Archived entries for California Wines

History, Heritage, Honor and Hard Work: A Conversation with Murrieta’s Well Winery

The latest Snooth tasting focused on the Livermore Valley, a pivotal region in shaping California’s wine industry back in the 1880s when it received America’s first international gold medal for wine in 1889 at the Paris Exposition.  Livermore Valley wineries were the first to label Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Petite Sirah and approximately 80 percent of California’s Chardonnay vines trace roots back to a Livermore valley clone.

It was great to taste with one of the iconic wineries from the region, Murrieta’s Well, which is affiliated with pioneer winemaker, C.H. Wente, who bought the vineyard from the original owner, Louis Mel in 1933.  Snooth’s Chief Taster Mark Angelillo and Murrieta’s Well’s Winemaker Robbie Meyer took us through a portfolio of six diverse wines.

Murrieta’s Well is one of California’s original wineries and has been growing grapes since the vineyard was first planted with cuttings from Chateau d’Yquem and Chateau Margaux vineyards.  Talk about some aristocratic rootstalk.

The 500-acre vineyard features three different soil types, a range of elevations and microclimates and produces 21 different varietals.  Mark stated, “you can cherry pick based on the different characteristics and terroir to blend diverse and exceptional wines.”

Murrieta’s Well focuses on terroir-driven, limited production wine blends and the original gravity flow winery is the site of the tasting room today.  In 1990, Philip Wente and Sergio Traverso renamed the winery and wine label, Murrieta’s Well.  The name pays homage to Joaquin Murrieta, a gold rush bandit, who discovered the estate in the 1800s.

Murrieta’s Well focuses on all estate, small-batch and small lot wines.  Michael talked about “the art of blending based on the best of the vintage.”  He spoke about being able to make the best blend that ties in with the best aromatics.  This happens by farming each acre by hand because it is unique.

We tried the following line-up:

2015 Murrieta’s Well The Whip – was first released in honor of the winery’s 20th anniversary in 2010 and is a white Bordeaux blend.   I tasted melon, peach and floral notes.

2014 Murrieta’s Well The Spur – this wine was also released in honor of the winery’s 20th anniversary in 2010 and is a red Bordeaux blend.  I tasted vanilla, tobacco, cranberry, spice and blue fruit.

2016 Murrieta’s Well Dry Rose – I tasted notes of strawberry, watermelon, berry and floral notes.

2016 Murrieta’s Well Muscat Canelli – this wine had a burst of citrus followed by white stone fruit and flowers.

2014 Murrieta’s Well Cabernet Franc – notes of both red and black fruit, herbs, spice, vanilla and toast.

2014 Murrieta’s Well Merlot – notes of mocha, cassis, red fruit, vanilla and blue fruit.

To follow along with the tasting, click here.

Murrieta’s Well is a winery with a place in history that is working grape by grape to make sure it has a legacy that continues into the next century.


Pedroncelli Celebrates 90 Years: A Legacy of Farming, Fun and Flagships

Ninety years ago, it all started with a goal of three pillars – farming, fun and flagships – with flagships being the Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon wines Pedroncelli is known for producing.  That was recently reinforced on a Twitter virtual tasting.  However, I think one additional pillar needs to be added to the mix – and that is family.

This has been a family business since 1927 when Giovanni and Julia Pedroncelli Sr. purchased a vineyard and shuttered winery in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley.  In the beginning, due to Prohibition, they had to sell grapes to home winemakers to stay afloat.  There’s some heritage here.  The Pedroncelli family was the first to put Sonoma County on a wine label when the area was designated in the late 1940s.  The name Pedroncelli is Italian for Summer.

The family has been making wine since 1934, starting with bulk wines and evolving into the legacy wines that continue to get great wine scores from the critics.  Now, the fourth generation of family members continue the family legacy.  With the expansion of the generations, came the decision to expand varietals, replant the vineyards and now the winery has 70 percent female ownership.  And, that’s a trend that I love to see.

The Pedroncelli’s farm more than 100 acres of vineyards in Dry Creek and source grapes from those who have the same farming vision.  We (okay, my husband since I don’t cook) were asked to create the family’s special recipe for Feta and Kalamata Chicken and were given a gift card to cover the cost of the ingredients.  I loved the recipe and as someone that is the last to order a big beef dish on a menu, it was a nice change of pace for a wine pairing.

