Monday, October 11, 2010

It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it

When I started this blog awhile back, I worked for a wine distributor or wholesaler, selling my book of products to retailers and restaurants. I've since made the switch back to the retail side as a wine consultant for the biggest store in Kansas City, MO. So I've switched sides of the counter - now, instead of taking wines around town to be sampled, reps bring wines to us to sample. Some wines we already sell, some are new. They goal reps share is getting these new products on our racks. I've tried from 0 to 26 in a day, usually a couple days, earlier in the week. Only once have I tried this many, but it really was 26 different wines. Our policy is to spit as we taste as to avoid the need for a nap mid-afternoon.

I had a feeling today was going to be a sampling day - and it was - 11 different wines.
Here's a quick summary:
Four wines from Dutton-Goldfield - all very good - the most expensive wines all day, but moderately priced. A chardonnay, 2 pinot noirs, and a zinfandel. All interesting and quite tasty.

Six wines from Georges Duboeuf-the well known French producer. Two of which were from his budget brand Patch Block - sauvingnon blanc and cabernet sauvignon. Both good values.

Probably the most "interesting" wine of the day was "Charles and Charles" Cabernet/ Syrah blend. A collaboration founded in 2008 between Food & Wine Magazine 2009 Winemaker of the year, Charles Smith (K Vintners, Charles Smith Wines) and Charles Bieler (Three Thieves, BIELER Pere et Fils, Sombra mezcal). I like to use "interesting" to not necessarily describe the "best" wine, but one that has a lot going for it as far as taste, packaging, price, uniqueness, etc. And, at around $10.99 retail price, perhaps this last one has a chance of landing a coveted, new shelf spot.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What We Learned at Wine Class Last Night

1 - The effects of oak on wine. How un-oaked chardonnay tastes different - crisp, brighter - than one that's spent time in oak - softer, creamier, vanilla hints.

2 - Where old world wines come from - Europe. Where new world wines come from - US, Australia, South America.

3 - How a pinot noir from Burgundy compares to a pinot noir from California.

4 - Cava from Spain is a great alternative to Champagne.

5 - How Sherry pairs with chocolate - to find out for yourself you'll just have to come to the next class!

Thanks Matt, Vanessa, and Trent for a fun, informative evening!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Merlot and Sweet Potato Fries? Yes!!

Here's what we learned at The Wine Bar last week at "Who Would Have Thought?" wine class with nine fun and interesting wine/food pairings -

Vinho Verde is inexpensive and rocks! An awesome warm-weather wine and excellent start-off-the-night wine.

Chateau Ste. Michelle "Indian Wells" Merlot is a great value for under $17 and really does go with sweet potato fries!

It's OK to drink a red like Pinot Noir with salmon - and when there's cream cheese involved, it's even better.

Spanish Cava (sparkling wine) works with just about anything - but is fun, light, and refreshing with apples and powdered sugar.

Zinfandel maintains it's reputation as a BBQ wine.

Strawberry Shortcake is way better with Banfi Rosa Regale! The berry flavors of this light red sparkler works with the strawberries and adds great flavors to the shortcake and cream! As Rachel Ray would say, "Yum-O!"

Nine food/wine pairings is a lot and The Wine Bar provided plenty of food! No one left hungry!

Now we're working on the sequel "No Way!" More fun, fabulous pairings for a class this fall. Any suggestions?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Try It Before You Buy It! Wine Tasting Stations Let You

Would you buy a car without taking it for a test drive? Although a much smaller investment, several retailers in Kansas City now make it possible for you to "test drive" wine. Before you pick-out a couple nice bottles for your next dinner party you can experience those wines for yourself - whether as a 1 ounce sample or a full glass serving.

In the Kansas City area, the largest number of wines available to sample is at Lukas Liquor Superstore near 135th Street and State Line Road in KC, MO, via their several banks of Enomatic wine dispensing machines. They have quite the variety with often 56 red wines and 40 chilled white wines available. The cost of a 1 ounce sample runs between $.50 to $4.75 with most falling between $.75 to $1.25. Customers purchase a debit like card to make and dispense their choices with assistance from a Lukas wine consultant. Customers can select larger sample sizes as well.

