Charles Dickens Wine Dinner

20 Dec

GUSTO Tastings in partnership with Silver Whisk Cooking School engaged an audience during this Holiday Season to present a unique culinary and vinous affair. International Wine Guild Master Candidate, Daniel Kelada; and Executive Chef of Wine Arts, Oscar A. Montes Iga teamed up for this extraordinary experience to pair wines for the menu presented by Executive Chef Myrna Kallergis of Silver Whisk. 



The food during this period of English history is characterized as being simple in its approach, which relied highly on the quality of the natural ingredient. Traditional cuisines typically stayed away from strong flavors, such as garlic, spice and complex sauces. The courses of this dinner are based on the infamous Christmas feast and the Victorian era that A Christmas Carol was written in, and the wines for this five course meal where carefully selected by professional wine sommeliers.


Guest were first greeted and welcomed with a glass of Leon Palais “Blanc de Blanc” Brut, a refreshing Cremant from the Jura region.

1st Course - Saffron Poached White Fish dressed in Olive Oil, served on a bed of Asparragus

 For the 1st Course, we opened a 1er Cru Chablis, 2006 Vintage

2nd Course - Beef Wellington with a Mushroom Cream Sauce, served with Potatoes with Bleu Cheese au Gratin

 The 2nd course saw the uncorking of a Chateau La Grange, Saint-Julien, 2005

3rd Course - Fresh Mixed Green Salad with Poached Pears, Ginger Vinaigrette

4th Course - Duck breast with an Orange reduction and Brussels Sprouts

 For the 4th Course a wonderful wine from Beaujolais; Villa Ponciago, Fleurie “La Reserve” 2009


5th Course - Sticky Fig Toffee Pudding

 And a Bergmann, Rheinhessen, Eiswein, 2008 was paired with the wonderful pudding…and just when you think things are wrapping up, we surprised our guests with Port after dinner, opening up a bottle of Smith Woodhouse, LBV Porto, 1995.

Exec. Chef of Wine Arts, Oscar A. Montes Iga - preparing to do Port service for the dinners



Driskill’s Big Reds & Bubbles

20 Nov

The 9th Annual Big Reds & Bubbles was, as usual, a beautiful evening filled with festive spirits and smiles! The clock hit the chimes, and the red carpet rolled out. In one of Austin’s most distinguished hotels, The Driskill on 6th Street – one can only but imagine walking from the lively, student and tourist filled [not to mention the bars] street and sidewalk into this gorgeous building of architectural presence.

As guests walked up the stairs onto the second level, they were greeted by “Mademoiselle Champagne de Pompadour” – a Diva in a starry attire and surrounded by flute glasses, ready to serve the thirsty bacchalans, promising a night filled with great bubbles, and more!



Those who attended were treated to delicious tasty bites from over 20 Austin chefs and wine samples galore. Master Sommelier Devon Broglie, with Glazer’s Master Somms Guy Stout and Craig Collins, Master candidate Daniel Kelada of Gusto Tastings along with Exec. Sommeliers Oscar A. Montes Iga & Shawn Croft and Sommelier Bill Elsey with, and many other colleagues partook in this adventure.


The Dylan Jones trio provided an interesting set of background music that could have hypnotized those who had their hands in the sweet nectar of the vines –  and guests bid for unique items at the silent auction. One guest took home a bottle of 1955 port with their winning big!



As always, The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas, with the creative mind of Jennifer Grathwohl made this a fantastic sold out event!

Keep your head up for the 10th Anniversary of Big Reds & Bubbles, as it will surely be in every aficionado’s list to attend, so don’t miss out on your ticket!


Passion for Vines in the Veins – Austin Wine Mastery

11 Aug

Just recently, the Texas arena, and Austin area have been celebrating the Master Sommelier title for two Austinites – Devon Broglie, MS; and Craig Collins, MS – They are well know in the Austin area, as they show their faces to any premier wine event – they are wonderful colleagues, and they are both well liked – as they have an upbeat rythm that is contagious… and they have worked hard for years to endure the examinations of the the Court of Master Sommeliers. At last, last month, they have passed their final examinations in Las Vegas, and have together become the 5th and 6th Master Sommelier in Texas. We applaude their efforts, and congratulate them in a well earned distinguished position, as they continue to grow as individuals, and as wine professionals.




Devon Broglie, 37 – is the Whole Foods Market Southwest Regional Specialty Coordinator, and is one of very few Master Sommeliers working for a national supermarket brand; he’s been part of the Whole Foods family for just over 10 years.


Craig Collins, 35 – is Sales Manager for the Prestige division of Glazer’s Distributors.


They both have put Austin in the map as a wine enjoyment destination.

If you’d like to learn more about these two wine hunters, news of their success have spread quite rapidly all over the webbosphere [yes, just made that up] – so, congratulate them if you see them! We wish an even more enlightened path ahead for both of them. Cheers!


 Also, a recent post by –



Duchman winery sales guy named best Texas sommelier


Kim Pierce/Reporter | Bio

11:45 AM on Tue., Aug. 16, 2011 | Permalink

 File this under “who knew he had such a hidden talent?” Bill Elsey, director of sales at Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood (the winery that gave us the incredible vermentino) was named Texsom’s 2011 Texas Best Sommelier last night at the Grand Tasting and Awards Reception at the Four Seasons Resort & Club in Las Colinas.

First runner-up was Nathan Prater, wine specialist at Good2Go in Austin. Second runner-up was David Keck from Prestige Wine Cellars in Houston. All the winners get various scholarships to the Court of Master Sommeliers to continue their studies toward becoming master sommeliers.

I’ve never seen Bill so Happy! – Congrats again Bill! –



Left to right: Nathan Prater, Bill Elsey and David Keck



And so – the winery and vineyard growth along with the expantion of wine education of Central Texas and the Hill Country retake root to upbring a culture revolving around the the correlation of land and horticulture to the finest enjoyment of most ancient traditions. The wine sommelier is reponsible amongst many other calls, to not only oversee the correct serving temperature of wine during service, to the knowledge of the grape source and terroir, as to the vast magnitude of variables of wine making.


