The Right Wines for Summer Grilling

Flowers Vineyard & Winery Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2013
Flowers Vineyard & Winery Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2013

Summer grilling season is in full swing, which is a perfect opportunity for us to try different food and wine pairings. Wine as a whole goes better with food than any other beverage and with so many varieties to choose from, there are numerous pairing options with grilled food. The naturally occurring sugar, acidity and alcohol in wine to complement almost anything cooked with flames.

The general principles for selecting a wine for summer grilling is the same for any wine and food pairing. The goal of the pairing is that both the food and the wine taste better when properly harmonized. Start by matching the weight of food with weight of wine. The delicate flavors of vegetables, seafood and chicken are lovely with lighter wines. Fattier and denser varieties of fish, like salmon and swordfish, pair well with a medium-bodied wines like Merlot. The flavors in most types of hefty meat, like burgers, steaks, lamb and barbeque are enhanced by intense, full-bodied red wines.

The good news is that we have a long summer in Texas that gives us plenty of time to try numerous wine and grilled food pairings.

YOUR GUIDE TO WINE AND GRILLED FOOD PAIRINGS

Grilled Veggies

Summer is the perfect time for grilling a bounty of seasonal vegetables like asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, eggplant and corn. Whether veggies are your main course or a side dish, picking the right wine can turn it into the star of the show.

A wide variety of vegetables allows for a wide selection of wine pairing options.

Lighter style and green grilled vegetable call for white wines like unoaked Chardonnay, Chablis, dry Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc and dry rosé. The fire-roasted char and caramelization of grilled vegetables beg for fuller-bodied whites, dry rosé and even lighter reds, particularly those with mild tannins. For the other dark vegetables like squash, Portobello mushrooms or eggplant, reach for light style reds like Pinot Noir and Barbera.

Rosé to try: Commanderie de Peyrassol Côtes de Provence 2014, France ($20). A classic rosé with a delicate lilac, strawberry, lemon zest nose and fresh biscuit, strawberries and crisp lemon flavors and good minerality.

Chardonnay to try: Cambria Estate Winery Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley 2013, California ($22). The dynamic fruit flavors of lime, cantaloupe, and pineapple make this wine an excellent accompaniment with eggplant or grilled zucchini.

Cambria Estate Winery Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley 2013
Cambria Estate Winery Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley 2013

Grilled Fish  

Selecting the right wine to pair well with grilled seafood is probably easier than grilling the fish itself. A range of wines with high acid are great with grilled seafood. Think of the kind of wines that make you pucker a little bit like lemony Pinot Gris, briny Albariño, vibrant Sauvignon Blanc, ripe fruit Chardonnay, or minerally dry rosé. These types of wines go well with any type of seafood that you normally squeeze a little lemon onto.

Don’t shy away from a fruity red wine with a smoky oily fish.  Meatier or fatty fish like swordfish and salmon love Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

Pinot Gris to try: Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Gris 2014, California ($15). Made with a blend of grapes grown in the cool climate of Monterey, including Roussane, Viognier, Grüner Veltliner and Albariño, this wine has a lively blend of citrus and mineral flavors. Its tropical fruit, melon and peach flavors love sea bass.

Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Gris 2014
Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Gris 2014

 

Albariño to try: Wedding Oak Winery Albariño 2013, Texas/California fruit ($23). This fresh, dry and versatile Albariño has distinctive aromas of peach and apricot along with bracing sea spray, lemon and mango flavors. The unoaked wine pairs with incredibly well with shellfish.

Wedding Oak Winery Albariño 2013
Wedding Oak Winery Albariño 2013

Sauvignon Blanc to try: Matanzas Creek Winery Helena Bench Sauvignon Blanc 2013, California ($40). This Knights Valley wine has floral and minty aromas and bouncy flavors of white peach, nectarine, grapefruit and lemon zest. It’s an excellent match with Gulf black drum.

Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc
Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc

Pinot Noir to try: Vineyard 29 Cru Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2013, Oregon ($54). This Old World style Pinot has delicate floral fragrance and spicy earthiness with lush flavors of wild strawberry, cherry, dark plum, nutmeg and vanilla. The velvety texture and smooth tannins make it a classic pairing with salmon.

Vineyard 29 Cru Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2013
Vineyard 29 Cru Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2013

Grilled Chicken

Grilled chicken always makes me think of carefree days and picnics by the lake. The hot coals bring out the best in this bird. The sweet caramelization and bitter char from the grill make it an excellent partner with buoyant white wines. Citrusy Sauvignon Blanc, aromatic peachy Viognier and tart, tropical Chardonnay are all excellent choices to pair with grilled chicken.

Sauvignon Blanc to try: Vineyard 29 Cru Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013, California ($54). This limited production wine aged in a combination of French oak, concrete and stainless steel is an absolute delight. True to the Sauvignon Blanc style, it has zingy citrus flavors of lemon and green apple and layers in luscious toffee and butterscotch. The bright acidity is excellent with chicken thighs.

Vineyard 29 Cru Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Vineyard 29 Cru Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Viognier to try: Pedernales Cellars Texas Viognier Reserve 2014, Texas ($40). Floral scent with honey, and bright white peach, citrus, vanilla and toast flavors coming alive on the palate. This is an amazing wine that is versatile enough to pair with almost any style of grilled chicken.

