Archived entries for Riesling

California, French and Italian Quarterly Wine Update

I had fallen behind on the work #ThirstyThursday events so it was imperative that I grab some co-workers and taste some wines.  This time, we had 14 wines from California, France and Italy.  I’m featuring the nine that made the list which did not, for the record, include the wine marketed to the “inner diva” in me.  If that what my inner diva looks like, I would say that she should stay bottled up.

White Value Wines

California

2012 Jekel Vineyard Riesling – notes of white peaches, apricot and citrus.  I fell in love with this wine last Summer.  It still is great, but something about drinking it on a cold January day vs. pool or porch-side was different. It made me yearn for warm weather.

2012 Bonterra Chardonnay – tropical fruit, almonds, lemon with a touch of oak, but had balance.  A nice chardonnay for those who don’t like chardonnays.

Italy

Bolla Prosecco NV – always a totally quaffable sparkler with notes of green apple and toast.  Drink with OJ or without.

Red Value Wines

California

2012 Artesa Pinot Noir – strawberry, black cherry, oak with floral notes.  Hands down, this was one of the top wines tasted.

2011 Bonterra Zinfandel – was what a zinfandel should be – smoky, spicy and big.

2012 Five Rivers Pinot Noir – smoky, dark cherry, earth and good balance. 

France

2012 Domaine Constant-Duquesnoy Vinsobres — a classic Rhone blend with notes of cherry, spice, herbs, earth and flowers.  This was one of my new value favorites that I will be looking to buy at my first opportunity.

Italy

2010 Bolla Creso Rosso Verona – lots of fruit, cassis, spice and leather.  A good Tuesday night pizza or pasta wine.

Red Date Night (with someone you like a lot)

2012 J Vineyards Misterra Pinot Noir ($50) – a new J Vineyards wine combining Pinot Noir, Pinotage and Pinot Meunier was earthy with notes of herbs, flowers and fig.  I really enjoyed the unique taste and blend of this offering.


Fine Wine On Tap Changes Dallas Wine By the Glass Landscape at Savor (and Beyond)

As I am in technology marketing for my paying gig, I am all about watching innovation and disruption change industries and I love watching transformations.  Google.  Apple.  Twitter. Uber.  All companies that pushed the envelope and changed the way we search, compute, live and ride. 

But let’s face it.  The wine industry has not been known for innovation and there has been a “what’s old is right mentality.” So anytime that I’m pitched a chance to talk to someone in the wine industry that is doing something different beyond a new app, you can sign me up almost immediately.

John Coleman and Dan Donahoe

I had the chance to sit down with Savor’s Executive Chef John Coleman and Free Flow Wines Co-Founder and Chairman Dan Donahoe to talk about their partnership in bringing the first premium wines on tap to Dallas.  It all started with a phone call.  John self-described himself as someone who finds it a challenge to find people who may or may not want to be found.  And, he wanted to bring innovation and “out of the box thinking” to Dallas in the form of premium wine on tap to his restaurant. A long-term friendship and business partnership was formed.

These guys are passionate about their business. And, the business benefits are impressive.  Savor is now the number one stand-alone top volume restaurant for wines on tap in the country.  Yes, Dallas – home of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay playdates and big steakhouse upcharged “premiere brands” – wins in wine innovation. 

Let’s talk about the benefits.  The keg packaging removes hundreds of tons of packaging waste from the environment.  I was there when Republic showed up to deliver the barrels.  At 58 pounds apiece, they seemed as easy as bringing in a few cases of wine.  If you’ve been to Savor, you know they don’t have a lot of space.  What they do with some many diners in such a small kitchen is pretty amazing.  And, the consistency is the real kicker.  Every glass of wine is guaranteed fresh – every single time.  I just had a great glass of one of my French favorites during a business trip to Houston.  It had turned and I sent it back.  That gets expensive for restaurants. 

I had the chance to tap my personal glass of wine.  It was lightning fast and the J Vineyards Pinot Gris tasted exactly like it did when I hung out with Winemaker Melissa Stackhouse from J Vineyards.

Now the brands.  There are some big boys embracing this technology – Arietta, Frog’s Leap, J Vineyards, MINER, Paul Dolan Vineyards, Robert Craig, Trefethen Family Vineyards – even Va Piano, one of my great winery finds in Walla Walla. Right now, 140 wine brands are shipping their juice to Free Flow Wines where they ship to 43 states.  It is pumped into ten staging tanks in a 22,000 square foot facility based in Napa and put into over 7,000 kegs where it is shipped across country.  It gives restaurants and consumers the opportunity to feature more “off the beaten path” wines at little risk.  And, wine geeks like me respond with open arms.

Savor offers eight whites by the glass, half carafe and carafe ranging from $9 for the glass to $44 for the carafe.  The whites include Simi Sauvignon Blanc, Trefethen Dry Riesling, Franciscan Chardonnay and Duchman Vermentino.  There are eight reds including Saintsbury Pinot Noir, Qupe Syrah and Paul Dolan Cabernet offered in the same format from $9 for a glass to $50 for a carafe.  They also feature a list of wines by the bottle. 

This barrel to bar approach is incredibly innovative.  The great thing is that chef and sommelier driven restaurants like Savor are embracing and encouraging this innovation.  Dan talked about several hotel and restaurant chains that are embracing the technology. If you’ve followed my “can you get a decent glass of wine at a chain” postings, you know I’m truly happy to see this as I’d rather not have to go taste chain food to make my point.