Daniel Kelada, EWS; Certified Wine Instructor; Owner of GUSTO Tastings is celebrating three years since the launch of the company in Septermber 2011. Daniel, a Master Candidate for the International Wine Guild has been successful with GUSTO, as well as being able to represent the Guild as Business Developer for the State of Texas, bringing Guild Certifications and Seminars to Central Texas, including Austin and Houston.



At the forefront of the International Wine Guild’s growth, it may be possible to start seminars in San Antonio, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropoli and the Texas Hill Country. GUSTO’s liaison includes Oscar A. Montes Iga; Certified Executive Chef of Wine Arts – who has entered the Guild’s Culinary Team as Chef de Cuisine for Texas – executing food pairings for the Certification Seminars. []


Westcave Cellars Winery has been invited to host International Wine Guild Tastings for Guild Members, as well as opening the door for other wine enthusiasts to hosted functions of the Austin Hill Country Chapter of the American Wine Society.[]



 Owners of Westcave Cellars – Margaret & Allan Fetty, are Professional Members of the American Wine Society, and hosted the Chapter’s first Official Meeting.










Westcave Cellars and the Austin Hill Country Chapter

20 Jun

On June 17th, 2011 – Members of the Austin Hill Country Chapter of the American Wine Society met at Westcave Cellars Winery for a presentation led by Executive Chef of Wine Arts, Oscar A. Montes Iga, who prepared a technical sensory evaluation for attendees, and members of Westcave Cellars Wine Club. The function served as the First Official Meeting of the Chapter, as well as launched the special type of events that Wine Club Members at Westcave can expect in the future.


Margaret and Allan Fetty, owners of Westcave Cellars Winery were present during the component tasting, and it was a great opportunity to meet with them – they offered barrel samples for our guests and disclosed details on winemaking methodology, making this even a more extraordinary evening.

Chapter Founder, Oscar A. Montes, chose the line up of 5 wines made on site, and paired them with 8 simple foods to evaluate the pairing characteristics of wine and food.

 Guests got to learn hands on, and experience what wine professionals have to think about and go through when selecting wine for food events. The list that follows is the wines selected for this specific pairing.



    • Westcave Cellars Winery, Texas High Plains, Blanc de Merlot Noir, 2010

A clear orange-red rosé made with Merlot from the Panhandle of Texas. It has a nose showcasing aromas of rose petals, strawberry, cranberry and a lemon zest. Flavors of raspberry, cherry, ripe strawberry, apricot and orange zest fill the mouth. It is finished medium-sweet balanced with a smooth yet lively acidity in this medium-full body wine with a pleasant long finish.

    • Westcave Cellars Winery, Texas High Plains, Muscat Blanc, 2010

Grown in the Texas High Plains, this white Muscat is clear straw to yellow canary hue. Simple aromas of ripe peach, honeysuckle and pineapple, and more developed aromas of lily, kiwi and wet stone. A pleasant quality of white peach, pear and apple flavors. Medium –dry and velvety to the tongue, medium-full body with a lively smooth acidity and a pleasant long finish.

    • Westcave Cellars Winery, Texas High Plains, Viognier, 2010 [light oak]

Medium-full body and medium-dry Viogner. Clear medium straw color. It has powerful and complex aromas of white peach, lychee fruit, citrus, pear and apple, floral notes, herbal tones, and grassy accents. It has supple and lively acidity, and it fills the mouth with flavors of green apple, grapefruit, lemon and lime. Pleasant long finish.

    • Westcave Cellars Winery, Texas Hill Country, Estate Cuvée, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010

A proprietor’s select blend of Cabernet grown on the Estate. A clear, medium garnet to brick red hue. It has aromas of red berries, dark plum, and clove with a hint of toasted coffee. Fills the tongue with flavors of dark cherry, raspberry and spice. Supple full body with soft tannins and a pleasant long finish.

    • Westcave Cellars Winery, Texas Hill Country, Estate Tannat, 2010 [unbottled]

This estate grown Tannat is clear, with a dark opaque purple to red violet colors. Releases aromas of plum and black currant, and dark cherry. It brings flavors of black cherry, blueberry, dark plum and a nice anise or licorice finish. Smooth full body with balanced tannins and a pleasant very long finish.


Cowboys and Gauchos; Tejas Style

18 May

The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas shines yet again with this innovative first annual event, produced by Jennifer Grathwohl. This took place in Driftwood, Texas – May 16th, 2011.

GUSTO Tastings Group was a sponsor of the event, and it furnished Certified Sommeliers to take guests through a journey of the wines sampled, they were given small informative tours on the regions and grapes, and basic wine knowledge that made this feature a memorable learning experience for those who participated.

Participatiing in this event were several regional wineries, as well as producers from South America. The foods crafted for this particular occasion had a major ‘Brazilian Churrascaria’ theme going on, aside from many local vendors that brought forth their best products. I sampled some wild boar burger, and antelope chilli.

The ambiance was set in a Hill Country pavillion, located near a creek and amongst vineyards. The people were all well taken care of with the wine choices, local brews, and the meat – nonetheless, it is worth mentioning the whole ambiance came together with the live music program. I missed most of the early event, but towards the end a lively group of Flamenco Gypsies took the stage and everyone was enthranced by their rythm and sincere passion for their craft. Ole’!

This is one event to remember, and I certianly look forward to the next one! I’ll have my badge and chaps ready.

Visit the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas Official Site to keep updated on events and membership benefits. Also visit to learn more about GUSTO and your Ultimate Tasting Experience!

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Posted in WinEvents


Tastings at Westcave Cellars

30 Apr


On April 29th I experienced another journey into the Caves of the Cellars. An impromptu day of randomness inspired a trip to the winery in the Texas Hill Country to be able to taste wine from the region. Invited by propriétaires Margaret and Allan Fetty, a good colleague, Copper Anderson, and myself went to see the operations, and got a good oportunity to sample a wide viriety of Texan wine. More than half of the wines we sampled were unbottled, still young. But we sampled some bottled wine and overall it is a great effort and it shows and induces you to enjoy! We couldn’t be more anxious to be back yet again.