Pedernales Cellars Viognier
Pedernales Cellars Viognier

Chardonnay to try: Flowers Vineyards & Winery Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2013, California ($50). Bliss.  The barrel aging in mostly neutral French oak gives this wine roundness without letting the oak obscure the fruit. Lemon zest and white flower scents mingle with pear, green apple and melon flavors with a solid structure of minerality and acidity.

Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Steak and Burgers

It’s hard not to have a beer in hand when you are standing over the grill, but once the meat is done, pick full-bodied wines with dark berry fruit and some tannin to pair with grilled beef. It’s a tried and true practice to pair red wine with steak because the fat and protein in beef lowers the impact of tannin. It’s simple chemistry. Don’t mess with a good thing.

Lightly seasoning any steak or burger and grilling it to a rare to medium temperature lets beef sing. The char on the meat goes well with the tannins in red wines such Cabernet Sauvignon and other red Bordeaux varieties. Meat with a heavier char and cooked medium-well to well-done pairs better with softer, less tannic red Rhone grape varieties like Syrah and Grenache, or Pinot Noir.  If you prefer to keep it local, grab a delicious Texas Tempranillo. The bright fruit and high acidity cut right through that fatty beef.

Pinot Noir to try: Flowers Vineyard & Winery Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2013, California ($50). This luscious wine has vivacious scents of wild strawberry, cranberries and herbs layered with black cherry, raspberry and thyme flavors. It is an elegant and refined wine that will dress up any meal.

Grenache to try: Yangarra Estate Vineyard McLaren Vale Old Vine Grenache 2012, Australia ($32). The old vine Grenache was planted in 1946 and produces wine with powerful raspberry, cherry and red plum fruit flavors with peppery spice, licorice and chocolate. It is excellent with grilled lamb.

Yangarra Estate Vineyard McLaren Vale Old Vine Grenache 2012
Yangarra Estate Vineyard McLaren Vale Old Vine Grenache 2012

Petite Sirah to try: Edmeades Mendocino County 2012, California ($35). This limited release wine is absolutely perfect with grilled beef. Its smoky and spicy nose with loads of blackberry, plum, vanilla and coffee flavors and firm tannins will have you taking a drink with every bite of steak.

Edmeades Petite Sirah Mendocino County 2012
Edmeades Petite Sirah Mendocino County 2012

Tempranillo to try: Spicewood Vineyards Estate Tempranillo 2012, Texas ($45). This wine has bright acidity and firm tannins along with tart cherry, leather and tobacco flavors making it a perfect pair with grilled beef.

Cabernet Sauvignon to try: Trapiche Broquel Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Argentina ($15). This is a perfect backyard wine; easy on the wallet and big on flavor. Bold bouquet of blackberry jam and smoke accompanies a bounty of blackberry, raspberry, fig, chocolate and herbal flavors that are great with a burger.

Trapiche Broquel Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Trapiche Broquel Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Cabernet Sauvignon to try: Melka CJ Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012, California ($65). Indulgent as a velvet smoking jacket, the Melka Cab is packed with ripe plum, black cherry, cassis and mocha with baking spice and tobacco. The silky tannins are soft as a kitten purring for another bite of your steak.

Melka CJ Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012
Melka CJ Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012

Barbeque

Sure it’s easier to grab a beer to go with the smoky, rich flavors of saucy slow-cooked meats like ribs, brisket, pork shoulder, but it’s not impossible to have stellar wine pairings with barbeque too. A rule of thumb is big, intense flavors go well with big wines.

Dry rubbed barbeque can sometimes be salty. That style loves Champagne and sparkling wine. A sip of bubbly after savory barbeque makes the salt pop and lowers the tartness of the wine. Sparkling wine tastes less tart with salt than it does by itself. It’s best to avoid big tannic red wines with this style of barbeque, as salt makes tannins taste more bitter and intensifies the alcohol.

Slow cooked, straight forward brisket is excellent with a high acidity, low tannin Cabernet made with mountain grown fruit.

Sauces and glazes introduce sweet and spicy flavors that call for different styles of wines. Fruit forward, full bodied wine like big, jammy Zinfandels and bold Syrahs are an excellent complement to sweet sauces. Barbera, Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Grenache and rosé are excellent with either sweet or spicy barbeque. The soft tannins and impression of sweetness keeps the wine from tasting sour with a heaping plate of barbeque.

Sparkling Wine to try: Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé 2011, California ($37). The vibrant, fruity and creamy sparkling wine dances with delicate strawberry and raspberry flavors with a hint of apricot. Made with a blend of 60 percent Pinot Noir and 40 percent Chardonnay grapes, this peppy, bubbly wine is an absolute stunner with barbeque.

Domaine Carneros Wines
Domaine Carneros Wines

 

Zinfandel to try: Quivira Vineyards Reserve Zinfandel 2013, California ($42) Stick your nose in the glass and fill it with the scent of blackberries ripening in the sun. The clean, bright wine has mild tannins that let the bold fruit shine through with red raspberry, black cherries and “that classic Dry Creek spice.” It’s a great accompaniment to ribs.

