Meanwhile in #TXwine-Texas Tuesday

While my opportunities to sneak away may diminish with summer, the world of Texas wine isn’t slowing.  In fact, it continues to expand in size and reputation.  My news feed has been full of announcements of accolades, invitations, and openings.  While I can’t attend or respond to all of them in the 18 minutes of free time,(on a good day) I am there in spirit, and in time, I’ll get to experience these wines and places myself.

One event I was able to attend was sponsored by Llano Estacado and featured wines from their new line for restaurants, Mont Sec.  The Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache Rose are made from grapes from Mont Sec Vineyards in the Chihuahuan Desert. Despite the rugged climate and challenging conditions, the area yields fruit that makes fantastic wine.  I really enjoyed both wines and would buy them by the case if I could.  Unfortunately, they are only available through restaurants.  If you see them, don’t hesitate.


I paired the Mont Sec Sauvignon Blanc with Greek style meatballs, Tzatziki. and cucumber salad.  I shared the bottle with my family, all of whom were impressed. The Rose was a fun fresh compliment to a casual Friday dinner of Berbere meatballs, Rosemary white bean dip, asparagus. My only complaint was that there was a hole in my glass.


The other stand-out of the evening was, of course, the flagship Viviano ($35).  The nod to a Super Tuscan (70% Cab, 30% Sangiovese) is a perennial favorite.  Jubilant fruit, spice, elegance.  I paired a bottle with lamb chops, roasted fingerlings, and kale avocado salad.  It worked, but I think I could have done better.  I’ll have to try again.

Hawk’s Shadow Winery had their opening this past weekend in Dripping Springs.  I wish I could tell you something about the wine, but this is one I missed.  Since Saturdays from 12-6 are currently booked, it may have to wait until fall.  For more information, see their website.

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, Flat Creek will be holding Vinopalooza on premise.  Music and wine in a beautiful setting sounds like a great way to celebrate.  For tickets and more detailed information, follow this link.

One of my favorite Texas wineries received five awards at the recent San Francisco International Wine competition.  Congratulations Kim and company.  You continue to impress me with the quality of wines that you are able to make while keeping them accessibly priced.  I’ll miss our stop this summer. McPherson Cellars wines stood out with the following wines:

Les Copains Rosé – GOLD
Les Copains White – Silver
Albariño – Silver
Viognier – Bronze
La Herencia – Bronze

In the same competition, Brennan Vineyards became the first Texas winery to bring home TWO Double Golds. The 2014 Mourvedre Dry Rose and the 2013 Tempranillo were both given the highest accolades.  I can’t wait to try them!

Wedding Oak Winery was awarded “Best Albariño” and given Double Gold for the same wine. They also received two bronze medals for Terre Rouge and Sangiovese.

These are the awards I have found via social media but when the full list is released today I am sure we will be adding to the list.

Finally, another wine on the list to try is one bottle by Vinovium Partners that I spied at Whole Foods Arbor Trails. I have the utmost respect for the guys behind this, Daniel Kelada and Craig Mayer.  They are driving the Texas Wine Journal and putting their efforts, energies, and enthusiasm into Texas wine like few others.


In summer, my children’s freedom expands, mine shrinks.  And attempts to shrink waistlines for summer means an expanding list of wines I need to try.  My apologies for not much in the way of personal experience, but just because I’m having less fun in the wine world doesn’t mean you can’t have it for me.  I’d love to hear about your adventures and new discoveries in #TXwine. I’ll put them on the list for the freedom of fall. Cheers!

P.S.  The complete list is available now on TX Wine Lover.  So much to be excited about!

Balance, Bubbles, and Bertolucci

Nearly two decades ago, a film set in the Tuscan countryside provided my first wine-related epiphany.  Not through her teenage prattle or any life-changing plot, but through one scene in particular.  The rich golden rays on a rustic table, wildflowers and clinking glasses, laughter and debate beneath the branches. I remember so clearly thinking: THAT.  That is what I want in my life.

Perhaps the memory is idealized, it has been half a lifetime ago, but the sentiment remains strong. It is a moment I’ve chased, and caught several times.  Outside of Rome, on the hills of Sonoma, the Hill Country of Texas, and even whispers of it in downtown Austin.

Whether it was the breadth of the table, the diversity of the group, the lively conversation or the Old World wines, something about a recent wine lunch reminded me of that movie. Gregory White PR held a lunch at Second Bar and Kitchen with representatives, writers, and winemakers from some of their brands: Codorniu, Scala Dei, and Artesa.


