Category Archives: Wine

Fredericksburg Weekend Getaway

Looking for a weekend getaway without the hassle of long distance travel? Hop in the car, head down 35, and make a visit to Fredericksburg, Texas for wine tasting rooms, vineyards, breweries, sightseeing, and even a distillery. I’ve rounded up my favorite things from my last visit for anyone planning a getaway to the area affectionately known as Fritztown.

A few quick tips:

  • Fredericksburg is the only city in Texas with an open carry policy … BOOM. Carry around your beer or wine (no liquor) on the street!
  • You can find many hotels, bed and breakfasts, and even ranches in the area for housing.  Some vineyards may even have their own lodging available.
  • Take sunscreen … you’re going to be outside.
  • It’s just more than 4 hours down to the Hill Country from the Dallas area.  (Just head to Austin and take a right!) And you’ll want to have a car to get out to some of the further out vineyards and locations.
  • There’s more to do than eat and drink (though we won’t judge you if that’s all you do). They have plenty of shopping, outdoor activities like hiking and Enchanted Rock State Park, peach picking, and plenty of festivals and events.
  • Do your research before heading that way.  There’s a lot to do and you don’t want to spend your whole trip deciding what to do next!  (VisitFredericksburg.com is a great resource.)

Pontotoc Vineyard Weingarten is located on Main Street in downtown Fredericksburg. They have a small tasting room, but even better is there patio with several tables to enjoy the great hill country weather. Six of us stopped by after a late breakfast and enjoyed a few bottles of wine. I personally did a tasting here before switching over to one of the bottles we bought for the table. If you’re looking for a drink to cool you down on a hot summer day, I highly recommend the sangria. (I bought a bottle to bring home with me.)

Pontotoc Vineyard Weingarten
pontotocvineyard.com, 512.658.0023

320 West Main Street

Grape Creek has two options in town–a tasting room on Main Street in downtown and they have a vineyard just outside of town on Highway 290. (They have a third location in Georgetown as well.) We stopped by the tasting room one evening in town before heading to dinner and tried a few wines. I liked everything I tried, but settled on a white wine to sip on while we relaxed. Out of all the places I visited, Grape Creek was my favorite; I truly liked every wine I tasted.

Grape Creek Vineyards
grapecreek.com, 830.644.2710

Highway 290, Main Street, Georgetown

grapecreek-main-outside

Compass Rose Cellars, located in Hye, is a must-visit. Stop by Compass Rose to enjoy a glass of wine while relaxing on a patio with a picturesque view of the surrounding hills, enjoy a tasting of some great wines with some great food, or grab light lunch from a truly great chef. Compass Rose has it all. We went through a full wine tasting led by the owner, and the chef has some incredible food pairings that really transform the taste of the wines.

Make sure you make an appointment if you plan to do a tasting as they really value customer service and don’t want to do what they call a “drive by tasting”. Compass Rose prefers to spend time with you during the tasting to really elaborate on the wines you’re enjoying. If you want to continue enjoying their hospitality, this little gem also has “casitas” if you want to stay the night.

Compass Rose Cellars
compassrosecellars.com, 830.868.7799

1197 Hye-Albert Road (Hye)

William Chris Vineyard (also in Hye) is another great stop. To use the phrase coined by Compass Rose, this was more of a “drive by tasting”, but the wines were enjoyable and the vineyard had a great outdoor area. The tasting room was a little busy, but if you have an appointment they have a space dedicated for you at the tasting bar. We ordered a cheese plate here and had a glass of wine on the patio while listening to live music they provided outside. They have events and concerts on location regularly, so check out their events calendar to see what’s coming up before visiting.

William Chris Vineyard
williamchriswines.com, 830.998.7654
10352 U.S. Highway 290 (Hye)

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If you are a bourbon drinker, plan a stop to Garrison Brothers. If you have no interest in bourbon or the distillation process, skip this stop. (But then … why would you be reading a blog about drinking?) Their distillery tour is very informative and you get to see the entire process from grains to bottling. The tour does take a nice bit of time. During the tour they hand out a taste of the “white dog”, the product straight out of the still before it is aged in oak barrels. They also let you taste the bourbon at the very end of the tour … the final product, that is!  (Reservations are required for Saturday tours.)

