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June Wine Round-Up: A Few of My Favorite Things

It’s June, it’s hot and it’s time for the round-up of wines that made the grade this month.  It’s a mix of red and whites that consisted of wines from around the globe.  We tried many more than what made this column.

The notable wines from California, Australia, France, Spain and Greece were as follows:

White

2013 Jordan Chardonnay – tropical fruit, a touch of oak, but well balanced with a nice minerality that made it perfect for a seafood dinner accompaniment.

2011 Ktima Tselepos Blanc De Gris Moschofilero – I tried a few Greek wines, but this one topped my favorite list.  Great acidity, citrus and minerality.  It was great.

2013 Palacio de Bornos Rueda Verdejo – Very refreshing with a nice mix of citrus, flowers and fruit.

 Red

2011 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon – what can say I say?  Jordan makes delicious wines.  This had notes of chocolate, cassis, blackberry, herbs and vanilla.

2012 Edge Cabernet Sauvignon – big blackberry taste, nicely balanced with notes of chocolate.

2012 Alanera Rosso Veronese – dried black fruit, spice, tobacco and mocha.  This had a great earthiness and nice balance.

2012 Salton Intenso Cabernet France — red fruit, strawberry, tobacco, leather and coffee.  A really interesting representation of Cabernet Franc.


2012 Yangarra Ironheart Shiraz – whoa – deep dark fruit, mocha, blueberry and earth.  This one blew me away.

2012 Yangarra GSM – black cherry, mocha, herbs and earthiness make this another must try red.

2013 Emilio Moro Finca Resalso – a nice tempranillo blend with notes of chocolate, mocha, eucalyptus, licorice and deep black fruit.

2012 Protos Tinto Fino – earthy, black berry, violet and herbs. A good everyday drinking red wine.


May Wine Roundup

It’s time for the April and May recap of Maniac Monday, Wine Wednesday, Thirsty Thursday or whenever I could get the work gang together to taste the massive buildup of wine that is happening in my office this Spring.

We tried 15 wines and I’m going to mention 13 of those wines as the highlights – remember these are all price points ranging from $12-$60, so these aren’t apples to apples comparisons:

White:

  • 2013 Arrowood Chardonnay – I got notes of cinnamon baked apples, lemon curd and a nice minerality.  This was a very nice representation of chardonnay.
  • 2013 Atalon Sauvignon Blanc – pineapple, grapefruit, peach and lemongrass make this a very quaffable and perfect patio wine.
  • 2013 J Vineyards Chardonnay – this white had a little spice to it with pineapple, lemon, white stone fruit and a nice balance. 

Red:

  • 2012 Atalon Cabernet Sauvignon – blackberry, chocolate, currant, mocha, spice and a touch of smoke.
  • 2012 Atalon Pauline’s Cuvee – black cherry, cherry cola, spice and notes of tobacco. A very nice drinkable, approachable blend.
  • 2011 Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon – notes of toffee, plum, Asian spice and cherry.  This was a very well balanced cabernet.

  • 2013 J Vineyards Pinot Noir – red cherry, stone fruit, plum and notes of licorice.

  • 2012 La Pitchoune Pinot Noir – this was a party in a glass and one of the highlights of the tasting.  I loved the Burgundian style pinot with its notes of fig, red cherry, earth and layers of complexity.

  • 2013 Olema Pinot Noir – cherry cola, berry, minerality, earth and pepper. 
  • 2012 Olema Cabernet Sauvignon – mocha, cassis, vanilla, blackberry and herbal notes.
  • 2012 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon – a nice everyday red with notes blackberry, mocha, herbs, cassis and herbs.

  • 2011 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir – this was a nice earthy pinot with notes of black cherry, cranberry, raspberry and notes of mushroom.  Delicious.

  • 2010 Vina Pomal Reserva – earthy with notes of blackberry and raspberry with a nice balance. 

 


One Night In Bierzo: The Spanish Trip Finale

And just like that – we were on our last region and the trip had almost come to an end.  We explored Bierzo, a Spanish Denominación de Origen (“DO”) for wines located in the northwest of the province of Leon.  In getting there, we went actually drove through snow flurries.  The DO covers 23 municipalities, has 72 wineries and dates back to Roman times where wine and gold were the two thriving businesses. 

