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 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

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.