Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sorry Mimosa - I Did It

So on my way out of work yesterday, I passed this sign in front of Mimosa Grill, and thought - this would be a great note for my blog!

I've had some really great meals there (mostly lunches) but only one dinner there, on my 23rd birthday. I've done many - too many - happy hours there, as this is the quintessential watering hole for the banker crowd. I'll never forget, or remember if we're being honest, the time I had 5 glasses of merlot after work and got lost walking home to my apartment. I think I slumped down on the street in front of Picasso's, when a good samaritan came to my rescue and pointed me in the right direction. Three years later that good samaritan is one of my best girlfriends in Charlotte! Not directly as a result of that night, but we laugh about it now. "I think you were the girl I saw on sitting on the street...."

So, today, I passed the sign again on my way out and...the attached sheet with the wine information was gone. I looked down and noticed it had fallen off the board and onto the floor. I spun my head around 360 degrees to ensure nobody was watching me, and I TOOK THE SHEET. I folded it in half and stuffed it in my bag and hightailed it out of there.

Why did I do this? I don't know - I have issues. I could have tried to re-stick it, or return it to the hostess, or ignore it altogether. But because of those deep-seeded issues, I can deliver this news to you:

Cakebread Merlot: Normally $118. Saturday Nights: $55
El Molino Chardonnay: Normally $125. Saturday Nights: $55
La Giaretta Amarone: Normally $108. Saturday Nights: $48
Frias Cabernet 1995: Normally $135. Saturday Nights: $65. This is the one I'm trying first.

I could go on - the list is long. And it's not just the $100+ bottles either. I noticed a J.Lohr Petite Syrah discounted from $49 to $25, and many others in this price range. However, I want to grab my hubby and two friends and go for one of the nicer bottles I would never usually spring for.

So I might be slightly mental, but don't say it never paid off for ya!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Serious Conundrum

We stopped by Bentley's on 27 the other night - I have always loved that place. I have such wonderful memories of introducing my hubby to my parents for the first time there, after we had been dating a few months. We also had our engagement party there with his family the day we got back from Ohio - my hometown where he proposed.

It was a really hot night, and I was in the mood for a nice white wine, but no specific cravings. As I was perusing the list, I actually saw a bottle of Conundrum in the wine fridge behind the bar. I suddenly recalled a former coworker mentioning to me that he and his wife just love to treat themselves with a bottle of Conundrum. This was about 4 years I recalled that nugget of info I will never know. So I went for it. And...

....I thought it was HORRIBLE!! It was everything I hate about white wine - sticky and syrupy and just tasted like some kind of fruit juice with extra sugar dumped in. I tried very hard to find redeeming qualities. I sniffed it very deeply, and I did get a very strong peach bouquet. Too strong. And the flavor lingered in my mouth way longer than expected. I'm sure there were some oaky flavors under there somewhere, but the sucrose film in my mouth made it impossible to detect.

This is a really popular wine, right? Am I overreacting?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pie Town

I have been wanting to check out Pie Town since it opened - I loved it's predecesor TOWN, and have a very fond memory of treating my parents to dinner there with one of my first steady paychecks in the big city! My husband and I stopped in on Saturday and really enjoyed ourselves.

Naturally, I googled the menu ahead of time, and noticed that a few wine selections had a super cute smiley next to them. Further inspection revealed that the smiley-annotated wines were Eric Solomon selections. Now, I don't know much about this Eric Solomon cat, but I have heard that he's a famous wine importer who spends a decent amout of time in Charlotte it seems. told me it was 1/2 price wine night. That website has done wonders already!

The interior seemed largely unchanged, but still very posh. It turns out they were out of the wine selection I had settled on from my computer at home - the Las Rocas Garnacha 2006 Rioja. The waiter suggested an alternative from the same region, and I hesitanly said "okayyy". My sweet husband said "weren't you talking about the Eric Solmon wines on the way over here?" He listens! He really does! So instead we ordered the Artadi Orobio Tempranillo 2006. The waiter assured us it was a "much better bottle", and 1/2 of 39 bucks - we were sitting pretty!

Shawn ordered the Man Pie (classic crust, red sauce) and I ordered the Wild Mushroom (whole grain crust, white sauce). They were both pretty fantastic. The menu comes with a laminated, full page commentary about the crust, instructing the diners not to be alarmed by the "burnt appearance". However, I found the need for a full page disclaimer of pizza crust somewhat alarming in itself! I remember Helen Schwab's description of the delicious pizza crust very clearly, but I wasn't bowled over. It was tasty, but I think the crust was just overhyped. Shawn's pizza was filled with manly meats, and a LOT of very sweet sausage. My mushrooms (oyster, button, cremini) were drizzled with truffle oil. I love me some truffle oil. I think my husband actually called me a "truffle oil whore" one time.

