Monthly Archives: April 2012

Countdown to Canforrales!: a Candid Interview with Bodegas Canforrales Senior Winemaker, Jose Hidalgo

Waiting for something new, exciting, vibrant, and fun! The wait is almost over! I had the good fortune of meeting with Van Potts of Preston-Layne & Partners, Ashley Olbrys of Magnum Wines International, and Senior Winemaker, Jose Hidalgo of Bodegas Canforralles near Madrid, Spain. This Tempranillo will be introduced to the U.S. in the VERY near future. Check out the video interview, then be on the lookout for more info regarding the Official Release Party here at or on my Facebook page and Twiiter account!

Thanks to Robust Wine Bar in St. Louis for hosting the tasting event!


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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Sometimes You’ll find Treasure in Your Own Backyard: Amigoni Urban Winery, Somerset Ridge Winery, and Stone Pillar Winery

One of the hardest things to overcome in dealing with wine is the tendency to think good wine can only come from certain areas and certain types of grapes.  Take wine in the United States for instance.  What do you think about when you think of U.S. wine?  California, right?  Maybe Washington, Oregon, or New York if you’re ‘enlightened.’  And which grapes do you think of?  If I were a betting woman, I’d say Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, maybe Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.

But there’s actually grapes being grown and wine produced in all 50 states…good wines.  I happen to live in Missouri, which was actually the nation’s first ‘Wine Country’ and had the first designated wine AVA…and I had no idea that was the case until just recently.  Nor did I have a clue how good the wines coming out of Missouri and Kansas truly were.  I had never heard of a Seyval Blanc, never tried a Vignoles, and couldn’t imagine I would like a Concord…

….boy was I in for a wonderful surprise.

I have only begun to tour the wineries right here in the Kansas City area, and what I found was wonderful.  I had the good fortune of visiting Amigoni Urban, Somerset Ridge, and Stone Pillar Wineries.  Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to visit Holy-Field or Jowler or any of the other wineries around the area, but make no mistake about it, I’m definitely going.  If what I found in the three I visited is any indication, I’m in for one fantastic tasting time as I check out the rest in the VERY near future.

The first winery on my day trip was Amigoni Urban Winery, located right in the middle of Kansas City in the West Bottoms area.  They are currently in the historic Livestock Exchange Building, but are putting the finishing touches on what is going to be an architecturally beautiful tasting room right across the street.  Winemaker Michael Amigoni is on the cutting edge of winemaking and is the only winemaker I know of in the area that grows and focuses on ONLY Vitis Vinifera grapes, no French-American Hybrids.  Amigoni focuses mainly on the Bordeaux and Rhone varietals of France.  Two of my personal favorites in their collection are Urban Cepages, a wine made of 100% Carignan, which paired particularly well with a pulled pork dinner I made.  Pretty cranberry and cherry notes on the nose, with a soft, silky feel in the mouth.  The Estate Cabernet Franc is one I would put up against any other from Washington, Bordeaux, Loire Valley…anywhere.  It is really that good!  The plummy, raspberry, dark cherry aromas carry on into the taste.  This is a medium bodied wine that I’m pretty sure would have paired well with the venison steaks I was going to make.  Problem is, I drank it all before I got around to cooking.  Again, let me repeat myself, it really is THAT GOOD!

The next visit was to Somerset Ridge near Paola, Kansas.  Nestled amongst quiet farms and a stone’s throw from the Louisburg Cider Mill, the vineyard is a picture of serene beauty and relaxation.  The cabinesque tasting room is filled not only with their wonderful wines, but a whole host of fun, wine related items to take home with you.  The tastings at the vineyard are always free, and you’ll find an assortment of entertainment including gardening classes and an “Art in the Vineyard” event showing off the talents of local artists amongst the vines themselves.  Somerset Ridge grows a mix of the premium wine grapes from Vitis Vinifera, as well as hybrids that mix the winemaking qualities of the European vines with the heartiness of the American grape species.  They also grow one all-American grape, Cynthiana, better known to wine drinkers as Norton.  They use sustainable farming methods, with no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.  My two particular favorites were their Chardonel: a light, fragrant white hybrid mix of Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc that I refer to as “Chardonnay’s little sister.”  I also am a fan of their Traminette: a hybrid of the Gewürztraminer grape.  This one can go either dry or sweet. I prefer the drier, spicier, ‘zinger’ white, myself.

