Living the Hye Life

There are some moments you want to bottle.  You pause in appreciation and drink them in with all of your senses to give them a firm hold in your memory.  There were a few moments like that on Saturday at William Chris Vineyard.  I was honored to be invited (as “press”-woohoo!) to the Watermelon Thump and Chef Throwdown held on their property in Hye, Texas. 

Matt and Susanna McGinnis

I have heard wonderful things about their wine and have been wanting to make it out to their property, near Johnson City, for some time now.  They exceeded my expectations.  The night began here in Austin.  Being the incredible hosts they are, Chris Brundett and Bill Blackmon arranged transportation for us with Heart of Texas Wine Tours.  My husband and I were lucky enough to ride with Matt McGinnis and his lovely wife, Susanna, in the Mercedes van.  We arrived a bit early so we stopped in the super-quaint tasting room, a restored farm-house.   We then made our way to the barrel room for a warm greeting and a generous pour.

A few tastings later, we were treated to a sampling of cheeses from Brazos Valley Cheese Company. A-MAZ-ING.  If you are ever fortunate enough to try these raw cheeses, don’t hesitate.  They began when one woman set out to use the surplus of milk on an agrarian community.  It has turned into a company that received  first, second, and third place in the 2011 American Cheese Society competition in Montreal.

We then began the walking tour of the 40 acre property.  Our first stop was the Oak Grove where we received a lesson on watermelons and a sampling of their “pink” wine, Current.  It is a lovely summer sipper with a blend of Chenin, Barbera, Sangiovese, and Dolcetto.  How can you go wrong with that?  This spot is enchanting.  The shade from the ancient trees, the sun setting beyond the vines, and the golden light on smiling faces combined to create the first moment I intend to hold on to. 

We walked past the plot for the future tasting room, through the vines of Malbec, Tannat, and Petit Verdot, and returned to the tasting room lawn where the chefs were preparing to throw down.  I told Chris how much we enjoyed the tour and that it reminded me of the experience at a Sonoma favorite, Gundlach Bundschu.  His response?  “Where do you think we got the idea?”  I knew I liked them.

We then sampled appetizers, featuring Luling watermelon, from chefs from Rose Hill Manor, Kenichi, Paggi House and Quality Seafood.  The first dish was a Scallop with kohlrabi and watermelon and a watermelon sorbet with mint and serrano from Joseph Bannister of Rose Hill Manor.  The next was a seafood wrap from Carol Huntsberger of Quality Seafood followed by a Thai inspired watermelon and goat cheese  salad from Shane Stark of Kenichi.  Unfortunately, that is as far as I got. 

Apparently, my sweet son decided to leave me with a shellfish allergy that showed up in full force for the first time Saturday evening.  I had gotten itchy from shrimp and crab before, so I avoided the wrap, but had never had problems with nibbles my husband’s scallops.  I thought I would be fine, but instead wound up having to excuse myself with stabbing , elephant-on-my-chest pain.  Thank you, Chuck, for saving the evening (but unfortunately, not my appetite) with a quick trip home for Benadryl.  Good times! 

I was able to rejoin the party about an hour later, and had the pleasure of chatting with Alphonse Dotson and other growers under the stars.  The shadows of the Oak trees under the lights, the sound of cicadas in the trees, and sipping Enchante (a remarkable red blend) while chatting with Texas wine legends provided another moment to bottle. One of the things I love most about wine is how it brings people together.  Bill and Chris were able to bring together some amazing, talented, and incredibly gracious people on Saturday and I am beyond grateful to have been included.  Thank you, Miguel Lecouna, for all you did to make the event happen. If you have not had the pleasure of visiting, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  They are doing something really special out in Hye.  And if you were wanting more specifics on the wine, well, you are going to have to be patient.  Although my tasting opportunities were short-lived Saturday, my sweet husband brought home four bottles for me to taste with a working palate.  Can’t wait!  We will be visiting again soon and I have a feeling that, by weeks end, we will be a part of  “Hye” Society.