 

Pinot Noir to try: Kendall Jackson, Jackson Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2013, California, ($30). The coastal influences of the Anderson Valley creates wines with bright acidity to balance fruity black cherry, blueberry, chocolate and cola flavors. The silky tannins and lingering smoky, spicy flavors are a dream match with barbeque.

Kendall Jackson, Jackson Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2013
Kendall Jackson, Jackson Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2013

Cabernet Sauvignon to try: Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder Napa Valley 2011, California ($75). When you order fancy BBQ, like the award winning brisket from Franklin Barbeque, you deserve a wine that is equally as good. A stand-out wine with energetic blueberry, black currants, anise violet and coffee flavors. This graceful Bordeaux blend has relatively soft tannins that will dress up any smoked brisket.

Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon
Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon
No matter what you choose to grill, use the opportunity to try a variety of wine pairings to discover which ones you like most.
This story was originally published in the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas newsletter, The Crush, “Jump Into Summer.”
Disclaimer: Several wine producers provided samples that were reviewed for this article at no charge. 

Win tickets to Toast and Roast Texas wine event

toast and roast

Some of you love Texas wine. Some of you are skeptical about its quality. Here is your chance to taste the 20 Best Texas Wines all in one place and all for free. That’s right, What Are You Drinking is giving away a pair of tickets to the The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas‘s inaugural Toast & Roast event being held this Sunday, March 1, at Rancho Cuernavaca.

Why am I giving these away? Because its my birthday and this is my birthday party. You better be there.

This is going to be an incredibly fun party and the only place where you can taste all 20 of Texas Monthly Magazine Best Texas Wines of 2014 selected by wine editor, Jessica Dupuy. Whether you love Texas wine or are curious about it, Toast & Roast is the perfect opportunity to try some of Texas’ finest wines. From 2:00 to 3:00 pm you’ll be able to try 20 wines and learn more about them from  the winemakers themselves. Pretty damn cool.

TEXAS Wine at TEXSOM

After that, the festivities switch to the roast, with a feast of grilled pig, goat, and lamb prepared by Chef Bates of Noble Sandwich. Wines from Fall Creek Vineyards and Pedernales Cellars will be poured to go well with that roasty goodness. Rain or shine, it will be a ton of fun hanging out at the stunningly beautiful ranch while dancing to “brown-grass” music from the Austin-based band, Sour Bridges. I’ll save you a dance.

Its a party with a cause. Over the last 29 years, the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas has donated almost $2 million to charitable causes to support vineyard research, educational grants and scholarships, and other deserving causes. Beneficiaries include Austin Food for Life, Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, The Sustainable Food Center, The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Viticulture & Fruit Lab, and Texas Sommelier Association (TEXSOM).

Tickets are $100 for non-members (on sale today for $80), but here is your chance to win a pair. All you have to do is answer the following question:

“What is one wine that has been recognized on the Texas Monthly 2014 Best Texas Wine list?”

Submit your answer in the comment section below. One winner will be chosen at random from all correct submissions at 6pm CT today.

Come out and celebrate my birthday, Texas Independence Day and Texas wine.

What Ya Need to Know:

  • When: Sunday, March 1st, 2015
  • Where: Rancho Cuernavaca, 1803 N. Cuernavaca Dr, Austin, TX
  • 2:00-3:00 p.m. — Toast with Texas Monthly’s Best Texas Wines of 2014
  • 3:00-5:00 p.m. — Roast by Chef John Bates, Music by Sour Bridges, and wine by the glass provided by Fall Creek Vineyards and Pedernales Cellars

___________

Updated Thursday, 2/26/2015 at 6:00 pm: Congratulations to Nancy Marr who correctly named Fall Creek Vineyards GSM, 2012 as one of the Best Texas Wines. Her comment was selected at random among 14 correct answers. We’re happy to have you at our event!

 What are you drinking? 

10th Annual TEXSOM Highlights

TEXSOM

Its like Christmas in August, or, summer camp for wine pros. The tenth anniversary of the Texas Sommelier Conference, AKA TEXSOM, held at the Four Seasons Hotel Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas drew 900 sommeliers and wine enthusiasts to participate in educational seminars, wine tastings and tons of fun networking.

This year  39 Master Sommeliers, 10 Certified Wine Educators and six Masters of Wine presented 23 seminars on beverage topics. Highlights for me included:

  • A panel exploring lesser-known regions of the United States that are making bad-ass wines presented by Sally Mohr MS, Guy Stout MS, Paul Lukacs, Wayne Belding MS, Marguerite Thomas, Kathy Morgan MS, moderated by Alfonso Cevola CSW. The Colorado Syrah and Texas wines stood out for me.
  • A fun session tasting of Napa Valley wines led by Master of Wine Peter Marks who did it Jeopardy style.
  • A tasting of the ridiculously delicious, but impossible to get wines of Portugal led by Master Sommeliers Devon Broglie and Keith Goldston.
  • An incredibly enlightening session on the most dynamic producers in Chile and Argentina presented by Craig Collins MS and Peter Neptune MS, AIWS, CWE.
  • A seminar and tasting on the Italian sparkling wine region Franciacorta led by Charles Curtis MW and Michael Franz, editor of Wine Review Online.
  • And the pièce de résistance, a retrospective tasting of ’75, ’77, ”80, ’87, ’91, ’97, ’05 and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon from Chappellet Winery with Frederick L. Dame MS, Jay James MS, and Cyril Chappellet. Crazy good wines.

