walgreen’s next door, but I didn’t want to take that risk and get towed. Luckily, there was additional parking behind the building for customers. Please don’t waste your money on valet if the lot is full. I repeat DO NOT pay for valet! Besides the valet attendants were parking cars in the regular lot. They didn’t have spaces marked off, which I thought was a rip off for the person paying. Doesn’t valet mean there is a particular spot sectioned off for your car? I dunno *side eye* But, if all else fails, there’s always street parking on the street behind the shopping center.

Space: The actual space is small, but cute. You’ll find a couple of options for outdoor seating. When you walk in there are several tables and then seating at the bar. Along the wall, you’ll see lots of African art. (Sorry…this is the all I know about this place. Nobody gave any background on the concept or anything. You’ll see keep reading…)

Customer Service: The place was packed when we arrived. There was nobody at the door to greet us. All of the tables were full, as well as the seating at the bar. It took us a while to figure out how to get a drink. There were no menus in sight. There were so many people, including the people who were sitting at the bar that it was hard to squeeze in. I’m an observer, so as I’m waiting to place my order at the bar, I see men in suits that appear to be the hosts, but they’re only greeting the people that they know. Hmmm…if this is a grand opening for the community, why not speak to the people who you don’t know? Introduce yourself, welcome your guests. I don’t understand how you have a grand opening and don’t go out of your way to make your guest feel welcomed (and at least tell them about the place).

After some patience, I finally made my way up to the bar. I noticed that there were only two servers working. Mind you there were probably 10 people sitting at the bar with groups of people standing behind them trying to place orders. So, as I’m waiting I realize that I don’t even know what I can order. There weren’t any menus out. When I finally got the server’s attention, I had to ask for a menu. My cousin was with my me (hey, girl, hey), so I gave her the menu and we figured out what we were going to order. But, by that time our server had moved on to someone else. I guess you snooze, you lose in these streets. We literally waited for almost 30 minutes trying to get the server’s attention, but she never looked up…never acknowledged us. I understand it was a busy night, but one you shouldn’t have only had two people working the bar and two the servers should have acknowledged the people waiting. Like “oh I got you next,” but their heads were down most the time. Anyways, we waited 30 minutes too long and between the bar service and lack of overall customer service in general, we decided it was time to roll.

Menu: I got a chance to briefly check out the menu. Their wine selection wasn’t that extensive. If I remember correctly, there were probably 8-10 whites. The red offering was a little longer and there were a handful of sparkling wines. If I’m wrong on the amounts, it’s because I was so irritated I couldn’t see straight. Anyways, I will say that I was impressed with the types of whites on their wine list. If my order had been taken, I would’v asked for the Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc. Yes, the same Sauv Blanc that I had at Cork in Dallas. I was so happy to see it on a Houston wine list. I guess I need to go back to Dallas to try it again though.

Overall, I was not happy with this event. I thought it was not well planned at all. And sad to say, I probably won’t go back to visit either. Great concept, but service is everything!! And on a night when you’re introducing your wine bar to the community, customer service should’ve been top of mind and it wasn’t. There are plenty of other wine bars in the city that go above and beyond to make their customers feel at home and sadly I just didn’t feel that at Ogun Art + Wine. I’ll take my wine money elsewhere.

Suite Four Sparkling Wine

Varietal: Unknown | Region: California | Retailer: Suite Four | Price: $19.99

Having a week off before I start my new job has been pure heaven! It has afforded me long overdue “ME TIME” and allowed me to catch up on much needed reading (sike!) wine drinking. I finally got a chance to try the new Suite Four sparkling wine. Last summer, Suite Four was founded by Cyrina Yarbrough, a Cali native now living the D.C. life, in an effort to create an unpretentious wine that millennials could drink whether it’s in a fancy flute or in a red solo cup.

And that’s what initially drew me to Cyrina’s story when we first connected a couple of months ago. She get’s it! Everything about wine doesn’t have to be formal. With Suite Four, Cyrina has created a universal wine that anyone can enjoy no matter what stage you’re in on your wine journey. I applaud her determination to break into the wine industry and re-define the preconceived notions of how wine should be experienced. Let’s keep it real…you don’t have to travel to every wine region or be well versed in wine lingo to appreciate good wine.

Ty’s Takeaways…

I honestly didn’t know what to expect with this sparkling wine. I was just praying that it wouldn’t be sweet! I decided to save Suite Four for a special occasion. So, when I got my ah-mazing, new job offer, I knew it was time to pop open this bubbly.

First off, I was in a rush to drink this wine after an unsettling week at work, so I put it in the freezer to chill for a minute couple hours…oops, my bad. I accidentally left it in too long, so it had a bit of a slushy consistency to it, which turned out to be super delicious! So quick side note, Suite Four is also good slightly frozen :) But, I digress…let me get back to my review.

