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The Evolution of a Palate: What Can a Four Year Old Teach You About Wine

It’s funny how Facebook can remind you of a moment.  Yesterday a message popped up that I posted about my daughter’s first interest in wine.  Mind you, she was only four years old when I posted this blog, but it’s interesting that she has continued to show an interest six years later and now is given the occasional taste (don’t be a hater – it’s standard in France and I have vivid memories of trying Uncle Louie’s awful homemade wine when I was young.)  And look how I turned out … well maybe that is a bad example.

For the record, she still isn’t blind tasting esoteric grapes and telling me the vintage, but neither am I.  I do think seeing wine on the table along with taking the stance that she always had to try everything has evolved her into quite the little foodie.  It’s allowed her to tag along on a few international business trips where she’s fallen in love with the cultures of London and Barcelona.

She recently asked if she could be the Dallas Wine Chicklet … at least I know I have a succession plan for the blog.   Look out world, when this kid’s palate evolves when she’s legal, she’s going to be unstoppable.

 


Bella Vita Bags: For the Most Interesting Wine in the World

You always hear that it’s the inside that counts, but I am a sucker for a well adorned package.  I’m not usually one to review many wine accessories, but these were just so darn interesting that I had to do it.

Bella Vita Bags features wine gift bags, gourmet bags, olive oil bags as well as wine charms, bottle stoppers, corkscrews and just about any other wine accessory needed to make what’s in your bottle shine from the outside.

Two immediately caught my eye — For the ladies there is a pink leather wine purse with flowers on the side. It’s not cheap at $39.99, but put an amazing bottle of wine there and it puts a paper bag to shame.  I’d suggest a Pierre Peters champagne to match the look here.

And for the more rugged male in your life (Masseto not included), there’s the Wooden and Leather wine box tower priced at a more affordable $14.99 here.  There are a ton of other options as well that are going to beat the majority of your wine store bags that start at $1.99.  And for those stores looking for a better selection, Bella Vita also does wholesale as well.


Taking a Second Look at the Best of Texas Wines: An Eye Opening Experience

 

As the Dallas Wine Chick, there has been an expectation by some folks in my fair state that it is my duty to write about Texas wine.  I had some interesting experiences with Texas wine early on including a Texas winemaker who told me that it was clear that I needed to re-examine my palate since it was obvious that I didn’t know good wine.  My reaction was probably exactly the one that you just experienced with a few key unladylike words inserted.  The joy about this blog is that I am not beholden to anyone and can write, or not write, exactly what I want to cover.

 

Last week, I wrote about our awesome experience at the Omni Barton Creek Resort.  After we left the Omni, Denise Clarke who leads the marketing initiative Texas Fine Wine #texasfinewine #txwine, arranged for us to taste wines at two vineyards.  The Texas Fine Wine initiative brings together five Texas wineries — Bending Branch Winery, Brennan Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, Pedernales Cellars and the newly joined Spicewood Vineyards — with the goal of bringing national and statewide attention to high-quality wines being produced in Texas.

 

 

We piled into Amy Corron Power’s VW Beetle and set off on our adventure with bad country music and worse singing as the backdrop.  Our first stop was Pedernales Cellars. We were hosted by Julie Kuhlken, the winery’s co-founder, designer, and communications director.  Julie has a non-traditional background for a winery owner.  She was a graduate of Stanford University and received a doctorate in Philosophy.  She’s taught at universities in Europe and North America.

The winery is named for the Pedernales River and was started by the Kuhlken Family in 1995 when they planted a small vineyard outside of Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country, the oldest AVA in Texas.  This training served as a lesson that grapes that do well in California do not necessarily do well in Texas.

In 2006, the Stonewall, Texas, location opened anchored by a 1880s farmhouse that was moved from Fredericksburg with the understanding that being closer to Highway 290 would be good for business.

