Nov 222016


Cabernet Grill Experience: Tasso Chicken and McPherson White Wine Trio

If I wasn’t so familiar with Chef Ross Burtwell’s Cabernet Grill Restaurant at the compound called Cotton Gin Village on the south side of Fredericksburg, I likely wouldn’t expect the modern culinary treasures it holds. While his restaurant is part and parcel of the quaint log cabin village, its cuisine is definitely finer fare. It’s a place where creative gourmet plates with upscale Texan cuisine (sometimes even with a Cajun kick). It’s also accompanied by (what I feel safe to say is) the best selection of Texas wines anywhere in the whole dang Galaxy.

On a recent stay in Fredericksburg, I was drawn to Chef Burtwell’s restaurant by one of Chef Burtwell’s Twitter postings:

@CabernetGrill: Our featrd. wine flight continues throughout Nov. Taste 3 @mcphersoncellar white wines & let us know which one is your favorite! #txwine.

Like many in Texas, I’ve been a long time fan of winemaker Kim McPherson and his Texas high plains-based McPherson Cellars wines from his winery in Lubbock. What locked me into making a dinner reservations was the photo that accompanied the Twitter post. It showed a flight of three McPherson single varietal white wines: Albariño, Piquepoul Blanc and Viognier. After that, I immediately thought how well they would pair with my single favorite item on Chef Burtwell’s dinner menu: Tasso Chicken with crimini mushrooms and roasted garlic serrano Béarnaise sauce.

When I asked Chef Burtwell how he came by the McPherson wine selections, he responded, “I need to bring our operations manager and wine director Elizabeth Rodriguez into this conversation. She is the one who sets up the monthly wine flights.” Ms Rodriguez has worked with Chef Burtwell for more than 10 years and they both search long and hard to find the best values in Texas wines for Cabernet Grill patrons.


Luis Alvarez  and Elizabeth Rodriguez at Cabernet Grill

When my wife and I settled into our table, we order the special trio of McPherson white wines. Our server for the evening was Luis Alvarez. As we tasted, Elizabeth stopped by to discuss her wine selections. We went through her notes on the dominant characteristics of each wine:

  • McPherson Cellars Albariño 2015 – flavors of peach, mango and pear (I even picked up a hint of white flowers in the 2015 not previously noted in the 2014).
  • McPherson Cellars Piquepoul Blanc 2015 – light in body and crisp acidity on the palate carrying citrus aromas and flavors.
  • McPherson Cellars Viognier 2015 – Floral aromas of honeysuckle and orange blossom precede flavors of white peach.


From my conversations with Elizabeth and Luis, it was obvious that both were very happy to have had a recent opportunity to take a trip to Lubbock where they had a tasting with winemaker Kim McPherson and other growers and winemakers in the region. Elizabeth and Luis were both impressed with Kim’s wines and his willingness to help other winemakers and wineries around the state to make the best wines they can. It was in Lubbock where Elizabeth decided to latch on to this magnificent Texas wine trio – McPherson Cellars Albariño, Piquepoul Blanc and Viognier.

More about Chef Burtwell’s Tasso Chicken creation…

I commented to Elizabeth that no matter how hard I try to do otherwise, I always seem to order Chef Burtwell’s Tasso Chicken. I’m always surprised by how good it is. At no other restaurant I’ve been to, anywhere in the world, have I picked a white-meat chicken dish to be my absolute favorite thing on the menu. Why?

Well, perhaps it’s the marinade composed of garlic, olive oil, sherry and thyme. Or, maybe it’s the flavor and aroma imparted by the mesquite grilling or the sautéed crimini mushrooms or the incredible roasted garlic serrano Béarnaise sauce (To die for!). Most likely, It’s all of these things compiled into this flavor-packed dish.

During dinner, Elizabeth came back with a copy of Chef Burtwell’s cookbook (Texas Hill Country Cuisine: Flavors from the Cabernet Grill Texas Wine Country Restaurant. Opening it to page 151, she showed me the recipe for Tasso Chicken! I admitted that I had a copy of this cookbook, but never thought to see if the recipe for my favorite Tasso Chicken was in it. Then, Elizabeth said, “See, now you can make Tasso Chicken for yourself and when you come back to the Cabernet Grill, you can order something different.”


Chef Ross Burtwell’s Cookbook

When I mentioned this to Chef Burtwell, he said, “Glad to hear you found the recipe for the Tasso Chicken in my cookbook. We will need to compare notes after you try it at home to see if I got the recipe correct for home use!”

