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.}

 

 

Curious About Texas Wine? Time for a Twitter Date

Tonight on Twitter, I will be joining fellow Texas Wine lovers for the year’s first #TXWine Twitter Tasting.  We will be chatting about the 2014 Best Texas Wines and a new opportunity for you to taste some of these wines, no matter where you live.

Here are the details:

Tonight January 13th, 7-8pm CST

Sign in to your Twitter account and search for #TXwine

Our hosts are Denise Clarke, Jeff Cope,Jessica Dupuy, and Russ Kane.  They can be found at the following Twitter handles:@DeniseClarkeTX, @TXWineLover, @JDewps, @VintageTexas respectively.

If you are local, grab a bottle (or more) of the top wines of the year and join us.  If you aren’t but are #TXwine curious, come hang out.  There will be plenty of info and laughs.

Even if you can’t join us tonight, check out Texas Monthly’s new wine club.  Four shipments a year,six bottles per shipment of Texas wine. Partnering with Vinovium Partners, TM is offering the chance to taste the wines I love.  Interested in a one-time shipment?  That can be arranged.

Look forward to “seeing” you and tweeting with you tonight!

Reflections on 2014-Part 1

In Wine and War, Don and Petie Kladstrup, illustrate a point that resonates with me on my path of wine discovery and enjoyment.

“One of the greatest wines we have ever tasted was 1905 Grand Vin de Chateau Latour. It was exquisite, absolutely mind-boggling, but what made the experience even more special was being able to share it with…a dear friend….There was also a bottle of rose we once drank that, in all honesty, was not much of a wine, but sharing it with friends on a warm summer day made that day special and the wine as unforgettable, in a way, as the 1905 Latour.”

I have yet to taste Latour.  I may never.  But I have had many unforgettable wines, some because of the wine, some because of the company with whom I shared the wine.

This has been, in many ways, a year of transitions for me.  In 2013, I felt the need to pull back an reassess. The constant  pull of social media and self-promotion began to weigh on me and my family and I needed to readjust.  In 2014, I rediscovered the joy of blogging and was rewarded in ways I never thought possible.  Several times this year I found myself looking around and giggling in disbelief.

2014 was a year of finally connecting with so many that I have long admired and communicated with virtually. It was a year in which I was able to attend some amazing events, intimate and extravagant.  It was a year in which I may not have received as many samples or gained thousands of twitter followers, but I received genuine encouragement in quiet ways that left me humbled and grateful for this journey.  I sampled some exclusive wines, some very accessible wines and both made my list.  It is not only about what is in the bottle, but the stories behind the bottle and the stories shared over the bottle.

Here are some favorite wines from 2014. They are probably the top 5, in no order. I say probably because I don’t keep accurate enough records, unless it is a sample, and my memory gets iffier with age.  Regardless, I’m still thinking about these:

Remarkable Reds

2009_2[1]2009 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon-The 2010 Made Wine Spectator’s Top 10 list.  I have an idea as to why.  The attached link shows how I paired it for an unforgettable dinner party. Sequoia Grove Cambium was a challenger but I only tasted it in conjunction with others, with several foods. It is harder to create a lasting impression in that setting.

2010 Vineyard 511 Cabernet Sauvignon-We tasted this wine the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference and it was one I still think about. It also made Talk-a-vino’s list. If you have an extra hundred and want to show me some love, keep this in mind.

Ballard County Syrah- Don’t make me pick just one.  My mouth was high after this session.  Check out what Solo Syrah had to say about the wines.

Davis Bynum Pinot Noir- My favorite from the Rodney Strong dinner in Solvang. Their Russian River and Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Pinots are closely behind.

IMG_4404William Chris Vineyards 2012 Enchanté- It was the wine that broke my resolve.  We picked up a ’10 after Chris shared some on our last visit.  This baby has aging promise.

Winning Whites and Pinks

McPherson Cellars Les Copains White/Dry Rose Blends- Love all these blends. We shared a bottle of white at Haviland Lake in Colorado. We paired the white blend with the first trout my children caught which we stuffed with shallot, lemon, and herb butter. Add fire-roasted potatoes and veggies and that is a camping meal to remember. The pink made for a very happy hour at Ridgeway State Park.

Grassini Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc- Even in speed tasting at #WBC14 this stood out as a favorite white with J Vineyards Pinot Gris a close second. From Happy Valley Canyon AVA in Santa Barbara County, this wine has racy acidity and controlled elegance. Yum.

