Welcome to my site describing my self-renewal journey into the world of wine A to Zinfandel. I create social media strategies for the wine, food, and tourism industries. I also am a Culinary Travel Artisan – ready to make your travel dreams come true. As you can tell, I love to DRINK, EAT, and TRAVEL!
I had the opportunity to spend a lovely afternoon at the relatively new to Dallas restaurant/wine bar, Max’s Wine Dive. The restaurant opened in Dallas September 2012, with already established locations in Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. Their motto: ”Fried chicken and Champagne? … Why the hell not?!” It’s not just a slogan – it’s what defines us.” With this motto, you know you are in for a culinary adventure.
The wine list is extensive and so much fun: old favorites, soon to be new favorites, and their own proprietary favorites. Because they do not have a full-service bar (i.e. offering spirits), they do not have to place a restaurant up-charge on the wines by the glass or bottle, and they don’t! The wines are at retail price – and you are more than welcome to purchase wine and take home if you are so inclined.
As I was a brunch guest, let’s take a look at the brunch menu, shall we? With suggestions from the general manager, Jeff Solomon, I started my culinary adventure – of course that had to start with a bottle of sparkling wine (I wasn’t alone, mind you). For brunch they will bring out a selection of juices (orange, grapefruit, and cranberry) to mix, or not, with your sparkler. Don’t turn your nose up – I truly enjoyed my first time drinking a cranberry juice mimosa – give it a try, said the waiter. Who am I to say no?
Next came the food. An order of cinnamon rolls served in its iron cast skillet were to die for. Next came the giant chicken fried steak atop Belgian style waffles, served with cream gravy and syrup. We are in the south, remember. Two of us managed to finish the whole dish, it was that good!
The restaurant is a 4600 square foot establishment – huge! They have a wine bar, 2 separate dining rooms, and a fabulous outdoor patio. It is located in the Uptown area of Dallas, perfect for people watching. A parking garage is right next door, so you don’t have to freak out about trying to find a space on the street, or pay for valet service. Hey, this is always a plus for a wine blogger and sommelier student, such as myself! I’m just saying.
Before the visit, I was lucky enough to speak with one of the owners, Jeff Lasco, who is also the CEO and Founder. He in turn got me in touch with the general manager of the Dallas location, Jeff Solomon. We had the opportunity to meet and discuss the history and culture of the chain. Jeff S. was knowledgeable, personable and truly passionate about his job. He was gracious with his time and led us through a lively discussion regarding the information I have discussed above. The servers really knew their stuff too and were very attentive.
I was also able to get introduced to their events coordinator, Teresa Alioto, who was gracious enough to let me take a delightful photo.
We enjoyed the afternoon – all 4 hours! They probably thought we would never leave, but had no problem with it.
Ever visited the land of Don Quixote – La Mancha, Spain? I had the opportunity to do just that, without a plane ticket. The wines of La Mancha came to our own backyard, Dallas! A USA spring tour of “Wines Worth Discovering” sponsored by the La Mancha region of Spain occurred in Dallas with the Meadows Museum on SMU’s campus serving as a back drop. This event occurred last week, Saturday, May 12th, and is well worth the review.
Taking a visit to the SMU Meadows Museum is quite a treat. The museum is named after Algur H. Meadows, oil financier and Texas philanthropist. During business trips to Spain in the 1950′s, he was inspired by the Prado Museum in Madrid to start his own collection of Spanish art. In 1962, he gave SMU funds for the construction and endowment of the museum and his collection.
The Meadows Museum now houses one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Spanish art outside of Spain. With works dating from the 10th to the 21st century, the internationally renowned collection presents a broad spectrum of art covering a thousand years of Spanish heritage.
I can’t imagine a more appropriate and beautiful venue to discover the wines of La Mancha, located in central Spain, a region I hadn’t visited – at least by wine standards. When most of us think of Spanish wines, we think of Tempranillo which is the main grape used in the Rioja region. These wines are very popular and are quite inexpensive (under $10/bottle) for the quality. During the 1990s, Tempranillo started experiencing a renaissance in wine production worldwide. Tempranillo wines are ruby red in colour, while aromas and flavors can include berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather, and herb.
