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Paso Robles: History in the Glass

Our second day in Paso Robles was billed as a “vineyard to glass” experience.  We started with our chariot bus from Breakaway Tours where Owner Jill Tweedie helped start our journey in style.  We arrived at the train-themed Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery, where Matt Merrill, the general manager, and Jim Shumate, the winemaker, greeted us with a tour.

 

The Merrill family has been growing grapes for eight generations and the business is still family owned.  After 30 years of growing for others, they decided to produce and farm their own wines five years ago.  The Merrill’s great grandfather was a railroad engineer and the tribute to him is an integral part of the winery experience.

 

 

Also joining us was Steve Martell, the winemaker for Sextant Wines and Ashley Leslie, portfolio manager.  Sextant is located right around the corner and Steve talked about how he uses fruit from the Pomar Junction as well as his own 100-acre vineyard.  This is when we started to hear about the Templeton Gap influence and how the diverse number of climates in the region along with the calcareous rock allow for so many different wines to be produced.  Jim Gerakaris, Winery Sommelier of Justin Wine, also talked about how Paso Robles has all of the qualities of any great global wine region.  Jim Shumate also talked about the lack of fear in trying new things that pushes the winemakers to do things that are different.

 

Our next stop was Adelaida Cellars, another family-owner vineyard located in the mountainous Adelaida District.  The winery focuses on Rhône, pinot noir, zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon.  The winery has 750 acres of vineyards in three different locations.  We hiked up to a spectacular view of the entire AVA and were greeted by Jeremy Weintraub, winemaker, and Paul Sowerby, national sales manager.  Also joining us was Jason Joyce, winemaker from Calcareous Vineyard, and Jordan Fiorentini, winemaker of Epoch Wines.  We took in the palate of colors from the mountain, drinking a Adelaida Rose, life was good.  Jason talked about the diversity of the region, “You throw a rock and find a new soil type.”

 

Jason Joyce, winemaker from Calcareous Vineyard

We came back to the tasting room that was remodeled about two years ago where we tried a line-up of great wines from these producers and had lunch.  The Rhone influence was really fun to see (and try) and the wines that are being produced out of the region were top notch.  It’s an influence of Old World vs New World with a special blend of Paso uniqueness thrown into the mix.

 

Our next stop was a first for me – Pasolivo Olive Oil.  We experienced the process of tasting five different oils, adding spices (habanero, lemon pepper, Italian mix, etc) and determining our perfect blend.  It was fun to go into the orchard and see the olive trees in bloom.

 

 

 

We then traveled to one of the pioneers in the region, Tablas Creek Vineyard.  Tablas Creek is a decades-long friendship between the Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, a long-time importer and founder of Vineyard Brands.  In 1985, the families formally partnered and purchased the 120-acre property in 1989.  The vineyard is all about the limestone and chalky soils and temperatures that allows the sun to ripen the grapes, the rain to dry farm the vineyard and for biodynamic farming.  When Tablas Creek couldn’t get the quality of vines it wanted back in the 1990’s, it imported cuttings directly from the Beaucastel vineyard and then shared them.  In fact, there are more than 400 wineries that have descendants of these cuttings today.  Our host, Manager John Morris, talked about how making better Rhone wines helps the quality and acceptance of these wines on a global scale.  We toured the vineyards, met alpacas and sheep, learned how to graft a grapevine and saw the sustainability measures in place firsthand.

We finished in the tasting room where we tasting 12 Rhone-style wines – a diverse range from red to white to rose.  After a day at Tablas, one proudly sports the badge of a “Rhone Ranger.”

We then had about 47 seconds to get back to the hotel and change for our dinner at Thomas Hill Organics, a restaurant that started as a CSA and then evolved into a well-known restaurant that focuses on local ingredients.  We had pairings for each course and four winemakers joined us – Kevin Willenborg from Vina Robles; Molly Lonborg (assistant winemaker) from Halter Ranch; Tom Lane from Bianchi Winery and JC Diefenderfer from Treana.


Tom from Bianchi has been the head winemaker for the past 11 years and bought the property 16 years ago.  He was born in Kansas and had “an illogical, romantic vision of what winemaking would be,” he said.  This was also his second career – he has three other degrees in biology, chemistry and botany.  Tom is the quintessential Renaissance man.  He actually brought the shocker wine of the meal – a Gewürztraminer that was an awesome dry white wine.

