Thursday, January 30, 2014

Valentine Wine Gift Ideas #bottles_pvd

Unique Gifts for the Wine/Liquor Lover

If you are looking for a unique gift for your wine lover husband or significant other, here are some fantastic ideas from a wine blog that I follow! Custom engraved wine bottles and glassware are for your choosing from

If you have a family monogram or a personalized message you want to add to the bottle, it can be done.

Just go to their website and see details for ordering your fabulous gifts.

You will have many design options, text options, monogram options, and you can even have a custom logo engraved on the item. They have glassware and barware, bourbon, wine, sparkling wines, and scotch to engrave and if you don't see what your looking for, there's a link you can look for your specific bottle to engrave. The list is long and intense. You can't go wrong!

Order soon! Valentine's Day is just around the corner!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Premiere Napa Valley 2014 #napavintners #coquerelwine

Last Wednesday evening, Don and I joined Sommelier Aaron Benson and some of Napa's finest vintners to experience wines straight from the barrel and current releases, in anticipation of the 2014 Premiere Napa Valley Auction. Wine lovers and winemakers met at the Dallas Country Club to partake and celebrate some of what the famous Napa Valley has to offer. 

This auction, which will last four days, will take place in Napa, June 2014. But more than the four days of the auction, this event will touch lives for years to come because all the proceeds go to support community health and children's education. To date, they have raised more than $120 million in dozens of these organizations. 

Back to our dinner and wine tastings now. Aaron and his staff had beautifully decorated the Ladies Lakeside Lounge where we were married and had our reception. The vintners dined with the guests at each table so they could share the stories of their wines and history of winemaking. We were fortunate to be seated with May-Britt Malbec from Notre Vin. She and her husband Denis, created Notre Vin, which means "our wines", in honor of their favorite California terriors. They had carefully selected vineyards on Howell Mountain and along the Sonoma Coast. All their wines are created in very limited quantities.

Here are the wines I remember from Notre Vin!

The first bottle is a 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Cuvee L'Etrier . Click on the name for the winemaker's notes. We enjoyed this wine immensely. I don't have a price and it isn't given on their website.

This is the 2008 Howell Mountain Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Rose'. This was a very delightful rose' made in the French dry style and aged in stainless steel tanks. Click on the name for winemaker notes.

The second bottle behind the Cuvee L'Etrier is a Howell Mountain Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, but I don't know the vintage. However, if you look at their website, they offer vintages all the way back to 2003. 

There was so many vintners and wines at this event, that I neglected to write it all down or take pictures of each bottle. But whatever it was, it was delicious! I didn't taste anything from Notre Vin that I wouldn't buy or suggest you drink!

I believe we tasted their Pinot Noir and their Opportunite', which is a 2006 Vintage Port, and both were lovely.

Another vintner that was there was Howell at the Moon. We tasted their 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ($85) that was excellent.

Ideology Cellars was another vintner at this event. We ended up buying a 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($125) which is a "voluptuous wine in classic style, barrel aged for 26 months, and still showing its California heritage." Only 100 cases produced of this vintage.

Others that were there at the event included Metaphora, Newton, Hall, and Coquerel Family Wine Estate. We tasted all these wines and they were excellent wines, which makes it a hard decision for those in attendance who were there to help decide which wines we would like to see on the DCC wine list.

The Coquerel Family Wines were my favorite. Their 2011 Le Petit Coquerel Sauvignon Blanc was wonderful. This winery began as a dream to produce a superb Sauvignon Blanc modeled after the Bordeaux blanc of France. In 2005, they purchased a vineyard in Calistoga, which produced their first vintage in 2008. They have since begun producing Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon made in an old world style with luscious California fruit!

What an excellent wine for just $20. Crisp, creamy, and a long finish!
The pic below is wine just out of the barrel and totally wonderful.

Meeting Brenda Coquerel was an honor. Such a sweet lady to visit with and share stories about teaching school and drinking wines. 

Aaron, excellent job on the choice of vintners for the evening! We totally enjoyed the food, wine, and fellowship with the vintners and other wine lovers!

