Personal Stories – Wine

Sep 232012

Today, Facebook is awash with photos of the grape harvest across the northern hemisphere. I look forward each day to beautiful pictures of grape clusters, men and women picking grapes as the sun rises across the vineyard and free-run juice on the winery crushpad that will soon be the wine in my glass. As a wine-writer in Colorado and Texas, I dream of being more than a chronicler, I want to be part of the action. This desire is never more pronounced than when I see harvest pictures posted by my winemaker friends in California and Texas.

This year I decided enough with the wine dreaming. It was time to get dirty and pitch in a for a few days with winemakers Chris Brundrett and Bill Blackmon of William and Chris Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country near Fredericksburg. Chris is regarded as one of the real up and coming young Texas winemakers while Bill offers the hand of experience from many Texas grape harvests. They make a hell of a winemaking team creating predominately blended wines with 100% Texas fruit using a minimal intervention approach. Together, Bill and Chris have a sort of yin and yang quality. Chris is full of energy and a “get ‘er done” approach while Bill has a very calm Zen-like quality about him.

Before you say, Texas, wine, what? Texas now is home nearly 250 wineries (up from only 45 a decade ago) making it the 4th or 5th (depending on who’s counting) largest wine producing state. The Texas Hill Country AVA sits behind only Napa and Sonoma as the most visited wine region in the U.S. Continue reading »

Sep 052012

Let the Wine Country birthday celebration begin!

In 1960, John Steinbeck set out to reconnect with America accompanied by one companion, an “intuitive” standard poodle named Charley. The tale was recounted in the now classic book “Travels with Charley.” Steinbeck met the idea of the expedition with both excitement and trepidation. In July of 2012, I set out with my daughter, Whitney, to reconnect with the teenager turned young woman who had so matured, since leaving home for college three years earlier. My stated objectives were to celebrate her 21st birthday and introduce Whitney to the wonders of wine country. This father/daughter excursion was one I met, much like Steinbeck, with both excitement and trepidation. Continue reading »

Aug 032012
wine reviews, winery reviews, wine blog, wine education

Roger and Whitney at Jordan Vineyards

Wine country vacations, especially to Napa Valley and Sonoma County can be overwhelming to the novice and the experienced wine traveler alike. With over 400 wineries in Napa Valley alone and hundreds more in Sonoma, how do you choose which wineries to visit? Some offer small quaint tastings and tours while others have almost a Las Vegas feel. So what are the best wineries to visit Napa and Sonoma?

Recently I traveled with my daughter, Whitney, to Napa and Sonoma for her 21st birthday celebration. She certainly enjoys wine and grew up around great wines but to date, Whitney has not inherited her dad’s wine geek gene. Like many novice wine drinkers, Whitney has a discerning though still developing palate.

Whitney’s fist trip to Napa/Sonoma needed to be fun yet educational with enough glitz and glamor to spark her 21 year-old soul with a splash of wine geekiness for Dad. This wine country travel itinerary certainly fit the bill. Continue reading »

Jun 012012

Teaching wine classes is always fun. It is a rare person in attendance that doesn’t already have a sense of the wonder of wine. Occasionally someone will bring a spouse, friend or significant other in hopes of lighting their wine fire and in those cases my job is to fan the flames. All in all teaching wine classes is a blast because most everyone has an interest in the topic….and they’re drinking wine.

wine blog

Texas Tech RHIMS Students learning about wine

This week however, I had a different audience that added a new challenge to the excitement of wine education. I spent two days with a group of junior and senior Restaurant and Hotel Management majors from Texas Tech University. These millennials were more the connoisseur of “dollar PBR” nights than wine and food pairings. To make matters more interesting, my daughter was part of the class. Not only was I there to enlighten the unenlightened but I needed to do it in a way that made my daughter proud or at least not embarrass her.

The ten students were part of a May-mester program. Instead of a traditional semester class on campus in Lubbock, Texas, the group was based at a satellite campus in the tiny Hill Country town of Junction, Texas where they completed two intensive weeks of all-day class and field trips. From Junction they made excursions to San Antonio, Austin and popular tourist destinations around the Hill Country. The campus is rustic to say the least, offering a summer camp appearance complete with bunkhouses and swimming pool, rather than a collegiate environment. Continue reading »

May 142012

“A single, great vineyard sight can express itself and be transparent through to a bottle of wine.  You can actually taste the vineyard’s character in the glass.” Jamie Kutch – Kutch Wines Pinot Noir

Wine BlogI’ll admit it; I love single-vineyard wines. There is something about the nuance and singularity that speaks volumes me. When drinking a single-vineyard wine, I like to imagine the vineyard, its rows of vibrant vines offering abundant fruit. Sometimes I’ll even go techie and try to find pictures of the vineyard on Google so I can be even more anchored to the very spot that produced the wine in my glass. If I’ve personally walked amongst the vines of a particular vineyard, I can return with just a tip of my glass and a bit of imagination.

I wanted to learn more about these special wines. But not from the perspective of the wine drinker, I wanted to learn from winemakers themselves. So with the help of a few talented single-vineyard winemakers, here’s what I learned in a nutshell. The winemaker’s ultimate duty to single-vineyard wines compels him/her to draw on the incalculable variations of each vintage to bring forth the true voice and personality of the vineyard. When made well, a single-vineyard wine will convey a very specific sense of place, nuance and art. Obviously not all vineyards produce fruit with enough unique characteristics to be worthy of vineyard designation. Vineyards, like people, all have something to say, but not everything said is worth your attention. Continue reading »