Asst Winemaker Demi Matar

I loved Julie’s honesty about lessons learned and how Pedernales is on a journey to be one of the top high-end wineries in Texas and ultimately just be known as a great wine.  We tried a number of Pedernales and Bending Branch reds and whites.  Demi Matar, the assistant winemaker, took us through several tank samples that I look forward to trying in the bottle — the Vermentino and the Rose.

 

I was impressed with the quality of the wines and appreciated the well designed labels on the bottles.  In fact, I took several bottles home and look forward to the evolution of those wines in my cellar in a year or two.

 

We tried the following line-up:

2014 Pedernales Vermentino

2014 Pedernales Viognier Reserve

2014 Bending Branch Comfortage (Roussanne)

2014 Pedernales Dry Rosè

2012 Pedernales Texas Vahalla*

2013 Bending Branch Tannat

2013 Pedernales Tempranillo Reserve*

Stonewall Glogg (this was “Christmas in a bottle.  It’s essentially a port in a Swedish style that we decided tasted delicious with notes of cinnamon, gingerbread and spice. I’m saving mine for 2016 Christmas)*

*Wines that I purchased

 

Denise Clarke and Duchman Family Winery General Manager, Jeff Ogle

Our next stop was Duchman Family Vineyards.  The winery was founded in 2004 by Doctors Lisa and Stan Duchman.  The Duchman’s focused on Italian grape varieties that grow successfully in Texas’ ever-changing weather.  The winery focuses on 100 percent Texas grown grapes to make 100 percent Texas wines.

 

 

We tried a number of wines and I’ve starred my favorites:

2014 Duchman Family Trebbiano

2014 Duchman Family Viognier*

2012 Duchman Family Vermentino

2012 Duchman Family Dolcetto*

2012 Duchman Family Montepulciano*

2012 Duchman Family Tempranillo*

2012 Duchman Family Aglianico

NV Duchman Family Progression*

2012 Duchman Family Nero D’Avola

2014 Spicewood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc*

2013 Brennan Vineyards Tempranillo

2012 Spicewood Tempranillo*

2012 Brennan Vineyards Super Nero

I’m heartened to see that Texas has found its groove in growing the right grapes that will flourish in our climate.  I have to say that trying these wines was an eye-opening nice surprise and I look forward to the continuing evolution of the Texas wine scene.


Omni Barton Creek Resort: Calling All Food and Wine Lovers

We’d talked about it for years.  Bringing the women blogger gang together for a weekend trip outside of the madness associated with the annual Wine Bloggers Conference.  January is usually a tough time of the year for me.  Traditionally it is a time of Sales Kickoffs, annual marketing planning and budgets as well as kick-starting the marketing lead generation efforts that will lead to future software sales.  This year was different.  I had just left my paying gig and I actually had the ability to exhale.

When the Omni Barton Creek Resort (which is known for great wine and food) invited us to stay at a great discount, the deal was sealed.  Liza Swift, Thea Dwelle and Amy Corron Power caravanned from Oakland, San Francisco and Houston to make the trip.  We checked in to a welcome note from the Omni marketing team and the most amazing welcome drink.  The glass contained brandy infused local apples, crack habit inducing honey and tea accented with local herbs.  There was also a bottle of Topo Sabores apple soda and a cute bottle of crown royal to make a delicious pre-dinner drink.

Alissa Leenher and her husband Derek generously agreed to host us for the first night.  It was a night of amazing wines, incredible food and great company.  Ryan Snedegar brought the supersize Cards Against Humanity and a plate of ribs.  Matt McGinnis came bearing Texas wine and spirits.  I think I had more beef that night than I had in the last six months.  It was a belly laughing, wine drinking kind of night.

Chef Andre Natera

The next day we were hosted by 8212 Wine Bar & Grill which featured creative dishes from the very talented Chef Andre Natera.  You may remember Natera from his awesome rebuild of the Pyramid Restaurant and Bar and then at Village Kitchen.  Let’s just say that Dallas has suffered a great loss with this talented man moving to Austin.  He’s now responsible for all seven restaurants at this Omni location.  He talked to us about his whimsical but clean approach to food and wow it was delicious!   We were joined by Tim Holloway from DE Fine Wine Group who encouraged us to taste the wines blind.

