Spicing things up with Mark Oldman

Mark Oldman“This town is loaded with spicy food with everything from TexMex to Korean to Cajun,” says Mark Oldman, wine personality and author. In his “Heat Seekers, Best Wine for Spicy” session at the 2015 Austin Food & Wine Festival he recommended sparkling, white and red wines that can take the heat.

The ever entertaining showman kicked off his presentation with his signature stunt, inviting an audience member on stage to saber open a bottle of Champagne. Watching an amateur slice the top off of a bottle with a huge sword is always a crowd pleaser.

Oldman’s tips for pairing spicy food with wine include:

  • Pick bubbles. Sparkling wine naturally cleanses the palate while eating spicy food.
  • Choose wines with moderate acid, like Spanish Albariño, that gives the wine a refreshing lift.
  • Slightly sweet wines, Riesling, can take the edge off the heat.
  • Fruity wines, like rosé, calm the flames and brings them to life.
  • Lighter style red wines, like Pinot Noir, are spicy foods best friend.

Related 2015 Austin Food & Wine Festival Articles: 

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Food Comes First at the Austin Food & Wine Festival

IMG_0169The talent line up for the third annual Austin FOOD & WINE Festival, April 25-27, 2014 was announced this week. It features a star-studded list of local and national culinary pros starting with the organizing chefs Tim Love (Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Woodshed Smokehouse, Queenie’s Steakhouse, Love Shack, White Elephant Saloon); Tyson Cole (Uchi & Uchiko); and restaurateur Jesse Herman (La Condesa & Sway). The importance placed on food and the excellent talent level mirror the up-and-coming culinary scene in Austin.

The Fest organizers held a preview lunch at Contigo to trot out some of the stellar talent and show off the food. This media event demonstrated just how important Food is to the Fest. All of the organizing chefs were on hand along with chefs serving up nibbles including Jason Dady (Jason Dady Restaurant Group), David Bull (Congress, Second Bar + Kitchen & Bar Congress), John Bates (Noble Sandwiches), Jack Gilmore (Jack Allen’s Kitchen), Mike Lata (FIG & The Ordinary), Chris Shepherd (Blue Ginger & Blue Dragon) and the Contigo host, Andrew Wiseheart who wowed the crowd by roasting a whole pig in the parking lot. The nibbles were fantastic.

Tim Love -Mike Lata- Andrew Wiseheart - Chris Shepherd

There will be more than 40 events at the fest, including hands-on grilling demonstrations, two interactive fire pits, panel discussions and of course the Grand Tasting tents. On top of that there will be food fiestas like Feast Under the Stars on Thursday night, the Taste of Texas on Friday and the Rock Your Taco competition on Saturday.




OK, what about the drinks?

Oh, and there are also a handful of excellent wine industry pros on the list too. The importance placed on wine in no way reflects the burgeoning wine scene in Austin. At this Fest Food is clearly first and Wine is there to wash it down. Foodies will rejoice. Winos may weep.

The good news is that there is top notch talent. The Fest brings back four fan favorites from the past two years: FOOD & WINE magazine’s executive wine editor Ray Isle, wine writer and TV personality, Mark Oldman and the two most handsome master sommeliers in Austin Devon Broglie and Craig Collins. The new talent this year includes Frontera Grill sommelier, Jill Gubesch, the gorgeous sommelier from the soon to open LaV, Vilma Mazaite and the cocktail master from La Condesa and Sway Nate Wales.

The bad news is that there won’t be nearly as many wine and beverage sessions as food. The full program won’t be announced until February 25, but all indications are that there will be some similar panels from previous years and some changes. There will be winners and losers.

  • Win: There is a Mixology session and a Texas Spirits session on the schedule. No word on the talent or providers yet, but these are bound to be excellent programs. We are fortunate to have many excellent bartenders and fantastic distillers in Austin to choose from to present at the Fest. Prediction — Tim Love will crash a session and do his Shot Roulette where he pours tequila shots for 9 blindfolded contestants and one shot of canola oil for the tenth unlucky bastard.
  •  Lose: Likely the first casualty will be the Texas wine panel. It’s been great to see our local wines on the big stage for the past two years, but change is inevitable. Prediction — a handful of Texas wine die-hards will bemoan the passing loudly and will boycott the Fest. I’ll make sure to hit up the Texas wines in the Grand Tasting tent.
  • Win: Broglie and Collins will likely scheme a new topic that appeals to broad audience of wine lovers and novices alike to replace the Texas wine panel. These guys are not only two of the most knowledgeable wine experts in the world, but they are great presenters. Something good will happen in their Sunday afternoon session. Prediction — one or both of them will wear colorful pants.
  • Lose: While Mark Oldman is highly entertaining, his sessions have been pretty light-weight the past two years. The Fest draws an educated crowd that deserves a presentation that goes far deeper than Oldman delivers. I bet he’s more than eye-candy and actually knows his stuff. But I also bet he underestimates his audience yet again. Prediction — Oldman reprises his “bring the audience member onto the stage to saber a bottle of Champagne” bit. Its great showmanship.
  • Win: There is a space on the schedule for a craft beer session again this year on Saturday, but no brewers or talent has been announced. Let’s hope it’s not a naval gazing session on the state of the craft beer industry, but instead something really fun like a food and beer pairing session put on by some of the gifted Austin brewmasters. Prediction — Chris Troutman, one of the founders of the fantastic Austin Beer Guide, will actually show up at an event that isn’t fully dedicated to beer just to see this one panel.
  • Lose: According to the current schedule there are not any sessions dedicated to showcasing great culinary talent and wine talent together. It’s as if the organizers believe people actually eat food without pairing the right wine with it. Prediction — hungry wine lovers will mob the fire pits between sessions and thirsty foodies will get smashed in the Grand Tasting tents between sessions. The vast majority of attendees that love both food and wine will be disappointed that the worlds are separate.