I guess now I’m on the spot, but gladly.

You too can make Chef Burtwell’s Tasso Chicken and over a hundred other of his top recipes. Click here to order. Or, simply stop by the restaurant on your next trip to Fredericksburg, Texas, where you can check out the great all Texas wine list, as well.

Cabernet Grill at Cotton Gin Village: Upscale Restaurant and B&B featuring cozy 19th-century log cabins with porches, fireplaces, Koi pond with waterfall (complete with the sounds of splashing water on slab limestone) & free WiFi.

Address: 2805 S State Hwy 16, Fredericksburg, TX 78624


 Posted by at 6:50 pm
Jul 222016

David Keck (left) with Jon David Headrick (right) at Camerata

Loirefest: Houston’s David Keck at his Best

In the Houston wine community (those of you in wholesale and retail, the restaurant trade, and lets not forget the groupies of writers and consumers), we are blessed having David Keck MS among us. Who is he, you ask? If you don’t know, I’ll tell you.

David is our Bayou City’s operatic singer cum sommelier, Vermonter cum Houstonian who traded in his Julliard credentials for the similarly prestigious Master Sommelier diploma. He is a Monteverdi of Mourvèdre of sorts in residence now at the hip Montrose-area wine bar, Camerata at Pauli’s.

David is someone with unquestionable talent with wine and people. He has the poise of a stage actor (with looks, projecting voice and smile to boot) who offers us his lust for the wines of the world and the people that make and sell them with the underlying message “Better tasting through knowledge”. From personal experience, he encourages people at all levels of “this community” to advance their wine knowledge and expand their tasting horizons, even if they, at times, do so begrudgingly.

Early in my many stops to Camerata, I realized something and I posted it on their Facebook page, an honest and heartfelt comment: “Find the quaff you’ve been looking for, especially if you didn’t know what you wanted.” Largely through David’s efforts, Camerata is the go-to-place to experience the breadth of the wine world in a relaxing yet often frenetic setting… literally not knowing what might be poured into your glass next. It is a place where you can learn the secrets of wine and experience their pleasures, too.


His most recent community opportunities have come during the current month’s 2nd annual “Loirefest”. It is a festival of wines Loire, created by Keck that has gone statewide. What better way to beat the heavy Texas heat than with the clear, crisp pop and refreshing zip on the palate gained from the wines of Loire. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the world’s great pairings. Loirefest is a crusade of wines (and not the usual suspects) usually centered on Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, the principal grapes from this pastoral wine region along France’s longest river – the Loire.


Peter Wasserman – Fine wine purveyor & self-appointed Head of Antimarketing and Sales Preventions

This year again, David’s current home base at Camerata has been Houston’s ground zero for savoring the wines of Loire: some old (1989) and some new (2015). First, there was a 4th of July tasting with Peter Wasserman whose cool crisp imported wines revived Houstonians from their heat-induced stupor. Earlier this week, Jon David Headrick provided a very personal tasting in which he shared experiences at wineries in the Loire Valley intermingled with tales of the regions ancient geology.

Please stop a second to understand why David does these events

In his own Facebook words, David says, “I try to host as many events with the Houston Sommelier Association (HSA) or at Camerata at Paulie’s with what I would consider the most influential winemakers, importers, and wine professionals in the world.”

While presenting these luminaries to his friends and associates, he also hosted a contingent from his adopted state, a Texas winery group called “Texas Fine Wine” that is an assemblage of some of the best and brightest wineries in our emerging wine region. When I was doing a story on Texas Blanc Du Bois for Edible Houston, David without hesitation offered up the assembled palates of his HSA group so they could try wines from a grape that while making wonderful wines in Texas is literally not on any wine map any of these people had seen before. What I’m saying is, there is nothing snooty about David when it comes to trying something new, he has an open mind.

From the perspective of a wine industry sideline watcher, I see a day when David Keck will get a call from either the east or the west coast. It will be followed by an offer that he just will not be able to refuse. It will take him away from the many friends and associates he has made in Houston.

My reason for doing this blog today is to mainly to acknowledge David’s efforts and to say thanks hopefully well before we have to say goodbye. I’m also hoping that when that day comes, David leaves a trail of many friends and associates in his wake with which he connected that caught the “bug” from David. The bug I’m talking about is the quest for knowledge and his desire to improve the skills of people at all levels around him that make up the industry that he loves so much.


