Just opened this pretty E. Guigal Tavel Rose — great strawberry, pomegranate and lime flavors, with great acidity to give it a nice lift. Made from Grenache, Cinsault, Clairette, and Syrah, this is one of my go-to rose wines. Less than $20.
Opened this beautiful Texas wine tonight — the McPherson Cellars 2012 Roussanne Reserve. With tons of tart pineapple and stone fruit on the nose, it surprises with citrus (lemon and lime) on the palate. A full-bodied white with tons of acidity, this is a terrific wine to wind down the night.
One of my favorite Texas wines that you will find frequently in my fridge is the Duchman Family Winery Vermentino. Lots of citrus, underripe white peach, and mineral notes. Nice acidity makes this such a refreshing wine. Whole Foods Market for about $17.
I have heard that winemaker Dave Reilly thinks this is their best Vermentino ever. We can also thank the Bingham Family for providing these terrific grapes from their High Plains vineyard.
Bret Brothers 2011 Pouilly-Fuisse — terrific minerality, with a round mouthfeel. Around $23 at Austin Wine Merchant.
Give me a wine from Alsace any day and I’ll be happy, and Trimbach wines never disappoint. I usually get the Riesling but this Pinot Blanc is a little softer with a bit more body. About $18 at Austin Wine Merchant.
Me, I’m not much of a Cab girl, particularly those stereotypical hot (high alcohol), oak bombs from Napa. But this weekend, I was pleasantly surprised (and actually quite delighted) with this 2007 Darioush.
And I knew it must be special when the winery website still has archived the wine’s tasting notes. While the dark fruit (blackberry, blueberry) dominated the aromas, it was equally matched on the palate with lots of minerality (tasting notes spell out graphite), earth and tobacco. Soft tannins made this a very pleasant, drinkable wine.
So while I have a love-hate relationship with not only Napa Cabs, but also California wines in general because of the overuse of oak and high alcohol levels, I was encouraged to read the WSJ’s story this week on the efforts by some California winemakers (who are part of IPOB - In Search of Balance) to make more Burgundian style Chardonay and Pinot Noir.
Rajat Parr describes this new breed of wines as having “freshness, vibrancy, acidity and crunchiness.” I’m hoping these IPOB wineries come to Austin soon for a tasting.
As I’ve written before — finally a terrific wine and tapas bar in South Austin. Winebelly is a small, cozy restaurant with a stellar wine list and delicious food. Last night’s evening out with a friend resulted in a mini-tasting, thanks to the half-off specials on Monday.
We started the night with this Fleur de Coucou Sauvignon from Touraine (a neighbor to Sancerre in the Loire Valley), with notes of citrus and underripe white peach with terrific flinty minerality.
This BonAnno Cab from Napa is a heavy, juicy, fruit forward Cab without being ruined with a ton of oak.
We capped the night with a taste of the Perles Fines Brut with a light peach color, soft bubbles and crisp acidity.
I’m on a streak of French wines and last night’s were terrific. I found a champagne that I could drink right away, without swirling away the carbonation, because of the super fine, gentle bubbles. A party in the mouth as sommelier June Rodil would say.
This grower champagne, NV Vilmart & Cie Champagne Cuvee Rubis, was a gorgeous salmon pink color with hints of strawberry, raspberry and yeast on the nose, with a minerally finish and, of course, beautiful acid. It was such a creamy, beautiful champagne to kick off a beautiful night.
And check out the cork — it’s a keeper!
Next up a 2010 Michel & Marc Rossignol Les Teurons, Beaune Premier Cru. A little tight at first, it opened up throughout the night offering notes of tart cherry and cranberry, with subtle hints of some earth and minerality.
Thank you Arro and MS Craig Collins for the lovely French wine list — tonight’ s number from Marsannay (2010 Domaine Charles Audoin Marsannay Les Longeroies) was a lovely Pinot Noir with terrific red cherry fruit with subtle notes of earth and minerality.
Tonight’s mussels also made my night — with a creamy, tarragon and onion broth — topped with crispy pomme frites.
And let’s not forget our starters: we kicked off the night with a Trimbach Riesling Reserve (dry and crisp with wicked acidity) and a Grenache Blanc/Roussanne/Viognier blend (lush floral notes on the nose and beautiful stone fruit on the palate).
This delicate, slightly effervescent Moscato from Spain will make your sweetheart smile. With peach, honeydew and white flowers on the nose, the Piquitos Valentino finishes with tangerine notes. It’s off-dry, with a kiss of sweetness, perfect for to kick off your Valentine’s Day celebration.
