Dinner with the Don

2009_2[1]Last fall I was invited to a dinner in Houston hosted by Concha Y Toro to introduce their 2009 flagship wine, Don Melchor.  The winemaker, Enrique Tirado, would be hosting the event which included a vertical tasting of the wine.  It sounded like a fabulous event, but without much notice, I couldn’t get away.  Fortunately for me, the company representing *Don Melchor, Gregory White PR, knows how to make a great impression.  As a consolation, they sent me a bottle of the 2009 to try at home.

So I did what any food-loving, wine-loving person would do.  I researched the menu from the event and did my best to create a meal worthy of the wine.  I invited some friends, those friends, that I knew would really appreciate the wine and we made our own event.

Grown in the Puento Alto Vineyard in the Maipo Valley of Chile, on vinestock that hails from the Bordeaux region, the fruit in this wine has the potential to rival any Cabernet from around the world.  Enrique Tirado’s natural talent and dedication to research have elevated the wine to cult status.  Each final blend is tasted with Jacques Boissenot, one of Bordeaux’s most well-respected consultants.  Old world vines, new world soil, old world methods, new world research.  It is truly an expression of the best of both worlds.

According to the Examiner article, the wine worked really well with roast lamb with fennel.  So, I headed to the local Farmer’s market to get a couple of racks of French cut grass-fed Lamb rib from I.O. Ranch, well worth the extra stop if you are in the Austin area.  And if you don’t, they ship!  From Johnson’s Backyard, I picked up fennel, turnip, and carrots.  My goal was to use what I knew about the wine and to bring out earthy notes with the root vegetables.  I used my brother-in-law’s rack recipe.

20140129-113950.jpgSear the lamb rack on high heat, 2-3 minutes per side.

Coat the rack with a combination of goat cheese and Dijon mustard.  Then coat in seasoned (rosemary, salt and pepper) Panko bread crumbs.

Cover the tips with foil so they don’t burn.  Roast on a rack at 400 degrees until medium rare. (20min depending on size)

20140129-114010.jpgFor sides I boiled and mashed equal parts turnip and Yukon gold potatoes with horseradish, milk, butter, salt and pepper.

I roasted whole carrots with sliced fennel, leeks, olive oil, salt and pepper for about 45 minutes.

When the lamb was roasted, we pulled it, let it sit for about five minutes, sliced it and then drizzled it with au jus, frozen from the Christmas Prime rib, which I reduced.

We decanted the wine for about an hour.  Aromas of black fruit, cassis and berry.  Spice, tobacco, and cocoa.  The flavors echoed the aromas with big, smooth fruit, velvety mouthfeel, layered finish.  The elements of spice and tobacco were there but in balance with the fruit.  It paired beautifully with the dish.  The earthy lamb and turnip, the sweet fennel and carrots, the richness of the au jus with the soft tannins.  It was fantastic.


This wine is in the very special Weekend Wine (or holiday) category with a price point of $125.  As I’ve said before though, if you are cooking at home, you can justify a splurge in the wine realm.  Rack of Lamb and Don Melchor at home or a crowded Prix Fixe chicken dinner and paying $75 for a $25 bottle on Valentine’s Day?  No contest.

It is hard to rival the experience of delving into new wines with the winemaker, especially wines of this caliber.  Of course I wish I had been there.  But I will also say, it is hard to compete with dinner at home with those you love.  Many thanks to the people at Gregory White PR for the invitation and for allowing me to “join” from the comfort of my crazy home.

*This wine was provided as a media sample by Gregory White PR.  The opinions are my own.

Channel Your Inner ONJ-(#MWWC7)


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) genius, you may have already guessed.

This month’s theme is…Devotion.  Get it?  Olivia Newton-John?  Yes, I went there.

Now before you ban me for gifting that lovely little earworm and visions of poodle skirts and John Travolta, let me explain.

Since February is coming, that means Valentine’s Day isn’t far behind.  I didn’t want to go cliché and ostracize Hallmark cynics with “romance.”  But I wanted to give opportunity for you to turn up the Andrea Bocelli and let the wine and syrup flow if so inclined.

But devotion…that’s a concept we can all get behind, no?  Maybe you are devoted to turning you hobby into a career and spend endless hours of your free time developing that dream.  Perhaps you stay home with your children and give up hours of sleep, pour out every bit of patience (and then some) and give them your last bites.  Maybe you are caring for a loved one, building a start-up, spending your weekends mentoring.  You can take the idea way beyond cupids and smooches.  Or not.

