Hye-lights from the Weekend

I probably don’t have to tell you that doing a cleanse is NOT conducive to wine writing.  Three weeks without wine means that I was not the only thing drying out.  My apologies for being quiet as of late. Just when I was ready to open some wine and dine on grains, I was delayed even further with bronchitis.  Needless to say, five weeks without wine meant that I was more than ready when Friday rolled around.  And seeing that it was 90 degrees out, I was ready to go pink.

IMG_4458Josh Fritsche of William Chris has his own label, Tatum Cellars, which is super small in production and big in demand with those in the know.  He made 30 cases this year but rumor has it that may increase.

The wine is 60% Grenache, 40% Mourvedre.  History has shown that this combo is one of my favorites.  This wine is no exception.   A beautiful rosy pink, it dances in the light.  Floral and fruit on the nose, some minerality to add dimension.  Every sip made me happy.  And made me wish I had bought more than one bottle!  This is one of the best roses I have had and would rival any domestic and many French.  Very well done.

Did I mention I was excited to drink wine?  A little too excited.  Once we emptied the pink (there were 3 of us) we opened another gem from Hye, Hye Meadow’s Trebbiano.  We made a brief stop there after hitting William Chris on the day I caved and since I was trying to be “good” I didn’t want to do a full tasting.  I asked for two favorites and that is what we bought, the Trebbiano and the Tempranillo, both Texas grapes.

The Trebbiano was straw in color, citrus and tropical fruit, zesty and great acid.  It is a great summer wine.  If you aren’t familiar with Trebbiano, this Italian grape is known as Ugni Blanc in France.  Still not familiar? If you like Sauvignon Blanc, try this wine.  Trust me.

The problem with doing a cleanse? If you aren’t careful, your body can get too clean, thus greatly reducing your tolerance.  The headache began before I even went to bed.  Word to the wise.

IMG_4465On Saturday, we decided to stay with the Hye (Hye Meadow Winery, that is) and opened the Tempranillo.  We loved this wine.  Great classic cherry-cola notes, the spice and acid I’ve come to expect from a lot of Texas wines.  Since the weather was screaming “summer” we complied.  We started with bruschetta with tomato and basil and made NY Strips on the grill, sliced them thin over arugula with lemon and Parmesan.  Simple and tasty every time. It paired perfectly.

I know I have been (begrudgingly) quiet during Texas Wine Month, despite my hopes to highlight all of the great work that is happening here.  But I began with a great example in the William Chris Enchante and am ending with three more.  And the end of October doesn’t mean I’ll stop singing its praises.

It does, however mean that my to-do list of costumes, my daughter’s school carnival, and prepping for Gobble Gobble Give may take precedence.  That and my super-old laptop not allowing me to access WordPress anymore may slow me down (thanks, Mom, for letting me borrow your’s). I take suggestions from all of you tech-wise-wine-loving-blog-writing friends for replacements.  In the meantime, be safe this weekend and post pics of your costumes! Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Amigos Especiales-Gun Bun Tempranillo

Last Sunday we had an afternoon dinner with THOSE friends.  You know, the ones.  We used to travel to Sonoma together and make Bacchus look like a monk.  Those weekends translated into all day food and wine festivals in our own backyards, almost every weekend. Corks flying, pans frying.  Until we added to the brood.  Now we are lucky if we can get together twice a year.  And until recently, one of the ladies was left out because of maternal matters.  But, we are coming out of that phase and their birthdays (one week apart) served as the perfect excuse to get together, even though it looks a little different now.  (Fewer) Corks flying and (more) pans frying and the occasional baby crying.

It was a beautiful day here in Austin so we decided to plan around the weather.  I thought we’d go Spanish.  I picked up some Manchego, Brazos Valley Eden brie (with vegetable ash-divine), olives, peppers, salami, and some veggies for appetizers al fresco.  I’ve learned to make a separate snack plate for the littles or my cherubs will devour all the olives and cured meats.  That’s just not good for anyone.

While the kids ran wild in capes and gowns, blowing bubbles and having tea parties, the adults were able to sit under the pergola, sipping Tempranillo and catching up.  It was wonderful. 

For dinner, I planned Flank and Flap steak with Chimichurri sauce, Patatas Bravas, and asparagus.  I marinated the steak in olive and sunflower oil, garlic, and salt. The good thing about this dinner is tha can do most of the work ahead of time.  For the Chimichurri I used a ton of parsley, oregano, olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, salt and a little crushed red pepper.   I made the tomato sauce with a bunch of garlic, olive oil, choppped tomatoes, chicken broth, smoked paprika, and a little cayenne. 

Many recipes call for frying the potatoes, but I roasted them in sunflower and olive oil at 450.  We did the steak in a cast iron pan.  I blanched the asparagus and then quickly sautéed them in the pan I had used for steak while it sat.  For wine, we broke out a Tempranillo with a story.

