Archived entries for WBC2010

Pinot in the City: Wine Event Now Bigger With the Texas Addition


Beacon Hill Liberty Pinot Noir

I’ve said it often and I’ll say it again.  Texas is a force to be reckoned with in the wine drinking market and wineries from all over the world have taken notice.  But, we have never had the highly-regarded Pinot in the City event come to not one, but two Texas cities – until this week.

Oregon Wine Country and the Willamette Valley Wineries Association, a non-profit focused on achieving recognition for the region – still not over the euphoria of the Willamette Valley being named the Wine Enthusiast ‘s 2016 Wine Region of the Year – assembled a crew of 65 winemakers and winery owners, the largest number of Willamette Valley wineries to ever visit Texas at one time.  The Pinot in the City  event has been at maximum capacity from coast to coast since it began in Seattle five years ago.  The event focuses on Pinot Noir – Oregon’s flagship wine — along with several other varieties, from Chardonnay to Riesling.  The event first came to Dallas at the Westin Downtown with a consecutive event in Austin, that started with trade in the afternoon and then a consumer event in the evening.

The trade and consumer response illustrated that Oregon wines are well loved in this city and the wineries that attended make fantastic wine.  Because I spent some time in the Willamette Valley at the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2012 and got to meet many of the participants paired with the fact that you never want to be an over served carpool mom, I narrowed my strategy, for the most part, to wineries that I had not yet tried.

Me, Terry Hill (Texas Wineaux), Michelle Williams (Rocking Red Blog) and Lori Sullivan (Lori’s Twisted Cork and Spork)

I met up with several of the #dallaswineaux and we met with a number of wineries that were recommended, that others had tried and loved, those where we were literally dragged across the room with someone we respected who said, “you’ve GOT to taste this one,” or were on the radar for a story that someone in the group was writing.  There is never enough time and I know I missed some amazing wineries.

Here’s the photo line-up of my notable wineries, some of the wines that we tried and characters that made the story fun, the wines great and kept us entertained.

John Grochau, Owner and Winemaker, Grochau Cellars

Jim Prosser, Owner and Winemaker, J.K. Carriere Wines

Pat Dudley, President and Co-Owner, Bethel Heights Vineyard

Clare Carver, Cow Boss (Best Title Ever), Big Table Farm

Chris Williams, Winemaker, Brooks Winery

Sanjeev Lahoti, Owner, Saffron Fields Vineyard

All  with that “It’s Willamette.  Dammit” sense of fun.  Charm that I adore.

Troon Vineyard: A Glimpse Into the Next Big AVA #winestudio

A year ago, I made the decision that 2016 would be about #seewhatsnext.  I had a successful corporate job and a seat at the executive table, but I wasn’t having fun anymore.  The opportunity presented itself to take some time, reflect and really figure out what I wanted to do.  Fast forward a year later and I have a successful business, I’m working with clients that I adore and the lights are still on.

When Craig Camp announced that he was leaving Cornerstone Cellars in Napa Valley, where he served as General Manager, to move to Troon Vineyard in Southern Oregon, I took notice.  In his blog, which was aptly titled Moving Forward, he talked about running toward something.  He talked about wanting to feel that energy and intensity about the wine industry that he felt years ago.  He talked about wanting to feel the electricity that only comes from being on the edge looking down into the unknown.  And finally, he talked about wanting to make a difference in the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon.

If you know Craig, he is one of the driving forces behind embracing the power of social media.  If you were lucky enough to be on his blogger sample list, you got to understand not only the brand and the nuances of the different varietals, but the people and the intricacies of the wines themselves.  Most of all, you understood the stories of the wines, what values drove the winery and what the winemaker hoped you would capture as you tasted your way through the wines.   His approach resulted in friendships, understanding of the brand and a tribe of people who he could rally at every conference because we enjoyed the wines, Craig and spending time with each other.  Craig brought #goingrogue at past conferences to life and always scheduled a dinner that was one of the highlights of every blogger’s conference.

