Archived entries for Argentinian Wines

The Wines of San Juan and the Quest for Dallas Distribution

Arturo Guillermo Arias, President, Finca Sierras Azules, and Marcela Nunez, Translator

Recently, I was invited by the producers of the San Juan Province in Argentina to try the wines of approximately 20 of their producers.  The event, which was hosted by the Federal Investment Council of the Argentine Government (CFI) and held at the Intercontinental Hotel, focused on wines produced in the second largest region for wine production in South America.  The mountainous region is known for fertile ground and diverse soils. 

It struck me that every winemaker I had the chance to converse with talked about the terroir doing most of the work due to its diversity, how the wines expressed nature and how the wines are priced to gain visibility and acceptance in the U.S. market.  The producers who attended were currently not imported to Dallas – hence the purpose of the tour.  I didn’t get to try the wines of every attendee, but I was really impressed by the quality of those that I did try.  I’ll highlight some of my favorites. 

  • Bodegas Borbore, 2011 Aya Malbec and 2014 Martin Fierro Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc blend
  • Consorcio ABA S.A., 2014 Bodega y Vinedos Hagmann Bonarda
  • Finca del Enlace, 2012 Tracia Honores Malbec and 2011 Tracia Honores Blend
  • Finca Sierras Azules, 2013 Expresion Blend, which is hand-picked by women due to their meticulous approach.  Insert girl power here – and the winery was nice enough to give me a bottle to share in the future.
  • La Guarda, 2012 El Guardado Malbec and 2013 El Guardado Blend
  • San Juan Juice and Wine S.R.L., 2012 Malbec “7 Vinas,” 2012 Torrontes “7 Vinas,” 2012 Ancellota “7 Vinas”

Very hopeful that these wines will find the distribution channels they need in Dallas so you can taste them too.  Otherwise, this large group of wine lovers will need to share the one bottle of Finca Sierras Azules and that would never be enough once you’ve tried it.  


A Conversation with Santiago Mayorga from Nieto Senetiner

Santiago, me and Fernando

Santiago Mayorga, the assistant winemaker for Nieto Senetiner, recently came through Dallas with Fernando Salmain, the export director for the winery as well as Kelly Elder, representing Foley Family Wines, to talk about the past, present and future of their wines.

This is a storied winery dating back to 1888, when Italian immigrants founded the winery in Mendoza.  In 1969, the company was acquired by the families Nieto and Senetiner, who brought new world techniques and technology, but kept the old world quality.  In 1998, it was acquired by the Grupo de Negocios de Molinos Río de la Plata, but the family is still very involved.   So you find a mixture of cultures – the Spanish, the Argentinian and the Italian.

The present is Santiago’s focus is the higher end Nieto wines.  He works closely with Roberto González, who has served as the lead wine maker for 20 years.  He brings a boutique perspective from his previous employer.  He joined Nieto Senetiner because it was an amazing opportunity to chart a course for an important winery in Mendoza. 

He talked about his passion for winemaking and how there is “no recipe.”  It’s about the quality of wines and the importance of the terroir over three estate vineyards in three different valleys. 

We tried a line-up of wines, which were all great and the quality for the price was an incredible find.  We started with the 2013 Torrontes, which was a very intense white with notes of rose petals, lemon curd, grapefruit, peach and a richness that kept drawing me back. 

Our next wine was the 2013 Pinot Noir, which was the first Argentinian Pinot Noir that impressed me.  It’s not yet in the Dallas market, but will come soon.  It was full of ripe cherry, cranberry and had hints of the earth.  Niento Senetiner buys the grapes for both the Torrontes and the Pinot Noir, but grows the rest on their own vineyards.

We moved to the 2012 Nieto Senetiner Bonarda.  This was my first experience a 100 percent Bonarda wine, which is the second most planted grape in Argentina after Malbec and is used often for blending.  It was fabulous – intense with smoke, chocolate, raspberry, herbs and oak notes.  Very complex and layered – I definitely want to try more.

The next wine was the 2012 Malbec, a new vintage full of plum, cassis, spice and vanilla.  It was very drinkable – with or without food.  We then moved to the 2012 Cabernet, which was full of blackberry, spice and notes of vanilla and oak.

Our final wines were amazing.  We had the 2011 Don Nicanor, a Malbec Reserve that was named after the founder.  In Spanish, it translates into “of noble origin.”  This wine, which shockingly retails for under $20 at Whole Foods and Central Market, was complex with notes of black cherry, violet, cassis, plum, Dijon mustard (it rocked – trust me) and a nuttiness.  I loved this and will be buying it.