I’ve copied DC’s rules and am using his timeline as a guide.  I may or may not have time to write something original, but when I thought about the idea, I though about an angle I may want to develop.  If you’re new to SAHMmelier, you’ve not likely read the story of how I began writing.  I took the story of a favorite winery, six generations of devotion, and created a poem to tell that story through the life-cycle of the vine.  Sometimes devotion is diamonds and roses and sometimes it is soil and sweat.  I look forward to reading your take on the topic.

And thank you.  Thank you for voting for my piece and for entertaining and inspiring with yours.

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


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: www.mwwcblog.wordpress.com

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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Chills in the Hills of Chianti-(#MWWC6)Mystery

wine-stain1-3This post is part of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC6).  You can enter by 1/13/14 or enjoy the entries by visiting the Drunken Cyclist.  The theme this month is “Mystery” so I thought I’d share the story of our stay in a small town in Chianti.  The pieces can be Fiction or Non-fiction.  Which is this?  You decide.  If you like what you’ve read, please vote.

Beyond the walled city of Siena, high on the hills of Chianti, lies a villa with a colorful past.  Lilac framed walls welcome you to the olive groves and pine-lined paths.  In the distance, the towers of San Gimignano loom and breathe in the setting sun.  Built by hand from the local Pietra Serena in the early part of the nineteenth century, each stone holds a story, and some are shared.


In the spring of 2007, my husband and I headed to Rome, loaded with backpacks and visions of vino.  We had planned one last hurrah before having children which included planes, trains, and automobiles.  Some of the stops would be a return for me, but he had not ever visited Europe so I tried to give him a varied taste of the country.  We would spend some time in larger cities and some in hill towns, dine on sardines on the beach of Cinque Terre and wild boar near Lake Como.  I knew I wanted to show him a bit of Tuscany so I did a little hunting online and found Villa Luna*.  I could see us in the photos, toasting as the sun settled, having a quiet romantic evening and retiring early so we’d be well rested to tour Chianti early in the morning.  I got one part right.

When we arrived, we were greeted… how should I put it?  Robustly? Clad in red jeans and a contagious smile, Flavio* welcomed us; his enthusiasm for this new venture was evident.  He had recently realized his dream of turning the family home into a bed and breakfast and he had much to say about the Villa Luna*.  The entryway was lined with military memorabilia from his grandfather, a General in the Italian Army.  In the lounge, an homage to his grandfather, the playwright.  The entire first floor read like a museum with tributes to his family’s history, but what stood out to me the most in the first few moments of arriving was the bathroom.  The walls, covered in graffiti felt like a cacophony of misplaced teenage angst.  I tried to reconcile that room with the adjoining room and realized that we were in for an interesting night.

We were shown to our room and had a few moments to trade inquisitive looks and silent snickers before heading out for our tour of the property which began in the “party room.”   I don’t know if it was the frenetic orange walls, the disco ball, the eclectic paintings, or another kind of energy, but I just wanted out.  From the museum to the graffiti, the disco room to the sculpture garden, it was two worlds juxtaposed in a way that I could not comprehend.  Old world meets New world.  A childhood home and one that occupied German and Italian armies.   At this point, I just wanted a glass of wine.  We were hoping to catch the sunset promised on the website and there was no escape in site.

When the tour was over, we went to sit by the pool and catch the display of color , ready for a little time alone.  We also had another display of color in the form of “vibrant” conversation.  Now, I’m not complaining.  Our host was kind, gracious, and willing to help.  But, you know when you have a BIG, ROBUST, YOUNG wine and you just uncork it?  It can be a little much.  It needs some time to breathe, to adjust to the new surroundings, to let up a little.  You get my point.  I tried to ignore and enjoy, my husband had a harder time with that part.


We headed up to the room to change for dinner and then got recommendations on the restaurants in town.  There were two, we were told, that were pretty similar.  We should go take a look and decide.  We headed down the cobbled hill and stopped to look a the first.  It was bustling with a wood fired oven, refined and warm.  We decided to check out the other.  Blue light, disco ball and empty.  Similar?  Hmmm.  Apt, perhaps.

Needless to say we chose the first restaurant.  There was a bit of a wait so they brought us a glass of Prosecco.  We tried to make sense of what we had just experienced.  Neither of us had never been in a place quite like this, with a host quite like that, but we were in Tuscany.  No complaints.  My husband ordered the  Bistecca alla Fiorentina, Florentine-Style Porterhouse, seared over oak fire.  Amazing.  I chose Pasta Carciofi and a salad.  We each ordered a glass of Aiolo Chianti.  As we were toasting our evening, Flavio*, dressed down in grey sweatpants, came to check on us, a surprising, but kind, gesture.  He invited us to stop in to the sitting room when we returned for some grappa, or as he called it “fire water.”