At the Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, I had the chance to spend a little time with Craig, but due to the launch of #masthead, I didn’t really get to delve into the Troon Wines the way I wanted.  When the opportunity with #winestudio occurred, where I had the chance to sample three of Craig’s wines over three Tuesdays, I jumped at the chance.  #winestudio is a Twitter chat that is hosted by Tina Morey, one of folks who meshes her wine and digital expertise into a fun weekly format.

Craig shared what makes Applegate Valley and Troon Vineyard unique.  A few facts about Troon Vineyard.  They are making diverse wines — like tannat, vermentino, roussane, marsanne, malbec, sangiovese, tempranillo and others.  The winery takes a natural approach — fermenting with indigenous yeasts, crushing the grapes by foot, co-fermenting and using sustainable practices.  The soils are similar to Sardegna, Hermitage and Cru Beaujolais.

Troon Vineyard has over 40 years of history in Southern Oregon.  The first vines were planted in 1972 by Dick Troon and he sold the grapes to local wineries.  He decided after a few years to make his own wines until 2003 when he sold the winery to his friend Larry Martin.

We tried three wines during the three-week period.  Unfortunately, I had a last minute business trip scheduled the last week, so I tried the M&T on my own time:

2014 Troon Black Label Vermentino – this was a delicious and complex white due to the granite soil.  I got notes of citrus, tropical fruit, honey and a nuttiness with lots of acid.  I loved Craig’s description that Troon lets the terroir choose the varietals and then finding the people who love to drink them.

2014 Troon Blue Label Sangiovese – this wine is from the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon and is 92 percent Sangiovese and 8 percent Syrah, which mirrored the taste of many blends from Tuscany or Sicily.  I tasted cherries, cocoa, violets, red fruit, flowers, fig, chocolate, herbs and almonds.  This food friendly wine stands on its own but would also embrace a number of dishes including pasta.

2013 Troon Black Label M&T – this blend of Malbec and Tannat was complex and rich.  I tasted spices, blackberry, chocolate, mocha, earthiness and this was an elegant and lasting 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.

A Refresher on My Lessons Learned at WBC: Frank Morgan Will Always Get in the Car

Frank Morgan ” Gets in the Car”

I thought I’d recap one of my most fun #wbc15 Wine Blogger Conference columns where I compared the lessons that I learned at the conference to a Cards Against Humanity game.  I can single-handedly say that was one of the most fun evenings where we piled twenty or so of us in one hotel room and I laughed so hard tears came down my face.

I’ve also thrown in a few of my favorite photos of conference and people throughout the years.  So looking forward to exploring Lodi, launching Masthead and catching up with people who I’ve mostly met on social media who quickly became dear, dear friends during my times at #wbc events over the years.

Here’s a small photo gallery of some of my favorite moments at past conferences.  (I did have a laptop failure and photos of my early conferences were completely wiped).

 There Ain’t No Sabre Like A Jeff Kralik Saber…

You have not attended a Wine Bloggers Conference without experiencing a good, bad and ugly Jeff Kralik saber experience.  Any item can be used as a weapon…

                   Joe Power (dressed up!) and Amy Corron Power at the Rodney Strong Event

         This Always Reminded Me of a Vanity Fair Shot .. in a Cheesy Heart-Shaped Bathtub?

                   Me and Karen MacNeil on the Bus to the Winery

                   Joe Herrig and I “Nose Off”

                    I Love This Tasting Crew

                      My Michael Jackson Dance Partner, Mary Cressler

The thing about this conference is that so many people make the experience and each year I get to hang out with amazing bloggers and writers who teach me how to be better.  I am so excited to hang with all of you this year and make new memories.

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.


An Unexpected Conversation with David Adelsheim

Sometimes the stars align … last week appeared to be the perfect storm of a very tough and demanding work week.  We had a series of key all-day meetings for most of the week, which was grueling.  At the end of the week I found myself at the Fairmont Hotel with my executive team where we were having a very well deserved drink.