Thanks to Jessica for sharing this pretty number with me tonight while we studied spirits. Available at Whole Foods Market.
I am smitten with this Dark Horse Nero D’Avola, with its tart cherry, cranberry and spicy, peppery notes. Made by Brennan Vineyards in Comanche, I believe it’s the only Texas (and maybe US) winery making a Nero D’Avola wine. I love the high acid and soft tannins on this lively red.
Nero D’Avola is the most widely planted red grape in Sicily. Here in Texas, it’s grown at one of Brennan’s estate vineyards, Newberg Vineyards, just 10 miles south of the winery.
If you want to know more, check out this WSJ column on what could become the next Malbec.
While the big game certainly disappointed, thank goodness, the wines I enjoyed that night did not.
To kick things off, we started with some Gruet Blanc de Noirs — always love this sparkling wine from New Mexico. Light salmon color, toasty and creamy. Specs
As most of my wine friends know, I am a huge Chablis fan. Lucky me, this 2012 Pierre Andre Chablis was steely and super minerally with a hint of salinity— showing off its Kimmeridgien limestone soil. Twin Liquors.
You gotta love the guys at William Chris for making a wine with lipstick lips on the label. They celebrate women as much as they do wine, and we appreciate it. (Thanks Chris and Bill — true Texas gentlemen!)
The Emotion is always one of my favorites — an approachable red blend from Cab Sauv, Malbec, Cab Franc, Syrah and Merlot. You first get pretty floral notes on the nose, but this baby is full of fruit — blueberry, black and red cherries. Its soft tannins make it an easy wine to drink.
If you haven’t been to William Chris, it’s “Hye” time you do. Stop in, sit back, put your boots up, and enjoy their beautiful winery.
This is my go-to pairing with sushi when I saddle up to the bar at Whole Foods Market. Lots of citrus and minerality in this wine (without the heavy grapefruit and grassy notes of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that I don’t care for.) Whole Foods Market.
This Chablis is my Saturday night, let’s-have-a-party white. You’ll spend a bit more but it’s worth every sip. Lemon, herbs and salinity on this number - my kind of wine to set the stage for a lovely evening. Whole Foods Market.
The Chateauneuf-du-Pape, also from Whole Foods Market, has tobacco, earthy notes with soft tannins. Super nice.
And last, but not least, a little Red Handed Bourbon Whiskey, made from the fine folks at Treaty Oaks Distillery. This corn and rye whiskey has a nice touch of sweetness that I like. Check out my friend Matt McGinnis’ story on whiskeys in Austin Man magazine, which includes a review of Red Handed.
With the ice and snow storm on its way yesterday, I made a pot of chicken tortilla soup with green chiles, and decided to pair it with this Salt LIck Cellars BBQ White.
Made by Duchman Family Winery, this easy drinking white has hints of green apple and grapefruit, along with pretty floral and peachy notes, which complements the spicy soup. I love the dry, crisp finish on this white.
Vermentino is always a white wine that I look for on restaurant menus — something different from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. Lucky for me, Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood makes a beautiful Vermentino, which is often on tap at Whole Foods Market wine bars and my go-to pairing with sushi.
The 2011 Vermentino has white peach and flowers on the nose, with grapefruit and lime on the palate. Love the acid on this wine, too!
Available at Whole Foods Market for under $20 (and a bargain by the glass!!)
Winebelly is a fabulous new addition to South Austin — this tapas and vino restaurant does not disappoint. The wine list is carefully selected by Ryan (who hails from my all-time favorite restaurant Bitter End and most recently Uncle Billy’s), including this French number I enjoyed last night.
The Marius Terret Vermentino by Michel Chapoutier has the perfect amount of funk you expect from a French wine, with nice peach, apricot and citrus notes. Medium bodied with nice acidity. Ryan says this may become one of his go-to “by the glass” offerings.
This wine would be great with both the parmesan truffle fries or the bravas fries (although a cold beer would be the perfect pairing with the chili pepper-spiced bravas fries).
The beet salad is amazing — feta mousse, candied hazelnuts, and a citrus vinaigrette.
The grilled lamb ribs with vegetable ragout, spiced pistachios and herbed yogurt is a perfect dish for cold winter nights.
Hope to see you at Winebelly soon — 1st and Oltorf.
Here are some delicious wines I enjoyed over the holidays — most of them under $15. Cheers!
