Archived entries for Sparkling Wine

A Conversation with Eleanor Coppola: The Untold Story of a Renaissance Woman

 Courtesy of Coppola Winery

I was honored last week to spend several hours with Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola at two different Dallas-based events.  The first, and my absolutely favorite, was an intimate lunch with a who’s who of women in Dallas food and wine, hosted by Eleanor Coppola, who is one of the most iconic women I’ve had the chance to sit down with in the wine industry.

You would never know that she has become part of the “first families” of California wine.  You would never know that she’s a well-regarded artist with curated shows around the world.  You would never know she’s an accomplished artist and film documentarian.  You would never know that she’s one of the most accomplished women that I’ve ever had the chance to sit down and talk to about her life.  That’s because Eleanor is focused on you. 

She started our intimate lunch of 12 at Hotel Za Za with a toast where we had to look each other in the eyes or we’d be cursed with seven years of bad sex, according to her husband.  She asked us to talk about how our love for food and wine got us to where we are today.  We spent a lot of time talking about family, what’s on the dinner table and what wine complements the family experience.

Eleanor’s journey began when her father studied art in Paris and discovered food and wine.  They lived in a blue collar town where it was unusual for wine to be on the table.  In college, she drank the traditional Gallo jug wine and it was funny to share that same college wine experience with her.

When she met and married Francis, he came from a big Italian family where wine was always on the table and kids drank the table wine, diluted with ginger ale.  She and Francis’ first experience with fine wine came when he was writing for Bill Cosby in Las Vegas.  Cosby, a wine aficionado, enlightened them to some of the world’s top wines and a love affair was born.

The Coppola’s have two wine properties in Sonoma and Napa.  One is the old Inglenook property in Napa, which was originally known as one of the first great California wines, but fell into making jug wine for many years.  They acquired the property in 1975 and in 2011 they were able to acquire the Inglenook name. They hired Phillipe Bascaules, an agricultural engineer who worked for Chateau Margaux, with the vision of bringing the property back to its glory days of making beautiful estate wines.   “These will be the best wines we can make,” said Eleanor.

But they never lost their love for “macaroni wine with family.”  Francis Ford Coppola Winery with its mid-range Diamond Series is meant to illustrate that love and they have created a family friendly experience in Geyserville complete with a swimming pool, tasting room, and restaurant featuring Francis’ personal favorite items.

The love for family was quite evident during the lunch.  We started with a glass of the Sofia Blanc de Blanc, which Francis made for their wedding.  It was a great wine and Sofia designed the packaging and other aspects of the wine.

Our next course involved their granddaughter, Gia, the daughter of Gian-Carlo Coppola who died in a tragic boating accident.  Gia, a photographer and bartender, is following in her grandfather’s footsteps with the release of Palo Alto, which will be released this Spring.

Then we followed with Eleanor’s wine, labeled Eleanor, whose label featured her passion for textiles.  She’s partial to red wines and this wine brings together a mix of the two properties in Napa and Sonoma.

Eleanor gave us a glimpse of what it was like to grow up in a blue-collar family and suddenly, with Francis’ success with the Godfather, go from a one-bedroom bungalow to a 22 room mansion.  “I felt like I needed to go to hotel school,” she laughed.   

Francis Ford Coppola Live at the Lakewood Theater, Courtesy of Coppola Wines

That night, I went to a very different event.  Francis Ford Coppola was at the Lakewood Theater where a few hundred food and wine lovers attended his one-man show.  This was a mix of Francis talking about his fascinating life with video clips supporting his story in the background.  He talked, he laughed, he sang.  He told a great story.  But, I was lucky.  I had already spent several hours with the woman who was the rock of the family.  Her story is the one that I choose to tell today.


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.


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.


Auburn Football, the BCS National Championship and Wine

I had the honor of attending the BCS National Championship Game last week.  I’m honest with you all — so I’ll admit it — the emotional hangover is still there.  For those of you who follow me strictly for wine – bear with me – I’ll get to that.  This game was about a “bucket list” experience that involved highs, lows, ups, downs, drama, fairy tales and passion.  It was about winning and losing.  It was about friendship – seeing very old friends and cementing relationships with new friends.  I couldn’t have better content for a blog that talks about experiences.

If you don’t follow college football, the BCS National Championship Game is the last game played to decide the top college team.  This year, Auburn and Florida State were the teams competing.  The atmosphere was electric and seeing Pasadena washed in a sea of orange and blue was an emotional experience.