I ordered an Adelsheim Pinot Gris, usually one of my favorite “go to” whites on the Fairmont’s by the glass list. Our waitress stopped and said, you know that David Adelsheim, the founder, is sitting right over there doing a private tasting.  Of course I immediately crashed the tasting with Dallas Wine Chick card in hand.  Luckily, Hunter Hammett, one of the top somms in Dallas who leads the Fairmont’s impressive wine program and who is a friend, asked me to join while my executive team, at the paying gig, watched incredulously.

I had to get back to the meetings, so it was much faster than I would have liked.  David talked about the introduction of two chardonnays from Adelsheim and the concerted effort that has been going on back in the Willamette Valley to bring this grape to the public.  He’s been part of the effort of folks that have been working on making a good chardonnay since the late 1990s – to truly understand when to pick them, how to make them and how to make it the best grape it can be.  When I was at the wine bloggers conference (#wbc10) in Oregon, I was struck by the collaboration that occurred with the wine making community.  We tried the 2013 Willamette Valley Chardonnay and the 2012 Caitlin’s Reserve Chardonnay – the later of which was newly released.  Both chardonnays were great good, the Adelsheim Caitlin’s Reserve Chardonnay 2012 was stunning.  Pick it up while you can at Pogo’s – it’s lovely and only 350 cases were made.

We also tried the Adelsheim Rose 2013, a dry rose made from Pinot Noir grapes.  This had lots of fruit, but a minerality that made it a “Melanie” rose.  Those of you who know me understand that I don’t normally like in a rose.  This was a very nice rose.

We also tried two Pinot Noirs – the 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and the 2011 Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir, both newly released.  These were great representations of Oregon style Pinot’s, but I never would have picked these out of a blind tasting as Oregon Pinots.  2011 was a very cool vintage and was the latest harvest on record.  I asked David what he thought would happen with the evolution of these wines – he laughed, shook his head and said he had absolutely no idea.  The Willamette Valley Pinot Noir was full of black cherry, spice and was lovely.  Elizabeth’s Reserve was a bigger wine with lots of forest floor, berry, cherry, spice and cherry. 

I asked David if he was trying to replicate the style of the 2011 and he said his goal was not to make another replicated vintage but just to make lovely wines.  Based on my experience with Adelsheim, this is a strategy that has worked well for him since 1971.


Wente, Garnet and Renwood WTIS Virtual Tasting

Last week, I participated in a virtual tasting scheduled as the welcome reception for the Wine Technology Industry Symposium (WTIS) showcase.  WineTwits, who always does a wonderful job with these tastings, recruited Wente Vineyards, Garnet Vineyards and Renwood Winery to participate.  We had the chance to try one wine from each vineyard.

It was quite the reunion with some of my favorite wine bloggers in participation and quickly the conversation feed launched into some great memories of past Wine Blogger’s Conferences (#wbc) and other opportunities we’ve had to get together over the years.  But the tasting began and we had the chance to focus in on three value wines under $20.

  • 2012 Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay (Livermore Valley – $13) – I tasted almond, pear, apple, lemon and toasted oak in this creamy goodness.  Half of the wine is barrel fermented in neutral American, French and Hungarian Oak with the other half fermented in stainless steel.  A very nice, well balanced wine for this price point.
  • 2011 Garnet Vineyards Pinot Noir (Monterey, $14.99) – Quite the steal for a Pinot Noir under $15.  This wine had a complexity not usually found at this price point with black cherry, black tea, plum, pine, cranberry and baking spice.  I asked Allison Crowe, the winemaker, and it is not yet available in Texas – I am sure hoping that will change.
  • 2010 Renwood Winery Premier Old Vine Zinfandel (Amador, $19.99) – had notes of molasses, fig, blueberry, pepper, herb and vanilla.  It was a little hot for me, but definitely got rave reviews from many of the bloggers.  This one begged for food that I didn’t have to match.

If you happen to see any of these in the Dallas area, definitely pick up a bottle and give them a shot.