That was when things got really interesting.

My husband and I joined the other couple staying on the property to hear more about the history of this home and the family.  Flavio’s mother had been the first, and only, woman to ride in Siena’s Palio. His grandfather had written a play about the historic event.  We learned about the military occupation and how our bathroom had been used as a darkroom during the war.  We learned about his days spent playing in the tower room, his graduating class of seven, yes, seven.  Grappa might also be called “truth serum” because as it flowed, so did the stories.  Whether intentionally or not, Flavio also shared about another guest of the house.  One that resided in one of our bedrooms.  One that folded pajamas when there was no one in the room and moved around sometimes.   And then there was the painting.  The painting of the man with his hand in his pocket.  The painting that would talk to him.

Now, I am not one that is easily scared, but by the time we went to bed that night, I wouldn’t leave my husband’s side.  I stayed with him while he brushed his teeth and insisted he do the same for me.  We whispered about what we’d heard as the wind whispered though the trees and I tried to sleep away the fear.  I tossed and turned and prayed and fought to sleep.  It wouldn’t come.  And when it finally did, the images that came with it were worse than the insomnia.  War torn villages and deformed children dominated the nightmares.  And then we heard it.  Not me.  WE heard it.

Around 3 or 4 in the morning, both my husband and I were awakened by the sounds.  We tried to rationalize it away, the wind?  The trees?  But trees don’t sound like wild dogs.  Vicious angry dogs.  On a hilltop in Tuscany.  What in the world?  I told him that I hadn’t been able to sleep and was having awful dreams.  I wasn’t the only one.  We would leave first thing in the morning.

We battled through until sunrise, showered, packed, and headed downstairs to say goodbye.  The other guests were eating breakfast, but I just wanted to GET OUT. Rapidamente.

And I guess we will never know.  Was it too much grappa?  Were we both imagining the same thing at the same time?  Or do those walls hold secrets that are only told at night?  There is no question that the property is a special one with views that are hard to rival.  There is no question that Flavio is a kind and accommodating host.  But will we go back?  That is a question that remains a mystery.

*Whether it was necessary or not, I changed the names of the place and our host.  If you must know, contact me.


“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.


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.

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

Frankly Delicious

I wish you could smell my kitchen right now.  Scratch that, I wish you could smell my whole house right now.  By now, no matter where you live, you’ve likely heard of Franklin BBQ.  If you haven’t seen the press, maybe you’ve seen the Chase credit card commercial.  The local joint has reached cult-like status and, in order to try the smoked gold, you will likely need to stand in line for 2-4 hours depending on the day.  Unless…

There is another option.  If you order well in advance, like weeks in advance, you can pick up a whole brisket or two.  It’s in limited supply as well, but if you can swing it, you’ll be in hog (or cow) heaven.  So for my husband’s 40th camping trip, we ordered a couple of briskets and shared the love.  The first night we dined (chowed) in traditional form, the second night out I made a soup with some of the leftovers.  You can guess how that went over.  In fact, my husband has been asking for it weekly since then.  So tonight, I thawed the leftover’s leftovers and made Franklin’s Brisket Stew, Take 2.

If you’ve done much cooking while camping, you know you have to sacrifice a little.  We bring a stash of spices etc, but there is always something you forget.  This time I had my entire kitchen (running water and all) at hand.

Franklin’s Brisket Stew, Take 2.

1 small onion

3 celery stalks

3 large carrots

1 leek

1 Yellow pepper

2 wax peppers (anything with a little heat, or a lot)

1 can beef broth

4 cups Chicken Broth

1 cup tomato puree

2 Tbsp. Brown sugar

1 Tbsp. Red wine vinegar

(While camping I subbed the 3 above ingredients for ketchup)

1 lb. Franklin’s brisket ( I defrosted in the broth, removed the really fattty pieces, and shredded it but you have options.)

1 bag frozen green beans, or fresh

1/2 bag frozen corn

Dash clove

a few shakes of Italian herb blend

Salt and pepper to taste, but the brisket adds a lot of each. 