I was familiar with the Cava of Codorniu, a staple for everyday value and one I’ve recommended before, so it was a pleasure to meet Bruno Colomer Marti.  Marti has been the head winemaker there since 2008 and his dedication to quality is evident.  Before the lunch, I had only sampled the entry-level wines ($8-12) and was blown away by Reserva and Vintage Pinot Noir sparklers.  Delicate, fresh, complex.  The Gran Codorniu Pinot Noir was a favorite with the fresh berry notes and long, lively finish and at an excellent value at $20. (It is in my refrigerator now, in fact.) Effervescent, approachable, and complex: a reflection of the winemaker.

All dinner parties should have a few surprises.  Ricard Rofes of Scala Dei took on that role. Perhaps it was the language barriers, perhaps the size of the group, but he seemed to be more of a quiet observer at first. Friendly and warm, but reserved.  However, when it was time to discuss his beloved Priorat and his wines, his passion was evident. He explained the history, the unfamiliar grapes, the process and soils. And when we tasted, we understood.  We tasted a Garnatxa and two blends, Prior and Cartoxia. Each wine was intense, but balanced.  Deeply saturated color which is typical of the region. The Cartoxia was strength and spice, incredibly elegant. Powerful, but subtle. Sound familiar?

Representing the domestic line was Artesa from Napa.  The Chardonnay was fresh citrus and baked apple.  The Pinot Noir had great clarity with red berries and spice. Very tasty wines. If asked about what wines from Carneros taste like, this would be a top contender for examples.  Well made, well-balanced, and a classic representation of the region.

The name “Scala Dei” translates to “Ladder of God.” This rings true to me on many levels.  The region’s beauty is dramatic and awe-inspiring.  The fruit it produces tastes like a gift from above. Most importantly, the collective enjoyment of the resulting products brings people together in a unique way.  Sharing a glass leads to sharing a story. Sharing stories brings connectivity. Connectivity provides the rungs of the ladder; it is what this life is about.

Many thanks to Patricia Clough at Gregory White PR and Aveniu Brands for inviting me and the opportunity to meet such wonderful people. Thank you Bruno and Ricard for taking the time away from your families and your work to share your wines. Thank you to each person that brought a piece of yourselves and shared with us all.  I will always drink to that. Cheers!

BTW-I made a last minute jump into the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge with this piece.  If you liked it, please vote. I haven’t entered in over a year!

{I was invited as media to this lunch.  I received no additional compensation.  Thoughts and opinions are my own.}

A Trifecta of Taste-Somms Under Fire

I made it!  I have been trying for three years to make it to Somms Under Fire but January always seems to conspire against me with sick children and cedar misery.  Not this year.  They say “third times the charm” and three was the theme for the evening.  Three Sommeliers from around the country paired wines for three courses for three judges.  The sommeliers were judged on three levels: pairing, service, and education.

Competing were:

Advanced Sommelier Luke Boland

Advanced Sommelier Eric Crane

Advanced Sommelier James Watkins

The judges were:

Winery Owner and Sommelier, Rajat Parr

Author and Wine Writer, Jordan Mackay

Master Sommelier Jay James, Chappellet Wines

There were 9 wines available for pairing.  The sommeliers sampled and took turns pairing.  Once a wine was chosen, it was no longer available.  The somms then served and explained their choices as the audience sampled the fare and the wines. In the end, James Watkins walked away with the title of Champion.

The winning pairings were:

First Course:  2012 Prager Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Hinter der Burg,
paired with Charred Broccoli with White Bean, Mushroom Confit, Preserved Lemon, Poached Egg, & Gulf Bottarga, created by Chef Jason Stude, Boiler Nine Bar + Grill
Second Course:  2012 A. A. Badenhorst Secateurs, Red Blend paired with Roasted Pork Loin, Sunchoke, Endive, Tangerine, Curry Mustard created by Chef David Bull, Congress Austin
Third Course:  2013 Patrick Puize Chablis “Terroir Découverte”, paired with Coomersdale, Bonnieview Farm, Vermont;  Goat Gouda, Central Coast Creamery, California and Everton Reserve, Jacobs & Brichford, Indiana, hand selected by Antonelli’s Cheese Shop

According to sponsor Keeper Collection’s newsletter, James Watkins will also receive” a scholarship to attend “Wine Internship in Burgundy, France under the tutelage of Burgundy Author and Expert,  Allen Meadows, of Burghound, focusing on the Village of Chambolle Musigny. provided by Peter Wasserman of Becky Wasserman & Co., and a $1,000 travel grant presented by the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas, as well as a Laguiole Champagne Saber, presented by Keeper Collection, LLC.”