Okay, what are we here for. The wine. It was wonderful....loved everything about it. It had nice light tannins, and fairly strong cherry and spice notes. It had what I call a "bright" flavor (as opposed to big earthy flavors, I suppose). It was really nice and balanced - it paired well with both the Man Pie, and my abundance of mushrooms. I also sipped it with the fondue we ordered for dessert - YUM. A little research after the fact informed me that 50% of the wine is aged in French oak, and that the wine should age well for about 10 years.

So - Eric Solomon did not let me down. Great overall experience at Pie Town, and pretty fantastic wine. Wine + Pizza = Happy Charlotte Wine Girl.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wine Spectator Awards in Charlotte

So on my way back from a busniess trip to San Fransisco this week, I picked up a Wine Spectator. I don't subscribe, but I do pick them up occasionally. If we're being honest here, the mag intimidates me a little...but I'm learning to muscle through. With this issue, I commited to getting myself a subscription sometime in the near future.

The August 31 issue has the Annual Restaurant Awards, in which they recognize restaurants that offer excellent wine lists.

I immediately flipped to the North Carolina section to see which Charlotte restaurants were recognized:

Award of Excellence (One Glass Rating):
Arpa (RIP...this was our fave uptown spot)
Capital Grille
Fig Tree
McIntosh's (Again, RIP)
Mimosa Grill
131 Main
The Palm
Providence Cafe
Ruth's Chris

Best Award of Excellence (Two Glass Rating):
Del Friscos

Unfortunately Charlotte couldn't boast any Grand Award winners (three glass rating), but we did have one in Raleigh: The Angus Barn, which has 1650 wine selections and has been a Grand Award winner since 1989. There were only 72 Grand Award winners this year in the world - and only 46 of those are in the US - so it's quite an honor.

Search the full list here.

I may be making a trip to Raleigh! Either that or the Men's Club.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Where It's At

This is probably old news to many in Charlotte, but I was just informed of this website yesterday.

I will follow a 1/2 priced bottle of wine around town any day!

Hello World

Hello Charlotte! Today I begin my foray into the wine blogosphere. To tell you a little bit about myself, my name is Lauren, I am 26 and live in Charlotte. I love wine. I want to know everything there is about wine - to begin a lifelong education that leads me to places all over the country (and hopefully, world) where I taste amazing things, and make wonderful, slightly druken memories.

I started drinking wine - and I'm talking wine besides Franzia and Boones Farm at frat parties - about 6 months after I graduated from college. My roomate Nicole and I took a two night wine class. It was offered by Vino 100, and was hosted at the Omni Hotel restaurant. I was 22. One night we had all whites - all in all about 5 glasses of wine. Each one tasted the same to me, and when I announced this to the class the instructor looked at me in horror. The only one that stood out was a chardonnay, which I thought tasted like "suntan lotion". I also was completely drunk by the end of the class, not knowing the pace at which wine should be sipped. I pounded back each serving as if it were a Natty Light beer.

The following night we covered reds. During this class the instructor began to explain how wine is cultivated - how the type of grape, the thickness of the grape skin, the exact moment of harvesting, the makeup of the soil, the diameter of the vine, the slope of the field, the type of barrel, the precise aging period - I literally had no idea that this is what it took to make wine. That the tiniest variation in the aforementioned items (and many more) can create very important differences in the outcome. The addmittedly cliched juxtaposition of the "art" and the "science" appealed to every part of my personality. I was fascinated.

A couple of weeks later, my roomate and I had a couple of friends over for Poker and Wine night to our apartment in the city. I stuck my nose deep into the glass and took a moment to analyze what I was sensing. I held the wine in my mouth and opened slightly to inhale, as to intensify the flavors on my tongue. I shared my observations, and my friend Peter said "you know - people who know about wine seem so much smarter". As this was in line with my lifelong pursuit to seem smarter, I knew this was a hobby that I would stick with.

Since that time four years ago, I have tasted so many fantastic wines. Not the truly great wines that I hope to some day...but I had a bottle of Jordan Cabernet on my first really fancy date with my husband - we had a bottle again the night we got engaged. I met the winemaker at Rombauer vinyards at a wine tasting in Charlotte. Rombauer is my ABOSLUTE favorite chardonnay. I had a bottle of Caymus cab at Ruth's Chris - an apology from the restaurant for a dinner gone completely wrong. I had a glass of Caymus at Hyde Park Grill in Columbus with my family before that - and was sadly unimpressed (see? Goes to show what kind of taste I have in wine). I didn't know it would be a 30 dollar glass when I took the waiter's recommendation.

Aside from restaurants, I buy all my wine from the grocery store. It's usually 10 bucks a bottle. I am learning, slowly, what I like and what is a good value. I hope in this blog I can share my education, and get feedback on what others like as well. I hope to attend more wine tastings in Charlotte, and meet some wine experts and fellow neophytes. All I hope, is that I have a lot of fun. That's what wine is all about, isn't it? Pure, relaxing, feast of the senses. The best wine is shared with people you adore, and if you're lucky, some fabulous bites to pair it with.