The whole thing is capped off with a Grand Tasting sponsored by the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas where the winner of the Texas’s Best Sommelier Competition is announced. Here are a few images from the Grand Tasting.

My favorite part of the event is talking with Texas winemakers and wine pros from around the world before and after the sessions. Enjoy the images of this spectacular conference.

Disclosure: I was provided a media pass to attend this conference at no charge.

What are you drinking? 

Red Room Lounge’s Joelle Cousins named the best sommelier in Texas at TEXSOM 2014

Joelle Cousins Best Somm

On Monday night, Joelle Cousins, general manager and sommelier of Red Room Lounge, was crowned the 2014  Texas’ Best Sommelier, the sixth winner from Austin in the past 10 years. Austin sommeliers placed first and third in the competition held at TEXSOM, one of the world’s most prominent wine education conferences. The trophy was presented to Cousins by Master Sommelier, Fred Dame, at the TEXSOM Grand Tasting presented by The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas.

Cousins excelled among 25 competitors (including seven others from Austin) in a grueling exam involving proper fine dining service, blind tasting and wine knowledge. She received a scholarship of $2,500 from the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation to be used for a Court of Master Sommeliers certification program.

“I’m thrilled to receive this honor,” said Cousins. “I attribute my success to an incredibly strong and collaborative sommelier community is Austin. We are dedicated to helping each other continually learn more about wine and how we can provide the best possible experience for our customers. It’s great to be able to study with like-minded people who are dedicated to making the wine scene in Austin be the best.”

Rene Fagoaga of the Four Seasons Hotel Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas was the runner up. Austin’s Nathan Fausti of Arro Restaurant, came in third place.

Cousins joins five Austin sommeliers — Devon Broglie, Mark Sayre, June Rodil, Bill Elsey and Scott Ota — who have previously won the coveted prize.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

Nathan Fausti third place

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Merry Edwards Honored as Featured Winemaker at the 29th Annual Rare & Fine Wine Auction

This story originally ran on Austin Woman Magazine

Merry EdwardsThe wine world can be a bit of a good-old-boys club, but Sonoma County-based winemaker Merry Edwards has broken through the gender barrier in her 40-year career. Edwards, who makes pinot noir and sauvignon blanc at Merry Edwards Winery in the Russian River Valley, will be honored as the featured winemaker at the 29th Annual Rare & Fine Wine Auction March 22 at Four Seasons Hotel Austin.

This honor adds to a long list of accolades for Edwards, including recognition as the Outstanding Wine Professional at the 2013 James Beard Awards, just the fourth woman to be so honored, and she has been inducted in to the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame. Her wines have also piled up the hardware, including landing the number nine spot on the Wine Spectator’s list of Top 100 Wines of the Year with the Merry Edwards sauvignon blanc Russian River Valley 2007.

The Rare & Fine Wine Auction, hosted by The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas, will benefit the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, which will receive a portion of auction proceeds. The foundation awarded Dell Children’s $60,000, earmarked for nutritional programs and education, from proceeds from last year’s auction.

Edwards is the first female selected as the annual auction’s featured winemaker and joins a stellar list of who’s who in the wine industry, including Robert Mondavi, Paul Hobbs, Chuck Wagner and Christian Moueix. Wine & Food Foundation auction chair Daniel Bleier has collected Merry Edwards’ award-winning pinot noirs for years and says he’s thrilled to introduce the wines to the audience in Austin.

Austin Woman recently visited with Merry Edwards to learn more about her participation in the auction.

Austin Woman: How did you get connected with the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas for the Rare & Fine Wine Auction?

Merry Edwards: The call came through my daughter, Leslie. They asked if I would be interested in being honored as the featured winemaker. I was thrilled because, while I support a lot of charities, I have a big interest in children’s health. I have two sons and one left the earth when he was 19. He was severely disabled. Because of that, I have spent a lot of time in hospitals. That, coupled with my background in physiology and nutrition, has led to support for charities that help sick and needy children. I like to support medical centers like the Dell Children’s Medical Center to put money in to saving a child. There is also another personal connection, as a friend of my daughter was treated at Dell Children’s.

AW: What does it mean to be the featured winemaker at the 29th Annual Rare & Fine Wine Auction?

ME: It’s an honor to be a featured winemaker. I like doing an event that puts my wine in the spotlight, as it’s a great opportunity to share deeper information about it in my seminar. I enjoy speaking and educating people about wine. More focus on our brand.

AW: What inspired you to become a winemaker?

ME: I came to winemaking through food. I started cooking when I was pretty young and I carried that forward to college, when I started brewing beer and making fruit wine. Wine is an extension of cooking. You start with a recipe, just like cooking. While I was in graduate school studying nutrition at UC Berkeley, a friend introduced me to the wine program at UC Davis, where I earned a master’s degree in food science with an emphasis in enology. When I started in 1972, there were no women professors teaching in the program and there were only three women studying in the graduate program. The study of winemaking was a natural extension of interest in chemistry and nutrition. I got hooked. When I was growing up, my parents didn’t even drink. I introduced my parents to wine back then and my mom is still my winery partner at age 93.

