Stellekaya Cabernet Sauvignon

Vintage: 2012 Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon | Region: Stellenbosch| Price: $30

If you don’t know about Stellekaya Wines then you’ll definitely want to take notes. They produce one of the best collection of affordable red wines that I’ve ever tasted. Every label is unique and overwhelming good. Stellekaya is a privately owned boutique wine producer located in the heart of the Cape Winelands in South Africa. All of their grapes are sourced from the town of Stellenbosch. And guess who is the winemaker behind these wines? A woman by the name of Ntsiki Biyela, who just happens to be the first black woman winemaker in South Africa.

Biyela studied viticulture and oenology at Stellenbosch University. After graduation, she was hired as a winemaker for Stellekaya Wines in 2004. Her first red wine won a gold medal at the Michelangelo awards. Five years later she was named as South Africa’s Woman Winemaker of the Year.

For the last couple of years, Biyela has come to Houston to host tastings and private dinners. In 2016, I was fortunate to meet her in person (see photo below) and try all of her amazing red wines. One of my favorites is her Cabernet Sauvignon, which I’m sharing on the blog today.

Ty’s Takeaways…

First, I want to start with the production of this Cab. The grapes are hand harvested in granite-rich soil in the cool climate of Stellenbosh. Then, they are cooled and go through the maceration process to extract the color and capture its fruit flavors prior to fermentation. This wine was matured in french oak for 24 months before it was bottled in March 2014 and then bottle-aged for another year before its official release.

This full-bodied red is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. It has aromas of red fruits with a little bit of cocoa. The flavors are bold and intense. You taste berries with some earthy undertones of smoked cedar. There is a nice balance between the fruit flavors acidity, and wood character—making for a very mature wine.

Rating: 4 Corks

Sip, Chug, or Cork It? 

Definitely a wine that you want to sip and enjoy. This wine is not to be rushed. If you live in Houston, Stellekaya Wines are available at the Kroger on Westheimer near Briar Forest and are also sold at various restaurants in the city. For those not in Houston, check your local wine retailer.

Today, Biyela has her own wine business called Alsina Wines. Alsina is the name of her grandmother who remains her inspiration today. She currently has three wines available:

  • 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon,
  • 2015 Umsasane (a Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet franc and petit Verdot blend)
  • 2015 Sauvignon Blanc

I can’t wait to try her new wines, but in the mean time check out Stellekaya if you’re looking for a good red. You won’t regret it! Until next time….glasses up!

For the (Wine) Culture

Ty Wine Collage

In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to acknowledge and celebrate all the African Americans holding it down in the wine game. Now I’m not talking about the consumer, but people on the other side of the bottle—the winemakers, sommeliers, and distributors. As a blogger, when I attend wine industry trade events, I rarely see people who look like me in those positions and that can be disheartening. It’s sad because I think there’s this perception that wine just isn’t a “black thing.” Well guess what?! We out here too!

That’s why I wanted to shine a light on Black winemakers. They definitely don’t get the exposure or credit they deserve. I myself didn’t even know they existed until I randomly discovered a Black winemakers group on social media a couple years ago. It was a breath of fresh air knowing there were people who liked like me and shared the same passion actually making wine. And, not some gimmicky wine, but really investing in the cultivation of grapes (some even having their own vineyards) to produce good, quality wine.

I truly admire this small group of Black winemakers. The wine industry isn’t easy. I’m not sure what my wine future holds outside of this blog, but they definitely give me hope. That’s why I wanted to write this post for the culture. African Americans have such a rich history. It was only right to share our contributions to the wine industry. Here are a couple of winemakers that are definitely representing for the wine culture.

