Forming a Theory with Help from Mia Wines

I may have a cure for the Texas Hill Country drought.  It requires wine, food, wonderful people, and a great deal of planning, but if we work together, I think we can pull this off.  So far, I am two for two on the Wine event:Torrential rainstorm ratio.  Last month, after the Dry Creek event, I couldn’t see ten feet in front of me, even going 10 mph.  I avoided highways, prayed, and made it safely, but the lakes rose.  On Thursday, I went to a party at a private home to launch Mia wines, the new line from Freixenet, and we rushed home followed by tornado warnings and downpours.  Coincidence?  You decide.

This was not just any home.  This was one of the most beautiful private homes I have been in.  High above Lady Bird Lake, the views to the right were of the river winding past the downtown skyline, to the left, Red Bud Isle and Lake Austin.  The home had been recently purchased and redesigned by Mark Ashby Design.  The home was contemporary, sleek, yet comfortable and inviting.  That can be a difficult balance to strike; Mark and his team did so with an incredible eye for both subtle and dramatic details.

20140618-095858-35938351.jpg20140618-095855-35935366.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As guests arrived, tapas were passed.  With the Spanish wines, Spanish fare was a given.  Eva Bertran of Freixenet and Daniel Olivella of Barlata have a friendship which has spanned decades, so even on his birthday, he provided a beautiful spread.  Crostini with Octopus and fennel, Iberica and micro greens, Chorizo, prawns, and wild mushroom with pine nuts.  Again, I cursed this shellfish allergy, but what I could have was delicious.  My husband oohed and aahed and claimed it was the best paella he’s had.  I have never seen a Paella pan like the Paella pans Chef Olivella had at this party.   What came out of them had to be fantastic.

20140618-095900-35940227.jpg

Gloria Collell is from a family of wine entrepreneurs so it is no surprise that the lure of enology trumped the lure of law school.  She has been with the Ferrer family, owners of Freixenet, for years and felt the next move should be into easy-drinking, food-friendly wines.  She wanted them to be approachable and festive.  She wanted them to capture the essence of Barcelona and be at an accessible price point.  Gloria has achieved what she set out to do.  These are perfect party wines.

The Mia line currently consists of five wines: white, rose, red, sparkling, and sparkling rose. The whites and pinks are low in alcohol with a level of sweetness.  They are all fermented in steel to retain the fresh, bright flavors.  The grapes are quintessentially Spanish.  The labels boast a colorful mosaic, a perfect representation of the wine.

miaredmiawhitemiapink

 

Mia’s white blend consists of Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Moscato, and Parellada.  Bright blossoms, tropical fruits, and honey.  The rose was my favorite and new grapes for me, Bobal and Sumoli.  Subtle red fruit, floral notes, a great food wine.  The red was, of course, Tempranillo.  Red and black fruit, spice and earth.  Both sparklings are Moscatos.  She suggests pairing the white with rich cheeses or dessert.  The rose has a 2% addition of Tempranillo which changes the wine immensely.  It balances the sweetness and would be perfect with berries and chocolate.

As The Brew played, the sun set, and in the distance, thunder clouds began to roll in.  It did not stop the band from hitting every note.  In fact, that could also be said about Janet Kafka and her team.  Every detail was well executed; the setting could not have been more captivating.  The hosts were gracious and inviting and the service was top-notch.  The food and wine sang of Barcelona, with casual, colorful elegance.

To test a theory, one need to evaluate in several controlled settings.  There needs to be a consistency in the elements, careful observation.   Now, I’m not saying that there is a definite correlation between the great food and wine events and the storms, but it is something I am willing to offer my services as a test subject, repeatedly if necessary.

Many thanks to Janet Kafka and team, Mark Ashby, Daniel Olivella, Gloria Collell, and everyone that made the evening possible.

I was invited to the event as media but received no additional compensation.  The thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

 

In a Sentimental Mood-Monday Wines

Last Tuesday I cooked my final dinner in the former version of my kitchen.  Since I moved in nearly nine years ago, actually since my then-boyfriend moved in ten years ago, I have wanted to make some major changes.  The original tile and cabinets, the laminate countertops, the horrid pantry all had to go.  I did the best with what I had.  I tried painting, but what I had hoped would be a wheat color, was more of a mustard mess.  “No matter,” I thought, “It will be gone soon enough”.  That was probably seven years ago.  Other things took priority.  And dollars went to diapers; it was survival mode, a long mental fog.  I was patient.  Very patient.

