Category Archives: Uncategorized

Evening with Martin Ray Vineyards and Winemaker Bill Batchelor

 

Martin Ray and Angeline wines poured tonight!

I have been a big fan of the incredible wines of Martin Ray Vineyards for many years. In my humble opinion Martin Ray Vineyards makes some of the best wines not only in California, but in the world. Their wines are constant 90-95 point scores in Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast magazines year in and year out. And here is the biggest reason I love Martin Ray:

Martin Ray wines are great buys for the quality and priced for the average consumer!

In fact I dare say the overall portfolio of Martin Ray Vineyards and Angeline Vineyards are some of  the very best values in wine today.

My friend Robert Larsen of the Larsen Projekt said he was coming to Dallas, and he invited me to have dinner. I said yes immediately because Robert is such a great guy. He knows his wines, very funny and engaging, and never forgets that wine should be fun and not always so serious. He let me know he was bringing Winemaker Bill Batchelor and samples of the great wines of Martin Ray. So you can imagine that I was beyond excited!

I met Robert and Bill at Dallas Chophouse in downtown Dallas. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Dallas Chophouse, but had never actually visited. So I was thrilled when Robert suggested this beautiful place. The atmosphere was dark and luxurious, and the aged steaks were delicious. I highly recommend the food if you are in downtown Dallas and want a great meal.

I love meeting a winemaker personally. I have to admit I am somewhat of a wine geek. So when I get the opportunity to chat with them and pick their  brains, I am in my own personal heaven.  And I have to tell you; In my opinion Bill Batchelor really knows his craft. He has a very large portfolio to take care of with Martin Ray and Angeline and he personally gets involved in all aspects of the winemaking process. Yet he is very easy to talk to and you can really tell he has a tremendous passion for his craft.

HISTORY:  Martin Ray Vineyards history dates back to 1943 in the rugged Santa Cruz Mountains in California. The current home was originally Twin Fir Winery and established by William Hill in the geographic heart of Russian River Valley in 1881. This makes them one of the oldest continuously operated wineries in California. This winery later became Martin & Prati and was well known for good jug wine.

The current owner Courtney Benham purchased Martin Ray in 1990. He then moved the brand and custom crush facilities at Martin & Prati and purchased the property. He then changed the name to Martin Ray in 2007. In the coming years Courtney modernized practically every facet or production, and also turned the property into one of the most beautiful wineries in the area. I have made attempts to visit on my winery trips in the past, and I cannot wait to visit on my next trip!

We began the evening tasting through the Angeline Vineyards wines. These are wines that Martin Ray produces and are more “Value Priced”.

Angeline Vineyards

2016 Angeline California Rose of Pinot Noir:  Both whole-cluster & saignee method used to produce this dry rose. Floral notes along with watermelon, nectarine, and ruby red grapefruit. Crisp and acidic. Perfect for the pool or beach!

Angeline Rose

2016 Angeline Sonoma Coast County Sauvignon Blanc: Mostly Russian River Valley fruit with Dry Creek sourced as well. Not grassy like some SV, more Sonoma-like. Aromas of white peach, nectarine, and green apple. Minerals are present, but not overwhelming. Crisp, clean and lingering finish of green apple and peach. Ave retail will be in the $12-$14 range so a great summer everyday wine.

2016 Angeline Reserve Pinot Noir: Fruit sourced from Mendocino County, Russian River Valley, and Carneros.  Silky tannins and med light body.  Juicy strawberry, raspberry, black fruits, and cherry cola dominate with a clean finish of caramel and black fruits. Nice wine!

