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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:

DSC03167 (2)

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.

DSC03170

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.


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

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

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

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

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

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


Wine, Women and Song

Last night, I met two of my dear girlfriends at Veritas (a Dallas wine bar).  It had been too long since we had seen each other – it always is – and we needed to catch up.  As usual, there were some big surprises – one had conducted a whirlwind romance over  the previous 10 days unbeknownst to us.  Some things remained the same – we all needed more time in the day and we all wanted more work/life balance.  We talked, laughed, drank some good wine and ate some unique cheese.

My first glass was the 05 Outpost Howell Mountain Petite Sirah.  I got a great deal of white pepper, big berry taste and some mint and chocolate on the finish.  I ordered this wine last week and enjoyed it more than I did this week.  Not sure if it had spent a little too much time in the bottle, but it didn’t have the depth it did before.

The second glass was the 07 Mettler Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.  This one would definitely benefit with some age, but I enjoyed the big fruit and balance of the wine.  As long as it remains a by the glass option, it will be my Veritas red of choice.

These are wines that are truly off the beaten path and cannot be found in your local grocery store or most likely, your local restaurant.  In my local wine column in Black White and Read a few months ago, I ranted about how our local restaurants should take the same care with their wine as they do with their food choices.  We need to rally to support those neighborhood wine bars and restaurants that do.  Go with your friends – it will be a guaranteed great night of food, wine, laughter (and potentially song) and you’ll make your local wine world a better place.

P.S. If you do visit Veritas on Monday, all wines by the glass are half price.




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