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Fest? Tickets are on sale now. Prediction — I’ll take a ton of pictures, will attend every wine and beverage session held and will sadly miss the incredible cooking demonstrations yet again this year.

What are you drinking?


Great Day at the Austin Food & Wine Festival: Day 1 Recap

Austin Food & Wine Festival 2013Oh man the Austin Food & Wine Festival was a blast today. It was a great gathering of excellent culinary and beverage pros showing off their best for a happy crowd. I hunkered down at several sessions today including:

  • Texas Wine: Ready for the Main Stage with Russ Kane
  • Drink Like  Pro with Mark Oldman
  • Spring Into Wine with Ray Isle
  • What a Pair with Tony & Cathy Mantuano
  • Around the World with Pinot Noir with Ray Isle

In between learning about various wines in these sessions, I wandered through the grilling area and the grand tasting tents to sample some of the fantastic nibbles and drinks.

This year the Festival moved across the street to Butler Park. It was a great move, with a more intimate setting and more lush grass (read less blowing dust than last year). The Grand tasting had a new configuration that dropped the claustrophobic crowding from last year.

It went by too quickly and I can’t wait to get back to the park for tomorrow’s sessions.

Mark Oldman declares we can drink pink without blushing

Mark Oldman extoles the virtues of rose wine

You remember that guy, the one in school that you always liked to party with, but never wanted to study with? The guy who knew a ton, but was always crackin’ jokes so you didn’t get anything done? That’s Mark Oldman. He was known as the Bacchus on Campus back in the day. Now he’s the lead judge in the PBS TV series The Winemakers, a wine writer and wine book author. He brought his celebrity, dazzling blue eyes and showman style to the dusty grounds of Auditorium Shores for the Austin Food & Wine Festival, where he hosted a session called “Pink Without Blushing.”

He set the tone for the tasting of four rosé wines right from the get go by shouting out, “My first request is to start drinking. We need alcohol in us to lubricate our systems.” This was obviously not going to be a stuffy, professorial lecture on the technical aspects of the wine. Nope, this showman was there to tell stories and entertain the crowd in the dusty tent as they knocked back a flight of six wines.

Before getting into a discussion of the wines, Oldman brandished a chef’s knife and sabred a bottle of Champagne – slicing off the corked end of the bottle to the squealing delight of the people sprayed in the front row.

Knowing Texans have a macho persona that may have a bias against the pink stuff, he appealed to the crowd saying, “Rosé does not get a lot of respect. It’s like Donald Trump’s hair. You might think of it as a sissy drink, but real men drink rosé. There are plenty of burly, hairy-chested men drinking this by the gallon on the Riviera.” For those who were still skeptical, he encouraged us to “Drink Bravely,” which is Oldman’s motto that is thoroughly discussed in his book, Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine.

He didn’t have to convince me. I’m a huge fan of rosé and just bought a case of the stuff to knock back on hot nights. If you think of cheap, sweet white Zinfandel wine when you think of rosé, give it another try. Rosé is the epitome of sophisticated, dry, easy drinking wines.

Oldman mentioned a thing or two about each of the six wines, but didn’t say the name of each wine, give tasting notes, share much about the region in which it was produced or even say the types of grapes in many cases. He’s the fun friend, not the study buddy. Here’s what we had.

  1. Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque, Vintage, Rosé Champagne which goes for about $70 a bottle. It has a gorgeous salmon color punctuated by a steady stream of tiny bubbles. This bubbly has a toasty yeast scent, creamy mouthfeel and delicate fruit flavors. Oldman explained that rosé is more expensive than normal champagne. It is scarcer and more desirable because of the extra steps required to make it.
  2. Belle Glos Winery from Sonoma that had a bright pink with fresh fruity strawberry flavor. It was the kind of wine you want to take on a picnic. It’s not particularly the kind of wine I feel like writing about. Maybe I’ll try it again and change my mind.
  3. The third wine was unnamed, but Oldman explained that it comes from the most famous rosé producing region in the world; Tavel in the southern Rhone Valley of France. It had a deeper pink color with peach pit bitter fruit flavors and a ripping backbone of mineral. It was definitely not as fruity as the Californian with an herbal flair. The next time you are in a wine shop, ask the clerk for their recommendations for a bottle of Tavel. You can’t go wrong.
  4. Bonnie Doon 2011 Vin Gris de Cigare, a blend of Roussanne and Grenache Blanc from the Central Coast of California. This lovely lady wears light cotton candy pink nail polish, smells of peaches and strawberry and her pouty lips taste like silky watermelon and strawberry. Oldman explained that the picture of the flying saucer with a laser beam on the label is the winemaker’s way of making fun of French law that says no flying saucers can land in a particular town… I’m not going to bother to verify that tidbit from my non-study buddy.
  5. Doña Paula  Los Cardos Malbec Rose from Argentina  has a much deeper pink color from that big inky grape. It has a blackberry brambly scent and a bolder flavor. Its value wine that you can serve at brunch without breaking the bank.
  6. Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel is an elegantly light pink wine from Provence, France. Yes, angels whisper when you drink this wine with soft herbal breath and the taste of delicate cranberries and tart strawberries tossed with Herbs de Provence. It is as light and refreshing as aguas frescas.

Rosé is a fantastic light, refreshing style of wine tailor made for lazy summer days, brunch or picnic on the lake. The acidity and fruit also make it a great wine to drink with Texas BBQ.

Oldman encouraged the crowd to, “get your rosé in magnums (double bottles). When your friends come over they think there is even more for them to drink. There is a generosity premium when you serve a magnum.”

What are you drinking?