We tasted three wines, which were fantastic, and I got a glimpse prior to my invitation to the big 90th celebration blowout in July in Sonoma (watch for #Ped90th).

2016 Pedroncelli Sauvignon Blanc – notes of Meyer lemon, lychee and a nice minerality made this a crowd favorite and a great match with the chicken.

2016 Pedroncelli Rosé of Zinfandel – notes of candied violets and just plucked off the vine berries.  So refreshing.

2015 Pedroncelli Sangiovese – notes of cherry, cranberry, pepper and spice made this incredibly drinkable and food friendly wine disappear quickly.

Ninety years — nine decades strong in a tough business.  The pillars remain true and the family remains focused on tradition, heritage and making amazing wines that reflect a sense of place.  So, looking forward to my celebration at Pedroncelli in late July and I plan to be wearing this amazing hat.


Two Years Later: A Catch Up with Peter Mondavi Jr from Charles Krug

Peter Mondavi Junior, Charles Krug Co-Proprietor

Over two years ago, I had the chance to sit down with Peter Mondavi Junior, the co-proprietor of Charles Krug.  Our conversation focused on family, history, heritage, sustainability, good wine and hard work.  We talked about the strides that his father, Peter Mondavi Senior, and his innovations at Charles Krug ranging from vintage dating varietal wines, cold fermentation of white wines and fermentation in French oak barrels, and many more.

Last month while Peter was en route to the Austin Food and Wine Festival, we had the chance to sit down and visit again.

A lot has changed in two years.  Peter Mondavi Senior passed away the end of last year, but in talking with his son, his legacy will continue.  “All of Peter’s siblings lived until the 90’s and he lived until he was in his 100’s,” Peter said.  “Mark and I have worked underneath him for decades.  He taught us to be meticulous.  We will continue to carry on his philosophy and our foundation as we move the winery forward.”

Charles Krug is the oldest winery in Napa Valley and was founded in 1861 by Prussian immigrant Charles Krug.  Since 1943, and over four generations, the winery has been overseen by the Peter Mondavi Senior family.

Since the subject of women and wine and the lack of parity has been such a prevalent subject with the women winemakers I have talked to lately, I asked him about the opportunity for women and wine.  He talked about Stacy Clark, Charles Krug’s winemaker, and how he wanted to hire the best winemaker, who happened to be a women winemaker.  “It was all about carrying on the Peter Mondavi Family vision, but giving a talented winemaker the leeway needed to make great wines while still keeping alive the essence of the vineyards.”

He gave me an overview of the success of the hospitality center that was just opening during our last conversation.  The center was the final element of a $9.5 million restoration and beautification of the Redwood Cellar Building designed by noted architect Howard Backen.  It was named after the winery’s matriarch, Rosa Mondavi, and launched to celebrate Peter Senior’s 100th birthday.   They are working on putting together a culinary program as the next step as well as a vertical program to bring the extensive wine library to consumers.

There has also been an evolution in narrowing the portfolio to focus on the single vineyard, upscale, estate wines from eight vineyards over 850 acres located in St. Helena, Howell Mountain, Yountville and Carneros.

We tried several wines and Peter was still as passionate as ever in describing them and the stories associated with each one.  Each of these was delicious, but the Howell Mountain Cabernet is off the charts.

2015 Charles Krug Chardonnay – had an old-world style full of lots of citrus, tropical fruit and minerality.  This is the only wine made from non-estate vineyards from Los Carneros since they are replanting the chardonnay vineyards.

2013 Charles Krug Generations – this wine was designed to celebrate four generations of the Mondavi family.  Peter described it as a wine with “one foot in France, one foot in California.”  It was balanced with lots of licorice, anise, blueberry, blackberry and spice.   The first vintage of this was in 1991 and came about when Duckhorn had extra grapes that Mark used as an experiment when Mondavi Senior was on a sales trip.  It was their first Bordeaux blend and has evolved ever since.

2014 Charles Krug Vintage Selection Napa Cabernet Sauvignon – lots of black fruit, red fruit, mocha and cassis flavors.

2013 Charles Krug Family Reserve Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon – this was the third vintage of this wine and I loved the cranberry, cassis, spice, chocolate and black fruit.

The winery has a quote that seems to still bear true from its founder, Cesare Mondavi – “Treat the land with respect, and it will show in the wine.”  It is clear the tradition, heritage and commitment to family are still important tenants at Charles Krug Winery.