So, knowing it was my “last supper” of sorts, I turned up the music and got chopping.  The “shuffle gods” had something else in mind.  One after another, it was a “this-is your-life” soundtrack and a funny thing happened.  I found myself a little wistful, a little teary.  And I was chopping galanga root, not onions.  Even though I loathed that laminate, it is the one I floured for gnocchi and pie crust.  Even though that grout made me cringe, it is what my babies learned to move on as I pureed.  Even though that pantry was my organizational nemesis, it has stored a lot of love.  Well, groceries which would become little gestures of love.

I guess I’ve always been that way.  If I love you, I will cook for you.  If we are friends, we will share secrets and laughter at the kitchen table.  And once you’re in, you’ll always have a place at my table.  Maybe not literally; life brings changes in schedules and obligations.   Friends scatter and parenthood can squeeze your social calendar into a barely recognizable pulp.  But if you’ve held a place in my life, in my kitchen, in my heart, you’re there still.  Even if you are nasty green laminate from the 90s.

People had warned my about the chaos of life without a kitchen.  Actually, so far so good.  We’ve made our dining room our makeshift kitchen, I am not drowning in dishes, and I stocked up on Monday wines.  A girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.  If you’re new, Monday wines are in the $8-12 range.  They are wines you don’t mind opening for no reason, wines that don’t need to be paired, etc.  Knowing that my cooking abilities would be  compromised and my need for wine reinforced, I needed to be prepared.  And like the food coming out of my current “kitchen”, these wines aren’t fancy, but they are tasty.  They are ones I’d love to share and they will all have a home in my new kitchen.

11 Irony Merlot from Monterey County

We opened this last when we had the neighbors over for a cook out (we still have a grill) so take this with a grain of salt, but I really liked it.  Great fruit, balanced, a little spice, round cocoa notes.  We had it with some salty grilled venison backstrap a neighbor brought.  Super yum.

09 Anciano Tempranillo Crianza

I love a good Crianza.  Fresh red, easy-drinking fruit, subtle spice, good acid.  Will be restocking this one.

Rapido Red Sangiovese from Puglia  Everything you want from a pizza wine.  Including the price.

Anna Codorniu Brut Rose

Opened this with a friend visiting the week before we started the crazy.  Beautiful, festive color,  nice balance of fruit and yeast, lovely little bubbles.  Great wine to share with the girls.

“Sparkle and Shine”

I love Steve Earle.  I first fell for El Corazon, went back to I Feel Alright and then on to Transcendental Blues.  “Ft. Worth Blues” was on repeat as I watched the moon over the Adriatic.  I had people come up to me at the show at La Zona Rosa and say they had never seen anyone so into Steve Earle.  I snuck up front at The Backyard and “Galway Girl” and “More Than I Can Do” always get me moving.  I’ve missed some of the more recent stuff as I don’t dedicate nearly enough time to music these days, but one from 2007 will always be a favorite.

When I think back on my first pregnancy, two songs come to mind.  We chose not to find out the sex, but I knew.  I knew I was having a girl and I sang to her in the car, as I walked, whenever I was alone.  One was Patty Griffin’s ‘Heavenly Day,’ the other was Steve Earle’s “Sparkle and Shine.”  Much of what he writes is rough and tumble and colored with political punches, but when he writes a love song, he writes a long song.  “My baby sparkles and shines and everyone knows she’s mine…”

Who doesn’t want to be described as sparkling?  Sparkling personality, sparkling eyes.  The word connotates vivacity, magnetism.  When we think of celebrations, we want sparkling lights and sparkling wine.

As the year ends, many of us will gather with those that have meant something to us in the past year.  We will look back fondly or bid good riddance to a year we’d rather not repeat.  Either way, the evening should end, or begin, with something that sparkles.

You’ve got choices to make.  Domestic or foreign?  What’s your price point?  What’s the gathering?  If it is intimate, you may choose to have one or two bottles of something splurge-worthy and elegant.  If you’re hosting the whole block, you probably want something that tastes great at a reasonable price so you can pour freely.

