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.


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!

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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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Bringing Out the Best in Wine Professionals at Somms Under Fire

Scott Ota, sommelierI blame Julia Child. Everywhere you turn, you can find people obsessed with finding the ultimate culinary experience. We see it on TV with a flood of cooking shows, we see it in print with dozens of magazines dedicated to food and wine and we see it when we walk down the street with excellent restaurants helmed by creative chefs and wine professionals dedicated to providing the best dining experience possible.

This frenzy for the best food and wine is matched by the increasing professional quality of wine stewards and sommeliers. In Austin we have a community of sommeliers that is growing and motivated to continually get better. That drive for improvement is evident in the strong participation in education sessions like TEXSOM and competitions like Somms Under Fire, a food and wine pairing competition.

Event organizers, Diane Dixon, founder of Keeper Collection, and Marshall Jones, executive director of The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas, hosted an invitation-only Burgundy Tasting at the Red Room Lounge to fan the flames for the next Somms Under Fire. Dixon described the gathering as an inviting way for people to connect with wine professionals to learn more about the wines of Burgundy in a fun setting in the industry.

Past winners of Somms Under Fire Scott Ota, wine captain and sommelier of The Driskill Grill, and June Rodil, sommelier and general manager of the über hot Qui Restaurant, were on hand to share their experiences from their Grand Prize, a one-week internship in Burgundy, France under the tutelage of author, Master of Wine and Burgundy expert, Jasper Morris.

Ota and Rodil both participated in Morris’ Burgundy Symposium, which is part of Burgundy Bootcamp Collection, as guests of Becky Wasserman Selections. Through the internship they had an immersive learning experience in vineyards and wineries and the opportunity to taste and serve the wines during the program’s tastings and dinners.

“There is only one sommelier in the country invited to do this internship,” said Rodil. “It has been one of the most sought out opportunities for sommeliers around the country. Now it’s specified that the one somm who gets to go to the internship is winner of the Somms Under Fire competition. This is an amazing prize. It’s crazy.”

“Somms Under Fire brings a lot of attention to the quality of sommeliers working in our market,” said Ota. “It’s an excellent competition to show the skills of sommeliers in cocktails and food and wine pairings. The grand prize of the internship is fantastic. The opportunity to cook with the Wassermans at their house drinking old German wine was spectacular. The seminars the vintage symposium, the visits to infamous vineyards and the opportunity to talk to different producers was a chance of a lifetime. The best wine experience I’ve ever had.”

The experience in Burgundy has influenced how both Rodil and Ota prepare the wine lists for their respective restaurants. Rodil commented, “I’ve always enjoyed Burgundy, but it the internship broadened my horizon about producers by exposing me to a wide range of wines from the entire region. We tasted up and coming producers and older established winemakers alike. I started seeking them out after being over there, and I carry six Burgundies on the wine list at Qui.”

Ota added, “I can’t put it into words how valuable this experience has been. It has made me a better wine buyer and sommelier. When I select bottles of Burgundy for my wine list (The Driskill carries 20), I can picture different wineries on the road and remember the remarkable vintages.”


Calling all Sommeliers

The competition just to get into the competition is fierce, with only three spots open to contestants. Dixon wouldn’t disclose how many people applied compete last year, but said “yes” when I asked if there were 20 or 30 applicants. She is eager to get an equally good crop of candidates for the next competition.

“We want to extend the outreach to contestants from anywhere in the world, not just Texas,” said Dixon. “We will announce the application it at TEXSOM and will work with Master Sommeliers to recommend up and coming sommeliers that they know. The quality of sommeliers competing has been outstanding with two Advanced Somms in the event this year. It shows that there is a real desire among top sommeliers to participate.”

Rodil was emphatic in her encouragement of sommeliers to throw their hat in the ring. “Do it! I don’t know how to explain how special this experience is. It’s not something you can dream up as a wine professional.”

This year’s Somms Under Fire Cocktail Competition winner, Bill Elsey, hopes to compete again in 2014. He also won a beautiful Champagne saber as a prize for being selected the Fan Favorite and demonstrated how to use it at the Burgundy tasting. Unfortunately the bottle had other plans and exploded in his hands (I’ve seen him do it successfully in other situations).

The next Somms Under Fire Competition will be held on January 26, 2014 at The Scottish Rite Theater.  Sommeliers will be selected to participate in the competition based on their knowledge of wine and their outstanding professional experience in the industry. I’m looking forward to eating and drinking my way through their suggested pairings again next year.

This story also appeared on CultureMap.

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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.

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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.

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