exploring my German roots with a Karbach IPA

21 Mar

I have been reminiscing about my roots lately.  Where I come from, where I have been.  Where I am going.

I am at least a fifth generation Texan, on my father’s side.  My family hails from Southern Texas, the likes of Matagorda Bay, Vanderbilt, and Edna. I have many memories of the house on Yuba Dam Street.  Stepping onto the concrete steps, the sweet stench of humidity, dust, sweat, and stale vanilla wafers always enveloped me as I crossed the threshold.  Newspapers of weeks and months, piled high on the surrounding polyester couches, ruffled in wake of an oscillating fan.  I would stare at my Meemaw.

She sat directly in front of us, perpendicular, watching a small antenna television across the room.  TV trays held Soap Opera Guides, cups of water, and plates of crumbs from the day. Gripping her cane in one hand, and rocking back and forth to gain traction with the other, she would eventually grunt, and in a woof of air, would stand and walk over to me.  I was always aware of her ailments, yet Meemaw nevertheless hugged me tight.

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I was named for her husband, a blend of alcoholism and emotional anger, sweetness, and cruel frailty.  I was also born on his birthday, a few years after his death, and must have been a consistent reminder of her difficult life with him, although she never showed it.  Meemaw loved all of her grandchildren a great deal.  Soon after we would arrive for a weekend, a closet would open, and presents commenced: a crocheted pink afghan for my dolls, grocery store perfumes, and clearance costume jewelry.  Looking back, it is easy to see that my grandmother was a hoarder, but I expect nothing less from those raised in the Depression, with memories of belly aches and longing.  Her bedroom was lined with bookcases, and filled with newspapers, sheets, dusty antique bottles, collectible ceramics, picture frames, and SAS shoes.

Meemaw’s extra bedrooms were playgrounds for little girls, with plastic dolls, blankets, cribs, and figurines from the 1950s.  At night, we would sleep with the windows open, as to be awakened by chirping birds and to be stifled by the humid heat.  The only air conditioners were in her bedroom and the living room.  My love of pimento cheese stemmed from her kitchen, as well as SPAM, vegetable soup, and store bought shortbread cookies.  She bought thick sliced ham, and Velveeta block cheese, and we would eat white bread sandwiches with mustard while watching General Hospital or Hee Haw.  Meemaw took me to watch The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas for the first time.

There were several buildings outside, one where she kept canned goods like pickles, peaches, and beans.  Another my Papa used when he was alive, and contained his carpentry tools, old hammers and saws, and I had heard at one time even a cow.  Some local thug took the liberty of tagging it, but I still dream of my namesake there.  I often see him, a skinny image, watching over me at night, in a stingy brim hat, in gray pants and a white shirt.  Maybe I am dreaming….

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We moved away when I was 13, and returned when I was 17. Meemaw died that summer, just a few weeks after we returned home to Texas.  We had only visited one time that year.  While I never got to say goodbye, my heart still holds much love for all she was. My daughter now uses that pink afghan blanket for her dolls.

I drove by the house on Yuba Dam Street recently.  The grain elevator is still in working order at the end of the road.  While a lot of structures are in ruins, her house still remains occupied… although I imagine barely standing.  This Spring I tip my glass to Meemaw, one who never drank, who bore the weight of an alcoholic husband, who lived on the brink of poverty, and who raised many children, including my father, who carved his way out of the tiny town of Edna to accomplish much more than many could imagine.

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Houston’s Karbach Brewery Company prides itself in training in German style, which is perfect; my Meemaw was originally a Frenzel, and often times her smashed potatoes found themselves intertwined with sauerkraut and sausage.  The Rodeo Clown Double IPA is a strong one… just like her.  It has 9.5% ABV, an intense, hop flavor, thick head, and aromas of citrus and orange peel.  Perfect for a gal like me.  Available at HEB for $9.

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Here’s to remembering our roots.  And our branches.  Go Local. Go Texan. Cheers.


This post is part of a series in the Not So Small Stories hosted by MFA writer and novelist Kirsten Oliphant. 


the musical stylings of a Texan Vermentino

16 Mar

Someone close to me recently asked what type of music I listen to.  I often hesitate when asked this type of question; what type of music do I listen to when? as I am cleaning?  as I sit and watch my daughter, playing in the sand, in the dwindling evening sun?  as I stare out the window… surrounded by grapevines, mountains, flowers, and highways?

