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:

Marilyn Wines traces its origins to 1981, when a small group of friends started
making wine at their home near St. Helena in the Napa Valley. Over the 25 years,
continuing acclaim from critics, collectors, and lovers of fine wine have led to
the production of Marilyn Merlot, Norma Jeane Merlot and the Velvet Collection.

Join Sigels, Marilyn Wines, Thirsty Girl, and Kay Zink of A to Zinfandel as we host a tasting of the latest releases of Marilyn Wines portfolio.

Known for their Marilyn Merlot, a spin on the iconic Hollywood blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Wines celebrates their 25th Anniversary this year by releasing a special edition. The 2009 Merlot comes in a special screen-printed bottle highlighted with a silver signature and 1950s publicity photo of Marilyn Monroe at her best. The tasting is an opportunity to sample collectible Marilyn Wines at no charge and purchase the wines as gifts, to stock a cellar, or simply to uncork and enjoy.

Wines to be tasted include: Norma Jeane Merlot 2010, Marilyn Merlot 2009, and Marilyn Merlot 2008. In a nod to one of Marilyn’s most famous screen songs – Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend — attendees at the event will have a chance to win a pair of either real or faux diamond earrings. This special 25th Anniversary Tasting will be held in six cities across the country (Dallas, Seattle, Denver, Chicago, San Francisco & Los Angeles). Four of the cities will feature a giveaway of faux diamond earrings, while one special city will feature real diamonds.

TexSom – Texas Sommelier Conference – Day 2 – was so amazing I almost cried with emotion.  Six formal tastings with fabulous speakers each lasting over an hour.  I don’t know how they pulled it off, but first speaker of the day was none other than Doug Frost, most unassuming, approachable “dude” you would ever meet; probably the only gentleman there without a suit on.  He is one of three people in the world to pass the Master Sommelier exam and become a Master of Wine.  Do you think this guy knows his stuff?  He discussed the “Terroir Focus: Wines of Spain.  Of the 8 wines we tasted, my favorite was the 2010 Avanthia Godello, Valdeorras.  This varietal grows in a maritime climate. This area is known for its dry crisp wines.  It is pale yellow, with a gold rim, with aromas of pear, mineral, honey, quartz, slate, & schist (even though I must admit that I have no idea what slate or schist smells or tastes like!).  As far as a tasting note goes: buy it!  My 2nd favorite was the 2008 Las Rocas Garnacha, Calatayud.  This is very terroir based, not a bad way, and a great value.

Next up:  “Regional Diversity: South Africa”, presented by Wayne Belding, MS; and John Blazon, MS.  Oh dear, South Africa!  I was rather skeptical as the only South African wine I have ever had was pinotage, which frankly I was not a fan.  This wine tasting cleared up my thoughts and feelings about SA wines by a mile.

Next up:  LUNCH! During that time each table of 12 or so each had 5 bottles on the table: all were excellent, and it is hard to pick a favorite, although the 2006 Inniskillin Vidal Ice Wine with the chocolate tart I was very partial to.  Other wines served were:  2008 Franciscan Chardonnay “Cuvee Sauvage”, 2008 Robert Mondavi Winery Fume Blanc “Reserve” “To-Kalon Vineyard”, 2006 Ruffino “Modus”, and the 2005 Mount Veeder “Reserve” – all provided by Constellation Wines.

Next up:  “White Wines:  Benchmark Styles of Modern Classics”.  This was more of a panel speaking arrangement during the tasting:  Laura Williamson, MS: Peter Neptune, MS, DSW, CWE; and Keith Goldston, MS.  Shall we say Keith was the most “colorful” speaker of the lot – I needn’t say more for those attending.  There were wonderful, wonderful wines in this lot.  My favorite was the 2008 Knoll Gruner Veltliner Smaragd, Wachau, Austria.  Rich texture, rich, well balanced.  Keith chimed in saying it was hedonistic.  My 2nd favorite was the 2010 Tomero Torrontes, Salta Argentina.  It has a lemon green color, yet is floral – rosehips turning into geraniums.

Next up: “Varietal Focus: Grenache”.  I happenned to be volunteering that day and during this presentation, I was setting up the hospitality suites which opened at 5pm, after the last wine tasting.

Next and last up:  “Terroir Focus: Red Wines of Burgundy’s Cote d’Or”; presenters Fred Dame MS; and Rajat Parr.  Yum, yum, yum.  I can’t say I tasted a single wine I did not like, but here are my top 2 favorites.  My top favorite was the 2006 Drouhin-Laroze, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Au Closeau”.  My 2nd favorite was the 2007 Domaine Jacques-Frederic Mugnier, Nuits-St. Georges 1er Cru “Clos de la Marechale”.  Did I spell that correctly?

For anyone in Texas, or in the US, I highly advise attending TexSom – –

Thanks to all the organizers and people behind the scenes to make this conference fantastic.

The challenge for week 4 is to choose my favorite pizza and pair a wine with it.  Well, I am a city girl; however, you can’t beat a Pepperoni pizza, what can I say?  Even if it is from Pizza Hut – it is still worth every bite.  Anything with a marinara or tomato sauce, your best, safe bet is a Chianti – yes, even in the straw basket kind.  I guess I’m a cheap date.  LOL.


The challenge for week 4 of Ceci the Sipper (Veronique) is to post a picture of a wine experience that means very much to us.  I have travelled all through France on many occasion, Italy and Spain as well.  I have been to Chile and Argentina.  But I’m afraid to admit that all that travel was before I had a full appreciation of wine.  Needless to say, I made no trips to any wineries!  Talk about lost opportunites.  But no tears here, because my wine self-journey has just begun.

Having started my ISG Wine Fundamentals Class is a HUGE part of my journey.  Since it started this past week, I felt it appropriate to take a picture of my classmates.


Classmates of ISG Wine Fundamentals Class

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010, was my first class at the International Sommelier Guild.  The class will meet for 16 weeks, every Sunday, from 12-6pm.  We learned so much that I am behind already!  We raced through all the material, I was writing so fast and still missed information.  We are starting off with grape varietals.  During class 1, we studied the Chardonnay grape and the Sauvignon Blanc grape.  We did two blind wine tastings – 6 at one time during the first half of class and 6 others during the second half of class. 

The instructor, Karla Barber (President of the Dallas Chapter of Women for WineSense) , was kind enough to bring in a plethora of “picnic food”  –  3 types of cheese, sausage, olives, almonds, warm baguette bread.  Awesome.  It looks like there will be about 10 people in the class – some are somewhat advanced and some don’t know much at all.  I think I’m right in the middle (maybe I’m boasting)…

Since our text book is not in yet, I went to the Allen and Plano libraries looking for wine books.  I also browsed through the collection of books at Borders and Barnes & Noble.  So many of them are full of beautiful pictures.

If you haven’t visited  my FaceBook page yet, please visit and “like”…http://www.facebook.com/AtoZinfandel.