Not far from Guadalajara, Mexico, in the Highlands of Jalisco, Patrón Tequila is producing artisanal spirits with traditional style and ultra-premium quality. Traveling as their guest, I had a chance to visit the heart of the luxury brand, Hacienda Patrón, their modern Jalisco distillery built with Spanish influence.
Crafted by hand from the field to the bottle, Patrón’s tequilas are produced from hand-harvested, dry-farmed, 100 percent Weber Blue Agave plants grown at high elevations (6,000-8,000 feet above sea level). Temperatures here remain cooler than the Lowlands, the other common area for agave growth, allowing for long, slow ripening in iron-rich, sandy soils.
Only when plant sugars reach 28 Brix, or 21 percent sugar, will the agave plants be harvested, which usually occurs after seven years of growth. The natural climate of Jalisco, with consistent sunshine, allows year-round harvesting of ripe piña, the heart of the agave plant.
After harvest, fresh piña, many weighing between 80 and 180 pounds, are chopped and slow roasted for 79 hours, intensifying the sweet characteristics in the fruit, highlighting caramel and maple, along with floral and citrus notes. One piña can produce juice for one case of tequila.
After slowly-roasting, the fruit is fermented. Patrón uses the modern-day roller-mill processing and the traditional “Tahona,” a two-ton volcanic stone that crushes roasted piña, releasing the juices from the fibrous agave. Patrón blends both styles for their classic Silver, Reposado, and Anejo tequilas.
With a focus on consistency, quality, and accountability, no fewer than 60 hands touch each bottle of Patrón, ensuring every bottle meets the standards set forth by owners John Paul DeJoria and Martin Crowley, and master distiller Francisco Alcaraz. Each bottle of Patrón Tequila is closed by hand with a cork, hand labeled, numbered, and inspected. More than 400 people work the bottling line of Patrón, many in jobs for which other distilleries may use machines. This commitment to community is also highlighted in Patrón’s environmental responsibility efforts, combatting climate change by reducing harmful emissions and finding ways to utilize production by-products.
A few ways include composting pressed piña to nourish agave fields and sending stillage (leftover liquid produced from crushing agave) through a reverse osmosis system creating water used for cleaning and gardening. The Hacienda’s impressive garden is used for daily meals for distillery workers and guests, or gifted to the local village.
Though premium-quality shines through all Patrón products, small-batch Roca Patrón is produced exclusively from the ancient Tahano method, pressing roasted agave with a volcanic stone, fermenting in open-top pine-wood fermenters and double distilling the spirit in small copper tanks to create a highly aromatic, flavorful spirit.
Roca Patrón Silver is then bottled to capture the agave’s floral, citrus and black pepper notes. Roca Patrón Reposado is aged in former American bourbon barrels for a minimum of three months, adding notes of vanilla, spicy ginger, and caramel. Roca Patrón Anejo is aged for 14 months in bourbon barrels, adding toffee, spice, orange peel, and vanilla with beautiful texture. Each representative of Patrón’s dedication to artisan craftsmanship.
Off the northern coast of Belize sits the island of Ambergris Caye. A quick boat ride leads you to Las Terrazas Resort & Residences, located 3.5 miles north of San Pedro on the southern part of the island.
Here, you can choose your own adventure—one of the most alluring characteristics of this island. Once you’re settled within one of Las Terrrazas’ condo-style spaces, there’s no reason to leave the 4.8-acre property—if that’s your desire. The boutique, beachfront resort has a luxurious feel, with high-speed Internet, stainless steel appliances, and breathtaking balcony and patio views.
Savor the seclusion of the resort with an afternoon by the 70-foot infinity pool situated in the middle of the grounds. Order a refreshing cocktail from the well-stocked poolside bar. Schedule a massage at Serenity Spa and Wellness Center. If you’ve had too much sun, consider the Belizean Sun Soother treatment. With fresh ingredients such as aloe and natural yogurt, it’ll help soothe your overexposed, dry skin.
End your first night at the resort with dinner at O Restaurant’s rooftop sky lounge. The vantage point from the top of the restaurant gives a stunning view of the sun setting across the Caribbean Sea. There’s also an opportunity for private, custom-catered beachside dining. O Restaurant’s dinner menu offers a melding of American and Belizean cuisines, with seafood a prominent fixture. The signature seafood risotto, a menu highlight, features saffron infused with white wine, fresh shrimp, snapper, and parmesan. End the evening with a glass of white wine and a walk along the beach.
After a day of relaxing on the resort’s beach, head into the emerald water. White Sands Dive Shop, next door to the resort, specializes in diving and snorkeling excursions, and Ambergris Caye is the perfect place to do it. Half a mile off the inward side of the island, you’ll find the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second longest in the world.
This sanctuary gives way to a myriad of colorful fish in a huge underwater coral garden, making it one of the world’s top destinations for snorkeling. The experts with White Sands will guide you along Hol Chan (Mayan for “little channel”) and Shark Ray Alley, where you can share the water with nurse sharks (they’re harmless), southern stingrays, and—sometimes—turtles.
Get out of the water and into the jungle for an afternoon of zip lining and exploring Mayan caves. Getting to this tour is memorable, as you leave the island and explore Belize City before arriving at Jaguar Paw Adventure Outpost in western Belize. (I was lucky enough to have a talkative, native Belizean driver. As we drove throughout the city, Jimmy shared anecdotes about the area, its people, and history. He also accommodated Spanish-speaking guests, alternating between English and Spanish.)
On the banks of the Cave’s Branch River, the outpost sits on 200 acres of Belizean rainforest. After a safety briefing and short hike through the winding jungle, fly 700 feet across the jungle. Make sure to look down at the canopy below. In the second half of this experience, you’ll float through crystal caves. An underground waterfall is the highlight of this excursion.
After experiencing the resort and exploring Belizean jungles, spend some time in the colorful, friendly town of San Pedro. You won’t find many cars on the island, a charming attribute. But Las Terrazas has several golf carts guests can rent to explore the area. Many of the town’s stores are managed by locals, who are eager to share information about the area. Don’t take home a basic t-shirt or magnet. There’s a large and accessible selection of Belizean-made and -inspired art and jewelry. Bring an extra bag for your finds; you will probably need it.
Ambergris Caye is ideal for a quick getaway, but there’s so much to experience and explore. Whether it’s the alluring, clear waters or the warmth of the people, you’ll find yourself back again.
Winds off the Atlantic sweep through the flowering grapevines to Alejandro Bulgheroni’s Southern Uruguayan estate, Bodega Garzón. The winery adds to Bulgheroni’s expanding wine portfolio that also includes Tomero in Argentina,Château Suau in Bordeaux, and Bulgheroni Estate in Napa. (I visited Bodega Garzon recently as Bodega Garzon’s guest.)
Bulgheroni made billions in the family energy business, Bridas Corporation, with his late brother. His Bodega Garzón love affair started in 1999 when he and his wife, Bettina, were vacationing at their Uruguayan home in Punta del Estate. Bulgheroni saw the property north of the resort town and it reminded him of the rolling hillsides of Tuscany. He envisioned making wine there.
He started Agroland S.A. on a 10,000-acre site and focused on premium fine-foods, forestry, vineyards, almond and olive trees, cattle, and wind energy.
Though Bulgheroni owns Argentina’s largest oil company, eco-sustainability is a fundamental part of his business, remarking “we have to pollute less.”
Though an emerging international wine region, Uruguay produces over 120 million bottles of wine annually.
Over the past ten years, over 1,000 blocks of vines have been planted on 500 acres at Bodega Garzón. Today their wines are showing impressive promise. Part of the success comes from consulting enologist, Alberto Antonini. The Italian winemaker is renowned for celebrating the purity and vitality of the fruit.
Here, rocky hillsides with mineral-intense, well-draining soils create high-quality fruit that are highlighted in their signature varieties, Albarino and Tannat.
Aromatic, briny Albarino displays the oceanic influence of the Atlantic just eleven miles away. Typically robust Tannat reveals freshness that melds with inherent power, thanks again to the vineyard terroir and the restraint Antonini brings to his wines.
Additional varieties produced here include Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.
Bodega Garzón opened to guests one year ago. It become a wine and food destination for travelers. Today the property includes a luxurious tasting salon, traditional open-fire restaurant, and exclusive golf club. An eco-luxury hotel is in the works.
For their open-fire restaurant, Bodega Garzón enlisted the help of Celebrity Chef Francis Mallmann.Though his Netflix “ChefsTable“ episode portrayed the Argentine as a bit of a bon-vivant, Mallmann is quite introspective. His spirituality shines through the rustic, authentic dishes.
Grilling meat creates alluring aromas. Our brain’s savory senses react to the hypnotic aromas and succulent flavors. We associate these flavors with Texas steakhouses. And, they are South American staples.
Asado outdoor-barbecues have fed and entertained South Americans for generations. Family and friends gather over fire-roasted lamb, beef, and fish with charred onions, pumpkin, and potatoes, dressed with chimichurri and olive oil.
In working with the winery, Mallmann creates a restaurant destination for visitors coming from Punta del Este, or the beach town of Jose Ignacio.
Guests can enjoy a winery tour and tasting, then a meal influenced by Mallmann’s Patagonian roots. Each flavor enhanced by Bodega Garzón wines, and extra virgin olive oils from Bulgheroni’s Colinas de Garzón.
Mallmann has also created an oasis in the nearby town of Garzón. At his Garzón Hotel and Restaurant,Mallmann creates lavish dinners with his team of apprentices. He spends considerable time here, finding quiet inspiration at his mountain cabin not far from town. A lover of all things beautiful, every surface of his home, the restaurant, and hotel are filled with bowls of fragrant lemons and hydrangeas.
The winery welcomes guests year round. In addition to the noted opportunities, visitors may enjoy a full suite of Garzon Experiences.
Bodega Garzón Albarino ($18), Tannat ($20), Sauvignon Blanc ($18), and Colinas de Garzón extra virgin olive oils are available at Spec’s.
Imagine, if you will, a lodge that perfectly captures the essence of Round Top. Is it colorful? Yes. Is it heavily layered? Obviously. Is there something that could be considered a treasure at almost every turn? You bet. Lucky for you, a talented Texan named Sheila Youngblood created such a place in the pastoral city of Round Top, and during prime antiquing season, she’s offering a unique dining experience at the ranch-cum-lodging destination, Rancho Pillow.
