Wine flight: Saget la Perrière


, , , , , , , , , ,

I had originally written this for a local publication a few years ago but the editors never got around to publishing it. So I decided to make it a blog post.

Arnaud Saget was just a few months into his role as director generale for Saget la Perrière when the global financial crisis claimed a victim close to home, its American distributor, Chateau & Estate.

That left Saget unmoored to the American market, one of the company’s largest. As he searched for a new distributor, the disruption in supply caused one New York restaurant to drop Saget in favor of other distributors that had stock. That restaurant had been buying 700 cases. “We had to retool and establish the brand again,” he said.

Saget eventually signed on with Pasternak, and steadied its business. But he added that, unexpectedly, Texas, and its maturing culinary culture, played an important role in expanding Saget’s client base. Arnaud’s family has owned Saget la Perrière for nine generations, producing wine from six estates over 890 acres in France’s bucolic Loire Valley

I met Arnaud at a tasting lunch held at Oceanaire Seafood Room at the Galleria that featured seven of the family’s wines. For me, Saget’s strong suit is its white varietals – five of the seven we tasted were white, each with clean flavors of minerals and fruit, stripped of any cloying sweetness. Mostly priced between $12 and $22 – the Le Domaine Saget Pouilly-Fumé is the most expensive at $29 — these versatile wines are food-friendly but also full-bodied enough to be sipped on their own, a chilled glass on a Sunday afternoon among friends.

All of the selections were from 2012 and we began with the Guy Saget La Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc, which had a creamy taste and an unexpected slight vegetal taste, which I found pleasant. Next was the Domaine de la Perrière Sancerre, made of sauvignon blanc grapes but whose flintiness is reminiscent of a riesling. The Pouilly-Fumé had a much deeper, heartier taste.

We tasted two reds at lunch, a Chinon and a Pinot Noir. Pinor Noir is frequently a go-to wine for me, versatile enough to be paired with seafood and a lot of meats and flavorful enough to be enjoyed alone. Saget’s pinot has the tell-tale ruby color, with a light vanilla taste. The Chinon was full of tannins and spice.

All in all, the Saget wines are easy-to-drink and at price points that encourage consumption.

To complement the white wines, we were served an Alaska Red King Crab salad as a first course, Pan-Broiled Alaska Weathervane scallops, and Seared Wild Alaska Halibut. The pinot noir was paired with a Grilled Bering Sea Wild Coho Salmon.

Saget is now back in France and in between marketing visits, and I messaged him to find out about his Texas tour. Saget called it “very successful,” especially with retailers and restaurateurs in Austin. “I don’t remember working a market for a day, selling wines to every visited account,” he says.

SAGET LA PERRIERE: (Suggested retail price):

— Muscadet de Sèvre & Maine sur Lie Les Cilssages d’Or ($14)

— Marie de Beauregard AOC Vouvray ($18)

— Guy Saget La Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc ($12)

— Guy Saget La Petite Perrière Sancerre ($22)

— Le Domaine Saget Pouilly-Fumé ($29)

— Guy Saget La Petite Perrière Pinot Noir ($13.50)

— Marie de Beauregard Chinon ($17.99)


Wine flight: Crosby Roamann


, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A decade ago, a group of us – co-workers and friends from my Dallas days – traveled to the Pacific Northwest for the wedding of two in the group. Apart from the bride and groom, who hailed from Portland and Seattle, respectively, I believe it was the first time any of us had spent any real time in that part of the US.

As we sat in the outdoor patio of a Willamette Valley vineyard, sipping pinot noir in low-humidity, 70-degree sunshine, we Dallasites began to plot the commune we would establish in order to avoid heading back to the Texas heat.

Sean and Juliana McBride actually followed through on that fantasy. For them, it was ditching New York for Napa Valley, where they founded their winery, Crosby Roamann, in 2010.

Juliana came to Houston last year as part of a marketing tour and I learned about their story – and sampled some wines – over a meal at B&B Butchers restaurant. Crosby Roamann is a small family operation. “Our hands touch every part of the process,” she says, adding that the winery makes less than 1,000 cases in total.