Here was our line up:

Clam chowder with chive potato puree and smoked bacon paired with the 2014 Zocker Gruner Veltliner.  This Napa Gruner contrasted nicely with its citrus, floral notes and mineralogy with the creamy soup.

Seared branzino, artichoke barigoule and preserved lemon vinaigrette with the 2014 Lemelson Dry Riesling.  This also worked incredibly well.

Mushroom tortellini, chives and butter paired with the 2013 Li Veli Susumaniello.  This was earthy, delicious and absolutely a perfect pairing.  It was also the one that stumped all of us.

Dry aged ribeye, pommes puree, cippolini and a thyme truffle sauce with the 2011 Perrin Vinsobres Les Cornuds. Yin and yang.

Chocolate tart with a caramel creameux with NV Verve Clicquot Yellow Label.  It took every ounce of willpower to cut the small corner and not inhale the entire dessert.

We were the first audience to try the new wine and food culinary series that the Omni is debuting in January.  #obcwine #wineanddine.  The Omni is still building out the list of events, but right now the line-up appears to be something like this (the dates after February may move a date or two):

January 26 – Niman Ranch Dinner.

February 29 – A celebration from Chef Alice – touching every creation of food along with Texas wines

March (tentatively 21st)— Celebrating the Wines of Germany – Riesling and Müller-Thurgau and Pinot Blanc – German themed food

April (tentatively 25)– Sparkling wines – Cava, Prosecco, Asti, Champagne and  Espumante – French, Spanish and Portuguese food theme

May (tentatively 23) – Italian Regions and the difference between the North, the Center, the South and the Islands paired with regional food.

June (tentatively 27) – Grill and Smoke with pinots and rosé

July (tentatively 25) — Tomatoes from Salsas to Sauces with Sauvignon Blanc and Sangiovese

August (tentatively 22) — Peaches and Nectarines with Moscato and Pinot Gris

September (tentatively 26)  — Celebrating the Wines of Napa Valley and Harvest Theme

October (tentatively 25) — Day of the Dead with South American Wines

November (tentatively 17) Vintage wines with Charcuteries

These events are reasonably priced at a $85-95 range for the food courses (averaging 5-6 course) with the wine pairings being another $35-45 and will be scheduled monthly.  The first event benefits a charity so the kick off is officially in February.

The hospitality of the Omni, the quality of the food, the fantastic wine pairings and the gorgeous rooms and views at this location, makes it the perfect getaway, staycation or a local’s food/wine experience.


January Wine Round-Up: The Work Chapter Closes as Does the Wine Fridge

It was the last week of my former position and I found myself with more than 30 bottles left in the wine fridge in my office.  I thought a fitting tribute to end the company #hashtagged (i.e. Dallas Wine Chick provided) happy hours would be to open them all.  We took the bottles out and let the tasting and celebration begin.  The bottles were from all regions, price points, varietals and truly could be categorized as one extreme to the other (superhero good or downright evil).

Here were the notable half that we tasted.  For this last tasting, and because many of these folks have been part of my Wine Wednesdays/Thirsty Thursdays over the last three years, I captured the crowd favorites (often with a special shout out for my own personal favorites):

 

Rose

2014 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila Haut Pays D’Oc – such a nice balanced minerality with watermelon, raspberry, strawberry, herbs and plum.

2014 A Rose Alpha – another great balanced rose with floral notes, strawberry and black cherry.

Whites

2014 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Reserva Chardonnay —a nice budget-oriented, poolside chardonnay with tropical and vanilla notes.

2013 Olema Chardonnay – notes of apple, citrus and toast.  This is a chardonnay that might convert non-chardonnay drinkers.  Balanced and delicious.

2014 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussillon Villages – lemongrass, grapefruit and a saline minerality that makes this a balanced and delicious everyday drinking wine.