To sweeten the pot, Youngblood has invited a variety of chefs to take part in Feast in the Field, a week-long series beginning today that combines starlit, family-style dinners with a curated pop-up in a handmade, Kenyan safari tent. We may not know everything, but we can say with utmost certainty that the experience will be cool, and, like, really pretty.
View the slideshow to tour the property for yourself. So, you agree? Then get to booking.
At Passport you’ll enjoy elaborate themed parties with exquisite food and wine pairings at more than 45 winery locations. Guests can meet Sonoma County’s most renowned chefs, including Michelin-starred Chef Charlie Palmer, Diavola Chef/Owner Dino Bugica, and other culinary stars, savoring their inspired creations alongside newly released and limited edition wines. Wineries taking part range from the internationally-acclaimed Ridge Vineyards and Ferrari-Carano, to boutique wineries like Nalle and Talty, which produce fewer than 2,000 cases per year.
Music includes a Beatles cover band, bluegrass, Hawaiian music, funk from The Jacktones and more. Winery themes range from the glamorous (think Prohibition-era speakeasy) to the goofy (think Caddyshack), with unforgettable food and wine at each stop.
First place winner will be given two 2-Day Passports with VIP First Class Upgrades and a voucher for your flight* out to the 28th Annual event.
Second place winner will have the Dry Creek Valley experience brought to them. Let us treat you to dinner* at The Capital Grille with personally selected Dry Creek Valley wine.
We’ll also be giving out pairs of weekend passes to 3 more lucky winners to be used either for the 2017 or 2018 event!
Winners will be selected on March 15th. Enter today and keep your eyes on your inboxes. // www.drycreekvalley.org
*Flight Voucher for up to $400. Not redeemable for cash.
*Dinner voucher for $200; not redeemable for cash.
Winners must prove valid identification and be 21+.
Dry Creek Valley is located in the heart of Sonoma County, just 15-minutes from Sonoma County Airport (STS) and 1-hour north of San Francisco and Bay Area international airports.
It’s time for you to start the convention revolution. Make lackluster Power Point presentations in a drab ballroom a thing of the past; Instead—take your company’s event to the next level at the newly opened WinStar Convention Center.
Conveniently located less than two hours from Dallas (and right off Interstate 35), this is the kind of place where your employees can have a work hard, play hard experience—and one that they’ll never forget.
Here are five ways hosting your next professional event at the WinStar World Casino and Resort’s Convention Center will transform it from dull to dynamic.
Get Out of Town
Other companies throw events in that uninspiring event space everybody uses. But you like to treat your employees—which means a destination event. Traveling to WinStar won’t take you long, but stepping on property will instantly transport you to a new space—and bring along with it a new, exciting energy.
With more than 1,400 luxurious rooms on property, WinStar’s resort-style accommodations are the perfect place to retire to after a long day of work and play. Modern facilities and personal touches like customizable pillow options (and let’s not forget room service) will keep your squad comfortable—and more importantly, well rested and ready to keep going.
Make It Fun
We’ve already established this isn’t going to be your every day, boring work party. Take it to the next level by focusing on some fun. Center the party around a theme, then add in a photo booth to commemorate the occasion properly.
Add In Some Perks
A 27-hole golf course. Two pools. The Spa at WinStar. And of course, Oklahoma’s largest casino. There are plenty of other ways to stay entertained at WinStar, whether your employees are the pampering or poker face type. After a long weekend of working, go ahead—you deserve it!
Yes, this is work. But show your employees you really care about them by inviting their families along for the fun. From live music to themed events, they’ll get into it—making the party a better experience for everybody.
Situated on the bluffs of Punta Bellena on the Baja Peninsula, just four miles outside of Cabo San Lucas, sits Esperanza, an Auberge Resort. The ultra-chic, five-star, oceanfront property is one of the most stunning of its kind with spacious private terraces, infinity hot tubs, handcrafted furnishings, six on-site restaurants, two private beaches, a full-service spa, four swimming pools, and a roster of exclusive culinary events.
Overnight accommodations include 57 casitas and suites, 60 privately owned villas, and 36 private residences, all of which range from 925 to 4,000 square feet. Relax into a plush and luxurious Stearns & Foster mattress, pull the cushy duvet over you head, and sleep until the sun rises over Baja’s Sea of Cortez. Don’t feel like putting on pants or slipping into a sundress? Reach for the iPad on your nightstand and scroll through a variety of breakfast dishes that can be ordered straight to you bed.
Nosh on an abundance of fresh fruit, fluffy squash blossom egg white frittatas, over-the-top huevos rancheros, and Mexican sweet rolls. Those looking for a lighter option can sip fresh squeezed juices such as beet, carrot, and pineapple; strawberry, watermelon, chia, and ginger; and honeydew, pear, spinach, celery, and kale.
Dine at Cocina del Mar, known for its unique variety of fresh fish and seafood; PESCA Ceviche Bar, boasting made-to-order delicacies; La Terraza Americana, offering burgers and sandwiches; The Lounge Bar which has one of the best views on the property; La Palapa, a casual outdoor dining experience; and Las Estrellas, the resort’s family-friendly Italian eatery.
Those heading to Esperanza during the holidays can feast on specialty menus to fit the season. Slow roasted turkey and caramel pumpkin pecan pie for Thanksgiving; rosemary oven-baked shoulder of lamb and cranberry relish for Christmas; and local oysters for New Year’s Eve.
Resort amenities include private poolside cabanas, a luxury boutique, fitness classes, and beachside palapa-style cabanas. Feel the outside world fade away you dig your toes into the sand. While this part of the Sea of Cortez isn’t ideal for swimming, wade up to your ankles and catch a glimpse of shimmery schools of fish as they cascade through the water. Those who prefer to swim can splash in one of the resort’s four pools. The swim-up bar is ideal for those who prefer to float in the cool water with a drink in their hand. This is a vacation, after all.
The full-service spa offers therapeutic massages, soaking tubs, a steam cave, outdoor showers, a hair and nail salon, and a fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment. It’s no wonder a laundry list of celebrities have paid a visit to the five-star luxury resort including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Jennifer Aniston, Cindy Crawford, Fergie, Debra Messing, Sheryl Crow, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Leann Rimes, Eddie Cibrian, Chelsea Handler, and Peyton Manning to name a few.
Guests who stroll the resort can delight their senses by way of lush greenery, and fragrant blossoms. There are more than 50 varieties of exotic plants and flowers on Esperanza’s property including Obelisco, Ave del Paraiso Gigante, Red Yucca, Mandevilla Amarilla, and Philodendron Xanadu.
No matter the season or occasion, Esperanza is sure way to delight the senses while escaping the hustle and bustle of the everyday.
Scottish novelist and poet, Robert Louis Stevenson noted the phrase “wine is bottled poetry” in his tale, Silverado Squatters. And though he took the reader to Napa Valley in post-Gold Rush days, the thought can easily be carried over the mountains from Napa to Sonoma where some of the finest poets in the world came together under the grand tent at Chateau St. Jean winery in Sonoma to sip and toast.
An annual event, typically taking place over the Labor Day holiday each year, the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend features three days of tasting, including the elaborate Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Estate Vineyards, Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction at Chateau St. Jean, Sonoma Starlight at Francis Ford Coppola Winery, and an assortment of intimate and exclusive winery lunch and dinner parties at multiple locations throughout Sonoma County. A grand celebration, bringing together many of the 400+ wineries in the region, all for good. Over than $24 million has been invested in Sonoma County’s future from proceeds from the events since the inception of the celebration.
Though multiple charitable organizations throughout the region benefit from the event, there is a particular focus on literacy of children within Sonoma.
Over half of the kids in school in Sonoma County are not able to read at their grade level, particularly some of the youngest. From the studies conducted, the region has realized that if you can’t read at your grade level by 3rd grade you will have a very difficult time ever catching up.
In speaking with Honorary Wine Chair for this year’s event, Dan Kosta of Kosta Browne Winery, he noted that the inability of kids in Sonoma to read will hurt the entire region, as the kids of Sonoma are the future and, “if you can’t read you can’t succeed.”
The great thing though, as the focus on literacy has been in place for the region the past few years, is today the region is seeing change. Kids are learning to read through special in-school and after-school programs, parents are participating in the development and growth of their children, and progress is being made. With this year’s record breaking attendance and funds raised, the work to help will progress exponentially.
And, it is a great party. Attending the whole weekend festivities would be ideal, but if you have limited time and only one day to play in Sonoma, the annual Taste of Sonoma event is worth the flight out to the region. Over 200 wineries attend, along with 60 chefs from the region, toasting and tasting together under grand white tents at MacMurray Estate Vineyards.
When you arrive guests are greeted with bubbly made in the traditional method from Sonoma’s Gloria Ferrer, followed by a warm and loving hug from brand ambassador of MacMurray Estate, Actress/Activist and Screenwriter, Kate MacMurray, daughter of Actor/Rancher Fred MacMurray who had originally purchased the expansive 1500 acre property in the early 1940’s. Joyful, knowledgeable and gracious, Kate stayed on to help share the story of the ranch and winery after her family sold the property to Gallo Family Wines in the 1990’s. The love and passion Kate has the wine, the estate and her father, will make you a lover of MacMurray wine within the first sip.
Add in a slew of local chefs offering tasting plates; demonstrations and discussions from top Sonoma Chefs, like Honorary Chef Chair, Mark Stark and his wife Terri, owners of Stark Reality Restaurantsincluding their newest concept, Bird and The Bottle and Healdsburg favorite, Willie’s Seafood Bar; a farm to table culinary experience from Jackson Family Wines featuring produce from their expansive Kendall-Jackson Estate Garden, that supplies not only the winery with tasting plates for pairing lunches and dinners, but also restaurants throughout the region, with fresh produce from their sustainably farmed 2.5 acre garden, including 3500 different heirloom tomato plants, the star of their annual Heirloom Tomato Festival, and my personal mecca.
This is how to truly get a feel for Sonoma and everything it has to offer. Keep in mind, Sonoma is three times as large as Napa Valley and so trying to drive from one end of the other in one day, like you can do in Napa, would be almost impossible, especially if you then wanted to also stop and tasting, have a bite, enjoy a glass.
To be able to taste a sparkler from Carneros, then a Pinot Noir from Petaluma Gap, then a Pinotage from Fort Ross and Cab from Alexander Valley, all within steps of each other with the winemakers pouring was a treat, to say the least. The lovely backdrop of the historic ranch estate completed the experience.
The culmination of the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend was the Sunday Harvest Wine Auction event, taking place at Chateau St. Jean under (thankfully air conditioned) tents, but the kick off to Sunday happened Saturday night after “Taste of Sonoma” with an auction preview party at Ram’s Gate Winery in Carneros.
