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!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

New Wine Review

Attended a business dinner this week and had a wine that I wanted to mention.    We had a 2013 Seavey Cabernet.    Great bottle of wine and I looked it up online after the meal.   Retail prices range from $80-100.    It was an impressive wine.   I know this is not the most value oriented suggestion I have made, but I visited their website and this is the cheapest of their Cabernets; one is listed for over $1,200 for the bottle, which makes this one a steal in comparison.

This was a big Cabernet, but with a nice subtle finish.   I was not familiar with the wine, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but immediately upon just smelling the wine I could tell I was going to like it.

Next time your in the wine store, maybe looking for a gift for the wine friend.   Here is a not so popular idea that I promise will impress.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Napa Trip 2016: Second Day and Still Going Strong

Hit the day running on day two with a quick stop into Napa Wine Company.   I became a member at NWC years ago and do my best to stop in every time I'm in town.   They always take good care of their members and this time was no different.  One of my favorites this time was a 2013 Oakville Zinfandel.   The wine is really big with lots of fruit, but it was reasonably priced and give this Napa Zin a few years and it will be perfect.  Great value option, buy a case and fill your wine fridge!

After this, a stop into Oakville Grocery to pick up a quick bite before the big tastings started.

After that, it was on to the Silverado Trail and Quintessa.  A super VIP tour, thanks to our friend Marc, opened the tasting.   Then on to a full tour of their Super Cabs.    A tasting at Qunitessa is essentially a rainbow of wine glasses, each filled with a 2 once sample of some of the finest Bordeaux inspired Cabernet blends in the world.  

They take you through a tour of serveral vintage years and blending recipes so that you can get a feel for how impressive each of these factors can be on a vintage.   It never ceases to amaze me that you can have 6 people at the tasting table and everyone will get a different impression, different taste or different result from each glass.   As much as you want to believe that wine snobs know more about how wine tastes than you do.... You have to remember that wine taste really is in the eye of the beholder.   When the wine snob is paying... Drink, enjoy and compliment the choice.   When you are paying....   Drink what you like!   This

Qunitessa remains time and time again one of the best wineries in the valley and we had some great ones here.    The wine steward was great, fun and knowledgable.   I highly recommend seeking an appointment on your next trip.

The equipment and facilities at Qunitessa are mind boggling.   The massive oak fermination tanks are big enough for a small family to live.   The cave system is massive and one of my favorite parts of any tour.   I love the temperature and the smell of all the barrels of wine aging.   

Friday, September 9, 2016

Napa Trip 2016 - First Day in the Valley

Just got back from this year's Napa Adventure. Attended this time with our good friends the Sachs and the Roberts. Started the trip as usual with a champagne toast at Domaine Carneros, left with a double magnum, not sure when we will pop that one open, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Finally, after many attempsthis trip we were able to arrange a tasting and tour of Palmaz Vineyards.
 I have been wanting to tour this place since reading their story a few years back. It was an awesome tasting, with an amazing food bite accompaniment. The food pairing was so impressive, we had no choice but to buy the Palmaz family cookbook. Palmaz's story of American entrepreneurship and winery founding is not singular in the valley, but Dr. Palmaz's invention of the heart stint, is certainly unique. The ultimate gravity fed wine process is on display and not sure how much that plays into the final product, but the wine does not disappoint. We had an amazing Cabernet among others and the group was also impressed with the label design, which to me was a first. Next time your in the valley, try to get into this place, you'll love it!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

How to Plan the perfect Trip to Napa (Day 3: LATE Afternoon)

Western skies at Obrien Estates, Yountville, CA.
Well we had time for one more stop.    On the way back to the hotel, in the Yountville area off Oak Knoll, there sits a small winery called, O'Brien Estates.    A winery known for its' small production, amazing winemaker and most notably it's wine bottled adorned with love poems.

I have been to this winery dozens of times, my family has been wine members there for years and we just felt that this group had to experience the O'Briens personally.    And personally is what we got.   We were greeted by none other than Owner, Barb O'Brien and winemaker, David Yorgensen.    They set up a casual tasting in the backyard of their adjoining residence.    We tasted all of their popular labels and Barb read  and then gave background the labels of each of the wines.