Below is what we had to sample:


    • Westcave Cellars Winery,
      Texas Hill Country, Viognier, 2010

      This medium-full body viognier is vinified
      off-dry. It is bright straw green color, and it has adequate aroma
      characteristics of citrus and tropical fruit and more complex aromas of candied
      peach and crystallized ginger that finishes with a hint of vanilla. It has
      smooth crisp acidity with a pleasant very long finish.


    • Westcave Cellars
      Winery, Texas High Plains, Viognier, 2010

    • Medium-full body and medium-dry Viogner. Clear
      medium straw color. It has powerful and complex aromas of white peach, lychee
      fruit, citrus, pear and apple, floral notes, herbal tones, and grassy accents.
      It has supple and lively acidity, and it fills the mouth with flavors of green
      apple, grapefruit, lemon and lime. Pleasant long finish.

    • Westcave Cellars
      Winery, Texas High Plains, Muscat Blanc, 2010

    Grown in the Texas High Plains, this white
    Muscat is clear straw to yellow canary hue. Simple aromas of ripe peach,
    honeysuckle and pineapple, and more developed aromas of lily, kiwi and wet
    stone. A pleasant quality of white peach, pear and apple flavors. Medium –dry
    and velvety to the tongue, medium-full body with a lively smooth acidity and a pleasant
    long finish.

    • Westcave Cellars
      Winery, Texas High Plains, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010


The Cabernet grown in the Panhandle is clear and
it has a dark cherry to garnet color. Aromas of red chili pepper, red apple,
blackberry dominated and it showcased graceful accents of cedar and wet stone.
Flavors of dark cherry, mature red apple, and tamarind with a lingering spicy
finish. Rounded full body with rich tannins and a pleasant long finish.

    • Westcave Cellars
      Winery, Texas Hill Country, Estate Cuvée, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010


A proprietor’s select blend of Cabernet grown on
the Estate. A clear, medium garnet to brick red hue. It has aromas of red
berries, dark plum, and clove with a hint of toasted coffee. Fills the tongue
with flavors of dark cherry, raspberry and spice. Supple full body with soft
tannins and a pleasant long finish.

    • Westcave Cellars
      Winery, Texas High Plains, Merlot Noir, 2010


This High Plains Merlot has a dark ruby to
cherry color. Aromas of black berries, dark cherry and spice. Flavors of dark
cherry, plum, and earthy accents of cedar. Rounded and supple full body, with
rich soft tannins and a pleasant very long finish.

    • Westcave Cellars
      Winery, Texas Hill Country, Estate Tannat, 2010


This estate grown Tannat is clear, with a dark
opaque purple to red violet colors. Releases aromas of plum and black currant,
and dark cherry. It brings flavors of black cherry, blueberry, dark plum and a
nice anise or licorice finish. Smooth full body with balanced tannins and a
pleasant very long finish.

    • Westcave Cellars
      Winery, Texas High Plains, Blanc de Merlot Noir, 2010


A clear orange-red rosé made with Merlot from
the Panhandle of Texas. It has a nose showcasing aromas of rose petals,
strawberry, cranberry and a lemon zest. Flavors of raspberry, cherry, ripe
strawberry, apricot and orange zest fill the mouth. It is finished medium-sweet
balanced with a smooth yet lively acidity in this medium-full body wine with a
pleasant long finish.

    • Westcave Cellars
      Winery, Texas, Blanc de Zinfandel, 2010


This Zinfandel grown in Eastern Texas has a
bright light-medium salmon color. Cranberry on the nose, and noticeable aromas
of white rose blossom with hints of mountain rain and alpine springs.
Showcasing flavors of cranberry, cherry, raspberry and a clove finish. This
medium-full body Zin is balanced with velvety sweetness and a very pleasant
soft long finish.


    • Westcave Cellars
      Winery, Texas, Cabernet Sauvignon, “Sweet Red Wine” 2010


This proprietary blend of Cabernet and Muscat
has a medium cherry color. Pleasant aromas of watermelon and tamarind on the
nose. Brings flavors of cherry and watermelon. A smoothly balanced sweet wine
with a medium body and a straightforward medium finish.




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Posted in Grape-news


Zinfandel Grand Tasting – ZAP!

09 Mar

On Sunday, March 6th, 2011 in Austin, Texas – At AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center – Presented by The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas and The Zinfandel Advocates & Producers.


A most grand tasting involving the wineries and producers of the Greater Bay Area, Central Coast, Central Valley, Napa, Sierra Foothills, and Sonoma.

It involved local Austin Chef paticipants as prevalent as Executive Chef Erick Nixon and Chef Shane Stark. Many local wine professionals and sommeliers attended the event, such were Sommelier Christie Lynn Radcliff; Jane Nickles, writer of WineSpeak 101; Chef Sommelier Brian Hay; and Wine Educator Shields Hood amongst many others and myself. I must thank Jennifer Westfall, Event Director, for the precious function, and for a welcoming invitation.

The wineries and winemakers brought over 60 different wines to sample, and I can say that I tasted over 90% of the offerings. Many light, many bright, many great and grand wines – but surely I can pick my favorites for the night.


To start up, Opolo Vineyards, they presented three offerings, including;

  • Mountain Zin, Paso Robles, 2008

  •  Summit Creek, Paso Robles, 2008

  • Late Harvest, Paso Robles,2008.

They were all artfuly crafted, all packed with great flavors, and extraordinary aromas. Cheers!


Other favorites and classics for me to taste at this event were – Gnarly Head Cellars; Brazin’ Cellars; Ravenswood Winery; Bogle Vineyards; Atezin Wines. And some new finds worth trying were – Tres Sabores; Wine Guerilla; XYZin Wines; Twisted Wines; Four Vines Winery.

Ofcourse, an evening to rember! And I can only wait patiently for the next Wine & Fooud Foundation event!  And cheers to every behind the curtain!



To Learn More:



The Biggest, Lesser known Wine Country!

06 Feb

Not literally undiscovered, but certainly overlooked, these off-the-radar destinations are well worth a visit.
Published on Jan 26, 2011

By Risa Wyatt


Let’s just assume we know about the great wine regions of the world, such as Bordeaux, Rioja, Napa—but what about all of the other intriguing destinations worldwide in the wine game? The following roster of wine regions covers two types of emerging destinations. Some locales—such as Romania and Umbria—enjoy long wine-growing traditions but have remained isolated from the viticultural mainstream. In other parts of the world—from Texas to Patagonia—passionate pioneers are daring to boldly plant where no vinifera has gone before.   

