Virginia is for (Wine) Lovers

We all know what you’re supposed to do when life hands you lemons.  And when life hands you a 40 year old vineyard, you make wine.  When Scott and Martha Stinson were looking for a place to retire, they came upon the property which boasts an eighteenth century farmhouse and 12 acres of vines.

Scott’s background in architecture gave him the vision for the restoration of the Piedmont Estate buildings.  A love of French wines gave him and his daughter, Rachel, a vision for the vines.  Under the guidance of viticulturist and vineyard consultant Lucie Morton, they revived the soil and planted Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tannat.  They source from other Virginia growers as needed to create smaller production, French inspired boutique wines.

I had been hearing about the great wines coming out of Virginia but had not had the opportunity to try any so I was thrilled to receive the samples of Stinson Vineyards wines from Folsom and Sons.  In fact, I couldn’t wait to open them. I gave them a couple of weeks to settle and opened them for happy hour on the deck.

Without a kitchen, my options are limited for pairing fare, but thanks to a borrowed toaster oven, I pulled off something. The first one I opened was the 2012 Cabernet Franc.  When I think Cab Franc, I think green pepper, so I roasted some Shishito peppers.  It is one of my current favorite appetizers.  Toss them in olive oil and broil them until they blister.  Shave some parmesan cheese and sprinkle with salt and a squeeze (or three) or lemon.

It worked just as I hoped.  Really beautiful Bing Cherry notes and a pop of pepper.  Medium bodied, good acid, with a clean, bright finish.  Some Cab Francs have a bite at the end.  This tasted like lovely, unmanipulated fruit.

This past Friday was our first day in the 80s in a while.  After a very long week, it was time to open the 2012 Rosé.  The wine is 100% Mourvédre sourced from Horton Vineyards in Madison County, Virginia.  Pale salmon color, clean dusty nose.  I kept getting cinnamon stick at the end.  On the palate, pink grapefruit, good minerality, herbal notes.  Maybe tarragon?  Herbs de Provence? Whatever it was, it was delicious.  I could have paired it many ways.  Chicken salad with tarragon, grilled salmon with herbs and green olives, farro salad with feta, mint, parsley.  It is a versatile, food-friendly, tasty wine.

When I was growing up, the “Virginia is For Lovers” tourism campaign was in full swing.  If Stinson Vineyards is any indication, “Virginia is for Wine Lovers” is bound to gain a similar momentum.



SXSW Tragedy-#austincares

Excuse the break from wine, but this takes precedence.
Last night at SXSW, as a result of unfathomable selfish, awful choices, two people lost their lives and several more visitors were injured, some critically.
This is a tragedy magnified by the fact that those people were likely visiting our town and are without a support system.  That’s where I need your help.

One look at my site and you can tell I am not tech savvy.  And as much as I’d love to be able to be multiple places at once, that can’t happen.  But we can. together.  Together, we can show the victims and their friends and families the support they need right now.

As many of you know, last year we were in the hospital for about ten days with a loved one.  It was a very difficult time, a time that would have been much more difficult without the support of friends.  Whether it was sending food, praying with us, or even bringing some wine when it got too much, their support made all the difference.

Let’s be the support for these visitors.

Here’s what I envision.  A site where people can list needs, and someone else can fill them.  A ride to or from the airport?  Someone to sit with for an hour?  Someone to wait for news while they catch a breath?  Food?  Help managing the insurance/billing?  I would list those ideas and more and you, the great community of Austin would jump in where you can.

It may not be much, but it will be everything for those hurting and the families trying to get to them.  Who can help?  Web design?  Spread the word?  Jump in.

In the meantime, I have set up this Lotsa Helping Hands site where volunteers can join groups and people can post needs.

and the Facebook page, Austin Loves SXSWers.
*update: SXSW has set up an organization to help that will launch this evening. That may be a great place to put our energies at this time. I will leave the site active for anyone still wanting to use it to post needs/availability. #sxswcares

Words of Devotion #MWWC7

The entries are starting to come in,  We have one more day to get in on the challenge so pour a glass of inspiration and show us what you’ve got.  Comment below with a link to your piece and I’ll add it below.

