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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.


Another Wine Round Up: Great Entertaining Wines

It’s time for another round of wines from around the world and this week focuses on Chile, Spain, Portugal and Italy.  Most of these wines are under $25 and the majority under $15.  A good showcase of values and “off the beaten path” wines make these regions ones to try.

Chilean

  • 2012 William Cole Albamar Sauvignon Blanc – grapefruit, citrus, flowers and orange blossom.  This was the favorite white of the tasting.
  • 2012 Como Sur Sauvignon Blanc – herbaceous with lots of grapefruit and green apple.
  • 2012 William Cole Columbine Special Reserve – citrus, floral, grassy and a nice balance of minerality
  • 2012 Garcia and Schwaderer Sauvignon Blanc — grapefruit and notes of honey.

Spain

  • Campo Viejo Garnacha – very drinkable with notes of cherry, flowers, spice, vanilla and oak.  A great easy drinking Tuesday night pizza wine.

French

  • Joseph Drouhin 2011 Bourgogne Pinot Noir – red cherry, black cherry, earthiness, red raspberry, balanced fruit.  A very nice pinot noir for a value price.
  • Joseph Drouhin 2012 Bourgogne Chardonnay – a nice Old world style with notes of lemon, vanilla, honey with a nice balance and in the style that I prefer in a chardonnay.  I really enjoyed this wine.

Portugal

  •  Herdade Do Esporao 2012 Monte Velho White – tropical, vanilla, peach and lemon peel.  Had some depth and layers to the wine.
  •  Herdade Do Esporao 2012 Monte Velho Red – bramble, berry, bramble and cedar.  Very drinkable but would benefit with food.

Italy

  •  2012 San Pietro Lagrein – plum, cherries, spice, floral and oak
  • 2011 Elena Walch Lagrein – blackberry, cherry, chocolate, floral with a nice balance.  This was one of my favorite reds with that tasted much more expensive than $20.  This was the crowd pleasing red for our group.

 


A Few of My Favorite Things: Another Wine Review Column

I had a chance to taste wines from nine wineries from regions ranging from Italy, Spain and California. Of the wines sampled, I’m going to profile seven of them.

Italy

2011 Tenuta Costa Lahnhod Sauvignon Doos – This 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc wine from the Alto Adige DOC was my first Italian version of this varietal. It was full bodied with notes of herbs, white stone fruit and minerality. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I liked the balance of the fruit and steeliness.

NV Piccini Memoro Bianco – lots of green apple, apricot and floral notes to this wine along with honeysuckle and herbs. This is a blend of viognier, chardonnay, vermentino and marche. A bargain for $9.99.

Spain

2009 Rupestre de Alpera – This was the hands down favorite of the Spanish wines sampled. There was a complexity to the wine from the notes of balsamic, oak, smoked meat and dark berries. For $19, this is a great weekday option.

Argentina

2011 Kaiken Ultra Malbec – black cherry, dark berries, tobacco and vanilla notes round out this well-made Malbec. I loved the finish of this wine.

2012 Kaiken Terroir Series Torrontes – talk about flowers in a glass. Combine that with tropical fruit and orange blossoms and you have pegged this wine.

California

 

2012 Clos LaChance Dry Rose – this was another group favorite that took us all by surprise. Lots of raspberry, cherry and ruby red grapefruit with notes of flowers and a very dry finish.

2007 Mustache Mentors Naked Rebel – In all honesty, the Naked Rebel wine is a perfectly good pizza wine with an attitude that makes me chuckle. It was very jammy with notes of spice and tobacco. If you look closely at the back of the bottle you can find my favorite lines mentioning a Zombie apocalypse, a Prius and White Zinfandel.


Thirsty Thursday Round Up: My Finds in August

It’s time for another round up of wines and I brought in my colleagues to help me taste them.   I think I’ve been pretty vocal about really enjoying my role with the new company that I joined the end of February.  Because there were so many review wines coming in and I wasn’t happy with my delay in reviewing them, I started #thirstythursdays at the new company.  It was here that I met Randy, one of my most colorful and fun colleagues.  You see Randy doesn’t like wine much at all.  But, after proving I could hang with the boys on a business trip to London, he agreed to come to these tastings and provide classic commentary.  More to come on his quotables later.

We tried 17 wines over several Thursday’s in July and August with varying price points.  Below are my favorites:

Whites:

Arnaldo Caprai Grecante Grechetto di Colli Martani – apricot, lemongrass, honeysuckle and lime.  I really enjoyed this refreshing white with a SRP of $14.

Bolla Soave Classico 2011 – For $8, this is a refreshing white with notes of lemon and pear.