2016 Angeline Reserve Pinot Noir

Martin Ray Vineyards

2015 Martin Ray Santa Cruz Mountains Bald Mountain Vineyard Chardonnay: Fruit is 100% from the steep hillside vineyards of Bald Mountain. Cool climate and high elevation define this chardonnay with crisp acidy and an underlying minerality. This is a graceful and elegant wine with fruit notes of key lime, golden apple, asian pear with crème brulee and hints of vanilla. 40% new French Oak, and lees are sired bi-weekly for first year to enhance complexity. 250 cases produced. Ave retail $35

2015 Martin Ray Bald Mountain Vineyard Santa Cruz

2015 Martin Vineyards Green Valley of Russian River Valley Chardonnay: Fruit from possibly my favorite AVA in Sonoma; Green Valley AVA. Only 300 cases produced so if you get your hands on this buy several! Hand picked, whole cluster pressed. Racked in French Oak barrels for fermentation. Lees stirred bi-weekly to maximize mouthfeel. Aged 12 months on 40% new French Oak. Traditional and elegant chardonnay. Complex layers of green apple, honeydew melon, key lime, grapefruit, and vanilla cream. NOT a butterbomb! Crisp, med-light body, great acidity and long finish. AT $30 suggested retail, not cheap but worth every dime.

2015 Martin Ray Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: Primarily sourced from the incredible Dutton Ranch in the heart of the Green Valley AVA. Primarily Dijon Clones from Marty’s Vineyard and Hallberg Vineyard. Basket pressed and put into barrel for 12 months in 50% new French Oak. Anyone that knows me has heard me claim: “Russian River produces some of the finest Pinot Noir in the world”, and I believe this to be true! Med light body, bouquet and notes of cranberry, red cherry, boysenberry, Jasmine and vanilla, baking spices. Juicy palate and fine silky tannins. This is a truly great example of Russian River Pinot Noir, and I love this wine. Average retail is $40, and this may be a little rich for some. I for one think this is a steal considering this is Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir! Only 250 cases produced.

2015 Martin Ray Green Valley or Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

2014 Martin Ray Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon: Fruit comes from the tiny plot on the South face of Ben Lomond Mountain, from the distinguished Bald Mountain Vineyard. This site produces small compact clusters, and the long growing season allow the grapes to reach maturity late in the season, with deep color, concentrated flavors, and bright acidity. This is a big bold cabernet, with notes of ripened black cherry, boysenberry, mushroom, lavender, and dark chocolate. Healthy solid tannins and great acidity and graphite minerality give a strong hint of long cellar time possible for this big wine. In fact I would love to have this wine again in 10 years because it should age beautifully. Only 450 cases produced. Suggested retail of $75.

2014 Martin Ray Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon

 

2014 Martin Ray Synthesis Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: This is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cab Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot. Fruit is sourced from the best of the best from vineyards in Rutherford (35%), Stags Leap District (30%) and Diamond Mountain (20%) for a very special “Synthesis” of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon! This Cali Cab begs for a big juicy steak, and that is what I enjoyed this wine while cutting into a big delicious juicy Ribeye at Dallas Chophouse. Dried herbs, black cherry, and baked plums on the nose. Chewy tannins are evident, but not nearly overpowering as you normally find in mountain cabernet. Blueberry, black cherry, red plum, along with ever so slight  oak and dried figs. I highly recommend this cabernet sauvignon.  At $50 suggested retail that is a great buy for a true Napa Cab! 2200 Cases total production.

2014 Martin Ray Synthesis Cabernet Sauvignon

Thank you again Robert Larsen and Bill Batchelor for a wonderful evening, and thank you Dallas Chophouse for the wonderful dry aged steak!

Winemaker Bill Batchelor and Robert Larsen

And thank you to my followers for reading and sharing this post. If you would like more information on any of the wines poured and how to find them please contact me at friscokid8758@yahoo.com.

And please…leave a comment below so I will know you were here, and come back from time to time!

Terry Hill is the TEXAS WINEAUX!

 

 

An Evening With Winemaker Stephanie Cook and Wonderment Wines

This is the story of an evening with Stephanie Cook and Wonderment Wines.

Sharing gourmet food and great wines with a beautiful talented winemaker is a hard life…

But someone has to do it!