The birthday party is behind me, the Elsa dress was a success, but guess what showed up in its place?  Nothing like a fast moving stomach bug.  So far 3 down, I’m the only one still standing (Fingers crossed, probiotics downed).  I guess I could write about the wine I drank after the laundry I did, lysol I sprayed, and hours of sleep lost?  That is devotion, right?  Chances are it would be stream of conciousness dribble at this point, but sometimes that works.

I will try my hand at creating a poll a la Drunken Cyclist but I make no promises. In the meantime, check out the following entries:

Devotion; Why I Love Madeira by Foxress

Devotion by Spring of Autumn

Devotion to icon wine in the 1980′s by Confessions of a Wine Geek

Winegrower’s Devotion by Foodwineclick

A Fairy Tale of Devotion by An Edible Quest

An Excerpt from my Novel by Wandering Gourmand

Devotion: Why is the Wine Gone? by Wine Ramblings

Devotion: The Monthly Wine Writing Challenge by Wine Raconteur

True Devotion by Joy of Wine

In praise of Bacchus by Renenutet13

A dessert wine of Devotion for Valentines Day, Giovanni Allegrini Recioto Valpolicella Classico D.O.C.G by Educated Palate

MWWC#7:  Requiem for a Potholder by Armchair Sommelier

Devotion by The Sweet Sommelier

Tarima Organic Monastrell 2011 by Oenophilogical

Totally Devoted to Beaujolais by My Custard Pie

Devotion: The Politics of Wine by The Food and Wine Hedonist

The rules

  1. Write a post based on this month’s theme: “Devotion”.
  2. The post should be at least tangentially related to wine (after all, it is the name of the challenge!).
  3. The post should be more or less around 1000 words (I’m not one for hard and fast rules)
  4. Include the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge badge that was designed by the very first winner, The Armchair Sommelier.
  5. Once you post on your blog, link back to this post (or somehow notify me), and I will be sure to include a link here as well as on all subsequent posts about this month’s challenge.
  6. It would be great if you tweet a link using the hashtag #MWWC7.
  7. Remember to vote!

The all important dates:

Deadline for submission:  Monday, February 17th, 2014

Voting Begins: Tuesday, Febraury 18th, 2014

Voting Ends:  Monday, February 24th, 2014

Winner Announced:  Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Previous winners:

If you’re looking for some inspiration here are the links to the previous winning posts:

MWWC1 – Transportation

The Armchair Sommelier

MWWC2 – Trouble

My Custard Pie

MWWC3 – Possession

The Wine Kat

MWWC4 – Oops

Confessions of a Wine Geek

MWWC5 – Feast

The drunken cyclist

MWWC6 — Mystery


Channel Your Inner ONJ-(#MWWC7)


So, one thing is clear in the #MWWC7 Challenge. I am doing a poor job as host. I’ve been remiss in reminders and promotions. I apologize. I’m knee-deep in tile samples and cabinet quotes. I’ve been shaping satin and making pin-the-nose on Olaf games for my daughter’s Frozen birthday party. My creative juices are running dry, but hopefully things are different for you. Hopefully you’re using the snowdrifts and arctic attacks as fuel for your writing fire.

You’ve got ten days to show us what stirs your devotion. Or someone else’s. Or maybe you can just talk about what you drink when you watch Sandy serenade Danny. For some inspiration, check out Foxress’ love of Madeira on her blog, From Vinho Verde to Barolo with Love.

Send me your links when you have them and I’ll post below. In the meantime, stay warm and wish me luck on my attempt to sew an Elsa dress.

Originally posted on SAHMmelier:


Last month I decided to join a group of very talented wine writers in a monthly creative writing challenge centered around…you guessed it…wine.  The competition began six months ago around the idea that it is easy to get bogged down in the facts and figures of wine writing.  The Drunken Cyclist thought it would be both unifying and inspiring to have a themed writing challenge and MWWC was born.

