Archived entries for Uncategorized

Cavas Freixenet: Exploring the World of Cava

After surviving a business trip to Barcelona, I decided to take advantage of my time there and do some further exploring of cava.  The folks at Cavas Freixenet nicely agreed to add me to the general tour (in English) and a group of us embarked to experience cava.

Freixenet is located in the Penedés region and we traveled by train from Barcelona to the Sant Sadurni d’Anoia train station. We literally got off the 45 minute train ride, took a left and we arrived at our destination. The winery is easy to reach by both car and by train. In fact, the entrance to the caves is just 50 meters from the Sant Sadurní d´Anoia train station, just about 45 minutes from the center of Barcelona. The public tour we were a part of was about 2 hours and included both adults and kiddos. 

We started with a film about the history of the company featuring the iconic boy in the red cap, who has been a part of the company’s brand since 1914.  We also heard about the two families who came together by marriage to make the winery a reality after phyloxera occurred years prior.  We started in the oldest part of the winery, which was eight-levels deep.  I got a deep dive into the making of cava, the evolution of the technology as well the expansion of Freixenet into more prestigious brands including a King’s stamp of approval on one of the bottles. The grapes used are Xarello, Macabeu and Parellada that come from both Freixenet estate vines and over 1,200 grape growers in the region.

We then – much to my daughter’s delight – boarded a train to ascend into the new part of the winery where we saw the cellar evolution, blending, bottling and other examples of modern technology at work.   We ended at the tasting room, where the adults got a glass of the Freixinet Brut Barroco Reserva and my daughter was given grape juice.  It was an awesome learning experience and I’m definitely on a mission to explore more cava – I hope some of the reserve bottles of Freixenet will be part of that future learning experience.


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.


Max’s Summer Menu: Chicken Fried Lobster and Champagne? Why the Hell Not?

Max’s Chef Patrick Russell

I was invited last week to the debut of the summer menu from Chef Patrick Russell from Max’s Wine Dive.  Color me impressed.  From the food to the wine to the general cool mantra of “Fried Chicken and Champagne?  Why the hell not?!”, the place is cool, fun, funky and my kind of place.  Throw in the Monday to Friday Happy Hour from opening to 6 pm, which features wines like Far Niente Chardonnay Nickel & Nickel State Ranch Cabernet, along with the “patio pounders,” which features mix and match cases, six packs and three packs to allow you to try a number of wines at a value, and you had me at hello…

 

This was our line-up.  We started with a pre-course of chicken fried nothing with a goat cheese dipping sauce, duck meatball crostini and blue crab and bacon dip with house-made pepper crackers.  This was served with Moet Imperial bubbly.  Wow!

We moved on to butter lettuce wedgettes with pan-roasted asparagus, bacon lardons and baby fennel on top of butter lettuce with green garlic parmesan dressing.  This was followed by short rib sliders and a chef’s nine cheese mac topped with bread crumbs.  This was served with a fantastic (can’t tell you how great this was) 2009 Chave Hermitage.  The sliders are really really good.

Our main course (was full on the second round) was pork spare ribs, a lobster tail 2.0 (chicken fried lobster tail atop a jalapeno sweet corn waffle topped with parsley butter served with a Moet Nectar.  This was accompanied by roasted mushrooms, barbeque sweet potato chips and creamed corn.

The cheese course was a selection of local cheese out of Patchi Patchi (need to confirm) out of Waco served with a 2011 Nickel and Nickel Ranch Cabernet. 

I look forward to  my next visit.   

 

 

 


Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc: A Taste of the Region

Finally, after 40 days and 40 nights of rain in Dallas, it looks like we are off to the start of Summer.  I am a big fan of well-made Sauvignon Blanc wines – especially in the Texas heat on a patio.  So, when I got the invitation from Dry Creek Valley Wine Association to taste some Sauvignon Blanc wines from a region during the #DCVSauvBlanc Virtual Tasting, I sent an enthusiastic “yes” as my response.

The live tasting featured winemakers Tim Bell of Dry Creek Vineyard, Emmett Reed of Gustafson Family Vineyards, and Ed Sbragia of Sbragia Family Vineyards.  I had the opportunity to meet Tim during a Sonoma wine event in Dallas last year and was impressed by his Sauvignon Blanc then.  The other family owned wines were new to me.  We tried the following wines:

  • 2013 Dry Creek Vineyard DCV3 Sauvignon Blanc ($25)
  • 2013 Gustafson Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($22)
  • 2014 Sbragia Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($22)

Every one of these wines was delicious.  The styles differed based on the elevation, weather and a number of other factors.  What remained common was that the Dry Creek region is a place to find stellar Sauvignon Blanc.