In selecting these regions, we considered areas where the wine has evolved from quirky curiosity to worthy collectible. Many of these wines receive minimal distribution beyond their own appellation, which means to enjoy them, you might just have to visit. What’s wonderful about viewing these as unique travel destinations is that each has a personalized feel. Winemakers literally climb out of fermentation vats to greet visitors, and leading restaurants might seat just 20 diners. For wine lovers, touring these counties and countries places a landscape behind the labels and lends new appeal to appellations.   


1. Texas Hill Country, United States. Lone Star’s Rising Star


At the mention of Texas, most people think of cowboys and Stetsons rather than Cabernet and Syrah. But Texas ranks as America’s fifth-largest wine-producing state—and Texas Hill Country is the second-most-visited wine region in the U.S., trailing only Napa Valley.Texas Hill Country lies north of San Antonio and west of Austin—about 75 miles from each. Its 27 wineries cluster around historic towns and rolling landscapes. Dry limestone soils, warm days and hot nights are perfect for warm-weather grape varieties. The biggest challenges for growers are frosts in the spring, which can kill tender vine shoots, and high humidity in summer, which can foster mildew.   

While Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay have done well, the rising stars are Viognier, Grenache, Syrah, Sangiovese, Vermentino, Tempranillo and Tannat.   

Founded in 1975, Fall Creek Vineyards ranks as the region’s oldest winery and is known for its superpremium Meritus, a Cabernet-Merlot blend. Surrounded by three acres of lavender fields, Becker Vineyards garners accolades for Viognier.   

Texas Hill Country Wineries,   


 Other Attractions:

Austin holds the annual Austin Wine & Music Festival in May.


October is Texas Wine Month – Over 200 wineries in the State.


Texas Hill Country AVA is the Nation’s second most visited Wine Country.

The Texas Hill Country Wineries offer annual Wine Trails – visit:


Allow this unique city to show you what it means to, “Keep Austin Weird,” as its motto insists. Seemingly misplaced in the land of honky tonk, this art-influenced, distinctly different city boasts the title of “Live Music Capital of the World.”


At the Alamo in San Antonio, a small band of Texans held out for 13 days against Mexican forces during the Texas Revolution in 1836. The former mission is one of the most-visited historic sites in the country.   

Along San Antonio’s River Walk, stone paths connect several museums and historic districts. Check out the Pearl Stable Complex, a one-time brewery that now holds gourmet markets, restaurants, condos and a branch of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).   

Founded by German immigrants in 1846, Fredericksburg resembles a village on the Rhine with stone and fachwerk (half-timbered) buildings. At Cabernet Grill, dive into Hill Country fare such as jalapeño-stuffed quail and rib-eye with green chili cream gravy. The wine list showcases more than 70 Texas labels.   

“A special corner of God’s real estate.” That’s how President Lyndon B. Johnson described his sprawling cattle ranch in Hill Country. Now open to the public, the property is part of Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. 


2. Niagara Peninsula, Canada Cold Comforts

“From water into wine” could be the motto for the Niagara Peninsula. This region was once best known for the thundering waters of Niagara Falls. Now the area ranks as the largest VA (Viticultural Area) in Canada, producing 70% of the country’s wine grapes.

Bordered by Lake Ontario on the north and Lake Erie to the south, the Niagara Peninsula lies 80 miles from Toronto. Lake Ontario moderates temperatures, warming the region in winter and cooling it in summer. The region’s fossil-rich limestone soils create the distinctive mineral profile of the wines. Cool-climate varieties such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc flourish.   

Dubbed “liquid gold,” ice wine rules as the region’s signature product. It is made from grapes harvested at temperatures below 17oF. Handpicked at dawn, the frozen grapes are pressed to release concentrated, yellow-gold liquid. Most ice wine is made from either Riesling or Vidal (a hybrid suited to cold climes).   

The Niagara Peninsula has more than 70 wineries. In 1975, Inniskillin became the first licensed winery in Ontario since 1929. In the tasting room housed in a renovated 1920s barn, visitors can sample an array of icewines, including sparklers and one made from Cabernet Franc. Jackson- Triggs produces icewine as well as Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and a white Meritage (80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Sémillon).   

The world’s first LEED-certified wine-making facility, Stratus Winery features a geothermal energy system and tasting room set in a glass cube designed to minimize heat gain. At Wayne Gretzky Estate Winery, visitors can buy signed prints and collectibles related to the hockey star. Wine Country Ontario (WCO),   

Other Attractions:

Mists surge and rainbows arch from the plummeting waters of Niagara Falls. The flowing phenomenon contains three cascades: Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of the border, and the American Falls and smaller Bridal Veil Falls in the U.S.   

Even though the waterfalls get more press, the Niagara Escarpment ranks as a natural wonder in its own right; it‘s a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The oldest and longest continuous footpath in Canada, the Bruce Trail showcases vistas of sheer cliffs, pebbled beaches and old-growth white cedars.   

Situated near some 60 wineries, Niagara-on-the-Lake (locals call it “NOTL”) captivates visitors with its 19th-century clapboard and brick houses. Each January, the town hosts the Niagara Ice wine Festival, with events ranging from ice bars and chestnut roasts to winery tours.   


3. Jura, France. The New Jurassic Age


   The Jurassic era of dinosaur fame derives its name from the Jura Mountains, which arc along the Franco-Swiss border from the Rhine to the Rhône. Located east of Burgundy, the Jura region nestles against the mountains, giving it a colder climate than its neighbor. Vineyards occupy south-facing slopes to maximize exposure to sunlight and heat. Jura encompasses only 4,600 acres of vineyards, making it the smallest wine region in France.   

Like Burgundy, Jura produces Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. But it distinguishes itself with wines and grapes unique to its six AOCs (appellations). The most celebrated is Vin Jaune (“yellow wine”), which is made from Savagnin, a grape related to Gewürztraminer. Aged for six years in barrels that are not topped off, the wine develops a veil of yeast on its surface. The resulting dry wine, which can age for decades, conveys aromas of honey, curry, nuts and dried rose petals. Well-regarded producers include André & Mireille Tissot, Château Béthanie, Domaine Berthet-Bondet and Frédéric Lornet.   