— — — — —

For those that want to experience the fun-filled educational last-light of this year’s Loirefest, stop by at Camerata on July 26th. They will feature Zev Rovine of Zev Rovine Selections and Byron Bates of Goatboy Imports to talk and taste Natural wine in the Loire Valley. Click here for more information.

Also coming is another David Keck collaboration… “Lünch”, a pop-up food and wine experience being held at the Oxheart Restaurant venue, July 29th through August 7th. When Oxheart shutters so their team there can have a summertime break, Chef Peter Jahnke (formerly of Underbelly, Anvil and Bank to name a few), and Master Sommelier David Keck of Camerata along with Jillian Bartolome (formerly of Common Bond) will be moving into the space for this ten-day pop-up. Click here for more information and reservations. I’ll be there!

 Posted by at 2:54 pm
Sep 302015


Tomorrow’s the Night in Houston: The Periwinkle Foundation Hosts Houston’s Premier Sommelier Competition and Wine Tasting

Iron Sommelier Presented by AutoSol® 

(Photos presented are from 2014 Iron Sommelier event)

WHAT: Houston’s finest sommeliers will be put to the test for the title of Iron Sommelier in the city’s premier wine competition and fundraiser benefiting The Periwinkle Foundation. Chairmen Sean Beck and John Clutterbuck invite guests to an evening showcasing the expertise of 14 sommeliers while guests mingle and taste hand-selected wines that showcase a theme selected by the sommelier. Each competitor will be rated on wine choice, presentation, creativity and knowledge of their wine selections.


DETAILS: On hand will be Jane-Paige B. D’Huyvetter – B&B Butchers & Restaurant; Rob Brandani – Brandani’s Restaurant & Wine Bar; Lindsay Thomas – Camerata at Paulie’s; Freddy Opperman – Carrabba’s Kirby; Nathan Smith – Dolce Vita; Sam Governale – Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar; Evan Turner – Helen Greek Food and Wine; Brittany Brown – The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa; Taylor Mundy – Hunky Dory & Bernadine’s (Treadsack Restaurant Group); Samantha Porter – Oporto Fooding House, Oporto Wine Cafe, and Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen; James Watkins – Pappas Bros. Steakhouse; Whitney Seng – River Oaks Country Club; Angie Chang – Sonoma Wine Bar & Restaurant; and Adele Corrigan – 13 Celsius Wine Bar


MORE DETAILS: An Auction, Wine Pull, Iron Sommelier Wine Case and Making A Mark® Children’s Art Sale will round out the evening of vino, entertainment and food. A special thank you to Periwinkle supporters and The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa.

WHERE: Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa, 111 North Post Oak Lane, Houston, TX 77024

WHEN: Iron Sommelier 2015 Presented by AutoSol® – October 1, 2015 at 6 p.m.

TICKETS: $150 ($175 day of event) for individual tickets  Check for availability or confirm at:


 Posted by at 10:38 am
Jun 302015

Messina Hof Sneak Peek – Awards, Events & Wines

Sneak Peek of Messina Hof Winery 2015 at Vic & Anthony’s

Paul Mitchell Bonarrigo, the seventh generation winemaker in the Bonarrigo family, addressed the assemblage at Vic & Anthony’s Steak House in Houston to taste and savor the wines from Messina Hof Winery and Resort. With Paul Mitchell were his family: father and mother, Paul and Merrill, who started their family winery in Bryan, TX, in the 1970s, and his wife Karen.

During a break in the tasting, Paul Mitchell highlighted a few of Messina Hof’s long list of accomplishments, including:

  • Most awarded winery in Texas with over 200 competition medals in just the past three years and over 150 gold medal wining wines.
  • From 1983 to 2015, the annual case production of Messina Hof Winery increased from 550 to over 70,000 cases.
  • Being the fourth modern era winery established in Texas, Messina Hof now has three locations including the Messina Hof Winery and Resort (Bryan), Messina Hof Hill Country (Fredericksburg) and Messina Hof Grapevine.

Selection of Messina Hof Award Winning Wines

He said, “During the last few years, there has been a lot of investments in Texas vineyards that have accumulated more than 2000 new acres of vines. Many growers on the high plains are converting from cotton to grapes. I want to specifically acknowledge Bill and Gail Day (Houston area residents) who planted their Buena Suerte Vineyards near Lubbock. Their vineyard has provided the Viognier, Tempranillo and Sangiovese that are in the wines you enjoying tonight.” Continue reading »

 Posted by at 2:24 pm
Apr 142015


Texans Sure Do Like Their Bubbles: Domaine Carneros Provides

When Domaine Carneros winemaker Eileen Crane and I met for lunch last week for lunch at Houston’s RDG Bar Annie, nearly the first thing that came up in conversation was the fact that the second largest Domaine Carneros wine club was the one right here in Texas. The largest of their wine clubs was the one back on its home California turf: the winery’s 138-acre estate parcel in the heart of the cool Carneros region of Napa Valley, California.