AW: Do you have any female role models in the wine industry?

ME: The two women that led the way for me were Maryann Graf and Zelma Long. They were the only women I knew in the industry when I was starting out. They were both successively hired by a French winery in Sonoma called Simi Winery. Maryann was a pioneer for women’s winemaking and she was followed in that position by Zelma, who was previously an enologist at Mondavi. Between the two, there were at least 20 consecutive years of a female winemaker at Simi. Zelma also went on to start Vilafonte Wine Estate in South Africa. There have been many women role models in other places around the world. Most of the women in Europe who came in to the wine industry did so through the death of their husband. Women like Madame Jacques Bollinger in Champagne made a profound mark on the industry, and so many innovations in the industry came from women.

AW: When you first entered the business, you were one of the few female winemakers. Did you meet any gender bias?

ME: Oh, yes, of course I did. I credit my dad, in part, with how I overcame it. I was very close to my dad. He never told me I couldn’t do this because I was a woman. The second influence was that there were a lot of gay men in my life in the time when I was getting in to the wine business. They didn’t think there was anything weird about a young woman trying to get in to the wine business. Among those gay men, I had a professor, counselor and advisor who supported me and stood beside me. I was really discouraged in the beginning when I was applying for jobs. The winemaking business is farming-based, and there is no business more conservative than farming. A recent survey by UC Davis found that today in America, only 9.9 percent of winemakers are women. When I got in to the business, there were probably only six female winemakers total. Now there are more women winemakers because there are more wineries, but the percentage is still pathetic.

Merry’s Favorite Wines:

Littorai  Mays Canyon Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $90

“Ted Lemon is an excellent winemaker who produces elegant pinot noir and chardonnay in Sonoma.”

Peter Michael Winery L’Après-Midi Estate Sauvignon Blanc, $55

“I like sauvignon blanc from America. I make a barrel-fermented style and like similarly made wines. I’m very loyal to our area and don’t think they are as hard on the teeth enamel as wines from New Zealand or South Africa.”

Merry Edwards Klopp Ranch Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, $60

“I drink a lot of my own wine and I prefer my vineyard designates. I like to drink my pinot older and right now I’m drinking the 2003. I’m also infatuated with our Georganne pinot noir, which I drink a little younger. Right now, I’m making a special wine to celebrate our 40th vintage year. That wine will be composed of different selections of my own clone from different vineyards. I’ll make about 300 cases with a specially designed label.”

Photo courtesy of Merry Edwards Winery. 

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Forget Sochi: Elite sommeliers compete in ‘wine Olympics’ during Somms Under Fire

Diane Dixon and Devon Broglie

In just over two weeks, some of the world’s best athletes will compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Whether it’s speed skating or snowboarding, the one thing that is certain is that the athletes have trained like mad to make it to the big stage. Here in Austin, we’re hosting a mini Olympics of our own. But this is for wine. Three sommeliers will battle in a test of wine and food pairings in Somms Under Fire on January 26, at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center on the University of Texas campus.

To earn a spot in the competition, more than two dozen applicants from nine states took an insanely difficult — and timed — written exam testing their wine knowledge. The three people who scored highest and will now go head-to-head are advanced sommelier, Paula de Pano, of Fearrington House in Pittsboro, North Carolina,  advanced sommelier Nathan Prater, of Wines.com in Austin, Texas, and certified sommelier James Watkins of Cordua Restaurants in Houston, Texas.

“Becoming a sommelier and competing in this contest takes an incredible amount of training,” said Devon Broglie, the Somms Under Fire emcee. “Any sommelier that wants to compete in this event has to make sacrifices while accepting an overhanging cloud that they might not be successfully achieve it. Just like with the Olympics, there is no guarantee that the hard work will pay off. These three have the pressure of not only knowing their wine, but also performing in front of an audience and a panel of judges including two master sommeliers.”

Somms Under Fire Burgundy WinesThe judging panel will be more intimidating than a Russian figure skating judge. Global wine consultant, Peter Wasserman, returns from Burgundy to serve as judge. He will be joined by James Beard Award winning wine writer, Jordan McKay, from San Francisco, Copain winemaker, Wells Guthery, from Sonoma County and the winemaker from Castiglione Falletto Winery, Elisa Scavino, from Piedmont, Italy.

Now in its third year, Somms Under Fire is no longer drawing only local contestants. As the event grows in notoriety, it is attracting a national audience. In fact the three stand-by contestants are from Atlanta, Chicago and Washington D.C. It doesn’t hurt that the Grand Prize is a one-week internship in Burgundy, France led by Master of Wine and Burgundy expert, Jasper Morris.

There will be local flavor as contestants to pair three courses created by Chef Shawn Cirkiel of Parkside Projects  (ParksideOlive & JuneBackspace and the forthcoming Chavez) paired by the contestants with wines from around the world. Guests will get to sample each wine and food combination.