Jura produces several other unique drinks. Vin de Paille (“straw wine”) refers to sweet wine made from overripe grapes that are dried on straw mats after harvest. Macvin, a vin de liqueur, comes from unfermented grape juice combined with brandy. A sparkling wine, Crémant du Jura, is crafted according to the méthode champenoise using Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Poulsard (a red grape). Wines of Jura,   

Other Attractions:

According to legend, Vin Jaune was invented by nuns at Château-Chalon, whose abbey was founded in the seventh century. Perched on a bluff above its vineyards, the scenic town holds remnants of a Romanesque church and 13th- century castle.   

Louis Pasteur was born and raised in the Jura region. In addition to breakthroughs in disease prevention, he improved modern winemaking techniques. Open to the public, Pasteur’s house in Arbois contains many of his personal souvenirs, instruments and photos.   

Say cheese—Jura produces notable fromages including Comté and Morbier, both of which pair perfectly with the local wines.   


4. Michigan, United States Northern Exposure


Most quality wine grapes grow within 25 miles of Lake Michigan. Thanks to this “lake effect,” prodigious snowfall helps protect the vines in winter, while proximity to warm waters lengthens the growing season in autumn.   

Located on the 45th Parallel—the same latitude as Burgundy and Oregon—Michigan has four AVAs and nearly 80 wineries. Riesling is the most widely planted white, while Pinot Noir tops the list for reds.   

Michigan’s favorite summer vacation spot is also a haven for wine grapes: Traverse City. In 1974, Ed O’Keefe planted the first large-scale vineyards with classic European varieties on the Old Mission Peninsula. His family-run Chateau Grand Traverse remains a pre-eminent producer of Riesling.   

Black Star Farms bills itself as an “agricultural destination,” with two tasting rooms plus an inn, café, creamery, and equestrian facility. In addition to wines, it produces eau de vie brandies from locally grown pears, apricots and cherries.   

Spread along 100 miles of lake shoreline, the Leelanau Peninsula is called “Michigan’s Wine Coast” since it has nearly 20 wineries. Named after a 19th-century logging settlement, Gill’s Pier Vineyard & Winery is known for a medium-bodied Cabernet Franc/Merlot blend. Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council,   

Other Attractions:

A replica of a 1800s cargo schooner, the tall ship Manitou features wine tastings while guests sail around Grand Traverse Bay.   

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers sweeping vistas of Lake Michigan—as well as 400-foot dunes, hiking trails, historic farmsteads… and some of the best beaches in the state.   

Everything’s coming up cherries in Traverse City—largest producer of that fruit in the United States. The National Cherry Festival (July 2–9, 2011) serves up marching bands and pie-eating contests. Any time of year, Cherry Republic sells everything from juice to salsas.   


5. Patagonia, Argentina. Beginnings at the Ends of the Earth


How remote is Patagonia? Writer Bruce Chatwin called it “The farthest place to which man has walked from his place of origins.” You won’t see icebergs or penguins—but will encounter some of the southernmost vineyards on the planet.   

Although Patagonia stretches to Tierra del Fuego, its winelands lie in the north of the region, just 400 miles south of the famous vineyards in Mendoza. We’re talking desert—only seven inches of rain falls annually. The dry, breezy climate helps protect grapes from diseases such as powdery mildew. Since day-night temperatures can swing 40˚, grapes ripen slowly, preserving sugar-acidity balance. One challenge lies in relentless winds that can tangle vine shoots and damage buds during flowering. And hungry parrots and wild boar sometimes feed on fruit and vine.   

Patagonia is comprised of two main wine growing regions: Neuquén and Río Negro. Most plantings are red, but Chardonnay, Sémillon and Torrontés also perform well. In Neuquén, most wineries are centered in the valley of San Patricio del Chañar. A pioneering winery in the region, Bodega del Fin del Mundo, earns medals with its Cabernet, Merlot and Malbec blends. Michel Rolland serves as consulting enologist.   

Set on the wild, parched Patagonian plateau, the Río Negro region suits white varieties like Traminer and Riesling, as well as Merlot, Malbec and Pinot Noir. Notable winery Bodega Noemia de Patagonia is biodynamically farmed and its wines offer bold black fruit and smoke flavors. Wines of Argentina,   

Other Attractions:

The Argentine Lake District lies in the southwestern part of Neuquén province. On the Seven Lakes driving route, visitors admire vistas of snowcapped peaks towering over crystalline lakes.   

”The rock that speaks.” That’s the name the indigenous Araucanian peoples gave to the monumental Somuncurá Plateau in the south of Río Negro province. Resembling fortresses, sheer basalt walls rise from the plains, and lakes shelter flamingos, swans and ducks.   

Set below the final peaks of the Andes, Ushuaia (pronounced oo-SHWY-ah) claims to be the southernmost city in the world (55 south latitude). From here, people can ride the “End of the World Train” (a former convict conveyance) to Tierra del Fuego National Park. Landscapes encompass coast, forest and mountains.   

Cordero asado (barbecued lamb) is the regional specialty, slowly cooked over wood from the piquillín (a spiny shrub).   



– Oscar is a Chile Destination Specialist by Turismo Chile since 2008 –


Chile all ways surprising


6. Umbria, Italy. Wines from Medieval Times


Once overshadowed by Tuscany, its neighbor to the northwest, Umbria now claims its own place in the Italian sun. Travelers are discovering its medieval hill towns and unique red wines.   

Umbria is the only landlocked region of Italy. In climate and geography, it resembles Tuscany, with dry, sun-struck summers and cold, rainy winters. The region holds eleven DOCs (classified growing areas) and two DOCGs (wines meeting the highest quality levels). Both DOCGs designate dry reds.   

Until recently, Umbria was best known for white wines from Orvieto, made from Procanico (a local version of Trebbiano) and Grechetto. In recent decades, the once-sweet Orvieto has been reconfigured into a vibrant, crisp wine.   