I recently received some samples of Cava, sparkling wine from Spain, and Prosecco, bubbles from Italy.  I’ve discovered some new French favorites and some domestic standouts.  Some I have mentioned this year and some are newly tried.  Either way, there is sure to be something here to fit your gathering.

Feeling domestic? Try J Winery Sparkling Cuvee.   Priced in the low $20s, it is affordable and delicious.  Warm pears and citrus. A good compromise between splurge and a save.  Another that falls into that category is Jean Charles Boisset’s JCB bubbles.  The Brut and the Rose are delish and you can find them in the high teens, low 20s.  If you want to try a Texas sparkler, I really enjoyed McPherson Cellars Sparkling Wine with Chenin Blanc and Muscat Canelli.  A great value, too great I am afraid.  It is currently sold out but look for it next year.

Viva  España! There are some great values if you go for Cava.  Some better than others, of course.  One sample of “value” Cava I didn’t care for but it made a great cocktail with grapefruit, pomegranate seeds, and bitters.  I did like the Segura Vidas Brut Rosé ($10)* and was pleasantly surprised by the Freixenet Brut($11)*.  Neither were overly complex but pleasant for sipping.  If you want to bump it up a notch, try the Segura Vidas Reserva Heredad.*  The bottle itself is beautiful.  Pop the cork and find lots of beautiful bubbles, floral notes, apple, citrus and yeast.  Elegant and nicely priced around $25.

20131229-153859.jpg

Oui, Oui, Mon Cheri!  Last month I told you about a Cremant that I have a big crush on.  Aimery Sieur d’Arques Cremant de Limoux Rosé.  If you want to splurge on something pink, I’d suggest my birthday bubbles, Chassenay d’Arce, Rosé Brut, Champagne.  It is 65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay and 100% delicious.  Maybe it was just the fact that I had it with my mom’s strawberry cake, but it was worth every bit of the $45(ish).

Molte Bene In the mood for Prosecco?  A guest favorite in my Moms-coping-with-winter-break Blind Tasting was the Voveti Prosecco.  On the nose, some honey and yeast, good green apple notes and a decent finish.  In general, Prosecco can be a little sweeter than Cava or Cremant.  This one was indeed a little sweeter, but nice with the salty snacks.

Brasil!  For my (cough,cough) 40th, a friend shared this yummy number with me.  Casa Valduga 130 Brut is made using méthode champenoise and was nutty, full-bodied, and tasty.  A unique wine that is sure to be a conversation starter.  How many wines have you had from Brazil?

Now I know when Mr. Earle wrote the song, he didn’t mean “baby” like I meant “baby,” but I’ve got to say, my baby does indeed sparkle and shine. I can’t really think of anything “sparkling” without thinking of that song.  So, while the lede may have you scratching your head still, I hope you still enjoy the song.  2013 has had its challenges, there have been highs and lows, but I have much to be grateful for.  I hope that you will be surrounded by those you love and that there is something delicious in your glass and fabulous in your future.  See you in 2014! Cheers!

*These wines were provided by Janet Kafka and Associates as media samples.  The opinions are my own.

Less is More-Clean Slate Riesling

There was a time when a meatless meal would be cause for a mini-revolt.  But I’ve gotten better at creating delicious, satisfying vegan meals and my husband’s gotten better about not complaining.  Less meat is just better for your health and the environment.  It’s a win-win.  Less is more.

There was a time when my day was so crazy and I was so overwhelmed that I wanted a glass of wine every night.  Now I get a break during school hours and am more in the groove of the SAHM thing.  So instead of having a Monday wine on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I generally have one or two glasses of something tasty, once or twice a week.   Less is more.

I have had a few samples of wine that I have been meaning to try, but when you drink less, you drink less.  So yesterday I opened a bottle of Clean Slate Riesling that has been in my refrigerator for weeks.  I’m glad I did.  The wine hails from the Mosel region of Germany which is known for producing some great Riesling.  While choosing most German Rieslings can be intimidating because of their classifications, this one is straightforward.  A look at the label will give you a good hint about what you are getting.

