August 2011


Kay Zink of A to Zinfandel & Harold Partain of Epicopia Culinary Journeys decided it was about time they took to the streets of Dallas to see just what the city had to offer.  We can name our favorite restaurants, villages, truffle hunters, etc. in Europe, but what is here in Dallas, one wonders.
We decided to discuss our itinerary over lunch at Urbano Cafe on Fitzhugh near Bryan.  There we caught up with owner and Harold’s long time friend Mitch Kauffman.  Urbano is a wonderful neighborhood cafe who offers up plenty on the menu, including authentic Italian paninis.  They are also BYOB, but at 11am, we refrained, although thought about it!  I had a delicious pulled pork panini with cilantro pepper slaw and hoison mayo; Harold had the portobello panini which was fresh and had a well balanced flavor… a great sourdough style bread.
Jimmy’s Food Market is just next door and was our second stop.  Looking for some NY Deli style products with an Italian twist? Check them out! Great Parmigiano Reggiano for $9.99 a pound! Price hasn’t changed in the past 10 years Harold has been shopping here. The BEST Italian sausage in the city, for sure.  Saturday is a hopping day, but they still had time (and room) to offer peppered bacon with wine samples.  “They have the very best Italian wine selection in the city” – Harold.

In the name of research, our third stop was at Bottle Shop on Greenville Avenue, who just so happenned to be having a beer tasting.  We had the honor of meeting Wim Bens, brewer and founder, of Lakewood Brewing company.  Along with him was Willis, a volunteer and friend of Wim’s, and Chris Hanks, Director of Consumption (A+ for the title, don’t you think)?  The two beers we sampled were delicious and unique in style. One named Prince Albert… was reminiscent of a dark Belgium but not as bitter… very smooth. Apples… I believe I tasted some apple in there! Loved the lighter, spicier one… no lingering bite with it either. Look forward to LBC finding a new home and being open to the public.

Follow link below to video:
Lakewood Brewing Company

Fourth stop was the very colorful Mextopia restaurant on Greenville Avenue.  Lots of street construction out front but plenty of parking in the back. Terrific margaritas and great Mexican style food brought to us by Ricardo Avila.

Fifth stop on the culinary tour of Dallas was Dude, Sweet Chocolates! If you have not tried these beautiful chocolates concocted right in Oak Cliff on West 8th… get over there now! Katherine is changing the perspective of chocolate. Some unbelievable combinations and with names that will make you laugh… and bring back a memory or two or three!

Well by now, my iPhone had died which I had been using as my camera, so there are no pictures to see.  Scardello Artisan Cheese was next and pretty busy on Saturday afternoon as well. Located on Oaklawn just down from Lucas’ B&B this is without a doubt the very best artisan cheese shop in Dallas. Rich Rogers and staff have created a delightful place to spend a few hours with friends tasting cheeses and wines and some great sandwiches. If you want good cheese for your next party, check out Scardello Artisan Cheese, you will be glad you came.

Follow link below to video:
Scardello Artisan Cheese

Chocolate Secrets was on the agenda, located on Oak Lawn.  This is a local, family owned, gourmet chocolate and fine wine boutique.  We choose so many different chocolates, that I can’t remember the “notes” on all of them, but 2 of them were rather unique and quite different from one another.  The first was a perfect pairing of dark chocolate and a full-bodied cabernet; the second was organic black forest bacon cooked, then candied and encased in dark chocolate ganache.  We even picked up a bottle of Australian Shiraz from the Barasso Valley. The things we do for love!  Artisan Cheese, you will be glad you came.

Follow link below to video:
Chocolate Secrets

Well, it was time to get home and feed the doggies, so Harold and I departed, proud of the accomplishments of the day, but anxious for more.

If you should care to join us on our adventures, please let Kay or Harold know.  We had a blast!

Harold was sweet enough to add this comment:  Kay was a delightful and adventurous companion for the day. We did it all in the name of research! Dallas has a lot to offer and we just scratched the surface. From food to drink we see some day trips in the making in Dallas! Stay turned! Let’s Meet Up for food, drink, and travel.

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TexSom – the Texas Sommelier Conference – occurs once a year in August at the Four Seasons Resort & Club in Las Colinas, TX.  Before I go any further, I had the luxury of spending the night there, this place is ga-ga in a great way!  The rooms, the pool, the spa, the golf course – “par” excellence.  I digress.

TexSom was founded by several outstanding Master Sommeliers – James Tidwell, Drew Hendricks, and Guy Stout (3 out of the total of 6 Master Somm’s in Texas).  Two of the six were just indoctrinated this year:   Devon Broglie, the Specialty Coordinator for the Southwest Region of Whole Foods Market and Craig Collins, Regional Manager for Glazer’s Distributors.   All of them are as sweet and approachable than you can possibly imagine, and more than willing to help you in any way they can; and boy, can they put on a show!  How grateful I am that I live in Dallas and can attend, because, baby, I will be there every year – it is a can’t miss experience.  Two of the days are open to the public; although, you will find yourself amidst some of the finest sommeliers in Texas and the country – just be sure to spit and not swallow!

