BlogFebruary 2019Lisabella’s Shares Wine-Tasting Tips From a Master

Lisabella’s Shares Wine-Tasting Tips From a Master

Port Aransas and Cinnamon Shore wine lovers benefit from the passion and expertise of Yogi Barrett.


The four Ss of tasting wine: Swirl, Sniff, Sip and Savor. “Wine’s here for us to enjoy and to make life a little better,” says Yogi Barrett, a certified wine educator who has helped teach Port Aransas locals and patrons of Lisabella’s Bistro at Cinnamon Shore.


The Alabama native’s 40-year career in military intelligence included stints with the C.I.A. at Fort Meade in Maryland, but he spent off-hours gaining intel on Mid-Atlantic area winemakers. He turned a hobby into expertise, earning certifications from prestigious groups like the Friends of Wine. Later he brought his passion and knowledge to Port A when he moved here with his wife, Amelia, known as Tootie.


Collaborating with Lisabella’s


By 2014, he had started collaborating with chefs Kris Amundsen and Spencer Cox at Lisabella’s on almost monthly wine-pairing dinners. “We sit down and discuss plans for different themes, and when they come with an idea that puts a gleam in their eye and their tone of voice, we go with it,” he says.


At the most recent Bordeaux-themed dinner, Yogi introduced wines from the famous region that has coastal ties. On the southwest of France, Bordeaux is near the Atlantic and the Gironde Estuary, while the Garonne river splits the region and affects which varieties grow best on its left and right banks. Between courses, Yogi shared tidbits about how sauvignon blanc and Semillon varieties blend to characterize Bordeaux whites, about the region’s famous wine houses (like Château Lafite Rothschild), and about its many appellations (Margaux, Medoc, Pauillac and many more). Lisabella’s guests tasted Chef Spencer Cox’s thoughtful, delicious menu, enjoying wines selected to match a prawn dish, mushroom risotto, and more. 


“I think Spencer’s one of the very best chefs on the island,” Yogi says. He’s collaborating with him for an upcoming “Meet the Chefs” of Port A event on Feb. 26, along with other area chefs, and Yogi looks forward to selecting the wines for Lisabella’s next wine-pairing dinner, set for some time this spring. Look for details and reserve your spot!


Do-it-yourself tastings


In the meantime, Yogi offers these tips if you want to experiment with Bordeaux wines on your own:


Wine Tip #1: Learn the varieties you can expect to sample. The region’s five main grapes include cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec, and petite verdot. 


Wine Tip #2: Understand what grows best where. Left bank wines include heartier varieties, like cabernet sauvignon, which are bigger and bolder with more tannins. Right bank wines rely primarily on softer merlot, “with cab franc and cab sauv added to give it backbone,” Yogi explains. There’s also an area that specializes in sauternes for making sweet wines.



Yogi encourages even amateurs to try wine pairings at home or dinner parties. “You can certainly have the same wine [throughout a meal], but never hurts to mix and match,” he says. When pairing, just remember “acid with acid” and “sweetness with sweetness.” If you’re having a salad with a vinaigrette, there’s an acid in that bowl of greens. So, pairing it with a more acidic wine, like a sauvignon blanc, is the only way to go. For dessert, go with a sweeter wine, like a sauterne, or sherry or port.


Bending the rules


It’s still a good rule of thumb to pair white wine with white meats and fish and red wine with beef and darker meats, but Yogi says that with today’s more sophisticated American menus, there’s some leeway. For instance, the white-with-fish rule doesn’t necessarily apply to salmon, as a light red, like a pinot noir, can work. “I love a little pinot noir with salmon, depending on the sauce,” he says. In general, he adds, drier wines pair with whole meals best.


Above all, avoid what Yogi calls the cardinal sin of wine-tasting: trying a sweet wine and then going back to taste a dry one! “That’s just an unforgivable sin,” he says, laughing. “The dry wine becomes bitter and sour in the mouth, like biting into a persimmon.”


Yogi’s reward in sharing what he knows is helping consumers gain confidence in ordering and experiencing wine. Though he and Amelia have moved to Canyon Lake since Hurricane Harvey, he visits Port A often, and you’ll see him at the next wine dinner at Cinnamon Shore!



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Published on Friday, February 1, 2019

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