The Taittinger family behind the world-famous Taittinger Champagne founded Domaine Carneros in California after a search for a worthy U.S. counterpart in the 1970-80s. In 1987, the location of the estate was selected followed in short order by the appointment of Eileen Crane to oversee the development of the winery and vineyards. She has garnered accolades for her winemaking skills. She is still today, the estate’s only winemaker from the inception of its operations.


Domaine Carneros Winemaker Eileen Crane

International wine reviewer, investment advisor and highly credited Houston oenophile Denman Moody also attended our Bar Annie lunch. As we tasted through three of Eileen’s sparkling wines (Brut, non-vintage Rose’, and Le Rêve) Denman pounded question after question about dosage, release date, alcohol content and price point. I took a more laid back approach trying to better absorb why a lady of Eileen’s winemaking stature was doing a tour through Texas, albeit well-timed to get an advance on our soon to be hot season.

The Domaine Carneros sparkling wines were stellar:

2010 Domaine Carneros Estate Brut – Rich, substantial mouth feel, essence of roasted almonds and hazelnuts melded with lemon citrus and brioche. A value priced sparkling wine at about $30. This one get’s my acknowledgement of “Best Buy” in the sparkling wine category.

Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé NV – A Lively combo of raspberry, ripe stone fruit and citrus with underlying mineral notes. A worthy drink with a wondrous color and sparkle at $38.

Domaine Carneros Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs – A traditional tête de cuvee made from the chateau’s estate Chardonnay playing with yellow delicious apples, young ground ginger, brioche and pleasingly tart lemon citrus. A worthy and classic sparkling cuvée for enjoyment at the moment of a special encounter at $108.

I have to admit that I initially missed Eileen’s point about her Texas customers until later in our conversation when she reiterated the significance of the ardent following Domaine Carneros has in Texas. But, it hit home to me when she said, “Texans sure do like their bubbles”. You know something? It was over a decade ago, long before I met Eileen, when I realized precisely the same thing.

While doing research on wine drinking in Texas, I came across one very old receipt for a purchase of French Champagne by early Texas impresario, statesman and revolutionary Lorenzo de Zavala from May 18, 1831 (France – Île-de-France – Paris). Those were the days on the Texas frontier when you really had to plan ahead for a good bottle of bubbly (and hope for the best). Later, I found further evidence for the Texas love of bubbles in numerous accounts of Texans’ Champagne toasts on occasions of New Years, baby births and corporate promotions; also to mention launching of ships and celebrations of our Texas wildcatting successes, too. In their day, Texans of high society have reportedly been seen in some of the finest restaurants in the State drinking Champagne (with a certain Texas flourish, no doubt)  from their lady fairs’ high-heeled slippers.

It is obvious that Eileen and her colleagues at Domaine Carneros know what Texan’s like and that Texans know their favored brands. She said, “They like brands like our that always denote quality, value and that have been consistently in the Texas marketplace for many years.”

As we received our lunch offerings, Eileen, Denman and I moved forward with a tasting to two of Eileen’s Domaine Carneros Pinot Noirs:

2012 Domaine Carneros Estate Pinot Noir – A blend of eleven unique clones of Pinot Noir, all from the Chateau’s estate vineyard. Near the cool north end of San Francisco Bay with ethereal smoky notes overlaid onto nuances of black raspberry and mineral rich soil. Plays quite well at this value price of around $36 (Just try to beat this for price and quality points).

2012 Domaine Carneros The Famous Gate – A blend of four select, estate-grown Pinot Noir clones; an artisanally-made wine with wonderful color and aromatic extraction. A sophisticated mélange of ripe red and black fruit, minerals with a soft and silky finish.


Chateau at Domaine Carneros

As we sipped, Eileen related a story highlighting Domains Carneros’s special relationship with Texans. She said, “Many years ago, one of our good sparkling wine customers in Texas, a guy named Bill in Dallas I as I recall. He called the chateau and asked why we didn’t make a sparkling Rosé. Well, I decided to take Bill’s lead and made a limited release; 100 cases or so. We ended up with our telemarketers getting an instant demand for the product in Texas even before we could ship this new wine into Texas. Shortly thereafter, we started to see Texans showing up at the chateau in California in their SUVs. They were coming to pick up our Brut Rosé and drive it back to enjoy in Texas.”

