Archived entries for Washington Wines

Domaine Drouhin and Jordan Family Tasting & A Closer Look at Cameron Hughes

Art by Vino Mosaics

This week’s wine column focuses on multiple samples that came from two families that are considered to be stalwarts in wine – the Drouhin family and the Jordan family.  It also covers Cameron Hughes, a man who took a different approach by not having his own vineyards, but by finding interesting wines and negotiating even more interesting prices.

Drouhin Family

The Drouhin Family’s legacy began in Burgundy almost a century ago and is almost synonymous with the region.  Maison Joseph Drouhin became one of the region’s most notable négociants and acquired key vineyards in the Côte d’Or and Chablis.  Thirty years ago, he saw the power of Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley and Domaine Drouhin Oregon began.  Their tagline states, “French soul, Oregon soil.”

I tried three wines:

2015 Cloudline Pinot Noir – made by consulting winemaker, Veronique Drouhin-Boss, this is a great expression of Oregon Pinot from the Eola-Amity Hills.  It has lots of cherry cola, black cherry, chocolate, cassis and a nice earthiness.

2014 Rose Rock Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir – another great expression of the sense of place.  Lots of red, blue and black fruit, earth, cherry cola, cedar wood and pepper.  Absolutely delicious.

2014 Pierre Dupond La Renjardiere Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2014 – earthy, well balanced with lots of red fruit and spice.

Jordan Winery

Tom and Sally Jordan made a promise to become vintners together when they were married in 1959. Avid lovers of French food, wine and cooking, they discovered the quality of California wine and realized that vision could become an immediate reality.

In the 70’s, they decided it was time to move from Colorado to California’s wine country and fulfill that dream.  They found a property (a prune orchard) in Alexander Valley and signed the deed the same day their son, John, was born.  They planted 200 acres of vineyards with a singular goal of producing wines modeled after first growth Bordeaux wines.  Construction of the winery began in 1974 and the mission was winemaking combined with hospitality, which still holds true today.  The first harvest was in 1976 and they’ve been making incredible wines ever since. My husband and I had the chance to stay at the chateau a few years ago and I cannot express what an amazing experience it was.

2013 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon – this is a lush Bordeaux blend with notes of black currants, blackberries, black cherries, violets and mocha.

2013 Chardonnay from Russian River Valley – notes of tropical fruit, lemon curd, crème brulee, citrus with great stone fruit.  It is made in a Burgundian style and is a classic wine to put on the table.

Cameron Hughes

Finally, I am profiling someone who took a different approach to bringing wines to the markets.  In 2001, Cameron Hughes decided to parlay his passion into producing and delivering the best wine deals in the business.  Cameron is a wine trader who meets with growers and producers all over the world and offers small lots of wine to consumers.  You may be drinking a well-known name, but you’ll never know the brand as Cameron keeps the producer or winery’s name a secret to keep the prices low.

The Cameron Hughes line-up is typically 30 wines per year, which changes constantly.  I was able to try six wines in their line-up.  I’m profiling my three favorites.

2014 Cameron Hughes Lot 575 Red Mountain Blend (Washington State) – dark fruit, chocolate, earth and flowers.  Very drinkable and very well priced under $20.

2014 Cameron Hughes Lot 601 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa) – you immediately get “Rutherford dust” when drinking this Cabernet in terms of a sense of place.  Big notes of cassis, blackberry, plum, cherry, earthy, chocolate, graphite and cedar.

2014 Cameron Hughes Lot 607 Cabernet Sauvignon (Walla Walla) –  This is a great Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon.  It has notes of blackberry, spice, graphite, coffee, red fruit and flowers.  Very elegant and nuanced.


The Art of Wine: When Passion and a Business Plan Intersect


Ariane Garcia, Owner, The Art of Wine

She’s a philantropher. A health care executive.  And the owner of The Art of Wine, a neighborhood wine bar in Preston Hollow.  Ariane Garcia found herself with a business plan to write for her graduate studies at Southern Methodist University and The Art of Wine was born.

