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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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

Everything’s Coming up Rosés

I feel guilty buying wine when I have a closet full, but my closet is filled with mostly reds.  At this time of the year, I am into pink.  Or crisp, bright whites but that is another post. When dry Rosé started coming back on the scene a few years ago, I was a happy girl.  Love it.  Love, love, love.  A few years ago, it was a little more challenging to find one that was under $20 that didn’t have a bite, but that seems to be changing.  In the last few weeks I’ve had five, all under $20 and four out of five made it on my love list.

If you’ve tried one or two and aren’t sure if you like them, keep trying.  Depending on the region, the grapes, the style, they vary widely.  There are three main style of production.  And because I am writing on borrowed time (sick kids) I am going to quote from an article on Wikipedia.  It pains me, but if you read the previous post, you understand why.

When rosé wine is the primary product, it is produced with the skin contact method. Black-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period, typically one to three days.[3] The must is then pressed, and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation (as with red wine making). The longer that the skins are left in contact with the juice, the more intense the color of the final wine.[4]

When a winemaker desires to impart more tannin and color to a red wine, some of the pink juice from the must can be removed at an early stage in what is known as the Saignée (from French bleeding) method. The red wine remaining in the vats is intensified as a result of the bleeding, because the volume of juice in the must is reduced, and the must involved in the maceration becomes more concentrated. The pink juice that is removed can be fermented separately to produce rosé.[5]

In other parts of the world, blending, the simple mixing of red wine to a white to impart color, is uncommon. This method is discouraged in most wine growing regions, especially in France, where it is forbidden by law, except for Champagne. Even in Champagne, several high-end producers do not use this method but rather the saignée method.[

Now for the fun part.  I tried three from France and two from Texas.  Here’s the lowdown.

1) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I really like Chateau de Campuget Costieres de Nimes Tradition Rose 2011.  Good structure and fruit, bright minerality. Fresh, fun, and fruity.  I’ve been feeling like that myself after a few sleepless nights. From the Rhone region, this wine is 70% Syrah, 30% Grenache.

2) From the Coteaux d’Aix in Provence, Bieler Père et Fils is making a lovely Rosé.  As they should.  This blend is 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 20% Cab.  Great mouthfeel, both soft and sturdy which I like in my pink friends.  The fruit and minerality is well-balanced.  At around $12, it is a steal.

3) Chateau Paradis 2011 (on sale for $15) This was an interesting one to compare with the Bieler.  I think the higher percentage of Grenache gave it a little more tannic bite.  A great food wine, but it seemed a little harsh after sipping on the previous wine.  I’d buy it again, but I’d serve it with , savory and herbal. Also from Coteaux d’Aix, it is 60% Grenache, 20%  of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

4) Becker Vineyards in Fredricksburg, Texas recently released their ode to the above region with their 2012 Provencal Rosé.  I really like this wine.  A Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre blend, this wine has earth and fruit.  Fuller bodied, lively, great for summer barbeques or more refined fare. You can find it in the 10-12 range.

5) The first Rosé I fell for made in Texas was from McPherson Cellars.  It is a little more fruit-forward than the others, but by no means sweet.  This is a great one to introduce someone to the drier style of pink, and Texas wines!  It retails for about $14 and is one of my favorites.

If you haven’t wandered down to the pink aisle yet, this gives to a place to start.  Now I want to hear from you.  Have you discovered any that I need to try?  Share them!

And a little pat on my back and disclaimer.  We’ve been fighting three kinds of funk in the last three weeks around here.  After two nights this week of 3-5 hours of interrupted sleep, I managed to write something, so you can’t get rid of me that easily.  I won’t say it’s my best work, but it works.  And since I wrote half of this with my son sitting in my lap, I neglected nothing.  I think that’s a win-win.  Cheers!

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

Discoveries from Columbus Weekend

Although some would question the political correctness of celebrating Columbus Day, few would argue about the long weekend. And a long weekend means more time to drink wine, especially enjoyable when you have been doing (mostly)dry weeks. We packed this weekend with equal parts productivity and revelry. Here are some fun discoveries.

