Ever visited the land of Don Quixote – La Mancha, Spain?  I had the opportunity to do just that, without a plane ticket.  The wines of La Mancha came to our own backyard, Dallas!  A USA spring tour of “Wines Worth Discovering” sponsored by the La Mancha region of Spain occurred in Dallas with the Meadows Museum on SMU’s campus serving as a back drop.  This event occurred last week, Saturday, May 12th, and is well worth the review.

Taking a visit to the SMU Meadows Museum is quite a treat.  The museum is named after Algur H. Meadows, oil financier and Texas philanthropist.  During business trips to Spain in the 1950’s, he was inspired by the Prado Museum in Madrid to start his own collection of Spanish art.  In 1962, he gave SMU funds for the construction and endowment of the museum and his collection.

The Meadows Museum now houses one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Spanish art outside of Spain. With works dating from the 10th to the 21st century, the internationally renowned collection presents a broad spectrum of art covering a thousand years of Spanish heritage.

I can’t imagine a more appropriate and beautiful venue to discover the wines of La Mancha, located in central Spain, a region I hadn’t visited – at least by wine standards.  When most of us think of Spanish wines, we think of Tempranillo which is the main grape used in the Rioja region.  These wines are very popular and are quite inexpensive (under $10/bottle) for the quality. During the 1990s, Tempranillo started experiencing a renaissance in wine production worldwide.  Tempranillo wines are ruby red in colour, while aromas and flavors can include berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather, and herb.

But here comes La Mancha region wines – look out!  The trade show offered a formal wine tasting of 6 wines led by Michael Green, 25 years of experience including nearly two decades as Gourmet Magazine’s wine and spirits consultant will provide a unique perspective on these extraordinary wines.   “The diversity and quality of wines coming from La Mancha today is remarkable, and I think they will surprise a lot of people,” notes Michael Green. “It’s a region whose time has come.”

The wines to be poured at the tastings are crafted from grape varieties that flourish in La Mancha, including the white grape Airén (the most planted grape in the world) and the popular Spanish red Tempranillo (which goes by the local name Cencibel), as well as other indigenous and international varieties such as Viura, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, all of which find a suitable, and sunny, home in La Mancha.

Let’s start with the formal wine tasting.  I sit down at a chair in front of 6 glasses, each with a 2 ounce tasting of various wines.  Michael Green is the “host” and walks us through the presentation of the 6 wines.  When tasting wines, it is always good to start with the lightest wine and finish with the heaviest – as a general rule:  whites to reds.

We start with Espanillo Organic Airen Joven 2011.  It is quite light; one could compare it to a Pinot Grigio with a bit of a twist, or perhaps a Portuguese Vinho Verde.  $6 retail.  Next is Tomillar Sauvignon Blanc 2011; aromas of wet grass & spring time. $11 retail.

Then we started on the reds.  First up:  Torre de Gazate Tempranillo 2011.  It is atypical of a Spanish Tempranillo.  Much like a lighter red similar to a Beaujolais.  $9 retail.  Next is La Cruz Vega Syrah 2011.  Of the formal tasting, this was my favorite as was my friends’; well-balanced (acid vs. fruit).  If you find it too young for your palate – add manchego!  Next is Vega Demara Tempranillo Roble 2011; spent 90 days in American oak barrels.  Next is Casa Gualda Crianza 2008 – our first blend:  50% Tempranillo, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The producer of this wine described it as a wine you order for you and your date on the third date!  A more serious wine.  $14 retail.  The last red of the formal tasting was Allozo Reserva 2005 (100% Tempranillo).  Very much terroir based – I could smell the earth, the dirt of where the grapes were grown.  $16 retail.

The Grand Tasting presented over 100 red and white wines from 15 wineries from the D.O. (designation of origin) La Mancha.  You may ask “How do you sample so many wines in less than two hours”?  My way is to walk up to each table (winery) and ask if I could only try one wine of yours, which should it be?  This is my way, there are so many other ways to decide what to sample.  All whites?  All reds?  A certain varietal (grape)?  All of one winery?  What people are talking about?  What labels appeal to you?  The list goes on and on.

