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A Merryvale Profile Retrospective Tasting with Proprietor Rene Schatter

When a wine blogger receives an invitation to taste through a retrospective tasting of eight vintages of Merryvale Profile with Rene Schatter, the proprietor of Merryvale Vineyards, you RSVP as quickly as you can, accept with vigor and show up at the appointed time.  Several folks who have parents who taught them that a RSVP is a commitment joined me.  I wish that I could say for the 20 people who accepted, yet did not show.  Shame on you, people.

We celebrated more than 30 years of production of Merryvale Vineyard’s proprietary red blend, Profile, and were the first to try the new 2012 vintage.  Cru Wine Bar rolled out the red carpet for the group with signature pizzas, cheese and charcuterie.  The tour happened in three markets – Los Angeles, New York and Dallas. 

Rene was a gracious and knowledgeable host and we learned about Merryvale’s 30-year evolution since 1983, when the Merryvale Profile wine was first created.  The wine has a storied history – three winemakers, seven vineyards (Amizetta, Beckstoffer, Slawson, Stagecoach, Thorevilos, Napanook and its Schlatter Family Estate site), new packaging (the wine has always featured profile shots on the labels) and the notable Old World Bordeaux vs New World California style changes.

We tried wines ranging from 1996 to 2012, which is exclusively made of estate fruit from the Schlatter Family Estate vineyard.  Here are my tasting notes:

1996: I tasted notes of blackberry, earthiness, cigar box, tobacco, menthol and mocha.

1998: Lot of red earth, blackberry, spearmint, herbs, plum, mint and red earth.  This wine was more elegant.

1999: This was the first estate fruit for Merryvale.  I tasted notes of blackberry, cassis and it was much more fruit forward in style.

2000: This had more herbs than fruit with lots of eucalyptus, leather, sandalwood, cranberry and chocolate.

2004: Notes of blackberry, raspberry, cassis and chocolate.

2006: Great fruit, tannins, a nose of butterscotch and was a definite favorite.

2009: Blackberry, red fruit, vanilla, Twizzler candy and Asian spice notes.

2012: The most recent debut was my favorite.  I tasted cherry, blackberry, chocolate and mocha.  This wine is going to be amazing with time.

Rene’s parting words to us is that we want to continue to “preserve what Mother Nature gives us in our wines.”  Based on what I tasted and the diversity of these wines, that 30 year philosophy is one that is being taken seriously.


November Wine Round Up

This was probably the biggest wine review period with the fewest favorites.  We tried more than 25 wines and only four made the cut.

Whites/Roses:

2014 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc – full of lime and grapefruit with lemongrass and a balanced minerality.  Even though this wine went on record as the second earliest harvest in 30 years, it was a great expression of terroir and sauvignon blanc.

2014 Cornerstone Corallina Syrah Rose – the website describes this wine as “not an afterthought” and a wine with purpose. Its purpose is to convert a room full of self-described non Rose drinkers into fans.  Juicy berries, vanilla, raspberry, cherry and floral notes make this a delicious apéritif or a wine that stands on its own.

Reds:

2012 Kudos Reserve Pinot Noir – red berries, earthiness and notes of black cherry make this a Tuesday night kind of wine. 

2013 Gnarly Head 1924 Double Black – this wine style dates back to Prohibition, which is when the family first planted vineyards in California, which may have been used during this time to make wine for “medicinal” purposes.  It’s a big wine – deep blackberry jam, mocha, fig and caramel and needs some food as an accompaniment. 

Cabernet Day – A Little Late

Smith and Hook Vineyards, which are Central Coast-based vineyards, sent me a vertical of Cabernet Sauvignon in honor of #cabernetsauvignonday. 

2011 Smith and Hook Cabernet Sauvignon – I tasted notes of chocolate, blackberry, spice, black currant and this was elegant and smooth.  I liked the aging process and felt that with some decanting this wine showed its true colors.

2012 Smith and Hook Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine was much more concentrated with notes of berry, black cherry, herbs and cherry cola. 

2013 Smith and Hook Cabernet Sauvignon – I tasted mocha, blackberry, plum, boysenberry, licorice and spice. 

And Something Fun

For the wine lover who has everything, here is a fun customer monogram wine tote from CBreeze Design.  Lots of fabrics and monograms to choose from – mine came with a DWC (Dallas Wine Chick monogram).  If you use the coupon code “15off” you get 15 percent off your order thanks to CBreeze Design.


Oak Celebrates Four Years While Kathyrn Hall Throws a Texas-Style Party to Celebrate the Next Vintage

The past seven days in Dallas have showcased that fact that our city has become competitive with other traditionally known “foodie cities.”  After attending last weekend’s Chefs for Farmers Event, I was invited to two milestone events for chefs, and a winemaker who helped put Dallas on the map.

Chef Partner John Tesar and Tiffanee and Richard Ellman hosted about a hundred people at a four-year anniversary celebration for Oak Restaurant.  The wine was flowing and there were some amazing hors d’oeuvres passed to the hip crowd — many of those coming from the surrounding showrooms in the design district.