So how did we get there?  I was asked several years ago to be part of an Auburn Athletics advisory committee and I’ve gotten to know the folks that make the athletics department tick.  Because of that relationship, we had an opportunity to buy tickets to the game at a decent cost vs. the four figure estimates featured on Craigslist.  Couple that with a dear friend who is a high ranking college conference official (who would never want to be identified) and we had our hotel hook up and friends to play with for the weekend.

We stayed at the Langham Hotel, which has been around since 1907 and has to have the most complete amenity kit ever.  The hotel also hosted many of the VIP college conference officials, ESPN’s commentators and other sports icons.  Walking through the lobby after going for a run and seeing ESPN’s Game Day’s, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit, as well as Johnny Manziel formerly from A&M, and other sports VIPs was intense.

We drank some great wines and because of the company we were with, I can claim that the Chairman of an unnamed Bowl purchased a bottle of 2009 Domaine Serene Pinot Noir for our table.  I also had my first BevMo experience where I tried out several of the wines recommended by Wine Bloggers Conference friend, Wilfred Wong.  Wish we had this store in Texas!

And because I am a dork, one definite highlight leading up to the game was the multiple motorcycle police escort we had going to the Rose Bowl.  And answering the question that many of you had, I was not in trouble.  This was pre-game and I did not go all Alabama mom (just Google it, I don’t want to give that crazy woman any encouragement) on someone.  But blowing through lights when you are not dead or involved in a funeral procession, is a pretty cool experience.

Auburn was up until the last 79 seconds.  It was one of those games where the lead changed 3 times in the final handful of minutes.  Florida State had the ball last and took home the crystal football.  As an Auburn fan, I maintain my emotional hangover.  As a fan of the overall experience, I had a “bucket list” moment.  War Eagle and wait until 2015!


A Few of My Favorite Sparklings

Courtesy of Pierre Peters Champagne

I published a few of my favorite sparkling wines at a variety of price points just in time for your New Year’s celebration.  See what you think of what I published in Culture Map Dallas.  What are your favs?


Take Time to Be in the Moment

For the last nine years, I’ve hosted an annual girl’s wine club champagne and sparkling tasting.  Usually this involves me recruiting my kind husband who cooks massive amounts of great food paired with very loud conversation, lots of catch up and of course bottles and bottles and bottles of sparkling wines and champagne. 

Each year there seems to be one dominant brand — and 2013 was the year of Perriet Jouet, which was ironic because that trend continued on a carriage ride a few days later with friends.  Someone asked me if I was ready to blog about everything we tasted the memorable and not so memorable.  While I got some good content for an upcoming Culture Map article about sparkling wines, my answer was no.  I love blogging and I love writing Dallas Wine Chick, but this was a time for friendship, good food, catching up and just being in the moment.  Truly what the holidays are all about and if you approach it with a notebook in hand, you are going to miss what is really important.

And so, my dear readers and friends, put down your notebook and look up.  That’s how memories are made.  Cheers and happy holidays!

 


Cornerstone Cellars, Elyse Winery & J Vineyards: Samples to Remember

When sample packages from Cornerstone Cellars, J Vineyards and Elyse Winery arrive in the mail, I’ve learned to stand up and take notice. 

I’ll lead with the still wines.  Both Cornerstone and Elyse are known for hand-crafted and boutique wines that express the terrior where they are produced.  I’ve found these to be balanced, delicious and get better and better every year.  The wines are all distinct and differ depending on where they are grown.  Winemaker Jeff Keene who talked about how his wines express their sense of place .

My notes on the wines were as follows:

  • The 2010 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon combines the grapes of three vineyards — Ink Grade on Howell Mountain, Oakville Station in the To Kalon district and Kairos in Oak Knoll.  Tons of blackberry, raspberry, dried herbs, chocolate and mocha.  I had the chance to try this in the spring and it only got better with age.
  • The 2010 Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is from the Ink Grade Vineyard on Howell Mountain known for its white soils, which is unique.  This wine had tons of black fruit, spice, flowers, mocha and chocolate.  I loved every sip of this and it was beautiful.
  • The 2010 Stepping Stone Napa Valley Cabernet Franc was full of berries, herbs and the greenness that is indicative of cabernet franc.  It was balanced and delicious.

In the spring, I sat down with the Elyse Winery’s portfolio of wines at the winery.  The Elyse Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel 2008 was impressive then, and the 2009 is impressive now.  I took this wine to a gathering with friends and it was definitely the favorite of the evening.  It was full of red berry, spice, earthiness, plum and coffee. 

