Although Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and I expect many will be gorging themselves on wine and chocolate (for pairing tips, check out this post from last year!), I thought I’d return from my writing sabbatical with a bit about where I’ve been and what I’ve been tasting lately!
I recently visited one of my oldest and dearest friends in Dallas, Texas to meet her new baby. And because I haven’t had much Texas juice before I knew we had to visit a winery while I was there! At the suggestion of Dallas Wine Chick and Texas Wineaux we headed to nearby Grapevine, TX to check out Messina Hof‘s urban winery- one of the oldest and most award winning wineries in Texas.
One thing I was shocked by in Texas was how much of the juice wasn’t actually from Texas. It was disappointing to see so many grapes being sourced from Lodi, California. Not so with Messina Hof. They grow their own grapes on their property in Texas Hill Country a few hours away, and so I was able to get an authentic taste of what Texas wine is all about.
Besides the cozy, western feel of the urban winery, they offer wine on tap, which is fermented on site in the small production facility! Customers can even fill up growlers of their favorite wines!
We were given a tour of the property by Manager, Nathan DeWitt, and Sommelier, Mark Rettig, before going through a tasting of their wines.
I was particular impressed with the Blanc de Bois- a new to me wine that was cultivated in the 1970s at the University of Florida. It had incredible aromatics with a bit of petrol and slate on the nose, mouthwatering acid, and notes of key lime and grapefruit on the palate. In some ways it reminded me of a dry riesling and was extremely food friendly. Several of us left the winery with a bottle to enjoy later!
The GSM was another stand out. This Rhone blend (50% Syrah, 41% Mourvedre and 9% Grenache) was easy drinking with plenty of nuance. The medium bodied wine boasted notes of cigar box, blackberry and spicy floral notes- I was reminded of the nasturtiums growing in my childhood home’s garden.
Tasting Barrel samples in the production room
After visiting another (disappointing) winery down the street, we decided to head back to Messina Hof to finish the day on a high note relaxing in their lounge with a glass of wine. This southerner appreciated the sense of warmth and hospitality, along with the distinct focus on wine education during the tasting.
If you find yourself near Dallas, I highly recommend a stop by Messina Hof in Grapevine. Tastings are $10 for 5 wine tokens (a few of the reserve wines take 2 tokens.)
The huge variety available will give you a great idea of what’s possible in Texas wine with something sure to please most any palate. If you’re not sure what to taste just ask the friendly staff for their favorites!
Have you tried Texas wine?
Bon Vivant, Guest Posts, Helpful Hints, Holidays, Seasonal Sips, Virginia Wine, Wine Concierge, Wine Pairing, Wine Recommendations, Winemakers, Wineries and Vineyards
Virginia wine is making its mark. And if you’re not on board yet, here are 6 outstanding Virginia wines that will change your mind, perfectly suited to complement your Thanksgiving Feast. Get all the details and tasting notes in my guest post on The Hill is Home!
Breaux Vineyards. Fall, 2013
There’s something for everyone- from the bubbly lover to dessert wines- from just a few of Virginia’s esteemed wineries, including Thibaut-Jannison, Breaux Vineyards, RdV, Stone Tower Winery, Tarara Winery and Linden Vineyards.
Taste makers around the country are singing the Commonwealth’s praises, most recently at the Virginia Wine Summit. Food And Wine Magazine Editor, Ray Isle, was recently the keynote speaker, where he praised both the gorgeous scenery and outstanding wines right in DC’s backyard.
Have you tried Virginia wine yet? If not, consider one of my Thanksgiving pairing recommendations or contact me for a custom excursion into DC’s wine country. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
For more wine pairing guidance this Thanksgiving check out my recommendations here!
As DC braces for its first cold snap of the season, I’m reminiscing about July in Malibu!
Wine grapes growing in Malibu
In a region known more for surfing and celebrities than vino, I had the opportunity to have lunch with an outstanding winemaker, Elliot Dolin. He was kind enough to share his wine, chat his past life on the road with Willie Nelson, and the newly designated AVA in Malibu over lunch at V’s.
Dolin wasn’t always a winemaker, or even aficionado. In fact, in the mid 90’s he started out knowing “next to nothing about wine at the time other than the fact that wine was either red or white.” It was at a friend’s regular wine gatherings where he began learning more, collecting wine and taking classes at UCLA.