It was a great evening of food, wine, and fellowship that I was able to share with my sister as guests of Diane Dixon and an event that I will make every effort to attend in the future. The food was top-notch and all of the wines were delicious but after the pairings, I found myself reaching for more of the 2012 Lioco “Indica” Carignan from Mendocino County.  Great acid, bright fruit, complex and easy to drink.

Many thanks to Diane, Keeper Collection, and to the family of Sommelier Nathan Prater who shared their table and company with us.







Reflections on 2014-Part 2

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
Marcel Proust

2014 was a year in which my soul blossomed.  A seed, or should I say cutting, was planted years ago, one of fascination, intrigue.  A love, not just for wine, but for the people behind the wine, began to grow. Through the cultivation of connectedness and encouragement that vine began to produce fruit. I am grateful.

Each year, WordPress provides a year-end summary of the site’s performance.  Included is a list of the most popular posts of the year. Each of the five most popular posts could be tied back to the idea of gratitude. Three out of five of them were connected to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, my first highlight of 2014.

1) Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #6, January

I had enjoyed reading the entries in previous months, but when the theme “Mystery” was introduced, I couldn’t resist entering. It was an opportunity to share one of my favorite stories from our time in Italy, a story the voters enjoyed enough to honor. When writers you admire give a thumbs up, it is especially encouraging.

2)Wine Blogger’s Conference 2014

I applied on a whim, what could it hurt?  I’d always wanted to go, but didn’t know how I could afford to.  I had taken the year off from any freelance writing so how could I  justify spending the money when my venture was not producing any? It turns out that thanks to the wonderful people and companies behind the WBC Scholarships, I didn’t have to.

Mary Cressler took me under her wing and kept me laughing.  Rachel Voorhees charmed all of us at the Rodney Strong dinner. Thea Dwell’s enthusiasm in unmatched.  Anatoli Levine and Cyrus Limon provided familiar touch points.  Anatoli and I had met in Austin and bonded over Texas wine. Cyrus and I swapped stories since we had a mutual friend and he’d even been to my hometown. I felt a little like a groupie meeting the big publication writers and as if we were at a reunion with all of the Women Wine Writers I had never met.   The whole weekend was like summer camp meets college course at a candy store, only it was wine…and free.

The opportunity was one that I will never forget.  The idea that the people providing the scholarships saw potential in me was an incredible honor.  Finally getting to meet so many I’d admired, the friendships formed, were food for my soul.  Being able to learn from and be challenged by talented, driven writers was a boost I couldn’t have received in any other way.  It was truly a gift on every level.

3)Rodney Strong 25th Anniversary Dinners

Yes, dinners, plural. The first was in Solvang, the second in Austin…and NYC, Healdsburg, and Miami.  The food and wine were crazy good.  The first was a great way to kick off #WBC14 and an honor to be invited.  The company and shuttle ride were enough to make the evening one I won’t soon forget.  The second was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of evening with the collaboration of crazy-talented chefs.  I’m sure I wasn’t the best date since I was focused on trying to capture the event through social media, but it was a wonderful evening. I could not have attended were it not for the faith Carin Oliver at Angelsmith PR put in me.

4) G.H. Mumm’s VIP Formula 1 Amber Lounge Party

Are you kidding?  This was one fabulous party. Incredible music, sound system, lighting.  Beautiful people everywhere, a VIP section for the guests of Mumm, Champagne for days. I even wore sequins.  I kept asking my husband, “Did you ever imagine that my little hobby would lead to this?” Neither did I.

I was so impressed by the production required to totally transform La Zona Rosa into this crazy, swanky, nightclub.  But the people of Mumm not only did it, they did it with a smile. Warm, gracious, accommodating…even at 1am.  Which was when this lady turned into a pumpkin. Had we not scheduled a dinner party the next day, I may have stayed long enough to see the celebs and what happens at 4am, but this old lady just can’t do it anymore and still be smiling.

5) A Few of Her Favorite Things

Elizabeth Smith was one of the first bloggers I began reading.  I enjoyed watching her transition from a teacher to the wine world.  I learn from her honest introspection and get to live vicariously through her move, tackling her dreams in the Wine Country.  At the end of 2014, she put out a list of her favorite things: winery experiences, wines, wine firsts, and blogs.  I was moved, literally to tears, that my blog made her list. In my last post I mentioned “genuine encouragement in quiet ways” with Elizabeth in mind.  We were finally able to meet at the Wine bloggers conference.  In her writing and her manner, Elizabeth is both quiet and genuine.  She is subtle and wise and encouragement from her is truly an honor.

