Something to Celebrate

Tonight we will say goodbye to 2012 and hello to 2013. Most of us will celebrate with bubbles and friends. We have been practicing around here. I took a class in sparkling wine recently which was great preparation. Champagne, Prosecco, Domestic, or Cava, there is a bottle for every palate and every price point.

I recently received a sample of sparkling wine from Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. Using the Methode Champenoise, this 2008 Blanc de Blancs is aged 24-30 months before disgorging. This wine has great acidity, citrus and green apple. The bubbles are small and elegant which yield a great texture and finish. If you are wanting to celebrate with a domestic wine, this is a great option. Looking for other options? I’ll get to that.

So what were we celebrating? Well, a few things. One being my brother’s visit. Another being the reason I have not mentioned other specific sparklers. At the end of 2011, I had just begun writing. I had posted maybe a dozen pieces, with most viewed only by friends. In 2012, I have begun receiving samples, have received invitations to fabulous events, and more importantly, have met amazing people in the industry. I have learned so much from them.

With their encouragement and example, I have grown in the social media world, and I am now writing for other publications. So, for other bubbles ideas, head over to Back9Network, a multi-media golf and lifestyle publication, where I have been writing weekly posts on wine and spirits.  So grateful for all of you that have taken the time to read my banter, for all that I have learned, and for the relationships I have made.

Wishing you a fabulous holiday and may 2013 bring you much joy.

Three “Wines-men”

I could tell you about a few of my picks for the holiday season, and I probably will at some point.  But I thought it would be a little more interesting to hear from those who know just a little more about Texas wines than I do.  I elicited help from three fabulous Texas wine makers to tell you which Texas wine they might be pouring this holiday season and the pairings they would choose.  The catch?  It had to be someone else’s wine.

Dave Reilly has been getting a lot of attention as the winemaker for Duchman Winery.  And with good reason.  Just this year his wines has received several awards and three spots on the Jessica Dupuy’s Top Texas Wines list.  What Texas wine would he pour?  A Roussanne.  He thinks that it is one of the most interesting grapes being produced in the state. 

Although he didn’t name a specific producer, I have had lovely Roussannes from both Cap*Rock Winery and McPherson Cellars.  The McPherson Reserve Roussanne was on Russ Kane’s list of his favorite Texas whites of 2012 and Jessica Dupuy included a Roussanne from Perissos Vineyards on her list.  Promising, indeed.  The traditional pairings are seafood and buttery dishes.  You could also pair with poultry.  Doing a Christmas turkey?  This would be lovely.  Especially with a chestnut stuffing or with butternut squash to bring out the nutty flavors in the wine.

Tim Drake made the move to Texas from Washington in 2010 because he and his family saw that something special was going on in the Texas wine industry.  He joined Flat Creek Estate in 2011 and we are just now seeing the first of his whites.  If the 2011 and 2012 barrel sample of Viognier are any indication, we are in for a whole lot of special.  And if his pairings are any indication, I’ll be asking for an invitation to dinner. 

Tim chose William Chris Merlot paired with a Demi-Glace Veal Chops served with Gorgonzola Risotto and sautéed green beans.  Yes, please.  William Chris is located in Hye, Texas and they produce some incredible wines.  I have a bottle of Enchante that I have been saving for the holidays, so you’ll hear more about them in the near future.

Kim McPherson of McPherson Cellars knows a thing or two about wine.  In fact, he is kind of wine royalty here in Texas.  His father, “Doc” McPherson, was one of the fore-fathers of the Texas wine industry and Kim has continued the elevation of Texas viticulture.  His wines have received over 450 awards.  So what would he choose? 

A peek at either Jessica or Russ’ list will tell you that Tempranillo does very well here.  Kim agreees.  He chose Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo with a Hanger Steak made in a Spanish style.  That shouldn’t be a problem since his wife, Sylvia, owns La Diosa Cellars.  Think Romesco sauce, rubs with herbs and paprika.  Smoky, spicy, with some lime juice for acid.  Serve with polenta or fingerling potatoes.  Maybe some greens with roasted peppers?  Yum.

Although most of these specific wines are not available nationwide, these pairings are great inspiration no matter what state you call home.  And great inspiration to visit us here in Texas.  Thank you to all of the winemakers who helped me in writing this.  You are doing amazing things.  Merry Christmas and happy pairing!

Lamentations

I’ve barely slept this past week. At first, it was because I was sleeping with my son to help him through his pneumonia-induced coughing spells. For the last two nights, I have been so heavy with grief for the families in Newtown that I have not found rest. There is a verse in Romans that says, “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” This is a grief that words cannot express, but ironically, I find comfort in writing. So, although this is a wine blog, it is also about my life as a mom. And today, that is about the only thing that seems to matter.

When I came home on Friday, the first things I saw were my daughter’s drawings on the refrigerator. So many families will come home to similar pictures, knowing they will be the last. Before Friday’s tragedy, I found myself frustrated at being awakened yet again. After, I cherished a few extra minutes to hold my sleeping children.