The last wine was the Nieto Senetiner Terroir Blend Malbec, a blend of three vineyards with very different elevations and characteristics.  At $35, it was a special occasion wine without the special occasion price.  It was a beautiful symphony of flavors that brought together the past and the present in a compelling way.  I am looking forward to trying the future. 


World Cup 2014 Recap: May the Best Wine Region Win

Unless you’re living under a rock, you know that the 20th annual FIFA World Cup, a tournament for the men’s soccer (or football) world championship, is currently happening in Brazil and the United States is shockingly still in the game. A total of 64 matches were or are being played in 12 cities across Brazil and this is big stuff. The World Cup is live or die for most sports fans around the world and has been for decades. In the US, we’re far behind the curve in having only a brief, passing interest in previous years but finally, in 2014, we’re catching up! Football fever/ soccer sickness has struck Americans and it may never be the same again for us.

So it’s only fitting that when a mutual friend of ours, Guy Courtin, posted a reference on Twitter to wine and the world cup, copying both of us, we had a great idea for a blog post!

We’ll deem it “she said, she said” with our perspective on what you should be drinking from each country still in the finals.  In some cases, we’ll recommend our favorite wines or the most appropriate ones for the tournament.  In some cases, we’ll tell you to drink something else.  It may be a stretch to find some bottles for the teams you’re rooting for, we’re not seeing Costa Rican wine lighting the import market in the US on fire…

And for you REAL soccer fans, please keep in mind that this is meant as a fun analysis of a game we both admit we know almost nothing about!

 

Argentina

Argentina

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

Argentina’s signature wine is Malbec, a red wine originally from the Bordeaux region of France. Argentina has been growing Malbec grapes for 150 years, but these wines gained mass appeal in the last 20 years.  Argentina now produces more than 70% of the world’s Malbec.  The price point is great and the wines are usually consistent.  Grab a wine from Riccitelli, Es Vino, Finca Las Moras or Remolinos Vineyards, crack it open and enjoy the game.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

No offense my dear friend but…yeah, yeah – Malbec, Malbec, Malbec.  I’m not going to argue that it’s at a height of delicious here. But to really show Argentine passion, I’m going to suggest the other grape of Argentina: the white Torrontés. Why? It’s a hybrid of Muscat d’Alexandria and Argentina’s historical grape, Criolla Chica, a red that was brought to South America by the conquistadors.  This highly floral, honeyed, peachy, and acidic white is best when it’s from the province of Salta, which boasts vineyards at 10000 feet or more! Refreshing, delicious and sort of native to Argentina, you gotta do it.

 

Belgium

 

Belgium

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

Drink beer.  That’s all.

She Said  (Wine for Normal People):

I agree on that Belgian beer is awesome, but it turns out that they after poking around, I’ve discovered that the Belgians do grow grapes and that it’s a growing industry there. Who knew? While Chardonnay is their big gun, I’m not sure you’ll be able to find a bottle so may I suggest some fine Belgian chocolate with ruby Port? Portugal’s not in it now anyway, so it’s not like you’re being disloyal with this pairing, right?

Brazil

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not had a wine from Brazil.  Just a lot of coffee.  But Bento Goncalves is a wine town in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state of Brazil, and is known to be the wine capital of Brazil. The country has a few things going for it — 150 years of wine heritage and the area’s strong Italian-German heritage.  Drink a sparkling and watch Neymar, he’s been deemed as the next David Beckham.  You’re welcome.

Brasil

She Said (Wine for Normal People)

They’re the host country. They’re favored to win. And they could theoretically celebrate with Brazilian wine (although, like Melanie, I’ve never had it). The far south of the country is making some good efforts at Cabernet/Merlot blends, so if you can snag one, do it. If not, you could always get a Portuguese wine from the Douro that’s massive, brawny and powerful – kind of like Neymar’s leg.

 

Colombia

Colombia

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

Another region that I thought primarily produced coffee, carnations, and James Rodríguez (thank you Colombia), has two regions that produce wines – in tropical Sutamarchán known for Riesling and Pinot Noir and Consorcio del sol de Oro, where European specifications are followed to produce Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc wines.  I haven’t had the chance to try Colombian wines yet, but the country appears to be progressing with the wines that it offers and I’m hoping they make it to Texas so I can.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

Didn’t know about the carnations — cool fact DWC! For me, aguardiente (made from sugar and anise) is the way to go. That firewater will put you on your a** but is well worth it! Wine just isn’t their forte so I’ll go for the stuff that is.