The only downside that was proactively brought up by Dan is that this technology is not for aging wine.  So, the tradition of an aged bottle and the ceremony around that will continue at Savor as well, but 80 percent of the wines today are sold by tap. 

Being guaranteed a fresh glass of wine with no cork taint (John has never had a corked wine since opening), giving restaurants the opportunity to expand their selections without the risk.  Having the ability to buy a good glass of wine at a fair price and the environmental benefits make this an innovation that is worthy of note.  The future quality, selection and value of the wines you drink by the glass depend on it. 


A Quick Twitter Trip around Italy, France and Wines for the Holidays

Exhibit A of what not to drink after a Bordeaux tasting

November was the season of Twitter tastings and I was asked to be a part of three tastings – one from #planetbordeaux, the second from #Franciacorta, and a Whole Foods Top Holiday wines under $25.  Lesson learned #1 – if you really want to enjoy the next morning, don’t invite your girlfriends over, taste all the wines and then plan a crazy night out.  Lesson learned #2 – and I should know better – even if you are spitting the wines, tasting eight of them in one evening leads to palate fatigue.

You may remember that I was blown away by the sparkling wines from Franciacorta during the last Twitter tasting.  Let’s just say that “the blush is not off the rose.”  I continue to be blown away by the versatility, complexity and individuality of these sparkling wines.  We tried four during the tasting and they were delicious:

-          Antica Fratta Brut ($25 retail) – notes of green apple, flowers; citrus; bread and a nice minerality.

-          Bellavista Cuvee ($35 retail) – pear, apple, fresh baked biscuits and ginger made this blend in my top #2.

-          Ricci Curbastro Extra Brut ($40 retail) – it was complex with minerality and savoriness; notes of almond, fresh baked bread and pear.  I loved it.

-          Contadi Castaldi Rose ($25 retail) — notes of berry, spice, flowers and bread.

The other tasting scheduled the same night was the Whole Foods: Holiday Wines Under $25 Tasting.  We tried several wines with other bloggers around the country including the following:

-          2011 Grace Lane Yakima Valley Riesling – notes of peach and green apple with spiciness that would be perfect with a holiday dinner – especially turkey.  This was in my favorite two.

-          2012 Tablao Navarra – notes of stewed plum, tobacco and cherry. A nice tempranillo for under $10.

-          2008 H&G Priorat – nice balance with notes of black cherry, vanilla and black pepper.  This was my favorite of the tasting.

-          2011 Les Hauts de Bel Air Bordeaux Rouge – notes of raspberries, blackberries, violet and black pepper.

The final tasting was for “Planet Bordeaux for the Holidays.”  This is #Planet Bordeaux (shout out to Duran Duran’s Planet Earth).

There I said it as it goes through my mind every single time I see the hashtag. We had a line-up of six wines that were all priced under $15 and all were ready to drink today although some may benefit from decanting.

-          2011 Mouton Cadet Bordeaux – red fruit, herbs and oak.

-          2011 Chateau de Camarsac Bordeaux – spice, berry, cassis and plum.  This was one of my favs.

-          2011 Les Hauts de Lagarde Bordeaux – cranberry, herbs, spice and blackberry. Definitely one of the top ones from the tasting for me and many of the participating bloggers.

-          2011 Chateau du Bois Chantant Cuvee Laurence Bordeaux Superieur – plum, soft berry, cedar and mocha.

-          2010 Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur – plum, vanilla, mocha and toast.  This is a fantastic wine for the price (under $14).

-          2010 Domaine de Courteillac Bordeaux Superieur – oak, berry, plum, chocolate and a touch of anise.

To read more about these Bordeaux wines, visit www.planet-bordeaux.com.

 


Summer BBQ: Jekel and Bonterra Style

 

It was in the midst of Summer BBQ season and the weather in Texas was hitting the 100’s when I received my blogger’s sample of Bonterra and Jekel Vineyards wines.  I knew that Bonterra was organic and biodynamically farmed as I had tried some of the wines prior.  I knew nothing about Jekel Vineyards from Monterey, who was a key pioneer in creating the AVA for that area.  I also received the Extreme Grilling Guide from Bonterra Chef Lia Huber that looked fantastic, but we were already heading to a friend’s house for dinner so I was hoping the wines would work well with what they were grilling.  The theme was Cajun and the wines were a great match.

We tried the following wines:

·      Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc – crisp with notes of grapefruit, citrus, melon and grass. It had a nice acidity and worked really well with some of the appetizers including a fantastic crab dip.

·      Bonterra Viognier 2012 – this was my favorite of the wines I tried from Bonterra.  It had a bit of sweetness from the Muscat, but was fruity and balanced with apricot, peaches, vanilla and almost a spiciness at the end.  It rocked some spicy deviled eggs.

·      Jekel Vineyards Riesling 2011 – this was such a wonderful find for me and ended up being the absolute favorite of the group.  It was funny – everyone underestimated this wine and even though it was labeled as a dry Riesling, the entire group had doubts.  Then we tasted it.  It was dry with notes of white peaches, apricot, citrus and ended up being the first bottle to disappear.