I had a chance to visit The Art of Wine and chat with Ariane about her vision for the business.  It’s a retail boutique, by-the-glass bar, and local artist display with a goal of providing off the beaten path as well as better known labels.   I found Billecart-Salmon to Hoopes Vineyards to Guidobono to Long Meadow Ranch as well as the better-known labels.

The wine bar also offers a mix of wine and painting classes as well as wine education.  It’s a great neighborhood gathering place to grab a glass of wine and toast to the week’s victories.

December to Remember: My Favorite Wines of the Season

Well, here we are at year end and I have once again let the wine pile up, so let’s consider this one hell of a holiday celebration.  This quarter (for the record, not by myself), I hosted a Halloween party, brought wine to the neighborhood holiday party, was the guest speaker at a Women Who Wine Executive Group, brought wine to numerous neighborhood parties as well as co-hosted a gathering with the Southern Methodist University MBA wine club.  All in all, we went through about 95 wines and today I’m writing about my “special shout outs,” the crème de la crème – my 12 A list choices.  The other 28 good ones will follow next week, but I thought a 40-wine line-up would give you, my readers, a blog hangover.

2009 Ferrari Perle Champagne – elegant, rich and beyond good. I tasted brioche, apple, citrus, stone fruit, almonds and French toast.  This is made with Chardonnay grapes and is the personification of what makes Champagne, well, Champagne.

NV Champagne Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee –this was a delicious compilation of more than 35 of 320 crus of Champagne. It was a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.   I tasted lime, grapefruit, cassis, white stone fruits, raspberry with plum, almond and toasted bread.

2015 Gundlach Bundschu Gewürztraminer – A Gewürztraminer from Sonoma?  Yes, you should.  This delightfully dry wine that Jacob Gundlach brought from his homeland in Alsace.  There are beautiful floral notes and minerality.  I also love the fact that the winery pairs this hip hop music – a perfect match to old school Run DMC.

2015 Naissance Sauvignon Blanc – The Galerie collection was named Naissance, which is French for birth or beginning, to blend Old World and New World wines.  You get an elegant blend of peach and tropical fruits, lemon zest, apple and great minerality.  Such a great expression of Sauvignon Blanc.

2014 Byron La Encantada Vineyard Pinot Noir – this is a big, ripe, rich pinot with notes of blackberry, black cherry, flowers and terroir.  It is complex and muscular, like my husband.

2014 Byron Pinot Noir Nielson Vineyard – I tasted blackberry, earth, herbs, spice and flowers.  This was very elegant and aromatic.

2014 Byron Monument Pinot Noir – this is the blend of the best vineyard blocks.  This was my favorite of the pinots with a pure elegance and notes of deep cherry, berry, licorice, Asian spice and floral notes.

2013 Flora Springs Holiday Kisses Red Blend – from the cool etched Mistletoe themed bottle to the great wine inside, this limited-edition Cabernet Sauvignon blended Napa wine, was a true gift.  It had notes of blackberry, blueberry, chocolate, mocha, plum, vanilla and Christmas spice.  A fantastic holiday themed gift both on the inside and out.

2012 Pleinair Napa Cabernet Sauvignon – this Galerie wine is named after the outdoor French painting method.  I tasted blackberry, spice, flowers, Heath bar and mocha.  It was silky and elegant – easy to drink today or would be even better with some bottle age.

2012 Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella – this was a big, traditional raisined Amarone that needed more time to open, but was clearly the crowd favorite of the tasting (and therefore did not have the time it needed to develop).  I tasted red fruit, cherry and spice.  For being so young, it was still elegant.

NV Proprietary Red CA Locations by Dave Phinney, which represents a blend of the best wines by region across the globe.  This California blend is aromatic, flavorful and nuanced.  I tasted black cherry, raspberry, cigar, blackberry pie, tobacco and black tea.  It’s getting the least expensive wines of a well-known winemaker at a fraction of the price of his other wines.