Cuvee Classique Chateau Roubine-This blend on Cinsault, Mourvedre, and Grenache is classic Provence.  I’ve realized that these grapes generally make wine that I like.  Herbacious, red fruit, acid.  Diverse and delish. Actually can I choose several from that lunch?

IMG_4458Tatum Rose-Sorry to do this to you, but you probably won’t be able to get this wine.  Unless you live here and you know people.  It is small production and goes quickly but it is so delicious I’m still dreaming about it.

Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc- Again, don’t make me pick one.  You pick and let me know.  Dutchers Crossing, Fritz, Ferrari-Carano…you can’t go wrong if you like SB.

Beautiful Bubbles

Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux Brut- Our first dinner, first weekend away, my first interview for an upcoming digital magazine, USA Ambassadors.  This bottle was sent to our table by the interviewee (stay tuned). All the above made it a bottle to remember.

Pol Roger Champagne-One day I will splurge on a whole bottle.  Still thinking about the tasting at Big Reds and Bubbles.

Ferrari Perle- This was part of a sample of three and my favorite.  Elegant, creamy, memorable.

Bollinger Brut Rose- My sister and I were trying to rally for a day at the wineries but both a little funky.  Then I said, “Or I can come to your house and we can look through old pictures in our jammies and drink Champagne.” Gorgeous fruit, warm bread, zesty with a finish that didn’t quit. Some days, like the photos we were organizing, are worth holding on to.

When I started this piece, my goal was to compile the year in one post.  Silly me.  Tomorrow I’ll reflect on the moments that made the year and the people who shared the moments with me.  And maybe I will even come to some resolutions.  Do they count if after January 1st? Now, what to open for inspiration?

Haviland Lake

Haviland Lake

 

 

 

Last Minute Gift Idea-Texas Tuesday

So, it’s Texas Tuesday, but I am a bit congested thanks to our favorite winter visitor, cedar pollen.  I didn’t want to open anything special so I am simply offering an idea for a very last-minute gift.  I always like to give Texas wine because so many people just don’t know what they’re missing.  Even locals have never tasted the wines that are being made just down the road so I do my part to remedy that.

I was a teacher in my past life and know that I rarely splurged on a bottle that was more that $15.  I also know that there were many nights that I felt absolutely spent and welcomed the reprieve of a glass of something tasty.  So, I often give my children’s teachers the gift of wine.  For Thanksgiving, I gave her a bottle of Gundlach Bundschu Gewurtraminer, a favorite with turkey.  For Christmas, I gave her a bottle of Pedernales Cellars 2012 Tempranillo.

I chose this wine in particular because I find it both elegant and approachable.  It is a grape that is unfamiliar to some, but so diverse and available in several local stores.  Also, if they love it, they can drive west and sample more of what the producer has to offer.  Medium bodied, red fruit with layers of baking spices and a touch of earth. It is complex enough to hold up to almost any fare, but smooth and soft enough to drink alone.  But to make sure that doesn’t happen, I paired the wine with some Mexican Cocoa almonds.  Cocoa, cinnamon, and a little cayenne would be a great compliment to the wine.  The addition of a homemade snack to compliment the wine gives it a more personal touch.

If you are looking for a white, I’d suggest taking a pairing from Kuhlman Cellars and doing some Marcona almonds with herbs de Provence with a bottle of their Roussanne or McPherson Cellars Roussanne.

Here is the recipe for the almonds:

Mexican Cocoa Almonds

Whisk an egg white until frothy. Add a teaspoon of Vanilla.

Toss about 3 cups of almonds in the egg white.

In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 TBSP good quality cocoa, 1/2 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp salt.  If you’d like also add the zest of an orange.

Toss the almonds in the sugar mixture and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently. Allow to cool before bagging.

What are your favorite Texas wine gifts? And what snack would pair? Wishing you and your family the merriest of days. Cheers!

Hannibal Would be Proud: Texas Tuesday

“I love it when a plan comes together.”  If you are an 80’s kid, you surely recognize that as the catchphrase of John “Hannibal” Smith, fearless leader of the A-team.  Oh, you thought I meant the Punic Carthaginian military commander?  Well, if he liked wine I guess he would be proud.  For future reference, you are safe assuming I am alluding to mindless pop-culture rather that ancient military strategists.  Anyway, back to the plan.

We had plans to go camp for a friend’s 40th birthday but a health hiccup for our black lab meant that we couldn’t leave her overnight and couldn’t go camping.  But we could get out of the house in the afternoon for a couple of hours of marriage maintenance.  A beautiful winter day means one activity (ok, any day) has my vote: heading out to the wine country.

