Holiday Comfort-Texas Tuesday

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

Which, for many of us, also means one of the busiest times of the year.  So, even though I’m up to my eyeballs in holiday crazy…I mean, cheer…it is Texas Tuesday which now means a post about Texas wine.  This makes three weeks in a row and since three is required for a pattern, I just must. Here we go…

Four years ago we spent a week in Bandera.  We had a timeshare week that was going to expire and we had a 1and 2-year-old so we kept it simple: a week in the Hill Country.  We discovered several gems and have meaning to get back out there every year at Christmas time but those wishes seem to get usurped by the busyness.  But this year I was determined.

Friday after school we picked up my daughter and headed west to Boerne, a favorite German town.  We ate dinner at The Dodging Duck Brewhaus and planned to do some wandering, but this town shutters early.  So we went to the hotel and relaxed.  The only hiccup?  Not a bit of glassware in the hotel.  Not even a coffee mug.  FYI, in a pinch, Styrofoam cups are less egregious than the plastic.  I felt a little “Emotional” about drinking William Chris Emotion out of Styrofoam, but it was better than swigging out of the bottle.  Note to self: next time we stay at  Fairfield Marriot, bring glasses.

The next morning, our little elves woke us early so we ate and went downtown for Market Days.  If you live in the area, this was a great one.  The vendors were varied and reasonable.  The food trucks looked great.  Home Depot was even there with a wood-working project for the kids.  A few presents later, we were off to Comfort.

We ate at High’s, a wonderful café, and then made our way to Bending Branch Tasting Room, Branch on High. It was a glorious sunny afternoon. I went inside to taste and the hubs stayed on the porch with the littles.  They all came in periodically to grab a cracker and listen to the music.  Then, we sat on the porch and shared a glass of The Thinker, a secret blend of 7-9 varieties.

Here is what I sampled:

2013 Comfortage Hall Ranch, Paso Robles 100% Rousanne: Soft mouth feel, stone fruit, acid, clean.

2013 Vermentino Las Brisas, Carneros Citrus, pear, soft fruit, salinity, crisp.

2011 “1840” Bella Collina Tannat RF Black fruit, blueberry, chocolate, velvety, tannins for days.

2010 “1840” Silvaspoons Tannat RF Blue, black fruit, herbaceous, silky, bold.

2011 Texas Tannat Black integrated fruit, more cigar box notes, old world.

2011 Petite Sirah Shell Creek Vineyards, Big, bold, and blue. Smoky and elegant.

Thinkers Blend Red fruit, seemed unfiltered, floral, spice, acid, easy to drink.

The tasting room feels like you are in someone’s home and our host, Linda continued that air.  Friendly, warm, great décor, acoustic music. It is a place where you can unwind and enjoy a break from the crazy, a place to find a little “Comfort.” We brought home a bottle of the Bella Collina which was delicious with lamb chops.

From there we went to  Camp Verde, a general store established in 1857 in Center Point.   As luck would have it, they were having their annual community Christmas party.  It was an amazing event :food, wine, music, Santa. If you need a little holiday cheer, this is the place.  And they were serving wine from the Boerne Wine Company produced by McPherson Cellars, Tribute 1866.

We had one last stop before we headed home: Johnson City.  The lights there are amazing. It helps that the Pedernales Electric Company is headquartered there.  If you are looking for a family-friendly place to view lights, it is great. You can even put your name down at the Pecan Street Brewing Company and head out to see the lights.  They will call your cell when your table is ready.  The kids can run at the courthouse under the lights and you can sip on some great Texas wine while you wait.  I’ll always drink to that.

I’m always more about experiences than gifts and this was a great way to get in the holiday spirit. What are your favorite Hill Country Holiday traditions?  Feel free to share in the comments.  Cheers y’all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ahhh-lianico: Texas Tuesday

Awake at five, lunches packed, presents opened, cupcakes frosted, drop-offs, four loads of laundry, a couple of hours of work and a very brief workout. Pick-ups, stop at library to deal with missing book, trip to the toy store for the birthday boy punctuated by gelato courtesy of his grandmother.  Rhyming game leads to discovery and multiple attempts to use newly discovered inappropriate word. At a loud volume.  In public.  Long talk in the car about limits, boundaries, word choice, testing, and loss of new toy which demands responsible choices.  Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Just your typical Tuesday!

