Camerata Brings Beer/Wine Hybrid Drink to Houston

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
Pictured is the Equilibrista, along with the bottles in which the as yet unnamed concoction is served.
There isn't a name for it, David Keck, head wine guy at Camerata, tells me. At least not yet.

Beer produced by spontaneous fermentation with wild yeast is a lambic. Wine with quite a bit of carbon dioxide caused by fermentation is sparkling. This wine/beer hybrid is a bit new to have a name, perhaps. The different varieties, produced by Italian brewer Birra de Borgo, have names like Caos and Equilibrista, but unlike Champagne, saison beer, hefeweizen or rosé, the product itself doesn't have a name. It's too innovative, too new.

"It's really like a rosé sparkling wine mixed with a saison beer," Keck says by way of explanation. "It has that earthy, spicy quality of a saison. I think they're not for everyone, though. They've got a certain flavor profile that's different from what people are expecting."

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Houston, We Have a Wine-Storage Problem

Categories: Wine Time

Photo by Jeremy Parzen
What's in your wine rack? And how many temperature fluctuations does it go through each day?
This is the fifth in our series of "how-to wine" posts. Click here for previous entries.

No one has been able to offer a scientific explanation for why the legendary cellars of Bordeaux's châteaux are so perfect for aging wine.

What we do know is that during the winter, temperatures in the underground cellars, which lie a stone's throw from the sea, gently drop. As a result, the wine contracts slightly, as do the corks. It is believed that the minute amount of oxygen that slowly seeps through the cork (an organic, porous mass) subtly oxygenates the wine and that, with the passing of the years, this achingly slow aging process creates unparalleled nuance and complexity in the wine.

Some say that this unquantifiable phenomenon, coupled with the even cooler cellars in the homes of 19th-century British bankers, where the wine would ultimately lie supine, is what gave rise to Bordeaux's legacy as one of the greatest wines in the world.

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Confession: I am an American Anti-Decanter

Photo by Tracie Parzen
For many wine lovers, decanting enhances the reward of wine's visual beauty.
Previous entries in our "how-to wine" series have included How to Open a Bottle of Wine, How to Prime Your Stemware, and How Much Wine to Pour and When.

The world of wine is often divided between the decanters and the anti-decanters, in other words, those who like to decant aggressively and those who prefer to decant only out of necessity.

The great New York wine maven Charles Scicolone has often been overheard lamenting overly aggressive decanting.

"Old wine is like me," he'll say. "It doesn't like to be shaken up."

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Waiter, Waiter: Please Stop Pouring Wine in My Glass!

Photo by Jeremy Parzen
It's an age-old conundrum: Is the glass half full or half empty?
Click here for "how to prepare your stemware" and here for "how to open a bottle of wine."

The "overpour" is one of the most troubling things you see in restaurants, especially today, when so many restaurants are serving fine wine without properly training their staff on how to appropriately serve it.

Don't blame the servers: In many cases, just like the backwaiters who endlessly fill up your water glass with Houston's finest, they have been instructed by their bosses to fill your wine glass at every opportunity.

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Wine Foreplay: Prime Your Stemware Before Serving

Photo by Jeremy Parzen
Detergent- and dust-tinged stemware is one of the biggest challenges faced by wine lovers.
Last week's "how-to wine" post was devoted to opening a bottle of wine.

Sadly, it happens all the time.

A well-intentioned wine lover brings a bottle of super-groovy Oregon Pinot Noir, biodynamic Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley in France, or old-school Nebbiolo from Barbaresco to a friend's or family member's home for a special dinner.

The thrilled host insists on using her/his best crystal stemware to serve the wine and proceeds to open the china cabinet, in which the glasses have sat unused since the holidays.

The host opens the bottle and pours four steep glasses.

But when the host and guests raise their glasses in celebration, their noses are greeted by the smell of dust or detergent. And the wine is ruined.

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How to Open a Bottle of Wine

Photo by Jeremy Parzen
While some laypeople prefer simpler-to-use openers like the Rabbit, nearly all wine professionals concur that the double-hinged Pulltap style "waiter's corkscrew" is the best tool to employ in opening a bottle of wine.
Like the ability to tie a bow tie or mastery of Latin, knowing how to open a bottle of wine correctly is one of those skills that can set you apart from the crowd (especially at dinner parties). It will also lead to greater enjoyment of the wine: In part because extracting a cork from a bottle of wine can be stressful for people who don't have experience in serving wine; and in part because the aromas and flavors of wine can been affected negatively by improper handling of the bottle.

This is the first in a how-to series devoted to shopping for wines, serving wine and ordering bottles in restaurants.

