Thursday, August 27, 2009

Texas Hill Country wine tour

Last weekend, I joined my amazing Houston-based girlfriends, Shannon and Tiffany, for a Girl's-Only Wine Weekend extravaganza. We participated in the 2009 Harvest Wine Trail in the Austin-Fredericksburg area. It was a wonderful trip, and I wanted to share some of my tasting notes with you.

Let me preface this by stating that I am not highly educated in wine - I know a few things, and I have a pretty good sniffer, but I just drink what I like! I wanted to be able to buy a bottle from each vineyard, so I had a $15 per bottle limit. Of course, there were a few places that I ended up not buying anything from, AND I ended up breaking that rule now and again, but whatever.


First stop, Spicewood Vineyards. We had a lovely host and it was a very pretty setting - tranquil and simple. We tasted a total of 7 wines, and there was really only 1 that I didn't care for. I ended up purchasing the 06 Chardonnay - grapes come from Washington state and it was aged in 100% stainless, so the usually overpowering oaky taste was replaced with a rich fruity (but dry) flavor. It's very crisp and tropical. I also took home a bottle of the 07 Cabernet Claret, which is delicate and spicy, with notes of apple and cherry. Overall, an excellent experience.

Second stop, McReynolds Winery. Incredibly rustic, with two adorable winery dogs and a funky older couple running the place (both with PhD's, I might add). Note: don't bother with the cheese plate, it's pretty dinky. All of the wines at McReynolds have undertones of minerals and an almost dusty taste. It can sometimes be overpowering. Also, their reds had a very strong "grapey" flavor (the fancy term is "fruity" but really it's just grape). I ended up purchasing the 02 Merlot, mostly because I wanted the 06 but it was out of my price range and the 02 was very spicy and bold. Overall, an okay experience.

Third stop, Lost Creek Vineyard. Now, we got to Lost Creek late in the afternoon, after the tasting room closed. So, we stayed for dinner! I had a spicy lobster bisque and a wonderful mixed-greens salad with balsamic dressing and strawberries. Since we never made it over to Flat Creek Estate, we ordered a bottle of their 2007 Super Texan. It didn't last long! After dinner, we purchased a bottle of Lost Creek's 2005 Chardonnay (which was on their tasting menu). The girls didn't care for it, but I like white wines in the summertime and enjoyed drinking it on the patio while listening to a folk-country band.


First, Pedernales Cellars. Tried 6 wines, mostly reds because Tiffany was having a white wine hangover :) Took home the 07 Merlot and the 08 Muscat - normally I don't drink dessert wines, but it was just too good to pass up. The girls each bought a bottle of port, which was off the hook. The wines were all excellent, and the facility is shiny and new. Very nice place to visit!

Then we drove up to Fredericksburg, to the Fredericksburg Winery. Tried 6 of their "dry" wines, but they were too sweet. To quote Shannon "Excellent place to go if you are accustomed to drinking Franzia White Zin from a box and want to move up a step".

Third stop, Becker Vineyards. Stocked up on lavender soaps and had a fantastic host who stopped counting and started pouring anything he felt like. It was awesome, we got something like 14 tastings for $5. Plus, we went on a mini cellar tour, which was fun. I could have walked away with at least 5 bottles, including their "who needs dessert?" port, but I restrained myself and bought the 07 Zinfandel, which was bold and bright.

Fourth stop was Torre di Pietra, which didn't have any free tastings for ticket holders (wtf?). They had a great retail section, but it was dark inside, and felt a little like being in a dungeon. Since it was too hot to sit outside and listen to the band, we crammed into an empty spot at the bar and tasted 4 wines, from a Primitivo to the Tango Port. The two bottles I loved, the 05 Claret and Mataro, were WAY out of my range...and, honestly, not necessarily worth the high price tag. So I left empty-handed, boo hoo.

Even though it was not planned, we saved the best winery for last. At the end of a long, very hot day, we decided to visit Woodrose Winery in Stonewall. We sat on the deck, facing a pretty wooded area, and purchased the "Mike's Choice" tasting menu. One interesting tidbit is that their 07 Zinfandel was made with the exact same grapes that the Fredericksburg winery purchased to make their 07 Zinfandel, with incredibly different results. FW's Zin was sweet, delicate and fruity. WR's Zin was peppery and bold. I broke my "no pink wine" rule and bought their 2008 Texas Rain Rose, and a bottle of the 07 Three Dog White. Somebody came out to check on us, and Tiffany asked to pay extra for an additional off-menu tasting. Turns out, that somebody is Mike, owner and vinter. He brought out two reserve wines for us to taste, then gave us a personal tour of the property. We saw the cellar and fermenting room, got to taste an unlabeled, unreleased Cab-Merlot blend that was JUST bottled, AND got to barrel taste a merlot. It was amazing!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Comfort food: Refrigerator pie

The ultimate in pudding-ey goodness!

-1 store-bought graham cracker pie shell
-1 packet of cook-and-serve vanilla pudding
-1 packet of cook-and-serve chocolate pudding
-1 or two still slightly green bananas
-1 box Nilla cookies

Slice the banana and layer in the bottom of the pie shell so it looks something like this:

Prepare the vanilla pudding according to the directions on the box for pie filling. Pour over the bananas, and refrigerate for 15 minutes to cool.

While the pudding cools, prepare the chocolate pudding according to the directions on the box for pie filling. Pour over the vanilla, then top with Nilla cookies. Chill, then serve!