Picnic with Portugal-Memorial Day Wines

You’ve been invited to a BBQ or a picnic this weekend with 20 of your closest acquaintances.  You know them, but not well enough to know their taste in wine.  Do they drink wine? Are they REALLY into wine?  You want something nice, but not too nice.  Interesting, but approachable.  Something that goes with a wide variety of foods and one that can be sipped solo.  It can be intimidating, but not impossible.

Look no further than the wines of Portugal.  You will find new varieties that may serve as conversation starters.  You’ll find value.  You’ll find versatility.

Sweltering? Pick up a low-alcohol, refreshing Vinho Verde.  You can sip all day without embarrassing yourself. BBQ chicken? Try an Alvarinho. Grilling ribs? Perequita pairs wonderfully. Burgers? The Esteva Douro* would fit the bill.

Not sure what is on the menu? You can grab a white and a red for around $20.

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I recently grilled some ribs with a rub and a quick Root Beer BBQ sauce. I reduced said brew down to a syrup and added Stubbs.  (I said it was quick.) The Periquita*, a blend of Castelao, Trincadeira, and Aragones (Tempranillo) complemented the smoky spice, the acid cut the sweet and kept it fresh. This wine can be found a Whole Foods for around $10.

Whether you plan on celebrating this Memorial weekend with a few close friends or joining a large group, check out the Wines of Portugal.  There is something for everyone at a price everyone can afford. Cheers to that!

I would be remiss in mentioning Memorial Day without expressing gratitude for my freedom to do so. Thank you to all of the men and women that serve our country and have sacrificed their time, lives, and families so that we can be free. There are walks going all throughout the country with the organization, Carry the Load. There will be a walk in Austin area. Follow the link for more information on the organization. My deepest gratitude to those that have served and those that continue to do so.

*{These wines were received as media samples from Palm Bay International. I received no other compensation.  Thoughts and opinions are my own.}

 

 

 

 

Friday Fancy Ticklers

Sometimes I have products I want to share that have nothing to do with wine. Some are samples, some are finds, all are current obsessions.  Ok maybe not full-fledged obsessions, but they certainly tickle my fancy.

Evan Healy Face Products

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I already loved the mask, a recommendation from a friend, so when they were sampling the facial serum and tonic at Whole Foods, I tried.  I couldn’t stop smelling and feeling my arm. I stopped in the next day to try it on my face.  And the next day to buy it.  I’m pretty sure my skin has never been so soft.

These plant-based products are based on the idea that “less is more.” The idea is to restore the balance of the skin so that is thrives.  The tonic hydrosol is 100% Organic Rose Geranium, the serum is fruit and flower oils and Vitamin E.  The idea for choosing the right fit? Smell them, your body will tell you what you need by which scent you are most attracted to.

I love the idea of minimal, clean ingredients in and on my body.  Check them out.

Millcreek Cacao Roasters*

 

As part of the Austin Food Bloggers Association, I was given a chance to sample these Farm to Bar chocolates.  The company is dedicated to preserving heirloom quality cacao through sustainable practices and support of small farmers.  Owners Mark DelVecchio and Dana Brewster are committed to maintaining direct trade relationships to produce the finest quality cacao and chocolate.

The commitment shows.  I like my chocolate like I like my wine: clean, honest, with a sense of place.  Subtle fruit and spice, just enough sweet to enhance the flavors.  These are beautifully made and beautifully packaged.  If you are looking for a gift for a chocolate lover, or yourself, this is a gift that keeps giving.

For more information about what they are doing in Ecuador, visit their blog.

Royitos Hot Sauce

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I could drink this.  I love salsa, especially ones that taste this fresh.  The perfect amount of spice, acid, a little salty, a lot addicting.  It is on the pricey side of salsa at around $5 but my mouth waters every time I see it and I can’t pass it up.

Wine Wipes*

 

A cute little compact to wipe the blue residue when you’ve been indulging in reds.  These came in VERY handy at the Wine Bloggers Conference last year.  If you, like me, have somewhat porous enamel and get the blue hue, these may be worth the investment. They also come in singles so you can hand them out or stick one in your clutch.