·      Jekel Vineyards Pinot Noir 2011 – with notes of black cherry, herbs, spice and earth, I was told this was a perfect wine to match the pork that was prepared.  But as many of you know, I’m allergic to pork and can’t vouch for the taste combination.

We also tried two drinkable chardonnays from each producer, but the group favorites were the ones listed above.  For a group of wines under $17, these were easy drinking, good summer sippers.


Post Conference Tour: #WBC12, Carlton Without Handcuffs

And then it was over.  Just like that.  But thankfully my post trip was about to begin.  The town of Carlton, where I had spent the #cuffedincarlton wine tour trip, was willing to have a group of us back for a two-day excursion with some of my most favorite wine bloggers.  We were picked up by the rocking party bus from the Doubletree with Motown music, couches and comfy seating where we were transported to Carlton’s “Walk in the Park” event featuring more than 30 Oregon wineries.  The event brought together some of Yamhill County’s best wineries and gave me the opportunity to spend some extra quality time with some of the people behind my favorite wines. 

 

A special shout out to Ken  Morrison from K&M, who was such an avid student on how to Tweet and was kind enough to continue the crazy chicken legacy.  BTW, he and his partner, Mauro Hernandez, make some pretty rocking Pinots that I can’t wait to receive once the weather breaks in Texas and my shipment arrives.

Lynn and Amy generously hosted us at Republic of Jam for cocktails and fabulous appetizers.  It was so fun to see the store that has become such a destination point and their vision brought to life.   I loved the craft cocktails made with so many of their products; they were just delicious. 

We had dinner at the Horse Radish, well those did that didn’t have a pork allergy (Carlton definitely loves its pork products), but they gave me a really nice salad and I was able to sneak across the street for a great turkey sandwich that I snuck into the hotel James Bond style.  I was able to share a bottle of Retour, one of my favorite Pinot Noirs who is owned by a dear friend of mine.

Marcy and I were assigned to the Casa della Valle B&B where we met Eve and Joe, the sweetest and kindest couple that treated us like dear friends.  Joe is an avid collector of some of the most classic toys and xxx has a huge collection of antiques.  Marcy and I had a blast getting to know them, learning about how they decided to start a B&B and finding more about their collections.  We were so excited to have been assigned to the B&B so we could get to know such an interesting couple (and the breakfast absolutely rocked).

The next morning, we had a private tour with Ken Wright, who in my mind is one of the “father’s” of Oregon Pinot.  Because there have been really great discussions on other blogs by attendees of WBC12 about Oregon terrior,  I have no need to recreate my version, so I’ll just talk more about Ken’s point of view from that day.  He talked about the wines doing so well because all of the conditions are right for Pinot Noir and the depth and how where the grapes are planted matter.  He called others to task who are growing Pinot grapes on the floor of the valley making poor wines and hurting the Oregon wine industry.  Ken has earned the right to have an opinion. 

He talked about how nutrition is key to making great wine and the plant is the ultimate report card.  Ken told a great story about seeking out a farmer in Washington State who was responsible for growing a specific apple for the Japanese market who had 15-acres dedicated to doing only that.  Ken and his team visited the farmer who at the beginning of their discussion peeled one of his apples and took them on a tour of the vineyard.  When they returned, the apple had not aged a bit and was “freaking unbelievable.”  This further solidified that each plant must be allowed to take its fruit to the ultimate stage.  Microbiology and protecting the fruit is so important – not only for wine, but for the fruits and vegetables that we eat daily.

We tried two of his wines – the Ken Wright Cellars Abbott Claim, Yamhill-Carlton AVA, which was lush with stone fruit, cassis and spice.  Our next wine was the Ken Wright Cellars Carter, Eola-Amity AVA, which was much more mellow in nature with blueberry, cherry and plum.  Totally different vineyard, totally different terrior and elevation.  Cool experiment!

Our next stop was Lemelson Vineyards, a 160 acre, carbon-neutral facility, focused on producing certified organic wines.  The winery owns seven estate vineyard sites located in Yamhill-Carlton, Dundee Hills and Chehalem Mountain.  We started with a glass of 2011 Dry Riesling, which was full of tropical notes and was very enjoyable.  We then toured “the Starship Enterprise,” the winery’s gravity flow facility designed by Steve Cornish, who also designed Palmaz Vineyards (link).  After we climbed up the ladder of this high tech wonder with our glass of 2010 Tikka’s Run Pinot Gris, I didn’t time my ladder climb with the person ascending before me and ended up covered with Pinot Gris and a broken glass.  Lesson learned – make sure you get your timing right if climbing a ladder with a glass of wine in hand. 

Anthony King, the wine maker and his wife Kara, talked about the collegial community of winemakers in the region.  We then tasted some of the same wines aged in different coopers – such a cool experience and it becomes easy to see why a winemaker pays $1,100 for a high-end barrel – aromas, flavors, smells are all different.  We adjourned to the porch and had the opportunity to taste several wines (most of which I ended up ordering – you will find that was a common theme of this day).

  • We tried the 2010 Thea’s Selection Pinot Noir (which of course I had to bring a bottle to @winebratsf , that was named after Dorothy (Eric’s mom), who wanted to be called Thea.  It was earthy, cherry and full of licorice.
  • Our next wine was the 2009 Mt. Richmond Vineyard Pinot Noir, which was very floral with bright fruit.
  • The 2009 Johnson Vineyard Pinot Noir was next, which needed some bottle time, but was full of rich notes and big fruit. 
  • We moved to the 2010 Jerome Reserve Pinot Noir, which is made of a different blend every year, and was my favorite Pinot.  Big depth, dark fruit and a fabulous wine. 
  • We ended with 2009 Oeneous Dessert Riesling with figs, which was a ridiculously fantastic match.