Diane Dixon, founder of Keeper Collection, LLC, the event organizer, said, “Shawn is a huge proponent of treating food and wine professionally. He wanted to participate in this event to have his food associated with wine professionals who know how to match wine with great food. The fun will be that the sommeliers will be surprised by the food he prepares and the types of wine available to pair with it.”

In addition to being judged on wine and food pairings, the sommeliers will also have a second challenge in their beverage biathlon. The QuickMix Cocktail Challenge will test the sommeliers’ ability to make a delicious drink using saké instead of spirits. Bartender Jason Stevens of Congress Austin, returns to judge the “saketail” competition. The contestants will create their own recipe using no more than two ounces of sake to make a three ounce cocktail using no other spirits. Ingredients can cost no more than $1.00 per drink. Stevens will award points not only for the flavor, but also for the sommeliers’ story about how the ingredients selected reflect their personality. Audience members get to drink the results.

The whole event starts with a one hour VIP session hosted by noted Burgundy expert, Peter Wasserman, who will pour five classic vintages of Burgundy wines. He will describe how weather affects each vintage, how sub-regions vary in style and give guests tips on learning to love this coveted French wine region.

The VIP session for 2014 Somms Under Fire Competition begins at 5 pm and the general admission for the wine and food pairing event starts at 6 pm on Sunday. VIP tickets are $125 and General Admission are $60.   The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas is a presenting partner.

This story was originally posted on CultureMap.

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Cowboys + Gauchos showcases Texan and Southern American cuisine at Salt Lick Pavilion

Nothing is more quintessentially Texan than the cowboy. This Sunday, February 24, cowboy culture from Texas and South America will be on display in all its finery at the Salt Lick Pavilion at Cowboys + Gauchos, an event hosted by the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas.

From 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., the public is invited to don boots and cowboy hats, while feasting on antelope, lamb and wild boar that have been roasted whole over open fires. There will be plenty of wine from more than a dozen Texan and Uruguayan wineries to wash it down. I have to say this is definitely one of my favorite food and wine events of the year. There is a sick amount of excellent food, the location is incredibly chill and the people are in a great mood. Check out my photos from last year’s event.

In its third year, Cowboys + Gauchos brings together several prominent chefs to show off impressive traditional Texan and Southern American cooking techniques, such as roasting whole animals on giant iron rigs. The event was inspired by Francis Mallmann’s book Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, and brought to life by Wine & Food Foundation of Texas Board Member, Howard Kells.

Roast pig at Cowboys + GauchosKells was fascinated by the concept of bringing together Texas and South American barbecue and wines in an outdoor event. He successfully built his own enormous iron grilling structure, patterned after Mallmann’s, and has cooked  a whole calf and whole elk at past Cowboys + Gauchos events.

This year guests will feast on South Texas Nilgai Antelope from Broken Arrow Ranch, lambs and a wild boar from IO Ranch and South Texas style cabrito prepared by Chef Jack Gilmore (Jack Allen’s Kitchen). The mouth-watering spectacle of roast meats continues with pork bellies from El Chile, beef tongue cooked by El Alma and various other treats from Café Josie, Fore, Live Oak Barbecue, Estancia Churrascaria and Sentelli’s Sweets.

Game guide and outdoor chef, Christopher “Tink” Pinkard, will roast a 100 pound pig. “I will start cooking my pig at 4 a.m. on my portable Cuban-style grill using mesquite for heat and pecan for smoke. Before cooking it I’ll brine the pig in a mixture of salt, sugar and water for 72 hours, which keeps it nice and moist,” says Pinkard. He recommends Pinot Noir or Cabernet to pair with his boar, but acknowledges beer is a great choice, too. “I can’t cook those pigs for eight to 10 hours without a beer.”

Live music and wineries will ensure a festive scene in the pavilion. Guest can try a selection of wine from Texas wineries such as Cap Rock Winery, David Mayfield Selections, Duchman Family Winery, Fall Creek Vineyards, Flat Creek Estate Winery, Hye Meadow Winery, Pedernales Cellars, Spicewood Vineyards and William Chris Vineyards. This year there will also be five wineries from Uruguay on hand including Juanico Famila Deicas, Gimenez Mendez Eco Valley Wines, Pizzorno Wines Don Pascual, Bodega Bouza and Bodega Marichal.

Gary Knippa at Cowboys + Gauchos“This is the first time that so many Uruguayan wines have been assembled in one place to be tasted in the U.S. Guests at Cowboys + Gauchos will be the first people in Texas to taste them. It is a great event for Uruguayan wines because the gaucho culture is prevalent in the country,” says David Furer, the Wines of Uruguay spokesman and wine journalist.

“Wineries will pour up to 20 various wines including Sauvignon Blanc, which is [an] up-and-coming white wine in Uruguay, along with Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Merlot and Syrah. Of course there will be a prevalence of Tannat, which is the signature grape of Uruguay. It makes a full bodied wine that goes well with rich grilled and barbecue red meat.”

Tickets are available on Wine & Food Foundation of Texas site for $65 per person. Proceeds from the event will support up-and-coming chefs, sommeliers and excellence in the culinary and viticulture arts through scholarships and the underwriting of the TexSom beverage conference.