Garrison Brothers Distillery
garrisonbros.com, 830.392.0246
1827 Hye Albert Road (Hye)

For the beer-inclined of you, carve out some time to carve your initials into one of the community-style picnic tables in the Fredericksburg Brewing Company tasting room. (Bonus points if you find Susie’s #SusieDrinksFredericksburg tag!) They brew their beers on-site and offer a range of brews, so try them all while enjoying food from their restaurant and see which is your favorite. They have a “Bed & Brew” for you to crash in … in case you’ve had one too many.

Fredericksburg Brewing Company
yourbrewery.com, 830.997.1646
245 E. Main St.

I’m going to give a shout out to the two companies that were involved on booking/driving my fiancé and I around on our tour. We reached out to Fredericksburg Uncorked based on a recommendation from a friend and asked for something relaxed where we weren’t rushed from stop to stop with no real time to sit and relax. We had some great conversation with our driver, Brandon, and it came out that he actually owned a different tour company, Moons Vineyard Voyages. (These companies all have a few they like to work with, and since Fredericksburg Uncorked was booked for the day, we were sent with Brandon.) He was a great driver and resource for us and we enjoyed getting to know him. He was an awesome host and was first class all the way. If you are looking for a tour/driver for your Fredericksburg outing, I highly recommend either of the above companies/contacts. They provided us with the perfect day.

FWFWF-Reserve Wine Tasting

The Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival has ammped up their game this year. Not only will they host a fabulous festival in March, they also have hosted special events thoughout the year. I was graciously invited to the reserve wine tasting that was held at the Modern Art Museum on February 4th.

This was a very intimate event where I enjoyed 26 pours of amazing wine. I should have gotten a medal for making it through all of them. (If you ever get the opportunity to attend any wine tasting, take it … it’s a great way to learn what you like.)

2012_SLDCSMy two favorite wines of the night were a treat because they have a bit higher price tags. I’ve been to Napa Valley a couple times and have learned that I love most wine that comes from the Stag’s Leap District. I was delighted to see something from the region–the 2012 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon (retails for $75); a complex wine with notes of blackberries and I get a hint of vanilla. Wine Spectator gives it 90 points and Robert Parker gives it 93 points.

My other favorite from the night was the 2012 Adobe Road Cabernet Franc from Knights Valley, Bavarian Lion Vineyard (retails for $58). This medium-bodied wine has notes of blackberries and cranberries and pairs very well with Italian food. The price is on the high end of most Cab Franc wines, but I think it is worth it.

I am so excited to attend this year’s festival in March. Tickets are on sale now and I would highly recommend going to #latenight- desserts after dark and/or Burgers, Brews & Blues.  Susie and I will see you there!


Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival 2016

March 31- April 3, 2016
fortworthfoodandwinefestival.com
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#FWFWF

Checkered Past Urban Winery

A winemaker, farmer, and a designer walk into a bar …

Well, actually, they built the bar.  Namely, Checkered Past Winery, the newly opened urban winery nestled into a basement in South Side on Lamar in the booming Cedars neighborhood.  Partners Scott Relyea (founder and designer), Sandro DiSanto (winemaker), and Carolynne Chancellor (vineyard owner and farmer) came together in 2008 to dream up this Texas-centric “wine pub”, and their plan … succeeded.

Housed in the formerly dimly lit Absinthe Lounge location, the space is nearly unrecognizable–light, galvanized metal, and vespas fill Checkered Past now.  Who knew the space even had windows?

So … let’s talk wine now, y’all.  Checkered Past stocks wines from “their friends”–wines from other wineries around Texas that the staff loves, and from the rest of the world.  (Because it’s Texas vs. the rest of the world, right?)  They have bottles, glasses, and even draft wines available along with local beers.