2013 Kir-Yianni Paranga — Grapefruit and peaches with a hint of sweetness but a nice crispness.

 

Reds

2012 Matchbook Tinto Rey — a very well balanced Tempranillo with notes of blueberry pie, leather, currant, chocolate and pepper.

2012 Matchbook The Arsonist Red Blend — chocolate, caramel, blackberry, smoke and mocha notes make this wine beg for a meat pairing.

2011 Bodegas Cepa 21 Ribera del Duera — blackberry, currant, earth and candied fruits.  This was a delicious wine.

2014 Bodegas Cepa 21 Hito — notes of black cherry cola, licorice, flowers and balsamic vinegar.  This was another one of my overall favorites.

2011 Emilio Moro Malleolus — a delicious and powerful red wine.  Another favorite.  Big notes of licorice, mocha, chocolate, blackberry pie and cassis with a fantastic balance and complexity.

2012 Cecchi Chianti Classico – big notes of earth, dried flowers, leather, black cherry, cinnamon and a delicious match to great antipasto.

2013 Cecchi Sangiovese di Toscana — earthy, red fruit and smoke.  This is a perfect match to any hearty Italian food.

2013 HandCraft Pinot Noir — raspberry, black cherry, mocha, cherry cola, vanilla and oak.  This was a nicely structured wine at a great price.

2012 Parducci True Grit Reserve Red — plum, dark cherry, leather, spice and blueberry  This was a great everyday drinking wine.

And a special shout out to the 2011 Concha y Toro “Don Melchior” Cabernet Sauvignon Puente Alto which was the perfect special occasion wine.  It was elegant and rich with notes of raspberry, mocha, dark chocolate, cassis, pepper and licorice.  I adored every drop of this wine.

 


Malai Kitchen: Laser Focused on the Consumer Food & Wine Experience

In Texas, there are too many restaurants that refuse to take the same care with their wine lists as they do with their food menus.  Five years ago, after an experience with one of Dallas’ “venerable” institutions, I let loose with my vent and the idea that Dallas diners deserved so much better.

Then restaurants like Malai Kitchen come around and bring back hope that a dining experience should involve equal attention to food as well as the wines that bring out the full flavors of the menu.  Almost two years ago, I was invited by Yasmine and Braden Wages to try the 20 wines by the glass they had carefully chosen to compliment their Asian menu. Here was my experience.

I loved that they challenged convention and had suggested pairings to make the dining experience easier and to take the guesswork out for consumers.  Fast forward to December of 2015, and the Wages had added flights of red and white wines.  For $22, consumers receive four white wines or four red wines equaling about two full glasses of wines.  Because the menu is so diverse, it was a great way to experience a wide range of food and wines.  The process also allows some discoveries about non-traditional pairings.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about our Texas Wineaux group, a group of wine lovers who have gathered together to taste wines, eat great food and generally have a great time.  When I received the invitation from Malai, I knew that this group would so enjoy the experience.

Our line-up looked a little like this.

The White Flight:

  • 2014 Selby Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2014 Chateau Routas Rose
  • 2012 Les Vignes d’Alexandre Chateauneuf-du-Pape
  • 2014 Kessler “R” Riesling

We paired these with Vietnamese meatballs, Ahi Tuna tartare, crab curry spicy dip and coconut soup.  The Selby and the tuna tartare as well as the coconut soup were fantastic pairings.  The Chateau Routas and the spicy crab dip was amazing.  While we all agreed the Kessler Riesling was a great match, it was the safer choice of all of the other wines.

The Red Flight:

  • 2006 Chateau Compassant Bordeaux
  • 2014 Bodegas Filon Granacha
  • 2011 Renwood Old Vine Zinfandel
  • 2012 Bell Syrah

We paired this with a number of dishes including the Iron Pot Green Curry Chicken, the Snapper special and the Drunken Noodles.  The Chateau Compassant Bordeaux was the clear winner with both the curry and the snapper dishes.