This is the part in the A-team when each character starts throwing out crazy ideas which require Face to smooth talk someone while they drug B.A so Murdoch can fly them into the middle of the chaos.  Fortunately for us, it only required an email, two phone calls, and a quick shower to get an appointment, my favorite mom here, and out the door in 40 minutes. I guess that is kind of A-team comparable when you have little ones.

On the drive I was able to do some reading about Kuhlman Cellars and the people behind it.

Wine is a product born of love, passion and intense labor.  It should be enjoyed with the same emotional vigor.  At Kuhlman Cellars, we strive to appreciate what brings richness to our lives: Family, Food, Friends and Fellowship. Our tasting room was carefully designed to include every guest in our personal wine journey with education about our process from a knowledgeable guide, an intimate view of our working winery and Sommelier & Chef prepared cuisine carefully paired with each wine.

I had a feeling this was going to be my kind of tasting experience.  We arrived at Kuhlman Cellars with five minutes to spare, ready to taste the wine I’d been hearing so much about. Although the winery has only been open for two months, the Cobb family is not new to the wine industry, previously managing a Hill Country vineyard. Together with winemaker Bénédicte Rhyne, Chris and Jennifer Cobb are creating wines in an Old-World style with Texas flair.  Many of the wines are made with Texas fruit, the blends and the winery are given Texas geological names. Kuhlman Creek runs through the family property and eventually joins the Pedernales River.

My husband and I immediately noticed the ingenuity and design behind the Tasting room.  The bars are mobile, industrial and yet warm.  Two formations create a sit-down tasting experience for you and a few of your closest, or newest friends.  Each guest is given a tasting sheet, enough stemware for the flight, and an appetizer plate with the chef-inspired bites.

Sommelier Jeremy Wilson was our host for the tasting.  With each wine we were given information about the vineyard, the production techniques, and the thoughts behind the pairings.  Our group for the tasting included wine lovers with a wide variety of experience and Jeremy catered to each guest.  We even were treated to a barrel tasting.  Here are my top three:

The first wine was a 2013 Texas Sauvignon Blanc.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The grapes were from Mesa Vineyard in Fort Stockton.  The wine, not surprisingly, was more French in style.  Very classic notes, well-balanced and refreshing. Tart fruit, some grassy notes, gooseberry. This was paired with a cracker with smoked salmon and caper to play off the acid.

The third wine we tasted was Rousanne.  You are seeing more of this Rhone variety in Texas and I expect that trend to continue.  A weighty white with stone fruit and rich texture even when done in stainless.  This is a perennial favorite for Thanksgiving. Paired with a bite of bleu cheese and fig it was divine.

My favorite was the 2012 Texas Red.  A Texas take on a Bordeaux blend, this wine is 49% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both are sourced from the High Plains.  With the addition of Carignan, Cab Franc, and Grenache you get the depth of flavor while remaining medium bodied.  Red fruit, violet, a little spice, a little anise, a lot of yum.  We brought home two of these.

As a bonus, Jeremy brought out a barrel sample of the Texas (yes, Texas) Zinfandel that wasn’t ready but was delicious.  This wine is jam-packed with flavors, none of which include jam.  I can’t wait to taste the finished product.

Family, Food, Friends and Fellowship.  Those are the driving principles at Kuhlman Cellars and they put those into practice.  Although I had never met Chris Cobb, and Jeremy and Jennifer Beckman only once in person, they made us feel like family.  Food and wine shared with friends is the best kind of fellowship.

We left with four bottles of wine and big smiles.  We left excited to open a bottle at home and create our own pairings and we left saying that we love it when a plan comes together.

Thank you, Kuhlman Cellars, for fitting us in and for what we both agreed was the catalyst to one of the best dates we’ve had in a long time.  I’ll always drink to that!

{I am embarrassed to say that we were having so much fun that I totally forgot to take pictures!  Some blogger I am. I guess I’ll have to go back and remedy that.}

 

 

 

 

Ahhh-lianico: Texas Tuesday

Awake at five, lunches packed, presents opened, cupcakes frosted, drop-offs, four loads of laundry, a couple of hours of work and a very brief workout. Pick-ups, stop at library to deal with missing book, trip to the toy store for the birthday boy punctuated by gelato courtesy of his grandmother.  Rhyming game leads to discovery and multiple attempts to use newly discovered inappropriate word. At a loud volume.  In public.  Long talk in the car about limits, boundaries, word choice, testing, and loss of new toy which demands responsible choices.  Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Just your typical Tuesday!