This is the first year the ultra-premium winery has hosted the preview, but for each enthusiastic attendee, we are hoping it won’t be the last as it was one of the most beautiful backdrops for the night. The winery, built at the entrance to the Carneros AVA was designed by award-winning architect Howard Backen, with the goal to bring the outside in showcasing the beautiful natural elements of the landscapes.
Add in the high quality, single vineyard, tiny production Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines from Sonoma, including their Ram’s Gate Carneros Estate vineyard, and you have the perfect recipe for enjoyment.
I have been a fan of their wines for some time, and now after visiting the gorgeous winery, it will be at the top of my list for repeat visits when traveling to the region as it embodies the quality, luxury and passion you expect from a premium wine region, with a welcoming, comfortable spirit.
Though it was difficult not to just enjoy the magnums of vintage library wines that Ram’s Gate was pouring throughout the event, there were a few other stand outs of the night, most notably from Pierre Seillan and his lovely wife, Monique, pouring their 2005 vintage Sonoma CountyVerite La Joie. I am a fan of Pierre and his quality wines from Bordeaux, Italy and Sonoma, and recently traveled to Chianti Classico to visit him at Tenuta de Arceno, home of his Arcanum and Valadorna wines.
Of everything poured at on this night, and throughout the entire weekend event, this was by far the standout. And, even with 10 years on it now, it could easily age another 10. Beautiful, elegant and balanced Cabernet Sauvignon wine from Sonoma County, filled with layers of black fruit, smoked herbs, pencil lead and tobacco with structure, texture and great character. The wine is available through allocation via their website.
Sunday’s Sonoma Harvest Auction Event at Chateau St. Jean transformed the region into Marrakesh, with a plethora of belly dancers, a live camel, music and merriment, all with the goal to do good. We had the pleasure of joining our charming friend, Jean Charles Boisset, of Boisset Collection and Co-Chair of last year’s event, at his Buena Vista Winery table near the front. And from the start the JCB No. 69 Sparkling Wine was flowing, along with a sparkler from Buena Vista. Agoston Haraszthy, founder of Buena Vista in 1857 in Sonoma, and recognized as being the Father of California viticulture, and six children. His third son, Arpad, spent over two years in France learning sparkling wine production, later becoming the first to introduce Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wine into California winemaking with his Eclipse Sparkling Wine.
Today’s Buena Vista La Victoire Brut Champagne pays tribute to his legacy. Crafted in Champagne the lively sparkler is filled with lemon-lime citrus notes, toasted cream and brioche notes, available via their website.
Jean Charles was also debuting a new wine to the Boisset portfolio, “The Revenge,” adorned with a golden alligator with red eyes. This small production premium Cabernet Sauvignon wine should be available via their websites by the holidays.
As the auction got into full swing, and bids were rising higher and higher, the key lot for the day came up for bid, the “Fund the Future” lot to help raise money directly to help the kids of Sonoma read. Most of us have been to some sort of auction or another, and the fun part of an auction, live or silent, is bidding with the chance to win a prize and enjoy some sort of experience. This auction lot wasn’t that, instead it was simply asking the people of Sonoma, winemakers, vintners and guests, to raise their paddle to help their community.
And, Sonoma did not disappoint. From high bids given by Dan Kosta on behalf of Kosta Browne Winery and Friends and Supporters of Kosta Browne Winery, Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane of Benovia Winery, Gina Gallo & Jean Charles Boisset, Gallo Family Wines & Boisset Collection in honor of Margrit Mondavi, and The Jackson Banke Family, Jackson Family Wines, each donating $250,000.
Their generous donation, along with dozens of other enthusiastic supporters, made the final tally for the “Fund The Future” lot was $2.7 million, up significantly from the previous year’s bid of $1.9 million, and making up over half of the total amount raised for the auction and weekend events, which came in right around $4.6 million. To see so many people, generously giving to their community, not for a prize or an experience, but truly to help each other warmed the hearts and minds of all in the room, and made for one incredible celebration.
The Sonoma Wine County Weekend event will change some venues and dates next year, so bookmark their website now and sign up for the newsletter to get information on when the weekend will take place in 2017. And, bravo to all involved on showcasing the beauty and hospitality of the region, the wine and food, and people. Can’t wait for next year.
Summer is winding down, but there’s still time for a last-minute getaway. There’s nothing like a good vacation, but packing can feel like work. We enlisted some of Dallas’ most fashionably notable to give us their secrets to looking and feeling great—no matter where they are.
Watters has learned a thing or two about traveling over the years. “I never leave without a curious mind, so when I return home and get back to the office, I’m not stuck in a creative rut,” Watters says. Her travel essentials include summery cover-ups that, when paired with a slip, double as a chic dinner dress; Oribe sun protection moisturizer (available at l.a.r.c. Salon); and a white Goyard tote, which is a perfect carry-on that seamlessly goes from work to the beach.
Lerma has a solid piece of advice before you hit the beach: “I just recently gained the confidence enough to wear a speedo on vacation, and it was incredibly liberating. I would encourage … everyone to love themselves and try stepping out of their usual swimsuit comfort zone.” For Lerma, travel style is all about ease, comfort, and having fun. But no matter what he packs, he never travels without his Louis Vuitton Bandouliere 55 (available at NorthPark Center, Neiman Marcus).“It’s a classic, and if I pack just right, I can fit almost a week’s worth of clothes and essentials in there,” he says. “Plus, it’s the largest size that can still be used as a carry-on bag.”
It’s easy to see that Miller (@theMillerAffect) is on the go. While her Instagram style has a five-outfits-a-day-and-64-thousand-followers feel to it, her travel style sounds surprisingly attainable. “On my last trip, I packed a white maxi cover up that I wore with my suits every single day.” While her travel style is pretty minimal, there are a few things she can’t live without: “My waterproof mascara (available atBenefit, The Plaza at Preston Center). It is by Benefit,and it will make me look like I have a complete face full of makeup when I put it on. It doesn’t smudge at all either, so I can sweat or jump in the water and it won’t run.”
As a global skincare advisor for La Mer and an esthetician whose client list includes Anna Wintour and Sting, Czech is a frequent globe-trotter. When it comes to packing, whether it’s for work or vacation, Czech stays true to her usual glamorous self. “I don’t typically change my style for traveling,” she says. “If I want to bring 20 shoes, I bring them.” Her must-haves are Eres swimwear and coverups, not to mention “an abundance of sunglasses.” To maintain flawless skin throughout her travels, she tries to keep things as balanced as possible, using her No. 1 daily product pH controlling lotion by Biologique Recherche (available at Joanna Czech’s Spa). And she always travels with a hydrating mask – “The Hydrating Facial” by La Mer is a favorite.
Rolling hills of sun-soaked vines interspersed with fragrant honeysuckle, fig and citrus trees, surrounding grove after grove of olive trees. This is Chianti Classico, the celebrated region of Italy known for their mouthwatering Sangiovese wines and powerful Super Tuscan options.
Walking along cypress tree lined paths flanked by vines, looking out over small red tiled roofed villages, you truly feel like you are inside the film “Under the Tuscan Sun.,” however no film or camera can truly show the beauty of the picturesque region. I recently returned from a trip to Tuscany, traveling as a guest of Jackson Family Wines, specifically to visit their Tenuta di Arceno estate and vineyards outside of the ancient, walled village of San Gusmé, in the commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga.
Not far from Siena, in the southeast corner of Chianti Classico, the 200+ acres of planted vineyards rise from 1000 feet to 1500 feet elevation, with 10 different mesoclimates and 12 different soil types. This combination allows celebrated, international winemaker, Pierre Seillan and on-site winemaker, Lawrence Cronin, the ability to produced authentic, expressive, powerful wines, melding with elegance, refinement and character.
Perhaps best known for his Sonoma wine, Verite, and St. Emillion, Bordeaux wine, Chateau Lassègue, Seillan is regarded as one of the most gifted winemakers in the world, filled with unwavering enthusiasm, authenticity and passion for his craft. Celebrating his 50th vintage this year, the charming Seillan has the energy and excitement of a child with a new toy, as every vintage of Arcanum and Valadorna, his two Right Bank, Bordeaux style wines, continue to exceed expectations.
The 2,500 acre Tenuta di Arceno estate was purchased by the late Jess Jackson and his wife & partner, Barbara Banke, in 1994, with Seillan joining to start Arcanum in 2002. Today these young vines, as many were planted in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, have begun to show the finesse and elegance Seillan strives for in all of his Merlot and beloved Cabernet Franc based wines.
However, though the varieties are international, the wines are very much Italian, as these terroir driven wines shine due to the diversity of the soils and the distinct climate they grow in. Vines for both of these wines, and their third more introductory wine, Il Fauno di Arcanum, average in age from 10-15 years with well draining soils filled with river rocks, basalt, sand, granite, schist, blue and red clay.
Block by block, the diversity of the estate allows each grape variety the ability to shine in the best soil for its type. This is why the wines of Tuscany are so unique and special, it is in this diversity that the beauty lies. The estate is broken up into 63 different blocks, each planted to the variety perfect for that terroir. Seillan calls it a vigneron style of making wine, as each wine is truly made in the vineyard.
When Seillan joined Jackson in the venture, the Cabernet Franc loving winemaker saw the potential of the estate for growing the variety. Born and raised in Armagnac, in the home of a cork maker who had family vines on his home estate, Seillan had always had a love of wine, first learning about Cabernet Franc at his home vineyard. His passion for Cabernet Franc came when he moved to Loire as winemaker for Château de Targé in the Saumur-Champigny AOC, learning the nuances of the cool climate on the grape and the influence of the Loire soils.
He later moved to Bordeaux as winemaker and technical director for seven different Chateau, spending over 20 years there. When he met Jackson the two formed a quick bond and friendship, believing in the same vision of crafting premium wines from international varieties, particularly Cabernet Franc, from hillside and mountain vineyards with varying soil types to highlight the true personality of the vineyard and character of the land. Seillan bases each wine produced on a philosophy to let the vineyard shine, creating wines without compromise.
He moved to Sonoma to start Verite in the mid-1990’s, followed shortly thereafter with Arcanum in 2002 and Lassègue in 2003. Each wine displays the uniqueness of terroir, while reflecting an elegance and style Seillan brings to each wine.