Our next stop was lunch at Cuvee, several tart flambées prepared by Chef Gilbert Henry, which happily did not contain all pork products.  The veggie and salmon ones made me very happy.  Belle Pente, Alexana and Carlo and Julia joined us for lunch and talked briefly about the wines that were paired with the lunch. 

I sat across from Felix Madrid, the owner and winemaker of Carlo and Julia, who talked about naming the winery after his twin sons (now 23!).  At five, his child smelled one of the wines and remarked, “dad, this smells like perfume.”  A child after my own heart and probably a pillar in the family business.

Then we did a speed dating of sorts with a number of wineries.  I don’t think that Carlton understood how much we liked their wines and we slowed down the schedule when we insisted on buying at every stop.  We visited Carlton Cellars, Valley Emporium, Noble Pig (loved the food/wine pairings), Terra Vina, Mouvance and Troon (super interesting and non-traditional wines like meritage, zinfandel and port).  I would have loved another hour at each place.

Thank you again to the City of Carlton, “the wine capital of Oregon” for rolling out the red carpet and making this group of bloggers feel special.  Your town has so much to offer and I can say with certainty that I will be returning as soon as possible.


Day Two, Wine Bloggers Conference 2012: 42 Hours of Wine, Key Learnings and Post Parties

Bless me father, for I have sinned.  I went to bed at 2 a.m. and needed to exercise, so I did.  And based upon what is waiting around every corner of the Wine Bloggers Conference, you’ll understand why.  Here is my roomie, Liza’s, morning breakfast of a lovely French wine and Voodoo Donuts.

While I missed the first session, I started my day with a session entitled “the winery view of wine bloggers” with Sasha Kady of Kings Estate, Christopher Watkins of Ridge Vineyards and Ed Thralis of Wine Tonight.  Sasha, Christopher and Ed are well known, well respected and well integrated wine people in the world of social media and what they had to say was a validation that my many unpaid hours spent on a passion made a difference.  The conversation was two-way; because that’s what these guys know how to do well, and why they are at the top of wineries that bloggers want to engage with in a meaningful way.

We had a very quick lunch at a food truck lot in Portland, where I had a fabulous Korean taco with extra, extra, extra spicy sauce.  As someone who usually is written off on spicy, this stand complied and I was very excited – especially for $5.50.

I attended “The Art of Oregon Pinot – A Clonal Tasting, which was a total wine geek tasting that I so enjoyed.  So basically, clones are separate organisms that are genetically identical to their predecessor, which is paramount to creating wines that reflect the qualities of different clones in Oregon Pinot Noirs.  Erath hosted our clonal tasting where we discussed the different terriors in Oregon and why the clones where so different.  We tried Pinot clones from Wädenswil and Pinot Noir Pommard as well as new Pinot Noir clones developed in France and at UC Davis to address disease problems and later to isolate vineyard characteristics such as early ripening, open clusters, and small berries including “115,” which had lots of red raspberry, red fruits and tasted of black pepper; “777,” with black fruits and vegetal notes, which was described as “slutty”; the Pommard UCD 4 clone, my favorite, which stood alone as a traditional Oregon pinot; and the blend, which incorporated  spice, but was rough at a young age. 

We moved on to the “Off the Beaten Path” seminar presented by Winebow with Sheri Sauter Morano, MW, and the most humbling session of the conference.  We had a blind tasting of seven wines, which I began with confidence, but ended with the realization that I have so much to learn.  In order, we tried the following wines:

  1.  Itasad Mendi, Hondarribi Zuri 2011 – Bizkaiko Txakolina is a small denomination that covers wines in the province of Vizcaya in Spain.  The wine is full of citrus, tropical and zesty minerality that left me guessing on a new wine, grape and region.
  2. Argiolas S’elagas Nuragus di Cagliari 2010 – apple, floral, nutty, floral with stone fruit.  This Sardinian wine kept me guessing.
  3. Cousino- Macul Sauvignon Gris 2011 – Maipo Valley in Chile.  Almost candy-like with starfruit, smoky notes with a crisp acidity.  A very interesting wine.
  4. Librandi Duca San Felice Ciro Rosso Riserva 2009 – Calabria in Italy.  Earthy, mocha, red cherry, kirsch, tobacco and a bit of meat.  Lots of structure.
  5. Weingu Heinrich Zweigelt 2008 – Austria.  Strawberry, all spice, red fruit and an earthiness that was unique.
  6. Bodegas Nieto Senetiner Reserva Bonardoa 2010 – aka known as Charbono, but only in Argentina.  Plums, raspberries, spice and oak with lots of tannins. 
  7. Anima Negra An 2008 – Mallorca in Spain.  Meat, cedar, earth and leather. 

Key learning here – no matter what you think you know about wine, there is a blind tasting out there to make you realize you know nothing.  And with the exception of the last wine listed, this is a fun exercise with the most expensive bottle listed at $25, but many at least $10 below that price.

