Musical Pairings with Banfi

When it comes to stocking your wine fridge, or cellar if you’re lucky, you can and should do so with several things in mind.  You have those special occasion bottles and the duplicates for comparative purposes.  You have the obscure blend you found at your favorite store and the ones you picked up at the winery.  And then you have the others.

If you have the means and the storage, you have several bottles that are Monday wines.  Wines that you know are the old reliables.  Wines that you can open and not finish and not worry.  The wines that you can pop for any reason or no reason and not have to think about them.

Wines that qualify need to be affordable and versatile.  Maybe you buy them by the case, maybe you stock up during the semi-annual sale.  One favorite red for such purposes is Chianti.

Chianti is wine from the Chianti region of Italy.  Depending on the specific area and time in the barrel, the wine is given different designations. All Chianti needs to be 75% Sangiovese.  To be considered a reserve, the wine needs to be aged at least two years in barrel, three months in bottle.  Classico is from the central region, an area given DOCG status in 1996.  If it has the black rooster, it has been tested and deemed worthy of the designation.

I recently sampled three Chiantis from Banfi Wines: Placido Chianti ($9), Chianti Classico($15), and Chianti Classico Riserva($19).  They were doing a campaign about Chianti and comfort foods, very appropriate.  It is nearly impossible for me to eat Italian without wine so these were fun to sample.

I’ve mentioned that I sometimes like to taste “blind,” without reading anything about them first.  When I went to open these, I couldn’t find the attachments with the retail info. or production sheets so I paired blindly as well.  A bit risky, but a good experiment.

A few weeks ago I wrote about pairing Chicken Saltimbocca and the Placido Chianti was one that was an option.  A few nights later, I made Minestrone which I paired with the Chianti Classico.  The following weekend I made Pasta with meatballs and we drank the Riserva.

The Placido was a little “thin” for the rich sauce of the Saltimbocca and, while it worked, the Riserva would have been a better choice.  The Minestrone was great with the Classico, but knowing what I know now, I should have held on to e Placido.  A true Monday wine in price and complexity, it would have been just fine with the soup.  The Riserva was great with the meatballs.  I had opened it early to put a splash in the sauce and, since it was already opened, I channeled my inner-Olivia Pope and had a bit with the afternoon matinée popcorn.  It even worked there.  However, the red fruit and acidity of the Classico may have been a little better.

Every bottle WORKED but I could have paired better.  But for versatility, affordability, and as the promotion was claiming, comfort, Chianti hits the mark. I may need a do-over and a wine do-over is one I never mind doing.  I know I’ll be stocking up on some more for the holidays.

{These wines were supplied by Banfi as media samples. I received no other compensation.  Thoughts and opinions are my own.}

Hannibal Would be Proud: Texas Tuesday

“I love it when a plan comes together.”  If you are an 80’s kid, you surely recognize that as the catchphrase of John “Hannibal” Smith, fearless leader of the A-team.  Oh, you thought I meant the Punic Carthaginian military commander?  Well, if he liked wine I guess he would be proud.  For future reference, you are safe assuming I am alluding to mindless pop-culture rather that ancient military strategists.  Anyway, back to the plan.

We had plans to go camp for a friend’s 40th birthday but a health hiccup for our black lab meant that we couldn’t leave her overnight and couldn’t go camping.  But we could get out of the house in the afternoon for a couple of hours of marriage maintenance.  A beautiful winter day means one activity (ok, any day) has my vote: heading out to the wine country.

This is the part in the A-team when each character starts throwing out crazy ideas which require Face to smooth talk someone while they drug B.A so Murdoch can fly them into the middle of the chaos.  Fortunately for us, it only required an email, two phone calls, and a quick shower to get an appointment, my favorite mom here, and out the door in 40 minutes. I guess that is kind of A-team comparable when you have little ones.

On the drive I was able to do some reading about Kuhlman Cellars and the people behind it.