Sagrantino di Montefalco has been cultivated for millennia. Thick skinned, the grape yields a burly, ruby-red wine with high tannins. During the Middle Ages, Sagrantino was made into passito, a semisweet wine produced by letting grapes dry after picking to intensify the sugars. More recently, winemakers have adapted Sagrantino for a secco (dry) wine that ages in oak for 29 months to tame it.   

Another DOCG red is Torgiano Riserva, which relies on Sangiovese (50–70%) and Canaiolo (15–30%). Since the 1960s, the Lungarotti family has been synonymous with Torgiano’s wines. Benchmarks for the region, their single-vineyard Rubesco Riservas can age for 30-plus years.   

Sangiovese and Merlot also perform well, and sometimes team up for “Super Umbrian” wines such as Campoleone, a blend from Lamborghini. Founded in the 1970s by Ferruccio Lamborghini of the famous car-manufacturing firm, the wine estate lies near Lake Trasimeno. The Foods and Wines of Italy/Italian Trade Commission,   

Other Attractions:

In Italy, the term agriturismo means vacation accommodations in farmhouses that can range from simple to sumptuous. Several notable Umbrian wineries have agriturismos tucked among vineyards, including Antonelli, Lungarotti and Lamborghini.   

Head for the hills—Umbria’s beguiling hill towns. Favorites include Gubbio, filled with ancient feudal palaces, and Todi, overlooking the Tiber River.   

Built in the 13th century, the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi houses the saint’s tomb. It also holds a treasure-trove of frescoes by Giotto, Cimabue and other medieval masters. Although it was badly damaged by a 1997 earthquake, most paintings have been successfully restored.   

Porchetta—roast suckling pig—rules as the Umbrian specialty. The distinctive pasta is strangozzi, which is made with a “poor” dough (without eggs). About 80% of Italy’s production of truffles—both black and white—come from Umbria. The fabulous fungi appear in local specialties such as spaghetti alla nursina.   


7. Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Island of Wines


Martha’s Vineyard meets wine country on Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf. Located 35 minutes by ferry from Auckland, the isle is known for holiday beaches—weekend cottages scattered around shores. The ocean helps moderate temperatures, creating a long, mild growing season. Windbreaks of pine trees protect vineyards from Antarctic winds that can hamper fruit set.   

Steep terrain makes for small, labor-intensive vineyards. Although Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot comprise 60% of plantings, Syrah is the new ”it” grape and reveals subtle floral and spicy bouquets.   

Most wineries have tasting rooms, which are known as “cellar doors” Down Under. Shaded by 200-year-old Pohutukawa trees, Kennedy Point uses organic and biodynamic techniques to produce top-quality Syrah.   

Tony Forsyth, a former psychologist who started Te Whau on a precipitous headland in 1993, crafts a Cab/Merlot blend that delivers a huge fruit component and soft tannins.   

Stonyridge is known for its Bordeaux-style Larose, a blend that has ranked with Pétrus and Lafite Rothschild in blind tastings. The restaurant serves a delightful brunch overlooking the vineyards. Waiheke Winegrowers Association,   

Other Attractions:

More than 70 artists and craftspeople live on the island and exhibit works at area galleries and studios. Look for paintings by Mike Morgan, a bearded, barefooted artist who creates whimsically surreal images of the local scene. The Waiheke Community Art Gallery showcases a wide range of artists.   

Pair white wines with local specialties such as plump Te Matuku Bay oysters, pipi (a mollusk with an elongated shell) and tarakihi (ocean bream), a firm, moist white fish.   

Cliffs, coves, and beaches—you can see them all while sea-kayaking in the island’s protected waters. Waiheke Island Tours and Kayak Adventures offers guided trips.   


8. Sierra Foothills, United States. Original Zin


During the California Gold Rush of 1849, pioneers headed west with pick-axes, shovels—and grapevine cuttings. Often their plantings panned out better than their prospecting. One variety that originated in Croatia grew especially well. Today, the Sierra Foothills AVA holds some of the oldest Zinfandel vineyards in the U.S.   

Located on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the area lies 100 miles east of both San Francisco and the Napa Valley. The region features over 100 wineries centered in the counties of Amador, El Dorado and calaveras.   

In the Sierra Foothills, richly-flavored Zinfandel reigns. “Old-vine” plantings are exactly that; some date to the 1860s. Many vineyards are also “dry farmed,” meaning not irrigated. Well-drained, nutrient-poor soils encourage vines to send their roots deep for nourishment and water, creating intensely flavored grapes.   

Sobon Estate encompasses the historic D’Agostini Winery, founded in 1856 by Adam Uhlinger, a Swiss immigrant. Now a California State Historic Landmark, the old winery, with its rock walls and hand-hewn beams, houses the Shenandoah Valley Museum.   

Increasingly, winemakers are turning attention to varieties from Italy, which thrive in the rocky, iron-rich soils of the Sierra Foothills.
Amador Vintners’ Association,; Calaveras Winegrape Alliance,; El Dorado Winery Association, “We’ve got a layer of granite that Barbera really likes,” says Villa Toscano winemaker Susan Farrington.   

Other Attractions:

At Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma, visitors can see original buildings and try their hand at panning for gold.Several gold mines are open to the public, including Sutter Gold Mine, where tours delve 450 feet underground to an old quartz vein.   

Sutter Creek retains 19th-century charm with wooden storefronts lining Main Street. For lunch, Susan’s Place features California/Mediterranean cuisine, a garden patio and selection of local wines.   

Former mining towns flank CA-49, dubbed the Gold Country Highway. Once the richest strike in the Mother Lode, Jackson offers maps for self-guided walking tours through its historic center. In Murphys, the Ironstone Heritage Museum houses the largest crystalline gold leaf specimen in the world, weighing 44 pounds.   

Sierra Foothills wineries and attractions make for easy stops on the way to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park.   

Contact: Amador Vintners’ Association: 888-655-8614 or 209-245-6992;; Calaveras Winegrape Alliance: 866-806-WINE or 209-728-9467;; El Dorado Winery Association: 800-306-3956; 


9. Idaho, United States. Not Small Potatoes


Home to nearly 20 wineries, the Snake River Valley ranks as one of America’s newest American Viticultural Areas—and also the first in Idaho. The region lies 30 miles west of Boise.   

