Archived entries for French Wines

October Wine Round Up: Favorite Samples Over the Past Months

Today I’m going to talk about some of my favorite recent samples, which include wine and for the first time, spirits.  I tried 28 wines and 12 of them made the list along with one gin and one vodka.


2013 Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec – this was a great expression of Malbec.  Lots of berry, plum, herbs, mocha and chocolate notes.  I brought this to a girl’s wine group and it disappeared quickly.

2013 Gloria Ferrer Pinot Noir – this had a nice earthiness and notes of black cherry, strawberry and a nice touch of herbs.

2014 Flora Springs Merlot – this was a well-balanced merlot with plum, chocolate, berry and a bit of cherry.

Locations by Dave Phinney E and F – Dave Phinney has always had a personal mission to make the best wines possible.  Now he is taking his concept that he can get great grapes from vineyards (taking out the appellation rules) across the world and use his winemaking skills to make great wines.  It works.  I tried several of his wines and was impressed with the result.  The E blend from Spain had lots of cherry, plum, berry and spice.  The F blend from France was delicious with Grenache (Roussillon), Syrah (Rhone) and Bordeaux Blend Varieties.

2012 Northstar Merlot – this merlot was velvet on the tongue with notes of raspberry, cherry and chocolate and a hint of vanilla.

2013 True Myth Cabernet Sauvignon — rich berry, dark cherry, mocha, a touch cedar.  Very easy drinking.


Jolie Folle Rosé – this embodies everything that a good rosé should be.  Notes of strawberry, watermelon and a great minerality.


2013 Ramey Chardonnay – orange blossom, stone fruit, buttered popcorn and floral notes make this a wonderful entry level chardonnay that keeps its balance.

2015 Martin Ray Chardonnay – this old world chardonnay had notes of white stone fruit, flowers, vanilla and was delicious.

2014 Castello Banfi San Angelo Pinot Grigio – this was a nice representation of a pinot grigio.  Fruity, crisp and a nice minerality makes it a great porch Summer wine.

2014 Grillo Cavallo delle Fate Sicilia DOC – this was my first experience with Grillo from Sicily and not my last.  It is a very easy drinking wine with lots of white stone fruit.


For the first time, I had the chance to try the Azzurre gin and vodka.  They are both made from apples, grapes and sugar cane with no added ingredients.  I served these both at a dinner party and to rave reviews.  I enjoyed both of them, but found myself going back to the gin as it truly was a sipping gin with lots of fruit-forward notes that also sung with specialty tonics.

Wines of Roussillon: A Chat with Sommelier Caleb Ganzer and Snooth’s Mark Angelillo

Caleb and Mark, Co-Hosts for the Session

The Roussillon wine region is all about passing along wisdom, the culmination of thousands of years of history and a place with a personality exemplifying character and honesty.  Before I attended Snooth’s Wines of Roussillon media event, hosted by Caleb Ganzer, a sommelier and Wines of Roussillon expert, and Mark Angelillo, co-founder/CEO of Snooth, I didn’t know the extent of the important story housed in this region and in these wines.

There is a misperception about the region that needs to be changed.

The Languedoc-Roussillon region spans the Mediterranean coastline from the French border of Spain to the region of Provence.  It has 700,000 acres under vines and is the single largest wine producing region in the world – eclipsing other wine regions.

The Roussillon wine region is a different and a smaller piece of the Languedoc-Roussillon located near narrow valleys around the Pyrenees.  It is open to the Mediterranean Sea to the East and three rivers, the Agly, the Tet and the Tech, define the topology of the region.  Why is this important?  Think of the differences of a boutique winery – smaller production, greater concentration on the terroir and more focus on what is in the bottle – vs. a winery that ships 2,000,000 cases of mass produced wine.  Caleb categorized it as a “gem in the rough” in a region that is known for wines for a larger mass market.

The Roussillon region, which was acquired by the French from Spain in the mid seventeenth century, was once known as a producer of sweet wines.  However, with the Old Vines of the region and more than 20 soil types in the mountainous region ranging from chalk, limestone, gravel and alluvial soils, some vineyards decided to make the pivotal shift to making dry table wines.  I would characterize most of these having concentration, extracted flavor and intensity and is one heck of a value as compared to many other Old World wines.