 

Costa Rica

June Wine and Costa Rica 084-2

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

I spent a week last Summer with my family in Costa Rica and asked the locals if there were any local wines that were worth trying.  They told me that I should drink the widely available Chilean wines … or coffee … or beer.  Okay, I trusted them and anyway I always bring a case of wine on vacation.

 CostaRica

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

Coming up with nothing for this. Besides coffee. And it’s almost tasty enough to forego vinous pleasures for.

 

France

France

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

Known for its incredible wines and being the largest producer in the world, France has a history of making wines since 6th century BC.  Bordeaux.  Champagne.  Alsace.  The Rhone Valley.  The Languedoc-Roussillon. The Loire Valley.  Provence roses.  Choosing my favorite would be like shooting fish in a barrel, but if I had to choose, I’d probably go with Champagne from Pierre Peters or Billecart Salmon.  If I had to.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

This isn’t really fair. The wine world is your oyster if you’re a Francophile. Any region really will do. You can’t lose. But my suggestion: go bold and get yourself a wine from Cahors. Mostly Malbec, brawny and bold, and obscure enough so you’d have to really love France to know about it, I’d get one of these dark fruited, coffee, and earth flavored gems. But I agree with Melanie, there’s no beating Billecart Salmon…great stuff!

 

Germany

Germany

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

For me, Germany personifies what a good Riesling wine should be.  It’s floral, fruity and elegant and can range from dry to sweet.  Dr.  Loosen, a family wine dynasty that has been producing wines for over 200 years, makes world class wines.  If I can find one, I reach for the Dr. Loosen Erdener Treppchen Kabinett. Why?  Because it rocks – lots of apple, pear, minerality and a flintiness that makes up this wine works perfectly for my palate.  But, I think we were talking about soccer … Germany is good, but the U.S. did well against them.  I remain hopeful.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

Ok, I’m with Melanie on this one. Riesling is the obvious choice and it’s one of my favorite wines (check out these podcasts with Riesling expert Stuart Piggott to hear a dorkfest on it), so I’ll say an off-dry Mosel Riesling with bone-rattling, jaw clenching acid and beautiful lime, peach, and jasmine flower flavors, this will keep you awake and your mouth watering while you’re waiting for that elusive GOOOOOAAAAALLLL!!!

 

Netherlands

Netherlands

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

The Netherlands – specifically Amsterdam – is known for a perfectly legal substance sold in coffee shops.  What does that have to do with football?  Well nothing.  Except maybe you’ll chill out a bit in the rest of the country (where it is illegal) knowing that you won’t be actively prosecuted as an individual user.  As for wine … well … let’s just say the focus is elsewhere.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

Yeah, they make wine in the Netherlands but I think it’s best we stick with their historical ties and one of their awesome contributions to the wine world: draining the Left Bank of Bordeaux so those gravel soils could grow kick ass Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. If you’re rooting for the Dutch, you’re going to be drinking well with this suggestion!

 

Switzerland

Switzerland

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

I didn’t know much about Switzerland other than chocolate and fine watches.  But there are over 40 varieties of grapes that grow in Switzerland.  I have tried none of them.  Valais, which produces approximately half of the country’s wine, is known for having good pinot noirs and is the most widely planted grape. As for recommendations, my experience has been buying several Swiss watches (future family heirlooms) and eating my weight in chocolate.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

I too am a fan of Swiss chocolate and watches (although I have the cheap Swiss Army ones so they will NOT be heirlooms!) and I did have wine when I was in Zurich but it wasn’t memorable. There isn’t a ton of Swiss wine makes it outside the country’s borders, but that’s changing as import regulations have relaxed and producers need to find markets for their wines. Although most is white, bland, and neutral, there are a ton of native grapes that may make some cool stuff in the future. For now, I’d go for Dôle, a Pinot Noir/Gamay blend that’s light and fruity and can help you maintain a neutral disposition while watching the Swiss play for the win! If you can’t find that, try a northern Italian wine (Switzerland borders Germany, France, and Italy and the Italians are the only ones out) like the sparkling and delicious Franciacorta, from the Lombardia region that borders Switzerland!

United States

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

The fact that we are still here and so many Americans actually have tuned into the game is shocking, but pretty cool.  Through my own research and several Wine Bloggers Conferences, I’ve had the chance to try wines from all over the United States.  Choosing would be very hard, but I can tell you that my most recent favorite comes from Larkmead Vineyards, an off the beaten path winery near Napa, where the Solari red blend scored a total GOOOOAAAALLLLL. Sorry – caught up in the moment….