Stephanie Cook of Wonderment Wines
One of the most exciting things I get the opportunity to do on occasion is meet Winemakers in person. I enjoy as they share their passion with me  on how and why they make this beautiful nectar of the gods called wine. I enjoy this, well… mostly because I am a wine geek deep down inside.  I love talking wine, and I get to pick their minds about their theory and process of making wine. Mostly I admire them greatly for doing what I secretly would love to do myself; grow grapes and make wine. However most meetings with Winemakers and producers of wine are short and to the point. Rarely do I get to spend time with them and get to know what really makes them who they are.
And then there are exceptional evenings like this!

About 6 weeks before this fun evening my good friend Samuel  shared a bottle of  Wonderment Bacigalupi Vineyard Petite Sirah, and quite frankly… It blew me away.

Samuel Rickords has a Wine Distributorship based in Dallas by the name of Redoux Wine. He specializes in boutique wines from small talented producers. He is also a member of the wine group I started many years back called the Dallas Wineaux. I had asked him to let me know if the Winemaker for Wonderment was ever in the Dallas  area. So, ever the idea man, Samuel put together a tasting menu at Jaspers Gourmet Backyard Cuisine in Richardson, TX and arranged for Stephanie Cook to fly in to join several of us from the Dallas Wineaux group.

Jaspers Richardson. Photo by Swan Photography

First let me start by saying Jaspers Richardson is brand new, state of the art, high tech, and absolutely beautiful. You can see and read more on Jaspers Richardson and the location by clicking here! Most of the restaurant is bar area, with high top seating and upscale area that would be perfect for a small groups of 4-8. It sure makes me want to grab the Dallas Wineaux group and head to Happy Hour. The Chef Evan Tanner had a terrific spread of appetizers, charcuterie, and small plates to nibble on. Everything was scrumptious.  And I assure you we will be back to Jaspers soon!

Gourmet plates courtesy of Jaspers Richardson!
Dallas Wineaux Wine Group At Jaspers Richardson

I had done a little research on Wonderment Wines and about Stephanie Cook beforehand.  So I had an idea she was a beautiful woman. But when she walked in you understand immediately she is even more lovely than her pictures. Her beautiful smile and stunning looks are dramatic. But after a few moments you realize she is also very intelligent, talented, extremely gracious, and very engaging. And her passion for Wonderment Wines is evident immediately.

After a quick meet and greet with the other Dallas Wineaux including Kelly Nolan of www.winedowndallas.com and Lori Sullivan of www.loristwistedcork.com Stephanie started pouring her wines and telling her story.

Talking wine with Stephanie Cook! Photo by Swan Photography

Stephanie is a very driven woman and is not one to take no for an answer. I loved as she told fascinating stories of traveling the world as a Fashion Model in Milan, London, and more. Then going back to school where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University. Soon after turning her sights to winemaking. She literally informed Bob Biale of Robert Biale Vineyards that she was coming to work for him and furthermore, he was going to teach her how to make wine! After stints at Spottswood and in New Zealand for Spy Valley Wines and then at Staglin Family Vineyards she felt like she was ready to make her mark in the glorious world of winemaking.

The rest as they say is history… or as she likes to say a “balancing act!”

Balance and terroir is the key to everything Stephanie does when it pertains to wine. She makes 7 wines, and about 1500 cases per year total.

She insists on getting only the best fruit available from premium sites, and so every wine she makes is a “vineyard designate”. So…No Blending!

Wonderment Wines. Photo by Swan Photography

Any real wine enthusiast will recognize these incredible vineyards that Stephanie is sourcing her fruit: Oak Knoll, Dutton-Campbell, Dr. Stan’s, Bacigalupi, Rockpile, and Burton Ranch just to name the few that she brought for tasting!

Tasting Notes from Wonderment Wines at Jaspers Richardson. Photo by Swan Photography

Tasting Notes:

2015 Oak Knoll Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Stainless steel fermented. Floral on the nose with a citrusy lemon, grass, Asian pear, and a terrific saline quality. Floral, grapefruit, and saline/stone  finish. I like this wine, and I really need a few bottles for this summer at the pool!

2013 Dutton-Campbell Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Very juicy fruit forward style from Green Valley AVA. Floral notes and black cherry dominate the nose.  Supple silky tannins. Black cherry, strawberry, cranberry, current, with touch of oak  and spice. This is a very sexy and sensual  style of Pinot Noir. Trust me when I say “you will like it”.