Finally, I made my way to Stone Pillar Winery.  Just past the hustle and bustle of Olathe’s Great Mall of the Great Plains shopping area, and the chaos of I-35, you will find the vineyard smack dab in the middle of a residential housing area.  The second you step on to the property, you immediately forget about the traffic nightmare you were in a few miles and a few minutes earlier.  The dog and cat might greet you at the door of the tasting room, but it’s the turkey you’re going to HAVE to see.  Yes, I said turkey.  Jake is the prized pet both on display at the winery, and prominently displayed on the labels of their ‘Redneck Rose’, one of my favorites from the winery, a light, sweeter red wine that pairs up nicely with bbq and spicy foods.  The other wine I particularly enjoyed was their Concord.  Typically, Concord grapes are thought of as a regular table grape, but they also make a wonderfully sweet, fruity, red wine.  Serve this one chilled for a refreshing sipper all summer long!  The winery also is host to a summer concert series and several food and wine pairings throughout the year.

While I HIGHLY recommend visiting the wineries if you’re in the area, I guess the real point I’m trying to make is that wine drinking is an adventure, and good wines can be found nearly everywhere, INCLUDING right in your back yard.  Don’t limit yourself.  Check out your local wineries, uncork a varietal you’ve never tried, maybe never even HEARD of before.  It would be a shame to miss out on what could possibly be your new favorite if you don’t bother to look right under your nose.




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The Weekend is Here! Time to Celebrate!

The weekend is here, which, for me is cause for celebration all unto itself. If you’re having a special dinner or brunch, but aren’t a fan of traditional (and boring) Mimosas, here is a new celebrity cocktail recipe to perk things up. It’ll go well with darn near any occasion: brunch, steak dinners, or just hanging out on the deck. Want to truly make it a “Wallaby” and take it down under? I recommend a Wolf Blass Yellow Label NV Sparkler. It won’t break the bank, and it will lend itself well to the mix. Thanks to my friends at ‘Drinks With Friends’ for the recipe post on their Facebook page. Enjoy, and happy weekend!


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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Uncategorized


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The California “Love Child” of Bordeaux and Piedmont: 2007 Valeriano from Jacuzzi Winery

Ever have one of those days that was so dreadful even Murphy’s Law wouldn’t get near it?  Where you had the Midas Touch, except things didn’t turn to gold, it turned to…well, you get the idea.

Today was one of those amazing days.  I’m not sure which stung more: the arm covered in blisters from stinging nettle, or the 8 year old explaining that I look like one of the Angry Birds when I’m scolding her.

I know I’m probably showing my age here (for you young little darlings, you’ll have to Google this), but today has been a day where, if I had Calgon, I would throw the whole damn box into the tub and scream at it to not only take me away, but to make it one way, and lose the passport afterward.

Sadly…I have no Calgon.

But I do have something better.

I have France and Italy uncorked.  I have California Dreamin’ in my hands…

…I have the 2007 Valeriano from Jacuzzi Vineyards in my glass.

I’ll admit it, I had no idea what this wine was about.  I’ll even confess, I had not heard of this winery before (I live with an 8 year old that shames me, cut me some slack).  But with the stress and humiliation I have endured the past few days, those two magical words caught my eye: Valeriano and Jacuzzi.

I figured Valeriano should maybe be the Italian name for Valerian, an herbal relaxant, and we all know what a Jacuzzi is.  I know, it’s not terribly intellectual, but in my overworked mind, it equaled a stress-free nirvana in a bottle.  I took the bait.

It turns out that Valeriano is the first name of Valeriano Jacuzzi, the man responsible for the much coveted Jacuzzi tub.  He and his family also grew wine, and did it well…Valeriano is the Grandfather of Fred Cline of the highly regarded Cline Cellars.  They actually run Jacuzzi Winery in the Carneros area of Sonoma and make this red beauty.  All in all, with all of this new found information, I figure things were looking good where this wine was concerned.

‘Valeriano’ takes the best of Bordeaux by using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot grapes, then adds that renowned California ‘creativity’ by blending it with the Italian grape Barbera.  The ‘love child’ produced is truly spectacular!

In the glass, deep ruby with a mix of dark cherry, blackberry, basil, cocoa, and what I refer to as ‘dusty soil’ (which I find pretty typical of Italian wines) on the nose.

The taste is enough to make me do a little happy dance.  Blackberry pie and cherry fruits mix with mocha, spice, and even a little black olive on the finish.  I know, it’s not something you’d whip together in the kitchen, but trust me, IT WORKS!  It has enough tannin to give die-hard red fans something to hang on to, but they are smooth and soft on the tongue to appease those that like a lighter red.  Just a great mouth feel…and a great taste…on a great deal of a wine.

Now when I say great deal, it is not one of my ‘Around the Wine World for Under $20′ finds.  This one you’ll find around $35-40, so it’s not what I would call an everyday wine.  But given the great expense of California Cabernets, Bordeaux, and the finer wines of Piedmont, this is a steal!  You don’t find a wine of this quality at a bargain like this every day.

Pair it up with Italian (that’s a no-brainer), a big ol’ steak, brisket (BBQ season is upon us), pulled pork, venison, and, if you’re a heathen like me, the biggest bacon and blue cheese burger you can wrap your hands around.




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