They don’t stop there.  They’re making their own wine with two currently available and three more promised before the end of 2016.  (Bring it, Sandro.)

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Even better than just having a damn good (local) wine list, the food at Checkered Past is perty good.  Sandro a first-generation American from his Sicilian family, and the menu reflects that.  Simple, but delicious, the items on the menu were carefully crafted using local ingredients when possible, but they won’t compromise quality for the sake of staying local.  Not to be missed: their flatbreads, namely Rudi’s Double Meat (made with meats hand-picked from the best purveyors available and no sauce — novel), the Goat Cheese Pappadew Skewers, the Smoked Salmon & Herb Goat Cheese Bruschetta (I detest smoked salmon and ate one of these … and enjoyed it), and the Kalamata Tapenade (because sometimes the most delicious things are the simplest).

To make me love this place even more … they don’t f**k around with their post-meal goodies.  I’m talking about their pairing of dessert wines with their gluten-free Warm Double Chocolate Cake.  Even if you’re not a fan of dessert wines, let them make some recommendations–my favorite was the Jacquez Maderia from Haak Winery in Galveston.  You may become a believer yet.

Stop by Checkered Past for some good local wine, good eats, and ska music.  I mean, at least stop in to see what the innards of Absinthe Lounge really looked like.


CHECKERED PAST URBAN WINERY
checkeredpastwinery.com
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1409 S Lamar Street, Suite 008 (South Side on Lamar, The Cedars)(214) 242-0411

Free parking can be found on the far west end of Belleview, the street that Checkered Past faces.  You’re welcome.


Side note: the lovely Pizza & Champagne sisters and I will be hosting a “singles night” on 2/12/16 at Checkered Past!  Stay tuned for more details coming soon!  (All are welcome, taken or not!)


***Checkered Past treated me and a couple buddies to an evening of trying out their wines and food.  And I got a neat t-shirt.  I love t-shirts. Check out my Snapchat to see it! (@susieosz)***

Panevino in Addison: Delizioso!

With nearly 200 restaurants packed into 4.5 modest miles, it’s getting tricky for restaurants to stand out in Addison. Newcomer Panevino, located at Addison Walk, manages to do just that. Indulge yourself in just one meal here and you’ll agree.

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Owner and chef, Joseph Ajro, describes Panevino as a fusion of traditional Italian and European bistro elements featuring a wide and varied menu catering to all tastes. That is to say,  you won’t find Chef Boyardee twirling his mustache anywhere near the kitchen of Panevino. Contrarily, executive chef Javier Perez (formerly of Sfuzzi) and his staff make everything in-house, using only the freshest, top-notch ingredients painstakingly selected and imports from the best regions in the world. Following the delightful evening I spent dining with Arjo in his restaurant, I left with the impression he is more or less obsessed with quality when deciding what makes the cut in his kitchen. When I tasted the product of his careful selection process, I understood why.

Panevino boasts an equally thoughtful wine selection featuring wines from around the world. Some of the offerings on the wine list deviate from the expected; Merkin “Chupacabra” Red Blend, anyone? Yeah, that would be an Arizona wine produced by none other than the guy from Tool. (That said, it was delicious.) Clearly, their sommelier, Noah Patridge, isn’t afraid to think outside the box when making recommendations for a new wine to try with dinner. He paired a different wine with each course we enjoyed at dinner, and all of his couplings were spot-on. Original cocktails influenced by European roots round out the drink menu, and a variety of craft beers are available on tap.

But, back to the food. There was not a single dish we tried that fell short of ridiculously good … and some dishes may or may not have made my eyes roll back in my head a little. First, I surprised myself by selecting the Pepper Crusted Ahi Tuna as my favorite appetizer of the evening. Served on a bed of artichokes and roasted peppers, the delicate flavor of the seriously fresh rare tuna was perfectly offset by the peppery sear. I’m not usually a big fan of rare tuna, but I would order this dish again … and again.