Cheers to “Fewer Tensions”

Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.
~Benjamin Franklin

Things have been a crazy here lately, so posts have taken a back seat.  They are always a little crazy… okay… a lot crazy, but this month has been a rough one.  I spent May with sick children, house guests, and purging for a charity garage sale.  I have spent June on pain meds, messing with Insurance companies, and trying to replace my totaled car after getting rear-ended.  This is my first car accident and what a mess. Thank God that my children were fine.  I can’t say the same for me, but I am getting there.  Needless to say, with all of those “tensions” I have needed a little “more tolerance.”  Here is a quick recap of some recent findings.

My husband had to do the grocery shopping the first weekend after the accident and he picked up some Bison Ribeyes.  They were delicious.  We paired them witha 2009 Gundlach Bundschu Tempranillo- a meatier Tempranillo with a big dark berries, a hint of spice and smoke, and a long sweet finish.  It paired really well with the earthiness of the grilled meat.  Super tasty.

June 16th would have been Robert Mondavi’s 99th Birthday and the fine folks at Folsom and Associates provided me with some of his wines to share in the live toast.  We opened the Riesling.  The toast was a poignant tribute to the man who helped put Napa Valley wines on the map.  I encourage you to read up on his story and his contributions to the wine world and the community.  The Riesling paired really nicely with the smoked cheddar.  Fuller in body and not as sweet as some, this wine had a very nice balance of fruit and floral.  A great Monday wine.

For Father’s Day, we went to the Farmer’s Market and picked up some Grass-Fed tenderloin, wax beans, and tomatoes.  What can I say?  My husband likes red meat.  I try to limit him to once a week max, and he makes sure he gets some on holidays.  We wanted something big enough to carry the beef, but not over power the vegetables.  We went with Wellington’s Grenache (2007).  They call it a “two-day wine” so I knew we had to aerate.  I poured it through the Vinturi (Thank you , Tony!) and into a decanter.  This was a gorgeous wine.  Cherry, red berries, a bit of tobacco and a super long finish.  About a minute after a sip, I got a ton of rhubarb.  I wish I had another bottle so I could see where it was going, but I don’t.  They are out of stock on it, too.  It was great while it lasted. 

We will have to open something special when I find a replacement for my poor “baby.”  I hope she was able to give her parts to a deserving Volvo wagon.  I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, cheers to “fewer tensions”!

The Night Began with Dom (Paggi House)

Any night that begins with a bottle of Dom Pérignon is bound to finish well, right?  Actually, it could begin and end with the one bottle and be more than fabulous in my book.  Add in some great company and a meal at the Paggi House and this girl is blissful.

We occasionally have dinner with my husband’s business partner and his wife to catch up and spend some time together.  They are amazing people and I am eternally grateful for their kindness, support, and generosity.  This time we met at the office, before dinner, because the men wanted to celebrate a great year, thus far.  Is there a better way to celebrate than Champagne?  I think not.  We then headed to the Paggi House, which is quickly becoming our new favorite spot to have dinner together.  Three out of four of us enjoyed our previous meal so much that we couldn’t stray and try something new.  And we were equally happy this time around. 

One thing we did differently was to have Chris McFall, the resident Sommelier, choose our wines.  I am glad we did.  I had the Proscuitto and Melon salad with Balsamic and Fig to begin and Ahi with Squash Ribbons and Broccoli Rabe with Grapefruit Buerre Blanc.  My husband had Venison Tartare and Scallops with Bone Marrow, Braised Fennel, and an Almond Creme.  He paired both with a glass of 2009 Domaine Nicolas Rossignol Bourgogne Pinot Noir .  The earthy qualities and subtle fruit was a great foil for the spice in the Tuna.  It was bright enough to handle the richness of the Scallops and bone marrow.  A lovely and surprising pairing.

After dinner, my husband and I stayed and sat at the bar for a bit.  Thanks to Stephan and Jose Sapien, the Mixologist, for being so friendly and informative.   They have a great cocktail list with some very interesting surprises.  If you decide to visit at happy hour, most of the drinks and a list of appetizers are half price.  I think I will be visiting in the near future.  And if you want to meet me with a bottle of Dom Pérignon, I won’t complain.  Cheers!