Wine is a product born of love, passion and intense labor.  It should be enjoyed with the same emotional vigor.  At Kuhlman Cellars, we strive to appreciate what brings richness to our lives: Family, Food, Friends and Fellowship. Our tasting room was carefully designed to include every guest in our personal wine journey with education about our process from a knowledgeable guide, an intimate view of our working winery and Sommelier & Chef prepared cuisine carefully paired with each wine.

I had a feeling this was going to be my kind of tasting experience.  We arrived at Kuhlman Cellars with five minutes to spare, ready to taste the wine I’d been hearing so much about. Although the winery has only been open for two months, the Cobb family is not new to the wine industry, previously managing a Hill Country vineyard. Together with winemaker Bénédicte Rhyne, Chris and Jennifer Cobb are creating wines in an Old-World style with Texas flair.  Many of the wines are made with Texas fruit, the blends and the winery are given Texas geological names. Kuhlman Creek runs through the family property and eventually joins the Pedernales River.

My husband and I immediately noticed the ingenuity and design behind the Tasting room.  The bars are mobile, industrial and yet warm.  Two formations create a sit-down tasting experience for you and a few of your closest, or newest friends.  Each guest is given a tasting sheet, enough stemware for the flight, and an appetizer plate with the chef-inspired bites.

Sommelier Jeremy Wilson was our host for the tasting.  With each wine we were given information about the vineyard, the production techniques, and the thoughts behind the pairings.  Our group for the tasting included wine lovers with a wide variety of experience and Jeremy catered to each guest.  We even were treated to a barrel tasting.  Here are my top three:

The first wine was a 2013 Texas Sauvignon Blanc.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The grapes were from Mesa Vineyard in Fort Stockton.  The wine, not surprisingly, was more French in style.  Very classic notes, well-balanced and refreshing. Tart fruit, some grassy notes, gooseberry. This was paired with a cracker with smoked salmon and caper to play off the acid.

The third wine we tasted was Rousanne.  You are seeing more of this Rhone variety in Texas and I expect that trend to continue.  A weighty white with stone fruit and rich texture even when done in stainless.  This is a perennial favorite for Thanksgiving. Paired with a bite of bleu cheese and fig it was divine.

My favorite was the 2012 Texas Red.  A Texas take on a Bordeaux blend, this wine is 49% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both are sourced from the High Plains.  With the addition of Carignan, Cab Franc, and Grenache you get the depth of flavor while remaining medium bodied.  Red fruit, violet, a little spice, a little anise, a lot of yum.  We brought home two of these.

As a bonus, Jeremy brought out a barrel sample of the Texas (yes, Texas) Zinfandel that wasn’t ready but was delicious.  This wine is jam-packed with flavors, none of which include jam.  I can’t wait to taste the finished product.

Family, Food, Friends and Fellowship.  Those are the driving principles at Kuhlman Cellars and they put those into practice.  Although I had never met Chris Cobb, and Jeremy and Jennifer Beckman only once in person, they made us feel like family.  Food and wine shared with friends is the best kind of fellowship.

We left with four bottles of wine and big smiles.  We left excited to open a bottle at home and create our own pairings and we left saying that we love it when a plan comes together.

Thank you, Kuhlman Cellars, for fitting us in and for what we both agreed was the catalyst to one of the best dates we’ve had in a long time.  I’ll always drink to that!

{I am embarrassed to say that we were having so much fun that I totally forgot to take pictures!  Some blogger I am. I guess I’ll have to go back and remedy that.}

 

 

 

 

Tis the Season-Elizabeth Chambers Pinot Noir

We had been trying to decorate our tree all week, but my husband was late every night.  If your home is like mine and you have littles, you know the delicate balance with food and fatigue in the school-night witching hours.  If decorating the tree is going to be joyous and celebratory, it is best to avoid the cranky hours.  It could have gone from “Deck the Halls” to “Deck Each Other” faster than you can say Jingle Bells.  So we waited until Friday night and I planned a dinner that could be grazed.  That way I could stave off the hangry monsters while we waited for Daddy and I could start sipping so all would be merry and bright by the time we began.