Pop-Up Campers

Ok, these don’t really fit the list, but I am truly obsessed with finding one for this summer’s trip.  If you have any experience or tips, please enlighten me. Shower? No shower? things to look for/avoid, etc. On that note, I am also thinking of chronicling our family camping adventures (travel, cooking, campground, spots to stop) in a new blog.  If you have any favorite camping blogs, share!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

{*These items were received as media samples.  I received no additional compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own.}

 

 

Gifts that Matter on Mother’s Day

My favorites gifts have always been those which cannot be wrapped. They are gifts that say, “I see you.  I am listening.” They may or may not come on any appointed day, but their value is intrinsic and enduring.

I have been in several stores this week and, everywhere you look, there are marketing sections centered around Mother’s Day.  I watched the crowds swell in front of the card section yesterday as I made a return.  Pre-made bouquets line the checkout lines and I shudder to think of the jewelry store budgets. To what end?

Most mothers that I know, mine included, just want extra hugs and a day off from dishes.  We love the handmade cards from our children and the gratitude and care from our spouses, but that is all we need. (And some pink bubbles don’t hurt.)

But I know that I am one of the lucky ones.  Anne Lamott posted a rant on her Facebook page yesterday about the holiday.  And while her stance is more extreme than mine, it solidified some of the notions I have been having this week.  I have been acutely aware of the pain that accompanies this, and many holidays, for people I love dearly.

I have friends that have lost mothers in recent years; the pain, which is always there, is magnified.

I have other friends who had mothers that they did not want to celebrate, the disappointment palpable.

I have friends that see the window of opportunity closing.  They wanted to have children but are now understanding that age is working against them.

I have friends that have lost children, in pregnancy and years later. I cannot imagine the hole that will never be filled.

I have watched the avoidance, the cues, the attempts to put on a happy face from those that have not been able to have children, despite years of trying.

One woman I love more than life told me, “It is a sadness that never really goes away…people ask you ask the time, do you have kids? And you always have to answer no…it hurts a little every time.

To all of these friends, I see you and I am listening.

I am grateful, beyond words, for a mother worth celebrating. She goes out of her way to make sure that people feel seen and heard.

Despite an impossible list of things to do, she would stop and talk with the butcher about his health problems.

Despite a dwindling checking account, she would buy groceries for the person struggling.

She would stop and pray with the person she just met in line at the bank and ask the teller about her new grandchild.

She was a mom to all of my friends, the queen of field trips and extra hugs.

She listened to the lonely, cried with the broken, rejoiced with relieved.

I see it in my siblings; I aspire to be like her.  Mom, we saw, we listened.

George McDonald said, “If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.

This Mother’s Day, I am so grateful for the gifts my mother gave me.  I am grateful for the children I have been given. I am grateful for my friends and family.  I want you to know that you are seen, you are loved, and I am listening.

 

 

Secrets and Privileges on Cinco de Mayo

If you were hoping for margarita recipes, I’ve got you covered over here. This Cinco de Mayo, I am reviewing two hotels from our recent stay over the border.

We made it.  Ten years is big milestone and to celebrate we went on our first trip alone since having the littles.  We headed south to Cancun and then a few days on Isla Mujeres.  A quick non-stop flight from Austin and a short cab ride and we were on the beach.  It took even less time for me to completely absorb the essence and enter complete and total relaxation.

 

Secrets the Vine:

The Jist: I could go on and on about this place.  Greeted with hot cloths and bubbles, spectacular view from our balcony, immaculate service.  Seriously, if you even think you want something, it is there.  I think they have telepathy.  They certainly have the best customer service skills I have experienced in any hotel. The entire facility is impeccable. I cannot recommend this hotel enough and I can’t wait to return.  When we told people we were heading out after one day, they all asked why, understandably.

Rooms: We upgraded to a higher level suite with view of both the bay and the ocean.  Super clean, stocked mini-bar, eating and lounge options, and chock full of every toiletry you might need. The shower had both a standard head and a rain shower option.  Beautifully decorated.  The ONLY thing I would change would be the sheets but now I sound like a diva.