NV Proprietary Red OR Locations by Dave Phinney – this was a blend of great grapes from Oregon.  This was Thanksgiving in a glass with cherry, cranberry, pomegranate, floral notes and spices.  This was such a lovely wine!

Five Years of Wine Blogger Conference Recaps: #WBC16 Fun Begins Next Week

Tis the season (and the week of the Wine Bloggers Conference) for wine bloggers to take the easy way out with recap posts.  Color me guilty and enjoy the story behind the stories for each conference.  I always have such an amazing time discovering the region, bonding with my friends who I don’t see enough and laughing so hard that I cry.  So, I’m about to attend my sixth wine blogger’s conference next week.

Let’s start with 2010 in Walla Walla, Washington.  As you can see from the post, this was my first wine bloggers conference and I was really playing by the rules.  To me, the moment by moment recap is amusing, but I still had glimpses of the type of coverage I write today, but without the #goingrogue experience.

In 2012, we were in Portland.  The bus outing featured a handsome police officer that pulled the bus over on the way to Carlton, Oregon.  Hence, we had Carlton without handcuffs.

I missed the 2013 event due to a family trip to Costa Rica, which was amazing but I did really want to experience the wine of Canada.

Santa Barbara was the site of the 2014 conference.  We had an amazing pre-trip that was hosted by the San Francisco Wine School and certain wineries.  It definitely established 2014 as the year to come for the private events, stay for the conference.  I walked into this conference with a great understanding of the region.


In 2015, we traveled to the Finger Lakes.  This year, we were on the pre-trip, but first a side journey to Philadelphia where Jeff Kralik opened his home for a birthday celebration with his family.  Special note: his birthday falls this year during the conference.


And now we move to 2016.  The pressure is on for me because I am actually debuting Masthead, a wine made by four bloggers (one being yours truly), and the pressure is on because we had the right grapes (Mohr-Frye vineyard), the right coaches (Mitch Costenino and Paul Scotto) and every tool for success to make this great.

We will see if this is a humbling or well received experience this week. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Auburn Football, College Friends and Legendary Wine

My family and Jay Jacobs, Auburn’s Athletic Director

The day started out with sunshine and a perfect 65 degrees.  It was time for some Auburn football. If you’ve followed this blog, you know that I am an Auburn fan.  I was brought to the prettiest campus in the SEC for a day of steering committee meetings – one for the Auburn Athletics Department and one for the School of Communications.  My family joined me after the meetings on Friday night and our host, Auburn Athletic Director, Jay Jacobs, completely rolled out the “orange and blue” carpet.

The Daniels and Ofenloch Families

We met up with some dear friends – a college roommate and her husband, who along with my husband, might have well have lived alongside us in our college days – and our families.  It’s always an interesting experience to pretend to be an adult with friends that you’ve known since the early days…

My family, including my ten-year-old daughter who has never known what it means to sit in the student section, was led down to the field and we experienced the joy and energy of watching people file into the stadium.  We watched Tiger, the eagle, fly onto the field while being mere feet away from the players.  Awe inspiring…. Then we had another experience – an Auburn suite, which was beneficial as it began raining during the game and the temperature started to plummet.

It was a good game but much closer than I had hoped.  Friends from the Athletic Council, Nancy and Randy Campbell, who happened to be the senior quarterback from the 1983 Auburn National Championship team, invited us back to their place.  The Campbell’s – other than being one of the most fun couples to hang out with, have impeccable taste in wine and the bottles started to open and the glasses were flowing.

It was a day that wine, football, family and friends intersected perfectly.

May the Force be with Texas: And It Can’t Come Too Quickly

Every month I receive calls monthly from wine producers from all over the world anxious to break into the Texas marketplace.  Texas is consistently ranked in the top five wine drinking states.  Because of this, wineries – especially the boutique ones – are clamoring to get distribution in our arduous three-tier system, which requires that producers can sell their products only to wholesale distributors who then sell to retailers, and only retailers may sell to consumers.

