Wine of the Week: Alamos, Argentina, Mendoza, Red Blend 2012

Alamos, Argentina, Mendoza, Red Blend 2012

Source: Dallas Morning News
October 2, 2013
By Rebecca Murphy

NF_AlamosWineArgentina has put wines made from the malbec grape on the world stage. Malbec is the grape used in the “black wines of Cahors” in France, and it was grown at one time in Bordeaux. It did not really begin to capture mind space until the Argentine version came to town.

Malbec is not the only grape in Argentina, and this wine shows that it plays well with others — namely bonarda, also known as charbono, and tempranillo. It’s a veritable fruit bowl of flavors: black plums, red cherries, black cherries and strawberries, doused with a sprinkle of woody spices. It’s all corralled by savory acidity and mellow tannins. Enjoy it with a burger or a side of baby back ribs.

Alamos wines are a project of the wine-pioneering Nicholas Catena family in Mendoza. The city sits at about 2,500 feet, with a spectacular view of the Andes Mountains. In the province of Mendoza, vineyards are planted up to nearly 6,000 feet. Eighty percent of Argentine wine comes from this province.

The high altitude means more direct sunlight, which means more color and flavor in the grapes. It’s also high desert, with warm daytime temperatures to ripen fruit and very cool nighttime temperatures to maintain acidity that makes for freshness in a wine.

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Wine of the Week: Goats Do Roam, Western Cape, Rose 2012

Goats Do Roam, Western Cape, Rosé 2012

Source: Dallas Morning News
September 25, 2013
By Rebecca Murphy

NF_GoatsDoRoamRoseGoats Do Roam is a play on the name of the French wine appellation Côtes du Rhône. Charles Back, third-generation owner of the Fairview wine estate in South Africa, may have a sense of humor, but he is quite serious about the quality of his wine.

The 2012 rosé is a blend of syrah, grenache, mourvèdre and gamay noir. It is an intense rosé with concentrated strawberry and cherry fruit, with a spicy hint of black pepper animated with tangy acidity. Enjoy it with a taco salad or spicy salumi.

According to historical records, wine was first made on what is now Fairview in 1699. In 1937, the Back family purchased the estate, which is located in Paarl in the stunningly beautiful Cape Winelands of South Africa. Here, goats are not just found on the label. They were brought to the farm in 1980 to produce South Africa’s first goat cheese.

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Wine of the Week: Castello Banfi, Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2011

Castello Banfi, Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2011

Source: Dallas Morning News
September 18, 2013
By Rebecca Murphy

NF_BanfiMontalcinoWineCastello Banfi is the showplace winery created by the Mariani family in an 11th-century castle on a Tuscan hilltop. In addition to wine production, Castello Banfi houses two restaurants, a glass museum and a small luxury inn. It’s the birthplace of this winsome red, which offers flavors of black cherries and plums underscored with a trace of anise, vanilla and earthy mineral notes. In the mouth, the fruit is approachable and plush, with lively acidity and ripe tannins. Enjoy it with pasta with Bolognese sauce or a grilled lamb chop.

Rosso di Montalcino is a wine appellation in Tuscany in central Italy in an area that includes the charming hilltop village of Montalcino. You might call it a cash-flow wine, one the vintner can sell until his more prestigious and expensive wine, in this case Brunello di Montalcino, is ready for market. Brunello, one of Italy’s most celebrated wines, is made of 100 percent sangiovese and requires four years of aging, at least two in oak, before release. The Rosso di Montalcino appellation was created in 1984 to allow vintners to use grapes from younger sangiovese vines or wine in barrels that the vintner decides is not up to the Brunello standard.

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The Stout Report – And Then There Was One

Guy Stout’s report on the recent Master Sommelier examination in Dallas, Texas, where only one in 70 passed.

nick  hetzel

Nick Hetzel (second left) pictured with fellow Master Sommeliers Shayn Bjornholm, Laura De Pasquale and Greg Harrington

I arrived in Dallas on Sunday prior to the start of the Master Sommelier Final Examination. A reception early that evening was set to welcome all candidates and examining masters in the Byron Nelson room at the Four Seasons Hotel & Resort

The reception is a new twist for the Masters, having kept at arm’s length between the candidates and Master examiners in the past. I am happy to see the change and could see the tension being broken and barriers come down. It had been awkward in the past, seeing someone you practiced with and not able to pull up and have a cocktail with them for fear of showing bias. It would prove to be an interesting week.

There has been a lot of talk among the candidates about the recently released movie SOMM, about the process of becoming a Master Sommelier. One of the four candidates interviewed and followed in the movie was sitting the exam.

It was a long week and there were many small victories for most of the candidates passing a portion of the three part exam. That was the path I took to get though the program.

70 candidates sat the exam, the largest group ever in the history of the exam. When the dust settled, there was only one person who emerged as the newest Master Sommelier, Nick Hetzel. I think that everyone was surprised that only one candidate got through. I shared a glass or two of Krug Champagne, with several of my good friends who sat the exam and didn’t make it. I volunteered to help work with them even more in the future. Genuine words for a somber moment.

Krug Champagne is the official Champagne of the Master Sommelier exam and whose name appears on the trophy called the Krug Cup, which is awarded to the candidate that successfully passes the exam on first try. The Krug Cup is the highest honor in the Master Sommelier program.

