Archived entries for Austrian Wines

Day Two, Wine Bloggers Conference 2012: 42 Hours of Wine, Key Learnings and Post Parties

Bless me father, for I have sinned.  I went to bed at 2 a.m. and needed to exercise, so I did.  And based upon what is waiting around every corner of the Wine Bloggers Conference, you’ll understand why.  Here is my roomie, Liza’s, morning breakfast of a lovely French wine and Voodoo Donuts.

While I missed the first session, I started my day with a session entitled “the winery view of wine bloggers” with Sasha Kady of Kings Estate, Christopher Watkins of Ridge Vineyards and Ed Thralis of Wine Tonight.  Sasha, Christopher and Ed are well known, well respected and well integrated wine people in the world of social media and what they had to say was a validation that my many unpaid hours spent on a passion made a difference.  The conversation was two-way; because that’s what these guys know how to do well, and why they are at the top of wineries that bloggers want to engage with in a meaningful way.

We had a very quick lunch at a food truck lot in Portland, where I had a fabulous Korean taco with extra, extra, extra spicy sauce.  As someone who usually is written off on spicy, this stand complied and I was very excited – especially for $5.50.

I attended “The Art of Oregon Pinot – A Clonal Tasting, which was a total wine geek tasting that I so enjoyed.  So basically, clones are separate organisms that are genetically identical to their predecessor, which is paramount to creating wines that reflect the qualities of different clones in Oregon Pinot Noirs.  Erath hosted our clonal tasting where we discussed the different terriors in Oregon and why the clones where so different.  We tried Pinot clones from Wädenswil and Pinot Noir Pommard as well as new Pinot Noir clones developed in France and at UC Davis to address disease problems and later to isolate vineyard characteristics such as early ripening, open clusters, and small berries including “115,” which had lots of red raspberry, red fruits and tasted of black pepper; “777,” with black fruits and vegetal notes, which was described as “slutty”; the Pommard UCD 4 clone, my favorite, which stood alone as a traditional Oregon pinot; and the blend, which incorporated  spice, but was rough at a young age. 

We moved on to the “Off the Beaten Path” seminar presented by Winebow with Sheri Sauter Morano, MW, and the most humbling session of the conference.  We had a blind tasting of seven wines, which I began with confidence, but ended with the realization that I have so much to learn.  In order, we tried the following wines:

  1.  Itasad Mendi, Hondarribi Zuri 2011 – Bizkaiko Txakolina is a small denomination that covers wines in the province of Vizcaya in Spain.  The wine is full of citrus, tropical and zesty minerality that left me guessing on a new wine, grape and region.
  2. Argiolas S’elagas Nuragus di Cagliari 2010 – apple, floral, nutty, floral with stone fruit.  This Sardinian wine kept me guessing.
  3. Cousino- Macul Sauvignon Gris 2011 – Maipo Valley in Chile.  Almost candy-like with starfruit, smoky notes with a crisp acidity.  A very interesting wine.
  4. Librandi Duca San Felice Ciro Rosso Riserva 2009 – Calabria in Italy.  Earthy, mocha, red cherry, kirsch, tobacco and a bit of meat.  Lots of structure.
  5. Weingu Heinrich Zweigelt 2008 – Austria.  Strawberry, all spice, red fruit and an earthiness that was unique.
  6. Bodegas Nieto Senetiner Reserva Bonardoa 2010 – aka known as Charbono, but only in Argentina.  Plums, raspberries, spice and oak with lots of tannins. 
  7. Anima Negra An 2008 – Mallorca in Spain.  Meat, cedar, earth and leather. 

Key learning here – no matter what you think you know about wine, there is a blind tasting out there to make you realize you know nothing.  And with the exception of the last wine listed, this is a fun exercise with the most expensive bottle listed at $25, but many at least $10 below that price.

After that, Rex Pickett, author of Sideways, took the stage.  Here is my picture.  I’m sure someone else will dedicate ink to his discussion.  I will not.

I wish I had more time to join the reception for the Wines of Greece, but everything was running behind and I only had about ten minutes to spend to find out I need to know more about the wines of Santorini. 

There were a few folks who bagged on the wine dinner hosted by King Estate.  Shame, shame, shame.  This was a wine dinner that brought together the best of wine, food and social media and was seamlessly organic.   We started with a salad of fennel with heirloom tomato, grilled corn and duck breast prosciutto with the 2011 NxNW Horse Heaven Hills Riesling. 

Our next course was the confit of spot prawns with a cucumber, roasted peach and opal basil with the 2011 King Estate Signature Pinot Gris, a delightful and refreshing wine that paired perfectly with the course. 

We then went to a wild Chinook salmon with garlic sausage (except for me – thank you for asking), potato gnocchi, buttered leeks and aged balsamic with 2010 King Estate Signature Pinot Noir.  Another divine match.