2013 Dr Stan’s Vineyard Pinot Noir Carneros. Dr. Stan’s Vineyard only has 1-1/2 acres of Dijon Clone 115 that was grown primarily for a certain well known sparkling wine producer (I promised not to tell for whom). Translucent in the glass, but definite tannins give a good to great structure.  Juicy bing cherry and slight cola on the palate turn to mushroom and earth. This earth & mushroom character gives the wine somewhat a Burgundian feel that I was not expecting. Very nice wine!

2013 Bacigalupi Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel Russian River come from 40-50 year old vines. It is a “Feminine Zin” if you can have such a thing, in that it is very floral  zinfandel (Lilac). Integrated silky tannins, incredible acidity. Red & black fruits such as black cherry, strawberry, blackberry,and slight white pepper with a LONG finish. Outstanding.

2012 Rockpile Zinfandel was more of what most people would think of when you think Sonoma Zin, but it has a very restrained edge. Very balanced with black cherry, cola, and a long spicy finish that goes for days. Impressive.

2013 Burton Ranch Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel Lake County. This is a BIG wine, but plenty of finesse as well. Truly “old vine” from plantings from Lake County dating back to 1890’s.  Tannins are evident in this young wine so plenty of structure and a real aging potential in my opinion. Sweet cherry compote, Asian spices and white pepper. Classic Zinfandel in every way except only 14.5% alc (most big zins are closer to 16% alc). If you are a Sonoma Zinfandel fanatic this Old Vine Zin fits the bill!

2011 Bacigalupi Vineyards Petite Sirah Russian River Valley This was my favorite. I am a sucker for a great Pitite Sirah, and this one hits all the marks from the nose to the long finish! Deep Dark Devilish of a red wine that isn’t for wanmby pambies! Full bodied with black fruits and a spicy finish that just keeps going and going in your mouth long after you have swallowed. Absolutely stunning wine from start to finish!

Across the board these wines from Wonderment are very good to outstanding. It is exciting to think what the wines from Wonderment will be when Stephanie has decades of vintages behind her.

You can find Wonderment Wines in select restaurants and order direct here. They are very fairly priced, especially considering the quality of the wines and across the board ‘Vineyard Desinate” only wines.

Pictures of the event are all courtesy of Asher Swan and Swan Photography.  If you would like to contact him click here or call him at 707-217-4381.

Wonderment Wines. Photo courtesy of Swan Photography

Wonderment Wines Mission Statement

“Wonderment Wines represent intelligent effort, value and balance which create a sense of ‘Wonder’. Our wines are focused on specific terroir where each wine represents the vineyards distinctive style and expression. Thru artisanal methods and minimal intervention in both the vineyard and the cellar along with a focus on environmental and social consciousness we look forward to providing each customer no less than exactly what they desire.”

Every Wonderment cork has a great message! Photo by Swan Photography

Go to her web sight and buy her wines. And tell her the Texas Wineaux sent you!

 

Texas Wine Party!

When the quality of Texas wine is  this incredible The Texas Wineaux has a TEXAS WINE PARTY!

Texas Wine!

My beautiful wife Margie and I love wine. Everyone that even remotely knows us understands this very well!

We were married in France and caught the “Wine Bug” while discovering the most romantic city in the world, Paris France. When we ran out of time and money, we returned to Texas and began the incredible adventure of learning about  wine and the wonders that it brings. Naturally we favored “old world wines” from France, then Italy and Spain. Then after a trip to Napa Valley with a close friend that was a Wine Rep for Glazier, we were thoroughly hooked after tasting the phenomenal wines of Napa and Sonoma Valley.

Wine became a  lifestyle by this time!

Anyone that knows me very well also knows that I am a born and bred Texan! When you grow up in Texas, we study Texas History right along side American History. The people of the Great State of Texas have a pride and love of our state that I have never experienced anywhere in the U.S.