Warm days and cool nights characterize the short growing season in the northern high desert. To produce top wines, meticulous management is mandatory. So that grapes ripen, growers “drop fruit” (prune clusters) to limit yields to 1.5 tons per acre (three to four tons per acre is common in the Napa Valley). Syrah and Viognier thrive in the well-drained soils; winemakers also are experimenting with Tempranillo.   

In particular, growers are enthusiastic about the Sunnyslope area, south-facing vineyards above the Snake River. Koenig produces premium wines (try the Viognier and Syrah) plus fruit brandies and Famous Idaho Potato Vodka.   

Named for the volcanic layers underlying vineyards, Cinder crafts top wines under winemaker/owner Melanie Krause. Other well-regarded vintners include Bitner, Williamson and Davis Creek Cellars. Snake River Valley Wine region,   

Other Attractions:

Set in a Masonic Lodge built in 1919, Brick 29 Restaurant in Nampa showcases locally produced wine and food. Chef Dustan Bristol reinvents comfort classics such as red-wine-braised Kurobuta pork cheeks served with a fingerling potato-sage hash.   

For more than a century, Boise has served as a gathering place for immigrants from the Basque region. The Basque Museum & Cultural Center celebrates their heritage with cultural festivals, wine tastings and other gatherings. Nearby, the Basque Market sells delicacies such as Serrano ham and stuffed piquillo peppers. They also sell the largest selection of Spanish wines in the Northwest.    

World-class whitewater flows just minutes from Boise on the Payette River. Cascade Raft offers a variety of river trips, from mellow, half-day floats to a full day of surging rapids.   


10. Romania, Of Vines and Vampires

Long before Count Dracula, wine flowed in Romania. Viticulture in this region goes back more than 4,000 years.   

Under Communism, Romania produced plentiful—and cheap—wine. The country was saddled with obsolete clones and vineyard practices. A member of the European Union since 2007, the country now aims to produce top wines.   

The Black Sea, Danube River and 8,500-foot Carpathian Mountains moderate the mainly continental climate’s hot summers and cold winters. Winemakers work with both international (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay) and traditional Romanian varieties.   

Of the heritage grapes, the best-known red is Feteasc˘a Neagr˘a (Black Maiden), which offers robust black currant flavor. Among the whites, Feteasc˘a Alb˘a (White Maiden) produces dessert wines hinting of peaches and Feteasc˘a Regal˘a (Royal Maiden) yields citrus and offers spice notes.   

Romania holds several wine regions. Transylvania occupies a plateau surrounded by the Carpathians. The cool, misty climate suits whites: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris and indigenous varieties. Jidvei Winery offers tastings in their 16th-century castle. The sweet whites of Cotnari (in northeastern Romania) use botrytized grapes, balancing sugar with good acid structure. Cabernet Sauvignon, Sémillon and Viognier also thrive. APEV (Romanian Wine Exporters and Producers Association),   

Other Attractions:

The alleged abode of Count Dracula, Bran Castle, looms atop a 200-foot rock near Brasov. Built in the 14th century, the brooding bastion features towers, timbered rooms and narrow, winding stairways. Bring garlic.   

Masterpieces of Byzantine art, the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina (near Cotnari) are decorated with 15th and 16th century frescoes depicting saints and scenes from the life of Jesus. Seven churches are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.   

One of Europe’s best-preserved medieval towns, Sighisoara surrounds a 12th-century citadel built by Saxon colonists. Sighisoara is also the birthplace of Vlad III the Impaler, the 15th-century ruler who inspired the fictional vampire.   

Built in 1892, the Rhein Azuga Cellar is the oldest facility in Romania that produces sparkling wine using the méthode Champenoise. The property includes a 15-room hotel. Set in the Carpathian Mountains, Azuga is one of Romania’s main ski resorts.   


Cork-Speed Travel

01 Jan

Happy New Year first and foremost! I hope everyone celebrated in company of loved ones, and that those loved ones shared some very tasty wine and Champagne! Which leads me to also wish that no one has been injured by the careless opening of sparkling wine, detailed data follows.


Beware the Exploding Champagne Cork!!!

Expert gives safety tips; warns it can reach a speed of 50 mph and cause severe eye damage.

FRIDAY, Dec. 31 (HealthDay News) — Be careful when opening the champagne bottle on New Year’s Eve — a popped cork can reach a speed of up to 50 miles per hour, warns an eye expert.

“Incorrect popping of champagne corks is one of the most common holiday-related eye hazards. Anything that travels with such force can have a dangerous effect if it strikes your eye,” said Dr. Kuldev Singh, a professor of ophthalmology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, in a news release from the American Academy of Opthalmology (AAO).

Singh, who is also a clinical correspondent for the AAO, added that “champagne cork injuries can have a devastating impact on your vision” by leading to problems such as a detached retina, staining of the cornea and acute glaucoma.

Singh offered the following advice for opening a bottle of champagne safely:

  • Chill the bottle to at least 45 degrees F before opening. The cork of a warm bottle is more likely to pop unexpectedly.

  • Do not shake the bottle. Shaking increases the speed at which the cork leaves the bottle.

  • When opening the bottle, hold down the cork with the palm of your hand while removing the wire hood.

  • Point the bottle at a 45-degree angle away from yourself and any bystanders.

  • Place a towel over the top and the bottle and grasp the cork.

  • Firmly twist the bottle while holding the cork to break the seal. Keep holding the cork while twisting the bottle and continue doing so until the cork is almost out of the neck. Maintain slightly downward pressure on the cork as it breaks free from the bottle.

  • Never use a corkscrew to open a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine.

More information
Prevent Blindness America offers a home eye safety checklist.  External Links Disclaimer Logo
(SOURCE: American Academy of Ophthalmology, news release, Dec. 20, 2010)
Copyright © 2011 HealthDay. External Links Disclaimer Logo All rights reserved.

Westcave Cellars Winery in the Texas Hill Country

11 Dec

Another Winery in the Texas Hill Country!


