My mother, Camille McBee, partnered with Bobby G. Smith, Winemaker, in North Texas for over 30 years. Together they worked to develop a National and International name for Texas Wines. In 2009 she passed away too young, but she left behind a Texas Wine Industry that was better because of her dedication and she left a family with a deep rooted love and appreciation for wine and entertaining. This blog serves as a diary of my adventures in wine and as a lasting toast to my mother. -Cheers!

This blog is NOT intended to be the authority on tasting notes, or a professional guide for wine experts; it's simply a place for me to share some of my opinions and findings about wine with my friends and other wine lovers.

I truly hope you will use this blog to help you the next time you are thinking about what to buy at the wine store or deciding what to order at a local restaurant or when you travel to the wine country. ENJOY!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Wine menu value: Out to dinner Telluride, CO

Enjoying family vacation in beautiful Telluride, Colorado and headed out for an “adult” dinner with friends, Maren and Michael Doherty (of FLAVR Fame) and Jennifer and Brett Kennedy. Maren set us up with reservations at the New Sheridan Hotel, a hotel and dining room that is more than 100 years old and great place for dinner out with friends.  The atmosphere was great, the food was all excellent, and the wine list was extensive, but plenty of overpriced wines to catch the excited vacationer. I chose to look for some value on the list. I ended up picking out two great selections for a fraction of the price of the normal “Go-To’s” like California cabernets, many of which were well over $200 a bottle. I chose to go with something a little less popular and picked the 2016 La Fortuna, a Rossa Di Montalcino. Often you can go to the Italian section of the list and pick a medium priced Montalcino and get a pretty good wine. This one was only $65 and was definately the favorite of the group. Relatively young and still plenty of fruit, but this was a great option for the money.  Next, I picked the 2014 Azelia Barolo from Luigi Scavino.  The Barolos are often the more pricey Italian selections, but his one was $85, well below those Cabernet prices, but no one complained. Great dinner and experience at the New Sheridan Hotel. Thumbs Up, check it out next time you’re in Telluride.
Jennifer and Brett Kennedy and Meredith McBee

And next time your out to dinner, look for those less popular options and find the value. Don’t be afraid to let the sommelier help you with this, they are often happy to help you pick a value find, they enjoy that.  

Sunday, July 1, 2018

A Night Out at The Charles - Dallas

Chas Martin’s “The Charles” is absolutely amazing.  From the second you enter the restaurant you feel almost transported back in time or maybe off to a small cafe off the Amalfi Coast. It feels like Art Deco meets Italian fine dining.  The staff’s attire and the decor are really just great, I do love this place. The clientele range from the young hip foodie crowd to the older sophisticated wine lovers.  The place was packed full, but not too loud.  There is also a great bat with seating.

The appetizers were great, including the special house special flat bread (if you call it that) and we tried the octopus and the baked oysters, both a hit. We opted for family style ordering an basically tried half the menu, the pastas and the fish were all perfect. Now one of my favorite things about The Charles is that they have a large moderately priced wine list, with a few high dollar guys in there just for good measure, but the wine list here offers some really fun great options, for restaurant prices at $60-70 which is pretty good in Dallas these days. The waiters are super helpful in helping make a choice.

Probably too big for a starter, but couldn’t resist starting out with a Montapulciano, the Marina Cvetic D’ Abruzzo. For the price, this one was about $63, this was a great wine. It had a dark ruby red color and some tobacco and other dark flavors. Probably a little too much with the octopus and baked oysters but the wine was great, so who cares, but should probably just save this one for the entree.

Second I picked the Terre Nere Edna Rossa.  This is a lighter option, a Sicilian style wine. We all agreed this was a great wine and a nice compliment to the main dishes, especially the fish, but I think I messed this up, should have flipped the order of these two.  Nevertheless, bright fruit, berries and some spice made it a great second wine.

You heard it here, check out The Charles!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wine with the Plano Group - Napa Cab Face-Off

Fun dinner with the Plano group Saturday. Now, no one actually lives in Plano, but without getting off subject here - this is an old name that has just stuck. This group knows and enjoys wine, mostly because I drug them along early on my wine journey. Now they are all wine lovers themselves, and getting together for dinner is always fun as you never know what someone will bring along.