I could go on.  There were dinners with Sequoia Grove and Dry Creek Winegrowers, paella with Mia and lunch with Wines of Provence.  There were events like Tour de Vin and Big Reds and Bubbles.  Equally special, however, were the less glamorous dinner parties at home.  I am so fortunate to be able to buy quality ingredients to serve my family and friends.  I am grateful for the example my mother provided and the love of cooking she passed along.  Celebrating birthdays or creating occasions, being able to commune with those I love always feeds my soul.

Thank you for sharing in this journey with me.  Thank you for reading and for the encouragement.  Thank you for sharing your ideas and inspiration.  Most especially, thank you to all the “charming gardeners” that share yourselves over a glass of wine or with a click of a keyboard.  Cheers to a wonderful new year.


More Last Minute Gifts: Central Market Wine

We all have our favorite stores, or if you are like me, you have favorite stores for different types of shopping.  I like one store for staples, another for grass-fed beef, yet another for when I need a combination of staples and epicurean novelties.  When it comes to grocery stores for choosing wines, my favorite locally is Central Market Westgate.  The selection is excellent, the people are knowledgeable and easy-going.  Andy Christiansen took over the wine department a couple of years ago and he frequently holds themed tastings, holds secret stashes, and always has great recommendations.

Last week his newsletter contained his 10 favorite wines of 2014.  What I love about his list was that it is diverse and accessible.  Prices range from $13-$40 and all wines were (at the time) in stock.  That’s a practical list that I can work with.  I asked his permission to share with my readers.  If you are in Austin, you can find most, if not all, of these wines.  If you are elsewhere, I’m sure there are more than a few readily available.  Thank you, Andy, for the recommendations and for making the trips to the grocery store that much more fun.  I’ve been a very good girl so if Santa wants to put aside an Assobio for me I won’t complain.  Now, if you can create a list of 10 ways to keep my five-year old occupied while I peruse your department…


#1 2010 Chateau Carignan, Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux, $17.95

We introduced this around Halloween when we inevitability have guests asking for wines with vampires, devils or monsters on the label. To these inquiries, I would ask, “How about a wine that tastes like Halloween!?!”. This beautifully balanced wine tastes like a slightly bloody, rusty hatchet that was dipped into a bucket containing gorgeous blue and black fruits. Sounds slightly odd and gruesome but there is poetry here. David Lynch wishes he had made this wine!

#2 NV Cleto Chiarli ‘Vecchia Modena Premium’ Lambrusco di Sobrara, $13.99

Wow, does this wine ever represent a category that is needed in central Texas; a dry, fruity, dark rose/light red sparkler that is what I like to call “seriously fun”. It is like a well crafted pop song that is sure to get your toes tapping but you wouldn’t be embarrassed to be caught singing in your car with the windows down. Think Buddy Holly vs. Justin Bieber. It’s no surprise that this lyrical wine was introduced to me by one of our guests and local musician Adam Aherns. By the way, his latest release, Black Pepper Corn, is addictively joyous and we’ll be having a drawing at the tasting to give away 5 copies of it. If you don’t win, I suggest you read more about it at and purchase through iTunes!

#3 2012 Joan D’ Anguera ‘Altarosas’ Granatxa, Montsant, Spain, $17.99

I can’t think of many grapes that I have as much of a love-hate relationship with as much as Grenache/Grenacha. Grown under certain conditions and under the direction of heavy-handed winemakers looking to impress your palate rather than seduce, it can be a hot mess of globby, bubblegumy fruit and scorching rubbing alcohol. Spain is a region that sometimes seems to let this happen more frequently than not. This is an example of how the grape is capable of “transparency” in much the same way great Pinot Noir can be. It is certified biodynamic and made using old-school techniques such as concrete tank fermentation and aging. The end result is a wine with lifted red fruit, mineral and floral notes that breath life. I can scarcely think of any wine I’d rather drink with a wide range of foods, especially pork or turkey.

#4 2011 Riserva Del Canapone ‘642’ Maremma Toscana Rosso, $14.95

The first of several wines on this list that our buyer sourced to introduce during our Passport Italy event. We’ve had a hard time keeping this one in stock ever since. This is a unique blend from Tuscany that blends six grapes into one magical expression that feels like the closest thing I’ve experienced from Italy to a high quality Rhône blend and yet does not lose an essence that can only come from Italian terror.

#5 2012 J. Bouchon ‘Canto Norte’ red blend, Maule Valley, Chile, $12.99

This was also introduced during one of our events this year, Wine Week, where numerous winemakers from around the world came to sample and discuss their wines. This is a true family winery that dates back to the late 1800’s when the first Bouchon immigrated from France. The current owner/winemaker continues to make wines with Bordelaise influence, no doubt influenced from his enology degree received from the University of Bordeaux. This is Merlot predominant which provided suppleness, spice from Carmenere and Cabernet Franc and stability from a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon. Made using many organic and natural winemaking principles.

