Tasting Thursday: Black-Owned Wines

7 Black-Owned Wines To Buy

There are a growing number of Black winemakers and labels, but it can take some effort to track them down and then find them in wine stores. Fortunately most of them will ship directly from their websites or wineries. Below are a few you should know with links to the winery sites. I don’t benefit at all from any purchases made through these links.

I also tasted a couple wines to get you started. The prices listed below are direct from the wineries, but I found both for $19.99 each at my local wine shop!

Maison Noir Wines
O.P.P. Other People’s Pinot Noir 2018 $25

Once I saw this wine labeled as Oregogne Garage d’Or I knew I had to try it! I’m totally obsessed with the play on Bourgogne Côte-d’Or. I absolutely love that they don’t take themselves too seriously and are here to have fun with their wines.

My current favorite varietal is pinot noir, and Oregon is my go-to domestic region for it. This one from the subregion of Willamette Valley is a great example of why. If you like Old World pinots but find you don’t love California’s take on it, pick one up from Oregon.

The O.P.P. has a nose of deep florals and cherry when it opens up, and tastes earthy and juicy with a hint of cranberry. It’s dry with medium body, medium+ acid, and medium to medium+ tannins. I’d suggest decanting this one if possible to get the most flavor out of it. I’m very pleased to say the wine stood up to my high expectations from the name!

McBride Sisters Collection
Black Girl Magic Red Blend 2018 $24.99

When I first got into reds, I drank a ton of Californian red blends and now rarely venture back. This wine was a fab reminder of what I loved about red blends. It’s dry with medium- tannins and medium+ acid to give a smooth, balanced texture with an enjoyable tart finish. Cherry and earth on the nose with a smoky vanilla end going down. Medium body keeps it very drinkable.

I have to admit, catchy names sometimes make me wary of their wines, but Black Girl Magic is a perfect description for this line if they all match up to the quality of this style.

If you don’t believe me, the 2017 vintage won the Gold Medal at the San Diego International Wine & Spirits Competition. Black Girl Magic also received lots of recognition for their riesling, including a 94-point rating and Best Riesling at the SDW&S Competition 2020 and a Gold medal for The Fifty Best Rieslings in the Fifty Best Competition 2020.

Other Wineries You Should Know

Heritage Link

The founds began with a clear mission of sharing sustainable, high quality wines. Their brand portfolio features award-winners and includes Seven Sisters Vineyards, Silkburn, Casa Valduga, Don Guerino, and House of Mandela.

La Fête du Rosé

The label was founded by Donae Burston, who previously worked for Jay-Z’s wine label, Armand de Brignac aka Ace of Spades. He produces a classic Provence rosé alongside prestigious winemakers from the region. If you need more of a reason to drink this rosé, the domaine produces their wines sustainably and donates a portion of proceeds to programs for underserved youth. They’re currently sold out, but if you’re a rosé lover I recommend signing up for the email list to be notified when they have more.

P. Harrell Wines

This California label only produces 3 wines – rosé, zinfandel, and riesling – but it has already won awards in its short 5 years. The 2019 Dry Creek Riesling won the Gold Award at the San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition.

Zafa Wines

This Vermont farm and label is led by Krista Scrugg, who was named to Wine Enthusiast’s 40 Under 40 list. They only produce natural wine and stand by the promise of “No fining, filtering, additives or funny business.” They also commit to keeping their staff at least 85% women. This is your label for unique wine with a purpose.

Abbey Creek Vineyard

Bertony Faustin became the first recorded Black winemaker in Oregon when he started this vineyard in 2008. The self-proclaimed Change Maker also produced and appeared in the documentary Red, White & Black: The Oregon Winemakers Story, which shares his story and those of other minority winemakers. Rent the documentary on demand on Vimeo.

Have you tried any of these wines? What are your favorite Black-owned wines? Leave a comment to let me know!

Tasting Thursday: Rosé

Happy Drink Wine Day!

It’s February 18th, which means it’s Drink Wine Day! To celebrate I’m thinking of warmer days and tasting some rosé. Today we have Bieler Père & Fils Sabine Aix-en-Provence Rosé 2019 and Natura Rosé 2020. ⁠

If you’re expecting a sweet rosé, go back to my post about rosé from last week to learn more. Neither of these wines are sweet and are great ones to try if that’s all you’ve had.⁠

Let’s start with the Bieler Père & Fils Sabine Aix-en-Provence Rosé 2019. Provence, France is the Mecca of rosé, and this wine is a great sample to get you started. It features the classic Provence rosé blend of grenache (35%), syrah (33%), and cinsault (13%), with a touch of cab sauv (12%) and rolle (7%).