So I have followed the Texas Wine Industry since I first tasted wine in Gruene, Texas in 1981. I do not remember much detail about what the wine tasted like, or who the producers were at that time, because I was primarily a beer drinker. But I do remember it really did not impress me much! It was sweet and red, and my girlfriend liked it. I walked over to the legendary Gruene Hall and got a beer at the “Oldest Dance Hall in Texas”.

Gruene Hall, Oldest Dance Hall in Texas!
Gruene Hall, Oldest Dance Hall in Texas!

Texas Wine production has changed a lot in the last 35 years. It was in it’s infancy back then, and everyone seemed to think Texas had to become ‘the next California’. If you remember, California wine scene was still exploding in popularity after the Judgment of Paris in 1976 where the wines of Napa and Sonoma bested the wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

But up until about 10-12 years ago the Texas Wine Industry was still trying to be the next Napa and Sonoma. In other words, they focused on Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot because that is what Americans were buying from California. But the varieties that do so well in Napa and Sonoma don’t necessarily do well in the arid and hot locations of Texas such as the Texas Hill Country AVA or the South Plains AVA near Lubbock. Check out great information here for Texas Wine Industry and Wine Growers in Texas!

Texas Wine has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, and even more great improvements in the last 5 years! The best of the best are no longer heading West to California to grow grapes and produce fine wine. Many have learned that if you grow the right grapes for our hot arid terroir in Texas, you can produce as fine a wine as anywhere in the world! I have become very impressed with the quality, the variety of grapes grown and produced, and the incredible commitment to the craft from the bright new producers that have really changed Texas wine.

Now don’t get me wrong… there is still a ways to go, and there are plenty of Texas wineries that produce simple and sweet wines that have little to offer the true wine aficionado. But trust me when I say that it is not just unique to Texas. I have found simple unimaginative wines in Virginia, Michigan, Arizona, and even  lot’s in California.

I have been excited about sharing my enthusiasm with the true quality of some of my favorite Texas Wines for some time. What better way to spread the word than to gather my wine club the Dallas Wineauxs for a fun Texas Wine theme at my home?

Here are some of the producers that so graciously sent me samples to share my excitement  over Texas Wine quality, and notes of the night:

Pedernales Cellars:  One of the few underground wine producing wineries in the Southwest. Frederik Osterberg is the Co-Founder and President, and David Kuhlken is also a Co-Founder and Winemaker. Pedernales produces a stellar Tempranillo that the variety seems to be perfect  for Texas terrior, and many consider to be the “Official Red Grape of Texas”. They also make a very impressive GSM, but my favorite is the Reserve Viognier which was named the Texas Top Wine and Gold Metal at San Francisco International Wine Competition! Think ripe white peaches, lemon drops, beautiful floral nose, and vibrant acidity that cleans the palate. But don’t forget the Albarino, dry white wine with notes of peach & citrus fruits & perfect acidity.

McPherson Cellars: Kim McPherson is the WInemaker and has a degree in Enology and Viticulture from UC Davis. Kim started his label in 2000 and he and his father “Doc” McPherson have been pioneers in the development of Texas Wine.  The Mourvedre is the star here! Strawberry, raspberry, ripe cherries, and rose petals with elegant structure, and perfect for grilled meats. We also agreed the Les Copains Blanc was one of our favorites. Blend of Rousanne, Viognier, Marsanne, and Picuepul Blanc. Lemony, citrus, honesuckle, clean and refreshing!

Brennan Vineyards: Brennan Vineyards produce some of my personal overall favorite Texas Wines. The winery in in the tiny community of Comanche, Texas and Dr Pat Brennan began planting first vines in 2002. He decided to produce wine soon afterward and hired  Winemaker Todd Webster. Todd has a minimalist approach to his wines  and is incredibly talented. In fact his Reserve Viognier may be my favorite Texas Wine! Dry, full bodied white wine, Honeysuckle, Meyer lemon, white peaches, floral notes, and an incredible limestone minerality that is very reminiscent of the wines I enjoyed in France. But don’t forget the Reds! The 2013 Tempranillo is outstanding. Deep Garnet in your glass, black cherry, black and blue fruits, slightly earthy, medium tannins and delicious.