US

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

America is a wine powerhouse and we’re working on becoming a football/soccer powerhouse too. Although it’s American by way of Croatia, I’m still saying Zinfandel is the way to go if you’re a US fan. It’s so American – big, bold, loud, and spicy. Nearly 10% of California’s vineyards are planted to Zin, and if you’re looking for a quick buzz, these are usually pretty high in alcohol too. For nuance and style, I’d stick with one from Mendocino County, where the layers of flavor tend to make wines that are more than just showy fruit bombs.  I love Navarro Vineyards and I’m not afraid to say it!

 ________________________________________________________

You can drink your way around the world with our ideas and if your team gets eliminated, you can move to the next best option and maybe drink even better. The parallels of soccer/football to wine is striking – as the world has become more global, we’re getting exposure to the great wine and great sport traditions the world around.

What did we miss? Drop a comment and let us know what you would have included for your favorite team!

Elizabeth Schneider, who remains one of my favorite winos, is a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers, Certified Specialist of Wine by the Society of Wine Educators, internationally followed wine blogger and podcaster (both can be found on: winefornormalpeople.com and the podcast is available on iTunes), and owner of the wine education company Wine For Normal People, that specializes in teaching interactive, live online classes. She is also author of the forthcoming book, Wine For Normal People. Elizabeth has an MBA and has lived in Northern California and worked for the largest winery in the world doing marketing and training programs. She has toured wineries around the country and the world from California, to Italy, to France, to South Africa, to her native Long Island, and appears as a wine expert in publications and other media channels. Despite the credentials, Elizabeth considers her most important accomplishment to be the fact that she has managed to remain a normal person, despite her exposure to lots of wine snoots! Follow Wine for Normal People on Twitter @normalwine and on Facebook.

 


Summer Wine Round-up: Feeling Thirsty?

If you’ve been following Dallas Wine Chick since I started my job as the head of marketing for an energy software company, you know that I work with a great group of people who are more than willing to step in and “assist” in the tasting of wines.  We started #thirstythursdays which evolved into #winewednesdays and then occasionally turned into #tipsytuesdays.  My travel has been challenging lately, so when we were able to gather, I would open a large number of wines that I needed to review.

The latest tasting included 25 wines from Spain, France, California, Argentina, Italy and even two ciders – the first time that I have ever been given cider samples.  These were the 14 that made the favorite list:

Sparkling/Rose

California

2013 Isabel Mondavi Deep Rose Cabernet Sauvignon – very crisp with raspberry, strawberry and apple. I’ve come over the years to enjoy rose much more than I used to and wines like this have caused that evolution.

Spain

NV Anna de Codorniu Cava – a very nice drinking cava with notes of apple, lots of minerality and freshly baked bread.

Whites:

France

2011 Chateau Lamothe de Haux Blanc – this was a delightful white wine with crispness, character and balance at $13.  Refreshing and with a great minerality.

Spain

2012 Martin Codax Albarino – I am a huge fan of this wine and Albarino wines in general.  This one had great minerality, pear, white peach and notes of citrus.

2012 Laxas Albarino — lovely and also well regarded.  I tasted pineapple, orange, apple and apricot.  It was also a great expression of this grape.

2013 Cune Monopole Rioja – tropical fruit, jasmine and other floral notes make this a perfect wine for a hot Texas Summer. 

Reds:

Argentina

2008 Susana Balbo Brioso Agrelo Malbec – this was one of my favorite reds of the tasting and personified what a Malbec should taste like. 

California

2011 Emblem Cabernet – a very nice cabernet with notes of blackberry, cassis, vanilla and tobacco.

2012 Olema Pinot Noir – black cherry, all spice, black pepper with some of the earthiness that comes from Sonoma Pinot Noirs.  It was a head turner.

NV Rare Red 4 Grape Blend – a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Verdot, Petite Sirah and Merlot from Lodi, Paso Robles and the Central Valley.  This is your perfect pizza wine at $10.

Chile

2012 Rios de Tinta – I thought this was a very affordably priced everyday Chilean table wine.  I got notes of blackberry, mocha and plum.

2011 Rios de Chile Reserva Carmenere – lots of tobacco, vanilla, clove, plum and blackberry in this wine. Well balanced and a great representation.

Oregon

2011 Elizabeth Chambers Winemaker’s Cuvee Pinot Noir – this was delicious and I tasted mushroom, plum, black cherry, truffle and violets.  I so enjoyed this and am very glad this Oregon-based winery has expanded nationally and to Texas.