It smells like strawberries and cream, almost a still version of the Chandon Brut Rosé I had for Galentine’s. Some nice citrus and minerals round it out. Dry and fruity with high acid, it has a nice tart finish. This is one of my go-to rosés.⁠

Next up is our Natura Rosé 2020 from Chile made with syrah, cab sauv, and merlot. It’s more of a pale pink compared to the Bieler and has a strong smell of cherry. It’s smooth with a lingering mineral taste, along with strawberry and ripe canteloupe. It’s fruity and off-dry with medium+ acid.⁠

These 2 wines are fairly similar, but the Bieler had a more tart finish whereas the Natura had a stronger nose and smoother finish if you want something more mellow. Pick your poison!

Leave a comment with your thoughts on these wines, and let me know if your opinion of rosé has changed!

What Is Rosé Wine?

First off, most rosé is not sweet. Let me add you to my list of rosé converts.

Rosé place settings
Rosé tastings at Austin Food + Wine Festival

When you think of rosé, what do you imagine? If you’re picturing a bottle of White Zinfandel or something sickeningly sweet, keep reading! There is so much more to rosé, and I’ve converted many rosé haters. Your summer wine game is about to level up.

So what is rosé exactly? Most typically it is NOT a blend of red and white wine, although that does happen. Here’s the first thing to know—all grape juice is clear, whether from white, red, or black grapes. Red wine doesn’t get its color from the juice but rather from contact with the grape skins as it ferments.

Jenn and Jess with rosé in Vegas
Rosé to go in Vegas with my friend Jess

So where does rosé get its color from? From the grape skins also! Most commonly, the grapes sit in the juice for less than a day, usually 2-20 hours, giving the wine a slight pink tint. The color is something that’s closely monitored by the winemaker to create the perfect shade, and then the grapes are separated from the juice to ferment into wine. This is known as the maceration method.

Sometimes winemakers will simply let off some juice at the start of a red wine’s journey, known as the Saignée method. It’s common in regions with great reds like Napa.

You can also mix red and white wines using the blending method. This method is rare with still rosés but less so for sparkling.

That being said, you can see how rosé wine can really be made in any style you want it! The region most famous for their rosé is Provence, France, which is along the Mediterranean coast near Nice and the French Riviera. As if we needed another reason to want to vacay there! Their rosés are known for being dry, pale in color with a light fruitiness and minerality and a nice medium acidic finish. These are my personal faves.

I LOVE a light, dry rosé, especially for pool or beachside sipping. The simplest rule of thumb when buying rosés you’re unfamiliar with is to choose one light in color. There are some delicious and dry rosés that are darker, but generally the light ones are a safer bet. Also avoid anything named “White X” that’s pink. These are the overly sweet rosés that kept you away from these other delicious rosés for too long!

Still skeptical? Try one of the rosés below to get a taste of the dry, light style rosé is lauded for before writing it off. Most liquor and wine stores will have 1 of these, or click the links to buy through Wine.com. I make no money off your purchase. I’m just spreading the rosé love!

3 Wines to Try Before Swearing Off Rosé

Miraval Rosé 2019
Côtes de Provence, France

Aix Rosé 2019
Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, France

Bieler Père et Fils Rosé Sabine 2019
Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, France

Tasting Thursday: Chenin Blanc

Today we’re talking acidic white wine with chenin blanc packing a tart punch. The grape originated in the Loire Valley of France, where it’s known as Vouvray, however the largest grower & producer of chenin blanc is South Africa, where it’s the #1 planted grape and known as Steen there.

Chenin blancs vary widely in style depending on region, so make sure to note the sweetness before buying. France’s version is known for high acidity, citrus fruit, and florals like honeysuckle. Savennières is exclusively dry, whereas Vouvray can range anywhere from dry to sweet. 

In South Africa and California, it’s almost always made in a dry style and tends to feature more tropical fruit notes. Many choose to age it in oak, giving it the characteristic brioche, toast, and nutty notes.