Friday, January 24, 2014

#hibicusdallas Barnett Vineyards-Dallas Country Club Wine Dinner

Barnett Vineyards
Napa Valley

I was looking through my journal this morning wondering what wonderful wines I hadn't mentioned in a blog. In mid August, my husband and I dined at Hibiscus located on Henderson Avenue, which I might add is a fun, vibrant, soulful establishment to dine. The rustic decor is amazing, not to mention the food is fabulous. Each time we dine out, I am always looking for that really great white wine that I haven't tried and I can say I found a great one.

Before sharing what it is, I have to fast-forward to November 21 at the Dallas Country Club. We had made reservations to attend one of their several wine dinners throughout the year. This one was featuring Barnett Vineyard wines. At the reception, I was served the same wine that I had had at Hibiscus back in August, but didn't realize it until today. 

Barnett Vineyards is located at the very top of Spring Mountain, where the vineyards get up to three hours more sunlight each day. That is why their fruit has more consistent ripening and flavor from vintage to vintage. Pacific Ocean breezes come in the afternoon and cool the vines, which benefits the fruit even more. 
This estate is a 100% hillside vineyard with steep terracing. They planted red Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. It's very rocky which creates stress on the vines resulting in a rich intense fruit. 
Rattlesnake Hill is the highest point on the estate where Cabernet Sauvignon is grown but extremely limited.

Winemaking and viticulture practices at Barnett Vineyards are by hand. Everything is hand-harvested at optimal ripeness. The grapes are fermented in small batches and a punch down takes place several times a day. It add richness, flavor, aroma, and color extraction while allowing the tannins to be micro-managed.
Only French oak barrels are used. 50-70% new oak barrels and once-used barrels.

The first cases of wine were produced in 1989 and now has a total production of about 5,500 cases. The Barnetts want to remain a small 100% family-owned winery focusing on producing estate Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Their wines are not always available in every market.

Fiona and Hal Barnett are such lovely people to meet. The night of the November wine dinner was phenomenal, both food and wine. They spoke of the discovery of the undeveloped forested land on top of Spring Mountain in 1983, clearing it, farming and planning, which led to the first vintage, the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. They told about how their vision to produce small amounts of wine for family and friends to enjoy changed when it gained importance as one of Napa Valley's world-renowned Cabernets.
Fiona and Hal shared the tasting notes and other information of all six wines that we were served along with the delicious foods carefully paired with their wines.

Taken at Hibiscus in August-the white wine I was looking for!

We were served two difference wines-One was this Chardonnay:
 2011 Sangiancomo Vineyard Chardonnay, Carneros ($38) (855 cases produce)-served to me at Hibiscus and the DCC Barnet Wine Dinner in November. Honeysuckle and Bosque pear on the nose, with hints of white pepper, caramel, lily-perfuned. Tropical notes of mango and pineapple on the palette. Very nice!

2011 Merlot, Spring Mountain District ($63) (545 cases)-concentrated cassis, black plum, and peppercorn on the nose, 14% Cabernet Franc offers the minerality in the wine. Firm tannins and fresh acidity, a big mountain wine. Wonderful!

The above wines were paired with an edible centerpiece of holiday grapes, poached pears, Marcona almond, marinated country olives, brie, honey goat cheese, and parmesan twists.

The first course was a fig-mascarpone-walnut gremolata with poached apple paired with  
 a 2012 Savoy Vineyard Chardonnay, Anderson Valley ($42) (590 cases)-big pear, red apple and blooming tulips on the nose. Flavors of caramel apple, cinnamon toast and limeade on the palette. Loved it!


You can see the four wines we had with the dinner. I know it's not a great pic because of the lighting in the ballroom and I keep my iPhone flash off. I don't like pics with the flash!

The second bottle was served with a seared sea bass, Carolina Gold "dirty rice" and lobster nage. It was a 2011 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($80) 
(1480 cases)-Shows crushed violets, cocoa nibs and mixed black cooking spices. Interestingly it will take time to show its best, 2024-2026. It is a deeper, firmer Cabernet, they say, than in previous years. Awesome!

Grilled pork osso buco, butternut squash and whole grain mustard slaw was the third course paired with a 
2011 Rattlesnake Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain ($155) (855 cases)-intensely dark purple, this wine is big and very concentrated. Aromas of raspberries and vanilla bean, with chocolate and licorice. Pure black peppercorn upon tasting, firm tannins, and will develop even more after ten years. Be patient, for this wine will progress for the next 20 years! 2033! Amazing!

