Archived entries for Italian Wines

Wines That Stand Up to Scorching Texas Temperatures

It’s July in Texas.  The temperature is scorching, the lake parties are plentiful and the wine is flowing.  This wine round-up features wines from seven different regions and unique countries. It was also my first experience with Albariño from Uruguay.  I reviewed 20 wines and here are the ones that made the cut.



2015 Matchbook Rosé – we were at a friend’s lake house when we tried this Syrah-based rosé.  It was an awesome complement to a hot day.  Notes of ripe melon, strawberry and a nice creaminess.  It was gone in a matter of minutes…



2013 Balletto Cedar Ridge Chardonnay – Rich and elegant, with citrus, guava honey and floral notes make this an easy drinking, yet nuanced Chardonnay.

New Zealand

2015 Chasing Venue New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – tropical, grapefruit, lime and passion fruit made this a well-balanced representation of this region.


2015 Bodega Garzon Albariño – ever tried an Albariño from Uruguay?  I hadn’t either.  Really nice stone fruit, citrus and flowers with notes of minerality and a rich mouthfeel.



2014 Balletto BCD Vineyard Pinot Noir – black cherry, mocha, mushroom and spice make this a nuanced and elegant pinot noir.

2012 Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – this Bordeaux blend is delicious. Notes of blackberries and black cherries with cedar and chocolate.  This wine is elegant, silky and drinks beautifully.

2013 Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon – blackberry, cassis, herbs, mocha and dark cherry make this a smooth and very drinkable wine.


2014 Tenuta Sassoregale Sangiovese Maremma Toscana – this is a wine with a personality. Big notes of black cherry and berries, licorice, herbs and spice.


2014 Left Coast Cellars Cali’s Cuvee Pinot Noir – cherry, herbs, white pepper and cassis make this a fabulous representation of Oregon Pinot Noir.


2010 Marques de Riscal Baron de Chirel Reserve Rioja – this wine was absolutely delicious.  Big notes of blackberry, stewed prunes, vanilla, smoke and spice made this an elegant and big Rioja that just got better and better as you sipped it.

Day Three Paso Robles: From Zip Liner to Winer to Niner (Estates)

Feeling pretty certain this is a day that I will not be able to replicate … in any other wine region.  And how cool is that?

We arrived at Ancient Peaks Winery, which was the vision of three local winegrowing and ranching families, who dreamed of producing great wines from the Margarita Ranch region.  Fun fact – Robert Mondavi planted the Margarita Vineyard under a lease agreement until 2005 (when the Constellation acquisition happened) when the families decided to make the wines from their vineyard.  Ancient Peaks was chosen as the name due to the mountains that border Margarita Vineyard.  Santa Margarita Ranch first had grapes planted by Franciscan missionaries in 1780 and today is one of California’s oldest continuously operated cattle ranches.  With five distinct soil types and over 50 vineyard blocks, this is a winery that happens to have a town located in the middle of the ranch property.

We started our day with VP of Operations, Amanda Wittstrom Higgins, and Director of Winemaking, Mike Sinor, with a safety lesson, a release form, tons of equipment ranging from a helmet to a harness to gloves and we set up the mountain to begin our adventure.  It was time to go zip lining across the pinot vineyards … and how cool is that?  Click here for my Paso Robles Zipline experience. We had a few folks on the team that opted out, but the rest of us were ready to go and seek adventure.  And what an adrenaline high!

Director of Winemaking, Mike Sinor

After our zip line experience, we adjourned to the tasting room to learn more about the vineyard and the wines.  I loved the story about evolving from a corporate relationship to a small family-owned business based on wine quality and a focus on a sense of place.  Sinor said, “we want to let the vineyard speak and make wines that express the vintage for a price that over delivers.”

Our next stop was my favorite food experience (with fantastic wine) of the entire trip.  Niner Wine Estates is a LEED Certified Winery at Heart Hill Vineyard, a vineyard that has a natural heart-shaped growth.  We were hosted by Andy Niner, General Manager, and Molly Bohlman, Winemaker, who talked candidly about the struggles of pulling off a big estate vision – planting and harvesting three wineries, launching one restaurant with well-known chef Maegan Loring and making the decision to focus on estate wines – mostly Bordeaux and Rhone varietals.



