When it comes to wine, I consider myself a Napa girl. I love their character, boldness, and explosive finish. However, a few weeks ago I allowed myself to be seduced by several Latin wines. Their names were exotic and hard to pronounce, but their flavors softly caressed my palate and lingered on my tongue.
Leon Sierra of Mid-State Wine distributors was the master of ceremonies for the evening. Leon, along with The Singing Chef Adrian Rodrigues and gracious hosts Brad and Effie Stees of Envy Wine Room, provided a night of education, gastronomy, and entertainment.
Upon arrival at the charming wine shop in Old Town Spring, I was handed a glass of La Crusset Cava from Spain. Served with a few raspberries at the bottom of the glass, this oaked bubbly consists of four grapes: Chardonnay, Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Parellada. It is a great drink for sipping or celebrating and it pairs nicely with spicy foods.
Our white wines began with a Tempranillo Blanco from Spain called La Bella Fernanda. A unique varietal aged in stainless steel and then in oak for two months. It was served with a garlic soup and was light and refreshing. Next came the Tarapaca Chardonnay from Chile. Aged in French Oak for ten months, this wine was buttery with hints of pear and vanilla. It was perfect! Easy to drink and paired well with the spicy tuna cake.
The reds started with a Tierra Brisa Malbec from Argentina. This value priced everyday drinking wine boasts flavors of blackberry, vanilla, and a soft hint of oak. It paired well with the tomato and basil bruschetta, but could also be enjoyed out on the deck with some grilled meat or Texas BBQ.
Next came Sierra de Miros Tempranillo from Spain. This new world style wine is fruit forward and ready to drink. Made from 85% Tempranillo, 10% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet, its light bodied taste pairs well with white meats and grilled fish. It was excellent with the salt cod puree on toast.
Bolder reds are my favorite so I really enjoyed the Alvaro Castro Red from Portugal. Alvaro Castro is one of Portugal's top winemakers from the Dao Region. This wine is a blend of three grapes: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Alfrocheiro. This elegant wine paired well with the beef empanada and would make a great companion to any meat dish.
The night finished with a bang as we were presented with Valduero, Reserva Tempranillo from Spain. Made from 100% Tempranillo, this wine rivals some of the best Napa Valley Cabs. Aged for 30 months, this wine is soft and silky on the palate. It is a complex, yet elegant wine and the terroir adds a nice intensity to the finish. The skewered beef was a perfect compliment to the wine. For me, this was wine was the star of the night.
Thank you Leon Sierra for showing me your part of the wine world. I now have more choices to add to my current rotation and my Latina side is very happy.
Mark Twain once said, "Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough." Here in Houston, we are lucky to have many options when it comes to whiskey, including three local craft distilleries within an hour of one another. Sure you can just go to your neighborhood liquor store and pick up a bottle, but these places are worth a visit. At the distillery you can get a tour of the facility, learn about the whiskey making process, and sample a wide variety of spirits. Plus you are supporting family owned businesses and Texas made whiskey.
Making whiskey takes time and skill. The five basic steps for making whiskey are:
1. Making the mash 2. Fermenting 3. Distilling 4. Barreling 5. Bottling. This lengthy process is why most distilleries will make other products, such as vodka, which doesn't need to be aged.
Whitmeyer's Distilling Co., Harris County's first distillery, opened in 2012 and is located in a small business park near the hustle and bustle of FM 1960. This business is run by native Texans and military veterans, Chris and Travis Whitmeyer, along with their father Wesley. Their passion for making whiskey is apparent the moment you step foot in the warehouse. They currently have 6 products available: Peach Whiskey, Space City Vodka, Single Barrrel Bourbon, Moonshine Whiskey, Moonshine Reserve, and Gin. The first four products are available at most liquor stores, and the other two directly from the distillery. I recently attended a double blind Bourbon tasting at their facility and Whitmeyer's new Texas Barrel Select was the group favorite by an overwhelming majority. Read more about the bourbon tasting in the Public News http://www.publicnews.us/pn014.pdf
Whitmeyer's conducts tours on Saturdays at 2pm and 4pm. The tour includes a sample of all their products and reservations can be made online or by calling them directly. There is also a cash bar and drinks are only $5. The facility is also available for private parties.
Yellow Rose Distilling, located in the heart of Houston, off of North Post Oak is a wonderful place to visit. Founded by neighbors Troy Smith and Ryan Baird, along with business partner Randy Whitaker, they are Houston's first legal distillery. From the outside it looks like a regular office building, but once you step inside you see a beautiful reception area and bar. Just beyond the bar is the entrance to the warehouse where all the whiskey magic happens.
Yellow Rose currently makes five products: Howdy Stranger Vodka, Outlaw Bourbon, Double Barrel Bourbon, Rye Whiskey, and Blended Whiskey. The Blended was definitely my favorite. Tours are very informative and take you through the entire process from grain to bottle. Tours are $7 and include a sample of all five products. Times are: Thursday and Friday 4:30 and 5:30 and Saturday at 11:30, 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30. Bringing snacks, games, and just hanging out at the bar is highly encouraged. The facility is also available for private events and their barrel room is the perfect place for a party.
Big Thicket Distilling is located in Conroe, Texas. Founded in 2012 by childhood friends Daniel Bass and Joseph Breda, they make everything in house one small batch at a time. They pride themselves on being Texas made from grain to glass. Products that are currently available include Dog Trot Vodka and Boom Town Whiskey. Soon to be released is Boom Town Bourbon and Roughneck Reserve Bourbon.
Tours are conducted every Saturday at 12, 2, and 4pm. The facility is also available for private parties. The have several events coming up such as game night on March 13th and the first annual Bugs and Booze Crawfish Boil on April 25th.
Grab some friends and head on out to one or all three of these great local distilleries. Be sure to check out Groupon or Living Social for discounts on tours. Also, to be informed on new products and events be sure to like their pages on Facebook.
About the Author
I like eating, traveling, and enjoying liquid libations. I'm all about great wines, signature cocktails, and local brews.