 


Vinomax: The Difference the Right Aerator Makes

I remember when I first discovered that the right stemware for the right wine made a huge difference in the taste of the wine I was drinking.  I’ve taught that lesson to many friends and family members with the same result.

I’ve noticed as I’ve used aerators in this same journey that some make a difference and some notsomuch.  I was asked to try two aerators from Vinomax™, which bills itself as the only patented triple aeration system.  That means that the product mixes air with the wine three times within the aeration chamber.

Have you ever opened a bottle of wine, taken a sip and noticed it just isn’t ready?  Often you’ll hear experts refer to the wine as “tight” or it “may need some time to open.”  Oxygen acts as a miracle agent and allows the wine to breathe, often bringing out the fullest flavor possible.  This is what an aerator does – it allows a controlled amount of oxygen to enter the wine and shortens the time needed to decant or let the wine open.

There were two aerators that I had a chance to try and the results for both were good.  Our model was to use a #winewednesday where I open multiple sample bottles at work and a group of co-workers gather.  It was the group’s first time using an aerator and there were some surprised faces when they tasted a startling difference in the wines before and after aeration.

We used the Handheld Aerator that comes on a stand.  This one is designed for opening up single glasses of wine that are ready to drink upon demand. 

We also tried the Pourer Aerator, which is designed for multiple bottles.  This was also simple to use.  Insert the pourer top on a bottle of wine and voila.   

For around $45, it’s a great investment to have a tool that is designed to make your wine ready to enjoy when you are ready to drink it.  I was impressed with both Vinomax™ aerators and it joins my list of “must have” accessories for the ultimate wine experience.


Everything is Coming Up Sojourn …

Craig Haserot and me at a Sojourn Dallas 2014 tasting event

Years ago on a trip to Sonoma, I was introduced to Sojourn Cellars, an up and coming winery located off the square in the Sonoma Plaza.  Our visit happened to coincide with Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library TV episode featuring Sojourn.  To make a long story short, Sojourn, who was unaware of the tasting, ranked number one in the blind tasting and arrived at their office the next morning to a full voicemail box or orders – completely selling them out of that particular pinot.  Our group sat down with Craig Haserot, co-founder and proprietor of Sojourn Cellars, and heard his great story. 

Sojourn is a boutique winery that specializes in pinot noir, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.  The winery sources fruit from Napa and Sonoma and began as a collaboration between tennis buddies who loved wine. Craig and Ellen Haserot and Erich Bradley, who was an assistant winemaker at Arrowood Winery, developed a plan and Sojourn was born over the next 10 years.

Fast forward about six years where I had just assumed my new volunteer position as chairman of the wine committee for Lakewood Country Club.  One of our missions is to have more boutique winemaker dinners at the Club.  Sojourn was one of the first wineries who came to mind so I picked up the phone and they accepted. 

The dinner, which was spearheaded by Chef William Kovall, was amazing.  We had a five course meal matched the wines.  Sherrie Perkovich, director of marketing for Sojourn, told us all about the winery and the wines.  Highlights were as follows:

Seared Scallop with English Peas, Artichoke, Pancetta and Herb Butter Nage paired with the 2013 Sangiacomo Chardonnay.  With notes of crème brulee and citrus, the delicious scallops absolutely sang. I may have inhaled this prior to the picture being taken.

Bacon Wrapped Ring Neck Pheasant with Caramelized Pear, Morel Risotto and Roasted Pheasant Jus with the 2013 Sangiacomo Pinot Noir. This wine was earthy and had notes of deep cherry and mushrooms. 

Tellicherry Peppered Seared Venison with Crushed Sweet Potato, Pine Nut and Huckleberry with the 2013 Gaps Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir.  This had bigger fruit than the last and evolved in the glass with notes of herbs, chocolate, berry and Asian spice.

Prime New York Strip with Fiddle Head Ferns, Wild Ramp, Fennel Scallop, Potato and Blackberry Gastrique with the 2012 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon.  This was absolutely delicious with notes of cassis, cherry, berry and chocolate. 

The final course was smoked gouda, aged gouda and epoisse with the 2013 Beckstoffer Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine embodies the “Rutherford Dust” concept with notes of chocolate, cherry, berry and mocha. 

Tim Loecker, Sojourn brand ambassador and party extraordinaire

The grand finale was an event at our friends, Justin Kettler’s and Tim Loecker’s, fantastic new home.  I have the honor to have introduced them to Sojourn and clearly they have taken that passion to a new height by throwing a great housewarming party featuring their great wines. 