The next course was a roasted top loin of beef with wild mushroom, Yukon potato and shallot marmalade with the 2009 NxNW Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 

The dessert course was a lemon panna cotta with summer berries and lavender syrup with a 2010 King Estate Riesling Vin Glace.  It was a brilliant display of social media, showcasing local farmers and sources and highlighting all that Oregon has to offer.

We quickly ducked into the International Wine Night, which unfortunately probably got shorted due to the dinner running over by about 90 minutes.  Then it was time for the after-parties, which I had opt out on some as they were too numerous to attend all of them.

  • We went to the Holy Grail of Alsace Riesling party, which featured vintages from 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2001 including Trimbach’s Close Ste Hune, a great single vintage Riesling.  I was lucky enough to try everything but the 2000, and it was a nice reminder of how great Alsace Grand Cru Rieslings stand the test of time.  They aren’t called “somm candy” without reason.

  • There was a vertical tasting of Oregon magnums with some that weren’t represented at the conference, so it was fun to try some new vintages.
  •  #Get Vertical by Palm Bay Wines – this was a fun opportunity to taste verticals of international wines including Bertani (Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC, 1980, 1993 and 2004); Col D’Orcia (Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino DOG, 1980, 1997 and 2007);  Faustino (Faustino Gran Reserva Rioja DOC, 1964, 1982 and 1999); Jean-Luc Colombo (Jean-Luc Colombo “Les Ruchets” Cornas AOC, 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2009); and Trimbach (Timbach Riesling “Cuvee Frederic Emile” Alsace AOC, 2000 and 2001).  I really wish that this wasn’t my second to the last stop as there were some great wines that I would have liked to savor more, but thank you Palm Bay Wines for the experience.

  • Jordan – this event has brought many bloggers to their knees on Sunday morning and is always the party never to miss.  Lisa brought a wide array of Jordan’s best vintages, right off of their 40th anniversary.  These were wines to remember (or perhaps some attending did not).

I’ll end this post with a full disclosure and an introduction to “Crazy Chicken.”  I travel the world for my day job and so my seven-year-old daughter asked me to bring a toy and take pictures so she can experience my journey.  The chicken has traveled with me from London to Stockholm to Singapore and finally to Portland, where he has adventures – clearly tonight he spent too much time at the after-parties (and no, those photos aren’t shared with her).  Look for him in the return to Carlton winery post-trip.


A Night of Wine, Art & Cafe Momentum at Mockingbird Station

I was honored to be asked to host an event last month for Mockingbird Station centered around wine, food and art.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a member of the “Influencers Council” for Mockingbird Station and I was happy to help.  This event featured more than 15 pieces of original artwork by Dallas-based artists Michael Cross and Samantha McCurdy.

I worked with the good folks at Pioneer Wine Company to come up with affordable, yet off the beaten path wines.  We served Secco Italian Bubbles, 2010 Tikal Patriota and 2010 Glatzer Gruner Veltliner.

My favorite part of the event – keep the wine was good and the art was awesome – was the opportunity to bring in a great charity, Cafe Momentum.  Chefs from Café Momentum, a nonprofit restaurant concept conceived by Parigi co-owners Chad Houser and Janice Provost, transforms young lives by equipping at-risk youth with life skills, education and employment opportunities.   They catered the food and were the recipients of the raffle.

It was an awesome event – more than 80 of you came out to support me and made me realize that the most fun part of this blog (other than drinking wine of course) is getting to hang with you guys.  And when you can give something back to the community, that’s the icing on the cake.


Austrian Wines: World Class Whites and Unique Grapes

I meet lots of great people through this blog and it always amazes me how small the wine community in Dallas truly is. One person, who I actually have gotten to know on both a personal and professional level, is Jeff Irish, Wine & Spirits Broker for Magnolia Wine Co.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I first met Jeff long before my blogging days as he is the brother of a dear friend of mine.  He’s always impressed me with his wine knowledge, quest to bring smaller wineries and wines off the beaten path to Dallas and his willingness to teach others about wine.

We talked about his passion for Austrian wine and my lack of knowledge about this region.  Jeff generously agreed to come to our couple’s wine tasting group and bring some great wines representative of Austria.  But, we had a few surprises in store for him as well ….

Jeff started with an overview about Austrian wine.  I was surprised to hear that this region makes less than one percent of the world’s wine production.  In fact, there is more wine made in the Loire Valley than all of Austria.  These wines have been made for over 900 years using many of the same methods.  The industry was turned on its head in 1985, when a few producers added diethylene glycol, an antifreeze agent, to enhance body and sweetness and justify higher prices.  This resulted in Parliament enacting very strict wine regulations that modernized many of the age-old wine making processes.  