Layers of music have always fascinated me.  Definitively, it began with exposure to San Antonio’s Gilded New Wave Age, with bands like Exposure, Depeche Mode, and The Cure fostering my early listening habits.  Of course the mainstream songs like Give A Little Respect and Just Like Heaven made proud announcements into my cassette player, but Oh La’Amour really stole my heart, with its electronic beats marching into my mind, stratums of harmony circling my heart, creating footpaths into verse my soul could understand. Of course none of us actually believed these boys loved us, right?  Let’s just agree that I really needed a Panasonic Keyboard.

In high school we moved to Ohio, and while surrounded by cornfields and pig farms, I discovered The Steve Miller Band, Rush, and Pink Floyd.  Bonfire playgrounds, small circles, and a short stint in marching band built the stage for my formative musical imagination.  Sitting in my high school boyfriend’s restored 1984 Ford F-150, looking up at the starry night sky, autumn winds blowing through the trees, I thought I could tell heaven from hell, blue skies from pain, and green fields from a cold steel rail.  Tiers of notes would pile into my awareness, like rapid beams of thought that knew no boundaries, firing into the heavens, riding on structures made of steel guitar, piano organs, and cymbals. The beauty in my ears matched the beauty of the forests that surrounded us.  I was changed forever in those times.

Eventually, these musical phantoms turned to Coldplay, Jet, Kings of Leon (before they were On Fire), and Guster.  I still sing loudest in my car to “I Spy”… not only because I remember the May Parades… but because I’m also so damn tired, don’t know how far I’ve gone, or recognize who I’ve become… at times.  In more recent days, my stereo has blasted everything from The Knife, Phantogram, Naked and Famous, and Passion Pit… to Of Monsters and Men, Peter Bjorn and John, and Shout Out Louds.  When feeling especially amorous, usually within sights of mountains, valleys, grapevines, and clear skies… I bust out Beirut, close my eyes, and feel the vintage style of Italy.

Even in Texas you can feel this particular musical voyage, as you drive North from San Marcos to Driftwood, where the vineyards of Duchman Family Winery sweetly sing from the fields around you. The trumpets and stringed guitars play in harmony.  A pillar of Texas Terroir, Duchman only uses 100% Texas grapes, a feat only a few wineries here can claim.  One of my favorite varietals is Vermentino, a grape typically grown in clay-soiled, humid areas like Sardinia, Corsica, and Piedmont.  With fresh citrus and light florals on the nose, Duchman Family Vermentino is light, slightly aromatic, and bright.  The palate recognizes faint lime, with invigorating acidity and subtle minerality on the finish.  It’s a perfect wine for sipping outdoors during the new Spring, and available at Whole Foods, Central Market, and Specs, for about $20.  Sitting on the back porch, breathing in the bright winds, there is no other place I’d rather be.


Oh, how I wish you were here. With trumpets. And string guitar. Go Texan.  Cheers.

a composition on community.

19 Feb


: a group of people who have the same interests, fight for the same causes, and accept you in all your faults.

Continue reading

in self-love with Paul Autard

11 Feb

So HBO has really had some interesting new series recently.  One that I have especially loved is True Detective, with none other than delicious, creamy men stars like Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. The story line is chock-full of cross functional police work like undercover spying, special victims, and domestic violence, which spurs various emotions, some heavy with wretchedness, and some light like freshly polished crystal glass.  In the third episode, married Woody Harrelson breaks down the door of his on-the-side girlfriend, where he proceeds to attack her date, punching, kicking, cussing, and beating… with her screaming for him to stop.  I remember feeling tightness in my chest, the anxiety building in my throat, and tears welling in my eyes.

Because you see, that was me.  I was that girl.

I had moved in with my sister only weeks before, or perhaps months; the memories seems to fade in and out with time, moving closer to my heart at certain intervals, and completely vanishing in others.  I was only 24 at the time, and tended to jump from relationship to relationship.  I had never lived alone.  Not yet anyways.  I had moved out of our apartment after walking in on the dark-haired Italian, drunken with whiskey and stout, sweat pouring from his brow, in my bed with a thin blonde beauty.  On Valentine’s Day.  After our “date.”   I vowed to never speak to him or see him again.  Easier said than done.