With the help of New York raised, California trained winemaker, Lawrence Cronin, winemaker for Tenuta di Arceno, the duo are creating wines that continue to define quality in the region. Cronin arrived at the estate 16 years ago with Seillan, thinking he would stay a few months then move on to his next phase of his career. He had previously been Assistant Winemaker for Edmeades Winery in the Anderson Valley since 1995, and had worked in Sicily, New Zealand, Australia and Chile before that. Seillan asked him to stay on, overseeing the day to day operations of the winery along with vineyard manager, Michele Pezzicoli, and leading the production of the Chianti Classico Riserva wines.
In speaking with Cronin he mentioned that he didn’t know if the move would be permanent, but his Italian roots, with his family still owning an estate in Sicily, drove him to accept. And then, as every good story of love and passion goes, he met his now wife, who was visiting her mother in the village of San Gusmé. The two fell in love, and today have a young son and run a local B&B in Castelnuovo Berardenga.
And, now 16 years after his move to the region, he and Seillan have successfully elevated this historic estate into the premium tier of producers in Tuscany.
Arcanum is the premier wine of the estate, crafted from predominantly Cabernet Franc. Early ripening, ensuring the fruit, which grows at some of the highest elevations on the estate, reaches the desired level of ripeness, without green tannins from under-ripe fruit, before autumn rains and destructive hail set in, something the region is constantly fighting.
Instead, earthy notes of wild herb, ripe berry, violets and lilac fill the palate of the Arcanum wines. The wines are big, so will always benefit from a period of bottle aging, beyond the year or so the winery does before each vintage release. But, even upon their traditional release, they are complex, sophisticated, concentrated and elegant.
Il Fauno di Acanum is meant to be a lighter, more approachable wine, blending the international varieties from some of the youngest vines on the estate, to make an easy drinking, food friendly wine perfect for any time of year, or day.
Though Arcanum is the pinnacle of Seillan’s vision for Tuscany, celebrating great Cabernet Franc, the Right Bank, Bordeaux lover also holds a special place in his heart for Merlot.
Especially when the variety is crafted with care, dedication and produces the highest quality wine. Yes, Merlot got a bad wrap in the past, thanks to over-production of the variety and films like “Sideways.” However, when managed with care and a delicate touch the variety is easily one of the most luscious, delicious and refined in the world.
Merlot is often added to a blend to round out the palate and add finesse to a wine. However, when it is allowed to be a star, Merlot can often shine brighter, longer. Sometimes longer than many Cabernet Sauvignon counterparts. Where Cabernet Sauvignon leaps out of the gate running, with big fruit and big tannin, Merlot is softer, more subtle, more approachable upon release and will be very good for 3-5 years. But, it is also delicious 10-15 years later, as bottle age helps the wine exceed expectations, filling the palate with earthy espresso, mushroom and tobacco notes, layered with dark plum and cherry.
At this 10-15 year old stage, Merlot shines, as is evident in some older vintages of Seillan’s Merlot based wine, Valadorna. And, the older Valadorna wines have been produced, at the time, with some of the youngest vines on the property. Just another element of why the estate is so exciting for Seillan, because as these vines continue to age and develop the resulting wines will become more concentrated, textured and refined.
Merlot for Valadorna is grown in 3 vineyards on the estate, each protected from some of the hottest temperatures and sunlight of the warm Tuscan days, sitting at lower elevations in soils filled with clay to trap moisture, and each surrounded by forest land, adding an additional herbal and floral element to the wine. As with the Arcanum and Il Fauno di Arcanum, a small percentage of other varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot or Sangiovese are added in to the Valadorna wine to create a harmonious palate with expressive, balanced flavors. This may not always be the case though.
As vineyards develop, there may be a time that the Arcanum is 100% Cabernet Fran and the Valadorna becomes 100% Merlot. We tasted the current 2015 vintage of Cabernet Franc from 5 different vineyard blocks of fruit, varying in elevations, soils types, root stocks, clones and microclimates. Though an overall similarity consisted through each wine, the young fruit showed various layers of concentration, texture and flavor, that when blended together created a harmonious, although very young wine.
The earliest blends of Arcanum consisted of predominantly Cabernet Franc (as did Seillan’s first, highly prized vintage of Verite in Sonoma.) The current release 2011 blends 77% Cabernet Franc with 14% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot to produce a wine with violet and wild rose notes, red cherry, berry and spice with a line of earthy graphite and pencil lead.
Tasting the first vintage, 2002, the wine from young vines still had great fruit and acidity, though moving more towards the dried cherry, stewed prune and toasted spice. These are definitely wines that will age beautifully.
There is a softness and delicate touch to these wines that shines, especially when tasting them side by side in comparison to some of the other noteworthy wines of the region. In comparison to the highly famed Sassicaia, a blend of predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with just 15% Cabernet Franc with bracing, intense aromas of dusty tobacco, earthy forest floor, toasted oak and dominant smoke notes, the Arcanum is soft, lively and fresh, highlighting subtly and refinement.
The estate is located near the fork of two rivers: the Ambra, which flows to Florence, and the Ombrone, which flows to the Mediterranean. In honor of its history, the name Arceno comes from the Etruscan word Archè, meaning “point of origin.” Wines have been made in this vineyard, rising between 1000-1750 feet above sea level, between Florence and Siena for nearly 3000 years.
Just two families had owned the land prior to Jackson Family’s purchase in the 1990’s. In 1504 the Del Taja family began purchasing the land, block by block, expanding the estate. In 1829 the Piccolominis family from Siena acquired the property, adding in various architectural and aesthetic elements that still stand today.
The inspiration for the Arcanum label, and that of Il Fauno came from an ancient statue located not far from San Gusme. In Roman mythology Il Fauno is the Roman God of nature, the countryside and the woods, which this sprawling estate has in abundance. Il Fauno watches over the estate and acts as its protector.
The week of our visit a new piece of property had just been acquired, and the enthusiasm and anticipation was easy to see from all as the property vineyards sit at one of the highest elevations in the region, upwards of 2000 feet above sea level. Though the vineyard is in a bit of disarray now, once restored, these vines will be able to add a new character to the thoughtful story of these wines.
In addition to their Bordeaux varieties, the winery produces their Strada Al Sasso Chianti Classico Riserva single vineyard 100% Sangiovese and their Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico Riserva, which since Jackson Family purchased the property, has continued to gain recognition and respect.
Mouthwatering, juicy and luscious, these are wines that are meant to be enjoyed with food, highlighting simple ingredients that produce flavors that make this region so iconic, like simple platters of olives, artichokes, prosciutto & pecorino, or a Bistecca alla Fiorentina (steak Florentine,) Pici con Ragù di Cinghiale, the local, hand rolled, thick flour and water pasta layered with a ragu of wild boar (often caught from the vineyards that morning as the destructive boar have become a huge problem plaguing vintners by destroying their vines.)
The acidity and freshness of the wine cut through the richness of the simple grilled steak and hearty cinghiale creating a harmonious balance of flavor.
The dish and pairing that I am still dreaming about is the Strada Al Sasso Chianti Classico Riserva with Pici Cacio e Pepe, an incredibly simple, heavenly pile of fresh Pici pasta with pecorino cheese (a lot of pecorino cheese,) black pepper, salt and a little of the pasta water. Melding the creamy richness of the dish with the juicy, red cherry, candied raspberry, orange peel and spice filled wine with vibrant acidity and well integrated tannin couldn’t have been more complete or more delicious.
The belief that you should eat at the food of the region with the wines of the region couldn’t have been more true. Enjoying them in the company of these passionate artisans, both from the winery and the kitchens is truly what the Tuscan lifestyle is all about, and why the region is so beloved by anyone who has the ability to experience it. It is obvious, after both seeing the pristine vineyards and enjoying a few days in and around San Gusmé, why Jackson Family chose this spot to create their signature Italian winery, and why Seillan joined them.
Beautiful vines are important, but so are beautiful people, and Tuscany delivers on both.
A gem in the hills of Villa a Sesta, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Siena is L’Assencio Ristorantewhere Chef/Owner Senio Venturi crafts local Italian (both Tuscan and Piemontese) into works of delicious art with his plates as a canvas and seasonal ingredients painting each picture. From a simple beef tartare, to rabbit and artichoke with braised escarole, to a heaven scented plate of spring beans, avocado, scamorza and poached egg slathered with shavings of black summer truffle, flake salt and very grassy, fresh olive oil from the olive trees at Tenuta di Arceno.
After working is kitchens throughout Northern Italy and Tuscany, Venturi and partner, Elisa Bianchini, opened L’Assencio in 2011. With a focus on seasonal ingredients and hospitality, melding delicious flavors and Italian affordability (with the 5 course tasting menu costing 50 Euro,) this newly Michelin Guide recommended restaurant is worth the trip to the countryside.
Arcanum ($100,) Valadorna ($80) and Il Fauno ($30) wines are available through the winery websites, including the new releases and a few older vintages, as well as by special order through Spec’s locally.
If visiting Tuscany, the Tenuta di Arceno tasting room is open outside of San Gusmé by appointment throughout the week, nestled about 45 minutes from Florence and 25 minutes from Siena.
We don’t know about you, but we’re ready to beat this sweltering Dallas heat with a little weekend getaway. Nothing beats a quick trip, like a free quick trip! For our Summer Giveaway series, we’ve got four opportunities to treat four lucky readers to exactly that, so make sure to enter for a chance to win one of the below vacation prizes.
Hotels.com recently brought a young writer for Bustle — a site “for & by women who are moving forward as fast as you are” — on a junket to Dallas. She mistakenly believes she was visiting “the South,” and her primary experience in her 24 hours in our fair city was attending an FC Dallas game up in Frisco.
She concludes about Texas:
Lindsey and I stayed at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Dallas, which felt like it was the size of a small country. Expansive views, spacious rooms, panoramic elevators, 50 stories — one wrong turn and I’d get lost for sure. But it wasn’t just the hotel that was huge. We couldn’t help but notice how larger than life everyday things were all over the city: couches, restrooms, restaurant chairs, food portions, drinks, sidewalks. Some things really are bigger in Texas.
But hair? Where was the big hair?! Is that in Houston?
June is here. Which means summer vacation is here too. All those squats, planks, pliés burpees and lunges have brought you to this moment. You are ready to embark on your summer getaway feeling fit and accomplished. But you’ve worked too hard to leap into a spiral of fitness negligence for an entire week.