But here comes La Mancha region wines - look out! The trade show offered a formal wine tasting of 6 wines led by Michael Green, 25 years of experience including nearly two decades as Gourmet Magazine’s wine and spirits consultant will provide a unique perspective on these extraordinary wines. “The diversity and quality of wines coming from La Mancha today is remarkable, and I think they will surprise a lot of people,” notes Michael Green. “It’s a region whose time has come.”
The wines to be poured at the tastings are crafted from grape varieties that flourish in La Mancha, including the white grape Airén (the most planted grape in the world) and the popular Spanish red Tempranillo (which goes by the local name Cencibel), as well as other indigenous and international varieties such as Viura, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, all of which find a suitable, and sunny, home in La Mancha.
Let’s start with the formal wine tasting. I sit down at a chair in front of 6 glasses, each with a 2 ounce tasting of various wines. Michael Green is the “host” and walks us through the presentation of the 6 wines. When tasting wines, it is always good to start with the lightest wine and finish with the heaviest – as a general rule: whites to reds.
We start with Espanillo Organic Airen Joven 2011. It is quite light; one could compare it to a Pinot Grigio with a bit of a twist, or perhaps a Portuguese Vinho Verde. $6 retail. Next is Tomillar Sauvignon Blanc 2011; aromas of wet grass & spring time. $11 retail.
Then we started on the reds. First up: Torre de Gazate Tempranillo 2011. It is atypical of a Spanish Tempranillo. Much like a lighter red similar to a Beaujolais. $9 retail. Next is La Cruz Vega Syrah 2011. Of the formal tasting, this was my favorite as was my friends’; well-balanced (acid vs. fruit). If you find it too young for your palate – add manchego! Next is Vega Demara Tempranillo Roble 2011; spent 90 days in American oak barrels. Next is Casa Gualda Crianza 2008 – our first blend: 50% Tempranillo, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. The producer of this wine described it as a wine you order for you and your date on the third date! A more serious wine. $14 retail. The last red of the formal tasting was Allozo Reserva 2005 (100% Tempranillo). Very much terroir based – I could smell the earth, the dirt of where the grapes were grown. $16 retail.
The Grand Tasting presented over 100 red and white wines from 15 wineries from the D.O. (designation of origin) La Mancha. You may ask “How do you sample so many wines in less than two hours”? My way is to walk up to each table (winery) and ask if I could only try one wine of yours, which should it be? This is my way, there are so many other ways to decide what to sample. All whites? All reds? A certain varietal (grape)? All of one winery? What people are talking about? What labels appeal to you? The list goes on and on.
Top Five La Mancha Wines at Grand Tasting:
1. Bodegas Verduguez Imperial Toledo Oaked Selection-Roble 2009
Blend of Tempranillo, Syrah & Merlot
2. Bodegas Verduguez Coeli Del Cielo
Sparkling Medium Sweet Rose
3. Dominio De Punctum 2011
Nortesur Chardonnay – organic
4. Vinicola De Tomelloso 2011
5. La Cruz Vega 2011
Syrah – well balanced – acid vs. fruit – if too young for your taste, add food – perfecto!
Central Market (CM) in the Dallas area is allowing us to live, even if for just a brief moment in time, in the culinary hideouts of France from May 9-22, 2012. Oh to be in France! Those magical moments in time…err…to be in France while having your feet planted in Texas, I mean, which to some Texans it is even better.
Each year CM “armchair travels” us to a country known for its culinary riches, and wow, have they hit the high mark with France. The event is called “Passport France”. The employees greet you with a “bon jour”, and occasionally take a peek at their mini laminated phrase card – hey, you have to start somewhere!
You may know already that Dallas is a culinary mecca – the restaurants, the artisan bakeries, wine bars, etc.; however, I quite do not have the cash to imbibe in many of these experiences. I must live vicariously through others (real and virtual friends); however, there is something for everyone, at any price point, to enjoy “Passport France.” Just check out their beautiful hand out. How about a jar of herbes de Provence actually FROM Provence (what a concept), a savory ham and Gruyere crepe to share with a lover, some Comte cheese aged 18 months, or a large pail of mustard from the heart of Burgundy? None of these could even break MY budget!