A Conversation with Merry Edwards: Icon, Trailblazer, Philanthropist and Winemaker

Merry and Ken, Courtesy of Merry Edwards Winery 

This week, I had the pleasure of talking with Merry Edwards, an icon, a trailblazer, a philanthropist and a winemaker who has single-handedly shattered the glass ceiling for women in wine in California and at UC Davis in the 70s.  Merry is being honored next weekend in Dallas with the Tête du Cuvée award, the highest award given at the Côtes du Coeur, the annual fine wine auction and celebrity chef dinner benefitting the American Heart Association (AHA).

Merry’s passion for cardiovascular research was first related to love.  Her husband, Ken Coopersmith, had a history of heart disease in the family, but wasn’t aware of how serious his condition was.  Shortly after they were married, his heart started to fail and he had a heart valve replacement.  Ten years later, he kept putting off the doctor because he knew he had gained some weight with the Sonoma food and wine lifestyle.  That decision literally almost killed him.  He went into congestive heart failure and was a two of 100 statistic that lived through the operation. At that point, Merry knew that this was a cause that has a direct meaning and impact for her and millions of others.

“The AHA has a hard-core benefit.  This is a cause that I am passionate about, I believe in this charity and I will continue to be supportive.” she said.  “I believe in giving more.  It’s my job to do my day job, but to be a leader and inspire others to give.”  Merry focuses on charities that have directly impacted her family, which also include the disabled and children’s health.  Merry lives her life facing challenges head on – from raising a disabled child to becoming an advocate for women in any industry.

Several years ago, I attended a wine dinner at Lakewood Country Club where Merry told her story.  After a storied career in wine working for others it was time for Merry to do her own thing, to found Merry Edwards Winery.  She did that in 1997 with a focus on producing Pinot Noirs with a true sense of place from Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast.

We spent some time talking about her breaking ground and being one of the first women winemakers and the work to be done to recruit more women to the industry.  After 44 harvests, she told me that very little progress has been made.

“If you look at the current studies done on the subject by UC Davis, the statistics are not that encouraging as female winemakers have increased to ten percent today from six percent in the 70’s,” she said.  We talked about the rampant problem in science, in technology and in farming.

“Even my own father thought I should be in a supportive role so I went to Berkeley to be an RN.  Then my career morphed to nutrition and then to food science and finally to wine making,” she said.

She talked about approaching life to try to fix what wasn’t right – not only as a woman, but as a human.  When she was first at UC Davis, affirmative action had just been implemented.  She wasn’t invited to interview on recruiting day because she was a women and marched to the chancellor’s office to help reverse that decision.

She still feels that way today.  “Most people respect me for being here.  I am a role model to prove this can be done,” she said.  “I’m not just talking about women in wine, but for other women in other professions that love wine.”

She left me with the words – “Be an inspiration to others.”  And through her commitment to helping prevent cardiovascular disease in a place where one of every three deaths in the US are from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, she continues to live those words.

My personal affiliation with the American Heart Association is also due to family.  When my younger brother was 17, we discovered a heart condition that took way to long to diagnose that resulted in an emergency open heart surgery.  Because of the life-saving research that was conducted by the AHA, his life was saved.  My husband and I were chairing the Dallas Heart Ball at the time and found out later that the surgeon who saved his life was in the audience.

Proceeds from Côtes du Coeur go directly to the AHA for cardiovascular research and heart health educational programs both locally and nationwide. During its 25-year history, Côtes du Coeur has attracted more than 22,000 attendees and has raised more than $30 million.  The event is scheduled this Saturday, April 22 at the Omni Hotel Dallas.  For more information, click here.


Jesse Rodriguez: Sommelier and Renaissance Man Committed to Change the Lives of Others

The Women of EWR

The story of wine is often unpredictable.  This weekend I attended a Leadership Retreat with 40 plus women who are a part of the Dallas Chamber’s Executive Women’s Roundtable.  This is a group of C-level women who are usually the only females sitting in a leadership role in some of the biggest companies in the world.  We come together for this retreat once a year to learn, laugh, network and reconnect with the other women in the room and ourselves.  This year it was at the Montage Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina.

Naturally, wine is a part of this process.  On Friday, we gathered at the River House in the private wine cellar for an amazing dinner.  There I met a true Renaissance man.  Jesse Rodriguez is the Director of Wine and took me for a tour of the cellar, which was amazing and full of hand-selected bottles of boutique and very special wines from around the world.