After that, Rex Pickett, author of Sideways, took the stage.  Here is my picture.  I’m sure someone else will dedicate ink to his discussion.  I will not.

I wish I had more time to join the reception for the Wines of Greece, but everything was running behind and I only had about ten minutes to spend to find out I need to know more about the wines of Santorini. 

There were a few folks who bagged on the wine dinner hosted by King Estate.  Shame, shame, shame.  This was a wine dinner that brought together the best of wine, food and social media and was seamlessly organic.   We started with a salad of fennel with heirloom tomato, grilled corn and duck breast prosciutto with the 2011 NxNW Horse Heaven Hills Riesling. 

Our next course was the confit of spot prawns with a cucumber, roasted peach and opal basil with the 2011 King Estate Signature Pinot Gris, a delightful and refreshing wine that paired perfectly with the course. 

We then went to a wild Chinook salmon with garlic sausage (except for me – thank you for asking), potato gnocchi, buttered leeks and aged balsamic with 2010 King Estate Signature Pinot Noir.  Another divine match.

The next course was a roasted top loin of beef with wild mushroom, Yukon potato and shallot marmalade with the 2009 NxNW Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 

The dessert course was a lemon panna cotta with summer berries and lavender syrup with a 2010 King Estate Riesling Vin Glace.  It was a brilliant display of social media, showcasing local farmers and sources and highlighting all that Oregon has to offer.

We quickly ducked into the International Wine Night, which unfortunately probably got shorted due to the dinner running over by about 90 minutes.  Then it was time for the after-parties, which I had opt out on some as they were too numerous to attend all of them.

  • We went to the Holy Grail of Alsace Riesling party, which featured vintages from 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2001 including Trimbach’s Close Ste Hune, a great single vintage Riesling.  I was lucky enough to try everything but the 2000, and it was a nice reminder of how great Alsace Grand Cru Rieslings stand the test of time.  They aren’t called “somm candy” without reason.

  • There was a vertical tasting of Oregon magnums with some that weren’t represented at the conference, so it was fun to try some new vintages.
  •  #Get Vertical by Palm Bay Wines – this was a fun opportunity to taste verticals of international wines including Bertani (Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC, 1980, 1993 and 2004); Col D’Orcia (Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino DOG, 1980, 1997 and 2007);  Faustino (Faustino Gran Reserva Rioja DOC, 1964, 1982 and 1999); Jean-Luc Colombo (Jean-Luc Colombo “Les Ruchets” Cornas AOC, 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2009); and Trimbach (Timbach Riesling “Cuvee Frederic Emile” Alsace AOC, 2000 and 2001).  I really wish that this wasn’t my second to the last stop as there were some great wines that I would have liked to savor more, but thank you Palm Bay Wines for the experience.

  • Jordan – this event has brought many bloggers to their knees on Sunday morning and is always the party never to miss.  Lisa brought a wide array of Jordan’s best vintages, right off of their 40th anniversary.  These were wines to remember (or perhaps some attending did not).

I’ll end this post with a full disclosure and an introduction to “Crazy Chicken.”  I travel the world for my day job and so my seven-year-old daughter asked me to bring a toy and take pictures so she can experience my journey.  The chicken has traveled with me from London to Stockholm to Singapore and finally to Portland, where he has adventures – clearly tonight he spent too much time at the after-parties (and no, those photos aren’t shared with her).  Look for him in the return to Carlton winery post-trip.


#WBC 12: Evening Festivities, Speed Tasting, Peruvian Food & Cuffed in Carlton

After the fun pre-trip to Salem, our bus pulled up for the long awaited start of the Wine Bloggers Conference, but not without a lung stopping beginning.  All the rooms at the Doubletree were deemed non-smoking except for the non-compliant guest that stayed our room prior to our arrival.  I went up to the room first and Liza, my roommate, generously offered to get the wine we had stored with the bellhop.  I walked into the room and the wall of smoke hit me.  I called down to the front desk, but when Liza walked in and saw me standing by the open window with the patio window open thought she had busted a closet smoker.  The Doubletree quickly moved us to another room and generously hauled our stash of wine to the next place.

We started our day prior to the conference with a long-awaited tasting of Two Shepherds Wine, which is owned by my friend, William Allen (a.k.a Wine MacGyver for his endless supply of wine glasses and accessories at previous conferences).  Many of us who write about wine dream, “If Iever make the jump into the wine making world, would I have what it takes?” – and knowing that William has a job as encompassing as mine as a software sales executive – I am incredibly impressed.  His premise is to make Rhone varieties that reflect their sense of place and shine when blended. 

We started with the Two Shepherds 11 Grenache Blanc, which tasted of melon, citrus and lemon with some minerality on the end.  Then we tasted the 11 Viognier with a floral nose, but with nice acidity.  Our next stop was the 11 Pastoral Blanc, which was a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc, with notes of citrus and pear.  This wine begged for some king crab.  We tasted the 10 Syrah/Mourvedre blend with lots of berry and pepper and then a barrel sample of the Grenache.  One word – wow.  Based on what I tasted, I can say with certainty that you will be reading about Two Shepherds very soon – get on the list now because this is truly a small production winery destined for very good things.

We stopped by the welcome session, which was hosted by the Oregon Wine Board, and were given a snapshot of what we had to look forward to during the week and served as a long-awaited reunion of bloggers. 