Across town in the Northland, Vino Bello in Zona Rosa has the Napa Wine Station featuring 4 reds and 4 chilled whites available in 3 different pour amounts. Users purchase a Vino Card that's inserted into the machine prior to dispensing your selection. As a bonus, first time users receive an additional free $10 value onto balance of their new card. Check-out the link to this video to see how it's done - Vino Bello Napa Wine Station.

For more of the "Wine Bar" experience, you can sit down with one of the wines available by the glass at Cellar Rat Wine Merchants in the Crossroads District of Kansas City. There's always around 6-8 moderately priced wines available, with selections changing from time-to-time. Cellar Rat also carries a wide selection of artisan cheeses, gourmet cured meats, pate, olive oils and chocolates for you to enjoy with your glass of wine or to take home.

Now you have a chance to stop wondering what that interesting looking bottle of wine really tastes like and try it for yourself. Why run the risk of buying a wine you don't like - a couple bucks spent on samples can save you more bucks in the long run.

Lukas Liquor Superstore - 13657 Washington St. Kansas City, MO (816)942-8523

Vino Bello - 7322 NW 87th Terrace (in Zona Rosa) (816)753-9463

Cellar Rat - 1701 Baltimore Ave, Kansas City, MO (816)221-9463

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc Awesome Spring Wine

Despite the rainy, cool weather recently in KC, it's still time to start breaking-out some good white wines. And so we did this past weekend with a 3 litre Octavin box of the 2009 Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc.

This tasty treat from Marlborough, New Zealand was a very pleasant surprise from the opening grassy, citrus aromas jumping out of the first glass. Nicely balanced acidity - crisp up front with a slightly rounded finish made for a white that both Sauv Blanc and Chardonnay drinkers would enjoy. Not too much grapefruit on the nose or palate.

For around $20, this is an awesome value for a Sauv Blanc out of a region that's been fast becoming one of the premier producers of this varietal. The Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc would make for a nice white wine option at any Summertime gathering.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Sangria makes perfect warm weather drink

It will be staying warm soon, and with that, it's time for outdoor parties, barbecues, showers, weddings, etc. A perfect drink for any of these or more casual afternoons on the patio is sangria.

Originating in Spain, sangria gets it's name from the Spanish word for blood - sangre and is usually made with red wines, although you can make awesome sangria from white, rose, or sparkling wines. A beautiful thing about sangria is that besides a few common ingredients, you can adjust your recipe to what ingredients you have available and to your taste. Don't bother with the "Sangria Wines" out there, it's too easy to make fresh, great tasting sangria yourself.

Basic sangria consists of wine, fruit, and some sort of bubbly water or citrus flavored soda. Many recipes add brandy and/or orange liqueur (or triple sec). A good proportion being a shot and a half of brandy per 1 bottle of wine and/or a shot or so of triple sec. Again, let your taste determine how much booze you add - start with a little and you can always add. On a hot, humid day you might want to avoid the higher proof ingredients all together.

Here's a list of ingredients to get you started:

Large pitcher (clear is best so you can see all the nice colored fruit and wine)


1 bottle of inexpensive, fruity, less tannic red wine like a Spanish red, or Syrah, or if needing large quantity and going cheap Gallo Hearty Burgundy in 1.5L or larger will work fine. For white sangria try a pinot grigio, riesling, cava, or moscato.

1-2 cans Sprite, Fresca, Sierra Mist, 7-up (add to taste)

1 lemon, 1 lime, 1 orange cut into small slices (save some for garnish). Grapefruit, apples, peaches will work also. Strawberries are nice in white sangria.

Brandy, Orange liqueur (Grand Marnier, triple sec)

Sugar (to taste)

Mix ingredients and serve over ice. If you have time, mix the wine, fruit and booze together and set in the fridge for several hours, then add the soda before serving.

If you're looking for good Sangria locally, a place with a fantastic reputation is La Bodega - 703 Southwest Boulevard, (816) 472-8272. Stop in, have a pitcher of Sangria, some tapas, and who knows, maybe they'll share some of their sangria making secrets for your next batch of sangria at home.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New 3 liter Box Wines Great Value and Convenience

Inexpensive, mass produced box wines have filled retailers' shelves for many years. Labeled as varietal (e.g., Chardonnay, Merlot, White Zinfandel, etc.) and blends like Crisp White and Chillable Red, they've developed a loyal following, especially the 5 liter size.