There is understandably more talk about gun-control*.   How I wish that the answer were that simple.  No amount of legislation, gun-control, or metal detectors will stop a broken soul from inflicting horror on others if they are set on doing so.  The only prevention can be to get to that soul before it is too late. This is a generation in which too many have been overexposed to violence on television and video games. They have been under-exposed to loving boundaries and consequences. They are angry and fearful. They are vulnerable and hardened. The mental health problems are multipying; parents are exhausted with nowhere to turn.  This cannot be sustained.

People are looking for reasons, for answers. There are no answers. We retreat from the media or we become obsessed with the coverage. There is no comfort there. We hold our children closer and reevaluate priorities. Oh, that this would continue. Please, talk to your children and their friends. Speak up when you see something. Fight the toxicity we put in our bodies and our brains. Love your children and those in your path. And Pray.

As a mother and a former Elementary teacher, I can imagine all too vividly the horror. Although I was not directly impacted, I have friends that were. Comfort and solace are nearly impossible to come by in a tragedy of this magnitude. There is another verse I have chosen to focus on. In Mark, we are told of people bringing their children to Jesus to be touched. He says, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” The verse following tells us that “he took them in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.” I choose to, I need to, believe that he shielded their minds in this. That he was there to welcome them into his arms. `

May God be near. May he provide a peace that passes understanding. May he restore what is broken and bring beauty from the ashes.

*see comments

A Day Late…But Not a Bit Short

Last night was the Texas Wine Twitter chat featuring three lovely wines and Chef Josh Watkins of The Carillon Restaurant here in Austin (see pairings below).  I will be making that Celery root and apple soup with Duchman Viognier soon.  Because we have been in full combat mode, fighting a nasty respiratory virus, I had to miss the tasting at a fellow Texas wine lover’s house and could only tweet vicariously.  I made up for it today.  

My husband made a pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto and sage.  My brother-in-law made salad with pears sautéed in maple syrup which became part of the vinaigrette.  My job was to pair and hold my sweet son.  Honestly, a kangaroo pouch would have come in handy the last few days since he’s too big for a sling and can’t be off me for more than a minute at a time when he’s sick.

I paired the meal with McPherson Sangiovese.  A good pairing brings out the best in both and this was spot on.  The fruit was subtle as to not compete, but with enough earthy backbone to hold its own.  The salt of the prosciutto, the sweet of the pear, the acidity of the vinaigrette all worked with the Sangiovese.  Yum.

This is a very food friendly wine that can go in many directions and blend right in.  I have joked before that I think Kim McPherson and I have kindred palates.  I love everything he makes.  The Sangiovese is no exception.  Thanks to Chef Josh Watkins for the great suggestions and to all the Texas wine advocates and producers for all you do!

 Duchman Family Winery Viognier

Celery root-apple soup
Spiced apples with brandy syrup

McPherson Sangiovese
Free-raised veal tenderloin with sweet potato hash, and mustard greens with bacon gastrique
Beef tenderloin with Brussels sprouts and potato puree
Braised beef short ribs with grill romaine and pickled radish

Fall Creek or Messina Hof Muscat Canelli (semi-sweet)
Buttermilk panna cotta
Manchester cheese
Almond cake

East Coast vs. West Coast

This week I decided to sample two Chardonnays, back to back, for an East Coast/West Coast showdown.  The first Chardonnay was the 2010 Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay from North Carolina and the second was the 2010 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Chardonnay ($20).

The Biltmore was very easy to drink.  Which was great because we opened it after my son’s third birthday party.  I’d love to tell you how it paired, but we didn’t get that far.  A fresh pear green in color, with similar nose.  Hints of citrus, rounded with a bit of buttery notes.  There was some of the banana that you find with malo-lactic fermentation.  I would say this would be a very versatile wine, but not to pair it as you typically would when you think Chardonnay.  The oak was light, the fruit remained on the crisper side.  A fun take on Chardonnay, for sure.

We opened the Robert Mondavi for dinner last night.  I made a light pasta with asparagus, mushrooms, and chicken.  This was, what I consider to be, a very classic Chardonnay.  Classic, but without the heaviness that is sometimes overwhelming.  A pear yellow, lighter than some Chardonnays, but don’t let that fool you.  This bottle drinks like one that is older.  Pear, something tropical, and a floral perfume.  I tasted lemon, apple, some tannic notes, and a nutty, creamy finish.  There is definitely oak, but it doesn’t hit you in the back of the throat as some do.  I enjoyed this wine, especially as it hit the right temperature. 

So who won the bi-coastal showdown?  I think it depends on what you’re looking for in a Chardonnay.  A fun, lighter fruit forward wine with subtle oak or a creamy classic one?  Personally, I can’t call a winner.  As with most wines, there is a time and a meal for each of these.

*{Disclosure: I was provided with these wines from PR Firm, Folsom & Associates. All statements and opinions expressed in this article are my own.}