To help, we’ve called upon trainer and owner of Fit180, Julie Hoang, for tips on ways to battle that stubborn vacation weight gain. Hoang keeps her students accountable on vacation by assigning them “workout homework,” and makes them check in with her upon completion. Things may not be that intimate with your fitness instructor or trainer, but here are some useful tips to help you from falling off the workout wagon completely.
Tip 1:Preemptive planning. Pack in extra workouts prior to your vacation. It’s also important to clean up your food a week or two before you leave for your trip. While on your trip, you can engage in modified mini-workouts to keep up the healthy habit, and avoid completely falling off the wagon.
Tip 2:Create a plan. Just as you plan your excursions, activities, and outfits before you travel, plan your workouts into the daily schedule. It can be as simple as 20 minutes in the hotel room every other day.
Tip 3: Take a gratitude walk. Even if you don’t feel like working out. Have a mindset that you’re just taking some time to reflect and rejuvenate. The walk serves a purpose beyond just working out.
Tip 4: There’s an app for that. There are actually countless apps for that, from Sweat with Kayla to 5 Minute Ab Workouts. Dallas fitness instructor and studio owner, Brit Rettig, has even developed her own app that makes you feel like you’re at a Grit by Brit class. The 25-minute workouts can easily be done anywhere, at any time of day. Look our for the app when it debuts this July.
Top 5:Integrate fitness into your trip. Many cities have free running tours. You can experience all the sites while getting your workout in simultaneously. Or take advantage of what new landscape you have at your fingertips. If you’re visiting the mountains, see if the city has mountaintop yoga. If you’re visiting the lake, consider some paddle boarding.
Tip 6:Three easy moves to do in your hotel room. Hoang even shares three of her go-to moves she offers clients to stay in shape while they are out of their weekly routines. And no fitness trainer supervision required!
Go-To Move #1
Air squats with arms put in front of you and pausing at the bottom for two to five seconds. Make sure you keep most of the weight on the heels to activate the glutes.
Go-To Move #2
Push-up with hands on the edge of the bed with a two-second hold at the bottom. Remember to relax your shoulders while doing the push-up so you avoid using your neck.
Go-To Move #3
Grab a lightweight resistance band and step on it to do bicep curls or upright rows to keep the arms toned while on vacation. Remember to keep your chest up and neck and shoulders relaxed while doing this exercise.
It’s important for your mental health to unplug, refresh and enjoy your vacation. You may not be busting your rear in the gym like you do at home and that’s okay. Setting yourself up for success by scattering in workouts while you’re away makes for a seamless transition when you return home to your daily gym grind.
When trying wine from one region compared to another, it is easy to taste the differences. However, there is something remarkable when differences are discovered in the same vineyard. In considering some of the most revered California vineyards, like Sangiacomo, Hyde, Durell, Gary’s, and Stagecoach, subtle characteristic differences are tasted, thanks to the respect winemakers give the land, highlighting the personality of each block of vines.
I recently attended the inaugural Signature Sonoma Valley, a two-day celebration of the 160-year-old wine region, toasting its historic wineries, iconic winemakers, and some of the most exemplary vineyards of California. I attended as a guest of the Sonoma Valley Vintners.
A portion of the event was an immersion experience into Bill Price’s Durell Vineyard, with key winemakers inviting guests to taste their Durell Vineyard Chardonnay wines.
The tasting also revealed the importance of time, and temperature of wine. Giving the wine time to breathe in your glass will open the delicate aromas and flavors. These may otherwise be lost if the wine is too cold or consumed too quickly. All of the Durell Chardonnay wines noted are available via the winery, priced from $40-$75.
In 1979 San Francisco businessman Ed Durell purchased the property that straddles three different Sonoma AVAs, Carneros, Sonoma Coast, and Sonoma Valley, with a much warmer microclimate to the north and cooler to the south. He teamed up with vineyard manager, Steve Hill, and the two converted the former cow pasture into one of California’s most prestigious vineyards today.
Bill Price purchased the vineyard in 1997. Steve Hill farmed the land for over 35 years, just recently handing the property over to current vineyard manager, Rob Harris.
Always with the goal to grow and sell fruit, one of Durell’s first clients was Kistler Vineyards. Kistler, known for producing Grand Cru quality California Chardonnay, began purchasing Durell fruit in 1986. Their current release highlights tropical and orchard fruit, with acidity at its core, adding freshness to its textured refinement.
Sojourn Cellars began buying fruit in 2012, one of most recent new clients for Durell. Sojourn’s Chardonnay has an earthiness and mineral note throughout the wine, melding with stone fruit, for a food-friendly expression.
Bill Price’s Three Sticks Winery blends from three different blocks of vines for their Chardonnay. Utilizing different vine-blocks allows for a textured, rich wine with a luscious palate, creating an overall balanced wine.
Kenneth Juhasz of Auteur Wines, is a self-admitted lover of acidity in his wines, keeping them bright, clean and crisp. Auteur Durell Chardonnay is filled with aromatic lime leaf, green apple, and racy citrus. The wine finishes elegantly with a creamy custard note.
After a little bit of a hiatus, BraBurner is back this week at El Bolero restaurant on Oak Lawn to chat with Regina Merson, founder of the Reina Rebelde makeup line. Before she got into makeup, Merson was a bankruptcy attorney with Weil Gotshal & Manges in Dallas. Before that, she was escaping kidnappers in Bangkok. Before that, she was developing her obsession with the power of beauty while watching her mom get dressed for the disco. We talked with Merson about her taste for tequila, heading into the jungles of Mexico for eyeliner inspiration, and how to know when the time is right for a new Plan A, no matter what your friends say.
As always, you can listen through the player below or you can download the episode with your favorite podcatcher. On with the show notes:
1. For information on how to avoid being kidnapped in a taxicab in Bangkok, read this.
2. The Zapatistas, or Zapatista Army of National Liberation, is a predominantly indigenous leftist revolutionary group based in Chiapas, one of the poorest states in southern Mexico. The group takes its name from Emiliano Zapata, the commander of the Liberation Army of the South during the Mexican Revolution. In 1993, the Zapatistas passed the Women’s Revolutionary Law, which sets forth basic rights for women, including the right to political participation, the right to be free from violence, the right to choose your own romantic partner, and the right to wear eyeliner with your face mask.
5. The floral Moooi Eden Queen rug used as the backdrop for Regina’s photo shoot is available through Scott + Cooner for $4,995.
6. In the early 2000s, the Hispanic advertising agency Bromley Communications conducted the Charmin case study on behalf of their client, Proctor & Gamble. They determined that Hispanic women are avid “scent seekers” who enjoy making their homes smell good and are willing to pay more for products that offer aesthetic benefits in addition to functional ones. Meaning, Hispanic women will pay more for scented toilet paper.
7. The Oilman is a jet black margarita made from Código 1530 tequila, lime juice, blackberry juice, agave, and Cointreau Noir that is garnished with gold stars, gold kosher salt, and house-made rock candy. Feel free to eat the rock candy or use it to “twirly twirl” your blush-worthy, aesthetically spectacular drink.
A women’s soccer team from Tibet has been forced to pull out of this spring’s Dallas Cup international youth tournament after the players were denied visas by the U.S. embassy in India, according to The Guardian. It would have been the first team to officially represent Tibet, an autonomous region in China whose sovereignty is a perennial point of contention in international relations, on American soil.
Players told the British newspaper their applications for a 10-day visit to Dallas, which cost about half of the team’s yearly budget, were refused because of fears the team would stay in the U.S., possibly claiming refugee status:
“What they said is we don’t have strong reasons to go to Dallas,” said Jamyang Chotso, a team captain. “But I think this is not the reason for them to reject us. [We] think the reason is they think we might run away when we reach there.”
“For a footballer, football is not just a game,” she added. “Through football I can represent my country and through football I can inspire our girls.”
Tibet remains an especially touchy subject between the U.S. and China. Human Rights Watch and other nongovernmental organizations routinely call attention to gross abuses by Chinese authorities in the region. The U.S. officially recognizes Tibet as a part of China, although former President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama last year ruffled the feathers of Chinese leaders. How Donald Trump feels about the issue of Tibetan independence is an open question, as the current president has shown both antipathy toward foreign visitors and an affinity for upsetting China.
The Dallas Cup, deprived of the chance to become a focal point in the debate over Tibetan independence, is set for April 9-16 at the Cotton Bowl. It will continue with international youth team competitors from slightly less controversial parts of the world.
The holiday season is truly magical. Festive decorations, rich smells from the kitchen and family gatherings make these end-of- the-year months special. The holidays are known to bring families together, and everyone has their own unique traditions to uphold. Whether celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other observance, it’s truly a time to commemorate.
The season can also be trying. Gift buying, long travel lines, and countless holiday obligations only just begin to sum up the added duties during this time of year. Cancelled flights and last minute work obligations can really throw a wrench into the most carefully planned family gatherings. The biggest stressor is being thousands of miles away from family and friends who you wish were just a little closer.
Nucleus is a home intercom system that was built for the complexities and challenges that today’s families face. The sleek, full touchscreen intercom device connects instantly to other rooms in the home, between homes, or while on-the- go with its companion smartphone apps. You can use it to call the kids down for dinner or check on
Grandma from across the country, while still feeling like you’re in the same room as her. Nucleus makes communication accessible and straightforward by allowing families to spend quality time together through the push of a button, regardless of where they are. With minimal setup time, the user interface is easy to understand – even for grandma.
For those with their hands tied preparing for the holiday get together, Nucleus brings even more ease and convenience with its Alexa Voice Service capabilities. Families can take advantage of a number of voice-enabled features – including streaming holiday music, adding items to the grocery list, looking up recipes for cooking together, and an ever-growing assortment of other Alexa Skills.
The device’s setup takes mere minutes, and once activated, grandparents can watch their grandchildren running down the hall to check for presents, or military families can keep traditions alive through a high-quality video chat.
For those with large, extended families, in-laws, or small children, this is a must-have this holiday season. The big buttons and clear instructions make installation a breeze and the 120-degree HD camera lets you see the whole room and everyone in it. Also at one pound, the device weighs less than the batch of cookies we’re about to make.
The holidays only come once a year, and there’s no need to spend them without everyone you love. Bring everyone closer together this year by adding Nucleus to your home. Nucleus can be purchased online at nucleuslife.com. Use the discount code DMag15 to get 15% off your order.
