Archived entries for Wine Education

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.

 

 


Spanish Wine Trip: My Time in Bullas – Day Three

On day three, with 5,000+ calories in our system and a workout underneath my ever tightening belt, we packed up on our road trip with our fearless guide, Eduardo Ruiz.  Eduardo is the export manager of MGW Group and drew the short straw of driving us all over the region … or watching us sleep after consuming copious amounts of wine and more food that should be allotted for a small country. Bullas is a Spanish Denominacion de Origen (DO) for wines located in the region of Murcia and covers the territories of eight different municipalities and focuses on the Monastrell grape. 

Like Alicante, Bullas has existed since ancient Roman time and evolved from a Moore influence to Christian influence over time.  The region changed from a producer of bulk wines in the 1980s to an official DO in 1994.  The landscape is also limestone and has numerous valleys with unique microclimates with mountains to the west.  The weather is challenging with very hot summers and very cold winters.  

As part of MGW Group’s mission to create unique wines from organically grown grapes, Bodegas Lavia was created.  Bodegas Lavia is a boutique winery focused on balancing the fruit that is yielded with expressing the unique terroir in their wines.  The winery was built in 2003 and is located in Venta del Pino, an area known for great wines and a focus on the Monastrell grape.   

Bodegas Lavia’s production is concentrated on preserving the maximum expression and concentration of the grapes. Bodegas Lavia focuses on the same tenants as Sierra Salinas – temperature and gravity control.  The wines are over 40 years old and are grown 800 meters above sea level in an appellation – a higher appellation than yesterday – that is 2,400 hectors.  The soil is clay-based with gravel and the grapes are cultivated in a Mediterranean climate and planted diagonally. 

Sebastien took us through the winery and vineyards on a rainy day.  We learned that only 50,000 bottles are produced in the winery today because they want to keep the quality of the production at a high level.  These wines are produced in a Burgundian style and water is more of a natural source.

We tried three of the Lavia wines – Lavia, Lavia+ and Finca Paso Malo.  We started with a vertical of the Lavia wines and it was eye opening how different the vintages were in this representation.

2006 Lavia – it was rust colored and tasted of tomato confit (not in a bad way), asphalt and red fruit.  This was a really interesting evolution but different than anything that I’ve tasted.

2004 Lavia – this was the first vintage, but was surprisingly bright and drinkable with notes of leather, rose and red fruit.  I really like the smoothness of this wine and was a deal at $17 retail.

2009 Lavia+ — It had notes of spice, cherry, cedar, pepper and a nice nuttiness.  2006 Lavia+ — this was also delicious and ended up coming home with me.  Big notes of cherry, petrol and a nice minerality. 

2012 Lavia+ Finca Paso Malo – Only 2,000 bottles were made of this stellar single vineyard wine.  I tasted cranberry, spice, earth, rosemary, tobacco and a nice nuttiness that tied the wine together.  I really enjoyed this wine.

We then went into the winery and tried two blends directly from the barrel.  The 2013 Lavia+ and the 2017 vintage that just went into the tank.

After our wine tour, we had an amazing lunch at Restaurante Borrego.

Our next stop was the Museo del Vino Bullas, the region’s wine museum where we learned all about everything from the terroir to the way wine was stored to the grapes of the region. 

We ended our day with an exquisite dinner at La Nyora, which was my favorite dinner of the entire trip with a focus on the region’s seafood.  And of course some late night drinking and walking of the city by the #olewinos.   


MGW Wine Experience: My Time In Alicante

Our next day was spent at Sierra Salinas in Alicante.  Alicante is a Spanish Demoninacion de Origen (DO) located in the province of Alicante in Valencia, which just celebrated its 75th anniversary.  There are two sub-zones: Vinalopó, which is the Southern area of the province known for Monastrell, which we visited.  The other sub-zone is known as La Marina in the Northern area of the province.  Alicante’s grape growing and wine production traces back to the Romans.  The soil in the region is comprised of lime and sedimentary rock with a sandy consistency.  Vinalopó is known for Mediterranean temperatures that tend to shift to frequent frosts in the Winter creating extreme temperatures ranging from day to night.