Clean floral and fruit notes with little residual sugar and a lot of minerality.  Just as the photo indicates.  Citrus, stone fruits, and a little spice.  When people ask about minerality in wine, I always think of the smell of slate.  I think of climbing on slate river beds as a child and the taste of your hands after.  No, I didn’t go around licking my hands as a child, but it happens, right?  If you’ve ever done it, you know what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t, open a Mosel Riesling.

With a price point around $10, it is a great Monday wine.  I wish I’d opened it on Monday, in fact, because it would have been perfect with the meal I made.  I was in clean-out-the-fridge mode so I used what I had and it turned out to be, in my husband’s words, the best vegan combination I’ve made so far.

I cubed and roasted some butternut squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and then added mint.  I made brown rice with sautéed leeks, currants, cilantro, cumin, cinnamon, and a little lemon juice at the end.  I also roasted brussel sprouts which I finished with a little Sriracha and lemon juice.  It was delicious.  The warm, fall flavors with a little heat would have paired perfectly with the wine.

You may have read that I was cutting out this, that, and most things in between.  I was really strict at first, then I loosened up on the weekends.  But after two months without the weight budging, I got discouraged and my husband started to complain.  Understandably.  So I adopted my sister’s 80/20 lifestyle.  Eat in the anti-inflammatory way 80% of the time, but when I’m at someone’s home or on date night, I’ll loosen up.   And if I have a sample begging to be opened, I’ll open it.  I’ll just pair it with something healthy.  I’ll still make overall health the goal, but I’ll lighten up on the rules.  Less is more.

South A. Welcomes South A.

20131029-102802.jpgA few weeks ago I told you about a South African Pinotage that I blew my socks off. It was my first piece for Wine Savvy so you may have missed it but the experience whet my appetite for South African wines. This past Sunday, Wines of South Africa held a Braai and wine tasting to benefit the Amala Foundation. Held in the new venue, Vuka, in South Austin, the atmosphere was friendly and casual, approachable and diverse, just like the wines.

The organization is currently doing a US tour to showcase the wines and the changes being made in the industry, socially and environmentally. There were about 25 wines being poured and a few stations with nibbles: ostrich burgers, chicken skewers, etc. Because I was there on a mission, I only tried a little of the food, but what I tried was tasty. I had more important things to taste.

I had sampled some of the wines at previous events so I tried to stick to the new labels. I came away with two clear favorites. The main varieties being poured were Chenin and Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Pinotage with a few classics thrown in. If you are one that sticks with what you know, I would recommend checking out the Passages label. They were pouring a Chardonnay, a Merlot, and a Cab/Merlot blend. I preferred the bookends in the list but they were all good values around $15.

If you are adventurous, I highly recommend the Bellingham wines. The two being poured were very different, in every way, but my two favorites of the day. The Bellingham Citrus Grove Chenin Blanc was a great value at about $12. Bright citrus, tropical notes, easy drinking. The Bellingham Bernard Series SMV was a beautiful blend of Syrah and Mourvedre, softened with Viognier. Really versatile and smooth with floral red fruits and enough spice to give it weight. It could easily be quaffed alone or with a variety of foods. At $30 it is one of the higher end wines, but worth it. Both wines are available at Whole Foods.

If you are looking for some others to try, I also enjoyed the Stellar Organics Pinotage and Extra Dry Sparkling, both ridiculous values at $11. Also, check out the Mulderbosch Rose and Sauvignon Blanc. Tasty.

Usually at wine events I see a few people I know. These were new faces. These were happy faces. The wines of South Africa may not be well-known yet, but I see that changing. The quality for the price point is attractive, especially for those just experimenting with wines. The wines were easy to drink and easy to share. I’ll always drink to that. Cheers!

Going Out with a Bang

Ok, so I am doing it.  Trying it.  Ok, starting it anyway.  I eat healthy.  I exercise (sometimes more vigorously than others).  And I can’t drop the last ten from my now 3-year-old “baby.”  My sister has been eating the anti-inflammatory way since she discovered it, for the most part.  She was motivated by arthritis but the weight loss is a welcome “side effect” so I am going to try.  Which means no dairy, gluten, sugar, booze, etc.  Which means that I won’t be 100% long-term, but I can be strict for a while and then do some figuring out what works for me.