Reds:

Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf du Pape 2005 – I really liked this wine.  It was juicy and balanced with brambly fruit, pepper and notes of chocolate.

Arcadian Syrah Stolpman Vineyard 2005 – this wine had a nice minerality with notes of Asian spice, raspberry, white pepper and Asian flavors.

Domaine du Terme Gigondas 2003 – this was a soft wine with notes of tobacco, cranberry, licorice, white pepper and soft tannins.

Montefalco Rosso 2009 – black cherry, mocha and one of the tasters exclaimed, “this wine makes me happy” and shouldn’t wine do just that?

Scacciadiavoli Sagrantino di Montefalco 2007 – very earthy, dark fruit, young berries and herbal, but has a lushness.  If the first white listed above, the Montefalco Rosso and this wine are indicative of wines from Umbria, I’ve doing more research on the region.

Matchbook Tempranillo 2010 – notes of blueberry, blackberry, mocha and chocolate make this a very smooth and balanced tempranillo.

Bridlewood Cabernet 2011 – black fruit, chocolate and caramel makes this wine beg for a great piece of chocolate or blue cheese as a great match.

Coppola Votre Sante Chateau Red 2012 – cherry with some nuttiness.  The presentation of the $14 wine was quite impressive, but I’m not sure if it was because it was a blogger sample.

Tendril Pinot Noir 2010 – one of my favorite samples that I’ve received in quite some time.  Full of black cherry, herbs, blackberry and floral notes, this was a fabulous wine and exactly what I would expect a great Oregon Pinot Noir to be.  I have my eye on Tony Rynders, owner and winemaker, and expect great things from him in the future.

So back to Randy, who I hope will be providing more colorful quotes in the future (to wines that did not make the cut) like “this is not a taste that I like, it’s like sucking on a vinegar bottle” or this tastes “like a wine vampire.”  For the record, he did find a few that he even liked, which is a great thing about the vast differences in wines that are produced.

 

 


Wine Review Round-up: French, Spanish, Italian and California

With the new gig, a little behind on wine reviews… 

It’s been a while since I’ve done a wine round up and lately I’ve been fortunate enough to try some really great wines at all price points.  Since I started my new job in Dallas, I have been instituted “Thirsty Thursday’s,” where I gather my co-workers and we have team building with wine involved.

I’ve listed my favorites in several different categories based on trying more than 40 wines.  These were often tried by region, varietal or price point.

Value Wines ($15 and Under)

2011 Domaine Maby La Forcadière – a dry rose with a nice minerality and notes of raspberry and flowers.  I really enjoyed this rose and I don’t give compliments on roses lightly.

2011 Bolla Soave Classico – a well-priced summer wine with citrus, apricot, peach and a nice crispness.

2012 Bodegas Ostatu Rioja Blanco – tropical notes, crisp and refreshing.  Another great summer refresher.

2012 Vina Ventisquero Sauvignon Blanc – citrus, tropical fruit, minerality with a nice balance of herbs and a creamy texture.

2012 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc – apple, grapefruit and pear.

2011 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Reserva Carmenere – a nice expression of Carmenere with blackberry, forest floor, mocha and spiciness.

2010 Matchbox Dunnigan Hills Syrah – at $10, this wine with notes of raspberry, currant, black fruit, cocoa, spice and jam, was the best red wine that I’ve tried at this price point.  It had depth and complexity that I have never found in a $10 bottle.

2009 Ruiz de Viñaspre – I tasted lots of red fruit and floral notes in this 100 percent tempranillo.  It was a well-balanced wine and very drinkable with or without food.

2010 Vina Zaco Rioja Tempranillo – lots of vanilla and spice with blackberry and mocha.

2009 Bodegas Bilbainas Vina Pomal Crianza – blackberry, licorice, cedar, mocha and spice make this a well-balanced wine.

$15 to $40

2001 Ramirez de La Piscina Gran Reserva – all spice, flowers, cherries, currant and lots of depth.  This is an elegant wine that is drinking very well today.

2005 Finca Allende Rioja Allende – notes of blackberry, cherry, earthiness with layers of depth.

2005 Deobriga Rioja – smokiness combined with lots of red fruit, flowers, vanilla, spice and tobacco.

2006 Grupo Olarra Bodegas Ondarre Reserva – a very smooth wine with lots of rich red fruit, dates and spice.

2009 Domaine Bressy-Masson Cotes du Rhone-Villages Rasteau Cuvee Paul Emile – this was a rich and smooth wine with notes of blackberry, fig, tobacco, black tea, spice and chocolate.