They allowed everyone the opportunity to walk through the vineyards, and just enjoy the afternoon and each other's company.    It seems that everywhere we went on this trip seems to top the last place; not in a bad way, but like every place just made the trip that much more memorable.      Every winery offered a unique experience, some were offered a white glove and crystal experience and others, like O'Brien offered a more relaxed atmosphere where you feel like you were in your family's backyard for a holiday.    All the wineries outdid themselves, I could not have been more pleased.

O'Brien Estates, a tasting everyone will remember!

Paul Jackson with the perfect pose!

Felt like home

Barb O'Brien delivers a personal tasting

Unique decorations everywhere

Libby Jackson listens intently

Kevin Jackson enjoys "Seduction"

Erin and Scott MCNeil walk the rows of grapes

Melissa Pogue and Laura Craddick chat in the vineyards

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

How to Plan the perfect Trip to Napa (Day 3: Afternoon)

View from the veranda at William Hill Estate Winery
After the morning tasting the buses drove us over the Silverado trail up on a mountain where we arrived at one of my favorite wineries, William Hill Estate Winery.    I have been to WIlliam Hill many times, we have been members there for years, and the staff is always friendly and eager to help.    When we called and said that we have 30 + Guests, the response was "Bring em on, we will make it work!" And they did!

They set up an out door picnic overlooking the valley under a wisteria cover veranda.     I really could not have asked for a better setting.    We were all at the point, after visiting many very high end wineries that we just wanted to have a relaxing lunch under the perfect wine country skies.  

They had box lunches prepared and delivered by the Soda Canyon Store, which is just down the road on the southern end of the Silverado Trail.  Standouts from the boxes where "The Best Sandwich", smoked turkey, with gorgonzola topped with a fig and olive spread and served on on sourdough and "The Tourist" smoked turkey served with a mound of double creme brie and avocado on fresh focaccia.    William Hill had the outdoor area all set complete with wine glasses and servers.   They served two wine options by the bottle, a 2008 Bench Blend Chardonnay and a 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet.    This might have been the highlight of the trip.     Just a perfect day, the forecast had called for rain, but Camille was looking down over us making sure the whole day went off without a hitch.

Rob Rickman enjoys the Chardonnay
Everyone was able to relax and enjoy the wine.    I had tons of compliments on this place, everything from comments on the view to comments on the staff.     A few guest somehow talked thier way into a private facility tour.   Not quite sure how they pulled that off, but with this group, nothing every comes as a surprise.

Side note: They allowed us to bring along a cooler full of bottled water for everyone.   It is the little things like this that makes venues like William Hill so easy to deal with.    This made things a lot easier on everyone as their staff didn't have to deal with this and we were able to save our group a little money.

William Hill is a must see for large groups of for just for one.    Their pleasant demeanor and casual style makes this place one of my favorite stops in Napa.

Monday, April 1, 2013

How to Plan the perfect Trip to Napa (Day 3: Morning Tastings)

1800s barn conversion at Nickel & Nickel

Day 3: First Tasting of the day was at Nickel & Nickel in Oakville.    This was my birthday day, so only seemed fitting to stop at one of my all time Napa favorites.  The bus dropped us off and we were escorted into a remodeled 1800s era barn that currently serves as their corporate offices and wine laboratory and tour area.   We were then led onto the grounds where they were still crushing grapes for the season.    Everyone was able to see the process first hand and get a real sense of how busy things can get during the harvest.

Following the crush tour, were were led through their caves and were able to see many vintages as they rested in barrels.    Nothing beats the smell of a wine cave with rows and rows of wine barrels.   Hundreds of wine barrels are stacked, each containing a certain vintage.    Generally you will find French oak barrels that have been burned (or toasted) to the winemakers specifications before they are filled with the red wine.   Most the barrels will hold wine for 12 - 20 months depending on how much of the oak taste the winemaker wants to seep into the wine.

Our tasting took place in the basement of the farmhouse which is located on the front half of the property.    Two long tables were set for 30; the setting was amazing.   Nickel & Nickel really knows how to entertain a big group.

Michelle...  save some for us

The tasting was elegant and educational but they certainly allowed us to have a good time.  