Eileen Crane thank you for your time for conversation and the opportunity to enjoy your wines over a very interesting and enjoyable lunch. Also, thanks for your chateau’s commitment to Texas wine consumers and for including Houston in your travel plans.

 Posted by at 10:32 am
Jan 222015

Crisped Kitchen Pride Portabella Mushroom

Sneak Peeks: “Texas By The Book” Dinner Offerings from Chef Ross Burtwell

Last week I posted an announcement for the upcoming Friday February 27th Six-Course Texas Wine Dinner and book signing event with Chef Ross Burtwell, Chef Terry Thompson Anderson and me. Click here for details. Come to this event and start your Texas Hill Country weekend off right!

Well, Chef Burtwell has been in his Cabernet Grill kitchen in Fredericksburg “fine-tuning” the recipes for the event. Shown above is the Crisped Kitchen Pride Portabella Mushroom with Red Pepper Aioli and Pico de Gallo. This preparation has it all: savory, crunchy and spicy. I have paired this dish with Texas Hills Vineyard Sangiovese that will be presented by winery owner and winemaker Gary Gilstrap.

Shown below is Chef Ross’s rendition of Oyster Shrimphooley “Road House Style”…Fresh pecan-smoked Gulf oysters on the half shell topped with a mélange of Shrimp, garlic, butter and Parmesan. I can just about smell the briny, cheesy aromas from here. This dish is in the lead off position for our dinner event.  I have paired it will Duchman Family Winery Vermentino. It will be presented by winemaker Dave Reilly.


Oyster Shrimphooley

Included in the event price, attendees receive a set of three author-autographed books:

Tickets and further information are available from Cabernet Grill. Click here for more details.

 Posted by at 9:51 am
Jun 042014

David Cole – WST, Julie Kuhlken – Pedernales Cellars, Jennifer Beckman – Bending Branch Winery, Ed Dent – WST

WST Greater Houston Chapter Presents Some Mighty Fine, ‘Texas Fine Wine” at Reef

Guest Blog by Ed Dent, The Wine Society of Texas Greater Houston Chapter

The May 31st Greater Houston Chapter of The Wine Society of Texas food and wine event at REEF Restaurant featuring Texas Fine Wines in Houston for the first time was a huge success. The event was sold out by Thursday, with a waiting list. The wines served were Duchman Winery Vermentino, Brennan Vineyards Viognier, Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo and Bending Branch Winery Tannat. Some attendees were treated to Bending Branch’s new Tannat Port. Representing the wineries at this event were Duchman Winery owner Stan Duchman, Julie Kuhlken co-owner of Pedernales Cellars, and Jennifer Beckman,  Sommelier and Director of Marketing at Bending Branch Winery.


Herbert Mitchell, John Adams and Helena Cheng (WST), Dr. Stan Duchman – Duchman Winery

Each winery representative spoke about their wines and winery. There was a question and answer period which included such questions as the future of the Texas wine industry and why was there not enough storage capacity so more wine can be made in the good years and held for the leaner years. Stan Duchman expressed the importance of asking for Texas Wines at your favorite restaurants. Jennifer Beckman indicated that Texas wineries were doing some great things and were winning awards both nationally and internationally. Julie commented how wonderful it was to see how engaged the members of the Texas Wine Society were with Texas wine.

At the end of the evening, a raffle was held for the Wine Society of Texas’s scholarship fund. The wines which were raffled was 2012 GSM from Pedernales Cellars, 2012 Tempranillo from Brennan, 2011 Vermintino from Duchman, and Bending Branch’s 2011 Tannat as well as their sold out Tannat Port.


Greg Frisby, JoAnn Miller, Karie Gulley, Norine Stein and Jan Frisby – WST members

As an added bonus Dr. Duchman donated two tours and tastings for 10 people. In keeping with the spirit of the evening, Jennifer donated a tour and tasting for 10, too. To say the least, the raffle was also successful.

The members of the Greater Houston Chapter of the Wine Society of Texas thank each of the wineries, Bill Floyd, co-owner of REEF, and his staff, as well as all the attendees for such an enjoyable and successful evening.