The other big event was the Kathryn Hall release party debuting the new releases of the Hall Cabernets and the Walt Pinot Noirs.  Kathryn Walt Hall and her husband, Craig, the proprietors of Hall and Walt Wines have deep ties to Dallas.  Kathryn was very active in politics and was a top runner in the Dallas Mayoral Race and then was the United States Ambassador to Austria.  She’s been a successful business owner, attorney and is very active in the Arts community.  Craig Hall is chairman and founder of Dallas-based Hall Financial Group, a former owner of the Dallas Cowboys and is active in Dallas real estate and philanthropy.

So it wasn’t surprising that the attire called for a mix of Texas cocktail attire and was held at the newly established Hall Arts Building.  An attendee told me that they attended a dinner a few months back at the building and there was a wine cellar that was amazing.  However, I wasn’t able to confirm that as the party was in full swing.

The party was packed with several hundred people, the wines were flowing (love that red label Cabernet Sauvignon) and the food stations were prepared with foods that would go well with the wine.

The party was a true combination of the passions of the Hall Family, wine, art and real estate.  I love that their business story started in Dallas.


Chefs For Farmers: A Noah’s Ark Plan for Contigency

It was deemed the Down Home No Fuss Culinary Event of the Year.  However, Dallas weather decided anything but No Fuss was going to be in order.  Chefs for Farmers (CFF) is typically an outdoor event that brings together about 3,500 Dallasites to celebrate our farmers with great food, drink and entertainment.  Overnight, co-founder Iris Midler, who was responsible for helping bring this vision to life and clearly was Matlock in another life, and her team moved 120 vendors from an outdoor event to an indoor event at Gilleys.  You absolutely would have never known.  As someone who knows what it takes to pull off something of this magnitude without Noah’s Ark and a collapsed parking garage in play, I am in awe of this team. 

The wine was flowing, the Texas brews were poured, and the chefs were preparing a buffet beyond comprehension — from a biscuit bar to gumbo to oysters and every gourmet configuration of beef, pork, lamb and seafood that you can fathom.  Glaziers did a great Sommelier wine table, Veuve Cliquot was pouring freely and there were some great wine labels from California and Oregon who hosted their own table.  Live bands, including the one led by Dean Fearing, were playing and it was definitely a party vibe.

Omar Florez, Casa Rubio

The mission of CFF is to bring chefs, artisans, and culinary influencers together to celebrate supporting local and regional farmers at a three-day culinary blowout, a new transition this year.  By the numbers there were 35 farms and food artisans, 60 chefs, 15 beer and spirits, 42 wineries and total attendance of 3,500.  And the most important thing – this event netted $25,000.

It was clear that Dallas took the stage on a national level with this event.  My favorite quote came from Justin Brunson from the Old Major in Denver.  “Support local farmers, not those $*&$#@ factory-to-table restaurants,” he said.  Can I get an amen?


I’m On A Boat – Wine, Stormtroopers and A Drone Bring the Night to Life

Welcome to Miami … Bienvenidos a Miami… nine months of long work hours and lots of planning was finally coming to a head with the arrival of several hundred customers for the paying gig’s annual Summit event. 

What does this have to do with a wine blog?  Well, I always try to bring you guys into my experiences and this was quite the experience. There was amazing food, lots of great wine, a ton of dancing and very early mornings combined with lots of late nights.

And then there was the boatI’m on a boat with a Storm Trooper (if you like the above pic, clink on the link)!  The customer appreciation party featured quite the cast of characters, tons of free flowing wine, an awesome DJ and a fireworks show that was captured by a drone flying above the yacht.  My team rocked it – what a talented group of folks that brought a life moment experience to light.

Just another experience – probably not replicable – But definitely a bucket list moment.

Cheers…


October Wine Round-Up

It’s October and there’s been so much going on that I haven’t done a wine round up since before the Wine Blogger’s Conference this Summer.  As the wine continues to stack up and makes my personal work space much more contained (I know, wine blogger problems…), I thought I’d go through a few wines that I did have the opportunity to try.

The company where I work is in the process of refreshing its brand, which is a big deal for any company but even more so for a company that has had the same look and feel for 31 years.  My team has been working hard so I wanted to open some wine for them.  The Liberated Wines had a tagline of “Free Yourself from Convention” with branded personas for each wine so those were the wines that we opened.

We tried the 2014 Liberated Sauvignon Blanc which was a nice crisp wine with notes of lime, a good balance, floral notes and tropical fruit.  The 2013 Liberated Pinot Noir was also balanced with notes of cherry cola, earthiness and a touch of earthiness.

I had also received the Vinomaster wine opener to try. Usually Thirsty Thursday has a minimum of five bottles and sometimes up to ten.  Most of the time the heavy lifting or uncorking is on my shoulders.  I have a lot of openers in my office and I’ve tried a lot of wine accessories.  The Vinomaster made it simple.  Center the bottle, pull down and then up.  Viola.  The wine is open.  It came well packaged and will now make my life so much easier.  I’ve seen it listed between $60-80 US, but it’s currently on Amazon with a Prime Membership at $36.


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.