Our lunch was amazing (I am still dreaming about the carrot soup which shockingly was fantastic with the Sangiovese) and we had the chance to visit the chef garden, which was an exercise in frenetic harvesting, in motion.  The experience was an artistic vison of how each wine should go with the food.

We briefly visited Tin City, a business park of small production wineries.  We toured Field Recordings, where we saw some innovative wine canning and packaging, and Broadside Wines, which had some off the beaten path Italian varietals.  The next stop was ONX Wines, which was one of my favorite wineries of the trip.  ONX only makes 4,000 cases and is the only estate vineyard in the Tin City complex.  I loved these wines and would have shipped them home, but many of them were sold out due to the small production quantity.

Our next stop was Eberle Winery, the oldest continuously owned winery in Paso.  Gary Eberle is often referred to as the “godfather of Paso Robles” and was instrumental in establishing the AVA in 1983.  After graduating from Penn State with a football scholarship, he joined the SEC with a graduate focus on cellular genetics.  After developing an appreciation for wine due to a professor who introduced him to great French wines, he headed to U.C. Davis for his enology degree and moved to Paso Robles in the early 1970s.  This led him to a decision in the late 70’s to produce his own wine and he founded Eberle (German name for small boar).

He also asked the Steinbeck Family, who has evolved from growers to vintner ten years ago, to show their small production wines.  These wines are fantastic but a gift to those who visit Paso and Eberle.

Gary Eberle

Eberle built the first wine caves in Paso Robles, which now total 16,000 square feet of underground caves.  He decided to create a community – tastings are free and the vibe is “family reunion.”  Gary personally cooked his world-famous BBQ paired with Eberle and Steinbeck wines as we watched the sunset over the vineyards.  Such an iconic ending with a Paso pioneer.

So let me end with the only caveat of the trip – the San Luis Obispo airport.  Be afraid – you will hear how easy, how fast, how simple your check-in will be.  This is false.  You need to allow for the 90 minutes you hear about and frequently ignore.  We didn’t do that.  Four out of six (unable to give up the wine because we couldn’t check luggage) did not make our original flight.  I made my connection (18 minutes in between) from Phoenix to Dallas doing a quintessential OJ Simpson (pre-murder) and I still feel bad for my poor seatmates.



Favorite Brands Portfolio Tasting: Kid in a Candy Store Reality

Being a blogger is pretty amazing.  The A-list invitations to dinners, wine debuts and portfolio tastings makes for a blessed existence. I recently posted pictures of more than 100 bottles of wine and amazing wine makers present at a Favorite Brands portfolio tasting and my direct messages exploded with very pointed questions about the process and how does one get invited.  Having just returned from a Universal Trip with my daughter to Harry Potter World, this is my idea of “kid in a candy store” with fun that is not manufactured.

So the main question is what is a portfolio tasting?  Essentially it’s when distributors debut the entire portfolio of wines available to the wine shops, restaurants, country clubs, etc., who have the ability to buy wines in the market.  Favorite Brands always has an incredible European portfolio of wines that are highly coveted and delicious and the wine makers are always front and center.  This year, Pierre Pastre from Chateau Fortia; Bertrand Stehilin of Bertrand Stehilin Vigneron; Bruno Boisson from Domaine Boisson and Domaine Cros de Romet; Jean Baptiste Lafond of Domaine Lafond; Luc Planty of Chateau Guiraud; John Junguenet of Alain Junguenet and Peter Wasserman of Becky Wasserman & Co all attended to talk about the wines.

Essentially, this showcase is a “best of the best” weighed by regional preference but focused on a specialty or region of wines that are believed to be successful in a certain region.  If you have heard of “wholesale markets,” this is the wine industry version of that.

I can’t tell you how to get an invite, but you will see pictures of what I loved. I hope it reaches your favorite wine bar, restaurant or retail store so you get a chance to try these wines, which is the entire goal of these portfolio tastings.


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.

Omni Barton Creek Resort: Calling All Food and Wine Lovers

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

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

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

Chef Andre Natera

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

Here was our line up:

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 26 – Niman Ranch Dinner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November (tentatively 17) Vintage wines with Charcuteries

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

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

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

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

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



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.


