Pioneer Wine Portfolio Tasting – Dallas

Pioneer Wine Company outdid themselves in Dallas yesterday.  They offered to the wine trade the opportunity to taste their portfolio (the wines they distribute).  How many wines do you ask?  Let’s just say, much much more than can be tasted in four hours.  It was very well organized, crowded – but not impossibly crowded, and at the start of the tasting, they provided a 80 page booklet listing the wine producers.  The producers were showing anywhere from 3-8 of their top wines.

Now you would think that one would walk away totally overwhelmed, and although taking notes, it is still quite baffling.

But I do have one word for you – well, one wine that sent me in to orbit.  Abstract.  A California red blend containing Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Syrah primarily from the hillside vineyards of Napa, Sonoma, & Mendocino.  At a price point of $30, it is a bit pricey for what I normally spend; however, when you find a wine like this one, it is well worth it.

Orin Swift Abstract Wine

Abstract’s tasting notes can be described as aromas of wild berry and caramelized oak. Rich, blackberry, plum, mocha and spice

Orin Swift also has some other fabulous wines in their portfolio, including the Prisoner, Papillon, and Saldo.  They are based out of St. Helena, California.





La Belle France Comes to Dallas

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 ~


Kay Zink Honored as a Thursday Thirsty Girl

Kay Zink (MOI!) was inducted into the Thursday’s Thirsty Girls this week.

Read on Thirsty Girl’s website, FB, and Twitter.  Links are below:!/beathirstygirl/status/137229524785053697

I am now an honoree of the fan-tabulous Thirsty Girl association which was co-founded  by Leslie Sbrocco and Gail Spangler.  I had the great opportunity to meet Leslie (the front end of Thirsty Girl) in Dallas earlier this year – my, is she a hoot!  In a very good way.

I also had the great opportunity to later host the Dallas Marilyn Merlot event by Thirsty Girl and Sigel’s.

I am thrilled, delighted and grateful!  Thank you TG!





Top 10 Spooky Halloween Wines

Halloween has snuck up on alot of people, including myself.  This is a generalization, but sometimes Americans love to find any type of holiday, like a Friday, to drink wine (think #champagne day today, October 28th, 2011).

I went in seach of some spooky Halloween wines – not so much wine to pair with Halloween food, like candy corn or peanut butter cups, but just to darn drink and have some fun with.

The following are the top 10 Halloween wines (in my humble opinion):

  • The Velvet Devil Merlot

A Washington State Merlot brought to us by Charles Smith Wines. Another great winemaker note: “Milk Chocolate, wild blackberry, baking spice, rose oil…beautifully perfumed Washington in a glass.


  • Ed Hardy Sangria
    A Spanish Sangria bursting with the sun drenched flavors of hot Spanish summer.
  • Black Cat Riesling
    Great elegance and finesse which have a pronounced and racy fruitiness, with hints of apple and peach.
  • Spanish Demon Tempranillo
    Soft and delicious, offering a mouthful of crisp black fruit and tons if style.
  • Bogle Phantom

To die for!  Bogle releases this wine once a year in the fall.  For me, I stick a straw in it and drink, and I’m done!  Brighter flavors of blackberries and blueberries glance off the palate. From the shadows, toasty cinnamon and nutmeg emerge, subtly embracing the deeply luscious and succulent fruit to create a full-bodied, ruby rich wine.


  • Trick or Treat – a World Market Exclusive
    One is red, one is white.  $7.99, what can I say?
  • Seven Deadly Zins

A blend of Zinfandel, Petitie Sirah and Petit Verdot from Lodi, this wine is loaded with berry fruit, pepper, spice, and earth characteristics.


  • Poizen Zinfandel
    The nose is fruit driven with fresh plum, bing cherry, spicy peppercorn and zinberry. The mouthfeel is soft with a hint of milk chocolate, sweet oak, and a long vanilla finish.
  • Rabid Red
    A red blend - The lion share of the balance consists of Bordeaux varieties: a stylish, cassis-and-tobacco notes.
  • Vampire Merlot

Smooth and medium-bodied with black cherry aroma, and hints of herbal spices.



Well, these are some of my “spooky” picks – please share others that I might have missed!  Happy Halloween!



TexSom – Texas Sommelier Conference – Day 2

TexSom - Texas Sommelier Conference - Day 2 – was so amazing I almost cried with emotion.  Six formal tastings with fabulous speakers each lasting over an hour.  I don’t know how they pulled it off, but first speaker of the day was none other than Doug Frost, most unassuming, approachable “dude” you would ever meet; probably the only gentleman there without a suit on.  He is one of three people in the world to pass the Master Sommelier exam and become a Master of Wine.  Do you think this guy knows his stuff?  He discussed the “Terroir Focus: Wines of Spain.  Of the 8 wines we tasted, my favorite was the 2010 Avanthia Godello, Valdeorras.  This varietal grows in a maritime climate. This area is known for its dry crisp wines.  It is pale yellow, with a gold rim, with aromas of pear, mineral, honey, quartz, slate, & schist (even though I must admit that I have no idea what slate or schist smells or tastes like!).  As far as a tasting note goes: buy it!  My 2nd favorite was the 2008 Las Rocas Garnacha, Calatayud.  This is very terroir based, not a bad way, and a great value.

Next up:  “Regional Diversity: South Africa”, presented by Wayne Belding, MS; and John Blazon, MS.  Oh dear, South Africa!  I was rather skeptical as the only South African wine I have ever had was pinotage, which frankly I was not a fan.  This wine tasting cleared up my thoughts and feelings about SA wines by a mile.

Next up:  LUNCH! During that time each table of 12 or so each had 5 bottles on the table: all were excellent, and it is hard to pick a favorite, although the 2006 Inniskillin Vidal Ice Wine with the chocolate tart I was very partial to.  Other wines served were:  2008 Franciscan Chardonnay “Cuvee Sauvage”, 2008 Robert Mondavi Winery Fume Blanc “Reserve” “To-Kalon Vineyard”, 2006 Ruffino “Modus”, and the 2005 Mount Veeder “Reserve” – all provided by Constellation Wines.

Next up:  “White Wines:  Benchmark Styles of Modern Classics”.  This was more of a panel speaking arrangement during the tasting:  Laura Williamson, MS: Peter Neptune, MS, DSW, CWE; and Keith Goldston, MS.  Shall we say Keith was the most “colorful” speaker of the lot – I needn’t say more for those attending.  There were wonderful, wonderful wines in this lot.  My favorite was the 2008 Knoll Gruner Veltliner Smaragd, Wachau, Austria.  Rich texture, rich, well balanced.  Keith chimed in saying it was hedonistic.  My 2nd favorite was the 2010 Tomero Torrontes, Salta Argentina.  It has a lemon green color, yet is floral – rosehips turning into geraniums.

Next up: “Varietal Focus: Grenache”.  I happenned to be volunteering that day and during this presentation, I was setting up the hospitality suites which opened at 5pm, after the last wine tasting.

Next and last up:  “Terroir Focus: Red Wines of Burgundy’s Cote d’Or”; presenters Fred Dame MS; and Rajat Parr.  Yum, yum, yum.  I can’t say I tasted a single wine I did not like, but here are my top 2 favorites.  My top favorite was the 2006 Drouhin-Laroze, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Au Closeau”.  My 2nd favorite was the 2007 Domaine Jacques-Frederic Mugnier, Nuits-St. Georges 1er Cru “Clos de la Marechale”.  Did I spell that correctly?

For anyone in Texas, or in the US, I highly advise attending TexSom – -

Thanks to all the organizers and people behind the scenes to make this conference fantastic.