The annual Arts in Bloom and Wine Festival is coming back to McKinney in a few short weeks (April 7-9) … and they’ve added two days! The festival will feature work by national and local artists, music by local acts, great food from McKinney restaurants, and … of course … wine from local growers. (Do you get the local angle yet?)
The festival was recently named on “GuideLive’s list of 50 can’t-miss festivals this spring” … so that’s something.
So, what must you know before heading to historic McKinney?
There will be a Wine Garden featuring wine from 14 regional Texas wineries. Wine, y’all. Buy a commemorative wine glass for $20 and get 10 tastings to find your favorite. (They’ll have wine by the glass and local beers available, too.)
You can soak up the booze with food from vendors serving up goodies from state fair favorites to Smoked Gouda burgers and gourmet popsicles.
You can stay a while and enjoy the live music on one of two stages with a little something for everyone.
You’ll see some fantastic art from more than 150 artists including sculptors, painters, photographers, woodworkers, and more from right here in North Texas showing right beside national artists. And all of it will be for sale.
It’s family-friendly. They’ll have a Kids Creation Station where your little ones can do arts and crafts and be entertained by someone other than you.
If ever you’ve felt like your wine needed a heartfelt backstory, Montes Alpha and Kaiken Ultra wineries have one for you.
Aurelio Montes Sr. and Aurelio Montes Jr. are the father and son of the century with their love for good wine as well as their heritage. The chilean duo not only have a namesake winery with a special commitment to the Chilean community, most notably a study scholarship given to the winery workers and their children alongside complimentary health and life insurance, but also like father, like son, Aurelio Montes Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps and opened up his own winery, Kaiken, in order to experiment with new terroirs and other winemaking practices such as biodynamics. Fun fact: the Kaiken Ultra Winery was the second winery in the world to be awarded the Sustainable Certificate. Good for the community AND good for the earth? I don’t know what more you could want but they probably have it.
At Salum, a group of wine enthusiasts were treated to a tasting of wines from both wineries, as well as a paired luncheon. As we tasted the wines, Montes Sr. and Montes Jr. explained the back story of each wine and how they vary between the two wineries.
Montes Alpha Chardonnay 2014 Alcohol – 13.9% SRP – $19.90 Tasting notes: Shy in node expression.
Kaiken Ultra Chardonnay 2014 Alcohol – 14% SRP – $20 Tasting notes: Bigger and deeper expression of oak and fruit.
Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Alcohol – 14% SRP – $19.90 Tasting notes: Fruity expression with red berries, blackberries, chocolate, and mint.
Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Alcohol – 14.8% SRP – $20 Tasting notes: Tastes of strawberries with a round mouth and soft tannins.
Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2014 Alcohol – 14.5% SRP – $20 Tasting notes: Riper with a wide mouth, gentle tannins, and tastes of dark fruit.
Montes Outer Limits CGM 2015 Alcohol – 14.5% SRP – $24.90 Tasting notes: Velvety texture. Montes Sr. described this as “a wine for the younger generations who want to drink something different than their parents.”
Kaiken Obertura Cabernet Franc 2014 Alcohol – 14.7% SRP – $35 Tasting notes: Best paired with light meals, salads, cheese.
Montes Alpha M Red Wine 2012 Alcohol – 14.7% SRP – $98 Tasting notes: A Bordeaux blend with a bouquet that comes along elegantly.
Kaiken Mai Malbec 2013 Alcohol – 14.8% SRP – $70 Tasting notes: considered a real taste of Argentina.
Montes Taita Cabernet Sauvignon 2007/2009/2010 Alcohol – 15% SRP – $249 Tasting notes: “Taita” describes the emotion of speaking of your father with devotion and admiration and he gives back his wisdom with loving care. This wine spends 18 months in barrels and then 4 years in bottles before being released.
Salmon and scallop crudo with Texas grapefruit, orange blossom oil, pea shoots, and parmesan crisps Paired with the Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2016 and the Kaiken Terroir Series Torrontes 2016
Braised lamb, rosemary puree with plum gastrique Paired with the Montes Purple Angel 2013 and the Kaiken Obertura 2014
Bittersweet chocolate and sticky date pudding with stewed red fruits and Mexican vanilla chantilly Paired with the Montes Alpha M 2012
JARDESCA is a new aperitif out of Sonoma, CA offering a blend of three sweet and dry white wines, which is then fortified with a double distilled grape brandy and ten different botanicals. I know that sounds like a lot in one product, but it all comes together to create a beautifully refreshing libation.
It’s different than your normal fruity, white wine because it is meant as an opening drink before you have your main drink with lunch or dinner. So now it’s totally appropriate to drink before you drink – especially considering it’s lower calorie! They suggest you serve it over ice as it has a light flavor profile–hints of pink peppercorn, bay leaf, and grapefruit. However, you can enhance it with your own favorite herb or fruit garnish, or follow one of their suggested recipes (see below).
JARDESCA Garden Spritz 3 ounces of JARDESCA in a stemless wine glass
Splash of prosecco or sprarkling water Slice of blood orange Sprig of fresh rosemary
Pour JARDESCA over ice, then stir once. Top with a splash of soda water or sparkling wine and garnish with blood orange and rosemary sprig.
JARDESCA has recently been accepted to all the Whole Foods Stores in Texas and will be available beginning in March – just in time for those spring get-togethers!
The holiday season is, of course, one of my favorite times of the year, but let’s be real … between the parties, cookie baking, gift shopping, and trying to finish up the work that pays for all of it before the fiscal year ends, sometime we need a little shortcut. So, instead of stressing yourself out trying to think of a gift for every host, pop into the liquor store down the street, buy a case of Llano Wines, and be ready for a party with as little effort as grabbing a bottle and a gift tag on the way out the door.
Llano Wines in Lubbock is the largest, best-selling premium winery in Texas and produces almost 50 varietals of wine, some are even award-winners! Their two best-selling items–2015 Signature White and 2014 Cellar Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon–pair with anything from grilled chicken to a holiday steak dinner (respectively).
The West Texas winery offers wines from $10-$35 and even offer the chance to customize your bottle’s label for just $5. Llano Wines should be available at your local retailer, or just order online … because we all deserve to be a little lazy around the holidays.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
My 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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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