Enter my liquid hero for the evening: Duchman Family Winery’s 2010 Aglianico.  Or tonight, it is known as Ahhhh-lianico.  Not familiar with this grape? Originally from Greece, Aglianico made its way to Southern Italy where it became a signature grape in Basilicata and Campania.  It produces a full-bodied wine with structured tannins and acid to match.

This grape does well in hot, sunny climates so it is not surprising that it is shining in Texas.  Duchman Family Winery produces their Aglianico with grapes sourced from the Reddy and Oswald Vineyards in the Texas High Plains AVA.

Dave Reilly made a bold move with this bold grape and it has paid off in a big way.

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In the glass, the wine is brick-red with a burnt orange rim.  That’s either a nod to our local university or to the origins of the grape.  My understanding was that Italian wines often have the rusty ring around the glass.  Maybe some domestically produced wines do as well.

On the nose I get red cherry and a ton of cinnamon.   Red cherry, baking spices, violet with a different note highlighted in every sip. The time in the bottle has allowed the flavors to really integrate and blossom.  It is full of flavor, but the acid keeps it from being heavy.  It is structured, but has the honest, rustic nature you expect from Italian wines.

The birthday boy has requested pizza for dinner.  He is five, after all. So while this wine calls for hearty, chewy Italian or grilled meats, pizza will work just fine.  It could be the cooler weather, it could be the wine, but if I had my druthers I would put this with chunky tomatoes or mushrooms.  Maybe a Bolognese.  Tonight I will be blissful with anything I don’t have to cook and a full glass of this beauty.

You may have noticed the subtitle of this: Texas Tuesday.  I am really excited about what I am seeing and tasting in the Texas wine industry and my goal is to be more purposeful about getting the word out.  So, while it may not be very Tuesday, I am aiming to make Tuesdays for Texas wine.  And this was a great way to start. Cheers!

 

Unique Beauty Shines When You’re Single

SAHMmelier:

Thought I’d repost this in honor of #Carmenereday. What are you drinking to celebrate this big bold beauty?

Originally posted on SAHMmelier:

There is a time in your life when you want to just blend in.  You want to look like everyone else,  dress like your peers, sound like your peers, and are mortified when the attention is all on you.  Or maybe that was just me.  But thank God, that time is short-lived.  Sometimes, it takes the support of others to put yourself out there, but, hopefully, you wean yourself from the need for a wingman.  There comes a time when you can unapologetically speak your truth.  You become uniquely you and are  proud of the things that make you shine, that make you stand out from the others.

At first glance, this looks like an Atta-Girl-Self-Help blog.  And, in typical form, there is a bit of truth in that.  But this is actually about the grape.  Specifically, the Single Vineyard variety.   Today is Wine Blogging Wednesday 75.  For over six years, fellow lovers of the vine have…

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Mumm’s the Word on F1 Parties in ATX-Amber Lounge

Friday’s focus in Austin will be on ghoulish get-ups and ill-fitting replicas forged out of cheap fabric. Yes, Halloween is legendary here, and it brings thousands downtown. But Saturday will bring a shift in focus: high fashion, original performances, and thrill-seeking legends in the form of F1 parties.
We have become accustomed to the big events here. When I originally moved here in the mid-90s, events were filled, for the most part, with locals in cut-offs and tank tops. We had the occasional rush of international guests during SXSW, but they were mainly clad in black and carried a guitar case. But, oh, how things have changed. And I don’t mean just the skyline.
This weekend marks the third year that the Circuit of the Americas track will host the Formula One race and each year, the parties seem to get bigger. They need to in order to impress the hundreds of thousands of international visitors. One group that has been wooing F1 crowds all over the world for eighteen years is the Amber Lounge. This pop-up party hosts drivers, celebrities, and apparently wine-writing SAHMs from Austin. I am honored to be attending this event as a guest of G.H. Mumm.