VintageTexas – Unfortunately, I was out of town the weekend of the WST Texas Fine Wine dinner event and was unable to attend. But, I did manage to get back in time for a Texas Fine Wine trade tasting that was also held at REEF the following Monday afternoon. Under the watchful eye and guitar of Willie Nelson (see below), and appetizers provided by Chef Brian Caswell, I had a chance to taste wines from all four wineries (Duchman, Bending Branch, Brennan and Pedernales Cellars). The tasting was commendable both for its quality and breadth of grape varieties and styles. Keep in mind, Texas is just about the same size as France and France offers quite a wide range of wines and styles, too. Texas Fine Wine is truly a diverse group, too. Remember, what brings them together is the desire to promote Texas wines from the standpoint of their quality, which I am glad to say is very competitive to well-accepted brands in the marketplace.


 Posted by at 2:08 pm
Sep 222013

Come on Down for the Edible Escape in Marble Falls, Texas

Come on Down for the Edible Escape in Marble Falls on September 29th!

Edible Austin and Marble Falls Chamber of Commerce/CVB Present Edible Escape…”A Texas-style Artisanal Picnic”

On Sunday, September 29, Edible Austin and the Marble Falls Chamber of Commerce/CVB invite Central Texans to enjoy an escape from the city to discover all that Austin’s north and northwest neighbors have to offer. Edible Escape will be hosted at the beautiful Lakeside Pavilion (307 Buena Vista, Marble Falls, TX 78654) overlooking scenic Lake Marble Falls—bringing Edible Austin’s Travel Issue to life and benefiting the Helping Center of Marble Falls.

From 4 – 8 pm, this Texas-style artisanal picnic will allow guests to taste samples from regional chefs and food artisans, enjoy wine from eight featured local wineries and sip specialty cocktails mixed at the Tipsy Texan Cocktail Bar. The event will also feature a chef demonstration by Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen’s Kitchen, an artisan demonstration by Sebastien Caillabet of Celtic Seafare and a wine makers panel moderated by Dr. Russell Kane, author of The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine. During the event you can purchase copies of The Wineslinger Chronicles and Russ will available to personalize and autograph his book.

Marshall Ford Swing Band will set the mood with Texan swing-style tunes along with Go Dance offering professional dance lessons to get the crowd moving. Other activities will include a good old-fashioned cowboy boot contest sponsored by Harry’s and some creative painting fun provided by Pinot’s Palatte.

Tickets are on sale at A limited number of Early Bird tickets are $35. Prices will go up to $45 when the Early Bird tickets are all sold out.  Guests must be 21 to attend.

For guests planning to make a weekend out of it, Edible Austin has created a Guide to Marble Falls to help plan a weekend adventure. Guests may also call for room rates available at the LaQuinta Inn & Suites in Marble Falls (830-798-2020).

Chef and Artisan Tastings By: 87BakeShop, Alamo Pecan and Coffee Company, Aquasana, Celtic Seafare, Jack Allen’s Kitchen, Noon Spoon Café, Otto’s German Bistro, Saucy’s Restaurant and Catering, Spiral Horn Apiary, Turtle Restaurant and Veldhuizen Cheese

Wine Tastings By: Brennan Vineyards, Hilmy Cellars, Messina Hof Winery, Pedernales Cellars, Perissos Vineyards, Pontotoc Vineyard, Texas Hills Vineyard and Wedding Oak Winery.

Presenting Sponsor: Marble Falls Chamber of Commerce & CVB

Community Sponsor: Marble Falls Economic Development Council

Click here for more information on this event and for online ticket sales for The Edible Escape.

— — — — —

 Helping Center of Marble Falls Area, Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, providing services specifically focused on food, financial support towards utility bills, antibiotics and short-term prescriptions to permanent residents of the southern Burnet County area. Non-residents, homeless and short-term residents can also qualify to receive food, assistance with lodging or other emergency financial support. The Helping Center is not funded through any form of government assistance or grants. Assistance is made possible solely by it’s volunteers and charitable donations from individuals and community organizations.

Edible Austin is a bi-monthly publication celebrating local food and food culture in Central Texas, season by season. Edible Austin is a member of Edible Communities, winner of the James Beard Foundation 2011 Publication of the Year Award and won the 2012 Austin Chronicle’s Readers Poll award for “Best Non-Chronicle Publication.”