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Gundlach Bundschu has a special place in our hearts.  If you’ve been reading for a while, you know how instrumental they were in my decision to start writing.  While on a tour there, we heard a great story about their Tempranillo.  I won’t name names, but somebody may or may not have snuck some rootstock back from Spain.  They may or may not have had some a stinky cheese wheel in said bag that may or may not have been confiscated at customs, allowing the rootstock to find a new home in Sonoma.  Legend has it, anyway.  No matter where this rootstock came from, it is doing great things in its current soil.

This wine is beautiful in the glass and its color represents it well.  Red and blue fruits, acid and earth.  Bright and smooth.  Complexity in the tobacco and cocoa notes.  I love this wine and it paired perfectly.  It was like they were made for each other.  Well, in fact they were. 

I guess you could say the same about our friends.  You know, THOSE friends.  The ones you can come to when your face is puffy and tear-stained.  The ones that you can tell anything to and know you are safe.  The ones that can make you laugh, let you vent, and tell you when to zip it.  Friends that are worth celebrating.  Cheers to that.

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!

Cheers to “Fewer Tensions”

Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.
~Benjamin Franklin

Things have been a crazy here lately, so posts have taken a back seat.  They are always a little crazy… okay… a lot crazy, but this month has been a rough one.  I spent May with sick children, house guests, and purging for a charity garage sale.  I have spent June on pain meds, messing with Insurance companies, and trying to replace my totaled car after getting rear-ended.  This is my first car accident and what a mess. Thank God that my children were fine.  I can’t say the same for me, but I am getting there.  Needless to say, with all of those “tensions” I have needed a little “more tolerance.”  Here is a quick recap of some recent findings.

My husband had to do the grocery shopping the first weekend after the accident and he picked up some Bison Ribeyes.  They were delicious.  We paired them witha 2009 Gundlach Bundschu Tempranillo- a meatier Tempranillo with a big dark berries, a hint of spice and smoke, and a long sweet finish.  It paired really well with the earthiness of the grilled meat.  Super tasty.

June 16th would have been Robert Mondavi’s 99th Birthday and the fine folks at Folsom and Associates provided me with some of his wines to share in the live toast.  We opened the Riesling.  The toast was a poignant tribute to the man who helped put Napa Valley wines on the map.  I encourage you to read up on his story and his contributions to the wine world and the community.  The Riesling paired really nicely with the smoked cheddar.  Fuller in body and not as sweet as some, this wine had a very nice balance of fruit and floral.  A great Monday wine.

For Father’s Day, we went to the Farmer’s Market and picked up some Grass-Fed tenderloin, wax beans, and tomatoes.  What can I say?  My husband likes red meat.  I try to limit him to once a week max, and he makes sure he gets some on holidays.  We wanted something big enough to carry the beef, but not over power the vegetables.  We went with Wellington’s Grenache (2007).  They call it a “two-day wine” so I knew we had to aerate.  I poured it through the Vinturi (Thank you , Tony!) and into a decanter.  This was a gorgeous wine.  Cherry, red berries, a bit of tobacco and a super long finish.  About a minute after a sip, I got a ton of rhubarb.  I wish I had another bottle so I could see where it was going, but I don’t.  They are out of stock on it, too.  It was great while it lasted. 

We will have to open something special when I find a replacement for my poor “baby.”  I hope she was able to give her parts to a deserving Volvo wagon.  I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, cheers to “fewer tensions”!

Salt Lick Cellars-No Need to BYOB

There was a time, in the not so distant past, when you had to bring a stocked cooler to indulge in an adult beverage while indulging on BBQ at The Salt Lick.  Not anymore.  If you haven’t been to Driftwood recently, you may not be aware that they have entered the wine world.

In 2006, Scott Roberts planted the first vines and bottled the first wines in 2008.  After an in-depth study of climatic challenges, Winemaker Jay Knepp and Roberts chose the thick-skinned grapes that can handle the Texas heat and calciferous soil.  They planted Mediterranean varietals: Tempranillo, Syrah, Granache, and Mourvedre.   The grapes are hand-picked and they use Old World wine-making techniques.  Today, Salt Lick Cellars works with other growers and bottlers in Texas to provide a larger variety of wines for their guests.

They offer five blends, four single varietals, and a Sparkling.  The BBQ White is a Vermentino.  Light, crisp and easy sipping.  The Ranch Road White is a blend of Muscat Canelli, Chenin Blanc, Semillion, and Viognier.  Crisp citrus, soft peach or melon, and some sweet floral notes.  I enjoyed the blend very much. Either would be a perfect foil to the Texas heat.  The BBQ Red is Primitivo, the Italian equivalent of Zinfandel.  Tart red fruit with medium body, it is a great match for the peppery spice in the BBQ.