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The party which begins at 10:30pm Saturday night will feature a performance by John Martin known for his work with Swedish House Mafia and, of course, plenty of G.H. Mumm. Tickets start at $380 for an individual ticket up to $34,850 for a Methusalum table. I think that may have been the gross receipts for 6th street in the 90s.
Tickets are not available at the door so plan ahead. If you want to toast with Mumm without going to the Amber Lounge, you can find it at the following downtown venues.* Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to work on the most important detail: WHAT TO WEAR?

*{I was given media passes to the event courtesy of G.H. Mumm for the event but was not asked to promote the event.}

**{The list of venues below was provided by Mumm and is not an endorsement although I have enjoyed several of them. Thoughts and opinions are my own.}
1. Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol
701 E 11th Street, Austin, TX 78701
• G.H. Mumm Pole Position Sparkling Sangria $12
• G.H. Mumm Champagne Glass $15

2. Ruth’s Chris Prime Steak House & Restaurant
107 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701
• G.H. Mumm Champagne Glass $15

3. Due Forne
106 E 6th Street, Austin, TX 78701

4. Hilton Austin
500 E 4th Street, Austin TX 78701

5. Omni Hotel Downtown Austin
700 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin, TX 78701

6. The Driskill Hotel
604 Brazos Street, Austin, TX 78701

7. Taverna by Lombardi
258 West 2nd Street, Austin, TX 78701

8. Vince Young Steakhouse
301 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin, TX 78701

9. Winebelly
519 West Oltorf Street, Austin, TX 78704

10. Summit
120 West 5th Street, Austin, TX 78701

11. Hotel Ella
1900 Rio Grande Street, Austin, TX 78705

12. Little Barrel & Brown
1716 S. Congress Avenue, Austin, TX 78704

13. The Market
319 Colorado Street, Austin, TX 78701

14. Hangar Lounge
318 Colorado Street, Austin, TX 78701

15. Bess Bistro
500 West 6th Street, Austin, TX 78701

16. Max’s Wine Dive
207 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin, TX 78701

17. Cru Wine Bar
228 West 2nd Street, Austin, TX 78701

18. Cantina Laredo
201 West 3rd Street, Austin, TX 78701

Grief and Gratitude (Originally posted 9/11/12)

The remembering is so hard, the loss of so many, and for me one in particular who is still so dear.
A few years before 9/11 I lost two friends in a car accident. Jason walked with me through the mourning process and beyond. When there was something either of us were facing, we talked through it together. When tears came, he would literally wipe them. If there was need for comic relief, he would provide it. If not, he would just sit with you in the hurt.
When mourning his loss, no one could fill that void. His keen, kind perception is rare. He is missed and will always be missed.
I debated whether to share this again, but I heard an interview yesterday on NPR. They were talking with a friend of James Foley and keeping him memory alive through his poetry. Jason deserves to be remembered and honored, not just today, but every day. His example is one I will always cherish.

Grief and Gratitude (Originally posted 9/11/12).

Something to Celebrate-Odd Duck

It isn’t often that a restaurant experience hits every note.  That may not be fair to say.  We don’t go out often, so there aren’t many opportunities to impress.  But to ease the pain of another calendar year, we decided to hit a restaurant I’ve long been eyeing.

The Odd Duck began as a food trailer on S. Lamar and tongues began wagging, in every sense, as it opened.  Shortly after, Bryce Gilmore opened Barley Swine and his reputation swelled along with the crowds.  Since I am not one for crowds these days, I waited.  And waited.  But the lines never seemed to wane.

The same can be said for the reincarnation of Odd Duck in a brick and mortar, not far from its original location.  Chatting with Jason James between courses, it seems there is no end in sight.  From the moment we stepped in the restaurant, it was bustling.  During our dinner, it only slowed slightly.  James shared that, since they opened at the end of 2013, they haven’t seen the typical slow-down.  It is easy to see why.

The decor reflects the personality of the food.  And yes, this food has a personality.  Comfortable, honest, eclectic.  Take what could be common ingredients and turn them into something dazzling.  A pop of color on a bed of comfort.  A little heat to make sure you are paying attention.  Details with ease.