It was a gorgeous 70 degree Texas winter kind of day.  A Pinot kind of day and I had a sample I’d been holding on to for the right time.  Last night was the right time to try the 2011 Elizabeth Chambers Winemaker’s Cuvee Pinot Noir.  Although this is the first wine released on a national basis, the Chambers family has been involved in winemaking for nearly a quarter of a century in Oregon.  Her winemaker, Michael Stevenson, sources grapes from some of the top growers in the region, a region known for their Pinot Noir.

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In the glass, the wine shines and although I’m pretty sure there is a better descriptor, I kept thinking “raspberry cola.”  On the nose, red and black berries with baking spices.  The flavor profile made me feel like an autumn walk in woods.  Red and black fruit, cola, mushroom, anise, and soft leather. This wine is medium bodied with softer tannins although the acid gave it a chewy mouthfeel.  This wine has all the classic Willamette Valley Pinot Noir qualities that I had been craving all day.

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Our repast consisted of cold-cut roast beef, brie, arugula, black and green olives, capers, and horseradish mayonnaise.  I served it with a baguette and a salad of arugula, pear, bacon, and shallot dressing.  The acidic olives, the earthy spice of arugula, creamy tang of the spreads and the beef all complimented one another and the wine. It was perfect for nibbling and a spread I will revisit this holiday season.

In the media materials there is the following quote from Liz Chambers:

“It may be because I am a woman, but I am not interested in seeing who can make the wine with the biggest muscles. I want to drink wines that have table manners, wines that can dance. I want elegance and style in my wines.”

I would welcome Liz and her wines at my table anytime.

The lights are strung, the stockings hung.  My littles danced in their Santa hats and semi-evenly distributed the ornaments.  You won’t ever see my tree on Pinterest, but it was made with love.  And it is done.

Many thanks to Gregory White PR , Michael Stevenson and Liz Chambers for the holiday cheer and for adding a little elegance to our tree-trimming.

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Inspiration, a Challenge

I haven’t been doing a lot of “inspired” cooking lately.  Instead it has been more like, “what can I quickly throw together that is nutritious, easy, and can sit?”  Between playground and homework, dishes and Legos, dinner needs to be made.

Inspired cooking happens when you have the time, minimal distractions, and the impetus to go beyond.  Typically it is the weekend, when you can open a bottle of wine and lose yourself picking thyme leaves and slicing shallots.  It happens when the seasons start to change and the heartier meals bring comfort.  It happens when a loved one has requested something or when a birthday demands a celebration.

Last month, I was the winner of the Wandering Gourmand Beer versus Wine Challenge and with that comes the privilege of choosing the next month’s contest.  The inspiration came in the form of my husband’s birthday and his request for Chicken Saltimbocca.  If you’ve had it, or looked up how to make it, you know that there are a variety of takes on this classic Italian dish.  It can be veal or chicken, rolled or flat.  Some people choose white wine, others use Marsala.  The staples are thinly pounded meat, sage, and prosciutto.  In typical form, I read through several recipes for ideas and cook times and then go with it.

I purchased thinly sliced chicken breast.  The pounding is my least favorite part (don’t ask why) and when you are cooking for 9, every bit helps. I decided to use saute the mushrooms ahead of time with butter, oil, and garlic.  when they were wilted, I threw in some chicken broth and Marsala and let them cook a bit longer.  I put the mushrooms in a bowl and used the same pan for the chicken.

I dipped each filet in flour, salt, and pepper, then sautéed them in the seasoned pan with butter and oil.  About 4 minutes on each side.  I placed all the chicken breast on a baking sheet and covered them with sage leaves and prosciutto.  I then baked them at 350 for about 10 minutes, until the prosciutto was a little crispy.

While they were in the oven, I reheated the mushroom with more broth and Marsala which I thickened with about 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.

You could take this dish in many directions.  Use any of the above variations.  My husband has put provolone on top.  I’ve served it with sage polenta, acorn squash with braised leeks.  You could do garlic mashed potatoes or french bread.  Any vegetable would work, but I like a salad with a little shallot vinaigrette.  The acid cuts the rich saltiness of the dish.