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Films for Foodies (and Winos): Sideways

Film still from Sideways
MIles, left, teaches Jack, right, how to taste wine with your eyes.
Movie studios scramble to have big-name stars headline their films, but in many of my favorite movies, food is the star. Few things are better than pairing a foodie film with a great meal so we can enjoy ourselves just as much as the folks onscreen are enjoying their own aliments. In this series, we'll highlight a movie in which food plays a leading role and suggest one or more local spots to provide an accompanying feast for you. Pull up a table and dim the lights, the show's about to begin.

Sideways (2004)

Ah, the road-trip film. Road trips are a staple of cinematic plot lines, and Sideways offers up an alternately depressing and hilarious one set against the backdrop of the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley.

Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti) is a depressed, divorced, borderline alcoholic writer and wine-lover who embarks on a weeklong trip with his buddy, Jack (Thomas Hayden Church), a failed actor. Jack is soon to be married, and Miles, the best man, wants to go on a trip through wine country for a relaxing bachelor party, and Jack wants one last fling before he's a married man, so the two decide to hit the road in Miles's convertible and tour a few wineries with which Miles, a veritable wino, is already fairly familiar.

During the trip, they stop at the Hitching Post, a restaurant where Miles has often come to eat and to admire Maya (Virginia Madsen), a waitress. With Jack's help, he strikes up a conversation with Maya and finally gets to know more about her. The next day, Jack and Miles meet Stephanie (Sandra Oh), a pour girl at a local winery, and upon discovering that she and Maya are friends, the men arrange a double date.

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Chef Kristofer Jakob Displays Talent and Versatility Through His Wine Dinner Series

Photos by Carla Soriano
The Madeira-marinated beef tenderloin at Kris Bistro & Wine Lounge's Spanish and Portuguese Wine Dinner appropriately paid homage to the adage "quality over quantity."
In the most recent edition of a year-long "Around the World" wine dinner series -- an evening that paired Spanish and Portuguese wines with the cuisine of Spain -- chef Kristofer Jakob of Kris Bistro & Wine Lounge, the restaurant inside Culinary Institute LeNôtre, left diners impressed.

Jakob isn't "just" an executive chef; he's a teacher as well, and his "staff" is made up of students whom he trains and teaches and rotates throughout positions in the kitchen. He gets a new group of students every month. Typically, the restaurant serves French fare. Sum up all of these factors and it's easy to see why pulling off a Spanish and Portuguese wine dinner -- or any themed wine dinner, for that matter -- without a hitch is commendable.

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Our Top Wines for a Bayou City Christmas (And a Few Vino-Related Gifts)

Categories: Wine Time

Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
Non-alcoholic elderberry syrup from one of Austria's most famous organic wineries can be diluted with sparkling water or drizzled over ice cream. The Houston Wine Merchant has it for under $30.
As I have done every year since I moved to Texas five holiday seasons ago, I'll be spending Christmas eve on Cow Bayou in Bridge City, East Texas (about 20 minutes up the road from Orange, where my wife was born).

Uncle Tim will make his famous gumbo, spiked with his hard-boiled-egg-laced potato salad, Aunt Pam (not really our aunt, but she still kisses me on the lips) will bring fried boudin balls and I'll bring a mixed case of wine.

The get-together will include roughly 30 relatives and extended family friends, each with personal beverage preferences (Uncle Tim's is Chivas and diet Sprite).

As for many American families, Christmas isn't the occasion for breaking out my ten-year-old Nebbiolo or the single-vineyard Burgundy I've been saving. No, it's time for value and crowd-pleasers. No meditation wines here, ma'am, just some good ol' reliable grape wine.

Here's my list of what I'll be drinking on the bayou this year. Nearly every wine is under the $25 mark, and some can be had for less than $20. My top-priced splurge wine weighs in at less than $35. The emphasis is on food-friendliness, affordability and the fun factor.

And I've also thrown in a nonalcoholic syrup from a favorite organic Austrian winery (see photo above), a gift idea, and handy and inexpensive serving tool.

(I did all my shopping at the mother ship Spec's on Smith and the Houston Wine Merchant on South Shepherd.)

Merry Christmas, y'all!

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Cheers! Camerata at Paulie's Is Named One of the Hottest Wine Bars in the Country

Photo by Camerata at Paulie's
With an ever-changing wine list, Camerata keeps customers coming back for more.
It's only been open since July of this year, but already Camerata is on the map.

Eater National's map, that is.

It's already received a glowing review from our wine writer, Jeremy Parzen, who also put it on his list of the best destinations for wine in Houston. Prior to that, we named it our favorite wine bar in Houston in a separate list of the best wine bars (not to be confused with restaurants that happen to have great wine lists).

And now, Eater is recognizing Camerata's greatness as well. On Thursday, Eater editor Paula Forbes put it on her list of "The 19 Hottest Wine Bars Across the Country Right Now," along with a number of fine, new-ish wine bars from New York, Chicago, L.A. and other locales that have been getting a lot of press.

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