We started with a cocktail.  I’m not always one for bourbon but the addition of Lillet was too tempting.  Add some black pepper bitters and amaro and you will also remember the “Alamo.”  For appetizers we had the ceviche and pretzels.  It is a good thing there were only three.  Homemade ham and cheese pretzel sticks with a mug of mustard bechamel.  Talk about comfort.

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Jason helped us pick a wine that would pair well with our other dishes which was not an easy task.  The Cuvee Valentin Carignan/Grenache blend fit the bill.  A great balance of tannins and acid, black fruit and spice without being too heavy.  I will be looking for this one.

We moved onto the spiced butternut squash with yogurt, chimichurri, nicoise, and wild rice.  Super yum.  When I asked Jason if there was a dish we should have ordered, he said he had it taken care of.  It was our favorite of the evening.  A soft cooked duck egg with oyster and shitake mushroooms, pickled squash and hazelnuts.  This dish hit every note.  Decadence, crunch, acid.  Delicious.

We moved on to the Goat confit with coriander gordita and the Cavatelli housemade ricotta, mushrooms, walnuts and apple.  They were both delicious but we agreed that the goat came out slightly ahead.

How do you cleanse your palate when the canvas is so colorful and diverse?  Kaffir Lime panna cotta and watermelon granita.  Creamy comfort with bright fruity fun.

Locally farmed fare, creativity in spades, a festive approach and efficient service.  The flavors and textures played off each other in each dish.  The same could be said for the staff.  What more could you ask for in a dining experience? When my husband made the reservation, they asked about food allergies.  When we were seated, our super-enthusiastic server knew about the allergy and pointed out anything to avoid. As we finished our meal, we nibbled on the largest fortune cookie I have ever seen.  Inside was the following fortune:

“Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional.  Have fun and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!.”

From the moment we entered, we felt seen, welcomed, and like each course brought a new adventure.  When the front of the house is as seamless and inspiring as the food, you have a recipe for success.  Thank you, Odd Duck, for making “growing old” something to celebrate.

 

 

Touring in Style

Two weeks from tonight, I will be touring the world with about 500 other food and wine lovers in Austin at the 12th annual Tour de Vin.  The event, held at the W hotel features domestic and international wines paired with bites from of Austin’s best chefs.

The Wine and Food Foundation knows how to throw a party.  When I attended two years ago as media, I was truly impressed by the organization and attention to detail.  I am grateful for the opportunity to cover it this year.

Tickets can be purchased online through the foundation.  They are $100 for the general public, $80 for foundation members, and $20 of each ticket goes to support their 2014 beneficiaries.  If you purchase by this Sunday, September 7th, your wristband can be mailed to you.  No need to wait in a pesky line.  And if you’re heading that way from SW Austin, we can carpool.  Who wants to join me?  Anything to avoid downtown traffic/parking, right?

A Real Gem from #WBC14 for #Cabernetday

Yesterday was #Cabernetday in the wine writer’s world.  And as a way to support those impacted by last week’s earthquake, we were encouraged to open and highlight some of the world’s best Cabernets, those made in Napa County.

I’ve admitted before my frugality in all areas.  I have no problem splurging here and there but I am going to make sure I do so when there is time and space to enjoy said splurge.  A Thursday during the first week of school when there is the chaos of (re)establishing old routines and new bedtime is not the time.  So I chose to have a beer and highlight one Cab that I haven’t been able to stop dreaming of since I returned from the Wine Bloggers Conference.

I’ve mentioned that I was pouring for the Wines of Portugal event which meant a had a brief break to eat before finishing the event.  I grabbed a plate and sat down.  As luck would have it, I sat with a lovely couple.  They had just come in and told me a little bit of their story and that they were there representing their wine from Napa.

After traveling and exploring wines from all over the world, the decided to invest in a small property on the slope of Diamond Mountain.  The acre vineyard faces west and is in rocky white-ash soil.  It allows them grow the quality of grapes they wanted and be near family.  Win-win.