Due to phylloxera in the 19th century, production almost came to a screeching halt.  In 1989, Bierzo Denominación de Origen was established.  The climate in this region is unique with lots of humidity and rainfall, but there is also a hot and dry climate.  Water conservation is not an issue here.  The soil is dark and chock full of quartz and slate.

The region is known for mencia, alicante bouschet and godella although tempranillo, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, dona blanca, palomino, malvasia, chardonnay and gewürztraminer are also grown.

The Bodegas Estefanía started in 1999 when the family decided to restore an old dairy located in the village of Dehesas. 

At this time they planted vineyards and began to develop the techniques that were developed in other parts of Europe.  The wine Tilenus gets its name from the god of war named “Teleno” combined with the Roman name “Mars”.  The Tilenus Mars label shows a Roman coin that was found in the vineyards.

Bodegas Estefanía focuses primarily on the Mencia grape, but it makes a fine Godella as well.  About 15 to 20 percent of the grapes are sourced from the same grower.  The vines are older – in general between 60-90 years – and the soil used to be glacial, so you can find sand and stones.  The production is around 200,000 to 250,000 bottles using the same gravity techniques, French wine barrels and regulated temperature, humidity and light as the other MGW wineries we visited.

Pablo Frias, General Manager

We had a chance to sit down the Carlos Garcia, the winemaker, and Pablo Frias, the general manager of the winery where we started with a four-wheel drive journey to parts only accessible with a truck and a jeep.  Our little Mercedes bus caravan had no chance making it up to the vineyards that we visited.  The weather wasn’t cooperating so we spent time at the oldest vineyard, La Florida.

After our tour, we went to the winery to tour and drink wine.  We tried the following wines:

2013 Tilenus Godello – lots of floral, minerality, pear, stone fruit, lemon curd and a nice nuttiness. I really enjoyed this wine and absolutely would buy it in masse at $15 when it comes to Dallas.

2014 Tilenus Vendimia – nice structure, earthiness, raspberry, lavender and notes of bay leaf.  This wine is an awesome deal at under $14.

2011 Tilenus Encreicida en Rolle – this was more earthy with notes of cinnamon and spice, herbs, raspberry and a touch of mocha.  Another great deal at $10.

2010 Tilenus Encreicida en Rolle – this wine was a totally different comparison.  It was more fruit-forward, less herbal and had more minerality.

2008 Tilenus Encreicida en Rolle – this tasted like blackberry pie with notes of molasses. 

2008 Tilenus La Florida – I tasted gingerbread, all spice and it had a meatiness that I didn’t find in the others. 

2006 Tilenus Pagos de Posada – this was a very concentrated wine that tasted of bramble pie, dried plum, peppercorns and earth.  There was a lot of complexity in the glass that opened up over time.

2007 Tilenus Pagos de Posada – this was almost port-like with notes of menthol, chocolate, fig, sage and molasses.  This wine reflected “100 years of wine with sand and soil.”

Our grand finale at lunch was the 2002 Tilenus Pieros, appropriately named “the phantom” because there is so little left in the market with only 220 bottles made. 

What I ate (allergic to pork)

We lunched at Casa Coscolo and enjoyed a variety of local specialties.

We drove back to Madrid that night and discovered the joy of a really good gin and tonic followed by lots of wine and a late night game of Cards Against Humanity.  At that point, it was time to say goodbye to my friends and the closure of an incredible Spanish wine experience.    

 


Spanish Wine Trip: My Time in Bullas – Day Three

On day three, with 5,000+ calories in our system and a workout underneath my ever tightening belt, we packed up on our road trip with our fearless guide, Eduardo Ruiz.  Eduardo is the export manager of MGW Group and drew the short straw of driving us all over the region … or watching us sleep after consuming copious amounts of wine and more food that should be allotted for a small country. Bullas is a Spanish Denominacion de Origen (DO) for wines located in the region of Murcia and covers the territories of eight different municipalities and focuses on the Monastrell grape. 

Like Alicante, Bullas has existed since ancient Roman time and evolved from a Moore influence to Christian influence over time.  The region changed from a producer of bulk wines in the 1980s to an official DO in 1994.  The landscape is also limestone and has numerous valleys with unique microclimates with mountains to the west.  The weather is challenging with very hot summers and very cold winters.  