Being so young, I felt that my best chance would be to get out there dating as soon as possible.  I put my big girl panties on, headed out to the local scene, and snagged myself someone.  Anyone.  In fact, I struggle to remember his exact name, although I will never forget his face or his tone of voice, or what he meant to me.  After a few dates, I brought him to my sister’s house, where I was staying, and we stayed up talking, which I admit, led to other things.  I was 24 after all.


Within an hour, the thumps on the front door began.  At first, they were soft knocks, with appropriate time intervals, but gradually, they turned to inpatient pounds, hammers of fists thrashing… and then… the sound of broken glass, and the opening of the front door.   Weighty steps crushed the wood floors beneath, creaking in the empty spaces, lurking behind closed doors.  Suddenly, the barrier between us flung open.

Fists were flying, yelling commenced.  I jumped out of my seat, pleading, “Stop!”  Punches broke bones, and blood spewed onto the ceiling.  I was shoved, pushed, and corralled into corners, while my date’s face became adorned with streaks of open wounds.  He had his hands palm down, moving his arms in a pumping motion, coolly saying, “calm down, man!”  to no avail.  Things moved to the front yard.  My sister came running down the stairs, with her frightened Labrador retrievers, and called 911.

The police arrested my former boyfriend, and I drove my date to the ER, where all I could do was stare at the imprint of a ring in his forehead, surrounded by a growing pool of blood, that would bruise his face for months to come.  This was all my fault.  Somehow I had allowed this to happen, this incident.  I was to blame.

Like Woody Harrelson, my former boyfriend had connections; in fact, he was an attorney.  A few months later I was tired of fighting and I dropped the charges against him, and there were many.  It is not the only decision I regret making in my lifetime, but it is definitely one that has had the most impact on me.  I suffered from relationship PTSD for a long time, and still do.  Constantly accusing my boyfriends of cheating, wondering when the big blowout  “moment”  will happen.  The sommelier was smart enough to see through this rouse, and married me anyway.  However, from time to time, the victim in me rears its ugly head, and I anxiously sort through his schedule, his whereabouts, and question him incessantly.  He loves me anyway, and understands that one day soon this searching will lapse.  I will forgive myself.  I will lay the blame where the blame deserves to be put to rest.

During the True Detective episode, I nervously looked at the sommelier, hoping he wouldn’t see the tears forming on my cheeks.  I took a sip of a Cotes Du Rhone by Paul Autard, the warmth of the blend of Grenache and Syrah, with its dark fruit cascading through my throat, encompassing my inner being, embracing my nervousness with its calming nectar.  The tannins smooth and light, each sip was easier to take.  And I slurped down more.

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And that is when I decided:  this will be the last time.  10 years have gone by.  I am a different woman: a wife, a mother, with a successful career.  The attacker can no longer get to me.  I will put him in the jail in my head, to rot and deteriorate, the skin falling off his bones, and the brain leaking out of his ears.  He is dead.

So, I moved on, forgave myself for my part in it all, and Woody Harrelson has not looked the same to me since.   Although True Detective is still on my DVR, with Paul Autard by my side, I now have power over it.

New Image

Because it is not my fault.  And it is not about who eventually loved me enough, although I dare say the sommelier is an amazing man who is worthy of the utmost love.  It is about loving myself enough to know, that I am worth it.

Love well. Be well. Drink well.  Cheers.


enjoying the icepocalypse: thoughts on smoke, BBQ, and Gigondas.

28 Jan

The best thing about our transitory home outside of Houston is definitely the brick fireplace.  During these most recent icepocalypse episodes, we have kept a consistent blaze fueled with natural woods of Texas, and when we watched as the last log was kindling, we even resorted to burning the mesquite and oak chips meant for the barbeque.  There is something about the smell of smoke.  It drives me crazy.  Not like my brain is exploding, or my eyes are burning…. but more like my loins are on fire, I want to strip your clothes off crazy.

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In the summertime, like a true Texan, the sommelier arises before dawn to start the smoker; it does not hurt that his first job was in a Mikeska’s kitchen, or that he blends his own rub, and serves his own sauce.  To make things even more ridiculous, no BBQ meal is complete in our household without the sommelier’s famous garlic country potatoes.  They have like three sticks of butter.  At least.  Oh, and then ranch beans.  It’s all  sooo good.  One thing’s for sure: we are some spoiled ladies up in this house.