We met again the following day during the speed tasting.  This is not an event for the faint of heart.  I was in the weeds during the whites but a little better prepared for the reds.  I was feverishly trying to keep up with evaluating, note-taking, tweeting, photographing, but when they poured, everything came to a stop.  I sniffed. Wow.  Swirled. Oh my.  Sipped and realized that there was no way I was going to rush through this or put it in the dump bucket.  This wine deserved more time and I needed an extra glass.

The 2010 Vineyard 511 Cabernet Sauvignon was, for me, one of the stand-outs for the whole conference.  Aromatic with black fruit, spice, a dash of the “smoking library” notes.  Incredible mouthfeel.  Sturdy and smooth, silky and subtle tannins, huge fruit and many layers of yum.  This is a beautiful wine and one that will stick with me.

At the end of the evening, I was chatting with some friends.  My palate was shot, my mouth a little sore from the hundreds of wines we had sampled.  I said no, left and right, to pours.  But when Ed and Irene Ojdana approached with some leftover wine, I couldn’t say no.

A wine is always more interesting when you know the story, more enjoyable when shared with friends.  Wines are more memorable when you are able to chat with those who make it happen.  All of those elements came together with this wine, but I have a feeling it would have left a lasting impression regardless.  If you want to be this girl’s best friend, no need for diamonds, but I wouldn’t say “no” to some Diamond Mountain.

 

 

 

I Blinked and She’s Gone

SAHMmelier:

I wrote this last year but thought I’d reshape for all of you that are preparing to do the same. No, you’re not crazy if you want just one more year. No, you’re not crazy if you’re ready for the space and freedom. And no, I’m not ready to send her off again.

Originally posted on SAHMmelier:

I sent my baby to Kindergarten on Monday.

I sent my little girl to Kindergarten.

I sent THIS little bundle of love to Kindergarten.

millybaby

How is that possible?  It was a blink ago, I promise.  It’s not that she is really “gone,” obviously, but it is the first of many steps in letting go.  You hear it all the time.  Cherish each day; it goes so fast.  But when you’re in the middle of it, it doesn’t feel fast.  The lonely nights from 1-5 am, feel like they’re never going to end.  The hour before my husband gets home seems to drag with the kind of steady defiance reserved for acts like putting their shoes on when I am in a hurry or picking up their rooms, one lego at a painful time.  And yet I took my baby to Kindergarten Monday.

She has always operated at her own pace.  Although…

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A Practical Girl’s Ferrari

In my preteen years, we spent hours playing the game MASH. We fantasized about Ferraris, mansions in Malibu, and our passionate relationship traveling the world with Simon Le Bon. We let the spiral of fate determine our career path and number of children. Gratefully, my life looks very little like the best or worst of what MASH threw at me. I have no desire to tame a rock star and there’s only one kind of “Ferrari” that turns my head. I mean, honestly, where would the booster seats go?

I recently sampled Ferrari sparkling wines* which are produced in the Trento D.O.C. of Italy: Brut, Perlé, and Rose. Both the Brut and Perlé are 100% Chardonnay, the Rose has 60% Pinot Noir. Ferrari was founded in 1902 by Guilio Ferrari. It has been owned by the Lunelli family  for three generations. Ferrari sparkling wines are produced with grapes from the foothills of the Alps employing Metodo Classico.  Sustainable growing practices are a growing focus for the family.

Just because I don’t want to drive a fancy Italian car doesn’t mean I don’t have expensive taste. My favorite of the three wines was the Perlé ($38) which is hand harvested from the family’s own vineyards. Elegant and crisp, great texture, sweeping mid-palate with notes of green apple and integrated yeast. A classic sparkler and a fun alternative to Champagne. The Brut was tasty and I always love pink bubbles but the Perlé was the standout.

I am a Volvo girl. I’ve owned four which range from an ’82 240 to my current ’02 XC70 wagon. Practical, sturdy, safe: a mom car. Yes, I was driving mom cars before I earned the right. But you know what’s great about a wagon? Room for EVERYTHING. Strollers, a big black lab, and cases of wine. And although I can pretty much guarantee there will never be a shiny red sports car in my driveway, I will come home with a Ferrari or two.

*These samples were provided by Gregory White PR as media samples.  I recevied no other compensation and the thoughts and opinions are  my own.