But, let’s see for a moment, what else we can put our hands on: cassoulet (a rich, slow-cooked casserole with pork shoulder, garlic sausage, and white beans), bouef bourguignon (say hi to Julia), 20 different varieties of French bread, steak au poivre finished with brandy, cognac, or vermouth pan sauce – oh, how my palate sings! Just walk in and see what happens when you allow your taste buds give in to your senses!
Feel free to try samples around the store: wine, champagne, cheese, bread, pastry, you name it. Also feel free to purchase all the luxurious delights which will only be in the stores for a short period of time. Now that I think of it, I am out of herbes de Provence to place in my French grinder. Darn, I’ll have to take a trip back.
~ A La Votre ~
I had a terrific opportunity to attend a Sigel’s event at the Park City Club in Dallas with Jasper Russo at the helm. Have you ever had two and a half hours to taste 40 Pinot Noir wines? Well, I hated to be put in that position, but I tried! Did I also mention tasting the appetizers served to compliment the wines: herb crusted beef tenderloin, smoked chicken quesadillas, New England style crab puffs, fresh fruit, and of course artisanal cheeses?
When you think of a Pinot Noirs, you usually think of the region of Bourgogne (Burgundy) France. The majority of red wine from that region is Pinot Noir; where the majority of white wine from that region is Chardonnay. The Pinot Noirs for tasting that night were not just from Bourgogne, but a large sampling from California, Oregon, New Zealand. Most were great, and some were good. It’s all a preference of one’s palate. What tastes great to me, may be so-so for you. No biggie!
Now, let’s take a look at the top five fabulous wines that Sigel’s had to offer that evening (in my opinion):
1. Louis Jadot Pommard – 2007 – Product Description: Big, fresh, vibrant red raspberry and cherry flavors followed by impressions of spice and earth mark this generous, robust Pinot Noir, which finishes on a full, ripe note underscored by firm tannins.
2. Bertrand Ambroise Nuits St. Georges - 2009 – Producer Notes: This modern, dynamic and reliable producer ensures his wines offer intense, juicy and generous fruit characters whilst still maintaining the mineral, floral and licorice elements of good Nuits St Georges.
3. Lucien le Moine Bourgogne – 2009 – the style of 2009 has a broad appeal for wine lovers because of the ripe, pure fruit flavors and fleshy textures.
4. Coup de Foudre, Sonoma Coast - 2010 – coming out of nowhere! This bottle was indeed a “Thunderbolt of Love.” The 2010 Pinot Noir possesses an expressive bouquet of spring flowers and black raspberries. The palate consists of hints of fresh porcini mushrooms, dark cherries, black currant and cream, underlined by spicy notes. It displays great balance of structure and richness as well as abundant tannin. Believe it or not, this was one of the most expensive wines of the evening running around $100/bottle.
Two lovely ladies from Pioneer Wines at the event to pour the Coup de Foudre.
5. Loring, Rosella’s - 2010 – very velvety in structure, with a density and purity of fruit beyond anything the winery has seen in prior vintages.
Although my list of top five Pinot Noirs at the tasting were not all from Burgundy, most were. Visiting the Burgundy region of France is beautiful and a wine lover’s paradise; a perfect place to learn about wine making. Some wine drinkers will maintain that only Burgundy provides the most haunting bottles, memories of which may last a lifetime.
Come to Burgundy where “the price is right” and with the strong dollar to the euro right now, good time to consider an “extraordinary wine travel experience to France.” Because it is a value, consider buying the French Pinot Noirs. And where do they buy the better valued wines? At Sigel’s and Sigel’s Elite in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area!
French Burgundies rule!
This is Burgundy country: rolling hills, lush valleys and vineyards as far as the eye can see. You can stop at many of the little “caves” along the route to sample the fine Burgundy wine. In France, wine cellars are called “caves” so where you see a sign for Caves, you will find wine tasting and wines for sale.
I am hoping to take an intimate group of 10-12 epicurean enthusiasts to the Burgundy region through Epicopia Culinary Journeys, and would love to get your input. Do you have a favorite region of Burgundy? I am also curious if any Red Burgundies have given you the “chills”, in a good way!
I live in the Dallas area, and perhaps we could have our own Burgundy experience here to whet our appetites? What do you think? Anyone game? A Burgundy wine tasting, an after-party or dinner…
~ A la Votre ~