My friend Bob Silver, who has been a part of the Washington wine industry many years, reached out to introduce me to Force Majeure, a boutique winery located in Woodinville, Washington, in the Red Mountain region, which specializes in single-vineyard Bordeaux and Rhone-inspired wines. According to the winery, ’Force Majeure’ describes the relentless, powerful elements of Nature that form the terroir of the vineyard. It also identifies the ‘unstoppable force’ initiated when the highest level of viticulture is combined with the highest level of winemaking talent”.  Bob asked if I would try the wine. 

Sure I’ll try it, I replied.  About a month went by and I finally opened the bottles – the 2012 Force Majeure Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, which was full of chocolate, cassis, earthy notes and elegance.  We followed up with the 2012 Force Majeure Red Mountain Syrah, with rich notes of dark red fruit, raspberry, earth, spice and minerality.  One of the joys – and curses – of being a wine blogger is that I try so many wines it’s hard to evoke the type of reaction that I experienced from both of these wines.

I personally am on a mission to get them to Texas so you can try them.

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.


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.

Brown Bagging: A Blind Tasting Experience

 Brown Bag Group

Before the holidays, a group of Dallas-based wine folks gathered together for our first brown bag tasting event.  We tried ten wines in an informal format at Campania Pizza in Uptown, who was generous enough to waive the corkage fee. 

The parameters were wide open – a red wine in the neighborhood of $20-25 a bottle.  I was really intrigued to see what the group would bring as it was a varied group of wine lovers – some formally trained and some self taught – all interested in continuing their journey with wine. 

Brown Bag Shots

Here was the line-up and my reactions:

  • Cooper L’inizio – 2008 (Washington).  After hosting Neal Cooper on his first Dallas visit last year and being impressed with Washington State wine at the Wine Bloggers Conference 2010, I thought I’d bring something that the rest of the tasters couldn’t get in Texas.  Note that I did break the rules a bit and bring a bottle that is now estimated to sell around $40 in very limited quantities.  Definitely in my top three wines.
  • Inwood Estates 2008 Cornelius (Texas) I admit it – I continue to struggle with the price point and payoff of this wine.  @jftxwine brought it as the zinger of the night and I tasted concrete and something sweet that didn’t work for me especially at $40.
  • Petalos Bierzo 09 (Spain).  I tasted blueberry, spice and a hint of floral, which may have been lavender.
  • La Vierge,” Cahors 07 (France), smoky, dark cherry, flinty, meaty and earthy.  This wine is referred to as the “French Malbec”
  • Mollydooker The Boxer (Australia) – After having the ability to spend some time with Sparky and Mum late last year, talking about these guys is like talking about family.  I tasted big berry, licorice, oak and cedar.
  • Bodini Malbec – 2010 (Argentina).  Berry, meaty, licorice abound in this juicy Malbec.
  • Toasted Head Cabernet Sauvignon 09 (California).  Cherry, cassis, coffee and some spice.
  • Haven’s Meritage 09 Rutherford (California).  Blueberries, vanilla, spice and a big juicy red.  Definitely in my top three wines.
  • Domaine Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage Blanc 09 (France).  Raspberry, cardamom, smoky with a little pepper.  On my top three list.
  • Pagos del Moncejo Garnacha 08 (Spain).  Cedar, spice, vanilla and cherry.

Brown Bag Havens

We had a great time, ate some really good pizza and enjoyed diverse wines from around the world.  Our next brown bag tasting is in early February and we’ll taste Pinot Noirs.  I just happen to have another surprise in store.

Decent Glass of Wine At A Chain Series: Russo’s Coal Fired Italian


As a part of my ongoing and often sporadic “Can You Get a Decent Glass of Wine from a Chain Restaurant” series, I was invited to Russo’s Coal Fired Italian Kitchen, a chain of more than 25 Italian restaurants.  I’d never been to Russo’s before and so I made the ride to Richardson, TX, with my friend, David, who graciously agreed to be a part of the taste experience.