Each year at the conclusion of the exams, there is the Masters dinner, where the examining Masters welcome the newest member(s) to the group. Master Hetzel sat at a different table than I did. We all signed a copy of the menu for the dinner and presented it to Nick. I got to visit with Master Hetzel (sounds like pretzel) after the dinner on the patio of the 19th Hole at the Four Seasons Resort. He had brought some really nice cigars and had heard I enjoyed a good cigar. He was correct. Most of the Masters headed off to bed with early flights the next morning. But Masters Paul Roberts, Doug Frost and I bought rounds for our newest Master, Nick Hetzel.

Nick is a very likable, affable nice guy. I asked him what this meant for him and his future and he said he would keep doing what he was doing. He likes his job at Sage in the Aria Resort in Vegas. I was happy to hear that. Some people take the MS exam to get that Big Job.

Congratulations to Nick – the one master to come out of the grueling Dallas examination!

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Did You Miss Us?

matrix-hackersWe hope you missed us!  Our site was hacked by evil forces selling prescription drugs with slightly misspelled names.

So, The Blend looks weird right now; we’re still working on it.  Thanks for noticing that we were gone last week.  Let’s have a toast when this is all finished, okay?

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Wine of the Week: Planet Oregon, Oregon, Pinot Noir 2011

Source: Dallas Morning News
July 10, 2013
By Rebecca Murphy

Planet Oregon, Oregon, Pinot Noir 2011


This is a bargain Oregon pinot noir made by superstar winemaker Tony Soter. It’s a pretty wine with juicy raspberry and cherry aromas and a hint of dried herbs. In the mouth, delicate raspberry and rhubarb fruit is layered with rose petal notes, buoyed by vivid acidity. Enjoy it with grilled salmon or sautéed chicken breast with a fruit salsa.

Soter earned his superstar chops in Napa Valley making Etude wines and consulting with wineries such as Araujo, Shafer, Spottswoode and Dalla Valle. In 1997, he and his wife, Michelle, traded Napa cabernet for Oregon pinot when they moved back to their home state, eventually creating Soter Vineyards.

Soter pinot noirs command prices starting at $50. While many wineries make a less expensive “second label” wine, usually from grapes that don’t make the cut for their top wine, Soter’s goal with Planet Oregon is to highlight sustainability. So he obtains grapes from growers whose vineyards are certified sustainable.

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Wine of the Week: Las Rocas de San Alejandro, Calatayud, Rosado 2012

Source: Dallas Morning News
July 3, 2013
By Rebecca Murphy

Las Rocas de San Alejandro, Calatayud, Rosado 2012


This Spanish wine has everything you could want from a rosé. It’s delicious, made primarily from the best grape for a rosé, garnacha, or grenache. It has a pretty pink rose color and exciting strawberry, cherry and raspberry fruit aromas and flavors, with a touch of dusty minerals. It’s juicy and fresh in the mouth, with enough zesty acidity to keep it lively. Try it with tortilla chips; it’s a heavenly combo.

Las Rocas is a brand that was originally developed for the U.S. market, but now can be found around the world. It’s made by a cooperative winery with 350 growers located 55 miles north of Madrid in Calatayud, a rugged, rocky wine region in northeastern Spain. The growers farm healthy, flavorful grapes and the winemaker doesn’t let winemaking tricks get in the way. It’s a successful strategy.

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Wine of the Week: Louis M. Martini, Sonoma County, Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Source: Dallas Morning News
June 25, 2013
By Rebecca Murphy

Louis M. Martini, Sonoma County, Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

NF_LouisMartiniWineWith so many wines available these days, it’s easy to forget about the reliable wines that have been around for a while. A perfect example is this cabernet sauvignon from Louis M. Martini. It has plenty of plush black cherry, blueberry and blackberry fruit with hints of toast and vanilla. It’s round and plump in the mouth, with enough savory acidity to keep your mouth watering. It finishes with burnished tannins. Keep it around for your favorite burger or red meat from the grill.

The Napa Valley winery will celebrate its 80th anniversary in September. It was established by Louis M. Martini; today the wines are made by his grandson Michael. The winery was sold to Gallo several years ago, a move that provided more resources for the family and for the winery. At the time of the sale, Michael said the change gave him the freedom to make wines in his style and more tools to do it with.


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Wine of the Week: Heitz Cellar, Napa Valley, Chardonnay 2011

Source: Dallas Morning News
June 18, 2013
By Rebecca Murphy

Heitz Cellar, Napa Valley, Chardonnay 2011

NF_HeitzCellarWineJoe Heitz was a pioneer of modern Napa Valley. He and his wife, Alice, started their winery in 1961. They made a fortuitous connection with another Napa couple, Tom and Martha May, owners of a cabernet vineyard. The result was Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

Though Heitz is best known for its cabernets, the winery also makes an exquisite chardonnay. It’s not the rich, buttery, oaky style you might expect from a California chardonnay. Instead, you will find a graceful, harmonious fusion of citrus, apple and pear fruit with chalky mineral notes. In the mouth, these refined flavors are creamy and supple, and heightened by racy acidity. Enjoy it with seared scallops or a roast chicken.

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