One of my favorite dishes of the entire evening, however, arrived in the form of our salad course–the Heirloom Caprese Tower. A glorious tower of the freshest Buffalo mozzarella I have ever tasted, interspersed with gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, fragrant basil, and a balsamic glaze, this “salad” was an emotional experience. I wept.

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It was difficult to select a favorite entree from several excellent dishes we sampled, but WHEN  (and not if) I return to Panevino, I plan on ordering the Homemade Gnocchi so I can stuff every last one of those perfect little ‘tato dumplings into my face hole.  Crowned with tangles of delicate prosciutto, basil, shaved parmesan, and a rich tomato cream sauce, this is one of those dishes that manages  to warm your very soul. If I had a little Italian grandma, I would probably have to lie to her when I lovingly professed her gnocchi to be superior. (Lucky for me, my descendants are Russian and English, so there aren’t many culinary white lies to be told ‘neath the branches of this family tree. Borscht? Kidney pie? idk.)

My husband’s favorite dish of the evening was the Lobster Ravioli, which I’m pretty sure speaks for itself; except for the fact that the ravioli happens to be crowned with scallops and lump crab meat, so it’s basically one big crustacean brigata on your plate. Also noteworthy was the Stuffed Jumbo Shrimp, filled with lump crab meat, plated atop lemon marscapone risotto, and drizzled with a citrus beurre blanc. Yowza. Panevino does seafood well.

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Do save room for dessert. They are all made in-house, and they are not an afterthought; you cannot go wrong here.

Happy hour details:
4pm-7pm Monday through Friday
$5 Sangria, $5 House wines, and $2 off all Texas beers


PANEVINO
www.osteria-panevino.com
Facebook
5000 BELT LINE RD. #300, ADDISON
(972) 807-6268

HOURS:
Monday – Friday
11AM – 11PM
Thursday – Saturday
11AM – 12AM
Closed on Sundays

Product Review: The Musical Corkscrew

I’ve heard of a party in a bottle, but until now, I’ve never heard of party in a corkscrew.

musical corkscrewThis stainless steel corkscrew sings “O Sole Mio” whenever you open a bottle of wine. Last night, I found myself humming along to this classic Italian song as I opened my bottle of wine. Perfect gift for your wino buddies out there and the batteries are even included.

Bonus feature: the more wine you drink, the more fun this corkscrew gets.

 

For $17.99, it’s a great gift and the quality is inferred in the price. If you are going to open a bottle of wine, why not do it with a little class bass?

MUSICAL CORKSCREW
by BigMouth Toys
Purchase here
$17.99

Pope It (Olivia Pope … that is.)

So it’s a big week … the Pope is in the US AND Olivia Pope is about to be back on the air.  I mean … both are a big deal to me.  To prepare for the victorious return of “Scandal” to Prime Time TV, I decided to celebrate as she would–with popcorn and red wine.  (The wardrobe comprised entirely of shades of grey was already present.  My life.)

I came across some pairings suggested by Noble Vines wines and went to work.  I tried out the Noble Vines Cabernet Sauvignon with sea salt popcorn and the parmesan, oregano, and balsamic popcorn* with NV Merlot.  The pairings were delightful and the wine made my “Scandal” refresh

Here are some of their other pairing suggestions:

  • Butter Popcorn and Red Blend.  (Just ask Olivia why this works.)
  • Buffalo Bleu Popcorn and Chardonnay
  • Coconut Curry Popcorn and Pinot Noir
  • Queso Fresco, Cayenne, Cilantro and Lime Popcorn and Sauvignon Blanc

So, as it were, you can think of me tomorrow while making these amazing popcorn remixes tomorrow around 7:50pm.  Let’s get our “Scandal” on, gladiators.


NOBLE VINES WINE

www.noblevines.com
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I found Noble Wines locally at Goody Goody.


*Parmesan, Oregano and Balsamic Popcorn
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cup popcorn kernels
1 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 teaspoons oregano
Aged balsamic vinegar

Heat oil in a large wide pot over high heat, and popcorn, cover, and shake often. When popping slows to a few seconds between pops, remove from heat. Mist popcorn evenly with aged balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with parmesan and oregano while tossing. Tip: use a small spray bottle to mist the popcorn evenly without drenching it with balsamic vinegar.

