While the eastern seaboard was pummeled with snow in February and the west coast received flooding amounts of rain Dallas saw many spring like days with sunshine and temps in the 60s and even 70! The weather provided the perfect opportunity for a ladies lunch get together and instead of heading to a restaurant, this time I offered to host a lunch at my house. Although the weather was ideal most of February anyone who has ever lived in Dallas knows our weather can change drastically in 24 hours and there was certainly no guarantee of nice weather in February. However, as our lunch date approached it became clear it was going to be a gorgeous (I mean southern California style) day: a cloudless day, 65 degrees, no wind and no bugs. Perfect!
The next step in planning our ladies lunch was the wine. I dine with my friends so often I have come to learn exactly what types of wine the each enjoy so I set out with a budget and a mission: buy 4 bottles of wine to please them all. It was not a hard mission, mind you, but as the resident oenophile I had to choose well. Furthermore, my girlfriends are all adept at drinking west coast wines so I further challenged myself to seek out wines they were unfamiliar with to expand their palates and imaginations. I will tell you up front my task was completely successful; there was not a drop left at the end of our 4+ hour gathering! Here is the breakdown of palates: two of my friends like super bold, slice me a glass wines; one friend likes sweeter or fruiter wines; one friend just wants any wine in her glass and another friend and I are more versatile in our likes preferring more nuanced wines with layers of complexity but will drink any wine that is well-structured and balanced. Here is the line-up and tasting notes:
Whitehaven 2014 Marlborough New Zealand Sauvingon Blanc: This wine was dazzling, pouring a glistening gold into the glass and opening with a lively bouquet of tropical fruit, stone fruit and citrus. It was light and lively on the palate with flavors of grapefruit, pineapple, ripe yellow peaches, lemon curd and lime zest. It was crisp and clean with round acidity and a clean finish. This was the only wine I bought that I had enjoyed on many occasions; it is one of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs. You simply must try this beautiful wine! SRP $14.99 at Total Wine.
Porta Estate Bottled Reserve 2013 Carmenere: This dark brooding wine was crafted in the Maipo Valley, Chile. It poured a dark violet into the glass and opened with vibrant aromas of rich ripe berries, tobacco, smoke, violets and damp underbrush. It offered concentrated fruit flavors of cherries, currants, black berries and black raspberries along with smoke, double espresso, toasted cedar and black pepper. It was smooth on the palate with well-structured acidity, integrated tannins, medium body and a dry lingering finish. This Carmenere is one of the reasons you should be drinking Wines of Chile! SRP $9.99 at Total Wine.
Tierra Aranda Ribera del Duero Tempranillo 2011: This wine poured a deep garnet with violet highlights and opened with inviting aromas of red and black berries, olives, pepper and Asian spice. On the palate this dazzling wine offered flavors of cherries, cranberries and black berries along with round spice, pepper, milk chocolate and toasted hazelnuts. It was smooth and smoky yet balanced with a subtle sweetness (though not at all a sweet wine). It was well structured with round acidity and integrated tannins that filled its medium body and left a lingering, dry finish. SRP $19.99 at Total Wine.
Torbreck Barossa Valley 2012 Woodcutter’s Shiraz: This wine poured a deep maroon into the glass and opened with black and blue fruit, spice and toasted walnut aromas. On the palate this dark Shiraz delivered flavors of black cherries, black plums, blackberries, damp tobacco leaves, smoke, pepper and Asian spices. It was a dark rich wine yet well balanced with round acidity, integrated tannins, medium to full body and a dry, lingering finish that left the mouth begging for another sip. SRP $19.99 at Total Wine.
As I said earlier the Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc was the only wine I had previously enjoyed, the rest I found on my own (no one at Total Wine that day seemed interested in assisting me) by making some educated guesses. Having enjoyed several Carmeneres I knew it was a grape that my friends would also enjoy but most likely not had before; as far as which one to select, I made my decision based on the Total Wine tasting notes and the price. Regarding the Tempranillo, I did not intend to purchase a Tempranillo but as I said I wanted a wine I knew my friends would enjoy but was new to them (at least a Tempranillo from Spain instead of the US was new). For the Shiraz, I was actually hoping to find a South African Shiraz but Total Wine does not carry any so I chose a Shiraz from a region I was familiar with and new it produced high quality juice: Barossa Valley. When in doubt selecting wines from known, well performing regions has served me well every time. So we ended up with an eclectic selection of very nice, well priced wines that were each thoroughly enjoyed by myself and my friends. Though I must admit selecting the wines was a somewhat frustrating experience. First of all, I did not have time to order wines online; second, I did not want to drive all over Dallas; third, price was important since I was keeping to a budget (which I came in under thanks to good pricing at Total Wine); finally, though Total Wine is a huge box store with thousands of bottles of wine, the selection is really quite limited. Seem strange? Well I wanted to purchase a Grenache Blanc for the white wine and the store near my house did not carry that varietal; I wanted to purchase a South African Shiraz, none to be found; I wanted to purchase a Barossa Valley Zinfandel, again none to be found; I was seeking to find the Carmenere so I was thrilled to find a decent selection. Oh and my Grenache Blanc back up was Torrontés from Argentina; again none to be found. This left me pondering does Total Wine not carry a wider selection of wines because consumers do not want it; or do consumers not want a wider selection of wines so Total Wine does not carry it? Sort of a chicken/egg scenario.
We paired our wines with a great lunch: homemade chicken salad that was outstanding (click here for the recipe), fruit salad, kale salad mixed with pomegranate seeds, mandarin orange slices, avocados, toasted chopped almond and citrus vinaigrette dressing; cold cuts of salami and turkey; herbed cheese, fresh steamed green beans and delicious flourless chocolate cake topped with bourbon soaked raspberries and fresh homemade whipped cream. Whether at a restaurant or at home our ladies lunch group always eats well.
My Song Selection: The song I have chosen to pair with that beautiful February day filled with great friends, wine, food and sunshine is Heavy by Collective Soul. This song is hard enough to represent the dark and bold side of the red wines selected; yet from a band that represents the lighter side of high quality rock n’ roll that pairs well with the soft and lively essence of the Sauvignon Blanc. I have had the pleasure of seeing Collective Soul live three separate times over the years; they are outstanding!
Get your own bottles of any one or all of these four lovely wines and let me know what song you would pair with them. Cheers!