The moment I took a sip, I knew that Suite Four and I were going to be best friends. Yessssss!! It was an instant connection. That Pam and Gina, Meredith Grey and Christina Yang closer than close type of friendship. I immediately wanted to celebrate!

Maybe it was because I had over-chilled the wine, but I found it to be very crisp and refreshing. Suite Four may also work for a nice summertime spritzer this year. Anyways, after drinking this wine, I felt like I had been invited in on a little secret and wanted to share with others. I wanted someone else to feel what I was feeling in that very moment.

The aromas of this sparkling wine are soft and sweet. It reminded me of Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Cider. On the palate, you get flavors of green apple and peach, with hints of honey and vanilla. I was happy to discover that this was not a sweet sparkling wine, but it also wasn’t completely dry either. It has the perfect balance, with the bold fruit flavors taking center stage. Plus, the wine gives off this nice effervescence, that turns this wine into a great dance party in your mouth. Hence, why this sparkling wine was the perfect choice to celebrate this next season in my life!

Rating: 4 Corks

Sip, Chug, or Cork It? 

Cyrina has definitely accomplished her goal of creating an affordable wine that millennials can truly appreciate! But, please note that you don’t have to be in your 20’s or 30’s to enjoy this wine! Suite Four is double-fisting sip-worthy.

If there was ever a wine anthem for celebrations, Suite Four would be the official representative. Trust, you won’t want to put this wine down. It’s that good!

**I received a complimentary bottle of Suite Four sparkling wine. All opinions are my own.

Rosa Regale

Varietal: 100% Brachetto | Region: Piedmont, Italy | Retailer: Check Online | Price: $13/$14

Mood: Hopeful

*Queue Beyonce* Where are all my single ladies? This post is for you! Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and it can be a little daunting if you’re not in a relationship.

But, I’m an optimist and believe in that Keith Sweat Make it Last Forever type of love. It may not happen today…or tomorrow, but one day! So, fix your face if Valentine’s Day has you feeling some type of way.

It’s just a day. I repeat…IT’S JUST A DAY!  

Wine Pairing: CELEBRATE if you’re single. Don’t let all the couples have all the fun. A couple of weeks ago, I received a bottle of Rosa Regale from Banfi Wines. I thought it would be perfect for some Single Awareness or Galentine’s Day fun. Rosa Regale is a sparkling red wine from Italy. It’s made 100% from the Brachetto grape. This red has very unique aromas — strawberries, raspberries, and a hint of red roses. Many of which you can taste on the palate. I found the Rosa Regale to be pretty sweet, reminding me of a Moscato…Uh oh!

Rating: 2 Corks

Sip, Chug, or Cork It? Anyone who knows me in real life, knows that I am not a fan of sweet wines, but I’m not going to let that get in the way of my recommendation. I know a lot of my readers do enjoy the sweeter wines, so I’m not going to be a hater. With that being said….I personally would cork it, not my type of wine. BUT if you’re on the sweet train, then you should definitely sip it! No matter if you’re single or in a relationship, Rosa Regale is a nice sparkling wine to share with friends or serve after a romantic dinner.

Oh, and if you’re in a relationship and are looking for some last minute Valentine’s Dday ideas, check out the YGOM Valentine’s Day Pairing Playbook.

** Banfi Wines sent me a complimentary bottle of the Rosa Regale. All opinions are my own.

Valentine’s Day Pairing Playbook

Raise a glass if you survived Super Bowl 51. **ting**

A double clink if you survived Super Bowl 51 and live in Houston! **clank, clank**

Next up, the holiday that people either love to love or love to hate….Valentine’s Day. I always get asked about wine pairings for this romanic day, so I decided to put together a little pairing playbook to help you pick out the right wines.

Now, don’t stop reading if you’re single and Valentine’s Day is the furthest thing from your mind. You don’t have to be in a relationship to take advantage of these recommendations. Whether you’re planning a romantic dinner for your significant other or getting a group of friends together for some Galentine’s Day fun, these wine recommendations are perfect for any special occasion. So, let’s get started!

Pre-Game

Chandon Blanc de Noirs for $16.99 at H-E-B

Start your evening off with some bubbly. Nothing like a champagne or sparkling wine toast to get the festivities started. I chose the Chandon Blanc de Noirs, which is available at H-E-B for only $16.99. Chandon is a very popular sparkling wine producer in California and H-E-B sells it at a very affordable price! I actually had the opportunity to visit their tasting room on my last trip to Napa.

Chandon Blanc de Noirs is a brut (dry) sparkling wine. It is filled with cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors. Although, this bubbly is on the drier spectrum, the flavors build for a nice soft, creamy finish.

