You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Whole Foods’ tag.

My first documented professional tasting happened almost two weeks ago, and though I am falling behind in chronicling my tasting adventures I have to say I can remember it vividly. Not too long ago I was invited to my first trade tasting that I would blog, by a former colleague from WFM; it was an event that I very much looked forward to attending.

Held at Hatfield’s—a restaurant with a great pedigree—the smaller, upscale event would be a departure from some of the bigger trade tastings I had already attended in the year. Hatfield’s was hosting a German and Austrian tasting provided under the auspices of Wine Wise.

The venue fostered a different vibe; the gathering was smaller—not exclusive—but more intimate, good for discussing the wines with fellow buyers and not one person was rushed or unprofessional, unlike some of the larger tastings (getting shoved or elbowed out of the way for the last taste of Sauternes…happened!). Refreshing. While the gathering was more personable and petite, the wines were ample; over 150 different bottles were available to taste. Just a note, if I included these tastings into my ‘Count’, I would have been done already, arriving at the checkered flag of my Road-to-500 about three weeks ago. Why don’t I count them? I am going to rationalize my behavior by stating that these events, though valuable—in an educational sense—would be cheating form a story-telling perspective. Even if I could type up all the tasting notes from over a hundred wines, no matter how onerous, it would be unfair to most of the wines. Any mass tastings, including a large number of the wines I tasted at the Wine Wise event, deserve more than a technical breakdown—perhaps a novella each. Sixteen wines (as in the most I ever reviewed in my wine class) were pushing it, but I did pay for the class and the wines indirectly, so I guess I feel that those wines that I purchased (in whatever capacity) are to be reflected in the countdown. On to the marquee bout.

The spotlight was beaming lustrously on Rieslings from Germany and Austria but the showcase was not strictly on high acid white wines…, there were reds too, plenty of Zweigelt from Austria. Wine Wise—a distributor that represents the brilliant selections of Terry Theise—was showcasing a bounty of gems from the legendary importer’s portfolio. The wines were submerged in tubs of ice, a wide array of producers positioned in stations, kabinett, auslese, spätlese and trocken were there for the taking. Those terms (besides being difficult to pronounce until acquainted) signify varying degrees of ripeness for the Riesling grapes.

I shoots & laddered my way through the tables, beginning the tasting incredibly nervous; I poured my first wine* into my spit cup (luckily, it hadn’t been used) but quickly overcame my nerves as I rounded the second table. The acidity in the first few wines revved up my taste buds and I was ready to evaluate at that point. I made my way through the tables, tasting in order, trusting there was some logic behind the architecting of one’s passage through the maze. At every table stood exciting wines and after each sip, I would swoosh the liquid vigorously around my mouth and make an evaluation—basically, scribble my notes in a very small scrawl on the paper provided—based on the brightness of the wine, the residual sugar, the flavors (minerals with a squeeze of lime or dried apricots and other stone fruits…) and the way the wine left an imprint on my palate (the finish). There were some deadly gorgeous wines, lithe acidity and a serious persistence of fruit lingering on the tongue. It would be really painful for me to expound upon 50+ wines of merit, parsing that many notables out of the 120 I tasted but, I will list a few that wowed me:

Joh. Jos Christoffel Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese

Merkelbach Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling BA

Kruger-Rumpf Münsterer Rheinberg Riesling Kabinett

Döhnnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Rielsing Spätlese

Döhnnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese

Dr. Deinhard Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad Riesling Kabinett

Leitz Rüdesgeuner Klosterlay Riesling Kabinett

Selbach-Oster Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese

Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnernuhr Riesling ”Rotlay”

There were too many Rieslings that I enjoyed, the notes and bouquets were varied and came in different degrees of complexity. What I can tell you honestly is that a measured dose of residual sugar really chimes well with my palate.

After sipping through an endless trove of delicious Riesling and Grüner Veltliner I was not really prepared to sample the red wines, even after a time out, where I casually grabbed a handful of halved figs and grapes (not the ideal palate cleanser but certainly emblematic of summer) and slugged some water. I tried to transition flawlessly into the Austrian red wines but the oak—no matter how faint—really upset my palate. Tastes of meat and wood went wild on my tongue and I was ready to kind of wrap up. After nearly an hour and a half of tasting sumptuous white wines from Austria and Germany, the reds jarred me. I couldn’t get past it and so I was back to enjoying the white wines before calling it quits.

A fraction over two hours and I had tasted over 120 wines, not swallowing more than two full glasses during that time because the emphasis is on introduction and assessment and it would be extremely arduous, simply impossible, to evaluate any wines while intoxicated. I was able to thank my representative for inviting me and talk to a few people before exiting on that warm Thursday. I was sad to think that Rieslings were a tough sell after leaving Hatfield’s and had the privilege of tasting so many of these exemplary wines. I had a realization—not an epiphany—while driving back to the Westside that many people who deny themselves the pleasure of German Rieslings because they are “too sweet” are closing the door on an incredibly exciting varietal, one that can partner with a montage of fantastic foods. This is a challenge to whomever reads this (and may not already be smitten with the zesty grape): Please seek out Rieslings. They deserve your interest.

* Something I was unaccustomed to doing during this encounter, was pouring my own wines. It quickly appealed to me, as I could be as judicious as I wanted, or, perform my own tasting experiments, trying certain standouts side by side and just revisiting wines.