Ramon Castano Santa is the original visionary behind the winery.  Ramon has been involved in the wine business since 1950 when the family built its first winery in Yeda, a small city near Villena,.  The family acquired Sierra Salinas vineyards in the beginning of 2000 and built the winery,  Bodagas Sierra Salinas, which is named after a mountain range.   The winery was up and running in 2006.  The Castano family made a bet on Monastrell (a red wine grape variety), and wanted to balance the legacy, quality and technology to make the best wine possible.  The production of Sierra Salinas will never pass 200,000 bottles because the family believes that the wines need to show the authenticity of the soil, terroir and the people.  In 2013, MGWines Group acquired the property.

We met with Winemaker Sebastien Boudon, who came to Spain from France because he was excited about the opportunities in the region.  He took us through the winery and showed us the unique temperature control system designed to manage the extreme temperatures as well as the gravity system the winery uses to avoid pump racking.  The grapes are processed on three levels of the building – the vinification plant is one the first floor; the grapes are pressed on the second floor and the bottling occurs on the third floor.  The grapes are hand picked and harvested in small batches to make sure the best fruit is used, but no fruit is sold in bulk.  The wines are stored in French Oak barrels.

We also walked through the vineyards, which are located 650-680 meters above sea level and we saw the dry irrigation of vines.  The winery is organic and planted on limestone, which is dry farmed.  There are 42 hectares of Monastrell and 10 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, Alicante Bouschet and Petit Verdot, trained with trellis and goblet systems.  We saw two different vineyards – which had terroir that changed from clay to stones and with older vineyards.

We then went into the tasting room and had the opportunity to try seven wines.  Here was our line-up:

2013 Puerto Salinas – a blend of 70 percent Chardonnay and 30 percent Moscatel, which had lots of jasmine and floral notes with white stone fruit and mineral notes.  A great deal under $10.

2012 MO Salinas Monastrell – lots of juicy cherry, berry, spice and very fruit forward.  The price tag here is $8.99 making it a hell of a deal and it matched my purse.

2010 Puerto Salinas – this had some age and more complexity.  You could taste the blackberry, spice, liquorice, beef jerky, balsamic and black pepper.  This one was a great deal at under $15.

2011 Puerto Salinas – it was fun to taste the difference that a year of age can make.  This had notes of floral (violets and roses), graphite and lots of spice. It was very silky and was easy to drink.  Same price range as above.

2010 Mira Salina –this one had notes of maple, vanilla and a deep berry.  The balance on this wine was great and I really enjoyed this more between the vertical.

2011 Mira Salina – this had earthier notes of licorice, berry, hazelnut and coffee.

2009 Salinas 1237 – this was an amazing and intense wine.  I tasted notes of currant, toffee, blood orange, balsamic and earth.  This wine was elegant, long lasting and a wonderful special occasion wine.  I made sure to bring a bottle of this home with me.  Sebastien talked about how this wine takes the best of the landscape with both the terroir and the grapes.  We ended with the Dulce dessert wine, which I didn’t have enough time between notes and pictures to truly savor.

We then moved to a delicious paella lunch at Restaurant La Despensa and ate our weight in paella and dessert.  At that point, we needed to walk the city so it was time for me and my partners in crime, Thea and Liza to explore the city.  Then another night at a great restaurant and another food coma.


MGW Group: My Introduction to the Wines of Alicante, Bullas and Bierzo, Day One

James Melendez (James the Wine Guy), Ward Kadel (Vinopanion) and me

I was invited by MGW Group, a new group of the top-of-the-line wineries from different appellations or denomination of origin (DOs) in Spain, to attend a U.S. wine bloggers trip to visit three wine regions – Alicante; Bullas and Bierzo – three terroirs where the weather couldn’t be more different and spanned from South to the North. 

The MGW Group focuses on boutique wineries that produce no more than 500,000 bottles per year that truly focus on the terroir of each region.  These are incredible value wines and the range and depth of what I tried impressed upon me that I need to do everything in my power to get them to Texas.  Distributors, take heed.