Iris Rideau

Iris Rideau is noted as the first Creole American winemaker. She grew up in New Orleans and after a successful career as an investment and securities broker, surprisingly decided to enter into the world of wine in her retirement. In 1990, Rideau bought a six-acre plot of land in Solvang (North of Santa Barbara) in the Santa Ynez Valley that had an abandoned vineyard. Rideau loved Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines from France’s Rhône Valley, and learned that her property was ideal for growing Rhône grapes. Six years later she added 24 more acres to the property and opened the doors to her winery Rideau Vineyard. Talk about boss moves! Rideau produces wines that highlight Rhône varietals and produces Syrah, Mourvedre, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. She sold 300 cases in her first year and now produces nearly 7,500 cases annually. I can’t wait to visit her winery next month during my birthday wine trip to Santa Ynez!

Andre Hueston Mack

You down with O.P.P.? No, not the hip hop classic, but the wine that stands for Other People’s Pinot Noir, which was created by Andre Hueston Mack. I follow Andre on Instagram and he has a pretty cool story. In the early 2000’s, he left his 9-to-5 to pursue his passion for wine. He began studying wine and soon became a very accomplished sommelier—winning the Best Young Sommelier in America at age 30. He was the first African American sommelier to do this. He then went on to become the head sommelier at several four-star restaurants in New York. In 2007, Mack founded Mouton Noir Wines, which means “black sheep” in French. He currently makes 13 wines (including O.P.P. and Knock on Wood), which are made from grapes that come from six different vineyards in Oregon. Originally, the bottles were designed to be served in restaurants, but are now available in stores, online, and for wholesale order in the U.S. and 11 countries. He also designs t-shirts with wine puns and I read that he’s either working on a book or documentary about African American winemakers. I can’t wait for that to come out! 

McBride Sisters

Imagine the wine version of Sister, Sister, except you have two sisters—same father, but different mothers. One grew up in New Zealand and the other in Monterey, California. Before their father died, he asked his family to connect the two. After some nifty private detective work, his family would help Andréa and Robin McBride meet for the first time. Crazy story, right? As the two got to know one another, they discovered a shared passion for wine, something they each developed growing up in the major wine regions of New Zealand and Central California. In 2010, they started a wine importing business called the McBride Sisters Wine Company—becoming the first African American sisters to found a wine company. However, it wasn’t enough for them to import sustainable wine (which they still do). The women wanted to challenge the status quo and partnered with Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines to create Truvée. The name comes from the French verb “to find” and each bottle, according to the sisters, is a reflection of a shared vision that grew out of two individual stories and exemplifies “to find what matters most.” They currently offer four wines: 2015 Red Blend (Central Coast California), 2016 Chardonnay (Central Coast), 2016 Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand), 2016 (Sparkling Brut Rosè). According to the sisters, they wanted to craft wines that are elegant, finely-balanced, not heavy-handed and express distinct individuality. I identify the most with these sisters and look up them as role models. They are definitely helping to open doors for women and minorities in the industry.

Chris Christensen

I just discovered Chris Christensen while doing research for this post. He grew up in Iowa and went to Stanfurd University (My deepest condolences! Go Bears!) where he discovered wine trying to impress the ladies. Funny because he was raised in a devoutly Presbyterian non-drinking household. After college, he went to work in the wine industry, but soon left to get what he called a “real job” at a bank. However, that corporate life wasn’t for him and he returned to the wine industry after one year, one month, and 19 days (to be exact) on the job. In 2011, he founded Bodkin Wines as a side project. Christensen doesn’t own a vineyard, nor is that in his plans. Adopting the motto from Game of Thrones, “We Do Not Sow — We Only Reap,” instead he purchases his grapes from other vineyards, such as the sustainably farmed Sandy Bend Vineyard in Upper Lake, California. While he may have started at the bottom, he is now making highly acclaimed wines. His site says that he is the founder America’s first Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc. Now you know I have to try that! And he also has a couple of wines (Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel) that are listed as 90 points and up in Wine Enthusiast.