Sparkling: Vouvray Méthode Traditionnelle, Crémant de Loire (blend), or Méthode Cap Classique (aka MCC, blend from South Africa)
Dry: Sec from Vouvray or sweetness scale from South Africa. Lean and minerally 
Off-Dry: Tendre from Vouvray. Often considered the most popular style
Sweet: Look for Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux from Loire

What to expect
Pale straw to pale amber
Medium plus to high acidity, light body, medium fruitiness
Apple, pear, lime, honeydew, peach, orange, passionfruit, ginger, honey, jasmine, honeysuckle
Oaky brioche, nutmeg, toast, buttered popcorn

Champalou Vouvray 2017 – $22.99
Imported by Kermit Lynch and sustainably farmed
Pale straw, almost clear
Green apple, floral, tart pear, honeysuckle, minerality
Off-dry but tastes dry from zippy, high acidity
Medium fruit, very light with a clean finish
Well-balanced. Would buy again. A great summer wine

Six Hats Fedora Chenin Blanc 2018 – $14.99
Fairtrade certified 
Pale straw, aromatic, and dry
High acid, medium fruit
Ripe honeydew, minerals, tart pear, hints of honeysuckle and petrol, brioche
Medium finish. Solid CB for the price

Comment your favorite below and come back next week for more tasting!

French 75 Recipe

When Sparkling Needs a Little Something Extra

For those nights you just want to feel fancy or classic, a French 75 is the perfect cocktail. It’s chic and will make any night a little more special.

As with any wine cocktail recipe, you want to buy wine you would drink on its own, but on the cheaper end since you’re mixing it. The simple syrup and lemon juice add sweetness to the drink, so I’d recommend a dry sparkling wine, like a Brut or Brut Nature.

The base is sparkling wine and gin, but there are so many versions to try! Here’s a basic recipe to get you started:

French 75 Recipe
Serves 1

2 oz. Champagne or other sparkling wine
2 oz. dry gin
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup (see directions below)
Lemon twist
Cocktail shaker

Fill your cocktail shaker about halfway with ice and top with all the ingredients except the Champagne. Shake vigorously to get it nice and chilled, and strain into your glass. Top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a lemon twist.

To Make Simple Syrup:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Mix equal parts sugar and water into a saucepan. If you’re using a whole bottle of bubbly for your French 75s, you’ll need a little less than a cup, so use the measurements above. Heat on medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves. I often mix the sugar and water in a microwave safe container and microwave it for 1-2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Store in the fridge to cool before mixing your drinks.

I would definitely recommend serving a French 75 in a champagne flute, but mine are currently in storage. (Covid problems.) Make do with what you have, but a glass with a small opening will help contain all the wonderful qualities of the bubbles.

Let me know in the comments what sparkling wine you used and if you tried any variations. Cheers!

What To Do at a Wine Tasting

Winery Wandering

A day of wine tasting in the Texas Hill Country

You have a group of your best pals together and you’ve made a plan—you’re heading to a winery! You’ve got your safe ride, a mood-setting playlist, and you make your grand entrance. Now what should you expect and do once you make it to the bar?

First, someone should offer you a tasting menu and explain how it works. Each winery will have their own setup, but generally it will involve tasting 4-6 different wines, usually a mix of white and red wines and perhaps a sparkling, rose, and/or dessert wine mixed in. Some wineries will have a set tasting menu but most allow you to choose a few that interest you from a wider selection.

Once you’ve picked your wines, they’ll pour the first wine for each person in your group and then tell you about the wine you’re drinking. Depending on how busy they are or what winery you go to, this may be simply the information on the label, but often they’ll tell you some about how the wine is made, where the grapes are grown, and other interesting info about what you’re tasting. This is the time to ask any questions you might have about what you’re drinking, the vineyard, how the wine is made, the grapes, or really anything else you’re curious about!

Wine tasting in Burgundy, France

As for actually tasting the wine, there are 4 simple steps. Check out my Wine Tasting 101 post here for more details to look like a pro. Use that as a guide while you sample the wine.

So now what happens? Basically rinse and repeat for the rest of the wines in your tasting. I like to interact with the staff and let them know when I really enjoy a wine or if a particular grape or wine style is new to me. They usually love the feedback, and if you’re lucky, you might even get a bonus pour of your fave!

No grapes were harmed in the taking of this photo

Once the tasting’s over, you can either call it a day, stick around and drink more wine, or sometimes they’ll offer a tour of the winery. I like to include time to sit and enjoy the scenery of the winery, and of course more wine! Usually they’ll sell it in bottles, but sometimes you can get a glass of some or all of the wines. Most will even have cheese boards or other snacks to make it a picnic.

