Greatest Hits of 2012

At the end of the year, WordPress sent me a summary of my year.  Sort of a year in review for the writer.  How many visitors, which posts were the most viewed, et cetera.  They invite you to share the information with your readers.  At first, I thought, “How Silly.  That is like Justin Bieber releasing a Greatest Hits.”  After all, I’ve only just begun (I hope you heard Karen Carpenter just then).  But then I looked at my top five posts from the year and I thought, “Yes, that is a pretty good cross-section of what I have done.”  So I am sharing it with a little back story.  Think of it as a pathetic version of Storytellers.  Cheers!

1 “Hey Girl…I love SAHMs” October 2012

Don’t you love new friends?  Especially those that share your affinity for all things Gosling?  And can make you laugh out loud with a text?  And inspire silly posts?  Me too.  It is no wonder this got a lot of views.  He’s impossible to resist. 

2 Grief and Gratitude  September 2012

I was due to write a new post, but it was September 11th, and I could not write about anything but.  I asked a group of ladies that write about wine if it was okay to venture outside that box.  With their encouragement, I did so.  This is my tribute to a dear, dear friend.

3 OTBN- A Gift from Gundlach Bundschu  February 2012

The first piece of writing I ever put out publicly was a 3rd place poem for a poetry contest at Gundlach Bundschu.  The second piece took first.  It was their encouragement that inspired me to write.  This was a post in which I “shared” the 1997 Cab Franc I received as a prize with my readers.

4 Trends, Schmends-I never gave up on you, Merlot January 2012 

If you have read for very long at all, you know that it is not uncommon to get a hint of psychology in the front and some introspection in the finish.  In Vino Veritas.

5 Molto Bene, Y’all  April 2012

I have loved, loved, loved getting involved in the Texas wine scene.  So many great things being produced, so many great people, and still so much to learn.  Thank you for welcoming me in and for your generous spirits.  This is a piece on a local winery that I grow more fond of with each visit.

So, there you have it.  A little personal stuff, a little humor, a lot of wine.  Some paired, some shared.  Yes, this is a blog about wine, but it is really so much more to me.  Thank you for reading and giving me a place to share, to grow, to learn.

Three “Wines-men”

I could tell you about a few of my picks for the holiday season, and I probably will at some point.  But I thought it would be a little more interesting to hear from those who know just a little more about Texas wines than I do.  I elicited help from three fabulous Texas wine makers to tell you which Texas wine they might be pouring this holiday season and the pairings they would choose.  The catch?  It had to be someone else’s wine.

Dave Reilly has been getting a lot of attention as the winemaker for Duchman Winery.  And with good reason.  Just this year his wines has received several awards and three spots on the Jessica Dupuy’s Top Texas Wines list.  What Texas wine would he pour?  A Roussanne.  He thinks that it is one of the most interesting grapes being produced in the state. 

Although he didn’t name a specific producer, I have had lovely Roussannes from both Cap*Rock Winery and McPherson Cellars.  The McPherson Reserve Roussanne was on Russ Kane’s list of his favorite Texas whites of 2012 and Jessica Dupuy included a Roussanne from Perissos Vineyards on her list.  Promising, indeed.  The traditional pairings are seafood and buttery dishes.  You could also pair with poultry.  Doing a Christmas turkey?  This would be lovely.  Especially with a chestnut stuffing or with butternut squash to bring out the nutty flavors in the wine.

Tim Drake made the move to Texas from Washington in 2010 because he and his family saw that something special was going on in the Texas wine industry.  He joined Flat Creek Estate in 2011 and we are just now seeing the first of his whites.  If the 2011 and 2012 barrel sample of Viognier are any indication, we are in for a whole lot of special.  And if his pairings are any indication, I’ll be asking for an invitation to dinner. 

Tim chose William Chris Merlot paired with a Demi-Glace Veal Chops served with Gorgonzola Risotto and sautéed green beans.  Yes, please.  William Chris is located in Hye, Texas and they produce some incredible wines.  I have a bottle of Enchante that I have been saving for the holidays, so you’ll hear more about them in the near future.

Kim McPherson of McPherson Cellars knows a thing or two about wine.  In fact, he is kind of wine royalty here in Texas.  His father, “Doc” McPherson, was one of the fore-fathers of the Texas wine industry and Kim has continued the elevation of Texas viticulture.  His wines have received over 450 awards.  So what would he choose? 