I was blown away to find that I won last month’s competition based on the theme, Mystery.  Apparently my encounter with the host with the most and his “friends” resonated.  What is the prize?  Having the honor of hosting the next month’s challenge.  That means coming up with a theme, broad but not too broad, that will inspire other writers to write, fiction or non-fiction.  So, after much thought…

If you look at the title and you’re a TLA (three-letter acronym)…

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Local Flavor: Hecho en Mexico

I remember the first time my husband and I went to Hecho en Mexico.  The restaurant had just changed from a deli, glass display cases and a nondescript environment, to a family owned Mexican restaurant.  It was a Sunday, after church, and we thought we would try going out to eat with children.  I can’t remember if it was child or children.  Honestly, those early sleepless years blend together, but I do remember feeling ill-equipped.  I vaguely remember the food.  I clearly remember not being able to enjoy any of it.

Fast-forward a few years.  We now have a few tricks up our sleeves.  Our children are older, we are wiser, and if we plan it correctly, we can all enjoy an evening out in REAL restaurants.  So a few months back we decided to revisit Hecho.  GREAT decision.  When we walked, I was amazed at the transformation.

20140131-165528.jpgColorful decor, walls lined with local artist’s work, and a WALL of tequila.  Because it was a Thursday night, they had live music.  Because it was happy hour, the apps were half price.  And because the house margaritas are DELISH, we knew we had found a new local restaurant.

Tacos al Pastor App

Tacos al Pastor App

We’ve since returned many times and we all have our favorites.  My son loves the Tacos al Pastor.  Smart boy.  They are on the appetizer menu or the lunch menu.  My husband goes back and forth between the Chile Relleno, which can be with beef or mushroom, and the Platon de Enchiladas which consists of a sampling of three moles.  Before coming here he didn’t even like mole.  It’s that good.   My daughter calls it the Nopalitos place.  A plate of those and some of my entrée and she is a happy girl.   She and I  think the stand out is the Chile en Nogada, a roasted poblano pepper with shredded pork, almonds, raisins, covered in a creamy walnut sauce with pomegranate seeds.  Delicious.   If your kids are less adventurous, no problem.  They have a $2 children’s menu with all the basics and beans, rice, or broccoli.

Holy Mole!

Holy Mole!

I also love the Diavola sauce, but it is not for the faint of heart.  We were there for breakfast one day and I ordered the Huevos Ranchero.  It was good, but I wanted a little more fire.  She suggested the diavola.  It took a little while so I thought she forgot.  No, she made me some.  Yes, that’s the kind of familial touch they have.

Cochinita Pibil

Cochinita Pibil

We like to go on weekend afternoons.  It is quiet and we don’t have to worry about bothering anyone or waiting with hungry kids.   But the evenings are fun, too.  Great energy and live music.  The last Wednesday of the month, they have a Tequila dinner.  Four courses with tequila pairings for $35.  Hard to beat that.  We still have yet to go, but it is on our list of things to do.

If you are not a house margarita person, don’t fear.  They have a huge selection of tequila and several specialty cocktails.  If you feel like a splurge, they have a tippity top shelf (my words, not their’s) margarita for $27.  Some day…

Now, is everything great?  No.  I won’t say that because some items need, in my opinion, some tweaking.  I don’t love the guacamole.  The cochinita pibil is beautifully presented, but after tasting my husband’s mole, the flavor wasn’t as exciting.  The flan is better than the Tres Leches.  But we really like this place.  We always feel welcome, the kids are comfortable, but it is a step up from the typical “family restaurant.”  I love supporting local businesses, restaurants, etc.  When you find a neighborhood gem, it is hard to let the secret out, but it is harder to keep it in.

The Nitty Gritty:

Address: 6001 William Cannon Dr Ste 301   Austin, TX 78749

Phone Number: (512) 301-0060

Hours of Operation: 9:00am-10:00pm

Takes Reservations: Yes

Wi/Fi: Yes


This post was written as part of the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance’s contributions to the City Guide.  All opinions are my own and I received no compensation of any sort for this review.

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge: Mystery–the Results!


Holy Frijole! I won! Thanks for reading and voting. IF you have an idea for the next theme, let me know! I havve one but I’ll run it by a few people first…

Originally posted on the drunken cyclist:

The results are inBefore we get to the result of the week of voting, a quick recap of the past week. First, we had a record number of entries, with twenty-five! And what entries they were, spanning just about every topic imaginable. There were posts that included the Maltese Falcon, a couple efforts to make wine, a bark bottle, a murder mystery party, a staunch defense of merlot, and a Sherlockiian Conundrum.

