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A Wonderful Time at Brenner's on the Bayou's Wine Revolution

This past weekend, beautiful Houstonians donning flats and bright resort-casual attire, per the event's invitation, skipped out on their Saturday country club visits and spa days in favor of Brenner's on the Bayou's third annual Wine Revolution. Set in tents under the bright sun, amidst Brenner's hilly greenery, the flawlessly executed festival featured wonderful wines, bursting-with-flavor hors d'oeuvres, and excellent entertainment.

The wine festival featured multiple tents that offered side-by-side tastings of same-varietal wines produced in the Americas and Europe. The varietals in attendance included Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Moscato, Riesling, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and Zinfandel. In keeping with the event's theme of "revolution," the idea was for guests to decide whether the Americas or Europe won in the "battle" to produce the best wines.

It was difficult to discern which region came out as the overall victor in the "revolution." There were some obvious winners, as well as some unexpected results in each wine category. For instance, the gripping Catena Zapata Malbec, produced in Argentina, blew its counterpart, Georges Vigouroux Pigmentum Malbec, produced in France, right out of the water. The same could be said for the bright and velvety Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. It trumped the spicy Santa Margherita Cabernet from Italy. These results were expected.

On the other hand, the nicely layered, tannin-heavy Falesco Merlot, IGT from Italy unexpectedly beat out an American Merlot that was intensely bitter. And perhaps most surprising of all, the cheap-tasting Italian Di Majo Norante Sangiovese Terre degli Osci, IGT lost its battle against an American Sangiovese produced in the Napa Valley.

While the wine tasting and comparison was quite enjoyable, it was just the tip of the iceberg. Five strategically placed food stations served up bites of food that looked and tasted so good, it's probable that many people had to resist strong urges to grab 15 of each item. Among the food selection: delicate slices of fine charcuterie and cheese atop crusty bread that made for excellent accompaniment for the wines, flat bread with roasted seasonal vegetables, large sea scallops and shrimp that went hand in hand with the white wine selections, and Brenner's signature beer can chicken. The chicken, presented inside sundried tomato cones with cheese, beans, and roasted corn, would have taken the "best of show" prize had there been one.

Speaking of award-winning, the acclaimed Ezra Charles Band provided the musical entertainment for the afternoon. Their blues piano and big-band horns created a swanky ambiance, fit for the occasion.

All of this happened outdoors, where, apart from wine- and food-tasting tents, tables and colorful quilts on the green grass served as lounging grounds for event-goers. Meanwhile, inside Brenner's, those guests in possession of VIP passes enjoyed stations of hors d'oevueres along with unlimited pours of the award-winning wines of Nickel and Nickel and Far Niente. Most VIP guests enjoyed their stellar wines on Brenner's comfy couches and tables, while relishing the air conditioning. Others, however, spent their precious time deliberating why Brenner's had dared to switch from passed to stationed hors d'oeuvres, and how unfathomable it was that only glasses, rather than bottles of water, were available.

The majority of the festival attendees were able to appreciate the world-class customer service, which reminded guests at all times that this was an exclusive event not be mistaken for a public gathering. Beautiful ladies rinsed out glassware prior to pouring each wine, with beaming smiles despite the heat. Fast-moving attendants replaced food stations well before food had run out. When a bit of congestion began to occur at a tent, event workers quickly made their way to the area to lend a hand so as to ensure that wait times of more than two minutes were nonexistent.

Even the glassware at the event deserved attention. Guests received their very own Reidel glass, engraved with the name of the event. The value of this item alone nearly justified the $65 entry fee.

Brenner's deserves a pat on the back for smooth logistics, perfect ambiance, a praise-worthy wine selection, and delicious noms. They put on a fantastic show and evidently sorted out the kinks of the previous years. With the utter success of this year's event, it might be a good idea to be first in line when next year's Wine Revolution tickets go on sale, as they will most definitely sell out, quickly.

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Carla Soriano