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

It all began with instant message on Twitter. 

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

Photo Credit: Asher Swan, Swan Photography

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

Photo Credit: Asher Swan, Swan Photography

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

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

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

  • 2013 Sojourn Chardonnay paired with Spicy Crispy Lobster

Photo Credit: Asher Swan, Swan Photography

  • 2013 Burt Street Cellars Pinot Noir with Saffron Veal Ravioli

  • 2012 Rubica Red Blend with New Orleans BBQ Shrimp

Photo Credit: Asher Swan, Swan Photography

  • 2007 Rust Ridge Cabernet with Tenderloin Skewer Salad

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

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


Chefs For Farmers: A Noah’s Ark Plan for Contigency

It was deemed the Down Home No Fuss Culinary Event of the Year.  However, Dallas weather decided anything but No Fuss was going to be in order.  Chefs for Farmers (CFF) is typically an outdoor event that brings together about 3,500 Dallasites to celebrate our farmers with great food, drink and entertainment.  Overnight, co-founder Iris Midler, who was responsible for helping bring this vision to life and clearly was Matlock in another life, and her team moved 120 vendors from an outdoor event to an indoor event at Gilleys.  You absolutely would have never known.  As someone who knows what it takes to pull off something of this magnitude without Noah’s Ark and a collapsed parking garage in play, I am in awe of this team. 

The wine was flowing, the Texas brews were poured, and the chefs were preparing a buffet beyond comprehension — from a biscuit bar to gumbo to oysters and every gourmet configuration of beef, pork, lamb and seafood that you can fathom.  Glaziers did a great Sommelier wine table, Veuve Cliquot was pouring freely and there were some great wine labels from California and Oregon who hosted their own table.  Live bands, including the one led by Dean Fearing, were playing and it was definitely a party vibe.

Omar Florez, Casa Rubio

The mission of CFF is to bring chefs, artisans, and culinary influencers together to celebrate supporting local and regional farmers at a three-day culinary blowout, a new transition this year.  By the numbers there were 35 farms and food artisans, 60 chefs, 15 beer and spirits, 42 wineries and total attendance of 3,500.  And the most important thing – this event netted $25,000.

It was clear that Dallas took the stage on a national level with this event.  My favorite quote came from Justin Brunson from the Old Major in Denver.  “Support local farmers, not those $*&$#@ factory-to-table restaurants,” he said.  Can I get an amen?

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.


March Madness: A Wino’s Perspective

I’ve had so many great stories to tell lately that it has been a while since I’ve done a wine round-up.  We tried ten wines and five made the list of our #thirstythursday tasting group.  I love bringing this group together because it is such a diverse group of palates and it has been fun to see the evolution of several of them as their passion and knowledge of wine evolves.  It also keeps snobbery in check because it’s fun to watch them discover a Zinfandel that makes them want to drink Zinfandels for the first time.

2012 Loveblock Pinot Noir – this New Zealand-based pinot noir was full of red fruit with a funky layer of earthiness.  It was well balanced and a totally different take on pinot noir that I enjoyed.

2013 The Federalist Zinfandel – this was described as “the zinfandel that makes me want to drink zinfandel” by several of the members in our group.  This was loaded with spice, berry and had big notes of mocha.  It was very approachable and drinkable.

1999 Lazzarito Vigna La Delizia Barolo – for many in the room, this was the oldest wine that they had ever tried.  It had a big earthy quality with plum and almost a raisin taste.  It was very good but I wish I had given it some decanter time and had a food pairing to match.  I wasn’t fair to the wine in that aspect.

2012 Cornerstone Cabernet Franc Napa Valley– another great representation of what a cabernet franc should taste like to be bottled on its own accord.  It was full of a balance of green pepper, chocolate and deep berry. 

2012 Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – it’s like receiving a gift from one of your favorite and elegant relatives.  You start with looking at the stylish packaging and follow by carefully unwrapping what is inside.  In this wine, I found layers of sophistication and tasted everything from blackberry to chocolate to mocha to licorice.  Intense and delicious.

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