Hungry? Choose one of six restaurants. Or room service. Or pick up something from the snack bar, espresso bar, lunch buffet. Our favorite was the lunch at Sea Salt.  Two kinds of ceviche the first day, pork tacos the second. The Salmon ceviche was lime, ginger, and I think lemongrass.  My husband had the Peruvian. Add a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc while looking at the ocean and you will get a glimpse of heaven.

 

Thirsty? There are three bars outside, nine total, excellent beach service. The drinks were great.  Top-shelf liquor and tasty mixed drinks.  Our favorite was the Iceberg-Corona with a dollop of frozen margarita. A wine bar, sports bar, lounges in and outside.  An extensive wine list (most additional fee). Something to fit any mood.

Surrounding area: Well, other than a walk a the beach, we didn’t get that far. Why would we? When you’re in paradise you don’t have to see anything else.

We were tempted to stay but we were committed, and excited, to have a quiet experience on the island.  So after our late checkout, we jumped in a very nice taxi provided by the hotel and went to the ferry dock to catch the Ultramar for a twenty minute jet across to the island of women.

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The Jist: One of the few large hotels on the island, it is on the first part of Playa Norte, one of the top beaches in the world.  The water is calm and blue and the beaches are soft, white sand. The grounds are full of tropical plants, the pool and beach areas have plenty of seating options and are very well-maintained.

Rooms: I knew we were going to have to lower our expectations after Secrets, but I didn’t realize how much. I knew there would not be the glamour-factor and I was ok with that.  What I was not ok with was the smell of vomit outside our room that permeated or the smears of who-knows-what, or the drops of something red (bio-hazard?) by our little pool, or the filth in the sink.  I am pretty sure there were tears.

I know, I know, that is dramatic, but when it is your first trip away, you don’t want smears.

After much hub-bub, (hazard tape and photos and security-I kid you not) we were moved to a cleaner version. Sparse, but clean, nice bathrooms and toiletries.  The “stocked” mini-bar had a few sodas and some Cheetos. A kitchenette with nothing in it. An amazing deck with small private pool and great view. An additional deck on the first floor.  The suite would be great for a larger party. For us, it felt like excessive because we were never in the room, but the sunsets were incredible with a bottle of Argyle bubbles I had picked up at Vino Volo in Austin.

Hungry? Hmmm…let’s start with the good.  The nachos on the beach were great. The breakfast buffet was good. Ummm…dinner.  Well, the first night we were told that Satay, their flagship restaurant, was booked but if there were cancellations he could fit us in. We walked by an hour later to find an empty restaurant.  Maybe three tables full? He found room for us.  House wine was undrinkable, so we bought a bottle of Mexican Chenin Blanc by Casa Madero.  It was tasty: apple, acid, some tropical notes.  A pleasant surprise.

Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that was the end of the pleasant.  Our best dinner was barely ok. My husband got food poisoning both our first and third nights.  Not mild discomfort.  The kind where I had to stay up with him all night and thought about calling an ambulance. The GMs response as we were leaving? Well, I need to get you checked out by a doctor. Maybe you just drank the water.  Um, no.

And seriously, I can’t believe the combinations.  We had dinner on the beach and they chose the menu.  It was incredibly romantic and beautiful. Our server was a gem. The food? Inedible. Except, according to my husband, the shrimp soup TASTED good. But you know how that ended. Just so you know I’m not just being crazy picky, I’ll explain the salad.  Nice presentation, HORRIBLE combination: Tomato carved out with lettuce in it. Asparagus with maraschino cherries and strawberry (syrup) vodka dressing. WHAT?!? Who thought that would be good together? Ok, enough bashing.

My advice? Skip the all-inclusive, order nachos for lunch and go out for dinner.

Thirsty? The guys serving on the beach were great: always friendly, fun to chat with, attentive. Apparently there is no (or very little)  fresh juice on the island.  Even mimosas were made with some kind of syrupy orange drink. Stick with beer or mojitos or similar. And some tequila for good measure. Or even walk down the block and buy a coconut, order a shot of rum and make your own drink. But again, I’m not complaining.  I was laying in a palapa while the hubs recovered while drinks were served and I read. Happy girl.