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Here is the thing… when the sommelier is finished smoking meats all day, covered in thick reams of smoldering aromas, sweaty with time-calculating perspiration and ash… I want to lock him in a room with me.  Very French-like.  Except we always have company, so I just save his t-shirt to sniff later. Kind of creepy, yes, but we are married so I figure it is pretty respectable.

Now it is mid-winter, in the aftermath of a second Houston icepocalypse, and we are holed up indoors, with an everlasting inferno radiating into our living room.  The woody smells remind me of warmer times, while my palette yearns for a complementary vintage, filled with black raspberry and spice, silky tannins, and a somewhat smoky nose.  With a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah, the Southern Rhone’s Gigondas meets this need perfectly.  In age, these wines gain more notes of forest floor, tobacco, meats, and truffle.  When young, these wines are fruity, bright, hot, and hard on the mouth.  It has been suggested to drink Gigondas that is at least four to six years old to fully enjoy the experience, even waiting up to eight or ten years if you are sure of the quality of vintner.

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The 2010 Domaine La Roubine Gigondas falls right into the middle, with immediate notes of dark fruit; when decanted,  the rustic aromas flow freely, with sleek tannins and patches of smoke.  Perfect for our roaring fire.   And French.  While this particular wine is not available in stores, there are several different labels on hand at Specs, Richards, and Houston Wine Merchant.  (Read:  You’ll most likely have to go to a wine store for this varietal.)  Regardless of how you decide to spend your weathered days, do them well, and with smoky fervor.


Eat Well. Drink Well.  Cheers.


rickey rhymes: short verses of self realization

25 Jan

my eyes are tired of searching,

my heart is drained of emotion,

my brain is exhausted with justifications.







hello, me.





Something different to mix things up…. speaking of….

Apparently I did not know I liked “The Rickey,” but my passion for bourbon, lemon squeeze, and soda water shows no mercy.  Evidently, this drink inclination has been occurring since the 1880s. Made famous by a Washington DC bartender in collaboration with Democrats.   Wowza.  I did not realize I was such a trendsetter.  Gotta love that bourbon.

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Smooth, strong, and sparkly.  Sounds like me.  Well, it’s my favorite.  For now, anyways.


feeling bubbly: visiting Bouzy with Andre Clouet

24 Dec

Nothing screams with more vibrancy during the Holiday season than my yearning for bubbles.  The sommelier will call out from the kitchen, “well what are you in the mood for?” and I nearly fall out of my chair with a sparkly response of “bubbles.”

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At our house, this almost always means Champagne, and since the sommelier has taken on this new role with Classified Wines over the past year, admittedly, we have been quite spoiled.  Time and time again, we have confessed to our love for André Clouet, a small family based producer based out of the Grand Cru village of Bouzy. This village (pronounced “Boozy”) is especially known for still red wine made from Pinot Noir, partially due to the warmer conditions, and therefore, riper grapes. While most popular Champagnes are from the same domaine region of Reims, Bouzy stands out because of the quality of the Pinot Noir produced.

André Clouet’s 20 acres of vineyards lie on the central slopes of Bouzy and Ambonnay, all Grand Cru sites in the Montagne de Reims.  The family is known for fastidiousness, and dates back to the 17th century, where the original ancestor who lived in the village house was a printer to Louis XV’s royal Court at Versailles.  In 1911, the great-grandfather of Jean-Francois Clouet created an elaborate ancien regime label as homage to the printer, which was even once painted by Edouard Manet. This label now appears on the Andre Clouet 1911.

photo (9)(picture taken by the sommelier April 2013.  pictured: Jean-Francois Clouet.)

There are three Clouet Champagnes that are recommended here, although there are a few more available through retail.  At any one time, you can say that all of them are my favorite.  Because they all are.