That night, we were invited to an intimate event to get a glimpse of Oregon’s wine history featuring 02-08 vintages from past years of the Portland Indie Wine Festival with some wines from some of Oregon’s top winemakers. The 5-year-old festival, which is on hold this year, but is sure to be back in 2013, is a project that brings together up and coming independent wine producers with music and food.  We were picked up by the good people of Watershed and brought to a “speakeasy” bar at Portland Wine Storage.  The vibe was cool, the wines were great, the change during the different harvests (lots of rain in 2004 for example vs. the coolest season on record in 2008) and it was fun to sit one-on-one and talk to winemakers from Harry Peterson-Nedry from Chehalem, Lynn Penner-Ash from Penner-Ash and Ben Thomas from Montinore.  And then it was 2 a.m. – welcome to the reality of the Wine Blogger’s Conference….

I’m not going to give a moment by moment recap about the event because there are some really good ones already out there such as Randall Grahm’s speech by Ben Simons or the great write-up of the “Ready, Fire, Aim” live wine blogging by Winemundo.  

But, I will mention the wheels off lunch that I had with David Honig and Liza at Andina, the best Peruvian restaurant that I have ever tried. 

In the afternoon, we were marched out to buses where we randomly selected our wine region tour for the duration of the evening.  We totally scored getting one of the best tours with a group of people whom I absolutely adore.  Zephyr won’t tell you where you are going until the bus is moving so we were very excited to hear that we were going to Carlton, “the wine Capital of Oregon.”  Thanks to Mary Cressler and Thea Dwelle’s invitation in 2010, I had the chance to get to know Amy Wilder and Lynette Shaw during my last trip to Oregon when Amy introduced me to Voodoo Donuts and Lynette introduced me to Willamette Valley.  A friendship was quickly born. 

About 40 minutes into our journey I spotted a police car on the side of the road with a male and female officer in the car.  I made a comment to my seatmate right as the lights were turned on in the police car.  An officer boarded the bus and told us we needed to disembark due to a “situation,” which turned out to be a brilliantly executed PR ploy. 

And, so we began our #cuffedincarlton journey.  What the officer, who turned out to be the chief of police, did not bank on, were the comments about his attractiveness.  Female bloggers, thinking that perhaps he might be an actor or had a side job in Magic Mike, had fun writing about him.  Sorry Chief Kevin.

We stopped at the lovely Carlo & Julian winery where we were served 09 Albarino that was flinty and perfect for the hot weather – especially with the tuna and three pepper sauce that was served with it.  We walked to the vineyards where we had a beautiful cheese and bread plate served with the 09 Tempranillo.  I was surprised to see these two wines in Oregon, but they were tasty and made Joe ponder.

 

We then met Ken Wright, one of the father’s of Oregon wine, who talked about the geography of Carlton and Yamhill.  I’ll talk a little more in detail in a later post, since we were lucky enough to spend the morning with Ken on a post conference visit. 

Our dinner stop was at Cielo Blu and once again we had no idea what was waiting for us.  Imagine a room packed with “evidence” against us with the top chefs in Carlton and the top wineries ready to match a nine course meal with 26 of the region’s best wines.  Mary Cressler and I decided that we had to try everything and gamely set out to keep our palates sharp and our sobriety up. 

Our first course “or Evidence No. 1” was Chinook salmon from Pacific City cooked on a traditional Salish bake, which was an alder wood frame over an open fire by Chef Jeff Lorton from Valley Emporium.  We got to sample the 2011 Youngberg Hill Aspen Pinot Gris, the 2009 Noble Pig Pinot Noir, the 2010 Omero Iliad Pinot Noir, the 2010 Alexana Revana Vineyard Pinot Noir and the 2010 Ghost Hill Pinot Noir Blanc.  It was hard to choose a favorite, but I really liked the 2011 Youngberg Hill Pinot Gris as the match.

Our second course “or Evidence No. 2” was a duck confit salad with apple, fennel, candied nuts and an orange balsamic dressing from Chef Chloe Couchee from the Horse Radish.  We tried the 2011 Omero Pinot Gris, the 2011 MonksGate Rose of Pinot Noir, the 2008 Mouvance Pinot Noir Julon Vineyard and the 2008 EIEIO Pinot Noir. 

I liked all of these wines, but have to give a shout out to MonksGate for making the first and only rose that I have ever, ever, ever liked.  For those of you who know me, this is an accomplishment equal to pigs flying.

I abstained from the third course “or Evidence No. 3,” which was a Carlton Farms pork loin stuffed with herbs, garlic and onions served with Northwest Succotash from Chef Gilbert Henri of Cuvee, because I am allergic.  I have to say the people in Carlton love their pork, but see more about that later.  Our wine choices were the 2011 Troon Vineyard Vermentino, the 07 MonksGate Pinot Noir, the 2010 Alexana Revana Vineyard Riesling and the 2008 Youngberg Hill Jordan Pinot Noir.  The favorite pairing was the 2010 Alexana Revana Riesling, which surprised me as I thought it was destined to be a Pinot Noir.

Our fourth course “or Evidence No. 4” was braised short ribs in a red wine, rosemary tomato sauce with creamy rosemary polenta from Chef Bonifacio Solorzano from Cielo Blu.  We tried the 2005 Spofford Station Estate Syrah, the 07 Cliff Creek Cellars Cabernet Franc, the 2009 WildAire Cellars Reserve Pinot Noir and the 2009 Terra Vina Bella Vista Red Vinters Blend.  My favorite with the course was the 2009 WildAire Cellars Reserve Pinot Noir.