Surrounding area: This is where this resort shines. Playa Norte is amazing. There were massages next to the property for $35 an hour.  We rented a golf cart and went around the entire island.  Ruins on one end, stops for a cold beer, adventure options. The water was the perfect temperature, calm and aqua blue.  The town retains what we love about Mexico: color, crafts, and a zesty but relaxed spirit. So much charm and beauty on this little island. We loved the people and the place. So much so that we will go back.  A nice small clean room and we will go out to eat and buy our own mixers.

We kept asking ourselves: Why have we not done this before? It was such an easy, restorative weekend. We also kept saying how much our children would love it which I would guess means that we are fully entrenched in this parenthood thing. But we will still make time for “Secret” weekends so we can make it another ten. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

 

 

 

Radicc-ulous Salad-Monday Wines

I don’t mean to brag, but I have been given the title of the “Salad Queen.”  I know, you’re jealous.  I am sure it is not exclusive, so no need to panic.  You, too, can be given that accolade by your significant other. In all seriousness, I love to make salads.  I don’t plan in advance too often; it is a matter of seeing what I have in the house.

I try to play off moods, season, and pairing.  Usually it begins with a green, then some sort of texture(veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds), sometimes an accent (cheese, bacon,) and then a dressing that compliments.  Dressing is some sort of oil or fat and an acid (lemon, vinegar), salt and pepper, often an emulsifier (Dijon usually) and sometimes a specific flavor (herb, jam, juice, etc.)

Last night I made, what I would consider, one of the best.  I’ve mentioned before that I kind of enjoy the challenge of a somewhat empty fridge.  Less waste, more effort.  I was marinating chicken with the Cornell recipe.  I had always referred to it as “Grandma’s chicken” because it was what my grandmother had made all the time.  A friend pointed out the similarity to the Cornell chicken and I found myself corrected.  Regardless, it is an easy, tasty, versatile recipe that is always a hit.

Digging through my empty fridge, I found dandelion greens, radicchio, carrots.  I decided to roast the carrots and do a play on the salad at St. Philip.

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Radicc-ulous Salad

Dandelion Greens (or any you have)

Chopped Radicchio (or another bitter green)

Roasted and cooled carrots (oil and salt at 350 for about 30 minutes)

Pistachios (or pumpkin seeds or similar)

Feta (or goat or similar)

Olive oil drizzle, salt, pepper, and a generous squeeze of Meyer (or regular) lemon.

Oh my.  I enjoyed every single bite.

We paired it with a Rosé from the Languedoc region: 2014 Côté Mas 2012 Rosé Aurore*.  The blend is 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 20% Syrah. A beautiful salmon pink, the nose was tart red fruit and floral.  A nice amount of acid making it lovely by itself and a great compliment to the food.  When I initially tasted it, I found it to lean towards the floral, specifically lavender.  With the food, it became silky and the fruit notes awakened.  A great value at around $12, this is one I would drink all summer long.

I mentioned before that I rarely planned salads.  This is one I will plan to repeat, for sure, and, although you could go in many directions with the wine, I see no reason to stray from this pairing. Happy Monday!

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*{This wine was received as a media sample from Gregory White PR.  Thoughts and opinions are my own and I received no further compensation.}

 

Taste the Memory- Brunello di Montalcino and Snooth Virtual Tasting

I had been once before.  My parents and I weaved and wandered through Umbria to the hills of Tuscany.  It was the year 2000.  They carefully planned our route to highlight loves from their previous visit. Assisi, Montepulciano, to Montalcino.  We nibbled on Ricciarelli as we combed the cobbled streets.  Although we visited a few tasting rooms that day, I did not know much about what I was tasting.

When I returned seven years later, I came with both a husband and a love of wine. Not an abundance of knowledge, but a well established affinity.  Our course was defined by both a desire to share what I had seen years before and epicurean exploration.  When we entered the medieval walls of Montalcino, we were met with crowds and signs indicating and food and wine festival that was about to begin.  Luck was on our side.  When the booths opened, there was one thing I wanted:a glass of Brunello di Montalcino.   We found a bench overlooking the hills of Tuscany and toasted.