The Mourvedre is 100% Estate grown.  A beautiful claret red.  I got a lot of Bing cherry, some earth, but still a lighter wine.  My favorite was the Tempranillo.  It had a fresh herbal nose.  Big smooth fruit and a long finish.  I picked up some nutmeg or some other spiciness.  Unfiltered and aged in both American and French oak, this one was super tasty. I took one home with me.  I found both of these varietals to be lighter than some I have had, but no less delicious.  The brightness of the fruit was not overpowered by the tannins.  I am curious to see how both of these wines develop as the vines age.

Since my family was waiting for me, I had to keep it brief.  There were several wines that I did not have time to taste, and couldn’t really give the samples the time they deserved.  I plan to remedy that in the near future.  In addition to their own wines, the tasting room carries other Texas wines, beers, chocolates, nuts, cheeses, and gifts.  I made the mistake of eating first, so my palate had already been through the ringer before I tasted the wines.  Not recommended.   Taste first and pick up a bottle to go with your BBQ.  Or a few bottles to take home.  As if the brisket alone wasn’t enough reason to head to Driftwood, the Roberts Family has just given you several more reasons.  Cheers, y’all.

A Sunny Saturday at Solaro

It is hard to beat Austin in March.  The Mountain Laurels, with their grape scented clusters, are in full bloom.  The landscape is painted with every green you can imagine.  The sky, cerulean and vast, illuminates the rebirth.  It is almost criminal to stay inside.  So when my parents offered us a date this past weekend, there was only one thing on my mind- a Hill Country Winery.

There are several wineries within a thirty minute drive of Austin, and I have hit most of them, but I was looking for a new adventure.  My husband and I decided it was time to hit Solaro Estate in Dripping Springs. 

This winery is truly a labor of love.  The family has incorporated the Old World traditions from their family winery in Solaro, Italy.  The wines are produced using only grapes grown in Texas.   Some are grown on their 160 acres, others are purchased from the Texas vineyards that have the most favorable conditions for the particular varietal.  The family is directly involved in every step, from picking the grapes to hand racking the wines.  Jessica, our host for the tasting, educates the guests and pushes the button to cork the bottles on bottling day.  The dedication and love are reflected in the wines.

We began our tasting with a Montage Blanc (70% Viognier, 20% unoaked Chardonnay, 5% Muscat Canelli, %5 Chenin Blanc).  Honeysuckle nose, medium body, well-balanced.  Soft peach and floral with a clean finish.  A great sipping wine.  Our next white was Arancia, a dry orange muscat.  Big flavor in front.  Think orange creamsicle with out the sugar.  Since I prefer dry wines in general, I really liked this take on what is typically a sweeter wine.  This wine received a Silver medal in the Finger Lakes Competition.  In fact, of the six wines Solaro submitted, four medaled in the competition.

We transitioned to reds in a big way.  The 2010 Mourvèdre is big.  There is nothing “young” tasting about this wine.  Cherry, vanilla, earthy nose.  Soft, round, cherry, and plum with rustic heft.  Then we had the Lisse, which means smooth.  The blending of 40% Merlot with the Mourvèdre changed it up.  It added surprising tart qualities (in a good way) and a long finish which inspired the name.

Sangiovese does well when grown in limestone so it is a natural fit in Texas.  As with the other red wines at Solaro, it is unfiltered, a beautiful ruby-red.  Bright, silky, Strawberry spice.  The Tempranillo was incredibly smooth.  Soil and spice and everything nice; it developed with each sip.  Solaro also does a Bordorosso, an even blend of Merlot and Tempranillo which is held for 27 months in French Oak.  Rich fruit and chocolate.  The Merlot brought out even more spice in the Tempranillo.

Finally, the pièce de résistance: Cheval 5.  Solaro is home to five Thouroughbred horses, thus the name of this winner.  A blend of Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, Sangiovese, Barbera, and Ruby Cabernet.  (If you are, as I was, unfamiliar with Ruby Cabernet, take the time to read up on it.  An interesting hybrid.)  Raspberry and rhubarb on the nose.  A brilliant red.  Fruit in the front, huge in the mid-palate, and an incredibly smooth finish.  An amazing wine.  If you are lucky enough to spend a Saturday at Solaro, you can sample this beauty by the glass at a great discount while listening to their music series.  This wine alone is worth the visit.

I love being “wowed” by Texas wines. I love seeing family-run wineries excel at what they are doing.  I love when the people at a winery add to the charm of the experience.  Solaro Estate exceeded my expectations in each of these areas and was an all around delight.  A perfect way to get outside and spend a spring afternoon near Austin.   With the impending release of the Barbera, I think we will be heading west again soon.