Last Sunday I was still unwinding from my eventful weekend, packed with food trucks, the inviting environs of San Diego and another Ducks come-from-behind victory over the Chicago Blackhawks (they have been doing that a lot lately). I decided it was time to slow things down a bit when I pulled into Long Beach after work and uncork number 334 on the year with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, but not just any bottle—one without pretense.

For as much change as I carry in my wallet, I decided I would gamble on a bottle of wine instead of going for the styles and brands that were familiar to me and thought I would enjoy more, trading them for a unique experience. Grabbing Three Wishes Cabernet Sauvignon from the Hill Crest, San Diego Whole Foods in addition to an armful of six packs of local craft beer I was on to something exciting. Could a value wine be good? Could this actually make me rethink the way I look at bargain-based wines?

It was my intention to pair it with a food truck vendor located in South Park (still San Diego); unfortunately, I did not play it right and the bottle was parked in the car. I found it uncomfortable to mosey carefree on unfamiliar grounds while toting a camera and a bottle of vin, while trying not to look conspicuous. I took the bottle back with me from San Diego on Saturday evening and was resolved to taste it before the weekend timed out.

Three Wishes is Whole Foods riposte to Charles Shaw wines, or better known as two-buck Chuck, priced at two dollars per bottle it is Jaja (everyday wine) that does not require much thought. I was never a fan of Charles Shaw but thought that I could find solace in the Whole Foods equivalent. Three Wishes sources their wines from Livermore and Ripon, California that is about as much as I can gather from the label, aside from the earth friendly packaging.

When I got to my parents house I poured a couple of glasses to begin my evaluation. In a way, serving the wine solo probably did a lot for the Cabernet. It had a nice ruby coloring with medium color depth, similar to a Pinot Noir in shading and taste, surprisingly. It did not offer much on the nose but in the mouth it flashed some strawberry and cranberry with a hint of green tea and minimal tannins. The wine behaved like a cranberry cocktail more than bottle of wine and certainly not like a Cabernet Sauvignon. The real bummer was the wine had an incredibly abrupt finish, disappearing almost immediately. No bad aftertaste, but not even leaving an impression on my palate. The wine also had a thin-on-the-mouth feel, probably due to the low ABV (12.5%), levels not seen since the late 80’s

I had realistically high hopes for the wine. I was expecting something that could really make me a believer in all things priced to the floor but I was not swayed. It did not make a convincing argument for the quality to price ratio and was probably one of the less interesting wines in my stemware this year. It would be missing the point and unfair of me to pit it up against most Cabernet Sauvignon—especially with the recent amount of outstanding Washington State reds I have tasted in the not-so-distant past—that I have written about, but that is my reference point, and it is hard to appreciate something that misses the mark no matter how affordable.

Feeling uninspired last Friday, I opted for a solo burger outing that would be themed in simplicity, without expectation; with a few spots in mind I narrowed my decision by bowing down to better driving sensibilities (still uneasy about the traffic in LA) and favored a location that was convenient and actually, my weekend-workplace: Whole Foods Market.

Coming off of average to low-end burgers the previous week made this idea a gamble—not too many people rave about Whole Foods Market (WFM) burgers—however, I had enough resolve to get there and try one.

The line was small but yielded a deceptively long wait, eight minutes of watching someone decide what he or she wants on his or her nachos can be baffling. At this particular WFM, the burger station is coupled with the taqueiria and while this may seem odd, there are many burger joints that provide fast-food Mexican staples like burritos, tacos, carne asada plates, etc. to supplement the burgers and pastrami.

When it was my turn to order, I kept consistent with the theme of the night… simplicity, and ordered a hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion. A warning posted on the menu told me to expect a 15-minute wait. I casually made the rounds and began talking to co-workers, trying to kill time; I eventually circled back to pick up the burger.

I paid $5.99 (before the discount) and with burger in hand, rushed home to open a bottle of the Mercury Geyserville Jug Wine to pair with the night’s selection. The jug wine may sound gimmicky but it is a fairly adept pairing based on the combination of grapes that go into it. No dominant grape torques its pairing preferences thus bringing out different aspects when paired with big foods or simple burgers.

Unwrapping the brown paper, in which it came tightly bound, I noticed a thick patty of meat that wore heavy grill marks. I was eager to bite into it but before I did, I studied the other components, realizing it was akin to a homemade barbecue burger. However, when I picked up the burger the squishiness of the bun was unsettling, this was the first of some serious errors. After the first bite I realized another critical mistake—it was overcooked. This left me pining for condiments, nowhere in sight was thousand-island sauce or ketchup. The patty was desiccated, no juice to be found, I drowned my sorrows by satiating my palate’s demands and drinking heavy gulps of wine with each bite.

Preferring simplicity surrendered unexpected results. Looking back, I know this was not so much the fault of the employee who made the burger but rather with instructions on preparation. WFM must avoid the risk of serving medium rare burgers or anything that could alarm patrons, so they serve up a WELL DONE patty. It’s a shame because it seems like WFM can source the best ingredients to make a worthwhile burger but instead, they play it safe and as a result rank somewhere below c-level.  Next time, I am going for the burrito!

Click to subscribe to the Maverick Palate and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 856 other subscribers

Wine of the Month

Roumier Morey St. Denis 'Clos de la Bussiere' 2008

Eatery of the Month


Jesse's Camarones Restaurant

Musical Accompaniment

Glenn Kotche’s ‘Ping Pong Fumble Thaw’  by The Brooklyn Rider Almanac