Because this is a leadership retreat, one of the women asked him a very pointed question about legacy that we had been discussing during the conference.  At that point, we found out the many nuances of Jesse.  He builds the best wine lists in America with a list of coveted awards from the Wine Spectator Grand Award as well as Forbes.com’s “America’s Best Spots for Wine” as well as the first ever nomination for the James Beard Awards Semi-Finalist for Outstanding Wine Service and one of Wine Enthusiast’s “100 Best Wine Restaurants” for two years and the list goes on. He was the Head Sommelier at Napa Valley’s The French Laundry, helping the restaurant become the only dining venue in California to receive a Three Michelin Star rating.

The Menu and Wines from the Dinner

He is relentless in his own learning.  Jesse is an Advanced Sommelier by the American Chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers, is credentialed as a Certified Wine Educator by the Society of Wine Educators, and has completed the Diploma level through The Wine and Spirits Educational Trust (WSET) and is in his second year of his Masters of Wine certification. Rodriguez was named one of “America’s Best New Sommeliers” by Wine & Spirits magazine in 2007 and one of StarChefs.com’s 2010 “Los Angeles-San Diego Rising Stars.”  He was also named “Best Sommelier” by the readers, editors and critics of San Diego Magazine and Ranch & Coast: San Diego’s luxury lifestyle magazine for four consecutive years.

He’s a teacher – he holds a Master’s in Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University, where he also received his undergraduate degree.

And most importantly, he is a kind family man with a passion to give back to the community.  He grew up in Beaumont, California, a Southern California blue collar desert town, the grandson of a Mexican farm worker.  He discovered his passion for wine when waiting tables at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale.  Jesse launched a six-month campaign to get a job on the wine team and quickly rose through the ranks.

Once he was making “real money,” he created Figueroa Family Scholarship as a tribute to his grandfather 11 years ago for Mexican American students at Beaumont High.  “I was able to put aside $1,000 and that’s where it all began,” he said.  He personally goes back to Beaumont every year to award the grant.  He also serves as a career-long mentor to those recipients.

He’s a wine maker.  He and his good friend and fellow sommelier, Michael Scafiddi, make pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon under the label Kaizen.

And most importantly, he’s one heck of a nice man with a passion for lifelong learning, the artistry of wine and making the customer feel special.


A #winestudio Family Discussion with Meeker Vineyards and a Flashback to My Wine Journey

My experience with #winestudio, to date, has been discovering new winemakers and small production wines.  The latest shipment contained Meeker Vineyard wines, which brought back fond memories of the beginning of my journey with wine when I would take classes (as many as I could afford) at the now defunct Marty’s just to learn.  I remember sitting in one of those classes and the Meeker Merlot (I cannot recall which vintage) was brought out and I remember being struck how visually appealing the packaging was.  This was followed up by a one-two punch when I tasted the contents in my glass and loved the wine.

Fast forward almost 20 years and I had the opportunity to revisit my Meeker experience, but with Lucas and Kelly Meeker at the helm.  It felt like a conversation with old friends combined with the comradery that comes with bloggers that have become friends long ago discussing a subject we all love.

Meeker is truly a family operation.  Charlie and Molly Meeker purchased their first vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley in 1977 with the understanding it was easy to grow different varietals effectively.  It was a labor of love as Charlie was still employed full time at MGM Studios and would travel from Los Angeles to make wine and work the vineyard.  Charlie handled the wine and Molly everything else.  In 1984, Meeker Wines was born.  This was followed by the tasting room, a historic bank in Healdsburg that was even robbed back in the day to add to the story.

They talked about their philosophy – we don’t take anything seriously but the wine itself.  Lucas talked about each wine having a unique personality and the need to express that personality through packaging.  “We’re not trying to look fancy,” Lucas said.  “We’re trying to look like us.”

The first Tuesday of #winestudio, we tried the 2013 Hoskins Ranch Grenache, which is 100 percent Grenache and delicious.  I tasted cherry, cranberry and strawberry.  It was an elegant wine that was very food friendly, but easily drinkable on its own.

The 2013 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Franc came from Bob Pedroni’s vineyard that was described as “red dusty earth on Russian River.”  I tasted black cherry, blackberry, green pepper, herbs and violets.