2009 Domaine du Pesquier Gigondas – this was a big wine with lots of terrior, berry, black cherry and herbs.  This was a very well balanced wine.

2010 De Martino Legado Reserva Carmenere – another good expression of Carmenere with notes of tobacco, flowers, vanilla and cassis.

Over $40

2007 Finca Monteviejo – a powerful wine with blackberry, plum, mushroom, currant, dried fruits, spice and earth.  Exactly what a great Rioja should taste like.


A Night with Morlanda and Judith Llop in Dallas

Judith Llop, the winemaker for Morlanda, one of Spain’s shining stars from Priorat, came to town last week and I had the chance to sit down with her at an intimate wine dinner.  Morlanda is part of the Heredad Collection, a small collection of limited-release premium wines from the top estates in Spain.  It is owned by the Ferrer family, who you may know for the widely distributed Freixenet, who uses its wide distribution network to bring great wines out of Spain that would never otherwise reach the United States.

We were invited to the home of Janet Kafka, who runs the Freixenet family’s PR efforts, which is worth a mention as one of the best entertaining houses in Dallas.  The artwork alone is worth its own column.  We started with the Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad, which was a source of much discussion about how much of a value and crowd pleaser this sparkling is.  I personally have served it for many brunches and have always received great comments.

Judith talked about the wines that we would taste and how they truly are “her babies.”  Her goal is to make wines that are drinkable today, which is often not a characteristic of wine from Priorat.  She is the daughter of vineyard owners in Terra Alta in Spain.  After getting her Oenology degree from Tarragona University, she worked for Miguel Torres, Vina Errazariz, among others, before joining the Freixenet group in late 2003.

We tried three wines from her collection along with some belt loosening, but very good food.  We started with a Wild Mushroom Souffle with rosemary black pepper demi with the 2011 Garbo from Montsant.   This was young, drinkable wine.  It was very fruity with notes of blueberry.

Our next course was Smoked Beef Short Rib with Manchego Whipped Parsnip Cauliflower Puree, Sweet Snap Peas and Peppers paired with the 2009 Mas de Subira and 2007 Morlanda from Priorat.  The Mas de Subira had tons of structure with slate, cocoa, plum and cherry.  The 2007 Morlanda, which I absolutely loved, was full of plum, chocolate, balsamic and mocha.

The more wines I try from Spain – especially from Priorat – the more I realize I how much I am a huge fan of just about every wine I have tried from this region.


Give Cork A Pop: A Wine Bar Review

It had been a while since I had last visited Cork Wine Bar and it was time for a return trip.  I knew that Cork used Enomatic wine dispensers, and I am a huge fan of the technology.  It allows consumers to try a wide variety of wines while making business sense for wine bar owners.  Thus, I made the journey to the West Village in Uptown.

When I walked in, I saw 48 wine options labeled into categories (big and bold, eight for eight, etc.) along with a variety of computer touch screens giving information about each of the wines along with the price.  You can try in quantities from a one ounce tasting to a full glass of six ounces. 

My friend compared it to a “grown up’s Dave and Busters,” in reference to the card that you buy to insert into the machines as you taste the wines.  We tried wines from several regions – from California to Spain to France to Washington State.  The unanimous favorite for the wine was the 2011 Chateau Guiraud ‘Le G de Chateau Guiraud’ Blanc Sec from Bordeaux, France.  It was a Sauvignon Blanc blended with Semillon and it had flavors of citrus (lemon and grapefruit), thyme and notes of honey. 

Our favorite red was the 2010 Spring Valley Vineyard Kathryn Corkrum Cabernet Franc from Walla Walla, Washington.  This was a well balanced red with flowers, green pepper, raspberries, herbs and some strawberry.  This was a very nice and fragrant cabernet franc that represented the grape well.

I tried six wines for less than $25 and loved the variety of choices.  Cork also designates a certain happy hour section each night and features a retail selection with 350 wines and craft beers.  They also have a selection of appetizers and desserts.


California and Rioja Wines: A Mix of Cellar Worthy & Tuesday Night Wine

The sample wines were multiplying again, so I invited over some friends and opened a variety of bottles from California and Spain.  I’ve found as the blog gets older, the wines are definitely getting better.  Today was no exception.

California

Cornerstone Cellars never disappoints.  We started with the Cornerstone Cellars 09 Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain.  I was lucky enough to have tried this before at A Taste of Howell Mountain in Dallas.  This was a gorgeous wine with lots of black cherry, currant, licorice, mocha, cinnamon and lots of depth and complexity.  These wines are consistently good – the grape and the region don’t seem to matter.  It is priced at $80, but it is cellar and special occasion worthy.  