Domaine Skouras Anassas — This Greek white is da bomb! Predominantly Moschofilero, you definitely get the mouthfeel and apricot and peach notes from the Viognier in this blend. I love the salty finish on this crisp white. (Whole Foods Market)
Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile 2005 — this racy, crazy acidic Riesling was a special “by the glass” number during my recent visit to Arro. Deep golden color with flavors of citrus and tons of minerality. Must have more!
Muga Rose — Master Sommelier Guy Stout turned me on to this light orange-hued rose from Spain during a tasting a year ago. Nice cherries on the nose, followed by tart apple finish. Nice minerality and acidity. (Spec’s)
A highlight of my recent Mediterranean cruise was a tour of Domaine de Souviou, a beautiful Provencal estate known for its Bandol wines. Its vineyard, which is also populated with olive trees and lavender, reminded me so much of the Texas Hill Country.
After a tour of the vineyard, my brother Neel, sister-in-law Cathey and I enjoyed a tasting of several wines.
The Domaine de Souviou White was a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Clairette and Rholle (Vermentino) — terrific nose of grapefruit, lime and lemon, white flower and a touch of honeysuckle. A perfect sipper on this sunny November day.
The Domaine de Souviou Rose was a blend primarily of Mourvedre, with some Cinsault and Grenache. Flavors of pink flowers, strawberry and white peach.
The Domaine de Souviou Red was also Mourvedre, Cinsault and Grenache, offering raspberry and cherry flavors, with hints of spice, leather, and mushroom.
Delighted with these wines (but sadly with no room in the luggage to take any wine back to the States), we bought a bottle and opened it for the ride back to the cruise ship.
My sister-in-law Cathey and I enjoying the white blend out of our to-go plastic cups.
Next time you’re looking for a restaurant with a great wine list, head over to Max’s Wine Dive. I stopped in last night and Matt, the sommelier behind the bar, took care of me with a tasting of some wines right up my alley — a French Chablis, Vouvray (not usually my favorite, but this Le Haut-Lieu was awesome), and Dupuy de Lome Bandol (love me some rose from Bandol), and a German Leitz Dragonstone off-dry Riesling.
I also tasted through some amazing reds….my favorite was probably the Aromes de Pavie from Saint-Emilion, but ended up enjoying a bottle of 1989 Chateau Prieure Lichine from Margaux.
This little number was beautiful with a funky, musty, earthy nose at the start that opened up and offered lush blueberry on the palate.
Another beautiful dry white wine is Assyrtiko — hard to pronounce, but easy to sip. This Sigales Santorini Assyrtiko is bright with lime and lemon zest, tons of minerality, great acidity, and a hint of salt on the finish. You can thank the Greek soils for that.
If you like Sauvignon Blanc (Sancerre style) or an unoaked Chardonnay, give this a try. In Austin, you can find this at Austin Wine Merchant..$18ish.
Thursday night is Big Reds and Bubbles — wait are you waiting for?! Get your tickets now! One of my favorite events of the year, this fun evening features great red wines and bubbles that would be perfect pairings for your holiday meals and parties.
Here are some pics from last year! Hope to see you Thursday night!
So many of my friends think Riesling is a sweet wine, and while yes, there are many sweet Rieslings in the world, you don’t have to look too far to find beautiful dry Rieslings.
Tonight, I am in Riesling heaven with this Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Dry Riesling. Talk about some minerality — wow, love the stone characteristics with a touch of herb on the finish. The lemon and lime flavors, combined with nice acidity, makes this a favorite for this white wine gal.
Deep in the heart of the Hill Country (and smack dab in the middle of one of my favorite cycling routes) is the new Hawk’s Shadow Estate winery and vineyards. (For my cycling friends, the winery is 3-4 miles down McGregor at the end of our Fitzhugh ride.)
With a breathtaking view, the winery has big plans and, in my view, is on the right track. They are planting the right gapes for Texas — grenache, syrah, mourvedre, aglianico, nebbiolo, tempranillo and my fave, sangiovese.
Right now they offer a 2011 Orange Muscat and it’s dry, which makes me super happy. With lots of orange and honeysuckle notes, it’s got nice minerality (although I would like to see this with a bit of acid, which would give it a nice kick and brightness).
The 2011 HSV Estate is a blend of sangiovese, syrah, tempranillo, grenache and mourvedre. Again, another really nice wine with cherry and raspberry flavor, balanced with pencil lead and leather notes. It’s just been bottled so get it and give it some time.
We enjoyed some barrel samples of mourvedre in different oaked barrels, which is super cool because you can really taste the difference in how wines are aged. The 2012 mourvedre in the neutral French barrel is so elegant with great strawberry, cherry and cocoa notes, but and the 2012 in the Hungarian barrel screams bacon, pepper and leather. I see an interesting blend in the future.