So I went shopping yesterday for some new supplies but when I got home I realized I had one “last supper.”  I should have planned ahead and made it more exciting, but I did want it to include wheat and dairy with a dash of decadence.  So I did a play on Pasta Carbonara and popped open a wine I’ve been waiting to try all summer, Dane Cellars 2009 Chenin Blanc.  I met the winemaker, Bart Hansen, at SXSW last spring and he sent me a few samples.  I was trying to wait for other wine writers to taste them with me but summer schedules have not permitted any get-togethers.  I got tired of waiting.

In typical fashion, I popped the cork while I was cooking to taste while my palate was clear. And just because.  I think of Chenin as a summer wine, but last night I tasted early fall.  Growing up near MacIntosh apple country, I have a weak spot for a crisp, slightly tart apple.  That is exactly what I tasted when I tried the wine.  Clean, tart early harvest MacIntosh apples.  Add a touch of acid and floral and there you have it.  The recipe I used suggested Sauvignon Blanc but this pairing worked well too.  Basically what you want with Carbonara is some acid to cut the richness of the pancetta and cheese.  The Chenin had that in spades. And at around $15, it nearly qualifies as a Monday wine.

I also didn’t have pancetta since this was on-the-fly gluttony, so I used olive oil and a touch of bacon grease I had in the freezer.  While the pasta was cooking (no spaghetti, just wheat gemelli), I sautéed the garlic and thin ham strips until the garlic was soft and the ham was crisp.  While that was happening I grated about a cup of parmesan cheese and mixed that in with two whisked eggs.  When the pasta was just out of the water, I tossed it in the pan and added the egg/cheese mixture.  (If you want to thin the sauce,add some pasta water).  At the very end I added about a tablespoon of thinly sliced green onion, a touch I adopted from La Traviata.

It wasn’t fancy, but everyone loved it and it paired really well with the wine.  The hubs even ate anything that was left on the kids’ plates.  I’ll make it again, I think?  Or if you know of a good vegan gluten-free version, let me know. (Or any other favorite adaptations).

So I won’t have a lot of new wines to share in the next couple weeks, or maybe I’ll have time to write about ones I’ve already had.  What’s the worst that can happen?  Either I lose that stubborn ten or I get to go back to Pasta Carbonara.  I call that Win-Win.

Oh, That’s Right This is a Wine Blog…

Lately I have been writing about a little of this and a lot of that but not a lot about wine. Lest I forget why many of you started reading, here are some of the highlights of my summer quaffing.

1) Champlain Valley wines.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I was tasting. Think cool climate acid, clean fruit, not overly complex but versatile. Most of these producers are fairly new to the game and some are doing better than others but it was fun to try some varieties, like Louise Swenson and Marquette, that were new to me. East Shore Vineyard and The Champlain Wine Company were at the head of the leaderboard in my limited experience.

2) Ridge Vineyards 06 Lytton Springs Zinfandel

Huge fruit and spice, beautiful layers. This super complex Zin is a special occasion wine at around $50 but it is sure to impress. Paul Draper has such a great approach to the art and industry of winemaking that the wine is a conversation piece in and of itself.

3) Loxton Cellars

Originally from Australia, Chris Loxton is no stranger to Syrah. His goal is to produce wines with a sense of place.  With a focus on Syrah and Zin, he uses the most natural processes that he can. When I think of California Zins and Syrah, I think big, bold, and a little heavy. His were surprisingly light, yet complex. We left with a bottle of Zin. Subtle tannins, spice, acid and bright fruit. Delish. We may be joining this one.

4) Walt Wines

The tasting room is right off the Sonoma square and they specialize in Pinots. I think we tasted six, all tasty. They source their grapes from several regions and the labels are color coded accordingly. My two favorites were from the Anderson Valley, so that’s good for me to know when choosing. They did one that was an experimental wine with the stems being removed, smoked and then the wine filtered through them. I wish I had my notes (taken on the tasting sheet, a casualty of travel), but I think that is correct. Really interesting. Check them out.

5) Domaine du Montru Muscadet Sevre & Maine sur lie.

20130905-160152.jpg

My new favorite summer Monday wine. Priced under $10, this wine is complex and bright, with great citrus notes and minerality. Find it, open it, and enjoy. Easy and the perfect wine on these hot September (?!?) days.  If you’re in ATX, it is at Central Market.