Within the past several years, we've seen more, higher quality, but also higher priced, 3 liter box wines. And, thankfully, quality box wine is no longer an oxymoron. These 3 liter boxes contain the equivalent of 4 regular size 750ml bottles and are quite often nice, good value wines.

One producer, Delicato, has had success with their Bota Box line. Available in 3L recycled paper boxes, Bota Box wines are now available in at least six varietals including a new red Zinfandel.

A more recent development on the box wine scene is the Octavin Home Wine Bar - a tall, eight sided "wine cask" containing 3 liters of what they refer to as "premium artisan wine." The folks at Octavin also claim that this new box design reduces packaging waste by 85% and carbon emissions by 55% compared to glass bottles.

Of the six brands of wine they currently offer, you might recognize a couple - Big House Red and Big House White. These are both fun, easy drinking blends (the red containing 12 varietals, the white 8) which when only available in 750ml bottles retailed around $10. These guys in the Octavin go for $16-$20 for 3 liters. Not only a nice savings per bottle (divide $20 by 4 and you're looking at a $5 per bottle) and the wine will stay fresh for up to 6 weeks.

Big House Red and Big House White are both available at Lukas Liquor Superstore at 135th Street & State Line Road and Cellar Rat in the Crossroads District at 1701 Baltimore Ave.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - Kansas City Budget Wine Examiner is a national website with local focus. With hundreds of cities represented coast-to-coast local examiner web pages are able to bring people the inside scoop on a variety of news related, current events, lifestyle topics, etc. Each market has local "Examiners" that submit articles pertaining to their particular area of expertise. I have been selected to write as the Kansas City Budget Wine Examiner
Click here: Kansas City Budget Wine Examiner to view my page and list of articles. Hit the subscribe button to receive a quick email each time a new article is posted. Feel free to forward articles to friends or leave comments. Thanks and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Green Beer Today - Green Wine Tomorrow

Happy St. Patrick's day to all my Irish friends and those Irish for today. Of course today we think of drinking Guiness, Harp, and green beer. But there is also such a thing as "Green Wine" - Vinho Verde, which translates to green wine. This light, crisp, slightly fizzy white wine from Portugal is perfect for the upcoming Spring and Summer months as it is quite refreshing (and very affordable!)There's a handful of producers out there - I prefer Alianca Vinho Verde which is like Spring in a bottle.

Cheers! and may the luck of the Irish be with you all year long.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It's Tourney Time - and Time for Local Wineries!

It's March Madness Baby!! Kansas City is hosting the Big XII tournament this weekend. Do all the states represented in the Big XII have wineries? Yes, and here's a little quiz - what are the top 3 states in the Big XII with the most wineries?

What's the score?
1st-Texas is on top with 181 wineries
2nd-3rd Missouri & Colorado tied with 94
4th-Iowa has 74
5th-Nebraska 32
6th-Oklahoma 22
7th-Kansas 21 - but is on top with it's 2 teams in today's final game!
Congrats to my KU & KSU friends!

These numbers were found on websites from each states' wine producer boards, associations, etc. including these nice sites:
Go Texan
Missouri plus here's a hipper, affiliated site Norton
and Colorado which has a really neat map feature that can be found on the page that lists the wineries.

You don't have to go all the way to California to visit great wineries and taste wine near the source. There's so many close to home - and with all the information on the web, very easy to find.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Weekend Food/Snack and Wine Pairing

The Oscars are this Sunday night and once again I think I've seen maybe one of the movies nominated for Best Picture - The Blind Side. With the number of nominations in this category raised to 10 this year, my chances of having seen any of the films was increased dramatically.

If you're watching the ceremonies at home, here's a little food (or should I say snack?) pairing to help get you through the approximately 3 hour telecast. What's the most popular movie theatre snack? Popcorn of course!! And since they usually don't serve wine or beer at your local AMC Theatres, here's your chance to experience one of my (and I've heard several other wine people out there say that they also love it) favorite match-ups - yes, popcorn and wine! Just about anything you have on hand will do since the flavor of your basic popcorn is pretty simple. If you have the butter flavored microwave kind, Chardonnay works well.