Top Five La Mancha Wines at Grand Tasting:

1.  Bodegas Verduguez Imperial Toledo Oaked Selection-Roble 2009

Blend of Tempranillo, Syrah & Merlot

2.  Bodegas Verduguez Coeli Del Cielo

Sparkling Medium Sweet Rose

3.  Dominio De Punctum 2011

Nortesur Chardonnay – organic

4.  Vinicola De Tomelloso 2011

Gazate Syrah

5. La Cruz Vega 2011

Syrah – well balanced – acid vs. fruit – if too young for your taste, add food – perfecto!

La Mancha Vines
La Mancha Vines
      Photo credit:

Central Market (CM) in the Dallas area is allowing us to live, even if for just a brief moment in time, in the culinary hideouts of France from May 9-22, 2012. Oh to be in France! Those magical moments in time…err…to be in France while having your feet planted in Texas, I mean, which to some Texans it is even better.

Each year CM “armchair travels” us to a country known for its culinary riches, and wow, have they hit the high mark with France. The event is called “Passport France”. The employees greet you with a “bon jour”, and occasionally take a peek at their mini laminated phrase card – hey, you have to start somewhere!

During this period, there are offering all things culinary French!  In Part One of this review, I mentioned many products to indulge in.  This week they have even more to offer (view brochure).  In terms of wine, they are spotlighting a Burgundy Pinot Noir, a Fourrey Chablis, a Provence Rose, and an Alsace Pinot Gris.  On all French wine, they are offering 20% off 6-17 bottles, and 25% off 18 bottles or more.  Food – oh la la!  Triple creme Belletoile brie, a rich yet mellow cheese; rustic baguettes; herb infused vinegars, apidis honey (wild lavender, acacia, spring flowers, or forest); truffle mustard or mayonnaise; and of course big, beautiful, sunflowers reminescent of the south of France.

As CM says:  “If French cuisine is your scene, then don’t miss Passport France.”

Central Market (CM) in the Dallas area is allowing us to live, even if for just a brief moment in time, in the culinary hideouts of France from May 9-22, 2012.  Oh to be in France!  Those magical moments in time…err…to be in France while having your feet planted in Texas, I mean, which to some Texans it is even better.

Each year CM “armchair travels” us to a country known for its culinary riches, and wow, have they hit the high mark with France.  The event is called “Passport France”.  The employees greet you with a “bon jour”, and occasionally take a peek at their mini laminated phrase card – hey, you have to start somewhere!

You may know already that Dallas is a culinary mecca – the restaurants, the artisan bakeries, wine bars, etc.; however, I quite do not have the cash to imbibe in many of these experiences.  I must live vicariously through others (real and virtural friends); however, there is something for everyone, at any price point, to enjoy “Passport France.”  Just check out their beautiful hand out.  How about a jar of herbes de Provence actually FROM Provence (what a concept), a savory ham and Gruyere crepe to share with a lover, some Comte cheese aged 18 months, or a large pail of mustard from the heart of Burgundy?  None of these could even break MY budget!

But, let’s see for a moment, what else we can put our hands on:  cassoulet (a rich, slow-cooked casserole with pork shoulder, garlic sausage, and white beans), bouef bourguignon (say hi to Julia), 20 different varieties of French bread, steak au poivre finished with brandy, cognac, or vermouth pan sauce – oh, how my palate sings!  Just walk in and see what happens when you allow your taste buds give in to your senses!

Feel free to try samples around the store:  wine, champagne, cheese, bread, pastry, you name it.  Also feel free to purchase all the luxurious delights which will only be in the stores for a short period of time.  Now that I think of it, I am out of herbes de Provence to place in my French grinder.  Darn, I’ll have to take a trip back to

– A La Votre –

I had a terrific opportunity to attend a Sigel’s event at the Park City Club in Dallas with Jasper Russo at the helm. Have you ever had two and a half hours to taste 40 Pinot Noir wines?  Well, I hated to be put in that position, but I tried!  Did I also mention tasting the appetizers served to compliment the wines:  herb crusted beef tenderloin, smoked chicken quesadillas, New England style crab puffs, fresh fruit, and of course artisanal cheeses?