Tracy and Lee hosted in thier amazing new outdoor living room. Lee opened the event with a “Born on Date” May 2018 Miller Light (by the keg mind you),.  Beautiful evening as we toured the new pool and Las Vegas style fire features, seriously you could lose an eyebrow at any second.  Kevin, Rob and Clint each brought some wine to the party, nothing real exotic this time, but there were some classic Napa Cabs.  Plenty of good apps and conversation and then it was on to dinner.

We had options but decided to start dinner with the 2008 Quintessa, i mean it was just too hard to see it sitting there waiting to be opened. Thanks Kevin - this was a winner - but who was surprised.  2008, still big and plenty of fruit, not letting anything go, the 2008s still have some time.  If you have not seen or been to this winery, click on the link above, this may be one of the prettiest wineries in Napa.  Check out the website - seriously!

Once the Quintessa ran out, it was on to the Nickle & Nickle Regusci Ranch Cabernet, thanks to Clint and Donna's monthly wine membership from Far Niente. Clint staked this as his favorite vineyard in the Nickle & Nickel collection. Who was I to argue, they don't have a bad one out of that place.  It was great, just one year younger than the first, but packed a bit more punch.  Carrying it's age much stronger than the Quintessa, it had lots of dark berry and a real balance but satisfying oak.

Now, I felt a bit overplayed at this point, didn't know it was going to be a Napa Cab Face-Off.  I wanted to share something simple and new - something that they had not had before and something they might want to start stocking up on.  I brought a 2015 Adaptation.  This has become one of my favorite moderately priced wines.  fI was introduced to this wine by none other that the founder John Conover, of Cade and Plumpjack Fame of course.  This wine was out of their Odette Operation, which if you have not had the chance to try - try it. Probably my favorite find on my last trip to Napa. Thanks to my good friend Marc Sachs by the way.  Adaptation is one of his newer projects and it is really special - especially for the price. I was able to pick up a case of this for just under $40 a bottle as Specs Wine, which makes this a great value for what you get in my opinion.  We finished up dinner with a bottle of 2010 Faust thanks to Rob and Michelle. Another solid wine, consistent and great but a pretty popular. This is another reasonable bottle, Quintessa 2nd Growth you might say, but always consistent.   Honestly by this time it was not as easy to identify all that this wine had to offer, but everyone seemed to enjoy it just the same.

Anyway, great dinner and company, check out any of these wines above if you're looking for a Napa Cabernet Classic. Cant wait to be with the plan group again - who knows what we get to try next time. Harlan Estate maybe?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Dallas’ Al Berniet's North

I was able to visit the new Al Berniet’s North this weekend.  Both brother-in-laws were in town for Mother’s Day, but it was just the boys Friday night, so we decided to try out Dallas’ newest steakhouse, but one that bears an old name.  I think they did a really great job on the renovation. So many of us enjoyed the Del Frisco’s location for years, so it was really cool seeing it reborn under a new name. Food, service and the Somm, all great, great job!!   So, Ill get to the point... the wine.  Wine list was extensive, with many of the usual suspects, but there were 5-10 pretty unique Napa names to look over. I gave the sommelier a couple of wines I was considering, but as usual, i wanted to try something and was open to suggestion.  He suggested the 2014 La Jota Vineyards, Howell Mountain Cabernet. I was familiar with this label, but had not had the wine before. They priced the wine at $165, which is a bit higher than I like to spend at dinner, as I am generally looking for the best value on the menu. However, this wine is sold for just under $100, so the markup seemed reasonable and I wanted to try the wine.  Brother-in-law, Porter, also eager to split, so it made this the right choice. The wine was great, lots of black cherry and berries, with a bit of smoke, mild oak and a soft finish.  Perfect temperature on the wine as well, thanks to the wine team at Al Berniet’s. Next time you visit, considering the wine, and the value to retail - I suggest this one.  A really good dinner at the new Al’s,  paired with good company and a great wine.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Wine with friends