Enjoy and just think of all the money you're saving by not having to pay $7 for a ticket and $5 for a tub of popcorn - plus you don't have to turn your cell phone off and you can talk away all you like.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Wine Mom - This Week's Wednesday Website/Blog

Here's a nice little blog that I came across the other day Mother of The Vine by The Wine Mom. A combination of wine reviews and information, plus advice and tips on parenting, etc. I'm going to check-out some of her older posts and hopefully she'll have more new posts coming-up.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spring Resolutions

Being March 1, 2010, and despite colder than usual temperatures in Kansas City, Spring will begin later this month. I was thinking (yes, scary thought) that Spring is a much better time to make resolutions for the up-coming year than on New Year's Day. January is the middle of winter and you're worn-out from the Holidays. In March, temps are warming-up, days are getting longer and Spring is around the corner. So, March 1st is not only a great opportunity to re-visit resolutions you made back in January, but also a chance to make some new ones as we head into warmer weather, bluer skies, opening day at the ballpark, etc. - a feeling of re-birth if you will. Get the much greener, sun-filled, picture full of hope and optimism? Great! Let's get started with some food and wine resolutions that make sense:
~ Try new wines from new regions, both white and red. See past posts for ideas.
~ Discover new, often easy recipes online. Google anything that you can think of. Try "fish tacos", "beef short ribs","garlic mashed potatoes", etc. Add specific words, methods, or ingredients like "easy", "crock pot", "lemon pepper", "baked", "BBQ", etc. Or look in your pantry, look in the freezer, look in your spice cabinet, combine, then Google. I came-up with "ginger tomatoes chicken breasts". I only got about 581,000 results.
~ Recycle. If you live in the Kansas City area you have access to curbside pick-up (except glass) so check out Ripple Glass for locations to drop-off those empty bottles from all those new wines you'll be trying. For outside Kansas City, to find recycling information check out

Cheers and good luck with your Spring resolutions!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - Website Wednesday

To say that this website by Lisa Shea is a "Wine Intro" is an understatement. Yes, she does cover the basics of wine, etc., but OMG! there's a ton of information on her site.

I found her bio and background information very interesting. Reading about her computer experience back in the "pre-world wide web" years took me back to my days in elementary school where the school had a "computer" like she describes with a dial-up phone coupling, form-fed printing, etc. is certainly up-to-date with many internal links full of good wine information including Wine Books, Wine Movies, Wine Songs, Wine Quotes, etc. and I've never seen so many different recipes for Sangria in one place! So keep that in mind - it will be Spring soon!

Friday, February 19, 2010

O Canada - Canadian Wines for the Olympics

Now that the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics are in full swing, I felt it was time to draw attention to the fact that Canada produces its' share of wine. Most of what I've seen in the Kansas City area consists of ice wines, but I understand they produce a good amount of the more traditional styles (although not all your traditional varietals). I found a website for the Canadian Vintners Assoication that I need to explore further, and I'm sure there's much more out there on the web. Check it out for yourself and at least take a look at, ask about (or pick-up) a Canadian wine the next time your at the wine shop or liquor store.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Orvieto and Torrontes - Two Unique Winter Whites

Last week, I offered my customers the opportunity to sample two unique white wines - an Orvieto from Italy and a Torrontes from Argentina.

The Orvieto Classico produced by Bigi and imported by Opici Imports was a very pleasant, light, crisp white. I sensed a slight chalk or limestone quality and several others tasted a hint of lemon. I think wine drinkers looking for the lightness and citrus qualities of a sauvignon blanc yet not the over-the-top grapefruit found in some, would enjoy Orvieto. You might find this or similar wines for around $11-$15.

Orvieto is an Italian wine region located in Umbria (central Italy), centered around the commune of Orvieto. It is primarily known for its white wines made from a blend of mostly Grechetto and Trebbiano, which is sold under the Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) Orvieto and Orvieto Classico. What struck me as I researched Orvieto was its' beautiful setting (see photo above). The city of Orvieto is situated on the flat summit of a large butte of volcanic tuff.

The Don Rodolfo Torrontes showed a nice floral nose and fuller body with a hint of fruity sweetness. Kind of like a viognier, but different - you just have to try it for yourself. Torrontes has become the signature white of Argentina and the fact that most are reasonably priced make it worth checking-out the next time you're looking for something different.