And now onto J Vineyards & Winery bubblies.  I had the chance to meet Kathryn Lindstrom, chief operating officer, and Melissa Stackhouse, vice president of winemaking, when they made a trip to Dallas, also in the spring.  Melissa talked about the collaboration that happens with her wine making team of three where there is a focus on the integrity of the grapes and bringing the fruit into the glass.  She views her team’s role as “allowing the wines to find their own happy place” and interfering minimally. 

I tried the J Cuvee 20 Brut which we opened at the turning point of the Auburn game when it became clear we were going to the Championship game.  I tasted almonds, citrus, pear and freshly baked bread.  With our victory solidified and as I made my plane reservations to Pasadena, we turned to the J Brut Rose NV, which was full of luscious strawberry, brioche, raspberry and notes of floral.  Both of these wines stood up to a national championship celebration!  War Eagle!


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.

 


Discovery of a Region: A Snapshot of South African Wines

I was invited to explore a region lately that was unfamiliar to me – South Africa.  The distribution of these wines haven’t been strong in Dallas, so it requires some detective work to try a variety of wines from the region.  According to the Wines of South Africa site, the region has grown by 219 percent between 1998 and 2010.

The South African wine industry is backed by the Institute for Viticulture and Oenology, a state region which includes the departments of viniculture at the University of Stellenbosch and the Elsenburg Agricultural College.

The people of Graham Beck delivered  six sample bottles containing of a mix of sparkling wines, chenin blanc, pinotage and cabernet sauvignon.  Every wine was value priced and I was enthusiastic about every one that I tried.  While Graham Beck produces premium wines, the winery is also dedicated to education and empowerment of farm workers.

The first three were sparkling wines, one vintage and two non-vintage bottles all produced in the Methode Cap Classique.  The line-up was as follows:

  • Graham Beck Brut Rose, NV – notes of berry and floral, this was a delightful first taste into South African sparkling wines.
  • Graham Beck Brut NV – notes of pear, apple and baked bread with a nice minerality.
  • Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs 2008 – a premiere cuvee with notes of lime and of apricot.

We tried three still wines including:

  • Graham Beck Game Reserve Chenin Blanc 2012 – a refreshing white with notes of melon, pineapple and other tropical fruits.  I really like this style of white wine.
  • Graham Beck Game Reserve Pinotage 2010 – this is a style of wine that South African is well known for and this doesn’t disappoint.  Big notes of cigar, berry and plum.
  • Graham Beck Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 – notes of blackberry, cherry, chocolate and mocha.  I think this wine would benefit with a little more age in the bottle.

I really enjoyed getting a snapshot into South African wines and plan to do some exploring to find out more about the region.  Definitely worth the passport stamp.


Franciacorta: Discovering a Sparkling Powerhouse

I recently participated in a Twitter tasting for a region that was new to me – the Franciacorta region from Lombardy in Northern Italy.  The region, which was originally known for still wines, now is a powerhouse area for Italian sparkling wines using the traditional method of re-fermentation in the same bottle and the first to obtain Italy’s DOCG (Demominazione di Origine Controlla e Garantia) designation.

The region is located about an hour East of Milan on the hills from towns south of Lake Iseo in the Province of Brescia.  Franciacorta has made still wines since the 16th century and sparkling wines started in the region about 50 years ago.  These wines are made using the Chardonnay, Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) and Pinot Bianco grapes on about 5,400 acres.  The soil is rich with minerals and calcareous and sandy soils on limestone bedrock.

We tried a variety of styles of the sparkling wines that day all made in the metodo classico style.  Our line-up was as follows (all were non-vintage wines):

-          Lo Sparnerre Saten NV ($25) – notes of yellow apple, toast, saline, mineral and pear was silky, refreshing and delightful.

-          Barone Pizzini Brut NV ($35) – notes of tropical fruit, yeast, creaminess, ginger and floral notes. Loved the acidity on this one.

-          Montenisa Brut NV ($37) – tasted like brioche, apple, peach, lemon and pear.  Another blogger described this as “apple pie in a glass.”  It was a great description.

-          Ronco Calino Brut NV ($30) – notes of floral, pineapple, vanilla and citrus.

-          Fratelli Berlucchi Rose 2008 ($27) – notes of strawberry, citrus, apple, grapefruit and raspberry.  Delightful.

-          Villa Franciacorta Brut 2007 ($35) – apple, toast, citrus, peach and ginger.

These were all great and received glowing reviews from the folks in my party who tasted them. I am a firm believer that sparkling wines should not just be for special occasions.  The Franciacorta region has been doing sparkling wines with finesse, Old World style and traditional champagne methods.  In 2012, 14 million bottles were sold around the globe.  Once this knowledge becomes more than a wine insiders secret, I suspect this number will be off the charts.




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