The New Brunch Experience at Ziziki’s Restaurant

I was invited to the Preston Hollow Ziziki’s for its new brunch that debuted two weeks ago. In the spirit of full disclosure, I became friends with the owners of Ziziki’s through my daughter’s school, but I didn’t let them know that I was invited as a special guest for brunch by their social media folks.

I was intrigued with the offer of specialty cocktails and descriptions of artichoke hummus, cream cheese stuffed French toast, chicken souvlaki, lamb souvlaki, lamb meatballs in marinara sauce, fish with lemon artichoke sauce, spinach spanakopita, homemade smoked salmon, Greek potatoes, pita, made-to-order omelets and Greek desserts like baklava.

The brunch, which includes a complimentary Mimosa or glass of Rose, is $24.95 per person or $9.95 per child.  The food was fresh and delicious. Combine the food with the fantastic service from Sara, our server and mixologist, and it was a home run.

Sara then upped the game by bringing us several cocktails that Ziziki’s features.  We started with the Summer Shandy Cocktail with muddled orange, blood orange liqueur and served over ice with an orange garnish.

We moved to the Athena Cocktail with Greek brandy, Cointreau and orange juice topped with sparkling wine followed by the Peartini with Grey Goose Pear, Amaretto, lemon juice and simple syrup.  Our finale was the Lo Coco Martini with coconut vodka, melon liqueur, blue curacao and fresh pineapple juice.

The regular menu and a well thought out wine list are also available.  I can’t wait to come back but have about 5,000 sit ups that I need to do between now and then.

 


Miner Wines: 2011 The Oracle Virtual Release Tasting

 

On Saturday, I was invited to take part in a very special virtual tasting – the debut of the 2011 The Oracle from Miner Wines.  Those of us who were lucky enough to be included were delivered a black box.  Inside was the bottle of new vintage, two Riedel glasses and even Riedel stem cloths to make the glasses sparkle after the tasting ended.  Miner has always known how to make great wine and throw a memorable event.

 

The Oracle is Miner’s flagship, single-vineyard offering.  It is a Bordeaux blend labeled as 49 percent Merlot, 38 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 11 percent Cabernet Franc and the rest is Petit Verdot.  The Oracle is grown in the hills of Eastern Napa at Stagecoach Vineyards, which has a high elevation and a mountain-fruit experience.

And, as a software marketer by day, I do like the shout out that Dave Miner gave to his uncle, Bob Miner, one of the co-founders of Oracle Software, who introduced him to the wine business.

I’ll sum it up with my tweet after my first sip.  “This has elegance with dark cherry, chocolate and herbs.  Silk in a glass. #theoraclehasspoken (hashtag for the tasting). 


I’m on a Boat: My Post Conference Trip to the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail

Just like that the conference was over and we were on our final post trip journey for #wbc15.  This excursion took us to the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, an area that claims to not only be the oldest in the region, but the oldest in the entire U.S.  The wine trail consists of 16 wineries, a cidery, a meadery and four distilleries. 

Our journey from the Radisson took about an hour and a half by bus.  The conference organizers had enough foresight to arrange for Aaron Roisen of Hosmer Winery and Jeff Houck of Lucas Vineyards to talk to us about the region during the ride. 

The group of around 50 folks was split in two with one group tasting first at Thirsty Owl Wine Company and the second group beginning at Goose Watch Winery, which is where I began.  While at Goose Watch, we tasted wines from Treleaven by King Ferry Winery, Long Point Winery, Montezuma Winery & Hidden Marsh Distillery, Swedish Hill Vineyard, Knapp Winery, Buttonwood Grove Winery and Varick Winery & Vineyards. We had some nice wines, but my favorites were the Rieslings and sparkling from Knapp Vineyards as well as the tasting experience provided by Varick Winery with some off the beaten path foods.

After traveling to the dock and then by boat to Thirsty Owl, we tried wines from Toro Run Winery, Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery, Hosmer Winery, Lucas Vineyards, Bellwether Hard Cider and Wine Vineyards, Americana Vineyards and Six Mile Creek Vineyard.  About five years ago, Lucas Vineyards was my first experience with Finger Lakes Riesling and I was excited to see that I enjoyed rediscovering it just as much as I did the first time I tried it.  The Bellwether Cherry Street Cider, which was bursting with cherries, also impressed.  Cider is not usually my drink of choice but give this to me any hot Texas day and I’d be happy.

Liza Swift, Steve DiFrancesco (Glenora Winemaker) and me

We then journeyed to Knapp where Executive Chef John McNabb prepared dinner for us.  Knapp was founded in 1984 and was the first Finger Lakes winery to plant and vinify Cabernet Franc.  It was sold to its current owners, Gene Pierce and Scott Welliver, in 2000.  Knapp opened the Vineyard Restaurant in 1992, becoming the first winery restaurant on Cayuga Lake.  We sampled a ton of food and more wines from the region while walking the grounds of the vineyard.

The wineries went above and beyond to make us feel at home in discovering the food and the wine of the region.  Once we reached the lobby of the Radisson, we all stayed true to this week’s behavior – we grabbed left over wine, distilled spirits and cider, socializing in the lobby until the wee hours.




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