As part of MGW Group’s mission to create unique wines from organically grown grapes, Bodegas Lavia was created.  Bodegas Lavia is a boutique winery focused on balancing the fruit that is yielded with expressing the unique terroir in their wines.  The winery was built in 2003 and is located in Venta del Pino, an area known for great wines and a focus on the Monastrell grape.   

Bodegas Lavia’s production is concentrated on preserving the maximum expression and concentration of the grapes. Bodegas Lavia focuses on the same tenants as Sierra Salinas – temperature and gravity control.  The wines are over 40 years old and are grown 800 meters above sea level in an appellation – a higher appellation than yesterday – that is 2,400 hectors.  The soil is clay-based with gravel and the grapes are cultivated in a Mediterranean climate and planted diagonally. 

Sebastien took us through the winery and vineyards on a rainy day.  We learned that only 50,000 bottles are produced in the winery today because they want to keep the quality of the production at a high level.  These wines are produced in a Burgundian style and water is more of a natural source.

We tried three of the Lavia wines – Lavia, Lavia+ and Finca Paso Malo.  We started with a vertical of the Lavia wines and it was eye opening how different the vintages were in this representation.

2006 Lavia – it was rust colored and tasted of tomato confit (not in a bad way), asphalt and red fruit.  This was a really interesting evolution but different than anything that I’ve tasted.

2004 Lavia – this was the first vintage, but was surprisingly bright and drinkable with notes of leather, rose and red fruit.  I really like the smoothness of this wine and was a deal at $17 retail.

2009 Lavia+ — It had notes of spice, cherry, cedar, pepper and a nice nuttiness.  2006 Lavia+ — this was also delicious and ended up coming home with me.  Big notes of cherry, petrol and a nice minerality. 

2012 Lavia+ Finca Paso Malo – Only 2,000 bottles were made of this stellar single vineyard wine.  I tasted cranberry, spice, earth, rosemary, tobacco and a nice nuttiness that tied the wine together.  I really enjoyed this wine.

We then went into the winery and tried two blends directly from the barrel.  The 2013 Lavia+ and the 2017 vintage that just went into the tank.

After our wine tour, we had an amazing lunch at Restaurante Borrego.

Our next stop was the Museo del Vino Bullas, the region’s wine museum where we learned all about everything from the terroir to the way wine was stored to the grapes of the region. 

We ended our day with an exquisite dinner at La Nyora, which was my favorite dinner of the entire trip with a focus on the region’s seafood.  And of course some late night drinking and walking of the city by the #olewinos.   


MGW Wine Experience: My Time In Alicante

Our next day was spent at Sierra Salinas in Alicante.  Alicante is a Spanish Demoninacion de Origen (DO) located in the province of Alicante in Valencia, which just celebrated its 75th anniversary.  There are two sub-zones: Vinalopó, which is the Southern area of the province known for Monastrell, which we visited.  The other sub-zone is known as La Marina in the Northern area of the province.  Alicante’s grape growing and wine production traces back to the Romans.  The soil in the region is comprised of lime and sedimentary rock with a sandy consistency.  Vinalopó is known for Mediterranean temperatures that tend to shift to frequent frosts in the Winter creating extreme temperatures ranging from day to night.

Ramon Castano Santa is the original visionary behind the winery.  Ramon has been involved in the wine business since 1950 when the family built its first winery in Yeda, a small city near Villena,.  The family acquired Sierra Salinas vineyards in the beginning of 2000 and built the winery,  Bodagas Sierra Salinas, which is named after a mountain range.   The winery was up and running in 2006.  The Castano family made a bet on Monastrell (a red wine grape variety), and wanted to balance the legacy, quality and technology to make the best wine possible.  The production of Sierra Salinas will never pass 200,000 bottles because the family believes that the wines need to show the authenticity of the soil, terroir and the people.  In 2013, MGWines Group acquired the property.

We met with Winemaker Sebastien Boudon, who came to Spain from France because he was excited about the opportunities in the region.  He took us through the winery and showed us the unique temperature control system designed to manage the extreme temperatures as well as the gravity system the winery uses to avoid pump racking.  The grapes are processed on three levels of the building – the vinification plant is one the first floor; the grapes are pressed on the second floor and the bottling occurs on the third floor.  The grapes are hand picked and harvested in small batches to make sure the best fruit is used, but no fruit is sold in bulk.  The wines are stored in French Oak barrels.