#6 NV Baron Fuente Brut, Champagne, $24.95 (normally $29.95)

Champagne is probably the hardest category of wine for us to convince people to try something new. I think it mostly has to do with tradition and traditionally (at least in this country), Champagne has been consumed as a celebratory beverage on various holidays or to mark certain achievements. Like many things related to tradition, people like to replicate details. It’s a nostalgic way of connecting to past times and people. That’s cool. What’s also cool is that we are in the midst of a sparkling wine revolution where people are realizing what an incredible beverage Champagne and the like can be as a daily drinker. They are uniquely suited to go with an amazingly wide range of types of food. We introduced Baron Fuente a couple years ago across all nine Central Markets in Texas but it has been the Austin market that has been the most open to trying something different than the Grand Marque houses they’ve known for so long. Pat yourselves on the back for recognizing quality and value over fashion and pretense! By the way, if its been awhile since you’ve had this Champagne, I’d recommend trying it again. I’m sure what we’re getting in now had the same disgorgement date as when we first brought it to Texas and it has done nothing but get better!

#7 2012 Graffito Malbec, Luca de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina, $17.99

Many years after it began, the Malbec craze shows no signs of slowing down despite many predictions that it would see the same sudden and dramatic decline in popularity that Aussie Shiraz did not too long ago. This is another example of a small family-owned producer make outstanding wine. Again, the owner/winemaker visited us for our Wine Week in July. While working for years for iconic winery Catena, Jimena Lopez would drive around Mendoza all day checking on many vineyards. She got to know them all intimately and when she recognized the incredible opportunity to purchase fruit from a 7 acre vineyard planted in 1908 she was able to realize her dream of making her own wine. With fruit as good as she is able to buy, she smartly takes an approach to intervene in the winemaking process as little as possible. The fruit and wine speak for themselves with depth and complexity. It’s remarkable to think that an outstanding wine like this, made with vines over 100 years old can be had at such an accessible price!

#8 2013 Bosio Gavi, Piedmont, Italy, $12.95

Another newly introduced Italian. This crisp white with subtle peach, tropical and citrus notes pretty much blows away any comparably priced Pinot Grigio. There are some very good Pinot Grigios out there, but this is an example of why Italians don’t consume it nearly as much as Americans do. They know there are usually better options and this wine made with the Cortese grape is just one of many interesting Italian whites we’d like to introduce you to if you haven’t been already.

#9 2012 Maison L’ Envoyé ‘The Attaché’ Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $39.99

The winery’s name translates to “The House of the Messenger” and they are intent on making sure their wines “jublilantly sing of their origins”. While most of the wines I’ve already listed have high ratings from big name critics, you’ll notice I’ve refrained from mentioning them. I do want to mention here that this received 94 points from both Wine Spectator and Wine & Spirits and I believe they both got it right. Spectator said, “An essay of volcanic and sedimentary soils, delivering density and concentration without oppressive weight. A long, focused core of blue fruits and intriguing spice dances across the palate, bound by silky yet precise tannins and a bright line of minerality. An unabashed come-hither mouthfeel”.

#10 2011 Assobio, red blend, Douro, Portugal, $12.99

Portugal table(non-Port) wines have been predicted to be the next big thing for as long as I can remember but continue to lag far behind their Iberian Peninsula neighbor, Spain…by a bunch. This blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo) and Touriga Franca will show you why we all should be looking a few miles more to the east for our wines from the Iberian Peninsula. This also received a big, fat rating from a major wine publication and because of that our supply is unfortunately very limited.

Everything was Big(ger) and Bubbly in ATX

There is a reason that this event sells out every year.  This year marked the 12th annual Big Reds and Bubbles sponsored by the Wine and Food Foundation, but it was my first time to attend.  It won’t be the last.  Held at the historic Driskill hotel, this event exudes every bit of refinement and elegance you would expect from this organization at this venue.

Any event that is this extensive means that you need to be purposeful in your tasting.  If you were fast and furious, you might have time to taste every wine, but I know that my palate would feel punished.  One would likely be able to taste each appetizer, but I know I would be ready for a nap if I tried.  So when I was invited to attend a little preview with June Rodil, one of Food and Wine’s Sommeliers of the year, I jumped at the chance.