I didn’t get to spend much time with Molly from Halter Ranch Vineyard, which originally started as a grower’s vineyard.  The winery does 15 varietals – 60 percent Bordeaux and 40 percent Rhone-based.  Molly was generous enough to give us a bottle of wine to take and it was absolutely delicious.

Kevin from Vina Robles was also on the other side of the table.  He talked about the importance of having the vines do the work.  “You express the fruit, you never mask the fruit,” he said.

JC from Treana originally wanted to be a circuit board engineer until analog geometry got in the way.  But he knew he still wanted to develop, build and create.  His long-time friend, Austin Hope asked him to design and build their crush facility in Paso Robles.  This led to JC being on the winemaking team at Hope Family Wines starting in 1998 where he apprenticed under then-winemaker Chris Phelps.  When Austin asked him what he wanted to do, winemaking was the obvious choice.  “There are many of us that make Paso special by doing things differently,” he said.

My sense of community being alive and well in the region was reinforced.  The growers and winemaker look at making this one of the greatest regions in the world as a team effort.  The fact that Tablas Creek gave away cuttings from a highly-regarded vineyard to improve Rhone wines is only one proof point.  Winemaker Jordan Fiorentini from Epoch Estate Wines summed it up perfectly, “Make the best wines that you can and help those around you do the same.”


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):

 

Rose

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.

Whites

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.

 

Reds

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.

 


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!


A Tale of Two Cities: A Chat with Margo Van Staaveren and Christophe Paubert

 

Margo Van Staaveren, Winemaker, Chateau St. Jean, and Christophe Paubert, Winemaker and General Manager, Stags’ Leap Winery

Usually it’s the tale of two cities – Napa and Sonoma.  But sometimes there is an exception and that’s where the best stories originate.  I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with Margo Van Staaveren, winemaker for Chateau St Jean, and Christophe Paubert, winemaker and general manager for Stags’ Leap Winery.  I learned quickly that an apostrophe is worth a thousand words when you are waxing poetic about your experience with the wrong, but closely named winery.

Let’s start with the correct history of Stags’ Leap Vineyard, a vineyard with a 100+ year history and more than 240 acres, which was founded by Horace Chase and his wife, Minnie Mizner. The property was named “Stags’ Leap” after an old Indian legend, which talks about a lone stag taking a great leap over the palisades to escape hunters.  During the Chases ownership, a manor house and a winery were built and it became quite the social destination, known for great parties with prominent politicians, artists and writers in attendance.

Fast-forward to a fortune lost, and Mrs. Francis Grange acquired the property in 1913.  She transformed the property into a working ranch and Napa’s top resort.  Again, the property remained a destination for the fun and the famous.  After the Grange legacy ended, the property fell into disrepair until Carl Doumani restored the property in 1971.  Carl’s dream originally was to restore the hotel, but Napa zoning laws kept that from being a reality.  He planted grapes instead.  Today the 80-are vineyard is divided into 23 blocks.

Christope joined Stags’ Leap in 2011 and has worked at some of the world’s most pre-eminent vineyards including Chateau d’Yquem and Gruard-Larose as well as projects in Chile, Spain and Washington State.  He wanted to go to California, but also wanted to make sure he could still produce the wines in the style that he was passionate about creating.  He said he was the only winemaker to actually bring his own wines to the interview.  Once he was hired, first and foremost, he focused on the fruit, the soil and making sure “the transparency is evidence between the consumer.”

Chateau St. Jean was founded in the Sonoma Valley in 1973 and has long been a leader in showcasing vineyard-designated wines with a “small lot mentality.”  In the beginning of its history, the winery made single vineyard cabernet sauvignon, merlot and zinfandel as well as chardonnay.  But, the winery became known for producing award-winning chardonnay and Chateau St Jean stopped making red wine in the early 80s.  In the mid 80’s, the vineyard was replanted and the winery started again to produce red wines.