Deneen, David & Coral Brown

In 1980, husband and wife Bassett and Marcela Brown purchased 450 acres in the eastern hills of Napa Valley. In 1985 they planted their first vineyard on the property, which consisted of approximately nine acres of Zinfandel. The Chiles Valley microclimate proved perfect for cultivating Zinfandel grapes, and the Brown family’s fruit soon gained tremendous popularity among Zinfandel producers. For 10 years, the Browns sold their Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to other winemakers in the area. It was through a series of apprenticeships with winemakers who were working with their grapes that the Brown’s son David – who by then had been farming his family’s vineyards for five years – began learning the art and science of winemaking. In the mid-1990s, as a result of the rising demand for their grapes, David and his sister Deneen, decided to produce wine under their own label. With no winery facility on site, they secured a custom crush contract with Rombauer Vineyards in Saint Helena and for six years they produced their wines at that facility. In 2000, Brown Estate debuted their first two vintages (1996 and 1997) of Napa Valley Zinfandel at the annual Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) tasting at Fort Mason in San Francisco. The Brown offerings were very well received by both trade and the public, thereby establishing Brown Estate as a winery to watch in the arena of Napa Valley Zinfandel. Simultaneously, in the January 31, 2000 issue of Wine Spectatorthe 1997 Brown Estate Zinfandel received a score of 91 points. Today, Brown Estate is one of the hottest wineries in Napa! You have to book an appointment just to visit. Siblings David (winemaker), Deneen (president), and Coral (brand management director) just celebrated their 20th vintage last year. What a great way to build upon their family’s legacy. By the way, can they adopt me?

Now these are just a few of the Black winemakers out there. All of their stories are inspiring and I hope that one day I’ll have the pleasure of meeting then as I continue in my own wine journey. I hope you learned something new today. Over the next couple of posts, I’ll highlight some other cool individuals in honor of Black History Month. Until next time…glasses up!

Noble Rot Wine Bar

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Noble Rot Wine Bar located inside of Conservancy in downtown Houston.

I’d like to think that I know about all the wine bars in Houston, but last week I was scrolling on the ‘gram and came across Noble Rot Wine Bar. Of course, I immediately googled it and saw that it was actually located inside of Conservancy in downtown Houston. For those not familiar with Conservancy, it’s an underground beer garden and food hall. How cool does that sound? I don’t really hang out much downtown, but this was worth a trip to check out.

So, when you get to Conservancy, you take a flight of steps down to get to the food hall area. Noble Rot Wine Bar is located towards the front end. It has a small bar area with seating for maybe eight and then there are tables throughout the hall for people to sit as well. I noticed that most people just came up to the bar to order their wine and then left to walk around. My friend and I arrived around a little after 8:30 p.m. and the place was pretty lit as the young kids like to say. Lots of people, great energy, and the place was playing old school hip hop/r&B jams.

The menu features wines from all over the world. The first couple of pages are wines by the glass mostly sold at $5-8. The remaining pages are higher priced wines sold by the bottle. My favorite part of the menu are their flights. So, for $8 you can try any three wines off the first two pages of the menu AND for $10 you can try four. Now that’s a great deal. Most wine flights are not that cheap in the city. Go to places like Cru or Sonoma Wine Bars and you’ll probably pay around $15 to $30 for a flight of three wines depending on the varietal. At $10, my friend and I both got two flights.

Oh yeah!

From left to right:

  • Disruption (Red Blend) — 5 Corks
    This red was soooo good!! One of the best reds I’ve tried in a long time. Light, smooth, and fruit-forward
  • Primarius (Pinot Noir) — 4 Corks
    Pretty solid for a Willamette Pinot.
  • Babich (Sauvignon Blanc) — 4 Corks
    Nice grassy, citrus flavors…what you’d typically expect from a New Zealand Sauv.
  • Vibracions (Sparkling Rosé) — 3 Corks
    I need to stop playing myself with dry sparkling wines. They are just not my thing. It’s the one type of wine that I prefer to be sweeter if it has bubbles (ala a mimosa). For those reasons I wasn’t the biggest fan.

But overall, I was very pleased with my flight selection and at the $10 price point ordered another flight of four. For $20, I was able to try 8 wines, which was a good chunk of the flight menu.