Bordeaux Wines in Dallas, TX

Wine is an absolutely incredible thing.  For me, wine has been present on some the most memorable nights of my life and I’ve always been intrigued by the uncanny ability for wine to take me back to past experiences.  Since studying abroad in Paris during college, French wines have been one of those memory-joggers–from picking up a bottle to drink to drink with a baguette in the bois between classes with friends to the bottle I shared one evening with my dad on a road trip through the French countryside.

When talking about French wines, it’s impossible not to bring up Bordeaux.  The Bordeaux region of France is a well-known wine-producing region famous for its reds and has been producing some of the best wines in the world for many years thanks to its rich soil and moderate temperatures.  Here are some quick facts about the region:

  • 89% of the wines produced in Bordeaux are reds.
  • The region is the largest wine-producing region in France covering 460 square miles and producing up to 700 million bottles of wine per year!
  • While “Bordeaux” is the general name for wines from this region, there are actually 54 appellations* that are produced there.
  • There are three main regions of the Bordeaux region–the Right Bank, Entre-Deux-Mers (between the oceans), and the Left Bank.
  • The “Bordeaux Blend” is the typical mix of grapes in the region’s wines–70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot.

I had the pleasure of spending the evening with some of Dallas’ most talented sommeliers* to try some Bordeaux wines and explore the incredibly diverse options that come from the region.  Paired with some cheese et autres choses, we had a pretty incredible evening tasting around the region–five wines from five regions.

The wines we tasted that evening included the following, and are in order of preference:

TOP TASTING: Château Beau-Séjour Bécot – 2008 Saint-Émilion Premier Grand Cru Classé 
14% ABV
Purchased at Goody Goody for $53 (value: ~$55)

The group’s favorite wine of the evening by a landslide, its dark berry and rhubarb notes made this an incredibly complex wine that would pair nearly perfectly with lamb.  While some of the wines from Bordeaux can cost you a pretty penny, we decided to splurge on one from Saint Émilion as wines from this region age very nicely.
“In my humble opinion, Saint Émilion is one of the most underrated regions in Bordeaux because they don’t have a clear classification system” – Roxanna C. from Raven Wine Management Systems

#2: Château Cantenac Brown – 2012 Margaux Grand Cru Classé 
13.5% ABV
Purchased at Total Wine for $52 (value: ~$48)

We tasted this bottle last as we expected it to be the “biggest” of the wines.  Let’s just say that it really was “plus grand” than expected and was incredibly mouth filling.  With notes like honeysuckle, caramel, and vanilla bean and a violet nose, it was almost like dessert in a glass.  The acidity was about medium plus and the finish was incredibly long … the caramel flavors lingered until the end.

This wine was my personal favorite of the evening.

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#3: Château Le Crock – 2008 Saint-Estèphe Grand Vin de Bordeaux 
49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot
13% ABV
Purchased at Spec’s for $24 (value: ~$26)

We saved this bottle for our fourth taste..  The fruity flavor had hints of dark fruits, coffee, caramel, and dark cocoa balanced with a little “barnyard” grit.  This wine paired perfectly with the Roomano cow’s milk cheese from The Netherlands on the table.  (Pick some up at Molto Formaggio in Highland Park Village.)

#4: Jean-Louis Trocard Chateau La Croix Bellevue – 2005 Pomerol
50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon
13.5% ABV
Purchased at Spec’s for $23.99 (value: ~$17)

This Pomerol wine was another big one with a very aggressive flavor.  The flavor had fruits that changed on the tongue and an almost “barnyard” bite.  You could definitely tell that it was an older wine, but it was even bigger than expected for a 10-year wine.  This bottle wasn’t our favorite of the evening thanks to the gritty flavor.