Margo’s husband, Don, was the assistant winemaker when Cinq Cepages Cabernet, a Bordeaux blend of five varieties of Chateau St Jean was the first Sonoma winery to be awarded the Wine Spectator’s “Wine of the Year.”  I asked Margo if she felt pressure about continuing the award-winning tradition, she said “Absolutely not.  I was part of this team from the beginning.”

The year 2015 will mark Margo’s 36th harvest at the winery, which becomes an even cooler story when she tells you how she started as a lab tech.  We talked a little about some of the women like Merry Edwards who helped to pave the way.  Her perception that she’ll validate in time for a spring keynote is that the percentage of women involved in the winemaking top roles probably remains the same today as it was 35 years ago.  I sure hope that isn’t the case.

In talking with Margo, she is all about capturing what makes each vintage special with the best the fruit can bring to the wine.  I tried the following wines from both winemakers during the tasting:

-       2011 Chateau St Jean, Robert Young Vineyard Chardonnay,

-       2012 Stags’ Leap, Napa Valley Cabernet

-       2012 Stags’ Leap, Napa Valley “The Investor”

-       2012 Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Petite Sirah

-       2010 Chateau St Jean, Cinq Cepages

The philosophies of both winemakers and vineyards are the same.  The wines sampled were all delicious and truly showed this guiding principles of showcasing terroir, blending Old World and New World techniques and making the best and most genuine wine possible.   Both winemakers told me they look to retain their own expressions, but they have the “keys” and the crews behind them who make the wine possible.

 


January Wines Under $25

I was falling way behind on my wine reviews so I gathered the work folks together and it was time to celebrate Wine Wednesday.  This time, we were more successful with the wine selection.  We tried seven wines and I’m going to write about five of them.

Sparking:

  • Sokol Blosser Evolution Sparkling NV – this was a delicious sparkling that could be opened on any night.  It was full of tropical fruit, green apple, baked bread and minerality.  There was a little bit of sweetness, but a very nice balance.

White:

  • 2013 Hanna Chardonnay – full of baked apple, tropical fruit, crème brulee and hazelnut.  This was another well balanced chardonnay that had a nice proportion of oak.
  • 2013 Hahn SLH Chardonnay – also with baked apple, citrus, toffee and lemongrass.  A nice chardonnay for the person who is not a fan of chardonnay.

Red:

  • 2012 Hahn SLH Pinot Noir – lots of deep cherry, black currant, vanilla, spice and cherry cola.  This was both fruity and herbal at the same time.
  • 2012 True Grit Reserve Petite Sirah — this was bold and immense with notes of blackberry, spice, chocolate, mocha, eucalyptus and caramel.  This was a fantastic find.

Elyse Winery: Sincerity and Sustainability

Even before I was lucky enough to get on the blogger sample list for Elyse Winery, I’ve been a long-time fan.  I like Elyse’s approach to sustainable wines, their no fuss approach at the winery and the people have always been knowledgeable, passionate and downright nice.  Rick Saunders was our host and we had a ball with him on the tour and trying the Elyse wine line up.

Rick and Molly

In 2012, Elyse celebrated its 25th harvest from its very first crush of 4.5 tons of Zinfandel when Ray and Nancy Coursen made 286 cases of their first wine.   In 1997, the current winery and vineyard was purchased on Hoffman Lane.

Their focus hasn’t changed – great wines prepared with artisan grown ingredients that pair well with food. Today the production is 10,000 cases with international distribution.  The two brands – Elyse and Jacob Franklin are named after their daughter and son.

We tried the following line-up:

  • Elyse Chardonnay 2010 – made in a classic Old World style with citrus, pear and vanilla.  A chardonnay for folks who don’t drink Chardonnay or who love old world style Chardonnays.
  • Jacob Franklin Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – only six barrels are made of this wine and it isn’t distributed outside of the winery.  Classic grapefruit, citrus and minerality.
  • Elyse Le Corbeau 2008 – a 90 percent Grenache and 10 percent Syrah blend.  It had floral notes of jasmine with raspberry and cassis.
  • Elyse Syrah 2008 – notes of Asian spice, mushrooms and berry with a spiciness that would make it a great Fall day wine.
  • Elyse Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel 2008 – here’s the terrior wine that originally launched the entire Elyse portfolio.  Love this wine.
  • Elyse Black Sears Zinfandel 2008 – this was a big, big Zinfandel with nice berry fruit, but not a fruit bomb.  Lots of balance, pepper, spicy and juiciness.
  • Jacob Franklin Mon Chou (my sweetheart) 2007 – a nice blend in a Bordeaux style with notes of green pepper, cassis, berry and tobacco.
  • Elyse Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – soft fruits, notes of perfume, floral and hints of oak and vanilla.
  • Jacob Franklin Chavez-Leeds Petite Syrah 2009 – blackberry, chocolate, mocha, spice and pepper.  This was one of my favorites.
  •  Elyse 2006 Port Cabernet Sauvignon – this port combined Viognier brandy with great cabernet.  It was another favorite and a perfect cheese/fruit/dessert match.

