wine blog

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!


Halloween has snuck up on alot of people, including myself.  This is a generalization, but sometimes Americans love to find any type of holiday, like a Friday, to drink wine (think #champagne day today, October 28th, 2011).

I went in seach of some spooky Halloween wines – not so much wine to pair with Halloween food, like candy corn or peanut butter cups, but just to darn drink and have some fun with.

The following are the top 10 Halloween wines (in my humble opinion):

  • The Velvet Devil Merlot

A Washington State Merlot brought to us by Charles Smith Wines. Another great winemaker note: “Milk Chocolate, wild blackberry, baking spice, rose oil…beautifully perfumed Washington in a glass.

  • Ed Hardy Sangria
    A Spanish Sangria bursting with the sun drenched flavors of hot Spanish summer.
  • Black Cat Riesling
    Great elegance and finesse which have a pronounced and racy fruitiness, with hints of apple and peach.
  • Spanish Demon Tempranillo
    Soft and delicious, offering a mouthful of crisp black fruit and tons if style.
  • Bogle Phantom

To die for!  Bogle releases this wine once a year in the fall.  For me, I stick a straw in it and drink, and I’m done!  Brighter flavors of blackberries and blueberries glance off the palate. From the shadows, toasty cinnamon and nutmeg emerge, subtly embracing the deeply luscious and succulent fruit to create a full-bodied, ruby rich wine.

  • Trick or Treat – a World Market Exclusive
    One is red, one is white.  $7.99, what can I say?
  • Seven Deadly Zins

A blend of Zinfandel, Petitie Sirah and Petit Verdot from Lodi, this wine is loaded with berry fruit, pepper, spice, and earth characteristics.

  • Poizen Zinfandel
    The nose is fruit driven with fresh plum, bing cherry, spicy peppercorn and zinberry. The mouthfeel is soft with a hint of milk chocolate, sweet oak, and a long vanilla finish.
  • Rabid Red
    A red blend – The lion share of the balance consists of Bordeaux varieties: a stylish, cassis-and-tobacco notes.
  • Vampire Merlot

Smooth and medium-bodied with black cherry aroma, and hints of herbal spices.

Well, these are some of my “spooky” picks – please share others that I might have missed!  Happy Halloween!

Extraordinary Women of Spain: Chefs and Winemakers

Two good friends of mine are experts on culinary experiences.  I am so excited to fill you in on an outstanding women’s travel series called the Extraordinary Women of Spain:  Chefs and Winemakers. This travel series is co-created  by Epicopia Culinary Journeys and Epicurean Ways (the two good friends of mine).  There will initially be 5 trips to Spain to savor the culinary aspects of many different regions.  The first tour will be in the Catalonia & Barcelona region which includes visiting a total of no less than 10+ Michelin Star women chefs- all in 8 days!  Talk about some expressive, mind-blowing meals (with fabulous wines to match of course).  Speaking of wine, the winemakers you will meet include world-renowned masters of the craft, as well as passionate owners of small wineries .  Departure is set for June 16 – 24, 2012.

Each itinerary is designed for women, about women. Your Experience Director, Gabriella Ranelli de Aguirre is a recognized leading specialist in the food,
wine, art and architecture of Spain. She is the go-to person for the international press on matters gastronomic.

The travel series will continue to include five eight-night itineraries in Spain before braching out to other countries  and will also feature the women chefs & winemakers in The Levant: Alicante & Valencia offered October 20 – 28, 2012. The 2013
itineraries will include women chefs & winemaker in La Rioja and Basque Country, the region of Galicia, and Madrid: Town and countryside.

According to Harold, a 40 year veteran of the travel industry, “Women Chefs & Winemakers in Catalonia brings you deep into an elite wine and food region with plenty of time to linger, savor, reflect, discover and learn from the extraordinary Catalan women creating food and crafting wine in their own unique way.”

So…I ask:

When was the last time you were inspired? Had the chance to hang out with smart like-minded women and explore a region unfettered by your everyday duties and responsibilities? When was the last time you took the time to indulge your interests in food and wine? Have you ever said to yourself?  Someday I‟m going to get away on my own?  Well it‟s time to make it happen.

My friends mentioned not to delay – the 10 Michelin Star Journey is limited to 15 women.  Contact Harold Partain for Epicopia Culinary Journeys at 972.771.3510 or Toll Free 877.661.3844 or Email:

If you can’t wait to see or hear more before getting in touch with him, here is the link to the fabulous itinerary:  I am salivating as I write!

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.

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.


Wine Bloggers Conference, Thursday, July 21
International Wine Tasting Night
Let me first say that I was a scholarship recipient, and for that I am quite grateful.  Thank you for all the people who donated to the scholarship fund.  If it hadn’t been for them, I would not have made it to the WBC.  With that being said; however, I was quite disappointed in the reality of the conference, for the most part.  As a first time participant, maybe my expectations did not match that of the organizers.

These are my thoughts on the first event of the conference, an international wine tasting night, which I was quite excited about.  As it turned out there were a total of 6 tables pouring wines, this to me is quite a poor showing. I’m not saying that the wines were not good, some were tasty, but we were an incredible, captured audience wanting to try a variety of wine – we blog about it, tweet about it, FB about it – talk about free press, yet it didn’t seem like very many wineries, distributors, or importers were very interested in showing their portfolios.  Disappointing for us, and bad decision for them.  Many of the pourers were just that, someone who was called in at the last minute who had no idea what they were pouring, where the wines were from, what the tasting notes were, or any type of story behind the wine.  They even confessed that they knew nothing about the wine.  For a WBC, you would think they would be prepared to talk about the wines at length.  Review of day 2 coming up.

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