Wednesday, February 15, 2006

New Austin Wine Bar sez: "Corkscrew U"

Ten years ago...well, hell, two years ago, there was no wine bar that had come close to surviving in Austin. There'd been a couple that had sprung up, nosedived, and faded into obscurity. People just weren't into it: if they wanted to drink, they went to a bar, and if they wanted to eat, they went to a restaurant. If they wanted a good glass of wine, they went to the restaurant bar. It's only been very recently, I'd say, that wine enthusiasm is such that a place like Cork and Company can exist, and do well.

The fellas that put this venture together are ex-corporate recruiters who, for some inexplicable reason, became disenchanted with their gigs and wanted to wiggle into the food and beverage industry. When they decided that a wine bar was what Austin needed most, they were both correct and taking a risk. Wine's all the rage with the yupsters and the weary executives, and knowing something about it sets you apart from the herd. To that end, Cork and Company has a series of classes tailored for the eager novice in wine tasting, (one entitled 'Corkscrew U'...a clever turn of words or an inside joke?) chocolate tasting and wine and food pairing. They also sell their wines retail, and at prices that don't make your butt clinch. So you can do a class and buy the bottle you liked, and maybe scope around for a member of your gender of desire drinkin' the same Merlot you've got. Dude! All they need is one of those seven minute dating round robins, and they'll be Lookin' For Love Central.

The wine on the tasting menu is arranged by wackily named flights such as 'Drama Queen' (two pinot gris and a Lugana) or 'Flower Power' (two Albarinos and a Reisling). Okay, this is kinda fun, kinda friendly, says don't trip on it, it's just grape juice, and that's a good thing. The flights are in threes, with pricing per flight, glass or 2 oz. taste. With a flight, you get your very own card with the names of the wines and a place for tasting notes. All very cool. My only issue is the way the some of the flights are arranged. 'Flower Power', for instance. Why not throw a viognier or picpoul de pinet in there instead of two albarinos? The flights themselves could be a bit more diverse in several places.

The idea of offering a cheese plate and a flight of chocolates on the menu for pairing is right and good, but I found myself wanting more than the one option for each. The one cheese plate has manchego, brie, dry jack and a chevre; and while this is a good smattering, I hope in the future they expand the cheese selection to better pair up with any given wine flight.

Three in a row, cute as a button

My friend Aaron and I tried the 'Blended, Not Stirred' flight, two Californian blends and one Australian GSM. Of the the three, I was suprised to like the 2001 Holy Trinity GSM by Grant Burge the best: lots of fruit, but also bright spicy notes and oak that didn't bang you over the head. Second best was the 2003 Edmonds St. John 'Rocks and Gravel' Rhone Blend, a winner in my book for the stony notes you don't normally detect in California juice. The third, 2003 Hook and Ladder was a Cab-dominant Bordeaux blend full of cedar and vegetal notes and just a tad too much oak showing for my taste, especially against the other two, whose oak seemed more well integrated to me.

White Russian flavored chocolates? Are you sure about that?

For dessert, we had the chocolate flight. Again, I wanted there to be a more thoughtful collection of chocolate. After all, who needs a liquor-flavored bon-bon to pair with your wine? Bring in solid chunks of deep dark chocolate, or truffles without the booze. I will say, though, that the sparkling shiraz was just fine with all of the chocolate fare.

So in sum: I liked the way the place was set up, I liked the atmosphere, and the bartender knew enough about wine to impress me. It's a perfect place to get to know wine and meet people. For the wine dork, however, there's not so much. I'd like to see the above changes, and some expansions to the wine collections, both retail and bar. As it is, there are good selections, but very cautious ones. And wayyyyyy too little Italian! And, like, zero syrah! Okay, there's syrah, but not much. Don't make me come back there.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like your reviews. Give Vinosity on 35th a try. It's my favorite wine spot. Very resonable flights, great staff, great weekly menu.

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