Texas is big, no news there, but it’s so big that two of our American Viticulture Areas (AVA) in the state are actually two of the largest in the country, encompassing both currently planted vineyards and overall space. Of the eight federally approved AVAs in the state, the Texas Hill Country AVA covers 15,000-square-miles in 22 different counties, created in 1991. Not long after that the Texas High Plains AVA was approved, covering 12,000-square-miles in the area in and around the Panhandle of Texas, Lubbock and Amarillo. When we think about a large portion of the wine made in the state, the grapes are coming from these two areas, with the region noted on the label, as long as 85-percent of the juice in the bottle is coming from there.
However, these weren’t the first regions designated in the state. Though quite a bit smaller, the Bell Mountain AVA, is only five square miles on the south and southwestern slopes of Bell Mountain in northeast Gillespie County, not far from Austin.
It is important to distinguish this tiny AVA in the midst of a larger counterpart of Texas Hill Country. To establish an individual AVA, as we have seen in other regions like Napa Valley, the characteristics and terroir must be noticeably different than that of the region directly next to or around it. It is how you can have AVAs within AVAs, as we see also in Washington State, for instance, with Walla Walla and Horse Heaven Hills actually sitting within Columbia Valley.
We see this in Texas, as the Fredericksburg AVA, within the Texas Hill Country is similar to the whole region, but comprised completely within Gillespie County filled with peaks and valleys of dominated by peaks and valleys with the elevation from 447m to 578m, distinguishing it as its own AVA. Bell Mountain, also within the Texas Hill Country AVA, sees elevations ranging from 505 meters to approximately 596 meters with only two key soil types, Luckenbach-Pedernales-Heaton and Nebgen-Campair-Hye which are composed of clay and sandy loam.
Soils for the region, of which there are 58 different soil compositions, are filled with clay loam, clay, and sandy clay loam which favor the varieties that vintners have finally found do well in the state, mainly Spanish, Italian, Rhone and some Bordeaux varieties. Somewhat similar to the Languedoc in France, that can grow a wide range of varieties but do few very well, vintners have found that hearty red varieties like Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Mourvedre, originally from the Rhone Valley in France, are thriving in our soils, along with Italian Sangiovese and Spanish Tempranillo. White grapes like Vermentino, or Rhone’s Rolle, Viognier and some Muscat or its hybrid, Blanc du Bois.
When we think of Texas and as hot as we get with long summers of little to no rainfall in various parts of the state, it may be hard to believe so many different grape varieties can thrive here, however a lack of rain is actually not the biggest issue for the Texas Hill Country as hot summers are actually good for grapes, especially as the region’s normal rainfall amount is about 34 inches with the national average at about 38 inches. However, the Texas Hill Country AVA as a whole, including both of the smaller AVAs noted above, has its biggest issues coming from late spring frost and temperature drops that can harm early spring bud break, flash flooding when the rains do come, and hail storms. Frost during the spring can have such a harmful affect the actual crop yield for the entire year can be cut from one storm by a third, or even a half, something many vintners have experienced the past few years. Summer hail storms can also destroy grapes not long before harvest, or natural humidity and dampness from storms can cause mold and mildew to form on delicate vines. And, if mother nature wasn’t enough to deal with, birds, pests and rodents are always on the hunt for sweet, ripe fruit.
Wedding Oak Winery in San Saba, a part of the Texas Hill Country AVA, has seen a bit of a mix bag of both positive and negative effects this year, with spring rains bringing mold and mildew issues in the vineyards, along with early season hail, hurt the overall size of this year’s crop. Winemaker Penny Adams noted on this year’s harvest that “heavy rain, hail, searing arid heat, followed by more sustained heavy rain. That sounds like a recipe for disaster for a farmer. That’s what we faced this year. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: growing grapes in Texas ain’t for the faint of heart. To be able to successfully harvest a high-quality crop takes vigilant vineyard management and a healthy dose of luck.” Thankfully, Adams also notes that this year’s harvest, though smaller than may have hoped for, looks beautiful and quite exceptional.
Additionally, as we continue to notice the affects of climate change, harvest dates continue to change and move up, this year moving up in the Hill Country about a week to 10 days, with some, like Spicewood Vineyards harvesting their white grapes as early as mid-July and completing all of harvest by the beginning of August. This was most likely due to the warm winter the state experienced last year, resulting in an earlier than normal bud break. That being said though, many are expecting fantastic vintages for 2016. Other parts of the state, like the High Plains, were a little bit more normal with a mid-August start. As Sergio Caudra, Director of Winemaking for Fall Creek Vineyards noted at the end of their harvest this year, seeing spring and summer rain, as well as frost during bud break in mid-spring, “Mother Nature takes and gives, I guess, and we need to be thankful of the good quality which in the end is what contributes to the prestige of Fall Creek Vineyards Texas wines.”
Of the 350 or so wineries now bonded in the state, 51 of them are within the Texas Hill Country, which makes traveling to visit them very fun. Most are open to the public either daily or by making an appointment through their websites or with a phone call. I continue to learn of new ones that are producing special 100% Texas wines, often from both Hill Country and High Plains fruit, along with a touch of this or that from other AVAs in the state, like Lewis Wines,C.L. Butaud, and William Chris. In addition to enjoying these new finds, I will always jump at the chance to enjoy a glass of Duchman Family Winerycrisp and lively Vermentino or earthy Montepulciano, or a black and red fruit filled Pedernales Tempranillo, or an spicy, juicy and slightly smoky Fall Creek Vineyards Terroir Selection GSMfrom Salt Lick Vineyard across the street from their recently opened Driftwood tasting room.
Theoretically, autumn is approaching. Most Texans know the state has trouble adhering to traditional seasonal temperature changes, but we also know how to take advantage of it. Texas offers many unique options for a weekend getaway, including live-in treehouses. You can make the most out of the last remnants of summer weather with a treehouse adventure or make an October reservation to watch the leaves change among the treetops.
Texas, ever expansive, is home to many accessible outdoor activities that evoke a sense of adventure that’s perfect for couples. Incorporating romantic dinners and a flirty dip in a sparkling infinity pool along with some adventure can create the perfect concoction for a romantic getaway. These weekend retreats are foundation building for couples looking to know one another better or infuse their relationship with a jolt of romance. From car-ride conversations to adrenaline-pumping excursions, we’ve gathered five Texas resorts for active couples in need of a quick retreat.
This resort and spa offers a restful stay as well as a range of outdoor activities ideal for flirtation. The setting is peaceful, as every aspect of Travaasa is saturated with nature. Perched on the hills of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, the resort overlooks Lake Travis. “Experiential” is the mantra for this destination, and many of the experiences are done in tandem. Bust out of your comfort zones together.
From archery classes to launching yourselves 45 feet in the Giant Swing, there is no shortage of adventure. And if obstacle courses and hatchet throwing are a little too valiant for a weekend getaway, Travaasa offers a plethora of yoga options, meditation classes, a spa, and a tranquil infinity pool overlooking the lake. Re-fuel at a romantic, candle-lit dinner with farm-to-table fare in The Preserve Kitchen + Bar, where most of the food is produced by the resort’s on-site farm.
Perched 200 feet above Possum Kingdom Lake, this resort capitalizes on its natural surroundings. (It’s also the perfect backdrop for a couple selfie.) From fishing and water skiing to sailing and scuba diving, Dallas couples need not venture far for an aquatic escape. Engaging in something together that isn’t part of your everyday routine will spark some excitement in the relationship. In addition to the resort’s private marina, the 1,090-acre resort has a pool if you’re looking to soak up the sun with your love. There’s a good balance for couples to share edgier activities as well as softer, pampering ones. End your day at The Cliffs’ The Chaparral Grille offers southwest-inspired cuisine with indoor and outdoor seating options. The patio’s fire pit sets the stage for a serene, romantic evening, with a colorful sunset serving as the backdrop. There’s nothing like a kiss underneath a Texas sunset.
This retreat, nestled among the rolling meadows of the eastern foothills of Texas Hill Country, blends sumptuousness with rustic appeal. (Perhaps you’ll want to bring your matching cowboy and cowgirl boots to fit the part.) The 313-acre resort offers an adrenaline-packed jaunt or a peaceful, soothing escape. The five-star dining options and wine cellar are included in the main attractions, supplied by the inn’s own organic gardens and greenhouse. The dining room is intimate, creating the perfect scene for that delicious getaway dinner.
To make this intimate date night even more out-of-the-ordinary, the resort has its own mixology classes, crafting cocktails from scratch with organic herbs and veggies. Many couples seek cooking classes for a playful date night, but add in beverages and you’ve got yourself a quality time. Equestrian lovers will be right at home as the inn has the second-largest privately owned indoor riding arena in Texas. Fly-fishing is also another popular option for this getaway, and being out on the water together can create many opportunities for intimate chats. Perhaps a celebratory kiss will take place if either of you are lucky enough to have the fish bite.
Fredericksburg Brewery Tour
Travel Time: 4 hours, 15 minutes
Often times when we think of Fredericksburg, we think wine and vineyards. But brew tours are prevalent and offered on the weekends. Sipping beer and having a leisurely afternoon has the potential to foster good conversations for couples on this getaway. Being in a laidback, casual atmosphere like breweries helps inspire that carefree vacation feel and the excitement of exploring a new city together. Fredericksburg Uncorked offers a brew tour that visits several local brewing companies and lasts for four hours. Beer tasting is included, as well as bottled water and snacks to accompany the brewery sips. Breweries you’ll check out on the tour include Double Horn Brewing Co., Pecan Street Brewing Co., Real Ale Brewing Co., Pedernales Brewing Co., and Fredericksburg Brewing Co. Foregoing the traditional hotel room with this getaway, couples can enjoy a cozy cottage to mix it up. The private cottages each have their own character and give couples the privacy they need for a romantic hideaway. In between the cottage stay and brewery tours, couples can enjoy a hand-in-hand walk down Main Street, one of Fredericksburg’s main attractions. From the shops and restaurants, couples find solace in the quaint, old-fashioned street. Plus, some portions of the street allow folks to carry open wine and beer containers, as they are enjoying their stroll.
Just 35 miles south of Fort Worth, this 800-acre ranch offers a stereotypical Texas experience complete with activities such as cattle driving and herding. (They’ll even teach you how to rope.) Perhaps you can wager a bet with your partner. Nothing strikes the love chord like some friendly competition. If you’re seeking a thrill ride together that may get a little bumpy, an ATV expedition might be for the two of you. The ATV takes you along the most challenging terrain of the ranch property. And, of course, the ranch experience wouldn’t be complete without shooting activities. If you decide you want to make an entire couples weekend of it, Beaumont Ranch also offers overnight accommodations. This quick getaway is just far enough outside of Dallas to give you some time away together as a couple for a quick, overnight escape.