The trip started with a bang – after holding my breath from being number one on the American Airline’s upgrade list – I got the announcement that “Weazy was movin’ on up” to business class.  I knew that two of my fellow bloggers, James Melendez and Ward Kadel were flying through Dallas, but we didn’t meet up until the flight was delayed.  At that point my three million miles and American Express platinum card (membership has its privileges) allowed us to grab a quick glass of wine at the Centurion Lounge at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport and catch up.  We were having so much fun that we looked down to realize the delay wasn’t quite what we originally thought.  The mad dash for the plane was on and we made it with barely time to spare.

James, Ward and Mike

We were met by Mike from Kraynick & Associates, who served as our cruise director, with patience, humor and a passion for the region.  He was unflappable when our two compadres were delayed in Paris, he found a way to take make sure they were taken care of and had details on how to catch the later train. 

We had the opportunity to walk the city of Madrid and begin our journey of eating for ten each meal.  We started at Gastrobar Larumbe with a preview of several of the wines that we would discover – the Tillenus, the Lavia + and the Puerto Salinas white, which I’ll talk about in more detail in futureposts.  The meal, which consisted of multiple tapas was delicious and substantial.  I soon discovered this was our “light meal” of the trip.  The two remaining bloggers pulled a stunt straight out of the show “Amazing Race” and made the train even though we thought they’d be several hours after us.  We didn’t figure this out, of course, until ten minutes before the train pulled into the Alicante station.

After a badly needed shower, we met for dinner and walked through the city of Alicante stopping for tapas and wine along the way.  There was a futbol match of Barcelona against Real Madrid, which a few of our group wanted to see, so we found a pretty authentic place to experience the game.

At this point, with our stomach’s full of great food and wine, the #olewinos probably made the last smart decision of the trip and retired to be fresh for tomorrow’s adventure. 


Savor Dallas: Bringing Dallas’ Art District, Wine and Food Together

Many years ago, I was a board member on an organization dedicated to reinvigorating the Dallas Arts District.  We had a vision of people walking through the district embracing what Dallas had to offer culturally with a bevy of food and wine framing the experience.  Fast forward about eight years to Savor Dallas’ Arts District Stroll, which kicked off Savor’s four day wine and food event. 

We started at the Meyerson Symphony Center then moved to the Nasher Sculpture Center with a final stop at the Crow Collection of Asian Art.  This was a packed event hosted in the nation’s largest contiguous urban arts district, and I loved the diversity of the totally packed house.  It took the “wine is for white tablecloth venues” to task and I loved it.  Granted, if you wanted to truly taste and chat with the wine makers and restaurants, you probably want to look at the other events scheduled on Friday and Saturday, but Savor Dallas made me smile with the culture, wine, food and general experience with 40 plus winemakers offering wares, a variety of spirits and some restaurants offering great food.


March Madness: A Wino’s Perspective

I’ve had so many great stories to tell lately that it has been a while since I’ve done a wine round-up.  We tried ten wines and five made the list of our #thirstythursday tasting group.  I love bringing this group together because it is such a diverse group of palates and it has been fun to see the evolution of several of them as their passion and knowledge of wine evolves.  It also keeps snobbery in check because it’s fun to watch them discover a Zinfandel that makes them want to drink Zinfandels for the first time.

2012 Loveblock Pinot Noir – this New Zealand-based pinot noir was full of red fruit with a funky layer of earthiness.  It was well balanced and a totally different take on pinot noir that I enjoyed.

2013 The Federalist Zinfandel – this was described as “the zinfandel that makes me want to drink zinfandel” by several of the members in our group.  This was loaded with spice, berry and had big notes of mocha.  It was very approachable and drinkable.

1999 Lazzarito Vigna La Delizia Barolo – for many in the room, this was the oldest wine that they had ever tried.  It had a big earthy quality with plum and almost a raisin taste.  It was very good but I wish I had given it some decanter time and had a food pairing to match.  I wasn’t fair to the wine in that aspect.

2012 Cornerstone Cabernet Franc Napa Valley– another great representation of what a cabernet franc should taste like to be bottled on its own accord.  It was full of a balance of green pepper, chocolate and deep berry. 

2012 Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – it’s like receiving a gift from one of your favorite and elegant relatives.  You start with looking at the stylish packaging and follow by carefully unwrapping what is inside.  In this wine, I found layers of sophistication and tasted everything from blackberry to chocolate to mocha to licorice.  Intense and delicious.




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