Ciders:

I am new to craft ciders so it was fun for me to learn more about Michael & Paul Scotto’s approach to bringing wine making techniques to making hard apple cider.  They use a combination of five different apple varieties and the process of making wine and making cider have many similarities.  We tried two versions – the William Tell Hard Apple Cider and the William Tell Pinot Grigio Hard Apple Cider.  I liked them both, but the 15 percent of Pinot Grigio had a special something.  It was delicious, refreshing and tasted like a baked apple.


Johnny Schuler, the Pisco Man of Portón Tells His Story

I found Johnny Schuler, Master Distiller of Portón, holding court at The Porch last week with 38 mixologists hanging on his every word and tasting creations made with Pisco as they prepared and brainstormed for a “best cocktail” competition at Victor Tango’s.  Schuler is one of the top Pisco authorities in the world, and has been credited with single-handedly revitalizing Peru’s native drink.

His passion for Pisco started in 1977 when he was a well-known chef and restaurateur.  Johnny was a regular on the international spirits tasting circuit and was asked to help judge a competition.  He was ambivalent about the spirit at the time as he thought it wasn’t sophisticated.  During the competition however, there was a certain Pisco that he described as “love at first sip” as it had such a “robust and unique flavor”.  It quickly went from an interest to a hobby to a passion. 

For 20 years he’s been dedicated to bringing the government (INDECOPI) and private sectors to regulate the Pisco industry in Peru as the president of the National Tasters Guild.  In 2010, he was considering retirement at age 63 when he was approached by Bill and Brent Kallop, the founders of Portón, where he was tasked with creating an ultra-premium Pisco for the U.S. market.  “It was a miracle that happens once in a lifetime – I had the license to creative the ultimate spirit.”  The contract was never actually signed; it was a Texas handshake deal.

Johnny’s the host of Por Las Rutas del Pisco, which is aired in Latin America and the U.S. and he has written several books on Pisco.  Right now he’s primarily focusing on getting the word out about the versatility of the beverage through mixologists and chefs.  “It’s the hot new ingredient to use,” he said.

Johnny is still dreaming of recreating the Pisco experience that he had in 1977. “I’m dreaming of the one that I haven’t tasted.”  He also has a philosophy that I agree with about making a quality Pisco that sometimes evades Texans.  “We shouldn’t be proud of it because it is Peruvian, we should be proud of it because it is good.”

You can tell his passion and how involved he is with every aspect of making Portón.  “Nothing is bottled until my nose approves it,” he said. We tried two cocktails and a Pisco straight up, chilled in the right glass, which tasted of honeysuckle, orange blossom, violet, floral notes and was very smooth.  “The American market is a cocktail culture and certainly has embraced Pisco,” he continued.

To be considered authentic, Pisco must be made from one or a blend of eight traditional grape varietals including Quebranta, Common Black, Mollar, Italia, Muscat, Albilla, Torontel and Uvina).  In Portón, the torontel grapes are made in the mosto verde method, which means the distillate is made from grape juice that has not completely fermented.  Because some of the natural grape sugars do not convert to alcohol, the original flavor and aroma of the grape are kept.  Of the 280 distillers who make Pisco, no more than ten make it in this style.  The SRP is $39.99.

Johnny talked about his personal philosophy.  “I don’t believe in luck.  The more I worked, the luckier I was,” he said.  He’s got some big plans for the brand and the passion and energy to pull it off.

 


Fine Wine On Tap Changes Dallas Wine By the Glass Landscape at Savor (and Beyond)

As I am in technology marketing for my paying gig, I am all about watching innovation and disruption change industries and I love watching transformations.  Google.  Apple.  Twitter. Uber.  All companies that pushed the envelope and changed the way we search, compute, live and ride. 

But let’s face it.  The wine industry has not been known for innovation and there has been a “what’s old is right mentality.” So anytime that I’m pitched a chance to talk to someone in the wine industry that is doing something different beyond a new app, you can sign me up almost immediately.

John Coleman and Dan Donahoe

I had the chance to sit down with Savor’s Executive Chef John Coleman and Free Flow Wines Co-Founder and Chairman Dan Donahoe to talk about their partnership in bringing the first premium wines on tap to Dallas.  It all started with a phone call.  John self-described himself as someone who finds it a challenge to find people who may or may not want to be found.  And, he wanted to bring innovation and “out of the box thinking” to Dallas in the form of premium wine on tap to his restaurant. A long-term friendship and business partnership was formed.

These guys are passionate about their business. And, the business benefits are impressive.  Savor is now the number one stand-alone top volume restaurant for wines on tap in the country.  Yes, Dallas – home of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay playdates and big steakhouse upcharged “premiere brands” – wins in wine innovation. 