Malai Kitchen continues to be an affordable, well concepted and fantastic bright spot in Dallas’ dining scene run by one of the nicest couples out there.  And for those of you who live closer to Southlake, you will soon have a Malai Kitchen to call your own as well.  Try the coconut cream pie – it is worth breaking your New Year’s Resolution.


December: A Champagne Month to Remember

If I should drink champagne”, is usually never a question.  It’s when and how often I can convince others — especially my husband — to drink champagne, so I am not polishing off the entire bottle solo.  In the spirit of full disclosure, that has happened more often than not.

I’ve been involved in a girl’s wine club for at least 15 years and somehow I have positioned myself as the host of my favorite wine night of the year.  The rules are simple — bring one bottle of champagne, and champagne only.  The price range is over $25 and I always waver between two bottles — the Pierre Peters and the Billecart-Salmon as my choice.

My husband is always kind enough to cook a rocking dinner for us.  Actually the dates are now selected based on his availability as his food is much better than any caterer I have ever used.  And, no one wants to eat any meal that I’ve prepared.

This was the line-up and I have to admit that I didn’t capture all of the bottles of the attendees.  Is 15 plus bottles for 12 people a bad thing?  It was an awesome way to roll out 2015 in a celebratory way with great friends.

 


Ruth’s Chris Downtown Opening: A Food and Wine Experience

It all began with instant message on Twitter. 

My neighbor who has the boutique distributor with labels like Scarlett has put together a wine dinner with the new Ruth’s Chris downtown just for our little group. He will be providing the wine and Ruth’s Chris the food. Anyone interested? @erikj

Photo Credit: Asher Swan, Swan Photography

First, what? There’s a new Ruth’s Chris in uptown … like four blocks from my office?  Second … why don’t I know more about Redoux, a distributor focusing on boutique California wines?  Then you throw in this group of amazing Dallas wine lovers and the answer was an emphatic yes!

Photo Credit: Asher Swan, Swan Photography

I haven’t been to a Ruth’s Chris in years.  Based on the wine pairing dinner I was served, along with the attentive service of Alan Schulz Jr. and his passionate staff, I have been missing out.  We started with a five-course menu that was lovingly paired with wines by Samuel Rickords, the co-owner of Redoux.   Samuel had his own special story to share about Ruth’s Chris and how he took his future wife there on their first date.  He walked in without a reservation and the dining room was packed.  Yet the hostess sensed a special night and found room for them at the bar.  That night evolved into a marriage and three children.

I didn’t know there were 150 Ruth’s Chris restaurants in 13 countries (there are two in the Dallas area).  What you need to know is about the happy hour aptly named “Sizzle, Swizzle and Swirl.”  It features $8 wines and bites from 4:30-6:30 pm from Sunday to Friday. 

Here was our wine and food line-up (note several of these are on the happy hour menu).  Unless otherwise noted, all photos are from the very talented Asher Swan of Swan Photography.

  • 2013 Sojourn Chardonnay paired with Spicy Crispy Lobster

Photo Credit: Asher Swan, Swan Photography

  • 2013 Burt Street Cellars Pinot Noir with Saffron Veal Ravioli

  • 2012 Rubica Red Blend with New Orleans BBQ Shrimp

Photo Credit: Asher Swan, Swan Photography

  • 2007 Rust Ridge Cabernet with Tenderloin Skewer Salad

  • 2008 Robledo Cabernet Lake County with Chocolate Turtle Cheesecake and Dark Chocolate Bark

Then as a surprise, Samuel opened a 2013 Scarlett Cabernet Sauvignon, which topped off the perfect end to the perfect evening.

 


Achaval-Ferrer: Unique Approach on How To Be in Two Places at Once

When a winemaker is required to be in the vineyard, but also needs to publicize the release of a new wine, how does one prioritize?   If you are Winemaker Santiago Ferrer, the winemaker and co-founder of Achaval- Ferrer, you figure out how to do both and even bring the experience to life.