Had dinner with great friends this weekend. Scott and Erin enjoy the same things we do, great wine and fresh cord in Jackson Hole. Well, we had quite a bit to catch up on and that is a serious understatement...  great conversation and spectacular wine marked the occasion.  Scott opened the evnening with a 2015 Textbook, a Pey family special realese out of Oakville, CA. Textbook is a liable from a small production winery and this label is offered in a limited production, only 2 barrels were bottled of this blend - so we were all excited to try it. It was great, quitisential Napa blend, with plenty of fruit, but I found the wood notes to be subtle despite the  reference on the bottle to more than 20 months on new frenck oak.  This was quite the crowd pleaser And it didn’t last long, so off Scott goes and “Boom” back he comes with the encore, a 2012 Ovid. Ovid is a another Pritchard Hill star, with a winery that impresses all who get the opportunity to visit. A full landscape view of the Napa Valley can be seen from thier expansive tasting table complete with massive metal doors that lead to a wrap around patio. Ovid is probably one of my favorite wines from the Napa area right now. THis BIG napa cab has plenty to offer, just the right amount of fruit and with almst 15% alcohol, it delivers big taste and character. Add this selection to your menu next time you want to impress your friends or get in good with your new boss.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

3rd day in Napa...   Worn out and tired from the last two days, it was time to rally and get out there and enjoys our last day.   We were not messing around this day either.   Started the day with a tasting at 10AM

From there we headed North on the Silverado Trail to Duckhorn.   A place that we have visited many times, every time we go we are reminded why awe continue to visit this beautiful tasting room.   A far cy from the massive structures at Quintessa and Palmaz, Duckhorn's tasting room is a quaint house with sprawling landscaping and manicuring gardens.  The architecture is simple, it's a farms type home with a wrap around porch and covered outdoor tasting patio.

Your greeted at Duckhorn with their famous Savignon Blanc, on of Meredith's and my late mother, Camille's, most favorite.  You can belly up to a tasting bar and enjoy your wine while they prepare a table for your tasting flight.   You have the options to taste indoors, out on the patio, or even in the gardens.

This tasting we were offered a number of Duckhorn Cabernets and Merlots and we were given quite a history lesson on the Decoy Brand as well.   I had always mentally categorized the Decoy brand as sort of "Duckhorn Light" or "Duckhorn Second Growth", but I was quickly corrected by our wine guide.   She explained that Decoy was a brand that simply featured Sonoma vineyards and grapes, and by design was offered at a lower price point.  Sonoma wines often receive a lower price, but more importantly, this differential allows the Duckhorn brand to reach different grape varieties, different palettes and ultimately different wallets.  We had many side by side tastings of the two wines and I now have a new appreciation for the Decoy brand and its place in the offering in the Duckhorn Family.

We were also treated to one of the newer brands offered by Duckhorn,

Santa Barabara Wine Tour

Well, I consider myself a well seasoned wine guy, having logged hours and hours and days and days of wine tastings, but never in Santa Barbara.  Now, i have seen the movie Sideways no less than 100 times.   Mainly for two reasons, one, I love everything about this movie, and two, it is the only movie I have ever figured out how to rip off a CD and save to my iPad.  I am not even sure how i did it, but it is the only movie on my iPad, so I watch it on pretty much every plane ride.  Anyway, the movie is based on tasting wine in the Santa Barbara wine country. Now I get to see some of those places, which is fun.

We arrived today, just after lunch, grabbed a car and headed straight for Los Olivos.  Had lunch at a great little sandwich shop in town, Panino.  Solid tuna salmon ad sandwich and an eclectic crowd.  To accompany our lunch, we stopped into Larner Vineyard tasting room for a Savignon Blanc.  Following lunch we headed straight out to the tasting rooms. We visited the Gaines Family's Evan's Ranch Winery, where we tried a couple of interesting Pinot Noirs and two really good Syrah. We learned the interesting story about how the Josten's family, of high school ring fame, used thier fortune to start this winery thirty years ago. Next, we then ventured down the street to Blair Fox Winery, where we tried a few wines, including a pretty good Chardonnay, and a really great Syrah, the 2014 Petite Sirah. (Yes, spelled with the I)

Before heading out we stopped in for a quick glass of wine at a little bar called Community Craft.   We met the owners, Andrew & Erin - great couple, each of which are chasing successful careers in the Santa Barbara wine industry, one as a sommelier  and the other as a wine maker. I would consider this place a "must do" in Los Olivos if you want to get the inside track about where to go in the area. This couple has some great recommendations and is full of little wine surprises.  We were able to taste some small production wines here and left with Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc and an awesome Bordeaux style Cabernet from Grassini Family Vineyards. I made a really great contact here and hope to trade some great wines with this store going forward. Stop in and meet Andrew & Erin the next time you're in Los Olives.

Community Craft, Los Olives California