Here are a few notes about the wines she poured. Prices are those listed on the winery’s website:

— 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, St. Helena, Napa Valley: Smells of hay, tastes of lemon, slightly floral, but with a full-bodied “mouthfeel.”* The grapes are fermented in a combination of once-used, twice-used, and neutral French oak barrels and aged eight months in oak. ($28)

— 2013 Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa Valley: The first taste has a sugary bite that gives way to both melon and butter, giving it a rich finish at the end. These grapes were fermented in neutral French and American barrels and aged 20 months in 20 percent new oak. ($34)

— 2012, Merlot, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley: This wine was rich, full, and (dried) fruity; I tasted ripe plums and cherries, ripe but not overly sweet. The grapes were aged 30 months in a combination of French and American oak barrels, half of which were new. “I’m on a campaign for merlot,” Juliana told me. “It’s time; it needs to come back.” ($50)

— 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley: This was a wine for steak, cocoa and blueberry, with a spicy top note. Full-bodied and rich. The grapes were aged 30 months in all French oak barrels, of which 80 percent were new. ($75)

*Mouthfeel: the sensation created by food or drink in the mouth

La vie en ros(é)


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My first significant memory of “wine” was in 1988, the day after I had landed in Paris on a high school foreign exchange trip. I was there to spend six weeks with a French family who lived in Angers, in central France, but first, a weekend in Paris.

Family friends had hosted a young Frenchman in their Texas home a decade before, and they gave me his phone number, encouraging me to call him while I was in Paris. I remember being reluctant to cold-call someone I didn’t know last-minute on a Friday evening, but he was immediately welcoming and kindly invited me to join him and his friends for dinner.

It was early July, an evening with warm breezes and the lingering daylight of northern European summers. We sat on the patio at a bar before heading to the restaurant, and the group, all around 30 or so, ordered apéritifs. I had no idea what to order, but my host suggested a glass of rosé. I remember sipping my wine, listening to the group chatter in French (and my brain working overtime to try to translate, largely unsuccessfully, the rapid-fire conversation around me). It was probably the first time I was out in such an “adult” fashion, apart from with my family. And what a place for such an outing, a tree-lined terrasse in Paris, the sun setting in the summer sky.

My other memory of rosé is later that summer traveling with my French family from their home in Angers to their summer home in Monetier-les-Bains, a village in the French Alps near the Italian border. On the drive down, we spent the night with friends of theirs, a family that was renovating a small chateau. That evening, both families gathered at a table outside for dinner. It seemed to me to a quintessentially French experience, simple, fresh food eaten en plein air with glasses of rosé.

The memories all have fuzzy edges now, but those were my first lessons in how food and wine interact with culture and community.

In the years since, my wine education has been uneven, largely self-taught, and probably not the preferred path of a true connoisseur. For example, I’ve never been to Napa Valley or visited the famed Burgundy or Bordeaux vineyards in France. But I have been to the Bekaa Valley in the mountains above Beirut (twice), and traveled around Malbec vineyards in Mendoza.

My journeys have introduced me to Willamette Valley in Oregon and its pinot noirs, tempranillo from Rioja, sagrantino di Montefalco from Umbria, and rieslings from the Pfalz. My travel wish list includes checking out the usual suspects, of course, but also detours to less-familiar terroir like those found in Greece, Portugal and Georgia.

Circles Under Her Feet


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m the American-born daughter of Indian immigrants, and I grew up in small-town outside of Houston. I’ve never quite fit the mold – American or Indian. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to journalism; the entire exercise is to talk to people, get a sense of their stories and who they are, and share them with other people.

I have traveled on my own since my mid-teens, first, in Europe and America, and eventually to many parts of the globe. I started this blog and called it “Parallel Universe” nearly 10 (!!) years ago when I moved from Dallas to Dubai, where I was a freelance foreign correspondent writing for international publications including TIME magazine, The New York Times and Institutional Investor magazine. I had worked for The Dallas Morning News until late 2008, but newspaper cutbacks meant my chances to be sent overseas as a foreign correspondent were slim. So, I decided to make my own way.

Back then, the idea was to write about a place striving for a place among the community of modern societies while also staying true to its traditions and culture. These objectives, as you can imagine, sometimes clashed. I was there for nearly five years. I took my office on the road as much as I wanted: those places included Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, India, Spain, Paris, Hong Kong, Cairo, Tanzania, Kenya, and Thailand.

Parallel Universe has now been rechristened “Postcards from the Bayou” – though the old posts are still here below. I’ve moved back to Houston, my hometown, where I deal with the culture shock of being back in America and grapple with some of the forces shaping both my country and Texas. I see this blog as my little patch of the Web to muse about that, my travels, food and wine, books, and other interests that I have.

Circles Under Her Feet refers to a Gujarati saying that essentially means someone like me, constantly moving with a pretty healthy wanderlust and curiosity for all things in this amazing world of ours. I suppose the English equivalent is, She doesn’t sit still.

Thanks for reading and please stay in touch: angela.shah(at)

Hindus & Muslims in Gujarat

I’m cross-posting recent blog entries from my blog Journey to Gujarat here on Parallel Universe. Please sign up for updates to my travels there as soon as they are posted!

It’s been a couple of months since I left Gujarat for America but the images and conversations are still very much with me. I am glad to be spending the summer in the relatively cooler Texas than Gujarat but I try to keep up with happenings there through regular phone or web-enabled conversations with friends and family.