WHITE TASTING (NOT RANKED): Clarendelle – 2011 Bordeaux (inspired by Haut-Brion)
76% Semillion Blanc, 24% Sauvignon Blanc
Dry White Wine
12.5% ABV
Purchased at Goody Goody for $18.99 (value: ~$22)

While 89% of the wines produced in Bordeaux are reds, we wanted to include a white option and we’re damn glad we did.  This while was delightful and we all would admittedly not only drink this again, but purchase it again as it was the least complex and most “approachable” of the five we tasted.

The story behind this white’s inspiration (Haut-Brion) is a sketchy legend.  Apparently the O’Brions, an Irish family and one of the original Grand Cru producing vineyards, settled in the Bordeaux region and decided to change their name to Haut-Brion so the name would be more respected in the region.

Visit Bordeaux.com to learn about more wines from the region, take a workshop or two, and even plan a trip!

*”An appellation is a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown; other types of food often have appellations as well.” – Wikipedia

Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival

The best of the best came out during the weekend of the Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival. I was able to attend four of the seven events during the festival. Each event was unique and extremely well-planned and executed.

The Grand Tasting Friday night was overwhelming to say the least. There were more than one hundred restaurants, wineries, breweries, and distilleries represented in the Worthington Hotel’s Grand Ballroom. I had to plan a strategy to make it all the way though so that my stomach and liver didn’t hate me at the end of the night. (Or the next day, for that matter.) The highlights were, of course, Fort Worth favorites such as Rahr & Son’s Brewing and Firestone & Robertson Distilling.

#latenight Desserts after Dark at 809 Vickery was a short Uber ride from the Grand Tasting. This event was all about who had the best dessert and who could make the best cocktail using Firestone & Robertson’s TX Blended Whiskey. (I’ll bet you $50 that Susie was really upset that she had to miss this event.) There were eight desserts and eight drinks featured. My favorite drink was the Proper Manhattan from Proper. I also enjoyed the Texas Peach (TX Whiskey, vanilla bean simple syrup, Texas peach preserve, pistachio foam and cinnamon) from Bob’s Steak and Chop House. The Fan Favorite of the night was from Thirteen Pies. It was called John’s Banana Milk Punch (TX Whiskey, cream, house-made banana puree, and a farm egg, garnished with a banana marshmallow and vanilla cookie crumble.)

"John's Banana Milk Punch"  from Thirteen Pies, Fort Worth
“John’s Banana Milk Punch” from Thirteen Pies, Fort Worth

Saturday night consisted of cowboy boots and lawn chairs at the Burgers, Brews, and Blues event. This event was held along the banks of the Trinity River with eleven chefs and twenty-two craft breweries showcasing the best each had to offer. The live music included sets from James Hinkle, the Michael Lee Clemmer Band, and the Chris Watson Band. I am always up for a good beer, so this was probably my favorite event of the weekend. There was a good mix of local breweries such as Rahr, Lakewood, Rabbit Hole, Panther Island, and Martin House. Unfortunately, the lines were extremely long for the burgers, so I opted for more brews than burgers. (Oops.) My favorite burger that I did wait in line for was Rodeo Goat’s Chaca Oaxaca which was a beef/chorizo burger with avocado, queso fresco, fried egg and tabasco mayo. (Yes … it was delicious.)

Sunday Funday wrapped up the weekend at the Coyote Drive-In. There was a wide variety of food trucks to sample during this event,  but mIMG_3934y favorite food truck in attendance was definitely Salsa Limon. The food truck is usually parked next to The Cellar at 2919 West Berry Street (across from TCU) and their tacos can also be found at their permanent location located at 929 University Drive. They are all about serving the best Mexico City-style tacos in Fort Worth. PRO TIP: Add plenty of jalapeño cream salsa if you like a kick to your tacos!

Bravo, Fort Worth … bravo. If you have the chance to attend any of the events at next year’s, make it happen. It’ll give you the chance to find some new Fort Worth treasures and enjoy old favorites.

FORT WORTH FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL 
fortworthfoodandwinefestival.com
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Save the Date for next year: March 31- April 3, 2016

Ticket prices ranged from $50 to $125 depending on the event.