Winemakers Gott, Smith and Bieler World Tour

The invitation looked like a blast – a world tour featuring Joel Gott, Charles Smith and Charles Bieler at Lee Harvey’s with a rock band, tacos and summer whites and rosés.  But Mother Nature had a torrential rainstorm in mind for Dallas, so I pulled up to three very wet winemakers, a lot of wine industry folks huddled together, trays of Texas tacos and a day that was anything but summer.

Charles Bieler, Joel Gott and Charles Smith

Smith, who I had the chance to first meet at the Wine Bloggers Conference 2010 in Walla Walla and then later at a Pioneer Event, talked about the six day, eight city and eleven event tour.  The other Texas stop in Austin and Colorado hosted some great parties judging from some of the pictures on Charles’ phone.  While I was there, I tasted his 2012 Kung Fu Girl Riesling, which was bursting with citrus like orange, peach, pineapple and lots of minerality.  There’s a reason why this wine continues to get kudos from the critics.

I also had the chance to talk with Joel Gott, who I had briefly met this spring at the Festa Primavera St. Helena Montessori School Auction.  I have always been a fan of his wines and the 2012 Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc did not disappoint.  Big notes of island fruit, citrus and great acidity make this a nice summer sipper.

I didn’t get a chance to talk to Charles Bieler, but his 2012 Bieler Père et Fils Rosé was a nice French style wine with notes of raspberry, strawberry and notes of lavender.

Even though the weather was a severe buzz kill, these guys know how to have a good time and made the best of what could have put a damper on the day.

COOPER: A Red Mountain Winery Comes to the Heart of Texas

Cooper Wines

Those of you who remember last year when I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in my first Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, WA, I mentioned meeting Neil Cooper. Neil was working on opening his winery when I made my visit to Red Mountain with Margot. Fast forward almost 11 months and COOPER: A Red Mountain Winery is not only up and running, but has taken home a slew of awards and medals for its Bordeaux-style reds. Having taken on several states successfully, Neil set his sights on Texas and I was more than happy to host the Dallas stop on his Texas tour.

Neil originally followed in the footsteps of his father, a farmer, and began growing grass seed. But he always had a strong appreciation for wine due to his family’s close relationship with Bill Preston, wine maker for Fidelitas. While I was drinking Gallo blush in a big jug, he and fellow members of the St. Luis Obispo water skiing team, would pool their money and buy wine. When they didn’t have tournaments, they went tasting in different cities in California. Grass seed farming was lucrative, but Neil found himself getting stuck in corporate politics and began to think about the wine business.

Around the same time Neil and his partners – all who were not in the industry — were looking for a place on Red Mountain to make wine. After three years of negotiating, the winery that they desired was for sale and, Neil decided to make the plunge into running a winery including the operations, sales and building a brand from scratch. Long story short – with the wine being made today by Charlie Hoppes from Fidelitas – COOPER has some fantastic wines that provide a great value as compared to the Napa blends. He brought the full line up with him to Dallas, which gave me the chance to throw a party that coincidentally fell during the kick-off of my husband’s birthday week.

Cooper Urban Crust

About 50 folks rolled up to find the Urban Crust pizza mobile kitchen in front of our casa and were treated to Neil’s fantastic wines. I loved that the top wines differed among so many of our guests, but what didn’t change was the universal agreement that we need these wines in Texas. Here’s the line-up:

Coop Wines

Coop Whites

2008 Pinot Gris (Columbia Valley). This wine was crisp, bright and refreshing. I tasted tropical fruit and some floral hints. This is the first wine that I have ever heard my mom ask to have shipped to her and I totally understand why. Neil was sweet enough to let her have a bottle.

2009 COOPER Estate Chardonnay (Red Mountain). This is not your typical buttered toast bomb. It’s definitely an Old World style with butterscotch, pine nuts and a bit of lemon. There is lots of depth to this first estate wine. 2007 and 2008 Cooper L’inizio (Columbia Valley) L’inizio is a Bordeaux-style blend that showed spice, berry, tobacco, licorice and oak. While both were great wines, the 07 was my favorite as it was much more elegant with the gift of time. L’inizio means the beginning and is the cornerstone of the line-up and shows big notes of coffee, vanilla and cherry.