Here was our line-up: 

2014 Côtes du Roussillon Blanc: Michel Chapoutier, Les Vignes de Bila Haut – this is the only wine with Texas distribution and I had the opportunity to try it prior to this tasting. I absolutely adored the fact that Michel Chapoutier was one of the pioneers of providing Braille on the label – making wine accessible to all as it should be.  It was a combination of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Macabeu with a mix of tropical, citrus and floral notes and a nice minerality.

2011 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel: Gérard Bertrand, Tautavel Grand Terroir – this wine was a combination of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan.  Bertrand is known for owning some of the most premium wine estates in the South of France and is known for wines expressing the unique terroirs of the region.  The soil is chalky and I tasted black cherry, plum, boysenberry, mocha, cocoa powder and the nose was almost port-like.  Wine Writer Meg Houston Maker likened it to the French version of Malbec with its concentration, acidity and balance.  This wine would stand up well to Texas BBQ.

2013 Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres: Château Planères, La Romanie – also grown in mountainous terroir with clay and gravel soil, this wine was made of Syrah, Mourvedre and Black Grenache.  It was a rustic Old World wine with notes of menthol, spice, black fruit and I think will be spectacular with some more time in the cellar or the right food pairing.

2013 Maury Sec: Domaine Cabirau, Cuvée Serge et Nicolas – described as the prototypical most picturesque and beautiful village that postcards are made of, this wine was nuanced, earthy and delicious.  Definitely one of my favorites from the tasting.

We then moved to the sweet wines of the region – including one made from Muscat and then to a red fortified wine of the Banyuls.  The 2011 Muscat de Rivesaltes : Domaine Cazes had notes of honeysuckle and flowers made from two different muscat grapes.  The 2014 Banyuls Rimage: Domaine La Tour Vieille, which was made of grenache, had notes of raspberry, godiva chocolate and plum.

My big takeaway was the diversity of the region, the range of styles and an increased focus on quality.

A Conversation with Akiko Freeman: The Story of An Almost Accidental Winemaker

Ken and Akiko Freeman

I recently spent the evening at Lakewood Country Club with Ken and Akiko Freeman, the founders of Freeman Vineyard & Winery based in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley.  In the spirt of full disclosure, I serve as the wine committee chairman and was an invited guest.  Akiko, who serves as the winemaker, was my dining companion and she told me the story of how Freeman began and how she started to make wine.

It all began with Ken’s passion for wine and his desire to buy a winery.  Ken and Akiko were enthralled with Burgundian Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and believed CaIifornia was able to produce that style of wine.  They looked at over 300 vineyards in search of a place that had the temperatures and coastal breezes to produce these wines.  The final chosen property had a winery that was started in 1978, but closed in 1981.  The first step was to buy fruit.

Well-known winemaker Ed Kurtzman served as the consulting winemaker starting in 2001 and Akiko became an accidental winemaker.  She originally served as an apprentice to Ed when she realized that they didn’t have the budget to hire an assistant winemaker and they were all in on making this dream a reality.  As Akiko stated, “Eighty percent of winemaking is cleaning up and that is how I learned.  But I fell in love with science and the art of fermentation along the way.”

After seven years as an assistant and ‘a million questions later,’ Ed told her she was ready to take the reins.  I could tell this is a woman who loves her job and based on the critic accolades and the fact that you can only buy these wines off the mailing list, she has come a long way from a wine collector to a wine maker.  While Ed still is deeply involved with the sales and marketing side of Freeman, Akiko drives the process.

Akiko grew up in Tokyo and her grandfather’s love for wine, literature and art was her inspiration.  She visited New York to study abroad and met Ken, who became her husband.  They visited California wineries and decided that owning one was a long-term goal.  Later, she received her Master’s degree in Italian Renaissance art history from Stanford where she traveled around the world.  After earning his M.B.A. from Kellogg, Ken established the Discovery Channel in Asia.  A position at CNET moved the Freeman’s to California and the winery plan was established.

Four years after they purchased the property in Sebastopol, they acquired an adjacent property, now the site of their Gloria Estate Vineyard; and in 2007 they purchased the Freeman Ranch further west in the Sonoma Coast appellation, where they planted their second vineyard, named ‘Yu-ki’.  The Freeman’s work with a variety of vineyard partners.  The winery makes less than 5,000 cases per year of their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Our line up of the wines and dinner that was prepared by Lakewood Country Club’s talented Executive Chef William Koval (who happened to be the youngest executive chef for the Ritz Carlton and the chef who received a Mobil star during his tenure at the French Room in Dallas) was perfect.  Here’s the overview:

2013 Freeman Ryo-Chardonnay with seared sea scallop, sweet potato pine nut sage, ravioli and ver jus.

2013 Freeman Russian River Valley Pinot with seared ahi, herbs, foie gras with apple raisin compote and red wine butter

2012 Freeman Sonoma Coast Pinot with bacon seared pheasant, farro parmesan style risotto, pear salad and green peppercorn pheasant jus.