We began, as all evenings should, with bubbles.  Specifically, French, June suggested.  The lighter, clean bubbles awaken your palate without being heavy or interfering with what is to come.  Our first taste of the evening was one of my favorites, Ruinart Blanc de Blancs.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay and retails for about $80.  Yeast and a touch of citrus on nose, structured bubbles and pear, acidity.  A beautiful Champagne.

We moved onto one of Italy’s standout sparklers, Bellavista Brut Cuvee.  This was mostly Chardonnay, but the addition of 10% Pinot Nero gave it a softer mouthfeel.  The bubbles, a little more subtle, the fruit a little less so.  At about $45, this is a great alternative to Champagne when you want elegant bubbles at a more approachable price point.

As we moved to the third taste, the doors opened to the general public which meant that both the positive energy and volume increased.  We all angled to hear the full scoop on the next Champagne, Pol Roger Brut.  This family-owned Champagne house was established in 1849.  The wine is equal parts Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier which creates a fuller, balanced wine. This wine also was the official Champagne served at William and Kate’s wedding.  You can wow your guests with that tidbit.

It didn’t take long for the room or the glasses to fill.  Each room buzzed with “oohs” and “mmmms.”  When it was time to eat, my focus turned to pairing and we found a few brilliant ones.  We also found some dishes that required no accompaniment to shine.  Here were a few that stayed with me:

Vox did it again.  They were a favorite at Tour de Vin and they created another whimsical bite with their play on a Twice baked potato served in cigar boxes.

Chavez created a sweet potato huarache with cochinita pibil and pickled red onion.  I had two and I NEVER have two.

Moonshine created a lamb shepard’s pie that paired brilliantly with Banfi’s biodynamic blend from Chile, Emiliana Coyam.

Bonneville’s cassoulet with duck confit was just the thing to warm you on a chilly night.  Yum.

Lick’s sea salt caramel gelato paired perfectly with Gloria Ferrar’s Royal Cuvee.

Dolce Neve’s flavors were everything you want in gelato.  Pure and rich and delicious.

I am sure there were many fabulous dishes, wines, and pairings that I missed.

Throughout the evening,  my husband kept reiterating what a wonderful job the The Wine and Food Foundation did with the event, from start to finish.  Even the next morning, when I asked him about his birthday dinner menu, his response was that his mouth was still singing from the night before.  It was that good.

Many thanks to June Rodil for the great tips, to The Wine and Food Foundation for the invitation to attend as media, and to all to great chefs and staff that made the evening possible.  Every person pouring and serving was knowledgeable and smiling.  It is that kind of attention to detail that makes events stand out.

{I was given a media pass but no additional compensation to attend.  Thoughts and opinions are my own}

Nothing Provincial about Provençal Pink

Grapefruit, peach, salmon: whichever shade of pink, rosé is fabulous all year around. Whatever you’re serving, there is a hue for you. Those were the major takeaways from a recent Wines of Provence lunch held at Arro here in Austin which featured wines chosen by Master Sommelier Craig Collins. And I enjoyed every drop of the lesson.
I love every shade of pink, in drink and color, but there is one region that is synonymous with rosé: Provence. In Provence, rosé is not a novelty or an afterthought, it is the goal. The grapes grown, the choices in production are all made with the goal of bring the finest quality rosé to the table…or porch, picnic, fireside.
Right now you may be thinking, “Fireside? I only drink pink in the summer.” Some of you may not even realize there is pink beyond the sweet stuff your aunt used to drink. To that I would say it may be time to expand your ideas about rosé.
We sampled nine rosés in three flights. Each flight was different. From very pale in color to hints of rich peach, from red fruit to black fruit, mineral-driven to floral, these wines showed a vast swing in pairing options which were reflected in the menu choices.
We began with a puff pastry with olives, anchovy, and onion. Delicious. The first course was seared shrimp with clams, mussels, and sorrel pistou. It was lovely but I had to admire from afar. They graciously pulled together an alternate for me at the host’s request (a lovely but unnecessary gesture) of tuna with green beans, radish.
Craig shared how whenever he is pairing flavors of the sea, he likes to go for acidity and minerality. The first flight spoke to that well. The grapes were classic Provençal: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah. Red fruit, acidity, some tart and herbal notes. Some were more aromatic than others, all were balanced.

IMG_4552Domaine de la Sangliere ($16)
Maison Saint Aix ($19)
La Vidaubanaise ($15)
The second course was lamb brochette with white beans and shaved Brussels sprouts. Yes, lamb with rosé, and it worked! The herbal notes in the dish played off the wine brilliantly. This flight included two more robust rosés and one red blend. They all paired so nicely with the dish; I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. The pink wines had red fruit, bigger, silky mouthful. The Roubine had a lot of grapefruit, herb, acid. Our one red of the lunch was black fruit, cocoa, and an intoxicating mouthfeel. Delicious.