It was a fabulous end to a behind the scenes trip of good wine, great food and great people.

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yarden Mount Herman White 2011

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

Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

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

Yarden T2

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

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

Elyse 2010 Petite Sirah

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

Elyse 2007 Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

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

Elyse 2008 Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yarden Mount Herman White 2011

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

Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

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

Yarden T2

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

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

Elyse 2010 Petite Sirah

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

Elyse 2007 Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

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

Elyse 2008 Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel

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

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

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


Christmas in August: Pioneer Wine Expo in Dallas

I can’t help but thinking about the Christmas song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” whenever I venture into a Pioneer Wine Portfolio tasting.  In order to bring this scenario to life, imagine a room full of five year old children who make a mad dash for all the shiny toys left for them by Santa on Christmas morning.  Well, maybe it’s a little more dignified than that, but it’s the same concept when you take a hotel ballroom filled with tables and tables of wine with wine makers that are passionate about sharing the story of their wines.  For me, it’s better than Christmas (sorry Jesus).

I wanted to outline some wines that were the highlight of my tasting; some that are new to Texas:

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Tuck Beckstoffer Wines, Tony Glorioso

Tuck Beckstoffer wines – Tuck has been producing wines under his namesake label since 1997 and is known for well-priced, critically acclaimed wines.

  • The Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Amulet’ was great and the single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Mockingbird’ 07 red was exceptional.
  • The terrior made a big difference (warm vs. cooler and higher elevation) between the Pinot Noirs tried – the 07 ‘Semper’ Gold Vineyard and the ‘Semper’ Ellenbach Vineyard.  I loved the fruit, femininity and silkiness of the Ellenbach Pinot.

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Lioco, Matt Licklider

Lioco wines –  These are a labor of love from Matt Licklider and Kevin O’Connor, two wine lovers who decided to create a negociant wine label focusing on Old World style wines made in … get this … California.  The philosophy is to tie the wines to the terrior and to make them naturally.  My favorites included:

  • Lioco 09 Sonoma Chardonnay – this wine mirrors a French Bourgogne Blanc and was a very nice Old World style wine.
  • Lioco 09 Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyards was full of black tea, dried orange peel and oriental spice.  It’s a wonderful Pinot.
  • Lioco Indica 09 – this blend of Old Vine Carignan was a nice and inexpensive wine that you want restaurants to serve by the glass.  Just a nice drinking wine.

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Mauritson Vineyards, Suzanne Gay

Rockpile wines – the Healdsburg-based Mauritson Family is known for making award-winning wines from tough vines located on a rocky ridge, an active earthquake fault and at a high elevation.  From what I tried, they are doing it exceptionally well and the terrain is tough enough that only 13 others are making wine there.  My favorites included:

  • My absolute best of show was the 08 Rockpile Petite Sirah.  What a lush, fruity spicy, fabulous wine.
  • 07 Rockpile Red Blend ‘Buck Pasture’ was also great with notes of black cherry, tobacco and even a little cola.

I also had a chance to run into Rick Ruiz from Twenty Four Wines, who was nice enough to share his latest vintage.  Lots of berry, dark fruit, cassis with the nice integration of oak.  This was a wine you wanted to drink at the beginning of the party verses the end.  If this preview served as a snapshot of some of the wines available in the Texas market, grab the wine list at most local restaurants and demand more.


Bailey’s Prime Plus Hosts Scholium Project

Check out my first guest blog post on Crave DFW, one of our city’s best food sites talking about the Scholium Project wine dinner at Bailey’s Prime Plus.




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