6) 2009 Haraszthy Zinfandel Amador County ($18)

20130905-160208.jpg

While camping in Big Trees, we would go down to the local Chevron each day so my husband could get some work done. While in there, I saw a small wine section with all local producers. On a recent Twitter tasting someone mentioned that he felt Amador County Zins didn’t get their due so I tried this little, or should I say big whopping, gem. Jammy red fruit and bold spice, perfect with ziti and sausage that my husband whipped up on the cool Sierra evening.

When I looked up the wine, I realized that the family is well versed on the topic. Vallejo Haraszthy, the current owner, is a descendant of General Vallejo, founder of Sonoma, and Count Agoston Haraszthy, the founder of Buena Vista Winery.

The bear on the label is a nod to the flag of California and the motto, Solus Sto, is Latin for “Stand Alone.” They continue to honor each region for its’ own unique characteristics. A fun wine with a great story.

As I ease into my new-found twice-a-week morning freedom, I hope to not be such a stranger. And I’m celebrating a BIG birthday this weekend so I should have some more recommendations soon. Cheers!

Everything’s Coming up Rosés

I feel guilty buying wine when I have a closet full, but my closet is filled with mostly reds.  At this time of the year, I am into pink.  Or crisp, bright whites but that is another post. When dry Rosé started coming back on the scene a few years ago, I was a happy girl.  Love it.  Love, love, love.  A few years ago, it was a little more challenging to find one that was under $20 that didn’t have a bite, but that seems to be changing.  In the last few weeks I’ve had five, all under $20 and four out of five made it on my love list.

If you’ve tried one or two and aren’t sure if you like them, keep trying.  Depending on the region, the grapes, the style, they vary widely.  There are three main style of production.  And because I am writing on borrowed time (sick kids) I am going to quote from an article on Wikipedia.  It pains me, but if you read the previous post, you understand why.

When rosé wine is the primary product, it is produced with the skin contact method. Black-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period, typically one to three days.[3] The must is then pressed, and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation (as with red wine making). The longer that the skins are left in contact with the juice, the more intense the color of the final wine.[4]

When a winemaker desires to impart more tannin and color to a red wine, some of the pink juice from the must can be removed at an early stage in what is known as the Saignée (from French bleeding) method. The red wine remaining in the vats is intensified as a result of the bleeding, because the volume of juice in the must is reduced, and the must involved in the maceration becomes more concentrated. The pink juice that is removed can be fermented separately to produce rosé.[5]

In other parts of the world, blending, the simple mixing of red wine to a white to impart color, is uncommon. This method is discouraged in most wine growing regions, especially in France, where it is forbidden by law, except for Champagne. Even in Champagne, several high-end producers do not use this method but rather the saignée method.[

Now for the fun part.  I tried three from France and two from Texas.  Here’s the lowdown.

1) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I really like Chateau de Campuget Costieres de Nimes Tradition Rose 2011.  Good structure and fruit, bright minerality. Fresh, fun, and fruity.  I’ve been feeling like that myself after a few sleepless nights. From the Rhone region, this wine is 70% Syrah, 30% Grenache.

2) From the Coteaux d’Aix in Provence, Bieler Père et Fils is making a lovely Rosé.  As they should.  This blend is 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 20% Cab.  Great mouthfeel, both soft and sturdy which I like in my pink friends.  The fruit and minerality is well-balanced.  At around $12, it is a steal.

3) Chateau Paradis 2011 (on sale for $15) This was an interesting one to compare with the Bieler.  I think the higher percentage of Grenache gave it a little more tannic bite.  A great food wine, but it seemed a little harsh after sipping on the previous wine.  I’d buy it again, but I’d serve it with , savory and herbal. Also from Coteaux d’Aix, it is 60% Grenache, 20%  of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

4) Becker Vineyards in Fredricksburg, Texas recently released their ode to the above region with their 2012 Provencal Rosé.  I really like this wine.  A Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre blend, this wine has earth and fruit.  Fuller bodied, lively, great for summer barbeques or more refined fare. You can find it in the 10-12 range.

5) The first Rosé I fell for made in Texas was from McPherson Cellars.  It is a little more fruit-forward than the others, but by no means sweet.  This is a great one to introduce someone to the drier style of pink, and Texas wines!  It retails for about $14 and is one of my favorites.