We then revisited the wine that introduced me to Meeker wines many years ago.  This time it was the 2013 Winemaker’s Handprint Merlot, which is a gorgeous bottle.  This time I was on a Spring Break trip with my family in Punta Mita and we enjoyed this at Casa Teresa, a fantastic Italian family restaurant that is outdoors with food to die for.  It was then that I learned that the gorgeous bottle begins to melt when you combine a cellar temperature bottle and outdoor weather – lesson learned.  Now back to the wine.  It had notes of blueberry pie, plum, cassis, mocha and a touch of vanilla.  It was as nuanced, elegant and stunning as it was the first time I tried it.

Lucas and Kelly summed it up for us, “what you have tried the last two weeks reflects our family, who we are and what we stand for.”  Wine is more than a product – every wine has a story and deserves a unique presentation reflecting that personality.  The Meeker family has figured out how each wine is part of the family’s mosaic and reflects authenticity and artistry in every bottle made.


Living the American Dream: An Ordaz Family Journey

It’s funny how things in life happen when you least expect it. I had a last minute business trip for a paying gig to Las Vegas, which meant I participated without wine in the first session #winestudio for Ordaz Family Wines. I was completely excited about the next session as I knew that Jesus (“Chuy”) Ordaz is a walking success story of the American dream.  Unfortunately, a flu completely knocked me out the next week and the only fluid in my glass was a cocktail of Dayquil and Nyquil.

So here I am this week tasting the gorgeous wines of Ordaz Family Vineyards – this time from a family Spring Break trip to the gorgeous resort of the Four Seasons, Punta Mita.  And, let’s just say that I am in a much better place in all aspects as compared to last week.  However, I did rely on Twitter accounts (except for the first tasting) and other great blog posts from those who did a great job covering the story that needed to be told.

Jesus Ordaz is the kind of guy that doesn’t take no for an answer.  For him, it took 33 times to make it to the U.S from a family fruit stand in Michoacán, Mexico.  He was the type of person who was going to do anything he could to support his family.  He started chopping wood at Korbel Cellars and later went to Kenwood Winery as a migrant picking grapes.  People who work hard get noticed and soon he was promoted to foreman where he led the charge for the benefits of organic farming.  After Kenwood was sold, his next path took him to start his own vineyard management company, Palo Alto Vineyard Management Company.  Fast forward almost 20 years and they now manage 400 acres of vineyards.  His son, Eppie, joined the business after realizing accounting wasn’t his calling and began his quest of making wines and founding Ordaz Family Wines with his brother, Chuy Jr.  His founding principal was to make wines from one vineyard in small parcels of land made from grapes harvested by the company.

We tried two wines during #winestudio that shattered my preconceptions of what I thought to be typical of Sonoma wines.  Eppie, the winemaker, talked about the two wines we tried and covered the very storied history of his family.

- 2014 Pinot Noir from the Placida Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, which is named after their grandmother. It is an awesome Pinot with black cherry, cranberry, raspberry, spice and earth.

- 2012 Sonoma Valley Malbec from the Sandoval Vineyard Malbec produced from only two acres of grapes from rocky clay soils. It was an intense wine with cassis, plum, mocha and black fruit.

As we wrapped, Eppie shared his mantra for producing wines – to make exceptional wines reflecting unique characteristics of the places they are farmed.  It’s all about embracing what is unique about the vineyards.  I love seeing the successful fruition of the realizing the American dream and building a legacy to be enjoyed for generations to come.

 


A Conversation with Tom Gore: A Farm to Glass Experience

Courtesy of Tom Gore Vineyards

Tom Gore always knew he was going to be a farmer.  He grew up in the vineyards farming grapes with his dad and declared his vocation when he was seven years old.  “I’m going to do what he does,” he vividly remembers thinking.  And that’s just what he did.  He has a storied career where he currently serves, has served as vineyard director or in a similar role at some of the most well-known names in Northern California – Simi, Clos du Bois, Ravenswood and Rutherford Hills.

Courtesy of Tom Gore Vineyards

But he truly wanted to experience “the farm to glass experience,” and Tom Gore Vineyards was born.  The bottles proudly proclaim, “farming is my life’s work and greatest joy,” and Tom practices what he preaches as he grows and harvest the hundreds of acres of grapes across several vineyards in Sonoma County, Lake County and Mendocino Country.