Our fifth course “or Evidence No. 5” was a grilled flank steak with blue cheese butter and peppered D’affinois mashed potatoes from Chef Sean David from The Horse Radish.  This was served with the 2010 Seven of Hearts Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre Cuvee, the WildAire Cellars Tempranillo (no year given) and the 2009 K&M Alchemy Cuvee Pinot Noir.  My favorite was a tie between the 2010 Seven of Hearts and the 2008 K&M Alchemy.

As if we hadn’t had enough, it was time for a cheese plate served with the 2010 Mouvance Pinot Gris and dark chocolate currant-cabernet ganache made by Dana Dooley with Honest Chocolates served with the 2005 Spofford Station Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and 2009 Troon Vineyard Meritage.  Yum!

Then, the desserts from Chef Amy Wilder, Republic of Jam, a cardamom cake with port preserved plums and dulce de leche cream with the 2010 Seven of Hearts Pinot Noir Coupe’s Cuvee.  Andone of the best desserts that I have ever had, the chocolate blue cheese cheesecake with cherries preserved in balsamic syrup served the same wines matched with the chocolate.  After we experienced every single bit of hometown hospitality in Carlton, we rolled (pun intended) on home. 

Perhaps my plan of moderation didn’t work (ya think…?) My apologies for starting the return sing-a-long on the bus home, but at least I kept it to show tunes and bad songs from the 70’s and 80’s.  Most of the people on the bus still talk to me, so that’s a good thing.

The reality at this point is that you should be done, you should go home, you should get some rest.  But, the post parties were just beginning.  We had the night of Many Bottles, where bloggers brought some of their favorites to share and there were hopes of a dance party (my contribution: 2 drained, one corked); a special tasting of Randall Grahm wines; the bubble and champagne lounge by Pernod Ricard and a few other late night happenings in which bloggers shared some of their favorite wines with a smaller group of people.  After making the rounds, I showed some restraint about 1 a.m. and retired fat and happy knowing I’d be running in the morning, which was not a a fun reality, but necessary with the food/wine consumed.

 


Winebow Wines of Summer: Fun to Be Had Off the Beaten Path

When I received a package from Winebow with Summer whites that were off the beaten path, I was totally stoked. I gathered a group of my closest wine buddy girlfriends, we assembled a spread to match and we were off to the races. The pack included Pinot Grigio and Riesling as well as Vermentino and Torrontés from several regions. We tried the following wines:

  • Tilia Torrontés, Argentina 2011 – $10: We tasted herbs and honeysuckle with a floral nose.
  • Clean Slate Riesling, Mosel 2011 – $10: This one had some residual sweetness but notes of lime and peach with minerality.
  • Root:1 Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – $12: This was the group favorite with tropical fruit, grapefruit, grassiness and mineral notes.
  • Vitiano Bianco (Vermentino & Verdicchio) Umbria 2011 – $12: Tropical, fruity and very light in body from Umbria, a region I had not experienced yet in Italy.
  • KRIS Pinot Grigio, delle Venezia 2011 – $14: This was a very fruity pinot grigio that stayed true to the variety.
  • Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino, Sardinia 2011 -$16: Very crisp with tropical fruit. This wine had a bit of effervescence at the finish.

This was a fun reminder that there are bargains and new regions to try once you step out of your usual wine comfort zone.


California Wine Club Brings the Valley to You

I was recently asked to take part in Mom Spark Media’s blog review campaign for the California Wine Club.  I felt I was very qualified due to the creative budgeting I used to do with my husband when I went to wine country.  I thought that wine club sign ups “didn’t count towards my wine budget” until one fateful day when my Visa card was hit with eleven charges and my finance guy husband was not amused.

The California Wine Club has been around for over 20 years and specializes in hand-selected artisan wines from family-owned producers.  I was given a three-month Premium Club membership, which features wines from smaller producers and is valued at $150 ($50 per shipment).  I had a slight mix up with my first month, so month one and two arrived within one week.  Each shipment includes two boots of wine and a newsletter outlining the winery, food pairing suggestions and the club’s tasting notes, recipes and other reading material.

 

 

  • 10 Tobin James “Radiance” Monterey County Chardonnay – We were with a group of friends and one eloquently pointed out that “the label matched the taste.”  It was a bright wine with lots of apple, pear, pineapple and citrus with just a touch of oak.  It was creamy and had a good balance.  Definitely was a crowd pleaser.  $18.00 retail, $10.99 club price.
  • 08 Tobin James Titan Hills Vineyards “Fiasco” – This wine from Paso Robles tasted of licorice, Asian spices, spice and pepper.  It was juicy, but smooth and easily drinkable.  $11.99 club price, $20.99 retail.
  • 2010 Fess Parker Santa Barbara County Riesling – this semi-sweet wine has lots of lychee, mango, lemon and other bright summer fruits.  It was off-dry, but still a vibrant wine with acidity.  $26.00 retail, $12.99 club price.
  • 2010 Parker Station Pinot Noir tastes of black cherries, vanilla, cranberry and terrior.  This is a very food friendly and approachable wine.