Enter my liquid hero for the evening: Duchman Family Winery’s 2010 Aglianico.  Or tonight, it is known as Ahhhh-lianico.  Not familiar with this grape? Originally from Greece, Aglianico made its way to Southern Italy where it became a signature grape in Basilicata and Campania.  It produces a full-bodied wine with structured tannins and acid to match.

This grape does well in hot, sunny climates so it is not surprising that it is shining in Texas.  Duchman Family Winery produces their Aglianico with grapes sourced from the Reddy and Oswald Vineyards in the Texas High Plains AVA.

Dave Reilly made a bold move with this bold grape and it has paid off in a big way.

IMG_4706

In the glass, the wine is brick-red with a burnt orange rim.  That’s either a nod to our local university or to the origins of the grape.  My understanding was that Italian wines often have the rusty ring around the glass.  Maybe some domestically produced wines do as well.

On the nose I get red cherry and a ton of cinnamon.   Red cherry, baking spices, violet with a different note highlighted in every sip. The time in the bottle has allowed the flavors to really integrate and blossom.  It is full of flavor, but the acid keeps it from being heavy.  It is structured, but has the honest, rustic nature you expect from Italian wines.

The birthday boy has requested pizza for dinner.  He is five, after all. So while this wine calls for hearty, chewy Italian or grilled meats, pizza will work just fine.  It could be the cooler weather, it could be the wine, but if I had my druthers I would put this with chunky tomatoes or mushrooms.  Maybe a Bolognese.  Tonight I will be blissful with anything I don’t have to cook and a full glass of this beauty.

You may have noticed the subtitle of this: Texas Tuesday.  I am really excited about what I am seeing and tasting in the Texas wine industry and my goal is to be more purposeful about getting the word out.  So, while it may not be very Tuesday, I am aiming to make Tuesdays for Texas wine.  And this was a great way to start. Cheers!

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

My Achilles’ Heel-William Chris Enchanté

There have been a few moments in life that I have surprised myself with my own strength. Hiking the Na Pali coast, natural childbirth (x2), and the Dr. Junger Clean Gut diet that I have been doing for the past 14 days. No coffee, alcohol, grains, sugar, fruit, or fun. I resisted pizza (x2), cut an Italian cream cake without a lick. I made apple crumb pie and while others oohed and aahed, I had raspberries with almond meal. We held dinner parties, a football party. Nothing swayed me. But last night I crumbled. My Achilles’ heel, it turns out, is William Chris Enchanté.

I would say that I’d had a perfect track record until last night, but that wouldn’t be the case. I went to both the pick up party and industry party at William Chris last week. I had the tiniest of tastes, then dumped or shared, except for the Enchanté. I couldn’t resist; no dumping for this gem.  But honestly, that’s some dang good will-power.

IMG_4404Then last night, we made a belated birthday dinner for my father-in-law who is visiting from Sonoma. My husband and I teamed up to make something delicious that I could eat without cheating. We decided on grilled lamb chops with rosemary. For sides I made acorn squash with braised balsamic leeks and a kale salad which I massaged with avocado, garlic, lemon juice and salt. I was home free. Until my husband asked me to pick the wine.

I tried to pick something I wouldn’t mind missing, but it was staring at me. I knew it would be perfect. Merlot, Cab, Malbec, Petite Verdot. The acid, bright cherry, subtle tannins. It was too much. And I knew that if I opened it, I would not be able to resist.

So I did what any Texas-wine loving, soft-spined woman would do. I listened to my “gut” (ha,ha) and declared it Splurge Sunday. And I’m so glad I did.

It was honestly one of the best pairings I’ve had in a long time. Each dish brought out a different nuance in the wine. A bite of acorn squash brought out subtle notes of baking spice. The lamb complimented the earthy Malbec notes. After the kale, the bright red cherry notes shined.

It’s not easy to impress my Sonoma father-in-law but the 2013 William Chris Enchanté did just that. How impressed was he? Well, I am writing this from the back seat on our way out there. Well done, gentleman. You made a believer out of him and broke my will. But it was well worth it. I may have to create my own “cleanse” that allows wine in moderation.  The question is, do I pretend it never happened and continue to day 21?  Or just avoid everything but wine on the weekends?  I’ll be pondering that, but in the meantime, I’ll be planning my Texas Wine Month post-cleanse splurge. Cheers, y’all!