We also walked through the vineyards, which are located 650-680 meters above sea level and we saw the dry irrigation of vines.  The winery is organic and planted on limestone, which is dry farmed.  There are 42 hectares of Monastrell and 10 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, Alicante Bouschet and Petit Verdot, trained with trellis and goblet systems.  We saw two different vineyards – which had terroir that changed from clay to stones and with older vineyards.

We then went into the tasting room and had the opportunity to try seven wines.  Here was our line-up:

2013 Puerto Salinas – a blend of 70 percent Chardonnay and 30 percent Moscatel, which had lots of jasmine and floral notes with white stone fruit and mineral notes.  A great deal under $10.

2012 MO Salinas Monastrell – lots of juicy cherry, berry, spice and very fruit forward.  The price tag here is $8.99 making it a hell of a deal and it matched my purse.

2010 Puerto Salinas – this had some age and more complexity.  You could taste the blackberry, spice, liquorice, beef jerky, balsamic and black pepper.  This one was a great deal at under $15.

2011 Puerto Salinas – it was fun to taste the difference that a year of age can make.  This had notes of floral (violets and roses), graphite and lots of spice. It was very silky and was easy to drink.  Same price range as above.

2010 Mira Salina –this one had notes of maple, vanilla and a deep berry.  The balance on this wine was great and I really enjoyed this more between the vertical.

2011 Mira Salina – this had earthier notes of licorice, berry, hazelnut and coffee.

2009 Salinas 1237 – this was an amazing and intense wine.  I tasted notes of currant, toffee, blood orange, balsamic and earth.  This wine was elegant, long lasting and a wonderful special occasion wine.  I made sure to bring a bottle of this home with me.  Sebastien talked about how this wine takes the best of the landscape with both the terroir and the grapes.  We ended with the Dulce dessert wine, which I didn’t have enough time between notes and pictures to truly savor.

We then moved to a delicious paella lunch at Restaurant La Despensa and ate our weight in paella and dessert.  At that point, we needed to walk the city so it was time for me and my partners in crime, Thea and Liza to explore the city.  Then another night at a great restaurant and another food coma.


MGW Group: My Introduction to the Wines of Alicante, Bullas and Bierzo, Day One

James Melendez (James the Wine Guy), Ward Kadel (Vinopanion) and me

I was invited by MGW Group, a new group of the top-of-the-line wineries from different appellations or denomination of origin (DOs) in Spain, to attend a U.S. wine bloggers trip to visit three wine regions – Alicante; Bullas and Bierzo – three terroirs where the weather couldn’t be more different and spanned from South to the North. 

The MGW Group focuses on boutique wineries that produce no more than 500,000 bottles per year that truly focus on the terroir of each region.  These are incredible value wines and the range and depth of what I tried impressed upon me that I need to do everything in my power to get them to Texas.  Distributors, take heed.

The trip started with a bang – after holding my breath from being number one on the American Airline’s upgrade list – I got the announcement that “Weazy was movin’ on up” to business class.  I knew that two of my fellow bloggers, James Melendez and Ward Kadel were flying through Dallas, but we didn’t meet up until the flight was delayed.  At that point my three million miles and American Express platinum card (membership has its privileges) allowed us to grab a quick glass of wine at the Centurion Lounge at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport and catch up.  We were having so much fun that we looked down to realize the delay wasn’t quite what we originally thought.  The mad dash for the plane was on and we made it with barely time to spare.

James, Ward and Mike

We were met by Mike from Kraynick & Associates, who served as our cruise director, with patience, humor and a passion for the region.  He was unflappable when our two compadres were delayed in Paris, he found a way to take make sure they were taken care of and had details on how to catch the later train. 

We had the opportunity to walk the city of Madrid and begin our journey of eating for ten each meal.  We started at Gastrobar Larumbe with a preview of several of the wines that we would discover – the Tillenus, the Lavia + and the Puerto Salinas white, which I’ll talk about in more detail in futureposts.  The meal, which consisted of multiple tapas was delicious and substantial.  I soon discovered this was our “light meal” of the trip.  The two remaining bloggers pulled a stunt straight out of the show “Amazing Race” and made the train even though we thought they’d be several hours after us.  We didn’t figure this out, of course, until ten minutes before the train pulled into the Alicante station.