In 2007 with Brunello di Montalcino

In 2007 with Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino is 100% Sangiovese grown in one of the warmest, most arid climates of Tuscany.  It is fermented  and held in Slavonian Oak.

Fattoria dei Barbi was established as a winemaking estate in 1790 making it one of the oldest estates to continually produce wine in the region. Colombini is the 20th generation heir. With new technology and respect for tradition, the name continues to well represent the region. These grape are hand-harvested and given a “cold-soak” for 48 hours before fermentation.

Tonight I will join Gregory Dal Piaz, Snooth’s Editor-in-Chief and Fattoria dei Barbi’s owner Stefano Colombini to discuss five examples of Brunello that are currently available.

When the invitation to participate in tonight’s event came, I was thrilled.  When I opened the shipment, I was taken back.  As I turned over and inspected each label, I couldn’t help but smile.  One of the bottles we will be tasting tonight is from the 2007 vintage.  The same grapes that were just breaking on the vine as we meandered through the back roads of the region, were potentially the grapes in the bottle I was holding.  And I can’t wait to taste them.

Join us tonight, April 27th at 8:30est, 5:30pst for a discussion of Brunello.   We will be tasting:

  • 2013 Brusco dei Barbi
  • 2011 Rosso di Montalcino
  • 2008 Brunello di Montalcino
  • 2008 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
  • 2007 Vigna del Fiore

For more information on tonight’s tasting, please visit Snooth and grab a bottle of Fattoria dei Barbi to join the discussion.  Salute!

 

Hye-ly Inspired-Texas Tuesday

DSC_0837When the blue beckons, one must answer.  If you have not experienced the sea of bluebonnets in the spring in Texas, put it on your bucket list.  This year was truly spectacular.  We discovered the ultimate spot a few years ago when we were camping at LCRA’s Muleshoe Bend.  I have kept it quiet as it was one of the few remaining secrets of Austin, but Do512 put an end to that recently.  Not only were there more people there than I’ve ever seen, there were people collecting entrance fees (it had been honor system), reserved camping spots, and they were paving and building what appeared to be a boat dock in the area we have camped for over a decade. The price of progress.

The best way to drown our sorrows? A little more wildflowers and a little wine.  We headed down 281 to 290 and we simply can’t be that close to Hye without popping in somewhere.  We picked up our shipment at William Chris and then stopped at Hye Meadow Winery.  Generally I like to avoid the weekends, especially when my children are in tow.  I try to avoid crowds and like to come when there is time to ask questions and spend some time with the wine.  Whether it was the threat of rain or the impending holiday, the Saturday before Easter was actually a quiet one.

Chris Black greeted us and, as luck would have it, not only was owner Mike Batek there, he was available.  I asked Chris to pour whatever he thought I needed to try. It turns out that was a dangerous proposition.  I thought it would be a couple whites, a couple reds.  In the few years that they have been open, they have greatly expanded their line-up.

Their goal in winemaking is to take the wine seriously, themselves with levity. All of the whites are gently pressed and fermented in stainless. The reds are primarily Mediterranean grapes which spend less than 30% of time in new oak.  While the goal is to be producing 100% Texas wine, they are still sourcing some, mostly from the Northwest.

We began with bubbles, Hye-Albert Cuvee.  The blend is Chenin and Riesling done in a Charmat style. Always a fun beginning.  We moved through a few whites: Trebbiano, Junkyard White (Muscat blanc and Riesling), and Roussanne. It was close.  They all were balanced with great aromatics but the Roussanne stood out. Consistently elegant from start to finish. The ombré label was inspired by the grape itself which ripens from the green to the russet.

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When Mike and winemaker Jeff Ivy were playing with a Tempranillo Rose, Jeff looked at the color and declared that it was “not quite pink.”  Thus the name.  Junkyared Red is one blend, HyJynx  another. A new addition to the line will be a 100% Montepulciano named “The Full Monty.” While they were all tasty, my two favorites were the Sangiovese and the Aglianico, not surprising if you follow my taste in wine.

Mike and his wife, Denise, went on a trip through southern Italy with the focus being on Aglianico. The research paid off. Duchman was the first winery in Texas to bring the grape here and I don’t know of any other producers but I hope to see more.