After purchasing a home in Malibu, Dolin realized he had land perfect for growing grapes, and so began his vineyard in 2006.
“Given our proximity to the coast, Chardonnay was the logical varietal choice. There was then no question that we would pursue the production of wine from these grapes,” said Dolin.
Elliot Dolin with his 2011 Chardonnay
Although the cost of production at small, family owned wineries can be prohibitive, Dolin had his eye on expansion from the very beginning.
“Effective with our 2012 vintage, we have dramatically expanded our production to include four distinct single vineyard Pinot Noir bottlings. In addition, for the 2012 vintage, we have produced a proprietary red wine made with grapes grown in a vineyard at a much higher elevation in Malibu. Thus, our 2012 production was close to 2000 cases, almost 10 times that of 2011.”
This is good news for wine lovers here on the East Coast!
“Given our higher, yet limited, production, we’re currently seeking distribution channels that will make our wines available throughout the United States.”
Currently, his Chardonnay is available to enjoy in DC at Oya. Drinkers can expect a well balanced wine with a rich, creamy mouth feel, tropical fruit notes and vanilla on the palette. It recently received 90 points from Wine Spectator.
2011 Chardonnay, which recently received 90 Points from Wine Spectator.
2013 was an odd year for California vintners. Harvest broke records in many areas with its early timing, but Dolin is optimistic.
“We are quite excited about the 2013 vintage. Our Estate chardonnay vineyard produced almost exactly the yield that we targeted. And the barrel samples that I have tasted reveal a very promising 2013 vintage for both our Estate Chardonnay and our single vineyard Pinot Noir grapes.”
There was quite a lot of hoopla over the designation of Malibu as its own distinct AVA. Dolin’s perspective on how this affects his own winemaking:
“The new Malibu Coast AVA allows us to label and identify our wines as being produced with grapes from a specific region, versus being limited to identifying them as originating from either “Los Angeles County ” or “California”. Aside from establishing this sense of place for our wines, we also benefit from the official government recognition that establishes the Malibu Coast as a legitimate wine growing region.”
Dolin was a professional musician for much of his life and has great stories of touring with music greats Ray Price, Willie Nelson, Johnny Paycheck, Faron Young, Ernest Tubb, and Merle Haggard. When he’s not making wine or music, Dolin is an avid classic car collector.
From Dolin’s days as a professional musician. Pictured: Ray Price and Willie Nelson. In Willie’s sunglass lens you can see a reflection of the legendary steel guitar player Buddy Emmons.
Have you tried wine from Malibu?
Although we’re coming up on Labor Day weekend, the weather will continue to be warm for the next month or so. Here in DC, we’re looking at a heat wave! Here’s what I’ll be drinking:
A summer favorite, this budget friendly wine from the South of France is light and intensely refreshing. It’s well-known as a great pairing for seafood and is enjoyable for casual patio sipping as well.
Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: 2011 Domaine De La Fruitière Petit M ($13)
The tangy acidity and minerality in this Muscadet will make you a convert to this oft-overlooked variety.
Although many drink rosé year round (yours truly, included!), it’s often best enjoyed during warmer months. The most popular region for this type of wine is Provence, although they are increasingly being produced in almost every wine region. They often have red fruit flavors and a bone dry finish.
Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: Montfaucon Domaine Les Gardettes Rosé ($12)
This has been one of my go to summer rosés to enjoy al fresco this summer. This rosé from the Loire Valley has a wonderful bouquet of peach blossom and raspberry.
I know this is a common recommendation on the Bon Vivant Blog, but if you’re anything like me, any excuse will do to enjoy a festive glass of bubbly! It’s refreshing, pairs well with a variety of foods, and is perfectly acceptable to drink before noon on your Monday off!
Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs ($40) & Biutiful Rosé Brut Cava ($13)
In the wake of the recent earthquake, show Napa some love with this superb bottle of bubbly. I’m partial to the Blanc de Noirs, but this established bubbly house produces outstanding bubblies from a variety of grapes.
For a more budget friendly option, look to Cava from Spain- equally delicious and usually lighter on the wallet! I like Biutiful’s brut rosé. Made from 100% Garnacha, this easy drinking bubbly has lovely red fruit notes and a bone dry finish.
For those who will be grilling out this weekend, Spanish reds are a great pairing with Barbeque and other grilled meats. They are slightly spicy, fruit forward, and balanced out with an old world, earthy quality.
Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: Ladrón de Guevara ($12-$30)
A spicy Tempranillo from Rioja fits the bill! Their cosecha will set you back a mere $12, while their Reserva can run about $30. The younger the wine, the lighter and more fruit forward it will be. I generally like to drink their middle ground- Crianza, which runs about $17.
This is another classic pairing for those who will be manning the grill this Labor Day weekend. California comes through again with this fruit forward and zesty red wine. (Just steer clear of the much maligned white Zinfandel!)
Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: 2012 F. Stephen Millier Angel’s Reserve Zinfandel ($20)
This classic producer from Lodi consistently puts out quality Zinfandel with jammy fruit and a hint of smokiness that will pair great with anything char-grilled.
What are your Labor Day Weekend Plans?
Stage Four. Those aren’t words anyone wants to hear when it comes to breast cancer.
My Mom and sisters on Mother’s Day. May, 2014.
My mom grew up Westchester County, New York, born to South Carolinian parents. She attended boarding school at Madeira, where she was an equestrian. She made her debut at the International Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria, joined Tri-Delta and later the Junior League of Atlanta.
In short, this is not a woman you would expect to shave a faux hawk. And it’s definitely not a woman you would expect to dye said faux hawk pink.
So when she decided that’s what she wanted to do, my sisters dubbed it “The Pink Party” and like proper southerners, we ran with it.
Because when life throws you “The C word”, sometimes you’ve got to throw a little sparkling rosé and joie de vivre back at it.
A family silver tray was polished to present a flight of rosé wine, which was generously donated by Andrew Stover, of Vino 50 wines.
Hillinger makes a delicious sparkling wine, a portion of the proceeds benefiting Breast Cancer Research. For the past 5 years, they have donated 10,000 Euros a year with proceeds from their pink ribbon label- a refreshing secco made from 100% pinot noir. When menu planning and selecting wines, it was the obvious choice.
When cancer strikes, you either accept the diagnosis lying down, or you carpe your diem. My Mom has done the latter.
Since her diagnosis 4+ years ago she has traveled to Italy, Greece, Turkey, Croatia, France, Montreal, Scotland, the Grand Canyon. She made the move to Maryland with her service animal and companion, Maggie, a rescue Doberman Pinscher from the Dawson County Humane Society in Georgia.
The affair was civilized as these things go- we all wore pink. A family member, also a breast cancer survivor, sent a mass of hot pink roses. The luncheon was comprised of pink food and drink as we listened to a sound track of Frank Sinatra, Bon Iver, and Norah Jones. The hair dye was applied as we sipped Hillinger in my bathroom, and “set” as the tomato flat bread bubbled in the oven. As one does.
So if life has thrown you a curve ball lately, remember that it’s possible to celebrate even in the midst of dark and scary times. In fact, it is perhaps even more important to do so. So pop a cork, support a good cause while doing so, and live the good life. It’s what wine is all about.
Hillinger Sparkling Rosé, Pink Ribbon Label
Made from 100% pinot noir, this Austrian secco is lightly refreshing with notes of red fruit and strawberry. Enjoy as an aperitif at your own pink party!
Stone Hill Sparkling Rosé
This Methode Champenoise bubbly from Missouri (yes, Missouri!) is a blend of Vidal Blanc and Chambourcin. Its slightly more fruit forward style and dry finish paired well with our luncheon, and even better with the strawberry compote. Only 200 cases produced.
Boe Brookly Oenology Cabernet Franc Rosé
This rosé is comprised of 100% Cabernet Franc. Slightly tart with cranberry and raspberry on the palate, this dry, still wine hails from the finger lakes region of New York. Delicious on its own or paired with light appetizers.
Our chemo friendly menu (no raw fruits or veggies allowed!):
- Sparkling pink grapefruit juice
- Shrimp Cocktail
- Genoa Salami & Cheese (the only non-pink item served, but it’s not a party without a cheese plate!)
- Tomato and feta flat bread
- Strawberry Lemon cake served with stewed strawberry compote
To purchase the Hillinger wine we enjoyed, visit Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, DCanter, or Sherry’s in DC.
To donate to Breast Cancer Research, click here.
To donate to the shelter where Maggie was adopted, click here.
Update: Though my mother has since passed away, she rocked the faux hawk for as long as possible. This October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and was also my mother’s birthday month. For other ways to support both wine and Breast Cancer awareness, check out the #wineloversagainstcancer campaign.