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!

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!

Arterberry Maresh Pinot Noir

Oregon Pinor Noir

Vintage: 2015|Varietal: Pinot Noir | Region: Oregon | Price: $25

Baby, it’s cold outside! I can’t believe that it’s snowing in Houston for the second time in literally a month. I’ve lived in Houston for almost six years now and this is pretty exciting for the California girl who has only experienced snow three times now in her lifetime. Nothing says “snow day” like curling up on the couch in front of the fireplace with your favorite glass of wine. Now, I may not have a fireplace anymore, but definitely found this new Pinot Noir to get me through what some are deeming snowpocalypse. I purchased this bottle at 13 Celsius’ end-of-year sale last month. I love Oregon Pinot Noir, so it was only right that I bless this cold, frigid night with the best.

Ty’s Takeaways…

Now this Pinot Noir is from the Dundee Hills of Willamette Valley in Oregon. I wasn’t familiar with the Dundee Hills, but found out that it’s actually located south of Portland and encompasses 6,490 acres. Apparently, the Dundee Hill is where Oregon Pinot Noir won its worldwide reputation for greatness.

With this Pinot, you’ll find ripe, dark red, fruit on the nose with accents of citrus fruit and a subtle smokiness. True to its form, this Pinot is light and silky smooth in structure. On the palate you’ll get dark cherry and plum fruits with very little tannins. That’s why if you’re opposed to reds, I always recommend Pinot Noir as a good transition red. It’s boldness in fruit flavors always outweighs the dryness you get with other reds like Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots.

Rating: 4 Corks

Sip, Chug, or Cork It? 

I’d definitely sip this Pinot Noir, whether it was a cold or warm day. This Pinot gets my vote all year long! It’s so light and refreshing. Once again, Oregon definitely knows how to make a great Pinot Noir. Thank you for never letting me down!

It’s an Italian Wine Kinda Week

PerbaccoThis week, I visited an Italian restaurant called Perbacco in downtown Houston. Their food is actually really good if you ever get a chance to stop by. For this occasion, I was actually there doing some research for next week’s post, but decided to review some of their wines as well.

I must say that I haven’t really explored Italian wines much. I read that Italy is home to some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world and grapes are grown in almost every region of the country. Plus, there are more than one million vineyards under cultivation. Italy is definitely on my list of countries to visit this year (hopefully).

So, what did I drink? I decided to try a Pinot Noir (pictured center) and a Chianti (pictured right). Two very different wines that are worth discussing.

Ty’s Takeaways…

2016 Cavit Pinot Noir
It’s no secret that Pinot Noir is my favorite red wine! I normally go for Pinots that are from the Willamette Valley region of Oregon, so I was looking forward to trying this one. This has 100 percent Pinot Noir grapes that were harvested in the hilly areas throughout Provincia di Pavia in Italy. It was hard to get a good sense of the aromas because they filled the wine practically to the brim (which I’m not mad at), but it does make it hard for the aromas to open up. Like you really care about that though. Anyways, to say that this Pinot is light-bodied is an understatement. It felt like air on my tongue. The flavors carried very well on the palate too. I found it to be very fruit forward with its red cherry and berry flavors. Its velvety smooth texture makes it appealing and easy to savor.

Rating: 3.5 Corks

2016 Rigoletto Chianti
This Chianti is made with 90 percent Sangiovese grapes and 10  Merlot grapes. It is a well-balanced wine of medium weight with jammy flavors of ripe plums, cherries and red fruit. It has a deep crimson color and is a lively wine with a soft mineral finish and a bit of a tannin flavor that lingers for long, peppery finish.

Rating: 3 Corks

Sip, Chug, or Cork It?

I’d sip the Pinot Noir and cork the Chianti. I really enjoyed the Pinot, although it wasn’t one of my favorites. It was everything a Pinot should be…light, vibrant, and full of fruit flavors. The Chianti on the other hand, I could do without. It was too dry for my liking. I’d need to try a couple more Chiantis before I officially remove it from my wine list. 

You want to know something that’s kind of annoying? Both of these wines are under $15 a bottle AND I probably paid about $7 for the glass. Talk about a real mark-up! I probably wouldn’t add any of these into my real rotation, but if you’re looking for a quick pick-up and something less expensive for a Friday night or small gathering, I’d recommend these. Until next week…glasses up!