A peek at either Jessica or Russ’ list will tell you that Tempranillo does very well here.  Kim agreees.  He chose Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo with a Hanger Steak made in a Spanish style.  That shouldn’t be a problem since his wife, Sylvia, owns La Diosa Cellars.  Think Romesco sauce, rubs with herbs and paprika.  Smoky, spicy, with some lime juice for acid.  Serve with polenta or fingerling potatoes.  Maybe some greens with roasted peppers?  Yum.

Although most of these specific wines are not available nationwide, these pairings are great inspiration no matter what state you call home.  And great inspiration to visit us here in Texas.  Thank you to all of the winemakers who helped me in writing this.  You are doing amazing things.  Merry Christmas and happy pairing!

A Day Late…But Not a Bit Short

Last night was the Texas Wine Twitter chat featuring three lovely wines and Chef Josh Watkins of The Carillon Restaurant here in Austin (see pairings below).  I will be making that Celery root and apple soup with Duchman Viognier soon.  Because we have been in full combat mode, fighting a nasty respiratory virus, I had to miss the tasting at a fellow Texas wine lover’s house and could only tweet vicariously.  I made up for it today.  

My husband made a pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto and sage.  My brother-in-law made salad with pears sautéed in maple syrup which became part of the vinaigrette.  My job was to pair and hold my sweet son.  Honestly, a kangaroo pouch would have come in handy the last few days since he’s too big for a sling and can’t be off me for more than a minute at a time when he’s sick.

I paired the meal with McPherson Sangiovese.  A good pairing brings out the best in both and this was spot on.  The fruit was subtle as to not compete, but with enough earthy backbone to hold its own.  The salt of the prosciutto, the sweet of the pear, the acidity of the vinaigrette all worked with the Sangiovese.  Yum.

This is a very food friendly wine that can go in many directions and blend right in.  I have joked before that I think Kim McPherson and I have kindred palates.  I love everything he makes.  The Sangiovese is no exception.  Thanks to Chef Josh Watkins for the great suggestions and to all the Texas wine advocates and producers for all you do!

 Duchman Family Winery Viognier

Celery root-apple soup
Spiced apples with brandy syrup

McPherson Sangiovese
Free-raised veal tenderloin with sweet potato hash, and mustard greens with bacon gastrique
Beef tenderloin with Brussels sprouts and potato puree
Braised beef short ribs with grill romaine and pickled radish

Fall Creek or Messina Hof Muscat Canelli (semi-sweet)
Buttermilk panna cotta
Manchester cheese
Almond cake

A Happy Mother’s Day-Westcave Cellars

I woke up this morning to my husband doing dishes.  That might be the sweetest sound I can hear.  On Mother’s Day, I generally ask for one thing: no dishes.  When you are a SAHM that cooks three meals a day, at least six days a week, dishes become your nemesis.  This year, my husband has really knocked it out of the park: no dishes, a trip to see my best friend who will be visiting Chicago from France, AND a Saturday jaunt to a Hill Country Winery.  Doesn’t get much better than that for me.  If your favorite Mother is a wine lover, pack a picnic, and head out to one of your local wineries.  

Yesterday, we added a new favorite to the growing list.  I have been wanting to make it out to Westcave Cellars Winery for months.  I first read about it in March, but on the day we were planning on going, it was their Wine Club Member party, so we knew that it wouldn’t be the best day to chat with Margaret and Allan Fetty.  I waited patiently for an opportunity to head out west, on Hamilton Pool Road, and it was worth the wait.  The property is 65 acres, including over 8 acres of grapes.   Many of the grapes they use are estate grown.  They began their journey in 1999, growing Cabernet grapes to sell to other wineries.  Fortunately for us, they decided to enter the wine-making aspect, as well, and are producing some lovely wines.

We started with the Muscat Blanc.  A beautiful nose on this wine.  Sweet flowers and tropical fruit.  This is a delicious wine with hints of honeydew, dry tropical notes, and a long smooth finish.  We moved to the Viogniers.  From the Estate Viognier, I got a lot of honey on the nose and some green fruit, fig maybe?  Drier than expected, there was a lot of citrus, tropical fruit, and a clean finish.  In the High Plains Viognier, I noted green apple and lemon and a really interesting notes of caramel in the nose and the finish.