So what to pair with this dish?  I tried a few wines and had my favorites.  But I want to hear from you.  Pop over to the competition on Wandering Gourmand and make your suggestion.  Any beer, cider, or wine you think would make the dish shine.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Cheers!

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Everything was Big(ger) and Bubbly in ATX

There is a reason that this event sells out every year.  This year marked the 12th annual Big Reds and Bubbles sponsored by the Wine and Food Foundation, but it was my first time to attend.  It won’t be the last.  Held at the historic Driskill hotel, this event exudes every bit of refinement and elegance you would expect from this organization at this venue.

Any event that is this extensive means that you need to be purposeful in your tasting.  If you were fast and furious, you might have time to taste every wine, but I know that my palate would feel punished.  One would likely be able to taste each appetizer, but I know I would be ready for a nap if I tried.  So when I was invited to attend a little preview with June Rodil, one of Food and Wine’s Sommeliers of the year, I jumped at the chance.

We began, as all evenings should, with bubbles.  Specifically, French, June suggested.  The lighter, clean bubbles awaken your palate without being heavy or interfering with what is to come.  Our first taste of the evening was one of my favorites, Ruinart Blanc de Blancs.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay and retails for about $80.  Yeast and a touch of citrus on nose, structured bubbles and pear, acidity.  A beautiful Champagne.

We moved onto one of Italy’s standout sparklers, Bellavista Brut Cuvee.  This was mostly Chardonnay, but the addition of 10% Pinot Nero gave it a softer mouthfeel.  The bubbles, a little more subtle, the fruit a little less so.  At about $45, this is a great alternative to Champagne when you want elegant bubbles at a more approachable price point.

As we moved to the third taste, the doors opened to the general public which meant that both the positive energy and volume increased.  We all angled to hear the full scoop on the next Champagne, Pol Roger Brut.  This family-owned Champagne house was established in 1849.  The wine is equal parts Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier which creates a fuller, balanced wine. This wine also was the official Champagne served at William and Kate’s wedding.  You can wow your guests with that tidbit.

It didn’t take long for the room or the glasses to fill.  Each room buzzed with “oohs” and “mmmms.”  When it was time to eat, my focus turned to pairing and we found a few brilliant ones.  We also found some dishes that required no accompaniment to shine.  Here were a few that stayed with me:

Vox did it again.  They were a favorite at Tour de Vin and they created another whimsical bite with their play on a Twice baked potato served in cigar boxes.

Chavez created a sweet potato huarache with cochinita pibil and pickled red onion.  I had two and I NEVER have two.

Moonshine created a lamb shepard’s pie that paired brilliantly with Banfi’s biodynamic blend from Chile, Emiliana Coyam.

Bonneville’s cassoulet with duck confit was just the thing to warm you on a chilly night.  Yum.

Lick’s sea salt caramel gelato paired perfectly with Gloria Ferrar’s Royal Cuvee.

Dolce Neve’s flavors were everything you want in gelato.  Pure and rich and delicious.

I am sure there were many fabulous dishes, wines, and pairings that I missed.

Throughout the evening,  my husband kept reiterating what a wonderful job the The Wine and Food Foundation did with the event, from start to finish.  Even the next morning, when I asked him about his birthday dinner menu, his response was that his mouth was still singing from the night before.  It was that good.

Many thanks to June Rodil for the great tips, to The Wine and Food Foundation for the invitation to attend as media, and to all to great chefs and staff that made the evening possible.  Every person pouring and serving was knowledgeable and smiling.  It is that kind of attention to detail that makes events stand out.