We had Georgia on our mind, the birth of a new blog, a review of reviews, a post-it note, a couple romps through Burgundy, a visit from jolly old St. Nick, and a mystery born out of a garage.

There was the mystery of every bottle, a magical rock, breaking through drinking windows, a mysterious journey through several bubbles, a blind tasting that seems to have been hacked, a champagne thief, and knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.

In the end, there were three that were vying…

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Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #6 (Mystery)–Time to Vote!


It’s time to vote for the Mystery Wine Writing Challenge. The competition is tough, so vote for whichever pieces you think deserve it, but if you like my piece, I’d be much obliged. Either way, you are bound to learn something, giggle, and find a new writer to follow. Thank you in advance!

Originally posted on the drunken cyclist:

MysteryWell, the time for submissions is now over, and I have to say I am thrilled with the number and quality of entries this time around! The previous “record” number of entries was 15 and this month we had 25 (a 67% increase). Now comes the hard part–choosing the top post. Here are links to all of the posts submitted (in order of submission), and they also can be found over at the “official” website of the challenge:

Please let me know if your post is not listed–I Googled MWWC6 every night to make sure I was not missing any, so hopefully each post is below!

Wine Ramblings        An Edible Quest          Confessions of a Wine Geek

Michael’s Wine       Oenophilogical        renenutet13       Wayward Wine

foodwineclick        Julia Bailey        sweetempranillo        Duff’s Wine

My Custard…

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Two Wrenches, a few Corks, and a Milestone

Nothing throws a wrench in your plans quite like a flu invasion.  In a week that was filled with obligations, appointments, and celebrations, it could not have come at a worse time.  But we did what you have to do.  We canceled, improvised, and scaled back to try to make it work.

On Monday, my son started with a fever, on Tuesday it was diagnosed as the flu.  I canceled two appointments, but I still made it to my evening plans.  Gusto Tastings held their final Texas vs. The World of the year with the focus on Syrah.  I honestly didn’t know what to expect from Syrah in Texas.  I hadn’t had any (that I remember) and it is not what I think of when I think of Texas wine.  They have changed the format and now all of the tastings are blind which adds a new element to the competition.  Nineteen wines were tasted and evaluated, the producers revealed at the end.  With producers from France, Australia, California. and Washington, I knew the competition was stiff.  You can imagine my surprise when three out of my top five came from Texas.  And I wasn’t alone.  I was tasting with friends that have been in the wine industry professionally and long time enthusiasts.  We all shared the enthusiasm.  And ironically, or perhaps appropriately, the top two came from the two producers that were joining us that night.  If you are wanting to try what Texas has to offer in the way of Syrah, although there were a few others I enjoyed, I would recommend 2011 Lost Oak Estate Syrah Reserve, “The Sheriff” and 2009 Texas Hills Vineyards Hill Country Syrah.  Both had great fruit, balance, and spice.

On Wednesday, my daughter and husband came down with symptoms and I downed vitamins and Elderberry.  Turning your house into an infirmary in inconvenient at any time, but when your brother is flying in to celebrate your mom’s 70th birthday, it is a huge disappointment.  I cancelled our original plans, nursed, lysoled, and managed to avoid the “love.”   I was, at least, able to join my family at my mom’s house while my husband and children recovered at home.

We had planned on staying at The Winfield Inn, a bed and breakfast where we married.  Because my brother is a chef, eating out is often a disappointment, so we planned a meal that would not require a kitchen or take-out.  Raclette is similar to fondue in that is consists of melted cheese and is interactive.  It is different in that it is both a grill and a broiler and the cheese is melted and the poured over the nibbles. Each person has a pan and a paddle; with the germs going around my house I’m sure everyone appreciated the more sanitary nature of the Raclette.  We had Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, potatoes, sausage, Bresaola, cornichons, and pickled onions.  We opened Chateau Paradis Rose, McPherson Tre Colore, and an Eroica Riesling.  Eroica is a love child created from Chateau St. Michelle’s Washington grapes and Dr. Loosen’s Mosel winemaking skills.  Great aroma, fruit, acid and minerality.  It was a lovely evening, but only the beginning.