Interesting factoid:  Fess Parker Winery was established in 1989 by the late actor Fess Parker, who was known for his roles as Walt Disney’s Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone in the 1950′s and 60′s, and the winery remains a family business.

If you like trying “off the beaten path wines” that you probably can’t easily track down in Texas, this could be a great fit for you.  The $50 per month price tag includes shipping and is a fair price for the club, especially if you like the wines and plan to reorder them.  The accompanying information not only told you more about the wines and winery, but gave you recipes to pair to fully complement your tasting experience.

If you want to give it a try, the California Wine Club is offering Dallas Wine Chick readers four bottles for the price of 2 when you sign up. Use the code vine12 at checkout.

Click Here to visit the California Wine Club’s website.  Click here to check out @cawineclub and @boringwineguy on Twitter.

Disclosure: This review was made possible by Mom Spark Media.


Old World Cabernet Meets New World Chef: A Dinner to Remember

I know I’ve said this before, but I’m very lucky through this blog to meet some of the best storytellers, winemakers and chefs in the business.   I also get an opportunity through this blog and from my husband’s foodie love affair to eat some of the best meals in the city.  Because of that, it takes me a great deal to take pause.  My dinner at the Gaylord did just that.

When I was personally invited by Joanne Bondy, executive chef of the Old Hickory Steakhouse at the Gaylord to attend the Palmaz dinner, I was excited, but a little taken aback.  Most executive chefs of Joanne’s caliber aren’t issuing personal invitations to wine dinners. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Joanne, she received Esquire’s rating of 20 best restaurants in 2001 and cooked at the James Beard House in New York City three times.  And, this was the preview dinner for her October James Beard dinner paired with some of the best Napa cabernets out there.

While I’ve been to the Gaylord before, it was always around a special occasion brunch because my parents live in Flower Mound.  To this Dallas gal, it was a bit of a haul especially after having a few glasses of wine.  Get a cab, get a car, get a sober driver – this is definitely worth the ride.

Saddiq Mir, vice president of food and beverage at the Gaylord, kicked off the dinner by introducing Joanne and Florencia Palmaz.  Joanne cracked us up with stories about celebrating the tenth anniversary in 2011 at the winery with stories about Amalia Palmaz, the matriarch of the family, on a four wheeler with her Prada shoes.  She also described a paella pan so large that it was stirred with a boat oar and when it became dark, the guests used mobile phones to provide light.  Just classic.

I was lucky enough to visit Palmaz a few years ago and was totally impressed with the wines and technology behind the winery.  There’s a huge tie to Texas.  Julio Palmaz, a doctor by profession, was in process of developing a heart stint at University of California Davis but couldn’t get research funds so he moved to the University of Texas in 1984 to continue his research.  While in California, Julio and Amalia had spent the weekends visiting wine country in Napa.  After moving to Texas, they attended a wine festival in Poteet, Texas, where Amalia decided they would be moving immediately back to Napa after trying the wine if the stint was a success.

In 1986 that happened and they returned to Napa to buy one of the last pre-prohibition wineries which formerly was a brothel and had made no wines since 1912.  The home’s original owner, Henry Hagen, one of Napa’s first winemakers, produced award-winning wines in the 1800s at Cedar Knoll Vineyard and Winery, but Prohibition killed his business. The winery fell into disrepair and the vineyards were forgotten for almost 80 years until the Palmaz family saw their potential.

Florencia talked about the 28 years that they spent in Texas, how it felt like home and how Texas embodied “big thinking” and imagination.   She talked about the underground project that she, her sister and her mother embarked upon several years ago to make white wines when her father was set on only making cabernet.   They made only 50 cases with the understanding that the family would drink it all themselves.  They didn’t mention their project to Julio for eight months and even painted the barrels red.  Finally, he figured out the game and told them, “you girls are cheating on me – you can each play with one white wine.”  Having tried the three wines, I have to tell you how glad that I am that they did.

We began the reception with the 2010 Palmaz Riesling “Louise” from Napa Valley.  It was tropical, off dry, fruity but not too sweet.  Fabulous, but very hard to get.

 

Our first course was creamed mussels with roasted fennel and paprika seared octopus paired with the 10 Palmaz Chardonnay “Amalia.”  It was a match made in heaven.

Our second course was chapa style vegetables and morcilla with a goat cheese vinaigrette paired with 07 Cedar Knoll Vineyard Co. Cabernet Sauvignon which had nice citrus, tropical fruits and minerality.  It was a very well balanced wine that worked well with the course.  While the wine could age for years, it was very smooth.  I tasted big berry, mocha and it was well structured.

 

The entree course was grilled Tenderloin with chimichurri, wild mushrooms and peas.  I tasted blackberry, spice and leather in the 07 Palmaz Cabernet .  It was fabulous.

Our dessert course was a dessert wine paired with a family recipe from Amalia.  Her Dulce de Batana and Port Salute Tart combined with the 10 Palmaz Muscat Canelli “Florencia.”  A perfect close to a perfect dinner – simple, fresh and light.

Our dinner table had a very lively conversation about when toasting, you must look each person in the eye individually.  I’m not sure if the ten years of bad luck will happen, but I’m not willing to take a chance … here’s looking at you.

Side note: The Old Hickory Steakhouse is up for best steakhouse.  Do me a favor and click here to vote.




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