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Down the road at William Chris

Not only are the wines delicious, the space has its own magic.  Acres of oaks and a neighboring horse, a swing, yard games.  Mike gave my children clues to find a skeleton with a story and there is plenty of room to run. It is hard to say who had more fun.

The vision for a winery began with divine inspiration. With each year, each new crop, the inspiration continues. I know I felt it.

Many thanks to Chris Black and Mike Batek for spending the afternoon with my family and for sharing your little piece of Hill Country Heaven with all of us.

 

Make Your Easter Celebration Sparkle

SAHMmelier:

Many thanks to Michelle for including me with these far more experienced writers. She asked for an accessible California sparkler and, of course, J was the first thought. News of the Gallo takeover after I’d reviewed which was disappointing. I hope they are able to maintain their family feel.
I’m excited to be joining our church family in serving the city’s homeless population. If you are in Austin and would like to help, let me know. If you are not in Austin, you can still contribute by sending a pair of shoes for our shoe drive. Message me for more info.
I hope you have a wonderful holiday with loved ones. Cheers!

Originally posted on ROCKIN RED BLOG:

This is the first in a two part series on wines to enjoy with your Easter meal celebrations. Easter is a day of great joy and celebration for Christians all over the world; what better wine to enjoy on such a celebratory day than bubbles! This article focuses on Easter brunch and the outstanding sparkling wines to pair with that meal for your friends and family. Furthermore, I have enlisted the assistance of some of my favorite wine bloggers. These are all blogs I follow; each is informative with its own unique style, all are educational. I highly recommend you follow each of these bloggers. Please note these recommendations range in price from $6 – $60 and includes a variety of sparkling wines  from the US, France, Italy Spain and Chile. Enjoy each of these sparkling wine recommendations, make a list of the ones that fit your taste, then head…

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Spring Forward

 

One thing that is consistent about Texas weather is its inconsistency. Fifty degree swings in 24 hours are not unheard of.  In fact the week before Spring Break we had freezing temperatures, the weekend it began we hit the seventies, the second weekend was chilly and raining.

Another consistent for Spring break is daily drinking with friends. There were plenty of opportunities to do some sampling, and those bottles were as varied as the temperatures.

The week before, I participated in a Snooth Twitter Tasting with Ruffino‘s line of Chianti*.  They ranged from the 2013 Chianti DOCG ($9) with bright red fruit and plenty of acid to the 2010 Riserva Ducale Oro ($28), a rich, layered, brooding example of what Sangiovese can be.  One thing remained true throughout.  These are well made, balanced wines that are priced to benefit the customer. It was a pleasure to hear from the winemaker, Gabriele Tacconi, about both the history and winemaking process and the participants always entertain.  If you haven’t joined before, we will banter again on Monday April 27th,

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Malbec is a grape I enjoy more in cooler weather so I made it a point to open a sample from Rutini** ($18) before the temps changed.  This 100% Malbec from Argentina is held in 50% French, 50% American barrels.  The fruit was deep, rich, intense and has a smooth and spicy finish.  I paired it with a ratatouille with turkey sausage, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, onion, tomatoes, and herbs.  I finished the sauce with some of the Malbec and let it simmer for a couple of hours.  It turned out really well and paired nicely.

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Later that week we opened the Rutini** Chardonnay($18).  Chardonnay is generally not my go-to white, but when the oak is subtle and the fruit has a starring role, I am in.  This wine had tropical fruit notes and honey balanced with abundant acid.  50% goes though Malolactic fermentation and it sits in New French Oak for 10 months. I rarely make recipes anymore but as I was thumbing through my mom’s Country Living magazine, I found this for Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts linguine.  Since I had the ingredients (sub bacon for pancetta and pasta) I gave it a try.  Lovely together.

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By mid-break I was in the mood for Sauvignon Blanc and so I invited a neighbor over to sample with me.  These two SBs from Chile were vastly different. Outer Limits by Montes($30)*** is a series that explores grapes from new regions.  This bottle yields from the Zapallar vineyards in Chile, 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean.  This came as no surprise to me as the first sip tasted like the ocean.  A great deal of salinity, tropical fruit, and citrus with a touch of oily green.  The color reminded me of an unripened banana, yellow with hues of green.  Although not my preferred style of SB, it was a food-friendly, complex, and interesting wine.