When you think of a Pinot Noirs, you usually think of the region of Bourgogne (Burgundy) France.  The majority of red wine from that region is Pinot Noir; where the majority of white wine from that region is Chardonnay.  The Pinot Noirs for tasting that night were not just from Bourgogne, but a large sampling from California, Oregon, New Zealand. Most were great, and some were good.  It’s all a preference of one’s palate.  What tastes great to me, may be so-so for you.  No biggie!

Now, let’s take a look at the top five fabulous wines that Sigel’s had to offer that evening (in my opinion):

1.  Louis Jadot Pommard – 2007 –  Product Description:  Big, fresh, vibrant red raspberry and cherry flavors followed by impressions of spice and earth mark this generous, robust Pinot Noir, which finishes on a full, ripe note underscored by firm tannins.

Louis Jadot Pommard, Cote de Beaune, France label

2.  Bertrand Ambroise Nuits St. Georges – 2009 – Producer Notes:  This modern, dynamic and reliable producer ensures his wines offer intense, juicy and generous fruit characters whilst still maintaining the mineral, floral and licorice elements of good Nuits St Georges.

3.  Lucien le Moine Bourgogne  – 2009 – the style of 2009 has a broad appeal for wine lovers because of the ripe, pure fruit flavors and fleshy textures.

4.  Coup de Foudre, Sonoma Coast – 2010 – coming out of nowhere!  This bottle was indeed a “Thunderbolt of Love.”   The 2010 Pinot Noir possesses an expressive bouquet of spring flowers and black raspberries. The palate consists of hints of fresh porcini mushrooms, dark cherries, black currant and cream, underlined by spicy notes. It displays great balance of structure and richness as well as abundant tannin.  Believe it or not, this was one of the most expensive wines of the evening running around $100/bottle.

5.  Loring, Rosella’s – 2010 –  very velvety in structure, with a density and purity of fruit beyond anything the winery has seen in prior vintages.

Although my list of top five Pinot Noirs at the tasting were not all from Burgundy, most were.  Visiting the Burgundy region of France is beautiful and a wine lover’s paradise; a perfect place to learn about wine making. Some wine drinkers will maintain that only Burgundy provides the most haunting  bottles, memories of which may last a lifetime.

Come to Burgundy where “the price is right” and with the strong dollar to the euro right now, good time to consider an “extraordinary wine travel experience to France.”  Because it is a value, consider buying the French Pinot Noirs.  And where do they buy the better valued wines? At Sigel’s and Sigel’s Elite in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area!

French Burgundies rule!

This is Burgundy country: rolling hills, lush valleys and vineyards as far as the eye can see. You can stop at many of the little “caves” along the route to sample the fine Burgundy wine. In France, wine cellars are called “caves” so where you see a sign for Caves, you will find wine tasting and wines for sale.

I am hoping to take an intimate group of 10-12 epicurean enthusiasts to the Burgundy region through Epicopia Culinary Journeys, and would love to get your input.  Do you have a favorite region of Burgundy?  I am also curious if any Red Burgundies have given you the “chills”, in a good way!

I live in the Dallas area, and perhaps we could have our own Burgundy experience here to whet our appetites?  What do you think?  Anyone game?  A Burgundy wine tasting, an after-party or dinner…

A la Votre ~~


In order to “eat my wine”, I chose to prepare a pot roast marinated and slowly simmered in a Barolo wine.  Why pot roast?  Why Barolo?  This is a specialty entree from the Piemonte region of Italy.  It has a French influence and is known as “Brasato al Barolo” (braised beef with Barolo).

Barolo is a hearty red wine which is necessary to stand up to the 3 hours in the oven required for a rump roast.  Forget the veggies being used as a side dish. They will cook up to a mush. However, I suggest to puree the veggies with the liquid sauce after taking out of the oven to help thicken and enhance the taste of the reduction to apply over the meat when it is served.  YUM!  OK, so I spent $45 on the bottle of Barolo, but a friend had recommended it.  You see, he had been traveling through the Piemonte region of Italy a year ago and enjoyed a fabulous lunch where several bottles of the 2004 bottle of Ceretto Zonchera Barolo were served.  Et voila, there was that exact wine staring at me from the shelf of the wine store!  I decided to bite the bullet and pay the rather expensive (for me anyway) price tag.