André Clouet Grand Cru Rose NV.  Mild salmon in color, with aromas of raspberries and strawberries, and mingled with drier, toasty complexity. Blended with 8% still Bouzy Rouge.  Excellent for pairing with all kinds of foods, especially charcuterie, shellfish, or cheeses.  Retails for $50.  (locally found at Specs)

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André Clouet Grand Reserve Brut NV.  100% Grand Cru estate-bottled Bouzy Pinot Noir aged six years, with aromas of strawberry and flavors of wheat and stone.   A touch of cream on the palate to complete the finish.  Pairs well with oysters, creamy pastas, poultry, and rich seafood.  Retails for $40.  (locally found at Specs)

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André Clouet 1911.  This Champagne reads like a novel.  Firstly, it is all also 100% Pinot Noir.  What makes this bottle so very special, however, is that it is a blend of the Clouet’s ten best lieux-dits in Bouzy, and normally from three consecutive vintages, generally half from the most recent year, and a quarter each from the preceding two.  In addition, the bottles are always hand riddled; this means someone literally turns the bottles every few days.  For the most recent release of Clouet 1911, disgorged in 2012, the Grand Cru Cuvee is a Pinot Noir blend of 1995 (25%), 1996 (50%), and 1997 (25%).  The color is gold, and the aromas are blossomy, with hints of honeysuckle and peach.  Drinks marvelously with raw oysters or steamed shellfish.  The climax? Clouet only blends 1,911 bottles per production, so if you see it on a menu or shelf, grab it. It will soon be gone.

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The Holidays are notorious for the clinking of glasses, sharing of joys, and wishing of cheer.  You might as well do it with a good glass of Champagne.  Cheers from our family to yours.  May you ring in the New Year with plenty of vibrant sparkle.

Be well. Live well. Drink well.

sometimes you just need a beer: finding joy in doing it all.

6 Dec

Ever have one of those days?  Where you wake so early that your stomach hurts? And you can’t concentrate because your mind is starved for rest, and love, and peace? And you feel like crying. And yelling.  And your shoulders are tight.  And….it’s only 10am?

Today was one of those days.  Again.  I seem to be having a lot of them lately.

There are so many responsibilities we take on as working mothers.  I won’t lie.  I wake up scrupulously early sometimes just so I can check email, peruse my updated territory performance data, and create my daily task list.  Once Rhea is up and about, it’s all milk, toast with butter and jam, and Daniel Tiger on DVR.  On our way to school, we talk about our day, if mommy or daddy is picking her up, and the colors of the leaves.  During the past few weeks the windows have been down while the words “orange”, “red”, and “yellow” have floated towards the front seat.


Once we arrive, I take her hand and lead her to her classroom to leave her for the day; and sometimes for the night; and sometimes, but rarely, for the week.

From nine to five I work extremely hard, and smart.  There are challenges that present themselves on a daily basis, and while I have no qualms handling them, mostly I overanalyze and overthink situations. Well, we all have short comings. Even so, I am very successful in my career.

Here’s the thing, though.  I find joy in showing my daughter that she can be anything that she wants to be.  She can be an executive, a chef, a writer, a wife, and a mother.  She can have it all.  She deserves it all.  If she even wants it all; because maybe she makes the decision to choose just one.  Or none at all.  And we will love her no matter what.  Because that is what parents do. And it is her choice to make.


When I pick Rhea up from school the radio turns from NPR to Toddler Tunes.  And once again, our conversations revolve around lunch items, art projects, books, and what we are cooking for dinner that night.  We usually come home to frenzied dogs and a house that is in desperate need of a maid.  Repeat: I really need a maid.

Sometimes balancing it all gets tremendously heavy; my shoulders ache with the weight of my world.  Most of the time, a glass of wine will relax my mind and heart and set my dreams into motion.

But tonight, I want a beer; because sometimes you just need a change.  So, I chose Austin’s own Adelbert’s Brewery to quench my thirst.  As far as my knowledge of foams and yeast and nuances of hops reside, I am beyond novice.  I am no cicerone.  But, what I do recognize is that I like a saison style beer, so I grab the Philosophizer at just under $10.  It’s clean and somewhat light, with citrus notes.  And it’s from Texas, so it’s local.  A perfect end to my day.  A break from the normal.


Ahhh.  Just what the doctor ordered.  I can do it all.  again…  tomorrow.  And you know what?  It is worth every minute.  Because Rhea will know that everything is possible.  Because I have loved her enough to show her.

Cheers, y’all.

creating a cuvee cranberry sauce with Gloria Ferrer.