Let’s talk about the benefits.  The keg packaging removes hundreds of tons of packaging waste from the environment.  I was there when Republic showed up to deliver the barrels.  At 58 pounds apiece, they seemed as easy as bringing in a few cases of wine.  If you’ve been to Savor, you know they don’t have a lot of space.  What they do with some many diners in such a small kitchen is pretty amazing.  And, the consistency is the real kicker.  Every glass of wine is guaranteed fresh – every single time.  I just had a great glass of one of my French favorites during a business trip to Houston.  It had turned and I sent it back.  That gets expensive for restaurants. 

I had the chance to tap my personal glass of wine.  It was lightning fast and the J Vineyards Pinot Gris tasted exactly like it did when I hung out with Winemaker Melissa Stackhouse from J Vineyards.

Now the brands.  There are some big boys embracing this technology – Arietta, Frog’s Leap, J Vineyards, MINER, Paul Dolan Vineyards, Robert Craig, Trefethen Family Vineyards – even Va Piano, one of my great winery finds in Walla Walla. Right now, 140 wine brands are shipping their juice to Free Flow Wines where they ship to 43 states.  It is pumped into ten staging tanks in a 22,000 square foot facility based in Napa and put into over 7,000 kegs where it is shipped across country.  It gives restaurants and consumers the opportunity to feature more “off the beaten path” wines at little risk.  And, wine geeks like me respond with open arms.

Savor offers eight whites by the glass, half carafe and carafe ranging from $9 for the glass to $44 for the carafe.  The whites include Simi Sauvignon Blanc, Trefethen Dry Riesling, Franciscan Chardonnay and Duchman Vermentino.  There are eight reds including Saintsbury Pinot Noir, Qupe Syrah and Paul Dolan Cabernet offered in the same format from $9 for a glass to $50 for a carafe.  They also feature a list of wines by the bottle. 

This barrel to bar approach is incredibly innovative.  The great thing is that chef and sommelier driven restaurants like Savor are embracing and encouraging this innovation.  Dan talked about several hotel and restaurant chains that are embracing the technology. If you’ve followed my “can you get a decent glass of wine at a chain” postings, you know I’m truly happy to see this as I’d rather not have to go taste chain food to make my point.

The only downside that was proactively brought up by Dan is that this technology is not for aging wine.  So, the tradition of an aged bottle and the ceremony around that will continue at Savor as well, but 80 percent of the wines today are sold by tap. 

Being guaranteed a fresh glass of wine with no cork taint (John has never had a corked wine since opening), giving restaurants the opportunity to expand their selections without the risk.  Having the ability to buy a good glass of wine at a fair price and the environmental benefits make this an innovation that is worthy of note.  The future quality, selection and value of the wines you drink by the glass depend on it. 


Catena Zapata: A Conversation with Pablo Sanchez

Pablo Sanchez, Catena Zapata Winemaker 

How I wish when I received the invitation to the Catena Zapata vertical tasting that I knew Winemaker Pablo Sanchez would be attending. I admit, I would have come better prepared.  So I was surprised to find him standing in the room at Specs, but thrilled that I arrived early to spend some time with him.  Sanchez was there for his first trip to Dallas, one of Catena Zapata’s most successful markets, to satisfy a room full of Dallas wine lovers who were ready to sample the latest line-up of his wines.

In 1898, Nicola Catena, who founded the winery, left the European famine and came to Argentina with a dream of owning his own vintage.  His son, Nicolas Catena Zapata, originally a physics major, had a vision for the Malbec grape and was the first to plant Malbec at an extreme high altitude.  The winery blends six different vineyard blocks and six types of soil into its line of wines.  The wines first arrived in the states in the 90s.

Sanchez was here to educate folks in the United States about the face of Argentinian wine that went beyond the room of passionate folks who were ready to buy in Dallas.  We tried the following line up:

Catena Zapata White Bones Chardonnay 2009 – big notes of butterscotch and honey. This was a big bodied chardonnay.

Catena Zapata White Stones Chardonnay 2009 — wonderful stone fruits, nuttiness, vanilla and a mineral finish.  This was an Old World style that blew me away

Catena Zapata Nicasia Vineyard Malbec 2009 – currant, cherry, spice and licorice that has a lush finish.  This was truly cellar worthy and delicious.

Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino  2009 – lots of black fruit, licorice and pepper.  Very drinkable.

Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard Malbec 2009 – big berry, earthiness, mocha and chocolate.  Another very nice example of what good Malbec tastes like.

Nicolás Catena Zapata 2008 – spicy with notes of chocolate, cherry and herbs.  Delicious.