{I was given a media pass but no additional compensation to attend.  Thoughts and opinions are my own}

Nothing Provincial about Provençal Pink

Grapefruit, peach, salmon: whichever shade of pink, rosé is fabulous all year around. Whatever you’re serving, there is a hue for you. Those were the major takeaways from a recent Wines of Provence lunch held at Arro here in Austin which featured wines chosen by Master Sommelier Craig Collins. And I enjoyed every drop of the lesson.
I love every shade of pink, in drink and color, but there is one region that is synonymous with rosé: Provence. In Provence, rosé is not a novelty or an afterthought, it is the goal. The grapes grown, the choices in production are all made with the goal of bring the finest quality rosé to the table…or porch, picnic, fireside.
Right now you may be thinking, “Fireside? I only drink pink in the summer.” Some of you may not even realize there is pink beyond the sweet stuff your aunt used to drink. To that I would say it may be time to expand your ideas about rosé.
We sampled nine rosés in three flights. Each flight was different. From very pale in color to hints of rich peach, from red fruit to black fruit, mineral-driven to floral, these wines showed a vast swing in pairing options which were reflected in the menu choices.
We began with a puff pastry with olives, anchovy, and onion. Delicious. The first course was seared shrimp with clams, mussels, and sorrel pistou. It was lovely but I had to admire from afar. They graciously pulled together an alternate for me at the host’s request (a lovely but unnecessary gesture) of tuna with green beans, radish.
Craig shared how whenever he is pairing flavors of the sea, he likes to go for acidity and minerality. The first flight spoke to that well. The grapes were classic Provençal: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah. Red fruit, acidity, some tart and herbal notes. Some were more aromatic than others, all were balanced.

IMG_4552Domaine de la Sangliere ($16)
Maison Saint Aix ($19)
La Vidaubanaise ($15)
The second course was lamb brochette with white beans and shaved Brussels sprouts. Yes, lamb with rosé, and it worked! The herbal notes in the dish played off the wine brilliantly. This flight included two more robust rosés and one red blend. They all paired so nicely with the dish; I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. The pink wines had red fruit, bigger, silky mouthful. The Roubine had a lot of grapefruit, herb, acid. Our one red of the lunch was black fruit, cocoa, and an intoxicating mouthfeel. Delicious.
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Domaine Houchart Saint-Victoire ($19)
Cuvee Classique Chateau Roubine ($25)
Chateau Vignelaure ($30,red)
Our dessert course was chosen to reflect the region’s propensity to serve cheese and nuts for a final course rather than sweets. Chef Curren hit every note with a goat cheese tart with fig, pistachio, honey, and lemon. I ate every bite. With the final course, Craig paired some really aromatic wines, each with a slightly different structure and color. This final flight was a great reflection of how color is simply a matter of grape and soil, not an indication of complexity.
Chateau Paradis ($20)
Hecht & Bannier Cotes de Provence ($18)
Ikon Rose ($35)
Let me be clear, I am biased. I went into this lunch with a firm stance on rosé. I love it. I love it in the summer and as an alternative to white in the winter. Now, granted, our winter here in Texas is mild. However, my favorite whites are acidic and crisp. I am not generally a fan of whites in a winter coat (aka oaky whites). But if I want something lighter to start a meal or sip on a warmer day, rosé provides the body, acidity, minerality to go in many directions.
Thank you to Wines of Provence, Arro, Chef Andrew Curren, and Master Sommelier Craig Collins for a wonderful lunch and for creative examples of pairing and variety in options for drinking pink.
(Lunch was provided by Wines of Provence as a promotion for the region. I received no other compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own.)

Hye-lights from the Weekend

I probably don’t have to tell you that doing a cleanse is NOT conducive to wine writing.  Three weeks without wine means that I was not the only thing drying out.  My apologies for being quiet as of late. Just when I was ready to open some wine and dine on grains, I was delayed even further with bronchitis.  Needless to say, five weeks without wine meant that I was more than ready when Friday rolled around.  And seeing that it was 90 degrees out, I was ready to go pink.

IMG_4458Josh Fritsche of William Chris has his own label, Tatum Cellars, which is super small in production and big in demand with those in the know.  He made 30 cases this year but rumor has it that may increase.

The wine is 60% Grenache, 40% Mourvedre.  History has shown that this combo is one of my favorites.  This wine is no exception.   A beautiful rosy pink, it dances in the light.  Floral and fruit on the nose, some minerality to add dimension.  Every sip made me happy.  And made me wish I had bought more than one bottle!  This is one of the best roses I have had and would rival any domestic and many French.  Very well done.