4.0 Cellars: This is a Winery and Tasting Room in Fredericksburg, TX collaboration of Brennan Vineyards, Lost Oak Winery, and McPherson Cellars. Todd Webster of Brennan Vineyards produced a terrific Mourvedre and sent me a bottle, and was one of the favorites of the night as well! 78% Mourvedre and 22% Ruby Cabernet. Ripe red wine with notes of Smoky meats, root beer, raspberries, blackberry, and slightly earth. I need another bottle Todd! The 4.0 Tasting Room is a must stop when in Fredericksburg.

Wedding Oak Winery: One of the new kids on the block in Texas Wineries, they began producing wine in San Saba in the Hill Country in 2012 but have made a true name for themselves in a very short time with real quality wines. Wedding Oak sources  grapes from the Texas Hill Country and High Plains AVA. One of our favorites of the evening was the Hill Country Sangiovese. Winemaker Penny Adams blends a bit of Tannat and Petite Verdot for structure. Soft palate, ripe black cherry, tart strawberry, and a nice grip of tannins.

Spicewood Vineyards: Spicewood sent several yummy wines to sample, but the favorite was a truly special Rose of Mourvedre that was a big hit! Very light in color, floral on the nose with notes of strawberry, and tropical fruits on the palate. Juicy and vibrant with perfect acidity. This wine begs for BBQ on the patio or pool time! The Temranillo sourced from the High Plains AVA was impressive as well. Juicy red and black fruits, red plums, and med tannins. Ron Yates is the Owner, and President. and Todd Crowell is the Winemaker. His commitment to the great wines of Texas is very evident in his delicious wines.

A great time was had by all, and I want to thank all our close friends and the Dallas Wineauxs for bringing lots of terrific foods to nibble on during the night!

And a HUGE thank you to my beautiful wife Margie for setting a great table!

Texas Wine Party at the Texas Wineaux Home!
Texas Wine Party at the Texas Wineaux Home!

Here are a few pictures from the evening:

Texas Wines
Texas Wines
Wedding Oak Syrah
Wedding Oak Syrah

Video Texas Wine

A big thank you goes out to all the featured wineries for sending samples to share and to share the greatness of TEXAS WINE!

Thank you for reading my ramblings of a Texas Wineaux and check back from time to time for new articles.

Terry Hill

Please leave a comment!

Chill Wine Quickly

How to quickly chill wine

Rose is made for Summer!
Rose is made for Summer!

Did you ever need to chill down a bottle of wine quickly? If you have not visited Texas in July I am sure you have heard…  it is warm (no hot!) in Texas during the summer months. I understand many of our close friends drink red wine year round and rarely consume white wines. Unless we are grilling steaks or smoking a brisket, Margie and I drink white or chilled rose wine almost exclusively during the warm summer months.

I am a “red wine in winter & white or rose wine in summer” kind of guy!

Picture this: One of our close friends call to ask if it is ok to “drop-by” to say hello and catch up with us. They know they are always welcome, and we ALWAYS have great wine at our home. Even though I have 3 wine fridges with one dedicated to white wines only that is set at 45-F, it seems the bottle of white wine I want to drink is not in the white wine fridge. Or we have one in the white wine fridge to open and pour, but that is only 4 glasses per bottle so we need another bottle chilled quickly!

Here is the solution: Wet a dish towel with water until it is wet but not dripping. Wrap it around the bottle of wine. Then put the wrapped bottle in the freezer. In10-15 minutes your bottle of wine will chill to a perfect 42-45 degrees and good to pour!

Why this works: The freezer alone will chill wine. But the wetness of the towel conducts and holds the coldness better, therefore it will chill the wine inside quicker!

I hope you enjoy this quick tip to chill wine. I will be adding this feature from time to time to assist you in enjoying your wine even more. So stop by often for new content!

Thank you for reading the ramblings of the Texas Wineaux, and please leave a comment below!

Terry Hill is the Texas Wineaux!

Uncork