You can also purchase wine to take home with you, and most wineries will have a wine club you can subscribe to if you really enjoyed the wines. I don’t recommend this on your first few trips, but if you love the wine and will drink it often, it can be a great way to support local businesses and get to know the winery and its owners.

Now that you know what to expect and do, grab your squad and head to some local wineries! Happy tasting!

Tasting Thursday: Gamay

Burgundy’s Affordable Gem

Tasting Thursday this week features gamay. Gamay is the grape behind Beaujolais (boh-zhuh-lay), and for those of you who are new here, it’s my favorite everyday wine. It’s a smooth, light, and delicious red wine, and you can find a great bottle for under $30 and a solid bottle for $10-$15. Sign me up! 

She’s versatile. She’s food-friendly. Bojo pairs perfectly with turkey, making it an excellent choice for Thanksgiving. She could also be described as a patio guzzler, but we don’t know anything about that…

Beaujolais is definitely the most well-known gamay and where about 75% of gamay wines are produced globally. It’s located in the southern part of the Burgundy region of France and is a wine you should usually drink young. As far as quality, the top are categorized into 10 crus, then you have Beaujolais Villages, followed by Beaujolais, and lastly Beaujolais Nouveau, a young wine to celebrate the end of harvest in November.  

What to expect: 
Medium-light body, low tannin, medium plus acid, medium alcohol
Intense fruit – cherry, raspberry, candied strawberry; florals – violets, iris, peony; earth; juicy
Expressive of the terroir

2019 Jean-Marc Burgaud Les Vignes de Lantignié Beaujolais Villages 
Can be served slightly chilled. Pale purple. Candied strawberry, blackberry, potting soil, chalk, smoky. Smooth and nicely balanced. Easy drinkability. Blink and it’ll be gone.

2017 Château des Jacques Morgon
I can already notice the difference on the nose. Pale ruby. Ripe cherry, mushroom, forest floor, smoky. More body, tannins, and complexity and drier. Could still age some but delicious. This is one of the top crus of Beaujolais for only $28 – another reason they are such a fave.

You’ll often see both Louis-Jadot and Georges DuBoeuf Beaujolais and/or Beaujolais Villages. Don’t be afraid of their ubiquity and grab one if you liked these, especially today’s Beaujolais Villages. Comment below with your fave of today’s wines and if anything surprised you with these 2!

Tasting Thursday: Riesling

Not just sweet wines

Do you think all riesling is sweet? Surprise! It doesn’t have to be. In fact, a lot of riesling is dry and is a favorite among wine experts for its impressive aromas and how well it pairs with food, especially spicy cuisine like Thai.

Germany is known for its riesling, and it’s actually about a quarter of all the grapes grown there! Mosel is perhaps the most well-known region for riesling, which is where both wines today are from. 

What to expect: 
Pale straw to deep yellow color
Strong nose
High acid, very fruity, light body
Lime, apricot, beeswax, jasmine, gasoline, pineapple, slate

2019 Relax – Qualitätswein Mosel
Semi-sweet, 9.5% ABV

This is the expected pale straw color. It’s fruity with white peach and green apple on the nose plus white flower. I taste more peach and green apple with even a hint of pineapple, slate, and minerals on the end. It def has the typical high acid we expect and is sweet with a light body. While it’s sweeter than I prefer, it has more flavor than lower quality sweet rieslings, and I enjoyed it more than expected!

2018 Dr. Thanisch – Deutscher Qualitätswein Mosel
Feinherb (off-dry), 10.5% ABV

This isn’t even a truly dry riesling, but you should notice a distinct difference from the Relax. It’s also pale straw in color though slightly darker than the Relax. It has the expected nose of rubber we usually notice in a higher quality riesling. You’ll notice crisp, balanced acidity. Off-dry with a medium finish. Tasting pear, a hint of jasmine, and minerals with light honey, citrus, and wet slate. 

If you want a dry riesling from Germany, look for the word “trocken” on the label, but also try rieslings from Alsace, France; Austria; and the northern US like New York or Washington. Pro-tip: to help determine sweetness, check the ABV. More alcohol equals dryer wine. Low alcohol indicates a sweeter riesling. Look for 11% ABV or higher for a dry wine.

Which wine did you prefer? Were you surprised to taste a riesling that wasn’t super sweet?