#winning

Oh, and I can’t leave with mentioning their $1 Champagne shots. Now that’s a first! I’m hear for it, especially since that’s about all the Champagne I can take on it’s own.

shots, shots, shots

All in all, Noble Rot Wine Bar is a pretty cool spot. I love everything about this underground wine bar from the ambiance to the wine of course. You should definitely check it out if you’re ever in downtown Houston! Until next time…glasses up!

Momo Food + Wine

4104 Fannin Street, Houston TX

I’m not even going to beat around the bush with this one. There’s a new wine bar in Houston called Momo Food + Wine that is definitely worth checking out! It opened last fall and I’m so glad that I finally got a chance to check it out.

Momo is located in Midtown around the corner from the Breakfast Klub. It’s on this weird strip that if you blink you might just pass it, which ironically I did. Not the best area in town, but once you walk in you immediately forget what’s outside. Momo has this really cute chic vibe. Loved the purple and gray decor! It kind of reminded me of a spoken word lounge channeling the Love Jones era. There is plenty of table seating and a couple of areas where groups can hang out.

So, I absolutely love the concept behind this wine bar. Every little detail is extremely well thought out. Let’s talk food first. The menu is inspired by Bangladesh, Indian, and Spanish cultures. You can see these fusion of flavors represented in each plate on the menu. I’ve never seen that offered at a wine bar before. Typically, you get your cheese/meat trays, nuts, blah, blah, blah. But, Momo takes a different approach—challenging your palate with the unexpected. Offering nontraditional food items with such unique flavors allows for some unique wine pairings.

Now on the menu you’ll find dishes, such as the Savory Chickpea Waffle, Salvador Masa Cakes, and Jhai, Muri (Indian version of bar popcorn) for example. Now the owner said these plates were shareable, but I’m not quite sure you’d want to in this case.

I ordered the Patatas Bravas, which are red potato wedges tossed with turmeric, paprika, and parsley, topped with garlic mayo and jalapeno ketchup. And (clap) let (clap) me (clap) tell (clap) you, it was Al Green Love and Happiness three stomps good!! Seasoned to perfection and with just the right amount of spice.

Don’t ask me to share!

Lawd, I can’t wait to go back just for these! I’d even make a bold statement and say that Momo’s bravas are better than Oporto Fooding + Wine’s.

Yeah, I said it!

Now, you know that’s big considering that Oporto is my favorite restaurant in the city. I only tried one item, because the menu is very carb heavy and I’m trying to keep Bertha (inner fat kid) in check this year. The menu caters to carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans, which I can appreciate. Especially, since every other week I fit into one of these categories. So, I definitely will be back to try other plates on their menu.

Moving on to the wines. Their wine menu features Sparkling, White/Rosé, Red, and Dessert wines by the glass and bottle. This one pager is simple to follow and each wine is said to be selected with a purpose. The owner described the menu as a mix of different blends from around the world. And eclectic it is indeed! I found a Chenin Blanc from India. Wine made in India??? I didn’t even know that was a thing. The Sula is served by the bottle, but the owner was kind enough to let me try a glass.

Nice crisp and refreshing, but a little too sweet for me, BUT when paired with the bravas it was perfect. The sweetness helped balance out the spices. I also tried the L’Oliveto Rosé of Pinot Noir from California.

Very solid selection. Will be perfect for the spring.

I can tell the owner really thought about which wines would complement her dishes. When at Momo, I’d make sure to ask what wine pairs best with the food you’re eating to really elevate your wine/food experience. That’s something I want to do more of in 2018. Oh, and there are beer and cocktail options if wine isn’t your thing.