 Posted by at 3:47 pm
Mar 292013

Chef Olivier Ciesielski (photo via L’Olivier Restaurant)

Duchman Winery Dinner at Houston’s L’Olivier Restaurant: High Time for Texas Wines on the Gourmet Scene

A splash of Vermentino on a knee and hearty conversation around well-matched gourmet food and excellent wines made for a lovely evening this week at Houston’s French-inspired, Montrose-area L’Olivier Restaurant. But what if I told you this wasn’t a French wine affair, but rather a Texas wine dinner would you think any different of it?

Well, the consensus if those in attendance was you shouldn’t.  It was a delight. Famed Chef Olivier Ciesielski did his usual best; taking the finest of European cuisine and pairing it with the wine flair from a quite different part of the universe – the world of Texas wines.


More specifically, the wines were provided by Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood, Texas. Winery owners and fellow Houstonians Stan and Lisa Duchman attended and dined and conversed with friends, associates and the restaurant’s faithful patrons, some of which kept asking if their first wine was a Chardonnay.

OK, after hearing this, I had to take the bait and resurrected the comments I made previously in another winery’s tasting room who was pouring their Texas Viognier to another California Chardonnay drinker.

While on the restaurant’s patio during the reception, I said, “Try it, you’ll like it. It IS Texas Chardonnay! It just happens to be made from Viognier, a grape that does as well here in Texas as Chardonnay does in California.” With that, I saw a cringe from Duchman winemaker Dave Reilly. However, in a flash and with a shared wink, we both smiled knowing that this is how Texas wines will gain new followers…one California Chardonnay drinker at a time.


Winemaker, Dave Reilly  (photo via Duchman Family Winery)

During the evening, the Duchmans and Reilly provided point-by-point commentary on their wines along side Chef Olivier’s impeccable gourmet cuisine. On the patio,tThe hand-passed Hors D’Oeuvres accompanied the 2011 Duchman Viognier that showed a lighter, less aggressive style than found in many other Viogniers. Dave used one simple word to describe what he was after in this wine: “finesse”. Implicit in this statement is his working with properly harvested fruit (not over-ripe) and his personal style of providing a light hand in the winery, just as his mentor Mark Penna taught.


We settled into our seats in the dim light of the restaurant. The serious food and wine pairing began with the Chef’s English Pea Ravioli teamed with the Duchman 2011 Vermentino, pairing herbal characteristics of both while also playing on the counterpoint of fatty pancetta and the white wine’s crisp acidity. Vermentino is a grape widely planted in Sardinia and in the Liguria region of Italy, but this slow ripening white grape has found a new home in Texas. This has mainly come through the initial efforts from Duchman Winery and Texas high plains winegrowers whose efforts have gained critical acclaim at international wine competitions and even from Oz Clarke during his wine sipping trip to Texas.

Next came a new Duchman release: the 2011 Tempranillo accompanied with a sliced veal chop, potato cake and morel sauce. Each was absurdly good separately and also incredibly fine together. Borrowing from Dave’s initial one word statement, this pairing could be characterized simply by the description: finesse on the plate, in the glass and in the mouth.


I motioned to Dave to come over and have a seat beside me while I was concentrating on his Tempranillo (this being my first taste of this wine).

I said, “Dave, you know…I find that the people that pointlessly bad-mouth Texas wines the worst are Pinot Noir drinkers. They typically can’t find any Texas wines that satisfy their need for a light/medium bodied, red-fruit dominant wine with crisp acidity escorted with hints of smoke and earthy characteristics.”

I followed this with, “Dave, this Tempranillo’s got it all: red fruit, medium body, crisp acidity, and a light earthy smokiness on the finish. It could score big with that group of yet unsatisfied and potential Texas wine drinkers.”

Over hearing this, Stan Duchman said, “We had our Dolcetto (another well-awarded Duchman red wine) in a blind tasting with one of our tasting groups that was pouring high end Pinots one night. Our wine showed amazingly well, something that later surprised everybody at the tasting when the wines were revealed. Interestingly, the only person that correctly identified our wine out of the cast of high end wines featured that night was my wife Lisa.”

Finishing off the evening of fine dining were a Roquefort terrine and berry compote paired with the Duchman Canto Felice, a mildly sweet red wine. Who said, sweet red wines, can’t be serious? Nobody here. The pairing teamed up sweet red fruit characteristics on the plate and in the glass. The fifth and final course was the Chef’s strawberry soup with a personal favorite, Duchman 2009 Muscat, both of which were bright, lively, tart yet sweet.

— — — — —


Stan and Lisa Duchman (photo via Duchman Family Winery)

For more information on tours, tastings and events at the Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood TX, click here.