Boursin ice cream Poivre Noir, blackberry cremeux, and sweet pomegranate pearls were paired with our last wine of the night, 
a 2011 Donnelly Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley ($43) 1257 cases)-a more,deeper richer style of Pinot, with black cherry, boysenberry and pomegranate are the first aromas, with cinnamon and cedar afterwards. More spice on the palter, very firm tannins balanced by the acidity. Full, rich wine with continue to age over the next 7-8 years. Delicious!

In a small group setting like we were in that night, Fiona and Hal were able to meet and greet everyone at each table in the ballroom. Our guests, Rick and J.E. had a wonderful time as well! What's not to enjoy about fabulous food, dining with friends old and new, and drinking fabulous wines!


By the fireside at DCC

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

#quivirawinery Our Next Stop-Second Day of October Wine Vacation! QUIVIRA WINERY!

Quivira Winery

Our second winery of the day took us to one of my favorite wineries in the Dry Creek Valley. Quivira (K-Vira), a boutique winery, is located at 4900 West Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg, CA. We have been here three times and never get anything but quality-grown, minimally manipulated wines. This family is committed to crafting true varietal character wines, not just making wines.

I've blogged before about this winery and written about how their biodynamic farming which includes centuries old farming techniques. Take a look at their website to find out why they "deliver one of the most authentic wine drinking experiences anywhere". So interesting! When you visit you can stroll through the one-acre garden, sit under their trees for a picnic and tasting, and see the most beautiful views of the Dry Creek Valley.

We brought our lunch from the Dry Creek General Store just up the road and began our tasting under the trees in the garden.

Our first wine was a 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($22) from their Fig Tree Vineyard. The characteristic grassiness is apparent, but is followed by fruit notes of pineapple and passion fruit. OMG this is amazing wine!

Tom Scott, the tasting room manager, poured us a 2010 Petite Sirah ($30). The rooster on the bottle likes to hang out near the Petite Sirah grapes where the dog, Louise, doesn't go! We picnicked right by the "5-star" chicken condo and watched the rooster strut around like he owned the place.

Dark fruit notes include blueberry and blackberry with a hint of vanilla. Could it be anymore of what I love? This wine is delicious!

The next wine was a 2010 Quest Zinfandel ($38). I love the story they tell about the hawk waiting for a mouse or other rodent to dart out of the newly-plowed winter crop. It's the hawk's quest that they compare their patient wait for the wine to finish in the barrel.
This wine is a bigger Zinfandel, with a healthy dose of Petite Sirah. It is sooooo good!

We were then served a beautiful, 100%  2011 Grenache ($30) from the Wine Creek Ranch. Normally "Mourvedre and Syrah are blended in for structure and mid-palate richness, but this was so well balanced, it didn't need a supporting cast". If you love fresh or dried strawberries, red cherries, and a touch of baking spices, you'll love this Grenache. My mouth begins to water just looking at the photo!

Our last tasting during our picnic time was a 2010 Syrah ($30). This wine, like the others, is amazing. I can't find any wine at Quivira that I wouldn't buy, drink, or give as a gift (although that would be very hard to do)! This wine has predominantly dark fruits such as  black cherries, followed by a smokiness which leads to a full-bodied finish. You can't go wrong with this Syrah.

I was looking on our receipt from that day and saw that we bought a 
2012 Viognier-Sauvignon Blanc ($32) which they are currently sold out of. The label on this bottle is unlike all the other bottles and I think that is one reason I love it, although not the main reason!

They describe is as "flavors of peach and apricot, along with citrus and even orange creamsicle (the creaminess is caused by aging on the lees). 

What a fabulous lunch and wine tasting at QUIVIRA WINERY. We were all very happy, full, and ready to buy some of this authentically grown wine.