It is all about the land and sustainable farming. He and his wife currently farm a half acre micro-farm where he grows about 70 different varietals of vegetables, herbs, flowers, olive trees and where 20 chickens roam free.

Tom Gore and me

He had a vision of taking his connection with the land a step further from the field and decided it was time to make a “Farmers Wine,” with Gary Sitton, a well-known winemaker and a personal friend.  It was now time to deliver different layers of flavor through his grape growing.  He believes that good wines start a long time before harvest.  He likens high quality grapes to the same premiere ingredients a chef uses in a dish.

Tom Gore Vineyards is in its second year of production with a few thousand cases in production in distribution in all 50 states.  Tom used his relationships with distributors for his vineyard roles at better known wineries to gain distribution across the United States.

I tried three of Tom’s wines and found them to be well balanced and a great value.   We started with the 2015 Tom Gore Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, which was described as “sunshine in a bottle,” by Tom.  It had tropical, stone fruit, tangerine and citrus notes and it was mineral, bright and fresh.

We moved to the 2014 Tom Gore Vineyards Chardonnay, which was described by Tom as “a wine that speaks to an intersection of Old World and New World farming.”  It was a balance of citrus, oak and would stand up to food.

Our final wine was the 2014 Tom Gore Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.  Tom described it as “if there a variety that tastes the same in the field and the glass, that is cabernet.”  It was a great, well-balanced wine that was a bargain at $15.

Tom talked about his dream of “building a life that he didn’t need a vacation from.”  You can see the passion that he has for connecting farming and the earth with what is in your glass.  He made a great point – “five years ago no one asked where their bacon came from.”  With wine, you can define and show the sense of place where you grow and harvest.  I asked him as a follow up how we knew at seven years old, what he wanted to do.  He answered, “Wine connects people.  In any intimate gathering of friends or family, there is a deep connection with wine and food.  Why would you not want to make that your life.”

Duly noted.


Grapefest: A Celebration of Grapes, the Vines and the City

For years, I have billed myself as someone “with a love of the grape and a collection to prove it.”  Ironically, I had never attended the largest wine festival in the Southwest.  Grapefest is in Grapevine, Texas, a suburb about 20 miles from Dallas.  Luckily, this is the year I could rectify that situation.

The city was founded in 1843 when General Sam Houston led representatives of the Republic of Texas to a meeting with members of 10 American Indian nations. They joined to negotiate a treaty of peace and friendship at Grape Vine Springs, also known as Tah-Wah-Karro Creek. The first settlers started arriving a year later and the city was named for the wild mustang grapes that grow abundantly in Texas.

For the past 31 years, Grapefest has entertained 150,000 patrons with wine tastings, special events, a variety of foods, a family Carnival and Midway as well as an interactive KidsWorld.  We brought our daughter, so some of the over 21 events like the People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic, the world’s largest consumer-judged wine competition, and the Texas Wine Tribute were off limits to us and we spent much more time on the Midway than normal.

 

 

But we got to enjoy the Champagne Terrace, we were a “celebrity” guest at the GrapeStomp (Team Dallas Wine Chicklet) and spent a lot of time in the wine pavilion tasting a variety of wines from the Central Coast in California and Barossa Valley in Australia.

 

We even spent a little time in the VIP room of Messina Hof’s first urban winery in Grapevine.  I discovered that a Texas winery is making two sparkling wines, which was a surprise to me.  The tasting room is located on the site of the former Wallis Hotel.  The winery had more than 40 different wines, tastings and premium flights, wines on tap and gourmet food items.

Grapefest is sponsored by Bank of the West and in 2012, Grapevine was named a World Festival and Event City by the International Festival and Events Association.  It was a great celebration of wine, winemakers and wineries.  While I’ll probably attend a few more adult-oriented tastings next year, it was a fun family event.


The Allstate Sugar Bowl: A Tale of Two Conferences, Wine and the Big Easy Experience

The Ofenloch and Stewart Families (thank you, Ed….)

This story involves wine, amazing food, dear friends, family, unrestricted access and a team that I love.  The backdrop of the story is in New Orleans – yes, the Big Easy – and the focus was Auburn University (my alma mater) playing The University of Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.  It was also a time to teach my 11-year-old daughter about winning and losing, being appreciative, enjoying the New Orleans experience and food (and yes, off of Bourbon Street, she’s 11….) and trying to instill in her that this was indeed a life experience and not how her parents experienced football in college.