The Ceretto winery:

Ceretto WineryHere are the tasting notes for the wine which scored 90 points:

“Zonchera is Ceretto’s more affordable base Barolo and it offers an excellent taste profile for those who are new to Nebbiolo. The wine opens with a dark, garnet-brown hue and segues to aromas of ripe berry, apple skin, vanilla, licorice and ginger. It’s a fruit-forward wine with tight tannins and a polished mouthfeel. It’s ready to drink now with fondue or grilled meat.”

Here is the recipe for the Brasato Al Barolo.  There are many variations, so you can look for the one that suits you best!


A Food Project in Sardinia, Italy

View clip here.

Viktorija Todorovska and cohort are creating an electronic multimedia resource on the foods and wines of Sardinia and the people who produce them. Sardinia is most known for its beautiful coasts, but the Mediterranean’s second-biggest island has some of the most unique cultural and culinary traditions, many of which have never been written about in English. The electronic resource will tell the story of the diverse foods and wines of the island and people who still make them in traditional ways, with passion and dedication.

The project will include video interviews with Sardinian food and wine producers and multimedia narratives about the products and how they are used. Provided funding, the electronic resources will be released in the Fall of 2012.

In order to make this fantastic project turn into reality, you can pledge a small or large amount at her Kickstart Project Page.


Viktorija Todorovska is a food and wine writer and educator. Viktorija is passionate about the Mediterranean Diet and helping cooks of all ages explore the world of food through simple and flavorful combinations of high-quality ingredients. Viktorija studied Italian cooking at Apicius, the International School of Hospitality in Florence, Italy, and continues to explore the culinary traditions of Italy during her travels.

Viktorija’s passion for wine is inseparable from her love of food. She writes about wine and leads wine tastings and classes, making topics such wine styles, food pairings, and how to choose wines easy to understand. Viktorija is an accredited Sommelier (International Sommelier Guild), French Wine Scholar (French Wine Academy), and Certified Specialist of Wine (Society of Wine Educators).

Viktorija’s first cookbook, The Puglian Cookbook: Bringing the Flavors of Puglia Home, was published in April 2011. Viktorija’s stories and recipes paint a vivid picture of the region and its culinary traditions. The recipes are simple and easy to prepare, making it possible even for beginner cooks to create delicious meals and create unforgettable dining experiences.

When she is not sipping wine and teaching classes in Chicago and its surroundings, Viktorija can be found traveling the wine regions of the world, soaking up new knowledge and discovering new and interesting wines and the stories of the people who make them.

  1. olivacooking.com
  2. mywinesmarts.com

Perugia is located in the Umbria area of Italy.  Tuscany is just to the west.  The capital of Umbria, Perugia is a picturesque city of just over 160,000 residents. Like many towns in the region, Perugia’s history spans many eras. The city wall and arch are Etruscan; the sixth-century Sant’Angelo church was built atop a Roman temple; the town’s cathedral is both Gothic and Renaissance. The excellent National Gallery of Umbria has the largest and best art collection in the region. For sweets lovers, Perugia is also home to the famous Perugina chocolate factory.

frm the top of perugia

The geographical location may not mean much to you or me, so let’s look on a map, shall we?

From Rome in Central Italy, Perugia is about a 4 hour bus ride.  From Milan in Northern Italy, Perugio is about a 6 hour train ride.  As I live in Dallas, I know that American Airlines fly into Milan, but not to Rome in the winter, FYI.  No worries, right?

Umbria is an upcoming wine region of Italy, so an excellent place to hold the 2012 International Wine Tourism Conference and Workshop.  The conference is being held over 4 days – Janurary 30th through February 2nd.  The conference consists of over 40 talks, presentations, panel discussions and workshops, oh, and of course, plenty of wine tastings.  This is a totally awesome way to network and co-create alliances with wine lovers, culinary tourism operators/agents, and bloggers.  There is a Study Tour offered to top bloggers who will be writing regularly through social media about the experience.  This trip is scheduled before the conference and sure to be awe-inspriring.  There also is a Study Tour offered to top culinary tour operators to network even more and will last for 5 additional days after the conference.

If you are already in the wine tourism industry or want to learn more about it, this is the place to be!