What is corked wine and how do you spot it?

Last week we talked about corks vs. screwcaps, and I mentioned that a downside to corks is that 1-3% of corks will develop cork taint. What does that mean though?

First, let me assure you that although that stat about corks is true, that doesn’t mean that 1-3% of wine you buy will be ruined. A lot of corks now are synthetic, which don’t have this problem, nor do screwcaps, so take a quick exhale.

Let’s cut to the chase…how do you know if your wine is corked? It will smell like moldy basement, wet dog, or damp cardboard. Sometimes this will be obvious, but it can also be subtle. If it’s faint, it will just taste flat or dull, lacking aromas and with little to no flavor. And don’t worry, if you drink a corked wine it won’t harm you beyond disappointment. 

If you think your wine is corked, you should return it, whether at a restaurant, online, or to your wine shop. Note cork taint has nothing to do with bits of cork floating in your wine. That’s normal and won’t harm your wine. If you don’t like it, pick it out and just keep sipping. 

So how and why does this happen? A chemical compound known as TCA develops when fungi found naturally in cork comes in contact with chlorine and other compounds present in the winemaking process. If this happens the TCA will taint the cork and the wine with it. It’s an unfortunate side effect of a natural cork. 

If you drink wine regularly, you’ll eventually encounter some bottles that are corked. Now you know what to look for and what to do though. Have you opened a bottle that was corked, and did you know what it was at the time?

Wines to Try Based on Your Favorite Styles: Part 1

Confidently Branch out and Try New Wines

Are you ready to try different wines but don’t know where to start? I’m breaking down exactly what to buy based on what you’re already drinking. In part 1 we’ll begin with the styles we’ve explored so far on Tasting Thursday.

If you like Cabernet Sauvignon…Tempranillo will give you cherries and leather mixed with earth but go down smoother. Nebbiolo is going hit to you with tannins, but in a great way and balanced with other flavors. A good syrah/shiraz will be bold and end with some smoke or spice. Malbec, espesh from Argentina is going to give you a rich, full body wine with tangy, dark fruit, tobacco, and often spice. Zinfandel can be overly jammy, but the balanced but bold version is making a comeback.

If you like Chardonnay…If you haven’t already, make sure to do a full tour of Chardonnays by region-specific names like white Burgundy (France), Morillon (Austria), and Chablis (also France). If you like oakier styles, give Viognier with a strong aroma and taste of tropical fruit or fresh but nutty White Rioja a chance. Also not to miss are bold but peachy white Rhône blends featuring Roussanne and Marsanne.

If you like Sauvignon Blanc…Albariño will be zippy and refreshing with a hint of salinity to keep you sipping. Torrontés smells sweet but is actually dry with flavors of white peach and lemon. Dry, acidic, and herbaceous Grüner Veltliner is another excellent alternative.

If you like Pinot Noir…If you haven’t yet, don’t miss a red Burgundy from France, which produces the most expensive version of this grape with affordable options available as well.

When you’re ready to switch up the game without breaking the bank, I cannot recommend gamay enough, most commonly known in its French form of Beaujolais, technically the southern part of Burgundy. Beaujolais is one of my very favorites. It’s easy-drinking perfection with its light body and smooth quality. Dive right into this wine with mid-tier bottles going for under $15.

If you’re looking for something a little meatier but still light and fruity, try Cinsault.

If you like Grenache…Merlot is going to be velvety and fruit-forward but with dark fruits. Sangiovese and montepulciano are both going to be great medium-body wines that are perfect with pizza.

If you like Pinot Grigio…Vinho verde is an excellent summer wine with a light kiss of bubbliness and a hint of saltiness that keeps you coming back. Muscadet, or Melon de Bourgogne, will hit the sweeter flavor of cantaloupe with lots of minerals. Make a stop for a tart and lean Vouvray while you’re at it.

If you like Prosecco…There are so many options for sparkling! Of course Champagne is the classic and king for a reason. Cava is Spanish and made in the Champagne style but much more affordable. The Italian middle ground between Cava and Champagne is Franciacorta. Feeling a little wild or weird? Grab a Lambrusco, a RED, dry sparkling, which is sure to impress and delight at a dinner party. Pétillant naturel, or pet nat, will wow with its bottlecap top, unique flavors, and unfiltered style.

What’s your favorite style of wine I haven’t covered yet? What did you think of the wines suggested for you? Leave a comment below and stay tuned for Part 2.