2008 COOPER Merlot (Columbia Valley) This is a very full bodied merlot with lots of berry. This one was the favorite of a good friend who is also a distributor in Dallas. I’d recommend some decanting time if you open it young. 2007 Cooper Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley) Dark fruit, cherry, spice and coffee made up this great tasting, full-bodied cabernet.

2007 COOPER Cabernet Sauvignon * Walla Walla Valley This is a big, complex, earthy cabernet. Lots of dark fruit and herbal essences like rosemary and even a little cardamom. Definitely one of my favs.

2008 COOPER Cabernet Sauvignon Hightower * Red Mountain This is the model for what Red Mountain Cabernet should be. Lots of tannins, minerality, cherry and a dry finish.

Coop Corks

Cheers to l’inizio for COOPER wines in Texas and Neil Cooper, one heck of a great guy who followed his dream.

Taste Napa Meets My Grape Expectations

During #wbc10, Julie Crafton, communications coordinator of Napa Valley Vintners, led several of us up to her room with the promise of trying some small, boutique Napa wines and we were not disappointed.  She told me that #tastenapa was coming to Texas in October and I marked my calendar on July 1 hoping against hope that work travel wouldn’t keep me away.

Those of you that know me (or know me through this blog) know that I am a big fan of both Napa wines and Twitter.  I was feeling a little melancholy knowing I couldn’t return to the Valley this year, so I was very excited about this event.  As the event approached, I was able to get a sneak preview through the Tweets of @winewonkette and @houston wino from Another Wine Blog, who share my palate.  I took copious notes and formulated my game day plan as I literally could have tasted somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 plus wines. 

Because I have a day job, I arrived at CityPlace Center much later than those in the trade and was able to get some additional intel.  As I made my way around the packed room, two things were reinforced. The first was how many wine makers were in the room, which overscored how much Napa wine we drink here in Dallas.  Not surprising considering we are the land of the steakhouse, but winemaker after winemaker told me how profitable a market Texas is for them.

John Anthony

Winemaker John Anthony


Betty O’Shaughnessy of O’Shaughnessy Vineyards

The second is how much I adore Napa wines. Granted, a Stags Leap Cast 23 was my first wine “a ha” moment, and the wine didn’t disappoint.  My favorites included the Meander Napa Valley Cabernet 07 ($65); the Larkin Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc 07 (both $60), the 07 Gemstone (price not released, but averaged $140 online), the O’Shaughnessy Mount Veeder Cabernet ($95), the John Anthony 06 Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) and Waterstone’s  07 “Study in Blue” ($45). 


Brenda Coqueral from Coqueral Family Estates

I also really enjoyed meeting Brenda from Coqueral Family Estates, a fellow Texan who caught the vineyard “bug” and moved to Calistoga to make wine with her husband.  They focus exclusively on the Sauvignon Blanc grape and make three wines.  My favorite was the Terroir Coquerel at $37.   


Herta Behensky “HB” Peju from Peju Vineyards

And, I must give a special shout out of the 2004 Peju Cabernet Sauvignon H.B. Vineyard, Rutherford, Napa Valley, which was fantastic.  The wine spent 30 months in French Oak and I believe I savored every drop, especially for the $225 library wine price.  I enjoyed my conversation with Herta Behensky “HB” Peju, who must have spent 20 minutes with me discussing her wines, the Valley and her perspective on winemaking.  A delightful and talented winemaker who has made some of Napa’s great wines since 1982.

Look for these vintages coming to your favorite wine bar, restaurant or wine store soon. Let me know your favorites or the Napa wines you wish you could get in Texas. Your voice (and dollar) matter and based on the attendance, our wholesalers, distributors and suppliers are listening.

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