Wines from Spain can be misunderstood by many wine lovers, even though the Old World region has been producing wines for centuries and today, boasts some of the oldest vineyards still producing fruit in Europe.
Red wines are big and bold, as sun-drenched vines of Tempranillo, or one of the many clones to the variety like Tinta de Toro and Tinto Fino, Garnacha, Carinena, Bobal and many more, deliver wine filled with ripe fruit flavors and often, gripping tannins. White wines can be fruity and juicy, but due to temperature spikes in some regions, without overnight cooling temperatures can create wines with big fruit and no acid. However, these wines can be truly delicious, especially those from a small distinguished group of growers that make up Grandes Pagos de España.
Grandes Pagos de España, or “Great Estates of Spain,” is an esteemed wine-growing association that promotes the culture of estate-grown wines from exceptional estates. The wines produced are from Spaniards who truly respect their land and their vines, and who are committed to offering only the best from their vineyards. Over the years the organization has developed to currently include a membership of 28 wineries throughout the country that have reached a level of distinction for producing high quality, estate-grown wines from their respective D.O., or Denominación de Origen (Wine Appellations.)
I recently visited Spain, traveling as a guest of Grandes Pagos de España, visiting several of the regions in the north, including their wineries in the Toro D.O., Ribera del Duero D.O., Rias Baixas D.O., and Rueda D.O., seeing 100+ year old vineyards and learning about the unique soils their vines grow in.
Several years ago I hosted a charity dinner that included the wines of Numanthia from the Toro D.O. region in the North. I had met with then winemaker Manuel Louzada and fell in love with the robust, earthy wines, the story and the region. I displayed pictures provided by the winery at that dinner, talking through the story of how vines can grow in dry soils filled with large rocks and stones in dessert like conditions to produce bold, powerful wines, yet with a delicate elegance. At the time, however, I hadn’t seen the vineyards.
Stepping into the 100+ year old Tinta da Toro vines of Numanthia on my recent trip caused my jaw to drop and eyes to pop. Though I have traveled to various regions all over the world, and have seen beautiful, stone filled vineyards, like those made famous throughout the Rhone Valley, Portugal and parts of Washington, they did not compare to these. Rocky, rocky soils, filled with large and small stones on top of sand, on top of a bedrock of clay, these Toro vines are beautiful.
And, the grapes grown here, in the traditional bush vines without modern trellising, are small and highly concentrated. The winery and vineyards, nestled outside of the village of Peleagonzalo, that boasts a population of just around 30 people in the wintertime, in Valdefinjas, in the Province of Castile and León, caused me to wonder how before the turn of the last century someone knew this was the ideal place to plant a vineyard.
But vineyards have always been a part of the lifestyle here, as the name Numanthia dates back to the days of the Romans when villagers of the ancient village of Numanthia resisted attacks from the Roman forces in 134 BC, choosing to die instead of surrender, proving the strength and tenacity of the people of the region throughout history.
Now, these 100+ year old vines produce the premier wine for Numanthia, their Termanthia. Younger vines on the estate property, ranging 50-75 years, are used for Numanthia and the entry level wine, Termes, includes the youngest vines (around 15-30 years old) and is easily the most readily approachable upon release. However, if you have time to age the Termanthia, or even let it breath for an hour or two before enjoying, you are in for a treat as this is the ultimate expression of the best of the region. Blackberries, leather, graphite, truffle and earth that are intensely powerful, yet also elegant. The wines are meant to warm you during winter months, and pair with the beloved flavors of the region, hearty beef, lamb and pork dishes. Termes is available at Total Wine & More for $40; Numanthia is available at Sigel’s for $60; Termanthia available at Pogo’s for $230.
In 1978 Mariano Garcia set up his Bodega Mauro, named after his father, in Tudela de Duero, two years later the D.O. for Ribera del Duero was established and sadly the winery was just outside the boundary, on the southern edge. Garcia initially wanted be included in the D.O., as this would likely have helped the then small winery become more established both nationally and internationally, helping their marketing efforts.
The esteemed winemaker already knew what he needed to do to make a name for Bodega Mauro, he had spent the previous 30 years making highly acclaimed wines for Vega Sicilia. He knew not being an official part of the D.O. allows this stellar winery to define their own style, creating the kinds of wines he wanted to make while maintaining the highest quality standards. Garcia has spent the last almost 40 years producing some of the most well respected wines of Northern Spain with a fruit filled, powerful style that is unmistakably Spanish.
The Bodega Mauro 150+ acres of vineyards range in age from 5 to 100 years old, however their history dates back to the 1500’s when the vineyards were exempt from taxes from the crown because of their superior quality. The wines tell the story of the land, with a minimalist approach, showcasing the limestone and clay filled, well draining soils and very hot summer days turning cold at night, to ensure hearty wines are kept fresh with balanced acidity and intense, earthy flavors.
Terreus Paraje de Cueva Baja is a 100% Tempranillo aged 30 months in French and American oak for a toasty, toffee, caramel, hazelnut and black fruit filled wine with definite personality. Though not yet a part of the Grandes Pagos portfolio, the winery recently introduced Mauro Godelo to their production from fruit grown in slate, stone and sand filled, high elevation vineyards in Villafranca del Bierzo.
If you are an Albarino fan from Rias Baixas, you will be a Godelo fan. Fresh and crisp, the refreshing white is a perfect pair with grilled octopus, fresh clams and mussels, and white fish. Sadly, the Godelo is still in its production infancy, but the robust Terreus is available at Sigel’s for $150.
A few years ago Garcia, along with his two sons who have stepped in to take over day to day operations and winemaking, expanded their portfolio with the acquisition of Bodegas MAURODOS, producer of San Roman in the Toro region, again with the goal to produce premium quality wines. At the very first sight of the rocky, rocky 100 year old vines Garcia knew he had found his next home. With a focus on structure and complexity, Garcia rigorously controls the yields, respecting the grapes and preserving the characteristics of the terroir and the variety.
Wines are full bodied and intense, yet elegant and finessed. The first wine produced from the 240+ acres of Tinta da Toro and Garnacha vines in Toro was the 1998 San Roman, a dense, powerful, concentrated wine from the oldest vines on the property, followed by PRIMA, a lighter more approachable wine with juicy red fruit, spice and freshness. We had a chance to try both the current release 2012 San Roman and an older 2008San Roman. The 2008 had softened just enough to showcase the earthiness, tobacco, leather and dried fruit characteristics of the wine, melding into velvety smooth tannins. $55, available here.
Though hot, dry, dusty, arid vineyards are often the most common sight in Spain, if you hop over to the north-western portion of Spain, near the Atlantic Ocean and Miño River, you will arrive in the cool, green, vibrant region of Rias Baixas. Located in Galicia, the region perhaps best know for the Camino de Santiago (or the English “Way of St. James” holy pilgrimage) to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great to Santiago de Compostella, this is the home of fresh, aromatic Albarino wines paired with briny shellfish and seafood. Though the small region boasts over 45 different wineries, many led by female winemakers, the single, high quality Grandes Pagos winery is Fillaboa.
Meaning “good daughter” in Galician, Fillaboa is one of the oldest in Galicia, known for their small production Albarino wines produced from vineyards lining the southern boarder of the Tea and Miño Rivers, just over the boarder of Portugal, known for its rich, well draining soils. Owned by the Masaveu family, the wines produced are from 175 acres of estate-grown fruit, broken up into 11 vineyard blocks producing distinct, personalized wines.
Bodegas Fillaboa Albarino is smooth, luscious and refreshing, the ideal wine to quench your thirst on a summer day. Aromatic and bright, with layers of pineapple, citrus and stone fruit. $15, available at wine.com.
Perhaps Spain’s favorite white wine, Verdejo isn’t traditionally known as a white wine grape that you would age in barrel, as typically they citrus filled variety is fermented in stainless steel and bottled shortly after harvest. However, 20+ years ago Dider Belondrade changed the perception of the grape grown in rugged rock, clay and limestone filled Rueda soils.
The former Director of Communications for Air France founded the Bodegas Belondrade in 1994 with the goal to make a barrel fermented and aged white wine in Spain. Today, the organically farmed vines produce fruit that is barrel fermented on native yeasts, aged on the lees for 1 year prior to bottling, and another 6 months in bottle before release, the elegant, well-integrated, and silky white wine is complex, textured and refined, showcasing the different terroirs of the estate.
Belondrade has about 90 acres of vines spread out between 19 different vineyards which provide for different terroirs depending on the specific soils, the grapevine´s orientation and rootstocks at elevations around 2500 feet above sea level. Though the daytime temperatures in the summer can be very hot, the evenings are rather cool, allowing the grapes to retain vibrant acidity while expressing flavors of green apple, pear, lemon and a hint of pepper spice with creamy lemon curd and almond notes. Belondrade Y Lurton an incredible wine to enjoy from now on hot summer days, but also as your favorite white wine in the fall, winter or spring, as it is a great white wine for food pairing with anything from fresh seafood or white fish, to pork or poultry dishes. Available here.
In 1998, after writing about wine for years, journalist and wine writer Victor de la Serna teamed with winemaker Rafael Orozco to create Finca Sandoval. The property. Located in Manchuela not far from Madrid, was planted with old vine Syrah and Touriga Nacional vineyards, and over the years additional native varieties like Bobal, Monastrell, Garnacha have been planted to round out the robust red wines the winery is producing. The wines are created as a celebration of region, and as the vineyards and wines have developed through the years, have proven that quality and distinction is created in each wine produced from their quality soils. Their wines are made to reflect the personality of the place, with the goal to effortlessly display the character of their limestone rich vineyards and cool continental climate.
Finca Sandoval is a Manchuela D.O. wine made from a blend of Syrah, Monastrell and Bobal. Spicy, slightly smoky and earthy, the mineral intense, forest floor filled wine is ideal for pairing with grilled steak or lamb, accentuating the palate filled with pepper spice, blueberries and blackberries. It is a dense wine, with texture and complexity, but also quite approchable, even shortly after bottling
Great wine is made in the vineyard. For more than 40 years Beckstoffer Vineyards, led by Andrew “Andy” Beckstoffer, has farmed historic vineyards in Napa, Mendocino, and Lake County with the highest principles of quality.
The pristine California region welcomes novices and aficionados to its beautiful mountains and valleys, filled with luxurious wineries, delicious cuisine, passionate vintners, and inspired winemakers. One of the key individuals that we have to thank for all of this is Robert Gerald Mondavi.