Congrats to brothers Tom and Doug who are making these wines! Looking forward to see more of what’s to come.
Here’s a quick snapshot at some terrific restaurants in the Mississippi Gulf Coast! I’m just back from the week-long Society of American Travel Writers Conference in Biloxi, MS, where we stayed at the lovely Beau Rivage Resort & Casino.
With some 300+ employees lining the hallways to greet and clap for us as we kicked things off with the Mississippi Gulf Coast SATW opening night reception, I knew we were in for a special experience where Gulf Coast hospitality reigns.
The folks at Beau Rivage could not be nicer, including Banquet Beverage Manager Scott Terrell who gladly steered me to the BR Prime Steakhouse for a great glass of wine and food. Advanced Sommelier Mark Warren (and fellow triathlete) has a great wine list there, with many pairings well suited to the cuisine created by Chef James Balster. We enjoyed a 2009 Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico with melt-in-your-mouth Kobe beef. If you’re ever at the Beau Rivage, don’t miss BR Prime tucked away in the back corner of the casino.
Chef Balster with HomeAway’s Cindy Vanhoutte
Of course, you can’t visit the Gulf without enjoying the amazing abundance of fresh seafood — from Gulf shrimp (white, pink and brown) to oysters and crabs.
Mary Mahoney’s, Biloxi
For the most amazing crab claws, head over to Mary Mahoney’s — a long established restaurant in Biloxi run by Mary’s son Bobby. The special Cajun magic garlic butter sauce served with the crab claws is killer! The seafood gumbo is also delicious — they ship 500 gallons of the gumbo during the holidays (this year, some will be coming to me!)
Not only will you enjoy the food and beautiful garden setting, but Bobby will also keep you smiling with his jokes. His favorite: “There were five crows sitting on a fence and one was shot. How many are left? Four you might say….but no, none are left because they all flew away. Bobby had a piece commissioned just for that joke!
Red Sky Crabhouse, Gulfport
We headed to Gulfport for some noshing and enjoyed lobster and crab dip, lobster rolls, crab cakes and lobster macaroni. Red Sky Crab House, which also owns the highly popular Half Shell Oyster House in Biloxi, is casual place perfect for enjoying the Gulf’s finest with your friends and family.
A man after my own heart, Stinson is committed to healthier eating and living and strives to have 30-35 percent of his menus represent “healthy options.” He is the featured chef on PBS’ Fit to Eat show, designed to educate and change the eating and cooking style of Mississippi viewers. Rock on Rob!
Quality Poultry and Seafood
Last, but not least, was my visit to Quality Poultry and Seafood, a processing facility that provides the bulk of seafood to area casinos and restaurants. Quality also has a small cafe offering po boys, gumbo and seafood platters, as well as a retail counter with some of the best seafood prices most of our group had seen.
Thank goodness for the hardworking shrimpers who head out to the Gulf in the evening to capture this amazing Gulf shrimp, oysters and crabs we all enjoy. Their season ends in about a month when the Gulf gets too cold and the shrimp move on to warmer waters. And yes, I learned that one shrimp will lay 300,000 to 1,000,000 eggs in its lifetime — ensuring us an abundance of shrimp!
Thanks SATW, Beau Rivage, Biloxi and the amazing Mississippi Gulf Coast conference staff and volunteers for all the great food, wine, hospitality and, of course, amazing weather and sunsets!
What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon — tasting the new releases from Pontotoc Vineyards. Pontotoc is Indian for “land of hanging grapes.”
Made by owner Carl Money and winemaker Don Pullum, these wines show what Texas can do with warm climate grapes like Tempranillo, Mourvedre, and Alicante Bouschet.
My favorite — their signature blend San Fernando Academy, named for the old school on the property located on Highway 71 and FM 501 in Mason County. This is a blend of 65 percent Tempranillo, 15 percent Mourvedre, 15 percent Alicante, and 5 percent Cab. With lots of red fruit and mint on the nose, it is rounded out by the Alicante and offers a chocolate cherry finish. Yes, I will enjoy this bottle tonight.
The Smoothing Iron Mountain, named for the mountain between Llano and Pontotoc, is 75 percent Tempranillo, 20 percent Cab and 5 percent Alicante. With bright red/cherry fruit, it offers some earth and spice tones.
Finally, the estate Tempranillo offers tart, red currant and cherry flavors, with some green tobacco notes. This is a favorite of Mary Stanley of the Turtle Restaurant in Brownwood. Next time you are in Brownwood, make time for dinner at the Turtle Restaurant…great food!