Friday, January 17, 2014

2nd Day of October Wine Vacation-#1 Winery Tasting-#M_Schlumberger

"A great experience starts with great wines!" Michel-Schlumberger Benchland Wine Estate is located on a rare piece of level ground just off Dry Creek Road at 4155 Wine Creek Road in Healdsburg, CA. This is where we began our second day of tasting wines. The winery is a mission-styled white stucco walled, terra-cotta tiled roof building nestled among 88 acres of rolling hills of prime benchland vineyards.

The winery offers several ways to taste their wines and view their property. Our group did the Estate Tasting out in the courtyard under the sun.

The buildings are so beautiful, I couldn't help but take pictures of them and the gorgeous blue skies.

Here are some of the wines we tasted. I didn't get a picture of everything. I'll list the others we tasted. They aren't in a specific order either. And let me say that this winery pulled out so many of their wines for us to taste. They were very generous!

We began with a Domaine Michel Sparkling Wine from Los Carneros. I think it is $30, but I can't find it anywhere on the internet. I wrote in my wine journal that I would definitely buy this!

Pictured above:
2012 La Nue Chardonnay ($28) (which is sold out now). This is a lighter Chardonnay with flavors of apricot and apple leading to a clean finish. Loved it!

There was also another Chardonnay that they called the 
2012 Gold Collection Chardonnay ($42), which I don't have a picture of either and can't find it online! :(

The second bottle in the picture is a 2011 Le Fou Pinot Noir ($35). 

Next is a 2010 La Source Syrah ($32) which is sold out now, but very good. It had rich plum and blueberry flavors-very lush in the mouth.

The last bottle in the picture, (but not the last wine we tasted) is a
2010 Faux Pas Red Wine ($40). This wine is a blend of their finest Cabernet and 50% Syrah with rich flavors of dark plum and black cherry.

We were lucky to taste their 2012 Le Flirt Rose' of Merlot ($20) which was definitely worth it! A bright, pink salmon color and perfect for the summer!

In my wine journal, I see that we also tasted:

2010 Cabernet Franc ($40)

2012 La Bise Pinot Blanc ($30)

2009 Bloque Rico ($50)

and finally a

2007 Port ($35) with chocolate. Amazing!

Visit this winery when in Healdsburg! You won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dry Creek Vineyard-October Wine Vacation-#7 #DryCreekVnyd

I'd like to say that we tasted their wines, and arriving when the tasting room was closed was our mistake, but getting to see our family and about-to-be new friends was not. This is where our journey ended for the day, but where theirs began!

My daughter and son-in-law (on the front right side with dark jackets) had planned a weekend of exciting winery visits and private bottling for her inlaw's 25th wedding anniversary. Blessed to have been invited, we joined the group at their first winery, 
Dry Creek Vineyards. Established in 1972, this winery was the first one built in the DCV after Prohibition, the first to plant Sauvignon Blanc, and the first to introduce Sauvignon Blanc to Sonoma County. There were so many other firsts for this family giving it a long and colorful history. Please go to the website to read and appreciate for yourself the history of this wine.

The tasting room built in 1972 on an old prune orchard

Although it was our last stop on the first day of wine tasting in October, it will be our first stop when we return to Sonoma in 2014. Dry Creek Vineyards must be given the time it deserves to taste their wines and see the vision, the determination and hard work that has sailed them into the twenty-first century of winemaking.

After surfing through their website, I gathered they must have a love of sailing and are very committed to it! All their labels since the early 1980's have sailboats, sailors, or sails on them. I love the sea myself and these labels give me a sense of peace and serenity just like I get when drinking their wines. We did get to drink a 2012 Dry Chenin Blanc ($12) later that evening! Incredibly crisp and wonderfully dry with aromas of stone fruits, soft apple flavors and a zesty citrus. 

Sailing is fun, adventurous, and romantic and they say it is very much like making wine. It takes a team effort contributing their specific skills to be a success or a failure.  What a passion for sailing and winemaking they possess! And awards to prove their success are too many to list here. Just taste and see!

We can't wait to return to your winery!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Most Unusual Thing Happened! #gunbunwine Gundlach Bundschu #TheBroadmoor

This past week we were in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor Resort and Spa for our anniversary. As we waited for our table, I began taking pictures of some old bottles of wine encased on the walls outside The Tavern restaurant. I didn't even look at what I had taken until I showed my husband. He immediately said, "Honey, this is a Cabernet from Gundlach Bundschu!" I was shocked! Out of all the bottles of wine and whiskey that I could have taken a picture of, I took the Gundlach Bundschu Cabernet because I saw the word Cabernet and because he loves a great Cabernet.