Our next journey through California was the 2010 Matchbook Syrah from Dunnigan Hills, a winery that I was not familiar with before the tasting.  It was jammy and spicy with notes of raspberries, blackberry pie, plum and currants.  We were eating olive hummus and it was a fabulous match with the food.  At a suggested retail price of $16, this was a great wine for the price.

Spain

I continued my love affair with the Rioja region with wines from Basque Country. 

We started with the 2007 Bodegas Ruiz de Viñaspre, which is 100 percent tempranillo, with lots of berry, licorice, violets and mocha with candied fruits.  This was another very drinkable value wine for about $15. 

The second bottle was the 2007 Finca Monteviejo, which is from Viñedos y Bodegas de la Marquesa – Valserrano, a decades-old, family run winery.  The wine is 95 percent tempranillo and a 5 percent mix of graciano and garnacha. This was an earthy and intense wine with dried fruit, blackberry, currant, jam and chocolate.  Very well balanced and $42.


Wine Club Reunited: Spanish Heavy Hitters, White Flights, Napa Finds and Cajun Cuisine

Picture a group of very driven, professional folks that have a passion for wine, like to have fun, enjoy off the beaten path wines and make sure to not take ourselves too seriously.  The last part a total 180 from what you would expect a somewhat serious wine club to look like especially from a group representing a snapshot of corporate America.

We tried taking ourselves too seriously in the beginning where we voted members in, selected favorite wines and then tried to store them for the right period of time before opening and officially voting on our favorites. That all changed one fateful night of tasting Turley Zinfandels where we threw all decorum out the window and had an amazing time.  There may or may not be a YouTube video that you will never find capturing our version of MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This.”  Throughout the years, we changed the goal of the club to enjoying wines we haven’t had before while putting the emphasis on fun.  And, you know, I ended up learning and retaining a lot more knowledge.

As most groups go, life got in the way for awhile and we had not met in a few months.  When Peter and Jen revived the group, I was excited. I walked in with my Spiegelau glasses and no idea of what surprises were in store.

It turns out we were having a Mardi Gras theme with homemade Cajun food.  Our hosts wanted to do a Spanish red theme, but knew that it wouldn’t match the food, so another theme was added to go with the dinner.  We started with wines that would go well with spicy food.  Our first line-up included the following:

 

  • Chateau Bonnet Entre-Deux-Mers Blanc 2011 – a blend of sauvignon blanc, semillon and muscadelle with grapefruit, minerality and a little hint of sweetness.  Great wine under $10.
  • Chateau Guibon  2011 – lots of pear and melon with a nice balance from the blend of Semillon, sauvignon blanc and muscadelle.  This wine is led by the Semillon and is more muted than the first.  Another nice white under $10.
  • Leyda Sauvignon Blanc 09 – lots of citrus with lime, grapefruit and green apple.  Great minerality and nice finish. Also in the $10 range and a great bargain.
  • Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 09 – lots of grapefruit, exotic fruit and grassy notes. 
  • Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc 07 – I am a big fan of Merry Edwards wines – especially the Sauvignon Blancs and Pinots – this had the same minerality and citrus notes, but unfortunately had lost some its essence with time.

 

Then it was truly showtime – a line-up of highly rated Spanish reds, all from the highly-rated 2004, of which I have not had the opportunity to try.  Our line-up was:

  • Bodegas y Vinedos Alion Ribera del Duero 04 – inky black with blackberry, chocolate, spice and some floral notes.  Incredibly rich and yummy.
  • Baron de Magana 04 – priced under $20, this wine had notes of oak, blackberry, current and graphite. Very earthy.
  • Bodegas El Nido Jumilla Clio 04 – it took some time in the glass for me to appreciate this big wine.  I tasted mocha, cardamom, cinnamon and something that was almost port-like.
  • Vall Llach Priorat 04 – lots of blackberry, herbal notes, chocolate, coffee, peanut brittle, vanilla, minerality and spice.  I really liked this wine and it changed in the glass through the course of the evening.
  • Numanthia ‘Termanthia’, Toro, Spain 04 – this was an incredible wine by one of the best Spanish wine makers out there.  It was complex with black and red fruits, eucalyptus and as smooth as silk.  My absolute favorite of the evening.
  • Dominio Pingus Ribera del Duero Flor de Pingus 04 – definitely needed more decanting time, but had notes of cherry, chocolate, oak, smoke, sage, licorice and coffee. 

 

And if we hadn’t tasted enough great wines, one of our participants had just returned from a trip to Napa, so out came the Guilliams Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 07 and Seavey Cabernet 09.  And that was a fabulous end to our evening and a foggy start to a Sunday morning.




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