Friday, July 24, 2015

2010 Tenute Lunelli Ziggurat Montefalco Rosso

My husband asked me to make Bolognese sauce with pasta the other day so I took the opportunity to open this bottle of 2010 Tenute Lunelli Ziggurat Montefalco Rosso* that I just received. While the most prominent reds of Umbria are labeled Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG and are made from 100% Sagrantino grapes, the easier drinking Montefalco Rosso DOC wines are made from a blend of grapes with food-friendly Sangiovese being one of the main components. 

The 2010 Tenute Lunelli Ziggurat Montefalco Rosso* contains 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino and 15% Cabernet and Merlot sourced from the family owned vineyards in Montefalco and Bevagna. This wine spent 12 months aging in barrel and 6 months in the bottle before it was released. The high percentage of Sangiovese makes it a classic pairing with pasta and tomato based sauce while the addition of the Sagrantino and the other international varieties makes the wine even more meat friendly.

We enjoyed it with our simple week night meal of salad, bread and pasta with meat sauce. It was a bright ruby red in the glass with aromas of ripe cherries and raspberries with a bit of Chinese 5-spice. It was dry with moderate tannins and good acidity with fresh cherry/berry flavors and a long, lightly spiced finish. Balanced, easy-drinking and casually elegant, we loved it! This wine is priced at approximately $13; it is highly recommended and I will be seeking out more.

*I received this bottle as a media sample from the Consorzio Montefalco.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Thoughts on Orange Wine

I spent the last couple of months trying to seek out the orange wines that are available in the Houston area. Orange wines were a bit of a novelty for me with just the occasional glass at a wine bar or at a wine friend's house. Although I dine out "in town" as much as I can, I also do a lot of dining out in the suburbs. This type of wine, unfortunately, is not a feature on anyone's list out there. This spring, I decided to see what orange wines I could find in our broader market, I wrote about what I found in a feature for Snooth.

Side note for my fellow Houstonians, I found the best retail selections at the Houston Wine Merchant and the best wine menu offerings at Dolce Vita.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

2014 Domaine Suffrene Bandol Rosé

This year to celebrate Rosé Day, I opened a bottle of the 2014 Domaine Suffrene Bandol Rosé. Every summer, this seems to be one of my favorite wines. I have repeatedly recommended it in Galveston Monthly magazine. I had the pleasure of visiting the winery in 2012 and meeting winemaker/owner Cedric Gravier and his dog, Gaston. You can read more about that day by clicking here.

The 2014 vintage is a dry, medium body rosé with aromas and flavors of ripe mixed berries, apricot and grapefruit with a bit of herbs, refreshing acidity and a long mineral finish. Its a fantastic wine to enjoy by itself poolside and it is even more delicious with simply grilled fish. Elegant as always, the perfect wine for summer and, again, a highly recommended wine.

The blend consists of 40% Mourvedre, 30% Cinsault, 20% Grenache and 10% Carignan from 40-70 year old vines that sit in sandy silt soils over limestone and clay. Though the vineyard and winery are not organic certified, Cedric uses virtually all organic practices in his grape growing. This wine was created primarily through direct pressing but it is also blended with some saignee. It was fermented with natural yeasts at low temperatures in stainless steel and malolactic fermentation was blocked. It spends six months in the tank before bottling. It is not fined or filtered. With only 3,000 cases produced, this is wine that Houston does not receive enough of as it quickly sells out in our market, make sure and get yours now.

Friday, June 12, 2015

2007 Tenuta Castelbuono Montefalco Sagrantino

An issue with my outdoor grill has forced me back into my kitchen this summer which is not my favorite place to cook in the Houston summertime. Unable to cook outside along with the need for a large family dinner meant that I was slow roasting a pork shoulder inside.

Since I wasn't just throwing some hamburgers on the grill, I had to start early which gave me time to stare into my wine "cellar" fridge and contemplate what I wanted to open. I also needed a little bit of wine to add into the roasting pan.

This bottle of 2007 Tenuta Castelbuono Montefalco Sagrantino seemed the perfect choice. I popped it open and poured myself a taste. It was big, it was powerful and it had a higher level of tannins than most of the wines that I've been enjoying lately. I poured a quarter cup over my roast, decanted the rest and then re-poured it into the bottle. I then put it back in my wine fridge to keep it at cellar temperature until dinner. I also picked out some other lighter weight wine options for my guests to start the evening.