After a badly needed shower, we met for dinner and walked through the city of Alicante stopping for tapas and wine along the way.  There was a futbol match of Barcelona against Real Madrid, which a few of our group wanted to see, so we found a pretty authentic place to experience the game.

At this point, with our stomach’s full of great food and wine, the #olewinos probably made the last smart decision of the trip and retired to be fresh for tomorrow’s adventure. 


Summer Wine Round-up: Feeling Thirsty?

If you’ve been following Dallas Wine Chick since I started my job as the head of marketing for an energy software company, you know that I work with a great group of people who are more than willing to step in and “assist” in the tasting of wines.  We started #thirstythursdays which evolved into #winewednesdays and then occasionally turned into #tipsytuesdays.  My travel has been challenging lately, so when we were able to gather, I would open a large number of wines that I needed to review.

The latest tasting included 25 wines from Spain, France, California, Argentina, Italy and even two ciders – the first time that I have ever been given cider samples.  These were the 14 that made the favorite list:

Sparkling/Rose

California

2013 Isabel Mondavi Deep Rose Cabernet Sauvignon – very crisp with raspberry, strawberry and apple. I’ve come over the years to enjoy rose much more than I used to and wines like this have caused that evolution.

Spain

NV Anna de Codorniu Cava – a very nice drinking cava with notes of apple, lots of minerality and freshly baked bread.

Whites:

France

2011 Chateau Lamothe de Haux Blanc – this was a delightful white wine with crispness, character and balance at $13.  Refreshing and with a great minerality.

Spain

2012 Martin Codax Albarino – I am a huge fan of this wine and Albarino wines in general.  This one had great minerality, pear, white peach and notes of citrus.

2012 Laxas Albarino — lovely and also well regarded.  I tasted pineapple, orange, apple and apricot.  It was also a great expression of this grape.

2013 Cune Monopole Rioja – tropical fruit, jasmine and other floral notes make this a perfect wine for a hot Texas Summer. 

Reds:

Argentina

2008 Susana Balbo Brioso Agrelo Malbec – this was one of my favorite reds of the tasting and personified what a Malbec should taste like. 

California

2011 Emblem Cabernet – a very nice cabernet with notes of blackberry, cassis, vanilla and tobacco.

2012 Olema Pinot Noir – black cherry, all spice, black pepper with some of the earthiness that comes from Sonoma Pinot Noirs.  It was a head turner.

NV Rare Red 4 Grape Blend – a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Verdot, Petite Sirah and Merlot from Lodi, Paso Robles and the Central Valley.  This is your perfect pizza wine at $10.

Chile

2012 Rios de Tinta – I thought this was a very affordably priced everyday Chilean table wine.  I got notes of blackberry, mocha and plum.

2011 Rios de Chile Reserva Carmenere – lots of tobacco, vanilla, clove, plum and blackberry in this wine. Well balanced and a great representation.

Oregon

2011 Elizabeth Chambers Winemaker’s Cuvee Pinot Noir – this was delicious and I tasted mushroom, plum, black cherry, truffle and violets.  I so enjoyed this and am very glad this Oregon-based winery has expanded nationally and to Texas.

Ciders:

I am new to craft ciders so it was fun for me to learn more about Michael & Paul Scotto’s approach to bringing wine making techniques to making hard apple cider.  They use a combination of five different apple varieties and the process of making wine and making cider have many similarities.  We tried two versions – the William Tell Hard Apple Cider and the William Tell Pinot Grigio Hard Apple Cider.  I liked them both, but the 15 percent of Pinot Grigio had a special something.  It was delicious, refreshing and tasted like a baked apple.


Cork Wine Bar: Wine 101, 201 and 301 Education Series

I was recently asked to participate in Cork Wine Bar’s series of wine classes — Wine 101, 201 and 301, that was hosted by Stephanie and Jeff Rennells, the passionate and funny owners of Cork.  At each session we tasted six wines from around the world.  I found the wines to be diverse, off the beaten path and came to the realization that Stephanie and Jeff took great care to select wines that they were excited about sharing.  The entire series of three diverse and fun tastings was only $115, which is the deal of the decade.