24 Nov

There are very few dishes that I am permitted to make this Thanksgiving due to the sommelier’s presence at home instead of in a busy restaurant.  Trust me, I am grateful for the break. (Plus, he’s a much better cook than I am!)  However, part of me still longs for the menu planning, the search for gorgeous new recipes, trends, and act of bringing beautiful foods to a harvest table.  Because cranberry sauce is a simple recipe that can be made days ahead, I grabbed the opportunity to add a new twist to our old favorite.  I know I am not one to share recipes, but since this one involves wine… and drinking wine… then why not?

If you have not had the occasion to make your own cranberry sauce before, you will find that homemade is more tart, less sweet, and more colorful that jelled canned sauce.  Gorgeous shades of red pop out from the bowl, screaming with life and vitality;  a beautiful addition to your Thanksgiving table.

This year, we are feeding ten adults and four children, so I am planning on twelve servings.  For this recipe, you will need a bottle of Brut Champagne or Sparkling Wine, an orange, sugar, vanilla, and cranberries.


Because you only use a few cups of bubbly, I wanted to also choose a wine that I would also imbibe. Therefore, after a few minutes scanning grocery store shelves, I decided on Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut Sparkling Cuvee.  The winery sits in the Carneros Valley, just south of Sonoma and best known for Pinot Noir, and has been planting there since 1985. Gloria Ferrer was the first sparkling house in Carneros, as well as the first vineyard to plant Champagne clones.   For those who did not know, Champagne or sparkling wine can be made from a few different varietals:  Pinot Noir,  Chardonnay, or Pinot Meunier.  A Cuvee is a sparkling or Champagne that is made from a blend of these grapes, or even from different harvest years.


Made from primarily Pinot Noir, with a little Chardonnay, this Cuvee sings with aromas of pear, vanilla, and raspberry, while the flavor of toast balances out a creamy finish.  A gorgeous find at $16, and a notable sauce to add to your sauce.  Perfect on its own or with toasted bread and pate, cheese, and charcuterie.


To start, add two cups of sparkling and two cups of sugar to a saucepan on medium high until the sugar dissolves.  Set to simmer.  In a separate mixing bowl, add 24 ounces washed cranberries, two teaspoons of vanilla, one tablespoon of orange zest, and one tablespoon juice of squeezed orange.  Once mixed,  add cranberry mixture to simmering sparkling.


Allow cranberries to pop and sauce to thicken, while stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Refrigerate for up to five days.  Freeze for up to two months.

There are other versions of cranberry sauce we have made with orange liqueur, marnier, or just plain with orange juice, however, I like this version made with sparkling wine the best.  The toast and vanilla flavors of the Cuvee blend beautifully with the zesty cranberry to create a tart, slightly sweet, and popping addition to your Thanksgiving table.   Something else to be grateful for.   Cheers.




Sparkling Cranberry Sauce


2 cups sugar

2 cups Brut Champagne or Sparkling Wine

24 ounces cranberries

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 tablespoon orange zest

1 tablespoon juice from squeezed orange


Add sugar and sparkling wine to saucepan, set to medium high.   Once sugar dissolves, set to simmer.  In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients, making sure cranberries are well coated.   Add cranberry mixture to saucepan.  Allow berries to pop and sauce to thicken, stirring occasionally.   Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Refrigerate up to five days before serving.  Freeze for up to two months.

giving thanks: five wines you should try on your holiday table

10 Nov

Giving Thanks.  It’s that time of year again.  Time to start planning Holiday menus, inviting friends and relatives, dream of stuffing, take stock, make stock, (no, wait!) take stock!, buy turkey, cranberries, stinky cheese, and of course… prepare your holiday table for differentiating wine palates.  Catering to everyone isn’t easy.  Trust me.

The last time the sommelier and I hosted Thanksgiving, we created a full-blown menu complete with bacon and corn gougeres, celery root potato bisque, cremini mushroom stuffing, and apple and raisin crumble. The food was really the highlight.  We really didn’t plan for the wine, just served a sparkling, a few Italian reds, and a dessert specialty.  At the time, my knight in cork armor was still running the wine program for Andrew Weissman, so needless to say, was not even home to enjoy the majority of our meal.  The Holidays were always the busiest time of year.

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This Thanksgiving we are so thankful for our many blessings.  The sommelier has been on a new adventure over the past year, and has spent countless hours under the tutelage of the owner of Classified Wines, as to gain an insight and love into the importing industry.  Of course, the Holidays are once again the busiest time of the year; the sommelier is just physically home for dinner.  As such, we have a different love for our old friend, the fermented grape juice hiding in dark smooth bottles, awaiting pours into our crystal glasses. And while we may be toasting to a great many wines, we recommend just a few for your table.