I finally found a Pinot Grigio that I really liked! This Bottega Vinaia Pinot Grigio from Trentino has lot of lime and floral notes, great minerality, crisp acidity, and to my surprise, a decent finish.
So many Pinot Grigio’s just seem so light, with no character, but this one is the exception. And it was only $12 at Spec’s.
Lucky me, I got to taste through some terrific Italian wines today during a trade tasting put on by Kobrand Wine and Spirits. I was on a mission to find some Italian whites that would float my boat. And I’m happy to report that several were winners. And go to the end of the post to see my favorite red. :)
Here were my favorites:
Michele Chiarlo Gave le Marne — some tropical and lime notes, and some screaming minerality and acid (love me some rocks!)
Michele Chiarlo Le Madri Roero Arneis — floral notes, but also crisp, dry and refreshing
I visited Wedding Oak Winery recently and am so glad I picked up this bottle of Terre Blanc — a Roussanne-Marsanne blend. Great fruit - peach, lime, combined with some racy acidity. A really great white wine to sip.
Roussanne continues to shine as a great Texas white wine grape.
This Mercer Pinot Gris 2012 is a terrific white wine for sipping or pairing with salads or chicken dishes. Lots of melon, pear and floral notes, with nice acidity on the finish. Very round and lush in the mouth.
A really pretty wine from Yakima Valley in Washington.
While I prefer a more steely, salty, racier white wine, this is a nice alternative for my Chardonnay lovers.
Love this light, refreshing Les Godons Sancerre Rouge from the Loire Valley. Made from the Cabernet Franc grape, this wines has cherry, raspberry, green notes and nice minerality. Heavier than a rose but just as delightful when served chilled.
There’s thunder and lightening outside now and I sure hope that means rain is a’ comin’!
I am relishing in the thought with this awesome Chablis I picked up at Whole Foods Market. The Gerard Tremblay Chablis has green apple and lemon notes, with TONS of minerality. Just the way I like my Chardonnay.
I sat outside as the storm started to roll in. So peaceful and awesome.
Wine is so much more fun when shared with friends — and last night was no exception. I brought this Santiago Ruiz Rias Baixas wine blend of Albarino and Loureiro to a girls night of shopping. This light white wine was refreshing with crisp acidity — perfect for sipping while browsing the fall Cabi collection.
Lucky me, some of my favorite PR peeps were there so we got to catch up while buying some great clothes for fall.
Wow…my first 100 percent Aligote wine and it’s terific. I love white Burgundies but this estate bottled number from the Cote Chalannaise is made from Aligote, the “third” grape variety of Burgundy or the step-sister of Chardonnay.
Green apple, citrus, minerality and nice acid. It’s a refreshing wine, perfect for sipping and watching the MTV VMA awards.
Yes, I am going to be one of Whole Foods Market’s wine geeks, providing my two cents on some of my favorite wines you can find at their stores. Look for my Texas Wine Gal shelf talker soon!
Here are three wines that I buy regularly during summer:
Duchman Family Winery Vermentino 2010 ($14.99) - a great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc, this wine is crisp and refreshing with citrus notes. One of my favorite Texas wines, it pairs well with seafood, oysters and salad.
Bieler Pere et Fils Rose 2012 ($12.99) — I can’t get enough of this summer sipper. This deeply colored, dry rose from Provence has lots of red fruit flavor with a lingering finish. Enjoy poolside or with salads and grilled chicken or shrimp.
Drouhin Vaudon Chablis 2010 ($32.99) — my “splurge” wine is from the northernmost region of Burgundy, France, where its chalky, limestone soil provides great minerality in this chardonnay. With pear and citrus flavors, enjoy this refreshing white with crisp acidity by itself or pair with salads, chicken or fish.
For wine geeks, nothing beats TEXSOM. It’s a one-of-a-kind conference of like-minded wine professionals dedicated to learning about grape varieties, wine regions, geology, tasting elements, and even beer and spirits.
More than 500 sommeliers and wine enthusiasts attended the two-day conference at the Four Seasons Las Colinas. You can’t ask for a better venue!
Given that I’m a white wine girl, here are some of my favorite wines from the TEXSOM sessions:
Mt. Etna Wines — Good friends and MS Devon Broglie and MS Craig Collins (pictured below) taught this session and turned me on to the Tascante Carricante ‘Buonora’ 2012 — lemon, grapefruit notes with lots of minerality and some salinity on the finish.