2013 Freeman Keefer Ranch Pinot with peppered Colorado lamb medallions, pancetta, fava bean, sweet carrot Brussel sprout with a huckleberry sauce.

Our dessert was a warm lemon soufflé cake with chocolate ice cream.

Elegance is what Akiko is serving for in her wines.  “It’s completely a philosophy of using the best fruit, handling it with care and making the best wine possible,” she said.

The Oscar Goes to … Piper Heidsieck



When one gets an invitation to a party by the official champagne host of the Academy Awards, the answer is a resounding yes.  From the moment we walked the red carpet at the terrace of the Joule Hotel – naturally in our black tie attire – this was a dress to impress party that was absolutely a special occasion.  Aside from the Oscars in Los Angeles, other parties were held in other major markets in the US including New York.

First, the champagne was free flowing starting with the Piper Heidsieck Brut NV and the Piper Heidsieck Rose Sauvage.  As the evening continued, we had a chance to sample both the 1999 and 2002 Piper Heidsieck Millesime Champagne, which were poured at the Oscars and the bottles had a detachable Tierra (of course I had to wear it).  Naturally it was opened by sabering the bottle.  The guests had a chance to fill out Oscar ballots and win prizes so the spirit of competition kicked into gear.   There were great prizes from customized gear to magnums of champagne.

Terri Burney, Owner of Winetastic and Oscar Trivia Pro

I started off strongly with my ballot, but sadly ended up pretty middle of the road at the end with some of the big upsets like best picture.  Thankfully, the owner of Winetastic, a great wine bar in Dallas, took home the special magnum, so I was glad to see that it found a good home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Our line-up looked a little like this.

The White Flight:

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

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

The Red Flight:

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

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

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

The Passion, The Paycheck and What’s Pending?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m On A Boat – Wine, Stormtroopers and A Drone Bring the Night to Life

Welcome to Miami … Bienvenidos a Miami… nine months of long work hours and lots of planning was finally coming to a head with the arrival of several hundred customers for the paying gig’s annual Summit event. 

What does this have to do with a wine blog?  Well, I always try to bring you guys into my experiences and this was quite the experience. There was amazing food, lots of great wine, a ton of dancing and very early mornings combined with lots of late nights.

And then there was the boatI’m on a boat with a Storm Trooper (if you like the above pic, clink on the link)!  The customer appreciation party featured quite the cast of characters, tons of free flowing wine, an awesome DJ and a fireworks show that was captured by a drone flying above the yacht.  My team rocked it – what a talented group of folks that brought a life moment experience to light.

Just another experience – probably not replicable – But definitely a bucket list moment.


Auburn Football, College Friends and Legendary Wine

My family and Jay Jacobs, Auburn’s Athletic Director

The day started out with sunshine and a perfect 65 degrees.  It was time for some Auburn football. If you’ve followed this blog, you know that I am an Auburn fan.  I was brought to the prettiest campus in the SEC for a day of steering committee meetings – one for the Auburn Athletics Department and one for the School of Communications.  My family joined me after the meetings on Friday night and our host, Auburn Athletic Director, Jay Jacobs, completely rolled out the “orange and blue” carpet.

The Daniels and Ofenloch Families

We met up with some dear friends – a college roommate and her husband, who along with my husband, might have well have lived alongside us in our college days – and our families.  It’s always an interesting experience to pretend to be an adult with friends that you’ve known since the early days…

My family, including my ten-year-old daughter who has never known what it means to sit in the student section, was led down to the field and we experienced the joy and energy of watching people file into the stadium.  We watched Tiger, the eagle, fly onto the field while being mere feet away from the players.  Awe inspiring…. Then we had another experience – an Auburn suite, which was beneficial as it began raining during the game and the temperature started to plummet.

It was a good game but much closer than I had hoped.  Friends from the Athletic Council, Nancy and Randy Campbell, who happened to be the senior quarterback from the 1983 Auburn National Championship team, invited us back to their place.  The Campbell’s – other than being one of the most fun couples to hang out with, have impeccable taste in wine and the bottles started to open and the glasses were flowing.

It was a day that wine, football, family and friends intersected perfectly.

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