There are literally hundreds of bottles to peruse, and I pick this one great Cabernet! 

How random that I would pick their wine out of thousands of bottles of wine found on the property in the early 1900's hidden by Spencer Penrose, the owner of the hotel at that time. He had hidden thousands of bottles of wine and whiskey in the walls of the hotel during Prohibition. Years later they were discovered when renovations were taking place. 

The bottles are encased in the walls throughout the Tavern and the walls leading to the ladies and men's rooms. They are dusty, dirty, and kept as original as possible for our generation to enjoy! Most of them still have wine and whiskey inside. Our waiter said that the bottles found empty were used to make the chandeliers and sconces in the restaurant. They are so unique and perfect for the decor of the Tavern!

This is the bottle I saw and took a photo of:

This was the first picture I took. After being seated at our table, I showed Don the pictures. He immediately noticed the other words (besides Cabernet) on the label. We both realized that we had missed an opportunity to taste their wines back in June 2012 on another winecation. Gundlach Bundschu was on our list of wineries to visit, but we didn't make it there. 

During dinner I realized that I must go back and take more photos of the same bottle so I could share on my blog just how fabulous a find this was! Well, I was excited!!!

After returning home to Dallas, and reading all of the history of this winery, here's what I found out! 
In 1858, Jacob Gundlach purchased 400 acres in Sonoma and called it Rhinefarm. He went back to Bavaria and married his sweetheart. They honeymooned throughout Germany and France buying the rootstock that he would eventually plant on Rhinefarm. He and three partners planted 60,000 vines on the ranch and the first vintage was in 1861. In 1862 Charles Bundschu emigrated from Germany and joined Jacob in the winery business in 1868.

In 1870 Phylloxera devastated the grape industry and that is when Jacob and his partner Dresel began experimenting with rootstock from Texas. These plantings produced grapes for nearly one hundred years until Jim replanted.

So in 1875, Charles joined the family and married Jacob's eldest daughter, Francis. Jacob died at the age of 76 and Charles took over the winery in 1894.

The Bacchus Club was a "wine and literary club in 1897 founded by Charles Bundschu. It celebrated the harvest and all gatherings in song, poem and prose. Then came the disaster of 1906, an earthquake and fire, that destroyed one million gallons of wine and three family homes. They retreated to their country home and began rebuilding as a modest estate winery."

Charles Bundschu died and his sons took over the winery. They won several awards before Prohibition, but had to close the doors in 1919 and the company was liquidated. Walter Bundschu held onto 130 of Rhinefarm growing pears and using the land for pastures. IN 1933, after the 21st Amendment was passed and wineries began to reopen, Walter's wife remained a Prohibitionist and the doors to the winery remained closed. The grapes were bought by his brother Carl, who ran Inglenook Winery in Napa. In 1938, Walter died and his son Towle came home to restore the Rhinefarm's 200 acres. In 1950, Louis Martini, a good friend of Towles, signed a contract to buy the grapes. 

Fast forward to 1969, Jim Bundschu, Towles son, convinced his father that the market was ripe for grapes again and he replanted Rhinefarm, tearing out all but 10 acres of pear trees. In 1970 Jim and his two brothers-in-law agreed to reopen the winery, but Towle refused to let them use the Gundlach Bundschu name. So they named it Vineburg.

After three years of success and commitment, Towle finally let them use the Gundlach Bundschu name after tasting the 1973 Zinfandel.

Gundlach Bundschu was reborn! It doesn't stop there either! Besides the great wines, they are a charitable family. They ride in a Tour de Cure which raises money to help cure diabetes and they support the 370th Engineer Company serving in Afganistan.

I could go on and on about their artist commissioned labels, and their vintage reserve barrels of wine, last year being the 30th release of the VR. I cannot wait to get back to Sonoma and visit this winery. I don't know what month it will be, but it will be in 2014!

Good job Gundlach Bundschu! I love your history, your interactive map, and can't wait to begin a love of your wines!