Did I mention I was excited to drink wine?  A little too excited.  Once we emptied the pink (there were 3 of us) we opened another gem from Hye, Hye Meadow’s Trebbiano.  We made a brief stop there after hitting William Chris on the day I caved and since I was trying to be “good” I didn’t want to do a full tasting.  I asked for two favorites and that is what we bought, the Trebbiano and the Tempranillo, both Texas grapes.

The Trebbiano was straw in color, citrus and tropical fruit, zesty and great acid.  It is a great summer wine.  If you aren’t familiar with Trebbiano, this Italian grape is known as Ugni Blanc in France.  Still not familiar? If you like Sauvignon Blanc, try this wine.  Trust me.

The problem with doing a cleanse? If you aren’t careful, your body can get too clean, thus greatly reducing your tolerance.  The headache began before I even went to bed.  Word to the wise.

IMG_4465On Saturday, we decided to stay with the Hye (Hye Meadow Winery, that is) and opened the Tempranillo.  We loved this wine.  Great classic cherry-cola notes, the spice and acid I’ve come to expect from a lot of Texas wines.  Since the weather was screaming “summer” we complied.  We started with bruschetta with tomato and basil and made NY Strips on the grill, sliced them thin over arugula with lemon and Parmesan.  Simple and tasty every time. It paired perfectly.

I know I have been (begrudgingly) quiet during Texas Wine Month, despite my hopes to highlight all of the great work that is happening here.  But I began with a great example in the William Chris Enchante and am ending with three more.  And the end of October doesn’t mean I’ll stop singing its praises.

It does, however mean that my to-do list of costumes, my daughter’s school carnival, and prepping for Gobble Gobble Give may take precedence.  That and my super-old laptop not allowing me to access WordPress anymore may slow me down (thanks, Mom, for letting me borrow your’s). I take suggestions from all of you tech-wise-wine-loving-blog-writing friends for replacements.  In the meantime, be safe this weekend and post pics of your costumes! Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

My Achilles’ Heel-William Chris Enchanté

There have been a few moments in life that I have surprised myself with my own strength. Hiking the Na Pali coast, natural childbirth (x2), and the Dr. Junger Clean Gut diet that I have been doing for the past 14 days. No coffee, alcohol, grains, sugar, fruit, or fun. I resisted pizza (x2), cut an Italian cream cake without a lick. I made apple crumb pie and while others oohed and aahed, I had raspberries with almond meal. We held dinner parties, a football party. Nothing swayed me. But last night I crumbled. My Achilles’ heel, it turns out, is William Chris Enchanté.

I would say that I’d had a perfect track record until last night, but that wouldn’t be the case. I went to both the pick up party and industry party at William Chris last week. I had the tiniest of tastes, then dumped or shared, except for the Enchanté. I couldn’t resist; no dumping for this gem.  But honestly, that’s some dang good will-power.

IMG_4404Then last night, we made a belated birthday dinner for my father-in-law who is visiting from Sonoma. My husband and I teamed up to make something delicious that I could eat without cheating. We decided on grilled lamb chops with rosemary. For sides I made acorn squash with braised balsamic leeks and a kale salad which I massaged with avocado, garlic, lemon juice and salt. I was home free. Until my husband asked me to pick the wine.

I tried to pick something I wouldn’t mind missing, but it was staring at me. I knew it would be perfect. Merlot, Cab, Malbec, Petite Verdot. The acid, bright cherry, subtle tannins. It was too much. And I knew that if I opened it, I would not be able to resist.

So I did what any Texas-wine loving, soft-spined woman would do. I listened to my “gut” (ha,ha) and declared it Splurge Sunday. And I’m so glad I did.

It was honestly one of the best pairings I’ve had in a long time. Each dish brought out a different nuance in the wine. A bite of acorn squash brought out subtle notes of baking spice. The lamb complimented the earthy Malbec notes. After the kale, the bright red cherry notes shined.