Momo does have a happy hour Tuesday – Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wines are $1 off by the glass and local beers are $4. Not really a great discount off wines, but I’ll take the L on that one. Snacks are half off. Also, wine bottles are 25% off on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Overall, I’m really excited about having Momo Food + Wine in Houston. I feel pretty lucky because I really don’t think there is any other wine bar out there like this right now. It has so much potential. I’m all about changing the way that we experience wine and Momo does that through its amazing food menu. All Momo needs is a neosoul night and I’d be there sipping my wine and eating my bravas (and not sharing) all the time. If you live in Houston definitely check it out and let me know what you think. Until next time…glasses up!

Mo’ Wine, Pour Problems

I like big pours and I cannot lie! When a server stops by with an itty bitty pour I get…

Annoyed!

Seriously! Especially, when a glass is probably equivalent to the cost of the bottle…but that’s a whole other issue (sips wine). I have a bit of a problem with the standard pour size in this country. It’s only five ounces and yet at some places it’s probably more like three! Unfortunately, some servers follow that rule to a tee. Booooo to all the restaurants and wine bars who now have ounce markers on their glasses (tré tackÿ) and pour exactly to…that…freakin’…line. Not cool my friends, not cool! At that point, I’d rather just take the bottle and pour it myself.

Just like this :)

All jokes aside, I’m not asking for my cup to runneth over so that I can get wine wasted. It’s all about getting my money’s worth at the end of the day (at least that’s what I tell myself). Now if you love a good pour like me, I found a couple of places in Houston were the servers are a little heavy handed and I’m here for every last ounce!

Perbacco

Perbacco

Now that’s a good pour!

I just wrote about Perbacco a couple of weeks ago. Last year, I went there to have lunch with my friend and noticed that their wine pours were on the heavier side. I knew I had to go back to see if this was just a one-time fluke. My eyes did not deceive me. It really was true. Now, they don’t have the fanciest glasses. The size of the glass is on the smaller size, but at least they make it up by pouring more wine. Queue Diddy…”Pour that, pour that, pour that!”

One thing to note is that these heavier pours are only for their house wines. I saw a table order a bottle of wine and the server poured half of what’s pictured above. That’s cool though. I don’t mind drinking from the house list if it means more wine.

Whole Foods

Does your Whole Foods pour wine like this?

I think people really sleep on Whole Foods. I know it’s super pricey, but inside is a hidden wine and beer bar. Yes, you can drink while you get your shop on. I love the concept and need to take more advantage of it. Anyways, the pours at Whole Foods (on Waugh in Houston) break all the annoying wine rules. See exhibit A above. That is definitely not a standard pour for that type of glass AND I’ve even seen them pour a little bit more before. They definitely pour to please. Shout out to my no limit pourers!

Crazy, right? You’d think they’d be more on the conservative side especially with people shopping and then driving. But, I don’t think by any means that they’re trying to get people drunk, but give them an enjoyable experience. P.S. it works!

Grotto Ristorante – Downtown Houston

Don’t let the picture fool you. There’s plenty of wine in this glass!

Like every restaurant, Grotto serves wine by the glass, but it is their ounce offerings that will take you by surprise….6 ounces (meh) and wait for it…9 ounces! What?!? A 9 ounce pour! Yes, you are reading that correctly. Now whoever thought of that is the real MVP.

It may not look like it (based on the glass), but it was more than enough. In fact, 9oz should be the new standard pour size. How about that? Then if you want less, you can just ask your server. I’d rather get more than enough than to sit there wanting more. But maybe that’s the master plan in the scheme of it all. Pour less, so that the customer will want to order more…

In all seriousness, I get that there is an art to how you’re supposed to experience wine. The standard pour size helps limit the amount of alcohol you’ll take in. But, most importantly, it allows oxygen to remain in the glass to further open up the wine and give you a rich aromatic impression before the wine even hits your palate. It all makes sense. I just wish some servers weren’t so stingy with their pouring. A little extra wine never hurt anyone, especially if the customer is really enjoying the wine. I guess it really is true, Mo’ Wine, Pour Problems. So, if you know of any other places that know how to give a good pour please let me know. Would love to hear! Until next time…glasses up!