If you haven’t wandered down to the pink aisle yet, this gives to a place to start.  Now I want to hear from you.  Have you discovered any that I need to try?  Share them!

And a little pat on my back and disclaimer.  We’ve been fighting three kinds of funk in the last three weeks around here.  After two nights this week of 3-5 hours of interrupted sleep, I managed to write something, so you can’t get rid of me that easily.  I won’t say it’s my best work, but it works.  And since I wrote half of this with my son sitting in my lap, I neglected nothing.  I think that’s a win-win.  Cheers!

P.S. You Were a Hit at the Dinner Party!

Without question, one of my favorite things about wine is how it brings people together.  From harvest to blending, tastings to dinner parties, community is central to the production and enjoyment of wine.  One community that has grown around the love of one grape in particular is P.S I Love You.  The producers and advocates of Petite Sirah formed the group in 2002.  Since then it has grown to over 100 members.

I was introduced to the group by Jo Diaz, the executive director and a fellow member of another group, Women Wine Writers.  I was recently the fortunate recipient of samples from P.S. I Love You.  This gave me a great excuse to bring a new group of wine lovers together to help me sample and learn more about Petite Sirah.

I taught in a multi-age setting and I still love the theory behind it.  Surround the learner with those that are farther ahead in one arena and those that are behind.  Ideas become solidified as you share and support others.  You are challenged to grow as you see new ideas practiced and applied.  All people have different gifts.  We excel in one area and need help in others.   These ideas don’t stop in the classroom.  Or perhaps our entire experience is one big “classroom.”  Either way, the same theories still apply.

Although the Petite Sirah gathering was only scheduled two days in advance, the group could not have been better planned.  One guest had more technical and production experience.  Another came with a palate trained through years of cooking.  Yet another spent years in Italy and fine dining so he brought his own unique angle.   I invited friends that love wine and the learning process and I learned from their unbiased perspectives.

I got a head start on the sampling the night before so that I could come into it with some prior knowledge.  Plus, it gave me the opportunity to try another pairing.  On Thursday, my brother-in-law made grilled Balsamic pork chops which I paired with roasted sweet potatoes and a kale salad.  We opened the 2011 Rock Wall Jack’s Dry Creek for the meal.  This wine was beautifully balanced with tons on blackberry and spice.  Hearty enough to hold up to the balsamic and pepper on the pork, smooth enough to drink by itself after the meal.  A very nice wine.  We also opened the Petite Petit by Michael David Winery.  Trust me, there is nothing “petite” about this wine.  Huge fruit, punctuated by the Petit Verdot, this one really needed some food.  Next time I plan on having some cheese with enough muscle to hold this one.  After a sampling of both ends of the PS spectrum, I felt more prepared for the full tasting.

petite sirah

I read a lot about pairings and asked the producers to share their favorites. We started with a cheese plate.  For dinner, I decided on venison meatballs with marinara, garlic bread and salad.  That way I could bring in the game and the hearty tomato in one dish.  Also, I could do all the work before guests arrived which is always preferred.  I chose six wines to taste that night.  I have found that, after that, my palate becomes saturated and I can’t properly evaluate a wine.  Plus, that leaves me a couple more to pair in the future.

In retrospect, I may have changed the order, but based on what I knew, courses, and price point, I put them in the following order:

1) 2010 Bogle Vineyards $11 Cheese course-Big black fruit, tar, spicy pepper, full-bodied

2) 2011 Concannon Central Coast $10 -Cheese course-Red and black berries, leather, medium-bodied. Would have served this before Bogle. A great value.

3) 2010 Stanton Vineyards $45- Served with Main Course-Absolutely delicious.  Complimented the meal nicely.  Perfumed nose. Integrated red and black fruit, balanced, big and complex.

4) 2010 Pedroncelli Dry Creek Valley$17 Served with Main Course-Super complex.  Red and black fruit, some eucalyptus and spice.  Hearty and rich layers. Full bodied and a fantastic value.

5) 2010 Wooden Valley Winery $19 Served with dessert. Cocoa and Cassis, round vanilla and almond notes.  With the addition of Zinfandel, this wine is fruit forward and approachable.