 

Everything’s Coming up Rosés

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Field of Dreams

I guess you could say this story began nearly a year ago.  Our trek to Colorado started in the early morning hours, before the sun rose.  By the time we arrived in Llano, the first light was beginning to show.  The countryside was awakening as we rounded a turn and I remembered why I love mornings.  One field in particular caught my eye.  It was a small vineyard with a vintage tractor, a great photo-op, so we pulled over so I could take a few photos.

There was something magical about the place.  A two-story sandstone home in the background, a windmill towering over the grapes, green and plumping.  I allowed myself a moment to take it in.  I wondered about life there, a life I’ve often yearned for.  The daydream was interrupted by a quick wave to the gentleman in the field and we were off.

Taken July, 2012, from the side of the road

Taken July, 2012, from the side of the road

Fast forward to last week.  Jennifer McInnis of the San Antonio Express published a piece on the town of Pontotoc and the family behind Pontotoc Vineyards, each with its own storied past.  I was instantly fascinated and elated that it was going to be a stop on my journey west with Texas wine writers and friends.  Jennifer did so well at capturing the essence of what Carl Money is building and the inspiration behind the vision that it would be redundant for me to retell, but I highly recommend stopping here and heading over to her piece.

So how are these stories connected?  I didn’t know myself until we began the tour of Pontotoc.  We arrived around 5pm and were warmly greeted by Frances Money and her lovely daughters.  In the Tasting Hall, we met Carl Money, his Uncle and Vineyard Manager, Ronnie Money, and Don Pullum, the Winemaker.

After introductions and a few nibbles, with Mason jars filled with the 2011 Tempranillo, we made our way around the property.  The Tasting Hall was once the General Store.  The rest of the Sandstone strip once included the Post Office, the Barber Shop, and a Movie Theater.  By October, it will also house Dotson-Cervantes and Akashic Vineyards, Don Pullum’s own boutique winery.  The movie theater will become a performance venue for music, plays, and old movies. We continued to the farmhouse.  Built in 1872 , this two-story home was crafted from the local sandstone by the German Emigration Company to house immigrant families.  Four bedrooms, several families, and countless stories began here in Pontotoc.  If Carl Money has his way, there are many stories to come.  Each piece of art, each piece of furniture has its tale to tell.  Carl is giving them an audience.

Don Pullum, Ronnie Money, and Carl Money

Don Pullum, Ronnie Money, and Carl Money

We went out through the back porch to the vineyard.  As the sunlight began to soften, Ronnie told us about the different plots, the different strains, and the trials and successes they have faced thus far.  We walked to the well, and that is when I realized the connection.   The tractor, the windmill, the farmhouse came rushing back and, with much gratitude, I realized I was standing in the very vineyard I’d admired the year before.

Another Point of View

Another Point of View

We walked back to the tank room and began tasting samples.  We compared the 2012 Tempranillo, bright red fruit, raspberries and cream, as compared to deep black fruits in the 11.  We tasted the red cherry in the Cab and the fresh fruit and clean earth in the Mourvedre.  Don introduced the Alicante Bouschet, a grape I’ve long admired in Wellington Vineyards Noir de Noir.  This began with dried apricot and faded into raspberry truffles.  It is a hefty red-flesh grape with tons of potential.  And then he blended them.  With little effort, Don took a little of this, a little of that and created a blend that silenced the room.  Wow.

Carl in the Tank room

Carl in the Tank room

There is a saying that has become a bit cliché.  To say that a person, place, or experience “feeds your soul” can sound almost trite, but as I reflected on this past weekend, it seemed the best way to describe the trip.  A balanced dish, a balanced diet needs variety.  A little acid, a little spice.  We need energy to fuel, vitamins to heal.  When it comes together with the right mix, your body gets just what it needs to continue.  Each person brought what only they could.  Like the wine in each individual barrel, each contributed something to blend.  Shared stories and wisdom, humor and vision.  Tranquil and alive, with a history and a budding future, Pontotoc and the people I was with fed my soul.

M. Robert Kidd is said to have named Pontotoc, which means “the land of hanging grapes,” after his home in Mississippi.  He could not have known then what Carl Money would be doing now.  When I stopped on the side that day, I knew the spot was special, but I could never have imagined that, within a year, I would be toasting friends, old and new, on that same plot of land.  It is a magical place indeed and one I hope to return to frequently.  Many thanks to the Money family and Don Pullum.  We could not have asked for more gracious hosts.  Thank you Denise, Jessica, Jennifer, and Margaret for making it that much more memorable.

A Toast to Our Chef, Don

A Toast to Our Chef, Don