My brother had planned a “This is Your Life” menu for her actual birthday: some of her favorites, a taste of home, a sentimental cocktail.  We began the evening with the only cocktail we’ve ever heard about from her, one she hadn’t had in over forty years, a Pink Squirrel.  It is made with Creme de Noyaux, Creme de Cacao, and heavy cream.  Yes, it is every bit as decadent as it sounds. One was enough, then some sparkling from Washington, Treveri.  Here was the planned menu:

Broiled Artichoke dip on country bread (made with fresh, not canned or jarred artichokes)

Mulligutawney with fresh curry leaves and vadouvan

Harrington ham with lingonberry chutney
Braised cabbage and quince
New potatoes
Chanterelle custards

Meyer Lemon Tart

See why we don’t go out to dinner?  If the virus was the first wrench, the ham getting stuck in Indiana was the second.  He improvised with Bone-in pork chops instead.   It was a delicious as it sounds.  With dinner we had J Vineyard Pinot Gris and Argyle Pinot Noir.  They both paired nicely.


While the food was spectacular, what made the day truly special was the love we were celebrating.  My mother has always been the heart of our family.  We watched her pour out her life to serve others and spread kindness and encouragement.  Whether she was sharing a kind word in line at the grocery store or a meal with someone in need, she made it look effortless.  Whether she quietly held someone’s hand that needed to vent or gave sage advice that was hard to hear, she did it with gentleness.  She would go out of her way to make you know you were seen, heard, and important.

I see so much of that in my brother.  He thoughtfully planned the meal, assembled ingredients, was in the kitchen all day, and made it look effortless.  His advice is always wise, his words gentle and few, with humor to put anyone at ease.  He goes above and beyond in his service and remains humble about his enormous talent.  It was an honor to be a part of the day, to watch love in action, to see the legacy my mother has created.  I couldn’t love them more.

We asked my mother questions about her life.  Childhood memories, of which there are few, favorite vacations, of which there are many, and if she could love a day over again, which would you choose?  Her answer?  That very day because of the love she felt and having her family together.  That is how she’s always been.

In the Christian community, Proverbs 31 has become a cliché standard.  It is equally intimidating (how in the world?) and inspirational.  I see so much of my mother; I know what a privilege that is and worthy of celebration.

“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many woman do noble things, but you surpass them all…Give her the reward she has earned.” Proverbs 31: 28-31

Thanks, Giving, and Connection


I originally published this last year but wanted to get the word out again. This year they are making it easy to donate or participate in one of the many cities across the country. Gobble, Gobble, Give happens because people come together and share what they have with those in need. Can you help?

Originally posted on SAHMmelier:

At this time of year, many of us are rushing around, trying to decide on the perfect appetizer,on table settings and decor, and pairing wines that will fit the budget but still impress our guests. And some are trying to figure out where they will get their next meal. Or how to pay the electric bill. Or wishing they had an electric bill to pay. Between the destruction in the wake of the hurricane and the current unemployment across the country, the needs we see around us can be overwhelming. How can we help? How can we possibly make a difference when the need is everywhere and so much bigger than us?

Fourteen years ago, there was one man, in a dark place, with no home and very little in his pocket. He saw a family and recognized a need. A need he deemed greater than his, and he chose…

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A Marriage of Tradition and Modernity-Ribera del Duero


In honor of International Tempranillo Day I’m reposting this piece. Cheers!

Originally posted on SAHMmelier:

When you think of winemaking, do you picture a large modern facility or a cave, a press, and a barrel?  When you think of Tempranillo, do you think of fresh, bright fruit or rich layers of leather and spice?    And when you think of Spanish wines, which of these descriptions come to mind?

Ribera 1 (2)

The Drink Ribera campaign visited Austin for the first time this past weekend and treated us to a great information session and some fabulous wines.  The Ribera del Duero region is one of the three main DOs in Spain and, although only officially recognized in the early 80s, they have been producing wines for thousands of years.  With high elevation, warm days, and cool nights, the climate is ideal for viticulture.  The region is named for the Duero river which traverses the region and provide soils of silt, clay, and sand.  In the higher elevations, you find…

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