I love Oregon, I love Willamette Valley and I do love Pinot Noir. I have been traveling to the region for years, even before meeting my Portland-raised husband, falling for their laid-back, welcoming, atmosphere, and all of those beautiful wines.
Tasting at wineries like WillaKenzie, named after one of the dominant soils types of the region, Adelsheim, Lange,Domaine Drouhin and Bergstrom on some of those early trips you could sense how special this place was, and why so many winemakers are drawn to the cool climate region influenced by its close proximity to the Pacific, ideal for making stellar Pinot Noir. Unlike some of their neighbors to the north or south, Willamette Valley is Pinot Noir country, and instead of trying to plant 10 different varieties to see which one might be the best, they plant 10 different clones of Pinot Noir, adapting each to the Jory or Willakenzie soils of each AVA from the Dundee Hills, Newberg, and Chehalem Mountains not far from Portland, and south to Eloa-Amity Hills near the state capital of Salem.
Tasting rooms like Alexana highlight the soils of the area, creating gorgeous, artistic displays of what some might just consider simply to be the ground that they walk on. But the soils are what makes each wine in the region distinct, and what draws stellar winemakers to the region. If you love Pinot Noir, want to be in America, and you want to make an Old World style wine, showcasing the earthiness, elegance and refinement of the beautiful grape, you are probably looking at Willamette Valley to start your winery. Which is what has brought well known wine brands like Burgundy’s Joseph Drouhin &Louis Jadot to Tony Soter & Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, and in recent years, Jackson Family Wines, to the state to buy land and make wine.
Over the years I have found favorites and I tend to revisit them when taking friends to the region, tasting new vintages, and appreciating how the wines have changed as vines have gotten older, creating more concentrated, elegant wines. Last fall, however, I had the opportunity to attend their celebrated wine auction, ¡Salud! Auction benefiting Tuality Healthcare Foundation, as a guest of the event. This was an opportunity to taste over 50 different producers at the annual philanthropic event to raise funds to bring healthcare and improved education to the workers and their families in the region. Similar in philosophy to another favorite wine auction, Auction Napa Valley, but different in their approach.
¡Salud! Auction is a quick 2 day celebration of wine, bringing 50 hand selected wineries of the region together to auction off a special ¡Salud! Cuvée, or blend, created specifically for the event. Often this is a wine that otherwise wouldn’t be made. As David Paige, winemaker for Adelsheim said of his 2014 ¡Salud! Cuvée , a blend of fruit from Calkins Lane and Quarter Mile Lane, “these are two vineyards that would never be blended together, however ¡Salud! gives winemakers an opportunity to play and create, and blend something nontraditional.” And, for the wine enthusiast, auction worthy and stunningly delicious.
This past year, ¡Salud! 24, at the historic Ponzi winery, the 50 selected wineries auctioned off 10 cases to the highest bidder in the Friday evening barrel auction. The walk around event, with old favorites, like Adelsheim, Stollerand Soter, dotted between new finds like Dukes, St. Innocent and Resonance, each with the winemakers (many also the owners) pouring their esteemed cuvées, talking wine and Willamette Valley history to some of the 400 attendees this year.
Charming, renowned and well storied, Jacques Lardiere, winemaker with Maison Louis Jadot in Burgundy for 42 years, arrived in Oregon just a few years ago to begin the Resonance label for the iconic Burgundy producer. The 2013 vintage was the first for the winery using fruit from their Resonance Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. The project, a huge change and step away from their Old World heritage, will showcase the best of Pinot Noir in the New World, and is the first venture outside of France for Jadot since its inception in 1859, and the first vineyards purchased outside of France since 1826. However, the dry farmed vineyard on its still original rootstock will create elegant, Burgundian style, earthy Pinot Noir, much like that of their French home. And, Jacques is the ideal front man as his energy and enthusiasm for their work is contagious, and the wine is refined, elegant and quite special.
Generous, humble, and ever a Texan, Fort Worth born and raised Rollin Soles greeted guests with a tip of his cowboy hat and a warm handshake while pouring a sampling of his estate Pinot Noir. A young wine, as his 2014 still had another 4 or 5 months in the barrel to age before bottling, so the barrel tasting was more a nod to what is to come instead of what is to be right now. Followers of Rollin, and his ROCO Wine, had no fear though that the ripe red fruit and somewhat spicy wine today will become something quite special tomorrow.
The winemaker, who made a name for himself working in the region as Co-Founder/ Winemaker for Argyle over 28 years ago, started ROCO with his wife Corby Stonebraker-Soles, after stints in Burgundy, Australia, Napa and Washington, after moving from Texas to follow his dream of making wine for a career.
He started the winery in 1987 with Corby after they purchased their first vineyard in the Newberg hills. Over the years they have become a trusted producer of well integrated, inviting and balanced wines. The couple, who also served as chairs for this year’s auction, with Corby taking a big lead in making sure each and every detail was managed perfectly, craft pretty wines, in color, aroma, structure and flavor, showcasing the elegance of the land and the unique terroir they have to work with.
I visited with Rollin at the ROCO tasting room in Newberg after the ¡Salud! Auction had concluded, tasting through the whole portfolio of current releases to understand the wines further. Within a few sips, the freshness, balance and refinement of the wine is further highlighted, as the goal is to showcase the land with little manipulation and winery influence. Bidders seem to approve as the ROCO lot received one of the highest barrel auction bids of the event.
An hour into the barrel auction event on Friday night hopeful guests may have felt a bit defeated by one lot in particular as early in the evening the lot from Trisaetum was marked “sold” meaning the top bidder automatically gave $10,000 to ¡Salud! for the Pinot Noir. And, though they were a lucky bidder, they didn’t get the only incredible wine that Owner/Winemaker and Artist James Frey and his wife, Andrea, have to offer.
Andrea and James Frey had visited Willamette from their home state of California during their college years, deciding before they actually even knew each other that Oregon was where each wanted to live an raise a family. As luck would have it, they met in grad school in Arizona and realized their similar dream to live in the state, moved to the region in the early 2000’s, naming the winery after their two children, Tristan and Tatum.
Though Willamette is Pinot country, the couple decided when starting their Trisaetum Winery in 2003 that they would focus also on producing Riesling, in an Old World style with New World techniques. Early on as the region developed Riesling was a very popular variety, especially with producers like Adelsheim, Chehalem and Eyrie, but faded a bit as Pinot Gris became more popular. Thankfully, when the Freys began they made it a focus, offering 8 different Riesling wines in both a dry and off dry style, showcasing the nuances, and rustic nature of the mineralic white.
Detailed yet whimsical, artistic yet scientific, the both a right brained and left brained James Frey is filled with “free for all” passion, and close nit philosophy. An accomplished photographer and painter, James now looks at every lot of wine and plot of land as another color he is able to use in the canvas of that wine growing year. Each technique, from fermenting in barrels, concrete eggs or stainless steel, to allowing certain finished Riesling wine to include a small percentage of residual sugar, to growing his grapes in volcanic verses sedimentary soils, becomes a different color on his ever changing painters palate. Through tasting, blending, tasting, blending, over and over again, he is able to create high quality, elegant Riesling wines that highlight the best of the region, balancing fruit with minerality, freshness with acidity. Special wines from a special place. Trisaetum 2014 Riesling was the number 3 wine in the top 100 wines in the world for last year’s Wine Enthusiast Top 100 listing.
Joining old friends Bill Sweat and Donna Morris of Winderlea Vineyards at the ¡Salud! Live Auction Gala was a joy, as the dynamic couple joyfully celebrated this opportunity to give back, as they have done since founding their winery. The couple is a member of the ¡Salud! Vintners Circle and a portion of the fees generated from their tasting room is donated back to ¡Salud! each year (to date over $150,000.) Bill and Donna purchased their Dundee Hills vineyards in 2006 after leaving the financial world in Boston, to pursue their passions in winemaking.
However their stellar 20 acres of vineyards were some of the earliest plantings in the region, dating back over 40 years. When they arrived they immediately began the process to change the farming practices for the winery, quickly moving to sustainable farming, going through the process to become Demeter Certified, which they achieved on Earth Day 2016, just a few weeks ago. Though their earthy, strawberry and cherry filled 2014 ¡Salud! Cuvée was a beautiful bottle, crafted from three blocks of vines from their Dundee estate as well as the Meredith Mitchell Vineyard in McMinville, our table let out a slight happy gasp as the couple opened an older vintage Winderlea Dundee Hills Pinot Noir. Beautiful wines showcasing the volcanic Jory soils of Dundee.
A completely new find for the night came from Dukes Family Vineyards, a winery built on the celebration of great food and wine, enjoyed over long dinners filled with lively conversation. Farmed with a commitment to the land, with low impact, sustainable practices in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. The wines, influenced by the Willakenzie soils (silty-clay loam & sandstone) and Yamhill (silty loam and volcanic soils) create bold, expressive and concentrated wines with the character of the region. Family owned, small production, special wines.
Big news occurred recently for Jackson Family Wines with the announcement that they are acquiring Penner-Ash from famed Willamette Winemaker Lynne Penner-Ash, however my favorite of the Jackson Family properties in the region continues to be the premium quality Gran Moraine wines in Yamhill-Carlton AVA, led by the dynamic and engaging Winemaker, Eugenia Keegan. I wrote of Eugenia and their Gran Moraine winesin my Mother’s Day post a few weeks ago. Their current Gran Moraine Estate Pinot Noir is an earthy, ripe and balanced wine with layers of ripe cherry, strawberry, rose and lilac, black tea and spice with texture and complexity.
The annual ¡Salud! event takes place the middle of November over a Friday and Saturday evening. The 24th annual event included a stay and Saturday gala event held at the Allison Inn and Spa in Newberg, overlooking their property vineyards and chef’s garden. Though winery tasting opportunities are the focus of most traveling to the valley, a relaxing afternoon at the Allison Inn will make it difficult to find a reason to leave their tranquil grounds.
Monies raised through the auction events are donated to the Tuality Healthcare Foundation, bringing medical and health education projects and programs to the local communities of Oregon. ¡Salud! donates around $630,000 to the Foundation each year, bringing programs like flu vaccinations, dental procedures, medical clinic visits and wellness screenings to those most in need in the community. This November 2016 ¡Salud! will celebrate their 25th anniversary. Tickets and information for the annual event are available now on their website. Not only is the event an incredible opportunity to interact with some of the best winemakers in the Willamette Valley and taste their special wines, but also do good for those in the community that often help ensure each and every bottle is able to be produced.