Must have Appetizer Pairing: Zonin Prosecco ($12 Specs, HEB, Kroger)

If you are craving bubbly, but don’t want to break the bank with Champagne, then a Prosecco may be for you. Try not to be confused with the sweet Asti that the Italians are known for; Prosecco is much drier, with a second fermentation in stainless steel tanks, so it is generally lighter with a crisper air.  Zonin Prosecco will pair well with gougeres, country ham deviled eggs, an array of soups, bisques, and of course, a variety of cheeses.  In all actuality, it pairs well with just about anything, so sip to your heart’s desire.


Main Course Pairings


Kenefick Ranch Sauvignon Blanc ($21 Specs)

With a winery founded by a Mayo neurosurgeon and a winemaker formerly of Duckhorn, this small family operation holds the right prescription for success.  Just 125 acres in Calistoga, only 10% of production goes to Kenefick Ranch, while the rest is outsourced to bigger names such as Etude, Plumpjack, and Caymus.  This Sauvignon Blanc is very tropical, with notes of pineapple, tangerine, and peach; a lush cream mouthfeel makes up the finish, which is longer than most whites.  Pairs well with classic brined turkey and apricot stuffing.

 (photo credit Kenefick Ranch)

Bodegas Shaya Verdejo ($13 Specs, HEB, Kroger)

There are many reasons why this particular wine is perfect for Thanksgiving, the first and most important being the notes of fig, citrus, and anise, which flavor the season.  Second, the vines that source the wine are at least 75 years old, and are a joint venture from a very well-respected family of Spain, Juan Gil, so quality is at the forefront of production. (Verdejo is a sherry like white wine that hails from Spain.)  Third, Shaya’s  finish is creamy with hints of honey. (It doesn’t hurt that it’s only $13, either!) Pairs well with candied yams, sweet carrots, or bourbon-glazed turkey.

(photo credit OroWines)



Michel-Schlumberger La Cime Cabernet Sauvignon ($20 Specs)

The vines hail from Switzerland, where the first founder, Michel, recognized the quality of Northern California soils and climate of the Dry Creek Valley.  The winemaking style is suited more towards Alsace, France, like the second founder of the label, Schlumberger.  La Cime Cabernet is more like classic Bordeaux, a blend of Malbec and Petit Verdot, with black currant, plum, and aromas of rich spice.  Open up for at least thirty minutes or decant before drinking.  Pairs well with andouille and cornbread stuffing, cranberry cocktail sauce, or spice rubbed turkey. 

12200_MSW-DCCS-09-F @M1F11589

           (photo credit Michel-Schlumberger)

Juan Gil Monastrell ($14 Specs, HEB, Kroger)

For those guests who insist on organically grown, Juan Gil has answered the call. Monastrell is also known as Mourvedre, and is grown in regions of France,  Spain, California, and Washington State.  Juan Gil is a small family operation in Spain, which produces different varieties of wines.  The Monastrell has aromas of black raspberry and cherry, with dark berry flavors.   A bit of a peppery nose, this varietal adds excitement to a boring meal.  A tangy finish with spicy notes, this wine also pairs well with cranberry stuffing or orange spice glazed turkey. 

(photo credit Gil Family Estates)

Dessert Wines:

A note about dessert… generally by the last course everyone has found their favorite wine and is grabbing onto their glass for dear life.  Wine snob exceptions notwithstanding ( and sommeliers alike), there are some suggestions to staying local, albeit dangerously sweet.  Messina Hof has some large varieties of dessert wines, including not only Riesling, but ruby ports, tawny ports, and sherry.   For the more refined palate, however, you might want to stick to a classic Brandy.

(photo credit Wine Enthusiast)

Giving Thanks.  Being Thankful can be its own blessing in disguise.  Learning to be Thankful on a more consistent basis is a trait I have yet to master.  Just think of what our lives would be like if we actually expressed gratitude every day of the year?  Probably ahhhmazing.

Cheers to you and yours this Thanksgiving.


Note:  This was a first collaborative effort between the sommelier and myself.  Enjoy. 


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