Nicolás Catena Zapata 2001 – this was fun to see what happens with age in a Malbec and I can tell you that it aged nicely.  Still had notes of cherry and was a complex wine.

 


A Few of My Favorite Things: Another Wine Review Column

I had a chance to taste wines from nine wineries from regions ranging from Italy, Spain and California. Of the wines sampled, I’m going to profile seven of them.

Italy

2011 Tenuta Costa Lahnhod Sauvignon Doos – This 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc wine from the Alto Adige DOC was my first Italian version of this varietal. It was full bodied with notes of herbs, white stone fruit and minerality. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I liked the balance of the fruit and steeliness.

NV Piccini Memoro Bianco – lots of green apple, apricot and floral notes to this wine along with honeysuckle and herbs. This is a blend of viognier, chardonnay, vermentino and marche. A bargain for $9.99.

Spain

2009 Rupestre de Alpera – This was the hands down favorite of the Spanish wines sampled. There was a complexity to the wine from the notes of balsamic, oak, smoked meat and dark berries. For $19, this is a great weekday option.

Argentina

2011 Kaiken Ultra Malbec – black cherry, dark berries, tobacco and vanilla notes round out this well-made Malbec. I loved the finish of this wine.

2012 Kaiken Terroir Series Torrontes – talk about flowers in a glass. Combine that with tropical fruit and orange blossoms and you have pegged this wine.

California

 

2012 Clos LaChance Dry Rose – this was another group favorite that took us all by surprise. Lots of raspberry, cherry and ruby red grapefruit with notes of flowers and a very dry finish.

2007 Mustache Mentors Naked Rebel – In all honesty, the Naked Rebel wine is a perfectly good pizza wine with an attitude that makes me chuckle. It was very jammy with notes of spice and tobacco. If you look closely at the back of the bottle you can find my favorite lines mentioning a Zombie apocalypse, a Prius and White Zinfandel.


Bernard Portet: Conversation with A Wine Country Legend

In another pinch myself moment on the trip, I had the opportunity to have lunch with Bernard Portet, considered to be one of the forefathers of the Napa Valley wine industry , at Don Giovanni.  For almost 40 years, Bernard was the co-founder and wine maker for Clos du Val Winery who helped pioneer and revitalize the American wine industry during the 70s with others like Robert Mondavi, Louis Martini and Joe Phelps.

He came to California in 1968 after studying Agronomy, Viticulture and Enology at Schools of Agronomy of Toulouse and Montpellierto.  After a stint in the army, he was hired by John Goelet, an American descendant of the Guestier wine merchant family of Bordeaux, to search the world including Australia, South Africa, North America and North Africa to find the best region outside of France to plant a vineyard.  Because he knew terrior, the microclimate and soil or sense of place, was so important he found what he was looking for in Napa’s Stags Leap District.  He produced the first vintage in 1972.  During his 40 years at Clos de Val, he knocked on doors to sell wine, planted another vineyard in Carneros and mastered the wine industry.  But he never changed his style and remained true to his elegant approach to a sense of place and balance.

Bernard started by talking about the team spirit back he experience when he first arrived in Napa Valley as the winemakers were willing to share everything that they were doing, since they were working toward a greater good to get California wines on the map.  Fast forward 40 years and he said that spirit of cooperation is still strong.  What has changed is the independence of some of the winemakers as they are now owned by large conglomerates and don’t have the freedom to share as they have in the past.

His retirement from Clos de Val had lasted for about six months when he was approached by a former colleague, Don Chase, at a Napa Valley coffee shop.  That cup of coffee led to the formation of Polaris Wines, who recently launched Heritance Wines.  The name Heritance, which focuses on Napa Valley Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc (signature wines of France) is a combination of “heritage” and “inheritance.”  Since Bernard comes from nine generations of winemaking beginning in the 1600s, his heritage is evident.  He talked about being born in the same bedroom as his father and grandfather in Cognac, France.  “Inheritance” refers to his father, who was the regisseur of Chateau Lafite, one of the most highly regarded estates in the world, who taught him the wine business.

With the understanding that he would only make the wine and not handle the operations, he went about the business of putting his winemaking style, which he describes as “balance, elegance and complexity,” to good use.  This time he sources the best grapes throughout Napa Valley.

We tried the following line-up of the Heritance wines (and in the spirit of full disclosure, I’d buy any one of them):

-          2010 Heritance Sauvignon Blanc, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, this had lots of tropical fruit and was very refreshing.

-          2011 Heritance Sauvignon Blanc, also a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Rousanne.  Bernard described the texture almost as a drop of olive oil and he was right.  It was full of tropical fruit, guava and was very rich and complex.