When I went back to this wine three hours later, I was enthralled. Intense aromas of sweet ripe dark berries with a touch of rosemary and fennel and a light earthiness. It was dry, full bodied with rich berry/cherry flavors and a slight spiciness in the, now, very smooth finish. It had both power and elegance at the same time. I lamented the quarter cup that I had used for cooking.

I poured myself a full glass and I waited until near the end of the meal to share the wealth as I only had one bottle of this wine. I let my guests finish the other (still good) options and then gave everyone some of this wine. It was unquestionably deemed the best wine of the night by all.

This was a media sample and it appears to be priced about $30-35 on-line. I intend on seeking more out and I will let you know in the comments where I find it out in the Houston market; a highly recommended wine!
  • Montefalco Sagrantino wines are produced in the Montefalco apppellation of the Umbria region in Italy. They are made with 100% Sagrantino grapes which have one of the highest concentrations of polyphenol antioxidants. They require a fair amount of aging (a minimum of 30 months by law) to smooth out the tannins to create a more balanced wine. The wine above is almost eight years old and it is drinking beautifully.

Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Chef Showcase


The Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Chef Showcase was held at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center last Saturday evening. This annual event is one of the best consumer wine and food events held in the greater Houston area every year. 

This year more than 2,500 wine and food lovers tasted their way through imaginative dishes and hundreds of wines while chefs representing nearly 60 restaurants competed for Wine & Food Week's Waterford Crystal Chef of Chefs award.  The competition was intense and the impressive culinary creations were not to be missed.

While guests sipped and tasted, Chef Robert Del Grande of RDG was inducted into the Wine & Food Week Chef of Chefs Hall of Fame. He was Houston's first James Beard Award winner in 1992. Kris Jakob, the executive chef of Culinary Institute LeNôtre, took top honors as the 2015 Waterford Crystal Chef of Chefs winning a $5,000 cash and prize package along with the highly sought after Waterford Crystal Trophy. The winning dish was a delectable Foie Gras Creme Brûlée with Ginger Snap Cookies. The first runner-up in the savory competition was Corner Table Executive Chef Ja'Nel Witt with her Summer Yellow Gazpacho, an heirloom tomato gazpacho with crab and cucumber salad finished with jalapeño honey. John Brazie, the Executive Chef at The Woodlands Resort & Conference Center representing Robard's, took the second runner-up position with his Candied Bacon French Toast with Champagne Pickled Cherry, Roquefort Ice Cream and Toasted Bourbon Syrup. 

This year's event featured some of Texas' best wine along with California and European favorites, as well as a fantastic array of Champagne and other sparkling wines of the world. The impressive line up of wines features something for everyone and allows each guest the opportunity to try wines in a variety of styles from all over the globe and enjoy pairing experiences that they might not have ever discovered on their own. It is one of Houston's not to be missed wine and food events.

See My Photos of the Event Here

The Woodlands Wine & Food Week - The Grand Tasting

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

50 Harvests Meritage Napa Valley Red Wine 2012

This bottle of 50 Harvests Meritage Napa Valley Red Wine 2012 was a media sample that I received last fall in a half bottle size. It had dropped to the back of my large wine fridge where it had, unfortunately, gotten lost and forgotten with some bottles being saved for long term storing. During a clean-up/rearranging session, I recently discovered it. 

While working at home, I decided to open it up with a takeout burger that was topped with sauteed onions, mushrooms and Swiss cheese. Yes, I usually eat much lighter than that during the day but I was staying home, my husband was out of town for a few days and I was living in yoga pants. My schedule was actually the writer's schedule that everyone suspects that I have all the time.

Anyway, back to the wine. This was a wine that I could easily have believed was Napa Valley or Bordeaux in a blind tasting; I would have gone back and forth when having to fill in that blank spot. Intense aromas of ripe blackberry, violets and graphite; dry, moderate acidity, velvety tannins with more cranberry and black tea in the flavor and persistent finish. A recommended wine, I finished the half bottle alone on my long lunch break.

Some info from the bottle: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Malbec and 10% Petite Verdot from low yield vineyards in the Oak Knoll District, aged in French Oak with 13.9% ABV. This wine was created to honor the Scotto family's 50 years in California and the grandfather that had brought the family here from Italy in time for the 1963 harvest. A limited production, SRP is $50 for a 750ml bottle.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

2012 Spicewood Vineyards Tempranillo - Texas High Plains

I purchased this bottle of 2012 Spicewood Vineyards Tempranillo sourced from the Texas High Plains at the winery last summer during a trip to Austin. It was one of my favorites that I tasted that day so I bought a few bottles to take home. It is 92% Tempranillo and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and it was aged in 30% new American Oak and 70% neutral oak barrels for 12 months.

