Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Wave

I've been experimenting with cocktails again & here is a delicious wine I created. It's a play off the classic Negroni which employs gin, Campari & sweet vermouth. One of my favorite spirits to play with lately is Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur. It's bright fresh & somehow more exotic than most other orange liqueurs. Yes it is sweet but it's balanced by the blood orange's hint of bitterness & it can easily be a component in many drinks.


2 oz gin (preferably 209 or Corsair Artisan)

1 oz Solerno

1.5 oz Sweet Vermouth (preferably Carpano Antica or Dolin Rouge)

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

4 dashes Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters

It is refreshing, crisp, bright & has a back note of bitterness that is absolutely delicious.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dinner with David O'Reilly of Owen Roe

I am extremely proud to announce Joe's Wine's & Liquors next wine dinner. On Sunday September 11th our special guest will be David O'Reilly owner/winemaker of the highly sought after & critically acclaimed Owen Roe Winery. David & his team craft some of the most hauntingly sensual Oregon wines & gripping earthy, bold Washington wines. We will host David at a wine dinner at Sweetgrass on Sunday September 11th at 6:00 pm. Cost to attend is $65/person inclusive. Seating is limited so please contact Joe's as soon as possible to secure your seat. Please call the store at 901.725.4252 or stop by to reserve & pay for your reservations. Due to the limited amount of seating we are unable to "hold" seats for you. Payment must be made prior to the dinner. If you have any questions please feel free to contact the store by phone or by email

Friday, August 19, 2011

Drinks Trend

It would seem that trends can be interesting or irritating...sometimes all at once. What is the shelf life of a trend? Can a trend solidify something's place in history or is it merely passing fancy?

Case in point; the Pisco Sour.

It's difficult for me to call this a trend because I remember my grandmother making them & I know for a fact that they have been around for a long time before that even. However, the cocktail culture that is exploding across the nation seems to have dubbed this the next "it" drink.

I for one am pleased by this because one of the ingredients that really is the key to this drink is egg white. Anytime I can use something not typically associated with the bar in a drink then I'm happy. What the egg white does is emulsify the cocktail & give it a creamy mouth feel. No it doesn't taste like an egg so don't worry.

Here is my take on it. I like to tweak so feel free to take liberties.

Pisco Sour

3 oz Peruvian Pisco
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz thyme-lavender infused honey syrup
teaspoon orange blossom water or rosewater
Fee Brothers lemon bitters
Fee Brothers aromatic bitters
1/2 egg white

Combine pisco, lemon juice, syrup, water, egg white & 1 dash lemon bitters in a cocktail shaker WITH NO ICE. Shake vigorously to emulsify the egg white. Add ice, shake to chill & pour into a coupe glass. Dot the foam on top with 3 dashes of Fee Bros aromatic bitters.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Questions

On a regular basis I get asked

"How did you learn so much about wine?"

"When did you get into wine?"

"How do you stay in such good shape when you drink so much & eat so much good food"
Seriously I have been asked this question often enough. My answer is that I swim laps & lift weights on a regular basis.

The other questions aren't answered so quickly or easily. I was raised in a multi cultural household where chicken-n-dumplins, spaghetti & fried chicken lived alongside lengua (beef tongue) & saltenas (empanada style stuffed pastries). My mother & grandmother cooked Latin American & Spanish dishes for us, my grandmother spoke Spanish to us as much as she could. Along with the more exotic family food there was always wine. My parents drank wine & my grandmother would bring wine from South America & Spain whenever she would go visit family. Keep in mind this was in the late 70's & into the 80's when wines from those areas were not readily available much less even heard of. Every once & awhile my sister & I would be given watered down wine to drink alongside the family's full strength glasses. At the time, of course, I thought nothing of it. It was just the way I was raised so I didn't think it was different. Only after I started going to friend's houses did I see that in fact yes I was raised differently. Throughout college I started exploring wine somewhat at the local Southern Illinois wineries. Yes there are wineries in So. Ill. After college I felt like I was drifting. Took an internship & then position at a publishing company in San Francisco. Left SF & moved to Memphis. Worked in restaurants for years & then took a job at a non-profit. Left the non-profit & took a job with Coletta & Company (now Smart City Consulting). It was here where I had a huge realization--I was simply working--. I didn't give a damn about what I was doing. There was no passion & there never was throughout any of those previous jobs. I had no idea what the hell I was doing nor why I was doing it. I was in awe of my boss, Carol Coletta. She was this force of nature that seemed to subsist on biscuits with a little lemon curd & her workload. She was easily one of the most intelligent people I'd ever met. What really amazed me was her passion & dedication for every project that she touched.

I wanted that. I wanted to feel so strongly & passionately about what I did that it was simply second nature. I wanted to work hard yet not realize how hard I was working because I loved what I was doing. Most of all I wanted to believe in what I was doing as if I was meant to do it.

As scary as it was to do I mustered up the courage & quit my job. I was completely freaked out but I knew in my heart that it was exactly what I was supposed to do. While I was working at Coletta & Company I took a part time job at Great Wines & Spirits out in East Memphis. Dipping my toe in the water just made me want more. I studied my ass off & took the Introductory Sommelier Course offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Much to my surprise I scored the highest in my entire class! Achieving this really propelled me to take on the Certified Sommelier Exam so soon after the Intro. The Certified exam was the most difficult test I had ever taken, or at least it felt that way. After the three part exam we were released for a break before the results were announced. I remember calling Kelly & telling him "I'm sure I failed. There is no way I passed. I completely screwed that up." He talked me off the ledge & I returned to the hear the results. I passed! Oddly enough my criticism was flipped. What I felt I did well on was actually what I did poorly on & vice versa. It was an interesting moment to say the least.