An ongoing theme, perhaps one that is never-ending, is that of the conflict between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat. The embodiment of this conflict is Narendra Modi, Gujarat’s (Hindu) chief minister, who is blamed with fanning the flames of communal violence in the 2002 riots that claimed tens of thousands of lives on both sides and destroyed Muslim neighborhoods. He is often touted as a possible future Indian prime minister and so much of the chattering among intelligensia is about Modi’s record in Gujarat, and how it should or should not be a model for the rest of India.

A new biography of Modi, written by Indian journalist, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, is out and seeks to peel back the armor that the CM wears. Modi is clearly contemptuous of any questions that go against the narrative he has chosen, he freezes out journalists who don’t tow the line and has an uber-paternalistic attitude toward his constituents. His supporters say he’s brought prosperity to Gujarat with his focus on law and order and friendly attitude toward business. He’s a polarizing figure either way.

Growing up in America, the only religious differences that I was aware of was how different we were from the Christian families all around us. We were respectful, learned to bow our heads in silence when prayers invoking Jesus were said — even at secular events. Most people didn’t make an effort to get to know more about our religion (though I did have to dissuade some fellow six-year-olds that no the reason that Hindus are vegetarians is not because we worship cows) but didn’t impede our celebrating Diwali or raksha bandhan either.

Visiting my family in Gujarat is to enter an upper-caste Hindu world. Portraits of Ganesh, Krishna and other gods adorn homes and businesses. The greeting upon meeting people is not “Hello” but “Jai Shri Krishna,” or Hail, Krishna. It would be as if Christians went around saying, “Praise Jesus” instead of “good morning.” It’s not a big deal. Just simply how people relate to each other.

I don’t even notice myself navigating between Gujarati-dominated settings, more Western settings where English is spoken or when Arabic dominates the chatter among Muslims either in the Gulf or India. I was surprised and disappointed at the low level of interaction among Hindus and Muslims in Ahmedabad, however. The people that I spoke to said the separation has gotten more acute in the decade since the riots.

So it was interesting to hear the discussion after a production of “Tales of Tears,” a play about a fictional rape trial set after the riots. The Q-and-A after the play put in stark terms how wary both communities are of each other. Time may have passed since the riots but Gujarat has not moved on.


Divine Dwarka



I’m cross-posting a recent blog entry in Journey to Gujarat here on Parallel Universe. Please sign up for updates to my travels there as soon as they are posted!

Dwarka sits on the far western tip of Gujarat, of India itself. In the evenings, the sunset bathes the shore and Arabian Sea along Gomti Ghat in deep orange light. As the home to the ancient kingdom of Krishna, Dwarka is one of the four holiest pilgrimage sites for Hindus. Dwarka, along with the island of Beyt Dwarka just offshore, is dotted with temples including the Jagat Mandhir, or Temple of the World, which was supposedly built by Krishna’s grandson more than 2,500 years ago.

DSC_9687 DSC_9688 DSC_9689 DSC_9690 IMG_2496 IMG_2501 DSC_9740 IMG_2505 IMG_2506 IMG_2517 IMG_2518 IMG_2526

The swastika


I’m cross-posting my recent blog entry in Journey to Gujarat here on Parallel Universe. Please sign up for updates to my travels there as soon as they are posted!

Many of the pictures that I’ve posted on my travels to India include an image that might have surprised some of you.



This photo is of the place where Mahatma Gandhi’s mother gave birth to him. The house is now a museum/shrine and my father and I visited it in Gandhi’s hometown of Porbandar last month. My post on our trip prompted a response from my friend K.S. back in Dallas who wrote: “Again I have learned something new and interesting from you. I only knew the Swastika as a Nazi symbol so was surprised to see it in your photos. I now know that it dates back to ancient India and literally means ‘to be good’ and is considered a sacred symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism. What a shame the Natzi Party bastardized it.”

For more than a decade now, India and being Indian has been a little more cool; Westerners are more familiar with our culture(s) and our cultural idiosyncracies. A few years ago, there was even a show on network TV set in an Indian call center. People have heard about Bollywood and there’s “Lie of Pi” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”

But, still, for most people in the West, the swastika is first associated with Nazis, not Hinduism – even though the symbol has been used as a good luck emblem not only by us but by Buddhists and Jains as well. Swastikas have appeared on petroglyphs in Armenia, a gold necklace in ancient Iran and on Greco-Roman coins.

K.S.’s remark reminded me of a story from my childhood. We had just moved to Texas and my Dad’s nurse was visiting our home for the first time. It was our family’s first stand-alone house, brand-new and seemingly huge, with a big backyard and enough bedrooms to give my brother and me our own rooms. It was also the first house that either of my parents could call their own. Neither of their families had the means to own their own homes in India, and eight years after arriving in America with very little money, they had now built and owned their own home. Looking back now, I realize just how, justifiably, proud my parents must have been – proud to show it to visitors, proud to raise their young family in it.

