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.





Happy Bastille Day!

It is July 14th - Bastille Day in France.  If there was ever an excuse to drink French wine, today is the day.  This day is a French national holiday, and commemorates the storming of the Bastille, which took place on 14 July 1789 and marked the beginning of the French Revolution.

As I have tried so many French wines, I couldn’t easily put a list together of my favorites; however, I would like to share a link to a write up regarding French wine.  It is located on a retail store’s site, Total Wine & More.

Learning about French wines is by far the most daunting to study of all the countries’ wine. Sommelier associations tend to start their studies with France – I have seen many students give up then and there at the beginning of their studies simply because trying to take in the topic of wines from France is such a huge undertaking. Really, I have witnessed it.  To me, it is my favorite topic – wines from France.  I love wine.  J’adore la France.  Et voila!

Kirsten Dunst playing Marie Antoinette

Kirsten Dunst playing Marie Antoinette



Marilyn Monroe and Wine

Marilyn Monroe Model

Marilyn Monroe Model at Tasting Event

Several years ago I was introduced to Marilyn Wines while hosting a “Thirsty Girl” event.  Buyers came flocking in to buy the latest release of the Marilyn Merlot.  It is interesting to note that only a few of the buyers actually drink the wine themselves.  Most are collectors – each year has a different image of Marilyn, are priced around $20-30 (depending on the wine rating), and prices of past vintages have increased dramatically.  Another reason that buyers rarely drink the wine themselves, is that they offer them as gifts for important events.


Marilyn Wines

Marilyn Wines

The line of Marilyn Wines began with Marilyn Merlot.  The line has expanded over the years to include Norma Jeane, Sauvignon Blonde, Blonde de Noirs, Marilyn Cabernet Sauvignon, and Marilyn Meritage. The release date of all wines is always June 1st – Marilyn’s birthday and each vintage usually sells out rather quickly.

As with celebrity labeled collectible wines, reviews of the taste of the wines are mixed.  Usually more on the side of better to collect the bottles than to actually drink it.


Happy B-Day Marilyn!

Happy B-Day Marilyn!

June 1st, 2013 would have been Marilyn Monroe’s 87th birthday.  An iconic star of epic proportion, lived a tumultuous life.  Her mother suffered from extreme mental distress, so Marilyn eventually became a ward of the state, and then foster child. During that time she was sexually assaulted in several foster homes.  During her life, she had several marriages, and several miscarriages. The final years of Monroe’s life were marked by illness, personal problems, sleeping pills, alcohol, and a reputation for unreliability and being difficult to work with.  She died at age 36 of a probable suicide.

Marilyn Monroe Photo Shoot

Marilyn Monroe Photo Shoot

As I read the draft of this post, I realized its somber tone; however, as popular and iconic Marilyn was, her life was rather tragic.  Truly great celebrities live on after death, as she does.  Rest in peace sweet Marilyn.



Lauding the Land of La Mancha Wines

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

Gazate Syrah

5. La Cruz Vega 2011

Syrah – well balanced – acid vs. fruit – if too young for your taste, add food – perfecto!

La Mancha Vines
La Mancha Vines

Top 5 Pinot Noirs

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.

Louis Jadot Pommard, Cote de Beaune, France label

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.

Pioneer Wine Reps

Pioneer Wine Representatives

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 ~