The Merlot is held in French Oak for 12 months.  It has a smoky, berry nose and tons of Bing cherry with a hint of spice.  A bit dry, but smooth with a super long finish.  The 2010 High Plains Cab was super tasty.  Allan told us he was really into aroma and it shows.  Lush, rich fruit, not too heavy on the tannins.  There is even a hint of watermelon with the plum, cherry, and berry.  It is rare for me to find a Cab that has this depth, but that I could still enjoy without food.  This is a winner in my book.  The Estate Cab was even richer.  Ripe, bright fruit, a huge mid-palate, balanced and juicy.  Delicious.

Westcave also does two sweeter wines: a White Merlot (2% residual sugar) and a White Zinfandel (3%).  If White Zin makes you think of a sweet, flat $7 bottle you drank in the 90s, think again.  The White Merlot was new to me.  The 2010 had notes of strawberries and roses.  The White Zinfandel had a crabapple nose.  If you aren’t familiar with this northern fruit, think cranberries and apples blended. A nice spicy honey finish.  Much more complex than I would have imagined.  Oscar, our host for the day, was able to let me taste the 2011 White Merlot that is ready to bottle.  Wow.  Like the perfect Rosé in my book.  Clean, pretty fruit, enough crisp to wake up your mouth, and great body.  I look forward to being able to buy a bottle and sit out in the vineyards.

After tasting, there is a lovely seating area with room for the littles to run, right next to the vines.  The setting is dreamy and the hospitality is top notch.  Margaret, Allan, and Oscar could not have been nicer.  They are all gifted and knowledgeable and I look forward to my next visit when I can really focus and learn from them.  Somehow that was a little challenging with my cherubs in tow.  It just gives me an excuse to go back.  

If you are here in Austin, and have not made plans to spoil your favorite mother today, head west.  If you have already discovered Westcave and want some other ideas, check out some other local favorites.:

Driftwood Estate Winery

Salt Lick Cellars

Duchman Winery (They are doing brunch this weekend, too!) 

Solaro Estate Winery

Spicewood Vineyards

 Happy Mother’s Day!

Molto Bene, Y’all

What happens when you grow Italian grapes in Texas? Un bel vino. A beautiful wine. The more I am learning about Texas wine, the more I am convinced that growing Mediterranean varietals are the way to go. Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Mouvedre all thrive in this climate and the vintners that have figured this out are doing beautiful things.

Photo courtesy of Duchman Winery

Photo courtesy of Duchman Winery

After our visit to Salt Lick Cellars a couple of weeks ago, we decided to also visit Duchman Family Winery while we were in the vicinity. I had tried some of their wines in previous years, but I had been reading a lot about their Vermentino and the multiple accolades it was receiving. Pear dominated the nose. Crisp and green in the front, the citrus and pear create a long, and clean finish. I was getting something floral but couldn’t determine specifically. They describe it as “white flowers.” Perfect. No surprise it has been so well received. The Trebbiano had a sweeter nose, tropical fruits and citrus, and less of a finish. My favorite white was, no surprise, the Viognier. A bit more acidic than some, the fruit was alive. Bright and balanced with a lot of stone fruits: apricot, peach, and some citrus to make it dance. Super yummy. I brought home one bottle, but should have gotten more. Fortunately, it can be easily found in the area. We then tasted the Sangiovese. I love the bright red fruit of this wine. Light on tannins, and easy on the palate. The Dolcetto had more of the black fruits, a bit richer than the Sangiovese, but still medium bodied. We brought home one of each.

Since we were suffering from the BBQ hangover, I made a vegetarian Antipasto for dinner. Grilled and fresh veggies, olives and cherry peppers, and a couple of cheeses. The Sangiovese complemented it perfectly. I enjoyed the wine at the winery but, by the end of the bottle, I adored the wine. As it opened, what was bright and more acidic became round and luscious. If we’d had more, we would have opened it. Instead we dove into the Dolcetto. My Father-in-Law from Sonoma has always been skeptical of Texas wines. Duchman made him a believer.

I have spoken about how your host at a winery can make or break the experience. In full disclosure, on my previous visit to Duchman, the men helping us didn’t seem to interested in helping. It soured the experience. As much as I had enjoyed the wine, I didn’t enjoy the visit. This time, the people could not have been nicer. Jordan was friendly and knowledgeable. The women in the office were great with my children. I can see that we will be going out to Driftwood more frequently. The wines are delicious, the prices are more than reasonable, and the facility is lovely. What more could you ask for? Grazie, Duchman Family.