Domaine Houchart Saint-Victoire ($19)
Cuvee Classique Chateau Roubine ($25)
Chateau Vignelaure ($30,red)
Our dessert course was chosen to reflect the region’s propensity to serve cheese and nuts for a final course rather than sweets. Chef Curren hit every note with a goat cheese tart with fig, pistachio, honey, and lemon. I ate every bite. With the final course, Craig paired some really aromatic wines, each with a slightly different structure and color. This final flight was a great reflection of how color is simply a matter of grape and soil, not an indication of complexity.
Chateau Paradis ($20)
Hecht & Bannier Cotes de Provence ($18)
Ikon Rose ($35)
Let me be clear, I am biased. I went into this lunch with a firm stance on rosé. I love it. I love it in the summer and as an alternative to white in the winter. Now, granted, our winter here in Texas is mild. However, my favorite whites are acidic and crisp. I am not generally a fan of whites in a winter coat (aka oaky whites). But if I want something lighter to start a meal or sip on a warmer day, rosé provides the body, acidity, minerality to go in many directions.
Thank you to Wines of Provence, Arro, Chef Andrew Curren, and Master Sommelier Craig Collins for a wonderful lunch and for creative examples of pairing and variety in options for drinking pink.
(Lunch was provided by Wines of Provence as a promotion for the region. I received no other compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own.)

A Family Affair #rsv25

It was evident how much planning went into the Rodney Strong Silver Anniversary long before it even began.  We were given “teasers” at the dinner in Solvang.  As the preparations were made, the details were made public on Social Media.  A month before, I was asked to “live report” from the event.  Two weeks before, social media accounts were put in place for the guest reporters, and the week of the event there was the conference call.  I knew going into the event that it was going to be incredibly organized and meticulously planned.

The venue was one of the top restaurants in Austin.  The chefs were award-winning.  The food was first class and the wines were, as expected, delicious.  And yet when I reflected on the evening, those were not the details that left the biggest impression.  Don’t get me wrong, they left an impression.  But what impressed me even more was the sense of family.

There was the obvious connection, of course.  The evening was centered around celebrating 25 years of Klein family ownership.  In 1989, Tom Klein and his family knew that Rod Strong had built something special.  He knew California agriculture and he knew that there was potential in this part of Sonoma County.  So they invested in technology and equipment and in the first decade of ownership took the winery from 69,000 cases to nearly 500,000.

Production wasn’t the only area for growth.  The team expanded, as did their line.  They increased the number of Single Vineyard wines, launched Symmetry, and continually strive to create Artisan quality wines.  They care for the earth by focusing  on sustainable practices, they care for the community by giving to various organizations.  But what struck me was how they take care of their own.

In my interactions, online and in person, with their employees, I sense that the idea of “family” is not limited to blood relation.  The people of Rodney Strong are happy.  They are enthusiastic and dedicated.  That doesn’t happen by itself.  When I was initially asked to participate in the event, the invitation included my husband.  They did not just fly Wine-grower Ryan Decker out to tell us about the wines.  They flew Ryan and his wife.  That says something to me.  It says that they honor family.  It tells me that they want their employees to be fulfilled.  It says a lot about the Klein family and it says that there was much to celebrate.

And celebrate we did.  We arrived to appetizers and Sauvignon Blanc.  Toasted with Chalk Hill Chardonnay and Kombo Dashi Soup.  My husband had two servings of Tyson Cole’s King Crab (shellfish allergy) but that meant I got to focus on my personal favorite, the Russian River Pinot Noir.  The main course was Smoked beef neck and Symmetry and Brothers Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon. We finished with Chocolate Coconut meringue Tart and A True Gentleman’s Port. (see menu photo for details)

As the evening progressed, the live-feed jumped from place to place.  The venues were all quite different.  The menus unique to the chefs and locations.  But one thing remained constant.  People were joyous.  There was a levity to the photos.  Laughter, playful revelry, and a love for food wine and life were seen throughout.

An evening such as this required untold hours of planning and preparation. For the social media piece alone, this was a monstrous task (Take a look at Paul Mabry’s piece on Vintank for an idea). But it always came across as a labor of love.  People that are well cared for work well.  They are happy to go the extra mile.  That is what family does.

Thank you to Carin Oliver at Angelsmith PR for all of your work and for including me in the event.

Thank you to Rachel Voorhees for all you do and your contagious enthusiasm.

Thank you to Ryan and Nikka Decker for a lovely evening.  You are a great public speaker in a tough environment and your grapes do wonders!