The Fundamentals of Wine Series 101 took folks through wine producing regions of the world, common varieties, how to taste wine, common flavors of wines, wine ratings and common wine terms.  I was in Palo Alto for work, so I couldn’t attend this one, but the materials that were distributed looked like a great primer for beginners looking to learn more about wine. 

I was able to attend Wine Series 201 where we covered New World and Old World wines.  The format was casual, laid back and fun with wines that were affordable and then sold at a discount that evening.  People asked plenty of questions and the knowledge of the attendees ranged from newbies to serious wine lovers.  We covered how sparkling wines and champagnes are made and then tasted wines and cheeses from around the world – Spain, Austria, France and California primarily.  I loved the Qupe Marsanne which had layers of caramel, butterscotch, almond and a lot of complexity.  Just delicious.  Other stand-outs were The Franc Cabernet France and Chateau Paul Mas Rhone.  We talked wine storage, sustainable wines, tasting and Old World vs New World wines.  

In the Wines Series 301 class, we focused on wines from Italy and France.  They did a nice job in covering the geography of the region, which highlighted the complexities to help attendees understand the differences between the regions of Napa Valley, France (ranging from the Loire Valley to Champagne to Cotes du Rhone to Burgundy to Bordeaux.  Right Bank Merlots to Left Bank Cabernets) and finally Italy.  We talked about pairing food/wine as well as advanced wine terms ranging from unctuous (rich, lush and intense) to volatile (smells of vinegar as a result of a heavy amount of bacteria).  And then, we had a great page of tasting notes of characteristics of red and white wines.  In our tasting, I loved the Antech Cremant, the Val de Mer Petit Chablis, the Langhe Nebbiolo and the Chateau D’Aurilhac Cabernet.

I learned a lot – did you know there were more sulfites in a banana than a glass of wine?  Did you know there was no official certification for natural or sustainably labeled wines?  Stephanie and Jeff reinforced what I am a big believer in personally – try wines you like from lesser known regions.  You’ll find a bargain and you’ll find some wines that you love.    

You will walk away from this class with an understanding of wine varieties and regions, how to identify what you smell and taste, how to spot common defects in wine, how to select wine from a menu, how to read a wine label, and the basics of how wine is made.  There is a lot of information that you will take away from this class, but I won’t be able to bring it all to life the way that that Stephanie and Jeff did.  I highly recommend this wine class series.  It fills a big need in the Dallas market that is currently not filled without taking an expensive certification class.

 

 


Holiday Wine Round Up

It’s a new year and time for a new wine round up of those sampled over the holidays.  This time I tried 18 wines in the $10 to $125 range from California, Chile, Italy and Spain.  Half of them made my list, which excluded some high priced samples:

Whites:

Italy

NV Mionetto Brut Prosecco – the quintessential, easy to drink brunch wine.  Priced at $14, this sparkling wine had notes of green apple, pear, citrus and peach. 

2012 Rocca Sveva Soave Classico ($17) – I liked this wine, but I think it needs to be paired with Italian food.  I got lots of tropical fruit, melon, apple and floral notes. 

Spain

2012 Franco Espanolas Royal White Rioja ($10) – lots of lemon curd, citrus and green apple.  This was a nice aperitif wine that begged for shellfish.

Reds:

California

2011 90+ Cellars Pinot Noir ($16) – a very drinkable wine with black cherry, strawberry, vanilla and earth.   This is a wine club that sources wines from around the world delivered at an “everyday wine” price point.

2010 Wolfgang Puck Red Wine Blend ($14.99) – when a master chef puts his name on a bottle of wine, you know it will be very food friendly.  You taste the berry in the Merlot, followed by the black fruit in the Cabernet, and then finish with the spice of the Zinfandel.  I’d pair this with beef tenderloin.

Chile

2009 Viña Concha y Toro Don Melchor ($125) – this lived up to its billing as Chile’s first ultra-premium wine.  Cassis, berry, tobacco and chocolate notes are showcased in this very well balanced special occasion wine.

Spain:

2009 Franco Espanolas Rioja Bordon Crianza ($13) – a great value wine with notes of cherry, herb, wood, spice and chocolate. 