It is never a good idea to drink too much in Napa and turn the tasting into a party...    But our group knows how to have to good fun and the staff at Nickel & Nickel loved playing right along with us.    

Brandon Moore and Cody Lummus had a good time sampling the Red Wine.  We sampled 4 red wines and a Chardonnay.  

Our host explained how the the different soil types in the Napa region can influence the grapes.  He referenced a table in the room that held soil samples from all over Napa.  Kara Hannon and Ashly Cothern enjoyed the Chardonnay and the company.   Even Mike Cothern seemed to be getting into it by this point!

Ken Monk and Scott McNeil both joined the Nickel & Nickel / Far Niente wine club.     This is not the cheapest wine club in the valley, but you will be hard pressed to find a better wine club.    The wine is always amazing and everyone involved with this organization is a complete pleasure to deal with.   I always love introducing friends to this winery.

For your reference, appointments are always required when visiting Nickel & Nickel and Far Niente.

After Nickel and Nickel we were off to our next tasting...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Napa: (Day 3: Morning)

We started the third day off with a breakfast taco bar in our "Orchard Home" at The Carneros Inn.    The houses here are perfect for entertaining small groups which was yet another plus when we were deciding on accommodations for everyone.     There are a lot of small details that are included such as a Bose stereo and docking station that pipes music throughout the home, gas grille and a full kitchen.  The sliding french doors in the back of the cottages fold back completely opening the living area up to the covered patio where guests can sit at the outdoor table or relax on the couch by the wood burning fireplace.  

Melanie and Paul enjoy the breakfast tacos

Michelle fired up for another day in Napa
The design is a kind of California / Modern & Farm all melted together into a super cool place.   Plenty of couches and seating options and a large dining table made for a perfect serving station.   As our guests moved to the patio, they found a dark stained teak deck leading onto a flagstone lined garden, a hot tub for relaxing after a long day on the wine trail and various seating areas that seem to invite an afternoon nap.   As you can see by the pictures, our two bedroom house provided plenty of room, even for a party of 30.

Laura Craddick and AMy Moore relax by the fire

We kept the breakfast pretty simple...  the point was simply to get the day started in a casual setting and enjoy some time together before another packed day of tastings.    I think everyone liked the in-home setting where they could relax.    We all sat around and told stories and lies of the day and night before.    There were a few foggy heads in the room, but for the most part everyone seemed ready to attack the valley once again.  

Kara Hannon
My brother, Clay, and his wife Betsy ordered in the breakfast tacos complete with chips and salsa from Tres Hermanos, just down the road in downtown Napa.    Clay had been there before and insited that they were some of the best around.   I feel quite certain that everyone agreed.  We provided some juice and fresh berries.   The Carneros Inn also not only provides a 10 cup coffee machine, but a Nespresso Cappuccino/espresso machine, which came in handy.    

This morning was one of my favorite memories from the trip; just hanging out and talking over a morning coffee looking into the Carneros Vineyards.

Mike Peschel and Mike Mikeska
After breakfast we loaded onto a 40 passenger Limo Bus - So Cool!    Upon arrival at the resort, each of our guests received a small monogramed cooler filled with bottled water, fruit and other locally sourced snacks.    Anyone that knows my wife, knows that EVERYTHING must be monogramed, so it seemed a fitting gift for everyone.  Truthfully, this was the perfect accompaniment for todays adventure.   (Thanks to Meredith for coming up with this idea)  It would be a long day of tastings and making sure your guests have some water and other things to snack on between tasting is a good idea.    Even though most tastings are pretty tame activities, after a while most people will need a little something other than wine to fill their stomach.   

Paul Jackson loading the bus for the day

Lee Constantino sporting his monogramed cooler!
Deciding on renting a bus is a tricky thing when planning your Napa trip.    Many wineries will not allow buses so you have to do your homework in advance or you might have some surprises.  We choose to only do the bus one day for our guests.    For most tastings and activities, it made sense to have everyone just try to consolidate and take a few cars, but for this day we had some special events planned and we really just wanted everyone to be comfortable.   Plus, it was hard to deliver some surprises to everyone if they knew in advance where they were going.

- And just like that, we were off to another day of tasting in the wine country...

Paul Jackson and Scott McNeil