Pairings: I paired this sparkling wine with semi-covered chocolate strawberries. I found all the ingredients at H-E-B. The recipe (which a friend and I made up on the spot) is super easy. Just melt the chocolate of your choice and dip or drizzle the chocolate on your strawberries. We also decided to jazz up the strawberries with some sprinkles. First off, the strawberries from H-E-B were sweet to perfection, then couple that with the sprinkles and paired with the dry cherry flavors from the Chandon Blanc de Noirs — waaaiiiittttt for it— OMG! Pure magic in your mouth.

Oh! And don’t forget the roses! You can buy a bouquet of fresh long-stemmed red roses from H-E-B in-store for $9.99. You can gift them or use them as the centerpiece for your table setting.

Found these heart shaped flutes at H-E-B for $2.47. Super cute! Plus, you can also find tea light candles for $5 from H-E-B to set the mood as well. Heyyy boy heyyyy!

The Main Event

Pictured left: Bread & Butter Pinot Noir for $$18.99; Pictured Left: Duet Chardonnay-Viognier for $$11.57. Both available at H-E-B.

I chose a white and red wine for the main meal.

First, let’s talk about white wine. I’m all about staying away from the status quo. Impress your love bug or friends with the Duet Chardonnay-Viognier. This white is a blend of Chardonnay (70%) and Viognier (30%). The aromas are a little funky – very earthy, but you’re in for a surprise on the palate. It’s a dry wine, but filled with lots of tropical fruit flavors on the front and ending with a nice, subtle tart finish.

Pairings: This Chardonnay-Viognier blend would pair well with some grilled chicken or a light fish like tilapia, or maybe even a pasta dish with marinara sauce.

If white wine isn’t your thing, try this Pinot Noir from Bread & Butter. If you recall, I recently reviewed their Chardonnay, which was awesome sauce. Well, their Pinot Noir is just as good and only $11.57 at H-E-B. The nose on this red wine is delicate, yet very pretty – lots of floral, chocolate, cherry cola, with a hint of pears and creamy caramel. If you haven’t been hit with cupid’s arrow, you definitely will after drinking this red. This Pinot Noir is light and very smooth on the palate. You get these earthy, mineral undertones followed by flavors of ripe cherries and raspberries. The tannins in this red are almost nonexistent, so you get more of the fruit flavors without the bitter aftertaste. Best served cool.

Pairings: This Pinot Noir would complement heavier dishes like steak, salmon or other fatty fishes, or even a casserole. And don’t forget H-E-B is offering a sweet deal this month. Buy their H-E-B Meal Simple™ Lobster and White Cheddar Mac & Cheese and get two 3″ French Tarts (February 8- 14). Now that’s a great deal! Pair the lobster mac with the meat of your choice and you can get your dessert included for free. Because this Pinot is lighter, it will pair with the heaviness from the cheesy pasta. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! I definitely plan to treat me, myself, and I come V-Day!

Celebration

Colby Red Blend for $10.73 at H-E-B

Be sure to leave room for dessert! I remixed this dessert idea from Pinterest and created the YGOM Wine Trifle! Here are the ingredients:

  • Red Velvet Cake
  • Whipped Cream
  • Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Raspberries (soaked in the red wine of choice)
  • Mint Leaf (for garnish)

I love that this dessert is so easy to make AND I actually used wine glasses from H-E-B. All you have to do is layer the ingredients in a wine glass. First, the red velvet cake, then layer with some cream cheese frosting, followed by the wine soaked raspberries, a little whipped cream, and simply repeat. Make sure to top off with whipped cream and garnish with a mint leaf or shaved pieces of chocolate. I’m not a dessert person at all, but I sure did finish a glass by myself. This dessert is soooo freakin’ good! If you want to impress your boo, then definitely try this recipe!

Pairings: I chose to incorporate wine into the actual dessert. If you make the red velvet cake from scratch, you can infuse it with red wine and also soak your raspberries for about 30-45 minutes in wine as well to absorb the flavors. For this recipe, I used Colby Red Blend. I’m not a big red drinker, but this blend was love at first sip. It’s only $11 at H-E-B – super affordable and quality red wine! Colby red wine is a unique blend of  Cabernet Sauvignon (55%), Petite Sirah (15%), Merlot (12%), Zinfandel (11%), and Syrah (8%) – smooth, light, and fruit forward…just how I like my reds! On another note, you could finish off the Chandon with the dessert, but it honestly stands on it’s own.

So, there you have it! The YGOM Val(Gal)entine’s Day Pairing Playbook. Hope these wine recommendations get you ready for your special day.

**This post was sponsored by H-E-B. All opinions are my own.