6) 2010 Earthquake $26  With a name like Earthquake, I assumed this wine would pack a big punch and needed to come last.  I was right.  Bold, hefty, in your face tannins and fruits that doesn’t quit.  Consider yourself warned and pair with something that would rank high on the Richter scale.

So what did we learn for our course in Petite Sirah?  Also known as Durif, this grape is typically used in blending, but is lovely on its own.  Depending on growing conditions and production techniques, the grape can produce very diverse wines.  We learned that this wine is made for food, specifically hearty foods.  We learned that there are some great values in Petite Sirah.  Layered, rich and under $20?  Yes, please.

The best learning is done is a safe environment.  When wine flows, conversation follows.  Questions arise, points of view differ, but, in the right setting, you all come away richer, and hopefully wiser.  Thank you P.S. I Love You for providing the opportunity to learn.  Thank you, dear friends, for teaching and learning with me.  Most importantly, thank you for creating an environment in which learning is possible.  Cheers!

Disclaimer: These wines were provided as samples by the producers affiliated with P.S. I Love You.  The opinions are my own and those of my dinner guests.

Transitions- Part 1

Spring is a time of transitions.  Some are surficial: purging closets, boots to sandals.  Some are botanical: bud break, the emergence of a crocus.  Some are spiritual: an awakening, a yearning.  All around, there is a renewed energy, a pull.  All week-long I have felt the need to write, a to-do list of pieces that need to be written, but I haven’t had the focus or time.  I awakened this morning after ELEVEN hours asleep, with the idea of transition.  It is the theme that is both pulling me to write and connecting the jumbled ideas, which cover the aforementioned range.  To spare you the crazy of my thought patterns, I’ve decided to break it into two parts.  I’ll start with the surficial.

It has been a brutal winter for many of you, so I hesitate to share that we have had a few days in the 80s.  When the thermostat begins to hit that range, it generally means I get my first cravings for Sauvignon Blanc.  Our grill died last fall and my husband finally had time to go pick out a replacement on Saturday.  So, I headed to the store for something to grill and some SB.  I don’t know about you, but I pick fish based on what is wild and what looks the freshest.  I had a preparation in mind, so I had already gotten the sides.  My shopping buddy also thought the Coho salmon was the “shiniest” so that’s what we chose.  (BTW, I didn’t even tell him what to look for, he’s got the instinct.  His uncles would be proud.)   He also did well with the Sauvignon Blanc label picking.

sbfish

I started with the Israeli couscous so it had time to cool to room temp.  I browned it in sunflower oil for about 5 minutes, boiled for 15, then drained.  I added olive oil and salt so it wouldn’t be sticky, then started on the fish.  I  drizzled with olive oil, added salt and pepper, chopped rosemary and oregano, and lemon zest.  For the salad, I used bibb lettuce, toasted pine nuts, shaved parmesan, and grilled raddichio.  While the boys grilled the fish and raddichio, I tossed parsley, oregano, lemon juice, and the extra pine nuts in the couscous.  On the side, I had Castelvetrano olives.

Since my brother-in-law moved here, we’ve shared many meals and he’s been very complimentary.  It means a lot to me since he went to culinary school.  This was the first time, however, that he’s said, “If you gave this meal to professionals, they would not tell you to add one thing.  It is perfectly balanced and complimentary.”  Who-hoo!  Love it when that happens.  Especially with a meal that is healthy and easy to throw together.

The wine I paired it with was a 2012 Doña Paula Los Cardos Sauvignon Blanc.  Bright fruit, a bit of herb and a lot of grapefruit.  This paired perfectly and, priced around $12, it is a wine you can drink anytime.

If you want something a little more elegant, the 2010 Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc would work nicely too.  It has the lively citrus and herbal notes, but the addition of 6% Semillon and 5 months in oak soften the wine a little.  The wine has some briny, savory notes that would play well with food.  This wine retails around $20 and was provided as a sample*.

Saturday was in the eighties, Wednesday was in the fifties.  Transitions are like that.  A few steps forward, a few steps back.  Progress, regression.  They can be slow and daunting, or immediate and undeniable.  Regardless of the results, the process, the learning, the discovery often has its own rewards.  Some are intrinsic and some are as simple as a delicious meal with people you love.

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