Finally, thank you, Klein family, for making this event happen and for allowing me the opportunity to meet and work with these amazing people.  Keep up the good work!

For more information on the event, search #rsv25 for all of the great photos and tweets from the evening.

{I was reporting this event on Twitter for Rodney Strong and was given entrance as compensation.  These thoughts and opinions are my own.}


Around the World in 80 wines-Tour de Vin

The sky was not all that was pouring in Austin on Thursday night.  The 12th annual Tour de Vin sponsored by The Wine and Food Foundation of Texas at The W Hotel in Austin.  Guests enjoyed dozens of wines and food from some of Austin’s finest restaurants.

Navigating this much yum in one evening can be challenging.  It is easy to find that your palate is shot and your belly is full before you even get around the room.  It is even easier to realize at the end of the night that you missed a golden opportunity to sample a hard to find wine or hard to get into restaurant.  This time I went in with a plan.  No tasting, no sampling until I made the rounds.  Ok, almost not tasting.  When you see this sign at an entrance, you can’t walk by.  Nearly all good evenings begin with bubbles.


I perused the offerings, snapping pictures before the crowds began.  The last booth?  A soon-to-be-opening restaurant, Vox Table.  Their offering of Cured Cobia with a curry pipette cum skewer was one of the most interesting and tasty bites of the evening.  A great way to amuse my bouche.


The other highlights, as far as food, were the Beef Tartare from Searsucker, The Goat and Tomatillo stew from Cafe Josie, the I.O. Lamb pastrami from Bonneville, and the Pork Rillette with pickled peach from the new chef at Bess Bistro, Roman Murphy.



The title of this piece is not a misnomer.  There were 80 wines being poured that night, but my rule is to only taste what is new to me.  There was a lot of great wine there, but some from such established, classic brands that I knew I would have another chance to taste.  Without a spit cup and with the car keys, I needed to be conservative with the wines.  I am sure there were several gems that I missed, but of those I tasted, I will look for more of the following:

Domaine de la Villaudiere Sancerre (currently obsessed with the Loire Valley)

13 Au Contraire Pinot Noir (Healdsburg)

12 Castello di Fonterutoli Super Tuscan

Schramsberg Brut and Rose

A series of Single vineyard Malbecs from Argentina (of which I somehow managed to NOT get the paperwork or a photo)

That’s the danger of events like these.  You start in the most professional of mindsets.  Work before play.  Document, document, document.  Next thing you know you are chatting with friends, making new contacts.  You get lost in a glass bubbles and the professional hat gets lost in all the fun.  It’s a tough gig.

Thank you, Wine and Food Foundation, for allowing me to be your guest Thursday.  Thank you for all you do to promote wine, food, and fun here in Austin.  And if anyone has the info on those Malbecs, please pass them along.  I look forward to the next big event, Big Reds and Bubbles.  Cheers!

**{I received a media pass for this event but was given no other compensation.  The thoughts and opinions are my own}




4 Cities, 5 Chefs, and 6 Wines #rsv25

On Saturday September 20th, I’ll be dusting off my cocktail attire for a one of a kind evening at Uchi.  As part of the James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour, Rodney Strong Vineyards will be hosting a four city, five course dinner to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Klein family ownership. rsv25

Chefs in Austin, Miami, New York City, and Healdsburg, CA will simultaneously be creating their unique brand of cuisine to pair with Rodney Strong wines.  Each city will have a host and a live video food to connect each experience.  We will be joined by radio show host, Ziggy the Wine Girl.   I am honored to be participating by documenting the event on social media.  So even if you can’t join us in one of the cities, you can open a bottle of Rodney Strong, or six, and enjoy the evening vicariously.

If you are able to join us here in Austin, here is a little more of what you can expect.

Celebrity chefs:

Tyson Cole, Uchi & Uchiko, Austin, TX
Jeff Mall, Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar, Healdsburg, CA
James Robert, Fixe, Austin, TX
Tatsu Aikawa, Ramen Tatsu-Ya, Austin TX
Janina O’Leary, laV, Austin TX

Rodney Strong wines:

2013 Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc
2012 Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay
2012 Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
2011 Rodney Strong Symmetry (Red Meritage), Alexander Valley
2010 Rodney Strong Brother Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley
2008 Rodney Strong A True Gentleman’s Port

I was able to get a sneak peek of what to expect at a Rodney Strong dinner sponsored in Solvang before the Wine Bloggers Conference and I can guarantee that this will be a night to remember.  Tickets are $225 and can be purchased online or join us using #rsv25 or @sahmmelier.