Over two tastings, 20 lucky bloggers from six states came together to experience the components of the 2012 Quimera (SRP $34.99).  Santiago was an awesome host and talked about how he came to Mendoza with a group of friends in 1988 to follow a passion to make world-class Argentine wine.  Achaval-Ferrer was launched in 1995.

Passion is what he hopes to inspire with wine drinkers.  “Truth and transcendence are connected to wine,” he said.  “My mission is to do that with every wine I make, but with low human intervention with a focus on the terroir.” 

He talked about how balance and complexity are key drivers of the Quimera blend, which is sourced from single vineyards with older vines.  Malbec is the dominant grape in the blend, but we were given bottles of the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Cabernet Franc (which was delicious as a stand-alone wine) and the 2012 Petit Verdot.  He took us through each of the components while we did a side-by-side tasting of the final blend of Quimera.  Having the ability to experience all of the flavor profiles in each component, was such a great lesson on the parts making a fantastic end product.

It was clear that he was having a blast telling the story of his wine.  Experience a short video of Santiago for yourself talking about each component by clicking here.

 

 


The Passion, The Paycheck and What’s Pending?

In my last blog post where I had the chance to talk to Cyril Chappellet, we ended our conversation talking about loving what you do and doing what you love. 

Many of you know that by day I’m the Chief Marketing Officer for a software company.  For three years I’ve had a great run, but it’s time for me to see what’s next.  I leave so proud of my legacy and what my team has accomplished.  Recently my management and marketing teams pulled together to give me an incredible send off at Abacus, a place that has been one of my top special occasion restaurants for years.  When I had my daughter ten years ago, and keep in mind she came suddenly and a month early, Abacus sent the first flower arrangement to the hospital.  To this date, I have no idea how they knew.  It was a night where I felt appreciated and my company did an amazing job sending me off in style.

I’ve been asked if I plan to do something full time with wine.  While I adore the blog and you guys rock, I love having the separation of the paying gig and the passion.  That way it never, ever feels like a job and having some time off to figure out what is next is freeing.  

My Awesome Sister-In-Law, Caitie, and the Adorable Max

For Thanksgiving I flew to Rhode Island to visit my brother and his family, including my new nephew, Max.  With great food and wine, we celebrated family, we celebrated being together, we celebrated new beginnings and we celebrated Max’s Baptism.  I actually had some special samples from Elyse and Paul Mas that traveled with me to Providence.    

Paul Mas ‘Cote Mas’ Cremant de Limoux Rose Brut – peach, apricot, oranges and hints of macadamia nut.  A really nice rose sparking to top off your holiday celebrations.

Paul Mas ‘Cote Mas’ Cremant de Limoux Blanc Brut – notes of baked bread, honey, citrus, lemon curd with a balanced minerality.  Both of these sparkling wines were perfect with Thanksgiving and priced under $15.

It was fun to take my mom through the Elyse and Jacob Franklin wines and find out which wines she favored and which ones were less of her preference.  She is not a huge fan of licorice and sage and that impacted the wines that tasted best to her. I, however, love those flavors.

2011 Elyse Howell Mountain Zinfandel – smoked meat, blackberry, spice, cola and cedar.  This wine never disappoints to deliver on what makes Zinfandel great.

2009 Elyse Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – a great blend of cassis, red fruit, spices, chocolate, sage and chocolate.  This is a great option for your holiday table.

2010 Jacob Franklin Cabernet Sauvignon – a very small production wine that I adored.  I tasted chocolate, raspberry liquor, mint, spice and mocha.

2011 Jacob Franklin Haynes Vineyard Petite Syrah – this needed a little more time to open, but it showed how great it will taste with age. I tasted licorice, caramel, mocha, pepper and blueberry.

What will the future bring for me?  I’m uncertain, but blessed enough to have some paid time off to hang with family, ponder the future, spend some time on the blog and drink some amazing wines.  Cheers to a great 2016!




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