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The second Montes wine was Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc ($15)***. Grass, white peach, and floral notes on the nose and in the mouth.  Crisp, fresh, floral and delicious.   Grown in the Leyda Valley, this was exactly what I am looking for when I open a Sauvignon Blanc.

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They say if you don’t like the weather, wait.  By Friday, it was chilly and rainy.  I had previously caramelized onions for French Onion Soup and then frozen them.  I knew it might be our last chill of the season so I decided to finish the process.  With one more sample that was predominantly Malbec looming, I knew what I had to do: call in the hubs for red meat reserves. When the wine suggests decanting for at least an hour, you know you’re dealing with a big one and the soup just wouldn’t cut it.

The 2011 Achaval Ferrar Quimera**($38) is a Bordeaux style blend but the predominant grape is Malbec. 60% was aged 12 months in 1-year old French oak barrels, 40% 12 months in new French oak barrels. The color was a deep cherry plum, the nose conveyed spicy dust and sun-warmed fruit.  A surprising amount of acid at first, it faded as it opened.  Black fruit and alpine herbs with sturdy structure and a long finish.

There are some wines that I receive as samples that, in my mind, need to be held for a bit.  It pains me to open them, but it hangs over my head if I don’t. This was one of those wines. In retrospect, I would have paired it a little differently (stinky cheese?), decanted more, and held it a little longer.  It was clearly well-made and has potential, but I think I missed the mark with this one. Now I know.

Sometimes price point is not an indicator of how much you will enjoy the wine.  Yet another reason to taste before you judge and  review with an open mind.  In each of these samplings, for whatever reason, I found myself enjoying the wines that were less costly. Now if only that were true with shoes…clothes…hotels…

Wishing my friends up north a jump towards spring and for my friends in Texas, a lengthy one.  Cheers!

*These wines were provided as media samples for Snooth Virtual Tasting and I received no other compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

**These wines were provided as media samples by Gregory White PR and I received no other compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

***These wines were provided as media samples by Feast PR and I received no other compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

 

 

An Enchanted Weekend

This past weekend, we kicked off Spring Break with a camping trip to Enchanted Rock.  It was a plan that originated nearly a year ago, apparently the required lead-time for a spot over this crowded weekend.  Our friends and neighbors made the reservation, we divided meal responsibilities, and we headed west.

On the menu for Friday was pulled pork.  Tempranillo was just the wine to fit the bill.  I had a sample from Rioja and another from Texas.  The plan was to open both and compare. To me, comparing wines with other regions, producers, or years is a great learning tool.

We opened a 2012 Viña Zaco* from Rioja and a 2012 Duchman Family Wnery Tempranillo from the Bayer Family Vineyard.  They may have begun thousands of miles apart, but when opened, there was much less distance.

Both were medium to fuller bodied with good structure, a blend of fruit and spice.  Each wine complimented the smoky pork and held up to the acid in the sauce and slaw.

The Viña Zaco began with a pop of red fruit, then faded into floral spice with a touch of smoke.  Or maybe it was the campfire? Either way, it was delightful. This wine spent nine months in barrel with a mixture of equal time in French and American oak.

The Duchman Tempranillo was slightly more fruit-forward, tempered with earth and spice.  They choose to use neutral oak.  This wine could go in several pairing directions.  But is there a better match for Texas wine than BBQ and sunset at Enchanted Rock?  I think not.

Enchanted Rock is a magical place.  The red granite meets the blue sky, arid terrain and springs highlight the path.  The beauty is in the contrast.  Much like a good Tempranillo, the soft floral notes meet the weighted spice, the fruit is tempered with earth and leather. The result?  A wine that shines, no matter the scene.  But this dinner, with these friends in this space?  That’s a hard one to beat.

For more information on how other Texas producers are doing with Tempranillo, follow Texas Wine Journal for an upcoming report.

*{This wine was provided as a media sample by Gregory White PR.  I received no other compensation.  Thoughts and opinions are my own.}