We met two sets of good friends at the airport in Dallas.  One has an executive role with the Big 12 and he was the genie that granted access that would make a rock star jealous.  The others were our new neighbors who are very active and avid OU fans.  We pretty much were the only Auburn people on the plane and after the fifth round of “Boomer Sooner,” I had to let out a loud War Eagle.  Proud parent moment with my kiddo when she stood up and did it even louder.  It was one of those agree to disagree moments with our friends, but Morgan’s fearlessness made us all proud.

We arrived on New Year’s Eve and promptly went to Frankie and Johnny’s for a late lunch.  There the gluttony began as we sampled most of what the restaurant offers along with rounds of gin and tonics.  The food was great!

That took us through to the big gala party on New Year’s Eve, where we opened a bottle of the Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose Champagne, which is billed as the most recognized rosé champagne in the world, as our pre-celebration.  This is such a great champagne, which is still made in the saignee method and whose bottle was inspired by King Henri IV.  It was vibrant, rich and wonderful with notes of berry, brioche, cherry and cassis.  It was absolutely the right start to bring in a new year.

John and Ed

Me and Amy

 Angie and Jay Jacobs, me and John

 

The party was amazing — it was a who’s who in the conference football world, the oysters and seafood were flowing and I was dancing my butt off (my favorite thing to do, but usually only happens once a year).  And, then we got the kiddo call around 11.  She wanted us to be back at the hotel with her when the ball dropped.  So, reluctantly, we made the good parent decision and decided that opening that bottle of 2013 Ehlers Estate J Leducq would ease the pain.  We complied and continued to drink wine back in the room.  This is a wine blog, what else did you expect?

Janice and Melanie, Big 12 Women That Make Things Happen, Amy and me

 Let’s Just Say There is a Reason I Outsource Crafts

 

The next morning, January 1st, I had the chance to be a part of the ladies Sugar Bowl event, where we met at Pat O’Briens, decorated our umbrellas and marched down Bourbon Street to a private lunch at Arnaud’s.  I had to clandestinely hide my Auburn paraphernalia as I decorated with the Big 12 folks, but they were incredibly gracious and made me feel right at home.  We went to an Auburn party later that afternoon where I got to see some of my dearest college friends (naturally I forgot to take pictures) and their families and later met up with John’s family for dinner.

The next day we received a surprise text from Auburn.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I am on the PR Advisory Council for the School and work very closely with Athletic Director, Jay Jacobs and his very talented marketing/communications team.  “Good morning. I would like for you to sit in the suite with my family.  Would you like to do that?”  I was in the gym and tried to refrain from jumping up in down with 12 pound weights in my hands.  Of course, we immediately jumped on the opportunity.

Since we went to the gym, we opened a bottle of the Côté Mas St. Hilarie Crémant de Limoux NV Brut, for our walk to Peche because we were in a celebratory mode.  It was a great under $15 sparkling with notes of green apple, toast and citrus.  Very drinkable, very affordable.  Definitely something a divided table of Auburn and OU fans could agree upon.  That may have been my favorite meal in New Orleans.

Ashley, one of my dear college friends, and me

It was important to pay the suite generosity forward, so I sent out a text to some friends asking if anyone could use our tickets.  A great friend responded that she really could use them so I had the chance to run into her as well while we had an amazing lunch at Pesce.  The oysters and 2015 Domain Girard Sancerre pairing will run through my dreams for a long time.

Our Super Talented Bus Driver Breaks It Down While We Wait for Our Police Escort (seriously, did I just type that?)

 

Me, the aforementioned 11 year old daughter, and John

The game was a blur.  We boarded our bus to the game with the Big 12 folks where we were serenated by our very talented bus driver while we waited for our police escort, which was late.  We then went to the Auburn side of the pre-game party and ran into some old friends along the way.  The suite was amazing and it was fun to see my kiddo get into the game and have a great time.  We were up in the first quarter and things were looking good until our quarterback broke his arm.  At that point, the game momentum shifted.

We stayed until the end, got back on the escorted bus and ended up in the Big 12/OU lounge with lots of happy fans for the other team.  They were incredibly kind, the drinks were flowing and it was an awesome lesson for our daughter on how to be a good loser.  She even had her own Big 12 badge as reinforcement, but was definitely ready with a good “War Eagle” at any time.




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