This series started after I told my husband that I did not want to meet him for drinks after work at Mi Cocina due their very pedestrian wine list.  While I have been pleasantly surprised  with the results of this series (I’ve had two good experiences at Cafe Express and The Olive Garden),  I wasn’t sure what to expect from a pizza and pasta chain.  Again, I found that I need to check my pre-conceived notions at the door.  

We were warmly greeted by Chris Demers, director of operations for Russo’s, who began talking passionately about the wine program.  Russo’s offers twelve wines by the glass — one prosecco, five whites and six reds — and ten of those rotate monthly.  All of these wines retail for $7 for a 5 oz. pour.  When we visited the restaurant, there were some other specials including Ferrari Carano for $6 and Masi for $9.  Demers has a background of helping bring The Wine Loft, a national wine bar concept, to fruition so when he came to work at Russo’s he immediately overhauled the wine program.


He told us that, overall, Richardson (Dallas) wine drinkers were adventurous and while he needed to have some traditional Italian Chianti’s and Pinot Grigio’s on the menu, people were also willing to try Argentian Malbec and Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.  After checking his website, we realized the list Demers has is different from the Russo’s wine list.  That is by design.  Half of these wines aren’t available via retail as he’s trying to encourage a positive adventure in wine for his diners.  It is paying off — since he overhauled the wine program, sales are up over 50 percent.  There has only been one exception — Mark West Pinot Noir.  He tried to replace this crowd favorite and quickly realized it was a sacred cow.



Here’s the line-up that we had the night of our tasting:


  • Cavit – Lunetta Prosecco 09.  I tasted peach and pear with a mineral ending.  A very nice drinkable sparkling to start your meal.
  • Castegio – Pinot Grigio 10.  This is a crisp and tart pinot grigio.  This grape isn’t my usual first choice in wine, but it was a good representation.
  • De Martino – Sauvignon Blanc 10 (Chile).  This was my favorite white.  Lots of citrus and pineapple, but with the minerality that I like.  If I tasted this blindly, I would have said this was a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.  Note this one is very hard to find in Dallas.
  • Alias – Chardonnay 09 (California).  Loved the story behind this project by eight un-named wine makers who wanted to make a good wine.  This was made in Old World style with lemon, tropical fruits and honey, but without being a butter bomb.  This was David’s favorite white and a very nice chardonnay.
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle – Riesling 10 (Washington State).  Always a critics’ favorite — especially at this price range — this had lots of stone fruit flavor and was a great value riesling.


  • Mark West – Pinot Noir 09 (California).  The people have spoken.  No comment.
  • Ruffino – Sangiovese 10 (Chianti).  You have to have a by the glass chianti, but there are much better options on the list.
  • Ca’Momi – Merlot 09 (Napa).  This is one of them.  A big jammy, food-friendly wine with notes of plum, cherry and menthol.  A really nice merlot and David’s favorite red.
  • Altos – Malbec Classico 10 (Mendoza).  A very nice representation of a Malbec with vanilla, mocha and chocolate. 
  • Blackburn – Cabernet Sauvignon 08 (Paso Robles).  Run, do not walk and see if you can find this wine in Dallas (if I don’t buy it all first).  This drank like a $30 cab and was off the charts good.  Big notes of plum, cherry, earth and menthol.  


We also got to sample a few of the menu items, prosciutto with buffalo mozzarella, which I didn’t try because I’m allergic to pork, and the spinach and artichoke dip, which was off the charts good.  My advice for you is to come from 3-6 for Happy Hour or on Wednesday’s when wines are $5.  Order the dip and the Blackburn and savor the fact that not only can you get a good glass of wine from a chain, but you have found a cabernet that is a fantastic price to taste ratio.


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