It’s not easy to impress my Sonoma father-in-law but the 2013 William Chris Enchanté did just that. How impressed was he? Well, I am writing this from the back seat on our way out there. Well done, gentleman. You made a believer out of him and broke my will. But it was well worth it. I may have to create my own “cleanse” that allows wine in moderation.  The question is, do I pretend it never happened and continue to day 21?  Or just avoid everything but wine on the weekends?  I’ll be pondering that, but in the meantime, I’ll be planning my Texas Wine Month post-cleanse splurge. Cheers, y’all!

 

A Family Affair #rsv25

It was evident how much planning went into the Rodney Strong Silver Anniversary long before it even began.  We were given “teasers” at the dinner in Solvang.  As the preparations were made, the details were made public on Social Media.  A month before, I was asked to “live report” from the event.  Two weeks before, social media accounts were put in place for the guest reporters, and the week of the event there was the conference call.  I knew going into the event that it was going to be incredibly organized and meticulously planned.

The venue was one of the top restaurants in Austin.  The chefs were award-winning.  The food was first class and the wines were, as expected, delicious.  And yet when I reflected on the evening, those were not the details that left the biggest impression.  Don’t get me wrong, they left an impression.  But what impressed me even more was the sense of family.

There was the obvious connection, of course.  The evening was centered around celebrating 25 years of Klein family ownership.  In 1989, Tom Klein and his family knew that Rod Strong had built something special.  He knew California agriculture and he knew that there was potential in this part of Sonoma County.  So they invested in technology and equipment and in the first decade of ownership took the winery from 69,000 cases to nearly 500,000.

Production wasn’t the only area for growth.  The team expanded, as did their line.  They increased the number of Single Vineyard wines, launched Symmetry, and continually strive to create Artisan quality wines.  They care for the earth by focusing  on sustainable practices, they care for the community by giving to various organizations.  But what struck me was how they take care of their own.

In my interactions, online and in person, with their employees, I sense that the idea of “family” is not limited to blood relation.  The people of Rodney Strong are happy.  They are enthusiastic and dedicated.  That doesn’t happen by itself.  When I was initially asked to participate in the event, the invitation included my husband.  They did not just fly Wine-grower Ryan Decker out to tell us about the wines.  They flew Ryan and his wife.  That says something to me.  It says that they honor family.  It tells me that they want their employees to be fulfilled.  It says a lot about the Klein family and it says that there was much to celebrate.

And celebrate we did.  We arrived to appetizers and Sauvignon Blanc.  Toasted with Chalk Hill Chardonnay and Kombo Dashi Soup.  My husband had two servings of Tyson Cole’s King Crab (shellfish allergy) but that meant I got to focus on my personal favorite, the Russian River Pinot Noir.  The main course was Smoked beef neck and Symmetry and Brothers Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon. We finished with Chocolate Coconut meringue Tart and A True Gentleman’s Port. (see menu photo for details)

As the evening progressed, the live-feed jumped from place to place.  The venues were all quite different.  The menus unique to the chefs and locations.  But one thing remained constant.  People were joyous.  There was a levity to the photos.  Laughter, playful revelry, and a love for food wine and life were seen throughout.

An evening such as this required untold hours of planning and preparation. For the social media piece alone, this was a monstrous task (Take a look at Paul Mabry’s piece on Vintank for an idea). But it always came across as a labor of love.  People that are well cared for work well.  They are happy to go the extra mile.  That is what family does.

Thank you to Carin Oliver at Angelsmith PR for all of your work and for including me in the event.

Thank you to Rachel Voorhees for all you do and your contagious enthusiasm.

Thank you to Ryan and Nikka Decker for a lovely evening.  You are a great public speaker in a tough environment and your grapes do wonders!

Finally, thank you, Klein family, for making this event happen and for allowing me the opportunity to meet and work with these amazing people.  Keep up the good work!

For more information on the event, search #rsv25 for all of the great photos and tweets from the evening.

{I was reporting this event on Twitter for Rodney Strong and was given entrance as compensation.  These thoughts and opinions are my own.}

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.