2007 Franco Espanolas Rioja Bordon Crianza ($15) – notes of cherry, rosemary, basil, and tomato plant – this made me crave a margarita pizza.

I’m also going to give a special shout out to one wine that blew me away from the Guarachi Family.  Guarachi, which was previously unknown to me, sources small parcel lots from top vineyards in Napa and Sonoma and makes Cabernet and Pinot Noir.  The winery was launched by Alex Guarachi, a native of Chile and importer of South American wines.  The winery just purchased Sun Chase Vineyard in Sonoma and if this wine is any indication of what is to come, I’m beyond excited.

2011 Guarachi Family Wines Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($65) – this was full of red berries, cherry, floral, earth and cherry cola.  I loved this wine.


Malai Kitchen: Off the Beaten Path Wines and Rockin’ Asian Food

I was an invited guest of Malai Kitchen, the Southeastern Asian cuisine restaurant owned by Yasmin and Braden Wages, for a food/wine pairing showcasing their off the beaten path wine list.  I visited the Thursday evening prior to “Icemaggeden.” 

The restaurant is located in Uptown and the concept was inspired by the Wages’ travels to Thailand and Vietnam and their love for the cuisine.  Braden serves as the executive chef and Yasmin manages the front of the house as well as the wine and beverage program. 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I love this style of food and while the cocktail and beer lists look great, I encourage you to try their wine list.   The Wages have put so much time into putting together a well thought through, approachable and unique wine list.  Many of the wines that I tried were ones not familiar to me and the ones that I have tried before were on my favorite list.  Malai offers 20 wines by the glass and they are great values. 

We tried two dishes and started with two wines per dish, but quickly Braden and Yasmin began pulling out others that I just had to try.  Their enthusiasm and passion for food and wine was contagious and I loved spending time with this delightful couple.  

We paired the ahi tuna spring rolls with the Rodez “Cuvee des Crayeres” Ambonnay Grand Cru champagne from France.  At $45 for the bottle (yes, at a restaurant – grand cru champagne at $45 a bottle)…, I got fresh baked bread, floral notes, minerality, pear and apple.  It went really well with the spring rolls, which were fantastic.  Our next wine was the 2012 Aveleda Vinho Verde from Portugal at $7 for the glass or $26 for the bottle.  With a slight effervescence to it, I tasted notes of lemon and apple.  Another great match. 

The next course of Thai coconut soup was paired with a 2008 Domaine Laru Murgers des Dents de Chien, Saint-Aubin Premier Cru at $11 a glass or $42 for the bottle. The acidity and depth of this wine worked perfectly with the soup.  The second wine was the 2007 Pinot Noir Domaine Jean-Michel Guillon Les Crais (Gevrey-Chambertin, France), which was priced at $12 for the glass, $46 for the bottle.  This was a pairing that I never would have considered but it rocked.  Big notes of cherry, earth and spice worked perfectly. 

Yasmin and Braden wanted to share the 2010 Domaine de Nalys Chateaneuf-du-Pape at $38 for a half bottle.  I got lavender, pepper, rose, cherry and spice.  I wish more Dallas restaurants offered half bottles so you can better pair the dishes with the wine.  Malai has this as well as a 2003 Sawyer Merlot half bottle at $25. 

Our final course was an Australian lamb shank with Massaman curry which was a great match with the lamb. We then moved to one of my favorite Syrah’s from the New World, the 2005 Longoria Clover Creek Vineyard Syrah, at $10 a glass and $38 a bottle.  Lots of wild cherry, berry, plum and oak in this wine and it rocked the lamb.  You can’t find this wine easily in Dallas – come and drink it before I do.  Our final wine was the 2006 Chateau Compassant Bordeaux at $10 a glass or $38 for the bottle. I definitely preferred the Syrah with the lamb, but they both worked. 

Thankfully, Dallasites are moving beyond the safe choices and trying the adventurous wines with happy outcomes.  And with a 4-7 happy hour with $6 wines, cocktails and a happy hour appetizer menu from Monday to Friday and all day on Sunday, you have every reason in the world to try Malai Kitchen.  I have already returned with my husband and kiddo and all signs point to us becoming one of the many regulars who rely upon the Wages’ hospitality.




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