This story was originally on CultureMap.

What are you drinking?

Austin’s top sommeliers test skills in Somms Under Fire food and wine pairing competition

Devon Broglie and Diane Dixon Somms Under FireImagine staring at a menu that lists an entrée of roast lamb served with artichokes, goat cheese and cinnamon spiced spinach. Your job is to match the perfect wine that will accentuate the flavors and textures of the food. But wait, you have to do this under the scrutiny of three judges, led by Jason Stevens of Bar Congress, and a room full of eager spectators. The pressure is on.

That’s exactly what will happen Sunday, January 27 at the Driskill Hotel when three of the top sommeliers in town will test their skills in a live competition called Somms Under Fire. The event is held to show off the deft touch of Austin wine professionals whose education and experience make it second nature to find the right wine to pair with the most nuanced of dishes.

In its second year, Somms Under Fire, produced by Keeper Collectionand The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas, audience members get in on the act by sampling each course prepared by Chef Jonathan Gelman, as well as by trying out the different wine pairings. Think of it as a live version of Top Chef, only you get to taste the results.

Event organizer, Diane Dixon of Keeper Collection and event emcee and Master Sommelier Devon Broglie shared the details about Somms Under Fire while we did a comparative tasting of six incredible wines at her home. The setting was exactly as Dixon imagines her event: casual, not fussy, in an easy-going atmosphere that makes it easy to enjoy the intricacies of amazing wines.

“It’s really fun when you know wine a little bit and then have an opportunity to share a deep conversation about the wine with a real expert. How often do you get to hear a Master Sommelier just talk about wine off the cuff? That’s what Somms Under Fire is all about.”

Broglie has been involved with the event from its inception. He sees it as an entertaining way for people to learn more about food and wine. “The competition is about demystifying wine and the role of the sommelier in helping people appreciate and love wine. We want to help people discover wine that enhances their dinner and their overall experience.”

Bill Elsey  Somms Under Fire ContestantTo land a spot in the event, competitors had to meet professional wine industry requirements and pass a timed, multiple choice and essay exam that measured their extensive wine knowledge. While Dixon wouldn’t say how many people applied to compete, she did say, “We had more entrants and more educated entrants than before. Many of the contestants have pursued multiple education paths in the Court of Master Sommeliers, Certified Specialists of Wine and Wine and Spirit Education Trust.”

The competitors who made the grade this year are Advanced Sommelier Nathan Prater and Certified Sommelier Scott Ota, both of The Driskill Hotel and The Driskill Grill in Austin, and Advanced Sommelier Bill Elsey of The Red Room Lounge in Austin. These three guys know the others’ strengths very well — they are good friends and have been studying for various sommelier exams and competitions for two years now.

Each of the three sommeliers competing in Somms Under Fire expressed gratitude to Dixon, who they call the “Fairy Godmother of Austin Sommeliers” for her work to promote excellence among wine professionals.

Nathan Prater Somms Under Fire ContestantThey may be friends, but that doesn’t dampen their competitive spirit. In 2011, Elsey and Prater finished first and second in the Best Sommelier in Texas 2011 competition at the Texas Sommeliers Conference (TEXSOM).

Prater acknowledged that he’s not eager to be a runner up to Elsey again. He confidently asserted, “I’m going to win the Quickfire cocktail competition.” Ota quickly agreed, but added, “I’m going to kill the three course pairing competition.” Not to be bested, Prater counter, “No, I’m going to win that too. Bill will just be awarded for the ‘Best Looking.’”

It turns out that the sommeliers won’t be judged on looks. Dixon explained, “The winner is the one who communicates best with the audience, connects and demonstrates why they chose a particular wine to pair with a dish. The winner will bridge the gap between the technical wine information and what the diner really wants.”

When asked who he wants to beat more, Elsey responded, “I’m super stoked to be competing against Scott and Nathan. I want to beat both of them equally. It’s about bragging rights in our study group.”

There is more to it than bragging rights. The winner will receive a Grand Prize Package of a wine internship in Burgundy under the tutelage of France with author, Master of Wine and Burgundy expert, Jasper Morris.

Scott Ota Somms Under Fire ContestantPerhaps Prater and Ota will have a little bit of home court advantage with the event being held at the Driskill. The venue was chosen before the competitors applied. The Driskill has shown a concerted interested in hosting events that support the food and wine community. Just a week after Somms Under Fire, the Driskill Hotel will host the Court of Master Sommeliers Level I and Level II exams.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the TEXSOM Conference, which fosters education for sommeliers, promotes wine service standards, furthers wine education and raises public awareness of the professional wine industry.

General Admission tickets cost $55 and will get you in to both the Quickfire cocktail competition and main Somms Under Fire competition that includes wines and food from 6 to 8 p.m. VIP tickets run $100 and include access to the Taste Like A Master pre-event tasting hosted by master sommeliers Devon Broglie and the event judges from 5 to 6 p.m. The VIP tasting is limited to 70 people seats, so grab your tickets quickly.

 This story was originally published on CultureMap.