On Wednesday, I joined Gusto Tastings at III Forks for an evening of Viognier.  Anatoli Levine, who writes Talk-A-Vino, happened to be in town so I invited him to join me. I thought it was a great opportunity to see what is going on here in the wine industry. Texas vs. The World is a comparative tasting of Old World, New World, and Texas wines. We tasted seventeen Viogniers including a vertical tasting from Flat Creek Estate. As luck would have it, we sat with the winemaker, Tim Drake and his lovely wife, Spring. It was a fantastic evening. In my opinion, Texas took this one. The 2011 Flat Creek was amazing. A glorious nose and equally impressive taste. I am also a fan of McPherson Cellars and the Brennan Vineyards. We even got to do a barrel tasting of the Flat Creek 2012 which is only six weeks in to a very promising journey.

I spent Friday and Saturday consumed in garage sale drudgery, motivated only by the fact that it was for charity. I realized that, in the future, I will likely take the path of less torture and donate both the items and some money. Needless to say, I was ready for a glass of wine at the end of the day. I had been wanting to try a sample that I recently received from Mommy Juice wines*. Great name and marketing. The white is 100% Chardonnay and the red is a blend of mostly Cab Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cab Franc, with a dash of this and that. I am a tough sell on Chardonnay, especially entry-level wines, but I really liked the red blend. It was a very nice, easy drinking wine.  Berry nose with a hint of vanilla. I tasted a lot of Bing Cherry and some brighter red fruit. At about $10, it makes a perfect Monday wine. And I know many Mommy’s that need a little juice at the end of a Monday, or Tuesday, or any day.

On Sunday, the hubs and I headed out to Flat Creek Estate for Grape Jam. The event featured wines from eight wineries and music. I love seeing the growth in the Texas wine industry. Collectively, there are some very exciting things going on here and I love trying new producers. I was introduced to new grapes like Bending Branch’s Tannat and Black Spanish grapes of Dry Comal Creek. I found some new loves in Flat Creek’s Super Texan and Pinot Blanc. More importantly, I was able to spend time with some fabulous people. I talked at length with Rick Naber, the owner, and Tim Drake, the winemaker. I came away with a better sense of the challenges and the tenacious spirit of the Texas winemaker. But that is a whole different post.

On Monday, after my man trimmed the trees, and the kids and I hauled the branches, I headed to Whole Foods for a …PIE FIGHT! The event kicked off the fundraising efforts of Les Dames E’scoffier. They have some great items up for auction. No matter where you are in the country, if you love food and wine, there is something for you. Check it out at www.austinfoodfight.org. Because my partner, Scott Calvert of The Cake Plate, and I had the most Social Media buzz (thank you!) we got to go last. We faced the reigning champion, Chef Josh Watkins and his partner Jennie Chen of Miso Hungry. I was doing pretty well at dodging and weaving, but they took us in the end. Scott was a true gentleman and took most of the hits. And speaking of hits? I hit a JUDGE. In the FACE. My thumb got stuck in the melting crust and my frisbee attempt failed miserably. Oh my goodness, I was mortified and profusely apologetic. Other than my egregious throwing error, it was a great evening.

Tonight, we are headed out again to The Taste of Kenichi, an event introducing their new Executive Chef, Richard Lee. It should be fabulous! I’ll keep you posted on the yummies. Cheers!

*Mommy Juice wine was provided as a media sample.

A Friend Indeed

On our way to Colorado, we stopped at McPherson Winery in Lubbock, Texas and loaded up.  Truly.  Our truck was p-a-c-k-e-d and yet I still found room for over a case of wine.  Priorities, right?  Before visiting, I had tried the Tre Colore and the Viognier, both of which I really enjoyed.  I knew I would like his wine, I just didn’t realize that I would like ALL his wine.  That doesn’t happen very often.

McPherson Tasting Room

One of the gems we picked up was Les Copains, a white blend of Grenache Blanc (45%), Viognier (45%), and Roussanne (10%).  Translated from French, Les Copains means, “the friends” or “the buddies.”  This is a lovely, versatile blend which retails for about $14.  The Viognier gives it rich floral notes, the Grenache Blanc gave it green and citrus notes, and the Rousanne balances the two to create a fantastic summer wine.