Day 1 – Media and Technology Symposium

I had the opportunity to attend the first 2 days (out of 3).  The first day was not about tasting (quelle domage), but for me, just as good – social media for the wine industry!  The day was from 9 – 4-ish; all the speakers and topics were dead on.  The first 3 hours were spent with Tony Jones – FaceBook, Twitter, you name it.  We broke for lunch, and I headed straight over to Sonny Bryan’s – some of the best barbeque in Texas.  I ordered a pulled pork sandwich, coleslaw and potato salad with tons of barbeque sauce.

The next session was all about wine blogging with Jeremy Parzen and Alfonso  Cevola.  These two have been blogging about the wine industry for longer than there was a name for it.  They are true lovers of wine.  They blog for the pure enjoyment of sharing their experiences with the rest of us.

Because of Alfonso & Jeremy speaking that afternoon about the passion for wine blogging, their presentation empowered me to continue writing A to Zinfandel even though no one may be listening, but as Alfonso said “If you don’t say anything, you’ll never be heard”.  My blog is a journal of my life, my wine experiences, my wine journey, my passion!  My blog is my CV.  This is not the first time I have heard this.  When Gary VEE was here in Big DEE, he said that resumes should no longer exist.  Everything you are and can be should be online.  What a paradigm shift!

The last session consisted of a panel of key personnel of some of the finest traditional media sources in Dallas, which rounded out our day.

Just have to plug this post in very quickly as TEXSOM is this weekend, held in Las Colinas, TX.

I am studying for my CSW and thrilled to be attending & volunteering my time at TEXSOM.  It is mostly about my trials, tribulations, self-renewal, and journey through the intricate details of the wine world.  I run a business, A to Zinfandel Social Media, site being retrofitted at this time (isn’t that always!).  I am the social media strategist and work with the wine, food, and tourism industries.

I also work with a culinary tour operator promoting their tours…one of which we are very excited about:  The Extraordinary Women of Spain:  Winemakers and Chefs.

See y’all this weekend!

Well, let’s see, what can I say that I haven’t already said.  Heat + humidity do not mix with social outings. I’ll try to shut up now. Approximately 4-6 hours were set aside to visit the vineyards of Virginia as attendees piled into random buses not knowing which wineries they would visit.  As the travelers dripped their way back to the hotel, I heard a lot of good things, and a lot of bad.  Good = lunch inside.  Bad = lunch outside.  All loved the wineries tours, all mixed on the quality of VA wine; but that VA Viogniers seem to be best known and best liked.   Some of the wineries visited were White Hall, King Family, Flying Fox, Cardinal Point and Afton Mountain – to name a few.  We were offered a pre-dinner reception with Cognac/EU…who scheduled this?  Cognac pre-dinner??  The dinner was alot of fun.  Wine Blog Awards were announced by a very colorful presenter.  We tasted 12? wines to pair with the food, which was so-so.  I felt sorry for the servers who seemed totally out of their element serving that much wine.  Evening ended with a Vibrant Rioja Crawl – more to follow in next post!

Wine Bloggers Conference, July 22, 2011

Thomas Jefferson was founder and architect of the University of Virginia.  Conceived by 1800 and established in 1819, it is the only university in the United States to be designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, an honor it shares with nearby Monticello.  Day 1 of the conference started with an optional walking tour of the campus.  I was not able to go due to the weather heating up, which eventually turned into a sweatbath.  We found out later that it was the hottest day in Charlottesville in 11 years!

Indoors however, was the meeting of the sponsors which was a lot of fun.  They were very approachable, charming, and gracious, ready to make us feel welcome, and, of course offering their wine portfolios.  After that was the keynote address with Jancis Robinson.

As we all had thought from the start, Jancis was absolutely entertaining, thought-provoking, very approachable, and full of solid information.  Dead on for the perfect keynote speaker.

One of the things that bothered me throughout the conference was that there was little to no food offered anytime during the day (none that I knew of anyway).  From 9am to 6pm, there was no food anywhere and the schedule did not allow any time to even run out and grab something.   The ironic thing too was that a friend of mine asked that afternoon, “Where can a girl get a glass of wine around here”?  So true, here we were at a conference for wine bloggers and there was no wine to be had between the keynote address at 1:15pm and the live wine blogging at 4:20pm.  No food and no wine???

Being afraid of suffering from heatstroke (I’m hot-blooded – no comments), I had to avoid almost all of the social events that were offered at the WBC11, as they were outside.  Friday night there was a wonderful evening planned at Monticello; however, the event was held outside under an open tent.  I did not go, but I did hear that people were dropping like flies.  After the visit to Monticello was the “Other 46” tasting at the hotel.  Just as the international grand tasting from the night before, there were far less presenters of wine than you would think.  There may have been about 6? states represented.  So sad.

Oh well…there were social events being held in the hotel during and after Monticello, but they were private, “secret”, invitation only, parties.  I suppose as a first time attendee and beginning blogger I did not personally know enough people for any invites.  So sad.

I have read that some people did most of their networking during these private parties and felt that the conference itself didn’t offer much except for those parties.  So sad.