the realization of free time and the persnickety Texas Viognier

If you would have told me a few years ago that I would be home at 10 pm on a Friday night, every Friday night, I would have laughed.  Not only would I have laughed, but I would have bought you a glass of wine.  Or a beer.  Or a scotch.  I would have leaned over the bar, whispered something to Olaf, and snickered.  My thoughts immersed in watching the clock, I would sit waiting for the sommelier to walk through the phone booth.  I talked to strangers and read my liberal left magazines. Oh, how I miss those days.  Don’t get me wrong.  Sommbaby is the most beautiful, intelligent, amazingly aware spirit that could have entered my life.  I love tending to the garden while she plays in the yard, in the water, and in the mud.  She captures my heart, and I would never trade her for anything.

( Photo by the amazing  Serina Sara Sparkman)

But, being a mother is hard.  Being a working mother is even harder.  I thought that once I finished graduate school that things would be easier, life would somehow become magically “perfect”; it was one less thing for me to do every day.  Less reading.  Less typing.  Less  checklists.  In reality, I have found a hole.  A gap in the busy life I used to lead.  I am constantly looking for projects, those which will not only fill my time, but also fill my need to constantly learn and grow.  Surprisingly, this process has become extremely painful for me.  In fact, a large part of me is somewhat sad.

So, tonight I contemplate my new goals in life, organize small projects, set deadlines, and work through the toughest emotions I have had in a while.  What better to nurse me through the ache?  A 2011 Becker Vineyards Viognier.

A rare white grape grown almost exclusively in the Northern Rhone regions of France, Viognier prefers warmer climates with long growing seasons. It’s no wonder, then, that Texas is the perfect climate for such a persnickety grape. Assumed a substitute for full bodied Chardonnay, Texas Viognier is round, luxurious, and smooth.  It comes with layers of intense, aromatic complexity, and has a creamy mouthfeel all its own.  Of all the wineries in Texas that produce a Viognier, Becker Vineyards has won the most “street cred” and obtained the optimum shelf space.  This year, Texas Monthly has even named the slightly fruity white a must have.

It’s a great way to wind down on a smoldering Friday night. After a week of ten-hour days, late day-care pick ups, even later dinners, and midnight laundry sessions, I deserve it.  And so do you.  Aptly priced at $14, it’s too much of a value not to give a try.

Go Texan.  Go Local.





Five Wines to Try for Under $20

How many times have you scoured the grocery shelves looking for a bottle of wine to serve with dinner? What is it they say? White wine for fish and chicken, red wine for beef? Before I met the sommelier, I would buy based on the funky label or creative name. So, wines like Ménage a Trois, Sofia Coppola, Clos Pegas, and Bitch have all made it into my shopping cart. Since I have actually started drinking wine, however, I buy based on taste. There are so many different flavors cascading the aisles; it seems extraordinarily difficult to determine which would be a good value. Even if you know what varietal you want to buy, the choices seem endless. Sometimes, we need direction. The following post contains a list of five drinkable wines under $20 you can find at your local HEB (in my case, these were all located at Alon Market).


2008 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Corvina Veronese

Veneto is a wine-producing region in the north-eastern corner of Italy, and has become increasingly more important in the last few years. In terms of style, it represents a conversion from the alpine, Germano-Slavic end of Italy to the warmer and drier Roman southern lands. The Palazzo della Torre is a blend of 70% Corvina, 25% Rodinella, and 5% Sangiovese. With blackberry and dark cherry on the nose, this medium bodied wine consists of layered fruit on the palate with a hint of earthiness. It may take a while to open up, so you may want to decant. An amazing value at $19.

Mumm Napa Brut Rose

The Carneros Valley is a wine-producing region hidden in between Napa and Sonoma. You can find several sparkling makers who follow the tradition of French Champagne vintners, blending partially press fermented wine with that of stainless steel tanks. Mumm Napa Brut Rose is a blend of 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay, with notes of both black cherry and strawberry. A beautiful salmon color, this sparkling pairs well with a variety of dishes; for something different, try with something spicy. $19.

2009 Mac Murray Ranch Sonoma Chardonnay

The Sonoma Coast has long been known for its cooler mornings and sunny afternoons, creating perfect conditions for the vineyards that are grown there. Now I am not one for oaky Chardonnay like the sommelier, so the Mac Murray Ranch Sonoma is the perfect compromise. Both aged and fermented in oak barrels and stainless steel tanks, the combination of styles produces a fresh vibrancy unforeseen in other wines. Orange blossom, peaches, and honey all rest on the nose, while a rich mouthfeel brings notes of lemon cream. A steal for $14.

2009 Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha

Spain is traditionally known for it’s Riojas and Tempranillos. But, if you haven’t tried Garnacha yet, you are missing out. This grape needs hot, dry conditions to grow, and the resulting wine usually contains a high alcohol content. With strong fruit forward tastes of black cherry and blackberries, this red wine is complimented with clove, incense, and Asian spice. I imagine this wine pairing well with ragout, rabbit, and other meats. An earthy wine with robust flavor, and an extraordinary deal at $11.

2010 Chain Gang Vineyards Sonoma Red Wine

Recently aware that HEB supports its own brand labels, I wanted to try one, of course, and had read about this particular wine. A very intense red blend from the Central California Coast, Chain Gang Vineyard Red has tastes of black currant, cherry, and berry, and a nose of vanilla and pepper. Smooth and silky, the wine does have a bite to it. Will pair best with steak or lamb. I recommend decanting or letting it sit uncorked for 30 minutes before drinking. $18.


While I may not keep all of these on the rack, these are just some suggestions for a few great buys from our local store; look for more to come from our somm family. Cheers!