One of our last nights of the trip, we were staying with friends in Boulder and picked up some Italian food at a restaurant called Arugula.  Since that is one of my favorite greens, I thought we were on to something.  I ordered the Summer Vegetable Risotto and the Scallops for my husband.  I figured that our “friends” would work with both.  They did so splendidly.

When we returned home, I was still dreaming about the pairing so I tried to replicate it at home.  Unfortunately, I could not find Les Copains that day, but the risotto replication was spot on. I think I will have to add some to our next shipment since we, of course, joined the wine club.  See if you can find some near you, or go ahead and order some.  In the meantime, try out this risotto and pair it with a light to medium bodied, crisp summer white.

Summer Vegetable Risotto (Inspired by the one at Arugula)

Warm 3 cups (I did half and half) water or chicken stock in a 2 qt sauce pan.

Add about 2 tsp. Olive oil to a sauté pan.

 Sauté 1 medium onion over medium heat until soft, reduce to low heat.

Add about 1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half.

Cut the corn off the cob from 1-2 ears and add to the pan.

Stir until warm and slightly wilting.

Salt and pepper to taste, turn off the heat.  Warm again quickly when ready to add to risotto.

Pour yourself a glass of wine for the following steps.  It will make it taste better.  Trust me.

Put about 1-2 oz of white wine and 1 cup Arborio rice in a 3 qt. pan or similar. 

Gradually add the warm water/broth, about a half a cup at a time, while stirring. 

When the liquid is absorbed, continue adding until the rice has reached a creamy consistency. (The whole process took me about 30-45 min.)

When the risotto is cooked, stir in  3-4 oz. plain Goat Cheese.

Then add the warmed vegetables, and about 8 basil leaves, chiffonade.

I hope the recipe is easy to follow.  I don’t generally write (or follow) recipes, but please let me know if you have questions.  Cheers!

On the Road Again…

…just about to get on the road again.  Sorry for the lack of writing as of late. I am currently in Colorado on our first family camping trip. Having a great time thus far, and wanted to throw out a few highlights at the mid-way point.
On the way north and were able to stop at both Llano Estacado and McPherson Cellars in Lubbock. Great wines. The Red Raider Syrah is a great balance of big fruit and rich earthy notes. We also grabbed two red blends, their flagship wine, Viviano, and El Granjero. It was great to finally meet these guys. Thank you for your patience with my wound up little ones, the barrel tastings, and your hospitality.  We stayed at The Overton and slept like babies.  Great room and super staff.  Highly recommended.  My only suggestion would be to get more Texas wines on your wine list (wink, wink).

We popped into McPherson on our way out of town and Kim and Emily were equally gracious hosts. I think I bought at least one of everything I tasted. Love his wine! I left with 13 bottles and was prepared to leave my sleeping bag behind if I needed to make room for them. Fortunately, we will be expecting regular shipments. You would be hard pressed (no pun intended) to find better Texas wine, especially at that price point. Love, love, love.

While camping in Palo Duro Canyon we had a masked bandit run off with our Pirate Booty and I was greeted with a “friendly” rattle as I stepped out of our make-shift shower.  The heat was rough, but the views and the moon made up for it.

In Santa Fe, we stayed at The Bishop’s Lodge. The grounds are beautiful, the room we wound up in was great, but they need some work in some areas. I am not, by any means, a tough client and I have  the utmost respect for those in the service industry. But after several scratch-your-head-disappointing moments, I would highly encourage them to take a look at training and work out some kinks. I would go back because of the other very positive experiences, but with revised expectations. I hope they work those things out because it has such potential.  A big thank you to Jeff the Wrangler. My kids loved their first horse-back ride!

In Durango, we rode the train to Silverton.  Stunning views, friendly informative staff, and the kids even fell asleep for the last hour.  We rode the bus back to cut the return time.  I would recommend that, especially if you are traveling with littles.  I was very grateful to not be driving and to be on the inside of the road.  If you have height issues, think twice or pack a Valium.  We walked to Carver’s after for some local brews.  The winner, in my book, was the Saison.  Peppery goodness in a glass.