My daughter was away studying abroad in Spain for most of the spring and had returned with some saffron for me and a request for me to make paella. After a hectic May, I finally got around to it last Wednesday night. I opted to open this Texas Tempranillo to see how it was holding up and let her compare some of Texas' finest with what she had been drinking in Spain, the home of Tempranillo wines. 

I am pleased to report that it was even better than I remembered. The 2012 Spicewood Vineyards Texas High Plains Tempranillo had pronounced aromas of ripe raspberry and blackberry with baking spice, it was dry with moderate tannins and acidity with a blackberry cobbler flavor and a long finish. It was very drinkable based on the speed that we went through this bottle and it is a recommended wine. It paired well with the paella which contained gulf shrimp, chicken and chorizo sausage.

Spicewood Vineyards is a family owned business located in the Texas Hill Country just a short drive from Austin. If you are visiting the area, it is well worth the ride to check out the vineyards, the winery and taste some award-winning Texas wines. They are open to the public Wednesday through Sunday.

Click here to read more about my visit to Spicewood Vineyards.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Chill with a Rosé from Texas Soil

As Originally Seen in the May /June edition of Edible Houston Magazine
Not Yet Available On-line
Subscribe now or pick up your copy at Whole Foods or Revival Market


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Chablis Class & Tasting with Guy Stout MS

Guy Stout M.S. taught an informative and delicious class on Chablis to a full house of Houston wine professionals earlier this month. The focus was the terroir of the region and how the wines are influenced by it. 

Grapevines have been cultivated and wines have been made in the area since the first century when the Romans came through France. Vineyards improved in the 11th century when Cistercian monks arrived from the Loire Valley. They planted the first Chardonnay vines that would eventually spread as the white grape of choice throughout Burgundy. The region as we know it now was officially established in 1938 with the birth of the Chablis AOC.

Currently, there are about 7,500 acres under vine in Burgundy's northernmost region. The current generation of winemakers has improved their production methods to bring the quality standard up from a quality slump in the mid-20th century. The goal is to create a pure expression of Chardonnay through the use of concrete or fiberglass vats and stainless steel tanks for fermentation. There is limited use of barrels which are predominantly neutral.

Climate changes are raising grape ripeness levels and bringing fruitier nuances to the wines across the board though frost remains the main concern during the early growing season. The still cool climate gives the wines the racy acidity for which the region is known.

The famous limestone soils of the region are known for giving a mineral edge to the wines. There are two types of soils in the vineyard areas. The more highly regarded Kimmeridgian with its mix of limestone, clay and fossilized oyster shells tends to create a more distinct mineral or flint character to the wines while the younger Portlandian soils, though similar, allow for a fruitier aspect to the wines. The Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards all sit on Kimmeridgian soil.

Fun fact- Chardonnay is also known as Beaunois is the region.

The Tasting:

2013 Louis Michel & Fils Petit Chablis- Sourced from areas with more sandy silt in the soil, this more affordable offering was fresh and easy drinking with citrus aromas and flavors and a stony note smoothed out with a slight autolytic character which added a bit of creaminess to the wine. Serve as an aperitif  or with  goat cheese or puff pastry appetizers.

2012 Maison Simonnet-Febvre Chablis- Dry, crisp, accessible with a ripe grapefruit character and a bit of nuttiness and minerality in the fresh finish. Serve with grilled fish or Asian  cuisine.

2011 Louis Michel & Fils ‘Butteaux’ Premier Cru Chablis- Dry, fresh and lively, a bit more angular; aromas and flavors of apple pastry with a mineral edged finish. Serve with grilled oysters or escargot.

2011 Domaine Nathalie et Gilles Fevre ‘Vaulorent’ Premier Cru Chablis- Dry, richer with floral notes with sweet citrus aromas and tropical fruit flavors and a long distinct mineral finish. Serve with poultry or fish with heavier sauce.

2012 Domaine Vocoret et Fils ‘Blanchot’ Grand Cru Chablis- Dry, rich and creamy with aromas of citrus blossom and aromas and flavors of baked pear with a long, distinct mineral finish. Serve with lobster or foie gras. Guy Stout pronounced it, "Big, rich and delicious." I thoroughly agree.

All the wines were dry with a clean, refreshing acidity and pureness of flavor; each one is highly recommended.