It was fun to see Dallas’ reaction to Sojourn wines was exactly what I expected.  And, it reaffirmed my decision to buy another case.

 


Wine, Women, Food and Seattle: The Perfect Storm

When my work life and wine life intersect, I always bask in the glow.  I have been incredibly lucky to be accepted into the Executive Women’s Roundtable, an exclusive C-level women’s leadership organization that is run through the Dallas Chamber of Commerce.  The women are amazing – it’s a who’s who of women who leave me in awe every time that I am in a room with them.

The Executive Women’s Roundtable Group at JM Cellars

Annually, we have a weekend leadership retreat designed to be a time of learning, city exploration, laughter and networking.  This year we headed to Seattle.  Yes, the land of Washington Wine, which I fell in love with about five years ago at #wbc10.

Ian and Laura MacNeil

This trip allowed me to explore (briefly) a wine region that I did not have a chance to visit the last time I was there – Woodinville.  But first, we needed to explore vodka.  Ian MacNeil launched the Glass Distillery in 2012 to introduce his flagship spirit, Glass Vodka, to the public.  The shop includes a gorgeous exhibition of glass and on our visit was coupled with a tasting of four types of vodka.  Three were flavored, but the pure Glass Vodka was delicious, smooth and all about style.  This made a girl that wasn’t necessarily a vodka fan, a vodka fan.

Luly Wang Creation for the Vogel Alcove Gala

After a series of meetings and networking events, (if you want the outfit of the year, check out Luly Yang, one of the most fun designers I’ve seen in a long time), we headed to a morning tour of Pike Place Market. 

We had a private tour at the Dale Chihuly Boathouse.  It was awesome to see Chihuly’s glass vision come to life from an aquarium to his private pool to the best dining room ever.  It was a blast from the past to see what inspired the gorgeous designs that have become the standard of glass couture.

John Bigelow

Then the games begin.  I’m never a tour bus winery kind of gal, so I’m going to focus on the two “off the beaten path” wineries that I really enjoyed out of the three we toured.  Our first was JM Cellars, which is considered a private arboretum located on a hill named “Bramble Bump.”  John Bigelow, the incredibly charismatic and passionate winemaker, who had such an infectious excitement for his wines and the story of his family, made us all fall in love with his story and the property.  These guys make 500 cases a year – small and boutique in style.  The 2012 Vineyard Estate red and the 2012 Syrah were my favorite wines that I tried.

Brian Cade

Our next stop was Sparkman Cellars where we spent time with Brian Cade, the general manager.  I loved the vision, “work with the finest ingredients known to man, craft it from something truly real and share it with people that want to drink it.”  Sir, may I have another… I really liked everything that I tried.  The fact that the wine club is named after Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” resonated.  But sadly, to refrain a sad yet often stated theme, the wines are not yet available in Texas.  I hate you three-tier ridiculous legal system.  We are all missing out.

Anytime I can combine time with a group of awe inspiring women combined with the amazing city of Seattle paired with a region of wines that I just want to spend time exploring, that means one of the best weekend’s ever.

 


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. 

 


Two Lands Wine: California Craftsmanship with Australian Character

My love for Ehren Jordan’s wine began with a yellow balloon tied to a non-descript mailbox in Napa Valley.  We were tasting at another winery when I asked my paradoxical question – “if you weren’t working here, what is the first place that you’d stop and taste the wine.”  That brought us to his newly debuted Failla Winery, which was so new it was still unmarked except with that yellow balloon, where I had an amazing conversation with Jordan.  We talked about his vision, why he made the wines he made and the importance of boutique, small production wines.

Hickin and Jordan

Fast forward about seven years later and I was invited to an online digital tasting with Jordan and Bernard Hickin, Jacob’s Creek Chief Winemaker from Barossa to taste the newly debuted Two Lands label.  The two winemakers created a cross-collaboration combining the boutique wine experience at a price point not normally delivered under $14.

Jordan talked about combining, “California craftsmanship with Australian character to create a depth of experience.”  He also discussed how he was blown away when he visited Australia for the first time after having several members of his wine team talk about the great experience they had working on the region. 

We tried four wines in the line-up and I fell in love with two.  I am usually not a Pinot Grigio fan, but the 2013 Two Lands Pinot Grigio has notes of stone fruit, red apple and acid that gave it a nice balance.  The 2013 Two Lands Shiraz was delicious with notes of blueberries, cocoa, herbs, black cherry and chocolate. 

These two value wines bring together the best of both worlds at a price point that makes it easy to afford.

 

 


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.    

 




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