Soon after that a friend of mine asked me to help out with a wine tasting that her employer was putting on. I said yes & I guess I really impressed them because the store owner, Brad Larson, offered me a job soon thereafter. Working at Joe's Wines & Liquors has been an incredible experience. I've grown so much, learned so much & experienced a great deal.

I'm living proof that you should be doing what you love. I can't imagine doing anything else.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why We Choose What We Choose

The point of a wine club & beer club is to showcase new, unique, interesting top quality products that any given member might not select for themselves. The point is not to shovel out the same boring bullshit that you can get just about anywhere. Yes, not everyone in said club is going to like every selection. That's not what we are trying to accomplish. We are trying to expand the palates & minds of those members. Recently, some of the beers that we put in the club at Joe's Wines & Liquors caused some very strong reactions. Some people absolutely HATED the Belgian Geuze Lambics (sour style, spontaneous fermented beers). One member actually poured them down the drain. Another member called me up at the store just to tell me that he was going to quit the club until he tried them. He enjoyed them so much that he decided to stay in the club.

These strong reactions happen often enough but they don't ever cause me to lose track of the focus of each club. I will continue to put wines in their hands that cause reactions. Kelly will continue to put beers in their hands that cause reactions. Yes I select wines because I think the majority of the membership will enjoy & appreciate it. But I don't really give a damn if some of them hate that bottle. What really makes me happy is when a wine makes them think. Of course, when one of my club members comes in & waxes poetic about how much they loved a particular bottle....yeah that feels good too.

Monday, August 08, 2011

5 Boring Guys

When 5 Guys Burgers came to Memphis you would have thought it was the second coming. I just didn't get all the hype over a chain when there were very good burgers in town made by talented chefs in locally owned restaurants (i.e. City East Grille, Majestic Grille, Cafe 1912, Three Angels, need I continue?). Since it was so far out east, & far removed from Midtown where I live & work, I quickly forgot about it. This past Sunday we found ourselves out east doing some shopping & what not. I was famished so we went by 5 Guys. We ordered & waited & waited & waited & waited. The space looks like a down market Steak & Shake with no table service that utilizes the dining room for storage. The burger was decent size but misleading. It's a double patty but basically the same amount of burger you'd get at the previously mentioned restaurants. It was fine but not close to those other places. The fries were extremely plentiful but greasy & flavorless.

This experience was an unfortunate lesson. It seems like most people in Memphis are so used to mediocre chain food that they actually get excited about it. Sad. Really sad considering that we have a wealth of LOCALLY OWNED restaurants that offer better quality at great value.

Break the Chain! Eat Local! It tastes better.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

THE Rose of the Summer

It's no secret I love Oregon. However, my bias towards this incredible wine growing state doesn't affect my ability to judge quality. If its good its good. With that being said I have fallen head over heels in love with a wine. It's my rose of the summer but I know I'll be drinking this way into December. Not only is it refreshing for the summer heat but it also could pair up with many fall dishes too. Especially the holiday spread at Thanksgiving. I present to you Lachini Rose of Pinot Noir 2010 Willamette Valley $20.99. It's refreshing, brimming with bright fruit & mouthwatering acidity with a lingering spice note & gorgeous texture on the finish. Buy it now (only available at Joe's Wines & Liquors). Drink it all summer (which in Memphis lasts until almost October) & drink it way into the fall. Thank me later.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Dinner at Acre

Arguably the most anticipated restaurant opening of 2011 was Acre. Chef Wally Joe has a passionate following in Memphis as well as national recognition. Andrew Adams (who juggles chef duty at both Acre & the Brushmark at Brooks Museum) is incredibly talented as well. This culminates at Acre in plates of food that are beautiful without being precious. The space is jaw dropping. The design is elevated rusticity with an incredible attention to detail. It's truly a beautiful restaurant that was very well planned & well thought out. The wine list is a tight collection of lovely bottles, by the glass & (my favorite) by the quartino. There are few selections on this list that I wasn't pleased to see. It has quickly rocketed to the top of one of my most favorite lists in town. Why? Well first & foremost it's unique & not just a collection of ubiquitous labels. Second, it appeals to the wine obsessed as well as the casual drinker; meaning it's approachable & not scary yet still interesting. Most of all, when we ordered a bottle of Bergstrom Cumberland Reserve Pinot Noir 2008 Willamette Valley it came out at the proper temperature; not "room temperature". I cannot tell you how many times I've had to bite off a small chunk of ice from my water glass & drop it in my red wine to cool it down. Newsflash--room temperature in the south in the summer hovers around 80 degrees. This does not make the red wine tasty.
Service is comfortable & attentive without being fussy or too silent.

The menu is outstanding. It's a compact collection of delicious plates of food that have been so obviously loved over. But still not even an ounce of pretension whatsoever. It's very very good food using top quality ingredients that are prepared with expert technique so of course there is no need for pretension. I appreciate that quite a bit because it kept me in a constant state of giddy anticipation for the next plate.

First round:

Tomato Tartar with chickpea panise & goat cheese.
Tiny Octopus salad with paprika cashews & avocado
Duck Pastrami with cherry mustard & pickled cippolinis


Halibut with favas, squash & a Lobster sancocho
Sea Scallops with artichokes, fennel, capers, roasted garlic potato puree & buerre rouge

Every bite of food was delicious, absolutely delicious.

We followed that collection up with an artisan cheese course with tasty little accompaniments; a unique twist on Tres Leches & a Chocolate & Peanut Cremieux that was luxurious & unctuous.

I will return soon & when I do I think I might dive into the suckling pig dinner with a group of 10. FYI- you have to order it a week in advance.