Feeling bubbly at Big Reds & Bubbles

Last night was the 10th Annual  Big Reds & Bubbles hosted by The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas. If you want the full story about the event, here is my preview of the bash. Beautiful Wife and I eased our way through the bubbly crowd to sip on a lovely array of sparkling and red wines, nibbling on excellent food from several local chefs and talking with dozens of friends. As always, it was a well organized event packed with beautiful people and overflowing with incredible wine.

My favorite nibble was from Barley Swine. I have no idea what it was, but it was fantastic.

My favorite wines were the Ruinart Champagne and the Adelsheim Pinot Noir.

My favorite surprise was seeing Jack Gilmore with short hair.

My favorite shadow was Marshall Jones’ attempt at a Movember mustache which was slightly more prominent than Drew Peterson’s.

My favorite moment was when Amber Demure photo bombed me by biting the ass of a hottie. Or when we stole a bottle of rose at the end of the night and passed it around to be drained in 5 minutes (sorry Marshall).

My favorite conversations are too many to recount. It was great to talk with so many wonderful people.

Thank good someone brought a big bag of breakfast tacos to the office this morning.

Here are some photos of the festivities.

What are you drinking? 

Exclusive reds and fine champagnes: Big Reds and Bubbles returns for tenth annual fete

Lamarca ProseccoAustinites love a good party, and Thursday, for the tenth year, hundreds of people will pack into the Driskill Hotel to sip some of the world’s finest champagne and exclusive red wines at Big Reds & Bubbles hosted by The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas.

At this year’s annual fête, Nov. 8, guests will be greeted with a glass of bubbly served by the bubble girls, wearing little more than strategically placed bubbles. Who could ask for a better way to start a party?

“There is no other wine event like this in town,” says the foundation’s president-elect, Mark Shilling. “Big Reds and Bubbles is elegant and festive, it’s held in a beautiful location, it has high-caliber wines and incredible food that reflects Austin’s foodie movement. Let’s face it — it’s your gateway party to the holiday season. People get dressed to impress for Big Reds and Bubbles and that sets the tone for the cooler weather parties.”

The star of the show is definitely the wine. “Big Reds is a good way to experience several wines in an approachable, non-snooty way,” Shilling says.

Suzanne and Matt McGinnis  Big Reds & Bubbles Well, there is a little touch of snooty wine drinking. The event starts off with a sold-out, private VIP pre-party hosted by June Rodil, Wine & Spirits Magazine’s Best New Sommelier in 2011, featuring 10 big reds and sparkling wines. Rodil will describe the highly sought after wines and then give her recommendations on the must-have wines poured at the rest of the event.

Don’t worry if you didn’t get a VIP ticket, there will be plenty of excellent wine for us. Principle sponsor Glazer’s is arranging for approximately 130 wines from 60 producers to be poured at the party.

“Glazer’s is deeply involved in and committed to the food and wine industry in Texas,” said Stephen Hansen, portfolio marketing manager of Glazer’s Texas Fine Wine Division. “Our commitment aligns well with the Foundation’s mission of improving the wine and food community with education and scholarships. Food and wine are inextricably linked and are absolutely essential to our culture, to who we are. Big Reds and Bubbles is an excellent way to experience the culture of food and wine.”

Bryce Gilmore and Jack Gilmore Big Reds & BubblesThe “big” will shine through in glasses of California Cabernets like Miner Oracle, Chappellet Mountain Cuvee and Sterling Vineyards Platinum. Well known wines like Beaulieu Vineyards will be poured next to wineries that are new to the event, like Donati Family, Lange Winery and Gerard Bertrand.

Bubbly conversations always flow better with a flute of champagne. This year’s bubbles come from stand-out wines from Louis Roederer, Laurent Perrier and Beau Joie as well as a phenomenal selection of Prosecco from producers like Montesel, Nino Franco, La Marca, and Cava from Juve y Camps and Segura Viudas.

20 of Austin’s acclaimed chefs will serve inventive nibbles to pair with all of those fantastic wines. I’m looking forward to trying a preview of Bridget Dunlap’s new place, Mettle. Another new joint serving up the goods is Guests LaV Austin, which will be opened by Chef Allison Jenkins in fall of 2013. There will be plenty of good eats from the likes of The Carillon, Jack Allen’s Kitchen, Barley Swine, Max’s Wine Dive, Noble Pig, Wink and Swift’s Attic.

Chef Brad Sorenson

Returning as emcee this year is Chef Brad Sorenson of The Next Food Network Star fame. He’ll give us the inside scope on his soon to open Nova Kitchen & Bar on Rainey Street, while rallying the crowd to spend big on the silent auction. He’ll have plenty to sell with desirable auction items like a three liter bottle of Miner Family Wines The Oracle 2007, three cases of exquisite Spanish wines and a private tasting for 10 at the Red Room Lounge hosted by Advanced Sommelier, Bill Elsey.

Proceeds from the event benefit The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas’s education and scholarships which promote excellence in the culinary and viticulture arts.

Tickets for the event are available online for the price of $85 for foundation members and $100 for the general public. The Foundation reports that ticket sales are ahead of schedule and they expect the event to sell out with 400 people in attendance. 

This article was previously published on CultureMap.

What are you drinking?