-          2011 Pinot Noir, the wine was made in a Burgundian style with creamy notes of cherry, spice and great balance.  This is the first vintage of this wine.

-          2008 Heritance Cabernet, delivered with notes of balsamic, oak, black fruit, tobacco and floral notes.

Our last wine was an Argentine Malbec named Nandu.  On one of his trips, Bernard found some great vineyards in southern Mendoza and decided to make a wine there.  We tried the 2010 Malbec that was soft and full of blackberry, herbs, blueberry and cranberry.  I would bet this Malbec would convert non-Malbec drinkers.

Bernard described Heritance as a “virtual winery without walls.”  His goal is to make complex and complete wines that go well with food.  I, for one, am very glad that he didn’t retire. There is a great deal of “heritance” that is still yet to come.


Home for the Holidays: Food, Wine, Family & Memories

Food, wine and fellowship have always been a mainstay of our holiday celebrations.  With the recent passing of my great aunt Stella, who died right before Christmas, it was a poignant reminder to appreciate those that we love.

Stella Urusky, on the bottom row on the lefthand side in the black.  Don’t be a hater about the hair or dress.  It was 1994.

Stella actually inspired the entire premise of Dallas Wine Chick.  Stella’s favorite wine was pink, fizzy, made up of chemicals and usually under $5.  I got on a self absorbed mission to “teach her” about “good wine.”  So, for a year I opened the best white wines that I had in my collection – white burgundies, chardonnays, sauvignon blancs, pinot blancs, alsaces and albarinos with the conviction that I could change her mind.  A big life lesson for me is that I couldn’t.  She hated them all and just wanted what she wanted.  So, the concept that wine snobbery shouldn’t be forced on anyone and people should drink what they like was solidified in my mind.

She also taught me about compassion, the value of family, taking care of unwanted animals and speaking my mind.

So we gathered at my parent’s house as the snow fell and ate more food than we should, had more wine than we should and told the same family stories that I’ve grown up hearing.  It was especially poignant that my cousin, Patrick, a F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot, was finally back home after his year-long tour on the USS Enterprise.

The USS Enterprise was on its final voyage after 50 years of service and it is the longest serving aircraft carrier in the US fleet.  It was the world’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, Top Gun was filmed on this ship, it acted as a spotter ship for John Glenn’s historic orbit of Earth, played an important role in the Cuban missile crisis and in Somali pirate engagement.  As the oldest ship in the Navy, the motto is: “There is pain and there is Enterprise pain”…

We also got to hang out with my other cousin, Jeff, and his fiancé AJ, who we are eagerly ready to welcome to the family when they marry in California in the future.

With all of that as our backdrop, we tried several wines from Yarden in the Golan Heights; Elyse Winery in Napa and a Terrazas from Argentina.

We started with the wines from Yarden Wines of Israel.  You may remember that I was impressed last November when I had the opportunity to experience my first wines from the region.  I can speak for the rest of my family in saying that these wines exceeded everyone’s expectations.

The Golan Heights Winery was founded in 1983 and is based in Katzrin.  The winery is known for its use of technology and the advances it has made for wines produced in this region.  The region has extreme temperatures and elevation changes combined with volcanic soils.

Yarden Mount Herman White 2011

This was the favorite white of the group.  Big notes of citrus, peach, floral and minerality made this a great match with the food.

Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Lots of cherry, blackberry and stone fruit with notes of earthiness, tobacco and oak made this a very memorable wine and one that I will seek out in the future.

Yarden T2

This dessert wine which was made of two Portuguese grapes and fortified with brandy was a very nice dessert wine, but the $50 price tag made it a bit bittersweet.

We then switched over to Elyse.  I’ve long been a fan of Elyse Winery wines and these did not disappoint.

Elyse 2010 Petite Sirah

Lots of dark berry fruit, floral and spice.  I loved the finish with its notes of chocolate, mocha and oaky flavor.  This was a rich and yummy wine.

Elyse 2007 Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Also inky black with lots of stone fruit and blackberry flavors with nice spice and cedar.   This was a very well balanced and elegant wine.

Elyse 2008 Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel

This is the vineyard where it all began and the wine that launched Elyse into 25 years of success.  Lots of juicy fruit, earthiness and spiciness make this Zinfandel memorable.

We also tried a Terrazas 2011 Reserva Torrontes, which tasted of green apple, flowers and orange blossom.  A nice, dependable, food-friendly wine that matched holiday food very well.

I hope your holiday season was filled with memories of family and friends that will last long beyond the chaos and will create smiles for years to come.




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