Anyway, the nurse, whose name was Helen, was a kind person and she was a gracious guest. She just had one piece of advice on the house: Get rid of the swastikas.

I’m sure she didn’t say it quite that way. My parents had hung up Indian tapestries on the walls, which pictured pastoral scenes in the classical style. And in various places there were swastikas. This was 1979 or 1980 in Texas City, Texas. And Helen basically said that it would probably be best if we didn’t have these sorts of things displayed.

This was before I had learned anything about World War II or Nazi Germany. I just understood that, for some reason, the swastika was bad and that we shouldn’t have them around or people would think bad of us. Texas City didn’t have a big Indian community where we could find safety in numbers, or with whom we could “expose” our cultural icons without being judged.

The tapestries came off the walls. And, as I’m only beginning to understand lately, with them began a process of “hiding” my Indian-ness. Not deliberately and not out of shame, but as part of a process of wanting to fit in, normal for any new kid-turned-typical teenager. I’m Indian, certainly, just take a look at me. But I didn’t have to emphasize that. Back then, being Indian was definitely not considered cool. It just made you seem weird. And I wanted to fit in. We settled in small-town Texas, my parents raised their children and we focused on being an “American” family.

Journey to Gujarat: Junagadh & Porbandar

I’m cross-posting my recent blog entry in Journey to Gujarat here on Parallel Universe. Please sign up for updates to my travels there as soon as they are posted!

IMG_2483Porbandar, a port town located on Gujarat’s western coast, is known for being the home of Mahatma Gandhi and his family home is now a shrine/museum to his life. The home’s rooms are quite small. Climbing between flights along claustrophobic staircases reminded me of my visit to Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam. A swastik marks the floor in the room where Gandhi’s mother gave birth to him. We also visited Sudama Temple, named after a childhood friend of Krishna, and I walked through a swastika-shaped maze on the temple grounds. Traversing the maze is supposed to wash you of your sins. The day we were there, a Friday, was also the Birthday of the Prophet Mohammed, and a celebratory parade wound through the city streets. Considering Gandhi’s message of religious tolerance, I thought the timing brought a nice addition to our visit.

I also write about our visit to Junagadh, at the base of Mount Girnar, another pilgrimage site. The city has a 15th-century “upper town,” Uparkot, which is only open during the day and shuts down at 7 p.m. I also enjoyed exploring the Mahabat Maqbara. Built by Bahadur Kanji as a tomb for his predecessor, Mahabat Khan, it is a surprisingly well-kept example of Indo-Islamic architecture.


A day in Diu

I’m cross-posting my recent blog entry in Journey to Gujarat here on Parallel Universe. Please sign up for updates to my travels there as soon as they are posted!

DSC_9445Out of the rural marshes of southern Gujarat sits a national police checkpoint. This marks the entry to the island city of Diu, a former Portugese colony that like, Daman and Goa, were acquired by the Indian government in 1961. The three are union territories and are not governed by the states’ governments in which they lie.

Today, Diu is a popular beach resort and, along with Daman, the only place to buy alcohol in Gujarat, which is a dry state. The Portugese mark can still be seen in the city at Diu Fort, St. Paul’s Church and Makata Lane, where many Portugese merchants had built their mansions.

For more about Diu and photos from our visit, please click here.

Off the grid in Gopnath

I’m cross-posting my recent blog entry in Journey to Gujarat here on Parallel Universe. Please sign up for updates to my travels there as soon as they are posted!

Our itinerary read “Gopnath Beach,” a place not found in my guidebook or on any map I had. “Gopnath beach is known for its scenic beauty, limestone cliffs, natural surroundings and fascinating flora and fauna.”Image

We drove up to windswept cliff over the Gulf of Khambat and the driver stopped in front of a faded Dreamsicle-colored one-story building. No one came out to greet us. There was no sign, no lobby of any sort, nothing to suggest that this is rest-stop for travelers and, yet, the driver said this is “Gopnath Bungalows,” where we were to stay. I wondered if we were being dropped off at someone’s house, a friend of the travel agent who wanted to make some money off of  gullible clients.

Dad and I exchanged “where are we?” looks and after, a few minutes, a man came out to the car. He looked sleepy, like we had woken him from an afternoon nap. He and the driver exchanged greetings and they both began to unpack our belongings from the car. Ramesh, that was the sleepy man’s name, we found out, sat on a plastic chair behind a desk on the sun-filled porch. He opened a cracked “guest register” – the spine had been taped over to keep the book together – and he wrote down “Kiran Shah.”

For more about our stay in Gopnath, please click here.