Remember that road where I was grateful to be on the inside? Guess where we were on our drive to Ouray?  I am pretty sure that my leaning to the middle of the truck on curves had no effect, but you never know.  Those crazy roads never bothered me before.  Yet another thing that changes post-babies.  The hot springs were amazing.  Highly recommended.  We also found our favorite brew thus far at Ouray Brewing Company.  The Belgian Pale Ale was delicious.  We left with a growler and came back for another one on our way out of town.  My husband is trying to convince me to drive back for another.

We then camped in Ridgeway State Park for two nights.  This place is spectacular with so much to do, room to run,  a place to fish, and a reservoir in which to swim.  Heavenly.  The views were breathtaking.  Next time we will stay for much longer.

Which brings us to our current stop.   After three days of camping, we were all ready for a little luxuriating.   The Hotel Telluride could not be nicer.  The staff is incredibly friendly and accommodating; the decor is pure rustic elegance.  Every detail is taken care of. The robes, Aveda products, and pillow service (yes, you can pick a style of pillow) have provided the perfect recovery from roughing it.  Oh, and the chocolate chip cookies in the lobby paired wonderfully with the Llano Syrah.  

Off to enjoy our complimentary breakfast and a gondola ride before we get on the road again…Cheers!

Spring Fling Taste and Play Reviews

If you are a SAHM or a parent, you will not be surprised to read that my plans for Wednesday’s Taste and Play were interrupted.  Shocking, I know.  But when your sweet boy wakes up from his nap with a fever of 102 just as your guests arrive, that happens.  Fortunately, all the moms and my sister, Nikki, took it in stride.  I quarantined him in my room and went back and forth while they tasted and played.  It made for a lovely afternoon for them, but not the best for my tasting, so my “notes” will be brief.

We started with the 2011 Castillo Perelada Garnatxa Blanca ($12).   This is my first White Grenache, so I can’t compare it to others.  It was really interesting and different.  By the time I was able to taste this pour, my glass had already warmed.  After chilling it again, it was a totally different wine.  Crisp, huge mid-palate, and a smooth, long finish.  It was hard to discern specific fruits.  There were herbal, grassy characteristics and more citrus than tropical or stone fruits.  An intense, crisp white.  That doesn’t seem to happen too often. The ladies gave it a thumbs up.

We then moved to 2010 McPherson Viognier,($13).  As typical of many Viogniers, this one has a lovely nose.  Jasmine or honeysuckle and peach.  Stone fruits with a sparkle of citrus, honey, and a long creamy finish.  This wine feels and tastes and lovely as it smells.  I can’t say the same for our last tasting.

I wanted to ladies to try a dry Rosé, and when I saw that this one was Alicante, I wanted to try it.   I chose a 2010 Acquagiusta Rosato ($15) out of Tuscany.  The website describes it as having a “notable aromatic persistence.”  I would agree with that, I just wish it was an aroma I wanted to continue smelling.  Some people enjoy the “brett” (barnyard) qualities found in a lot of Italian wines.  I do not.  A bit can add an earthy complexity, too much can detract from what might have been a tasty wine.  I will just say that this wine had too much in the nose for my taste.  Granted, the taste was much more enjoyable than the aroma.  I got some strawberry, some greens.  Overall, there just wasn’t enough going on for me to really get excited about it.  I have not found too many Rosés at this price point that I love.  I did really enjoy Chateau L’Ermitage.  If you have one, please share it in the comments.

So which wine was the favorite?  Three cheers for Texas Wine winning this Taste and Play.  The McPherson was the unanimous favorite.   Texas Wine Gal informed me that they have an Albarino available at their Tasting Room.  Can’t wait to get to try it!  In the meantime, I will be picking up more of this Texas winner.  So what did you think?  Were you able to try any of these wines?  I look forward to reading your comments.  Have an idea for the Summer edition?  Share that as well.  Cheers, y’all!