Gruner

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Irish

We started with three Grüner Veltliners, one from Franz Etz, one from Stift Göttweig and one from Ludwig Neumayer.  Grüner is an easy drinking wine (especially in hot Texas summers) and Jeff said Texas really seems to be warming up to these wines.

  • Franz Etz 09 Grüner Veltliner – a crisp white with notes of floral, pair and green apple.  Nice, easy to find and affordable.  Comes in a full liter bottle that is pretty cool.
  • Stift Göttweig 08 Grüner Veltliner – lots of Asian pear and literally blessed by Benedictine monks from the Stift Göttweig monastery.
  • Ludwig Neumayer 08 Grüner Veltliner – I tasted lemon and herbal notes.  This was the most elegant of the three tasted.

___with some age_

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Irish

We then moved to Rieslings.  We started with a 2008 Josef Hogl Riesling Federspiel Bruck.  I tasted green apple, honey, caramel, tropical fruit and peach with lots of minerality.  Some sweetness, but the wine ended with a dry finish.  Our host couple, Marcus and Shannon, who have to have one of the most interesting and obscure collections of vintage wine from Europe that I’ve ever seen, brought out a fascinating wine for comparison – 1993 Freie Weingärtner Wachau Riesling.  This one was very different than the first – much more mineral in nature with hints of green apples and citrus, but sadly was probably past its prime.

Umathum 08 Zweigelt

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Irish

We returned back to try Moric 08 Blaufrankisch, our first red wine.  I tasted vanilla, raspberries, dark fruit, sandalwood, pepper and lots of earth.  Of the reds tasted, this was my least favorite.  Our next one was the 08 Umathum Zweigelt.  I tasted blueberry, smoke, spice and lots of bright fruit. 

Austrian Feiler Artinger

 

We ended the official part of the tasting with the Feiler-Artinger 06 “Pinot Cuvee” Ruster-Ausbruch, a dessert wine, with big notes of caramel and marizipan.  Sublime with an almond cookie.

At that point, Marcus decided to bring out some Austrian treasures from his collection.  We tasted several wines to get a comparison of what happens when Austrian wines age. 

Austrian Weingut

Our first wine was a 2000 Weingut Willi Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Auslese Ried Loiser Berg.  I liked this wine and tasted lots of caramel, maple syrup, cassis with touches of citrus.  We then tasted the same wine from 1983.  It was remarkable – the caramel notes were there, but not as prominent and this was a wine that benefitted from its age in the bottle.  Very nice!

We then sampled one last wine – similar in nature, but from France.  The 85 Domaine Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moelleux showed citrus, figs and big spicy notes.  A perfect ending to a fabulous night of touring European wines from a backyard in Dallas.

The Lineup

 

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Irish


Dallas’ Most Interesting Wine List is at a National Hotel?

Last month I attended the Texas/New York Gridiron wine challenge had the opportunity to sit at a table with Hunter Hammett, sommelier for the Dallas Fairmont Hotel.  Surprisingly enough, our conversation shifted to wine and he told me about the Fairmont’s wine list which he had totally overhauled including a large number of Texas wines.  I was intrigued, so I asked Hunter if I could spend some time with him learning more about the list.

He’s an agreeable guy and very passionate about wine, so I found myself in the totally revamped Pyramid Restaurant & Bar at the Fairmont – with a tasteful local focus on Texas products and a rooftop garden.  I was handed the list, which received a Wine Spectator 2010 Award of Excellence, and like a kid in the candy store, I started perusing.  As Hunter hand-selected the 250 wines that are on the list, it was important find a variety of on and off “the beaten path” wines at any price that patrons would love.  I especially enjoyed the Underrated Reds and Underrated Whites sections that had a number of wines I have enjoyed in small little wine bars or across the country.  I never expected to see them at a restaurant in a national hotel.  You’ll also find grapes you’ve probably never heard of nor had the opportunity to try like Aligoté, at least in Texas, until now. 

Gruet was one of the selections on the Underrated Reds list and I mentioned that I had never tried its still wines.  In short notice, I had a glass of the 06 Gruet Pinot Noir Cuvee Gilbert in hand.  Hunter also had a large selection of wines that are positioned by varietal vs. region to encourage experimentation of all different types of grapes from around the world.

Of course, because this is Texas, you will find the usual big suspect Cabernets -we all know that restaurants have to carry these to please certain patrons.  Also, I believe that having some of the big steakhouse wines gives people the trust factor to try other wines that may not have considered otherwise.  

Wines that are sustainable, organic and environmentally farmed are given special consideration.  You’ll probably see a future focus on building out the French section of the list in 2011.  Hunter’s credo, like The Wine Century Club, is to broaden the wine drinking scope at every opportunity.  I, for one, look forward to my trip around the world with his wine list as my guide.




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