This particular wine comes from the Cafayate Valley which at 6,000 feet is among the world's highest-altitude viticultural regions.

I encourage you to expand your experience by trying these or other unique white wines like Viognier, Gewurtztraminer, Soave, Grillo, Albarino, etc.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010 - The New Website

I am now officially online with a new website Tom's Wine
The site includes contact information plus details on what I can do to help you or your group, office, team, etc. make sense of wine, learn more about wine and have fun in the process.
Check it out and I welcome any feedback, comments, suggestions, etc.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wine Tip Tuesday - Wine Shopping

If you haven't found a favorite wine shop (or liquor store) here are a couple tips to help you find a good place to do your wine shopping.

* Knowledgeable staff (this is especially important if you're just starting out)
* Good wine selection (not necessarily LARGE). A nice selection of red and white varietals, imports and domestics from California, Oregon, Washington) Also, good price variety.
* Current vintages (whites within past 2 years, reds past 3 years)

Keep in mind you don't have to find "your shop" on the first visit. You're not only shopping for wine, but a wine shop as well. Shop around, check-out new places even if they're not the most convenient. You can always have your favorite, plus your go-to shop that's closest to home or most convenient.

Happy shopping!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Wine Library TV

Hey sports fans! I'd like to introduce you to one of my all time favorite wine people on the web (who happens to be a BIG NY JETS fan)! Meet Gary Vaynerchuk (Vay-ner-chuk)as he introduces himself at the beginning of each video segment - The Thunder Show - on his website Wine Library TV

An internet wine marketing pioneer with a great talent for presenting wine in a fun, informative approach, Gary makes wine less intimidating for people. Apparently, I'm not the only one to have taken notice of this enthusiastic, passionate, entertaining wine guy. Through the power of social media on the Internet, he's drawing 850,000 followers on Twitter, 31,000 fans on Facebook and 90,000 daily viewers to his wine tasting video blog. Gary was also awarded a 2009 Wine Star Award from Wine Enthusiast magazine as Innovator of The Year.

If you're a casual wine drinker or total wine geek, there's plenty of interesting topics and wines in 800+ video sessions. If nothing else, when was the last time you saw a guy spit wine into a New York Jets bucket?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Drinking Wine in 2010 - Looking Forward

There are so many nice, interesting wines available out there that I suggest that for 2010 wine drinkers resolve to try new wines. In my previous post there's some basics but also a few affordable off-beat options (eg, white Bordeaux, red blends, Cava).
Here's a few other interesting suggestions to expand your palate in 2010:

Bonarda - often from Argentina
Cotes-du-Rhone - French Syrah, Grenache blends
Spanish Tempranillo, Garnacha, Syrah (or blends)
Bargain Italians
Weird and wild varietals like Tannat - Don Rodolfo from Argentina has one

Torrontes - Argentina
Dry Riesling
Value French blends that use varietals like Picpoul, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne
Gruner Veltliner - Austria
Gewurtztraminer - Alsace, California

In addition to these suggested wines, here's a few shopping suggestions:
Pick-up something new each time you shop-in addition to your usual "house wine", find something in your price range you've never had before.
Consult the staff at your liquor store or wine shop. If they run out of suggestions, start going somewhere else.

Cheers to 2010!

Holiday Wines - A Look Back

We survived the Holidays and I stayed true to my blog profile by enjoying lots of food and wine (and beer) with friends and family. Without going into boring little details about certain wines, I'd like to list the variety of wines that we shared (keep in mind, over the past 2 weeks). They were all nice and it was great to enjoy such a wide variety - a good example of how easy it can be to find and drink new and different wines!
2 different Merlots, 2 different Cabs, 3 different Pinot Noirs, Montepulciano D'Abruzzo, 3 different red blends, Syrah/Petite Sirah blend - "Relentless" from Shafer (yum!), Brunello di Montalcino, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 2 different Malbecs

3 different Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blanc, White Bordeaux

Spanish Cava, Asti Spumante, French Sparkling from Savoie region - Trocodero Brut, prosecco

Wow, that's a lot of different wines - but did I mention the friends and family? We certainly didn't get bored with the same old wines - and my wine tip of the day is that in 2010 my wine loving friends and family continue this trend.