Winter –

On December 9th, 2010, I was luckily invited to assess young wine, out of fermentation tanks and barrels at a brand new winery in the Texas Hill Country – Westcave Cellars Winery, where the proprietors are carefully selecting vines to grow and wines to blend. The promise is spectacular, and experiencing this first hand, was such an honor. Viticulturist Margaret Fetty briefly explained their vineyard’s floor plan, and extension of the varietals planted, as well as some trailing and training techniques. Enologist Allan Fetty, invited me to the winery production room and the dimmed barrel cellar room. The evening seemed promising – but I certainly wasn’t expecting all that I got.


So, you get to spit on the ground, rinse your glass with a hose, and munch on oyster crackers sitting on a chair [the crackers that is] while two Schnauzers roam around you curiously….quite a formal setting – for a winery on the rise anyway, and the perfect bait for a wine sommelier indeed. To partake in such a tasting at Westcave Cellars with the Fetty’s was such a pleasure; a winery which is not yet open to the public, nor is their tasting room yet finished – but progressing the way that they are doing with the wine, they are sure to pack their tasting room in 2011.



While I was there for the first time, I got invited to taste unbottled ‘raw’ wine, as Winemaker Allan Fetty said, and I tasted all that was available to taste, to better give an impression of the fruit of their labor. I’m already looking forward to my next visit to see what else is brewing – on the meantime, here’s a list of what I got to taste! – and just to remind – this is a small operation, very limited vintage bottling to begin with. Cheers!


Westcave Cellars Winery


  • Westcave Cellars Winery, Texas Hill Country, Estate Viognier, 2010

This full body viognier was vinified dry and cellared in stainless steel. It was a clear pale green color, and it had a simple and adequate aroma characteristics of green apple and pear, citrus and tropical fruit. It had fresh and lively acidity with a long finish. 


  • Westcave Cellars Winery, Lost Draw Vineyard, Viognier, 2010

This viognier came from the High Plains of Texas, and it had not yet been filtered. It has spent a short time in a neutral French oak barrel. Visually a dense and opaque golden straw color. It had complex aromas of pineapple, guava, papaya and tropical fruit, coconut and vanilla accents. Medium to full body, fermented dry and a medium finish.


  • Westcave Cellars Winery, Texas Hill Country, Estate Vermentino, 2010

A brilliant pale straw Vermentino, it showcased powerful aromas of kiwi, melon, tropical fruits, citrus, with a bounty of floral and herbaceous characteristics like dill. Full body and dry with a long finish from lively tart acidity. Certainly one of the stars of the evening. Wiht a very limited production, it will prove to be a golden ticket. 


  • Westcave Cellars Winery, Texas Hill Country, Estate Muscat Blanc, 2010

This clear straw-colored white muscat had a powerful aroma of lychee fruit, white peach and mango, and some floral notes. The finish was framed by citrus peel and a buttered pastry. Rounded and Full Body, Dry with green, lively acidity with a long finish.


  • Westcave Cellars Winery, Lost Draw Vineyard, Muscat Blanc, 2010

Grown in the Texas High Plains, this white muscat was unfiltered and dense. It showcased a pale green to a green straw in hues. Simple aromas of citrus and tropical fruit. It was fermented dry and it was light to medium body with tart green acidity and a medium finish.


  • Westcave Cellars Winery, Hendricks Vineyard, Blanc de Merlot Noir, 2010

A clear cherry red rosé made with Merlot from North Texas. It had a powerful nose, showcasing aromas of cucumber, celery, fennel, rose petals and strawberry.  It was fermented dry, with a medium to full body, well rounded, and tart lively acidity. Medium to long finish.


  • Westcave Cellars Winery, Texas, Blanc de Zinfandel, 2010

This Zinfandel grown in Eastern Texas was clear and bright. It had a medium pink-salmon hue. Rose blossom aromas, and it showcased flavors of cranberry, lemon and a clove finish. Fermented dry, generous in alcohol, fresh acidity with a long finish.  It was a great aperitif.


  • Westcave Cellars Winery, Texas Hill Country, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010

This Sauvignon Rouge grown in the estate was barely aged 3 months in new, medium-toast, French Oak barrels. It was a clear, medium-light brick-red, garnet color. Powerful aromas of toast, coffee, dark plum and watermelon. Flavors of cranberry and dark cherry, with rich soft tannins, and a tart acidity with a long finish. Full body and dry.


  • Westcave Cellars Winery, Williams Family Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010

Cabernet grown in North Texas was clear and bright. It had a dark red violet color and a powerful nose. Aromas of tamarind, watermelon, red chilli peppers, and chamoy dominated. Flavors of blood orange, red grapefruit, chamoy and cherry with a lingering leathery finish. Full body with soft tannins and a medium finish.


  • Westcave Cellars Winery, Estate Cuvée, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010

Blended 50% Estate grown Cabernet, with  50% Williams Family Vineyards.  A clear, medium garnet to cherry hues. It had an ordinary aroma of tamarind, dark berries, dark plum and cassis. Full body and tart green acidity, generous alcohol and a long finish.


  • Westcave Cellars Winery, Hendricks Vineyard, Merlot Noir, 2010

This was an unfiltered Merlot from North Texas, with only two months in French Oak. Has a dark red violet to ruby color. Complex aromas of cucumber, parsley and bell pepper. Flavors of cranberry, cassis, cherry, raspberry, plum, red apple, with accents of cedar and violets. Rounded full-body, with austere acidity and generous alcohol. Pleasant long finish.


  • Westcave Cellars Winery, Texas Hill Country, Estate Tannat, 2010

Harvested from 2 year old vines, aged in 2 year old French oak barrels, this estate grown Tannat was clear, with a dark opaque purple color. First impression was ordinary, with a faint hint of bell pepper aroma. It brought flavors of black cherry, dark plum and a nice anise or licorice finish. Pleasant and tart acidity with a long finish.



Certainly this young wine will improve and develop once properly cellared and bottled. It’s worth mentioning that what I have herein listed and tasted, was so to speak just out of production, and will not by any way, mean that the wine that will be released will match the above descriptions. Westcave Cellars owners, the Fetty’s, still need to fine and finish the wine through élevage, and define final blending portions,cellaring techniques, chapitalization if any,  labeling statements, and final presentation in due time.


Margaret Fetty, Viticulturist


Allan Fetty, Enologist