So what to drink with this big bowl of comfort?  I wanted something big, but not overpowering.  Something that could stand up to the pepper and compliment the smoky flavors, not compete.  Then I remembered back in March when I met Bart Hansen.  He got up early to stand in line for some Q but the line that is foreboding on a normal day becomes down-right unsurmountable during SXSW.  Bart owns Dane Cellars and sent me some samples which I’ve been opening with measure.  I don’t want them to end.  The Chenin was delish. The Zin, super yum.  I’ve been saving the Old Vine Zin and the Syrah, but what else could I open tonight?  If he couldn’t try it when he was here, he can at least be paired with it, right? Plus, he’s the featured winemaker at The Girl & The Fig this month so, if you’re in the Sonoma area, you can taste this wine.

The 2009 Just Creek Vineyard Syrah was aged 15 months in French oak and bottle unfiltered.  The color is deep, opaque, with a lighter ring, like the skin of a Bing Cherry.  A rich, powerful nose, with black fruits and pepper. This wine is huge, yet well-balanced.  A great intermingling of fruit and spice the whole way through with a long, coying finish.

This is the third wine I’ve had from Bart and each time I have been so impressed with his talent.  Each wine has so much going on and yet shows great restraint.  Every sip leaves you wanting more, intrigued and enticed.

So how did it work with the stew? Beautifully.  No competition.  The pairing brought out blueberries in the wine and the smokiness in the stew.   I don’t know if I could have picked a better match.  That’s a big statement from me.  And the hubs said he thinks the dish could win awards and was the best stew/soup/comfort food I’ve made.  That’s a big statement from him.  Now, I know most of you don’t have access to Franklin or Dane Cellars, but you can improvise.  I’m not saying it will compare.  I mean, people wait HOURS for this stuff, but it could be dang good.  And Bart sells his wine online.  That’s a great consolation prize. And next time you’re in town, Bart, you may want to bring some Syrah.

B.L.A.C.(K) Friday

…or what I’ve been drinking this week.

I don’t shop this weekend.  But I do enjoy wine, so I thought I’d share my own version of “Black Friday.”  The only wines I could think of that begin with a K are either bigger producers or ones that I haven’t had in while so forgive the incomplete acronym.  But by the time you finish tasting B, L, A, and C, I don’t think you’ll mind.cabernet_sauvignon_img[1]

B is for Bridlewood 2011 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

Last weekend was a rare cold and rainy weekend here in Austin.  We lit the fire around noon and by two, the smells of browning roast told my husband that it was time to open some red wine.  We wanted something with some body and depth so I opened a sample* I’ve had for a bit.

One look at this wine in the glass and you know you are in for something rich.  It has a ton of stewed black fruit on the nose with a hint of warm spice.  Maybe cinnamon?  On the palate, the fruit is a little brighter than the nose indicates, less “stew” more “blue.”  Not overly tannic but a great finish and plenty of depth. A different style than you might expect from a California Cab, but a great deal at around $12.

L is for Lewis 2010 Texas Red Wine

October 2013 004I was so excited to make it out Lewis Wines in Hye, Texas.  It is by appointment only but absolutely worth planning ahead for a visit.  A blend of Touriga, Tempranillo, and Tinto Cao, this wine is gorgeous as it is unique.  With a focus primarily on Mediterranean and Portuguese grapes, grown in Texas, Doug Lewis is building something beautiful in the Hill Country.  I was really impressed by everything he poured.  If he is making wine like this in his 20s, I can only imagine what’s to come.  You’ll be hearing more about him, here and in the wine world.

A is for Aimery Sieur d’Arques Cremant de Limoux Rosé

I went to a Sparkling wine tasting at the local Whole Foods Market on Tuesday.  They poured 5 bubblies: a Cava, Cremant, Prosecco, Moscato, and a Champagne.  This was a lovely sparkling rosé.  Subtle fruit and yeast notes, long finish, elegant bubbles.  At $15 it is accessible and festive, great for the holidays.


C is for Canard-Duchêne 2005 Brut Millesimé Sparkling

This is a true Champagne, meaning it was born and bottled in the Champagne region.  It is composed mostly of Pinot noir and aged five years.  It is a pale gold with a fruity nose and is super rich.  Great yeast notes and minerality, a long fruity finish and lovely mouthfeel.  This is the splurge of the list at $55, but much more fun than some of the other big production Champagnes.  Whether you’re looking for a gift, somewhere to put your bonus, or something celebratory, this vintage Champagne is bound to impress.

If you’re braving the craziness, pick up something, or a few delicious things, while you’re out.  Cheers!

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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