For menu and reservations for Chef Olivier Ciesielski’s L’Olivier Restaurant in the Montrose-area near city center Houston, click here.


 Posted by at 1:07 pm
Feb 192013


Houston Uncorking Some Good Rodeo Wines with a Few Best Bites, Too

For the past several years now, come mid-February, the best ticket in H-town has proven to be the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s, Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup and Best Bites Competition. This year’s event was equal to that billing. It was held this past Sunday evening and included thousands of wine and foodie revelers at Reliant Center assembled to sample the top wines from the 2013 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition and to taste and vote on food from some of the area’s best restaurants and caterers.

When my wife and I walked into the hall, the spread was breathtaking in its expanse. I think that I even said….”Wow!” Many of this year’s over two thousand medal-winning wines were present for sampling having been submitted for judging by 943 wineries in Texas, across the United States and around the world. If that wasn’t enough, attendees went from table-to-table tasting and voting on their favorite eats for the Best Bites Competition.

The grand magnitude of this event made it necessary for me to focus. I reviewed the program, circled my intended stops. My attention was primarily on the award-winning Texas wines from the competition. As I have already written (click here), the Texas winners included 246 medals, 178 of which were made with Texas grapes with eight double gold medals and 32 gold medals for Texas wineries. Even focusing on just the medal-winning Texas wines at Sunday’s Best Bites event, it was impossible to sample all of them while trying to make a reasonable attempt to taste a hefty sampling of the bites.


Texas stars of the evening were The Bonarrigo family (Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo and son Paul Mitchell and his wife Karen) whose Messina Hof Winery (in Bryan, TX, and an outpost tasting room and B&B in the hill country) took the 2013 Best Winery Award in the Rodeo’s international wine competition. This gave Messina Hof a grand total of eight saddles garnered over about a decade of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s annual wine competitions. This is a remarkable record for a Texas winery playing on an international stage.


After grabbing a taste of the Messina Hof Paulo Cabernet Franc, we moseyed around a bit to sample more bites.  The range of offerings included ceviche, Cajun cuisine, prime rib, beef bourguignon, BBQ, short rib sliders, smoked meats and oysters, and not to forget many cookies and pies. Winners of the best bites competition were:

Popular Choice Award

First Place – Royer’s Round Top Café

Second Place – Jonathan’s The Rub

Two-Stepping Bread/Cheese/Dessert Award

First Place – Mango Caramel from Cacao & Cardamom Chocolates

Second Place – Bread Pudding from Joyce’s Seafood and Steaks

Trailblazing Appetizer/Entrée Award

First Place – Barbecue Short Ribs from Killen’s BBB

Second Place – Mini Pork Crispy Tacos from Molina’s Cantina

Third Place – Short Rib Sliders with Shaved Ham and Debris from Frank’s Americana Revival

Showmanship Award

Catering to Your Tastebuds

Rookie Award

Mango Caramel from Cacao & Cardamom Chocolates

Tasty Traditions Award

Bread Pudding from Joyce’s Seafood and Steaks

Another Texas star in the 2013 Rodeo wine competition was the hill country’s Pedernales Cellars for their 2012 Viognier (the Best Texas Wine judged in the Rodeo wine competition). Equally impressive was the double gold awarded to Range Rider (a multi-vintage blend of Tempranillo, Syrah and Cabernet from 2008 and 2009 harvests) made by Red Caboose Winery in Meridian, TX. Range Rider has been a favorite of mine since I stopped by there last summer.

These were two of my many stops. Even with that, I unfortunately missed an opportunity to taste wines from Perissos Vineyards near Burnet, TX, another of my favorites. I hear that they poured a great sampling of their Syrah, Petite, Viognier and Roussanne.

I also had a chance met up with Rick Nabor pouring his Flat Creek Estate Pinot Blanc with his typical flair.


The most interesting observation of the evening was comparing the wine offerings from Texas wineries with those of the large contingent of west coast American wineries (from California, Oregon and Washington) and those from international wineries. Most of the wines poured from California, Oregon and Washington were the standard set: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. As mentioned above, the Texas offerings were lacking in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These are cool weather grapes that are very hard to grow here. What I did find were varietal offerings of Viognier, Roussanne and Muscat for the whites and Tempranillo and a host of red blends leading the way for Texas. In this regard, the Texas wineries were more like Mediterranean wineries present in the event like those from Spain, Portugal, Italy and southern France.

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 Posted by at 2:49 pm