Laurel Glen Vineyard Lunch With Bettina Sichel

This past week I had the pleasure of attending a wine lunch that was hosted by Bettina Sichel of Laurel Glen.  The event was held on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon at the Mansion in Dallas. 

Laurel Glen Vineyard, the 16-acre plot in the Sonoma Mountain Appelation that is known for its beautifully acidic Cabernets, was recently purchased by Bettina Sichel.  David Ramey (Matanzas Creek, Chalk Hill, Dominus and Rudd) was brought in to be the winemaking consultant and has been working with winemaker David DeSanteshe through the transition.  Although it is a new team, we were pleased to hear that their focus would be on small tweaks towards perfection rather than large changes that would affect the Laurel Glen tradition.

Bettina was on hand to speak to us about their new releases along with a lineup of past vintages from 1989-present. 

We first tasted through a range of estate cabernet from 2002-2007.  The real standout here was the 2004 with its firm structure, balanced acidity and dense dark cherry flavors. 

With our lunch we were treated to the 1989, 1991, 1996, and 1998 vintages.  All were showing beautifully and have aged gracefully, but he real standouts were the 1991 and 1996.  Both of these wines were soft structurally, yet very bright for their age.  The 1991 was very alive and showing balanced fruit and acidity - even after 20 years in the bottle.  The 1996 was extremely delicate and balanced in its structure.  Very elegent.

Bettina and the Republic Group let us know that there is a small amount of these older vintages available - I would grab a few bottles before they are all gone!

What a treat - I can't wait to see what Laurel Glen will be doing with their new releases, but I am having a hard time trying to get their older vintages out of my mind!

More info on Laurel Glen:



Chateau Teyssier - Pezat Bordeaux Superieur 2009 & Clos Nardian Blanc 2009

What a great weekend to be a wine lover in Dallas.  We were lucky enough to have Jonathon Maltus in town to show off his range of wines.  Tasting through a lineup of offerings from the right bank of Bordeaux and Saint-Emilion all the way to his World's End operation in California there were quite a few standouts. 

The biggest value (which clocked in at under $20) was the Pezat Bordeaux Superieur 2009

The 2009 Pezat is a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cab Franc taken from just outside of the designated Saint-Emilion appellation.  The specific plot was recently re-planted much more densely (from 3 meter to 1.5 meter vine spacing) and the yield was decreased to focus on more concentrated fruit.  It was drinking particularly well last Saturday night and showed great dark fruit and spice, a nice firm tannic structure, moderate acidity, and a great sense of the Saint-Emilion terroir.  Spot-on for a classic Right Bank Bordeaux flavor profile.  My mind raced with dishes to pair this wine with, but honestly, it could just as easily stand on it's own.  An excellent find at a bargain of a price.


At the same tasting, I picked up a beautiful bottle of the 2009 Clos Nardian Bordeaux Blanc (~ $75).  This was a spectacular white blended wine made from 40% sauvignon blanc, 40% semillon and 20% muscadelle.  Quite a soft offering with a velvet mouth feel and citrus notes on the palate.  Thank you Jonathon Maltus.  Curious as to how it will evolve, I am laying this bottle down, but will be sure to write about it after I have given it ample time to age.  So, check out the blog oh, let's say, around 2016 for an update =)


I could have easily written on each and every one of the great wines tasted - There were some very memorable glasses, but for the price and uniqueness, these two were the wines that needed to be shared most.  Thank you goes out to James Jordan of the Dallas Wine Company and The Wine Therapist for hosting such a great event.


Upcoming Tastings: Wine Therapist 2/18 & 2/21

I am pleased to share that James Jordon of The Dallas Wine Company & The Wione Therapist will be hosting a couple of upcoming wine tastings on Saturday 2/18 & Tuesday 2/21.  Both will feature the associated wine maker at each estate.  Some tasty stuff on the horizon - See you there!


Dallas Wine Company invites you for a special evening of wine experience with...

Jonathan Maltus: Vigneron & Winemaker

Two estates on two continents producing seriously fine wine in France and The United States...

Chateau Teyssier, St. Emilion Grand Cru, France

World's End, Napa Valley, USA

Jonathan Maltus is considered a "Garagiste" or "Cult Winemaker" turning out many great efforts from his revitalized estate in St. Emilion and know with the premier release of his World's End wines from Napa Valley. 

Featured wines include... 

  •  2009 Chateau Pezat
  • 2009 Chateau Teyssier
  • 2009 Chateau La Forge
  • 2009 Clos Nardian Blanc
  • 2008 Word's End Wavelength
  •  2008 World's End Crossfire 

Saturday, February 18, 2012  5:00 - 7:00 pm

$20.00 per person. Complimentary with purchase.


Upcoming - Mark your calendar.

Next Tuesday, February 21st we have Anthony Truchard From Truchard winery on hand to taste a selection of his current releases! 

The Wine Therapist

1810 Skillman at Live Oak

Dallas, TX 75206

 RSVP to


Galicia / Spain

In my sommelier class, we were recently given various significant areas around Europe and were instructed to take a deep look into the culture, cuisine, and wine styles.  We were also asked to make a 5 course tasting menu to show off soms of each areas flair.  I was given the Galician area of Spain and enjoyed learning a lot about the unique culture in this area of Northern Spain.

Feel free to give it a read, and check out some very beautiful wines from each of the D.O.'s.



Galicia is located in Northwest Spain with Portugal to its South, Castile and Leon to its East, the Bay of Biscay to the North, and the Atlantic Ocean to its West.  Sometimes referred to as “Green Spain”, this area is actually one of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities.  This allows Galicia self government of its own school administration, universities, health & social services, urban and rural development and policing.  As of 2011 there are approximately 2.79MM people living in Galicia. 

The area differs from the rest of Spain in the fact that you may find bagpipe music and kilts enjoyed by the local Galicians.  This is due to the fact that it was first settled by an immigrant colony of Celts before the birth of Christ.  The seasons and culture are very similar to Ireland or Scotland.

Santiago de Compostela is the capital and is, more importantly, famous for the assertion that remains of St James were believed to have been discovered in the 9th Century.  As a result, many pilgrims from all over Europe have walked from their hometowns along the Camino de Santiago, or St James Way in English, as a spiritual or religious journey since the 10th Century.   This journey ends at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and brings many modern day pilgrims to the area even to this day.

Due to their long shoreline and traditional fishing economy, the food is dominated by fish and shellfish. These can be prepared on their own or as the base stuffing in empanadas.  Another popular dish is Pulpo a la Gallega, which is a traditional dish made with octopus laced with olive oil, salt and Spanish paprika.  In addition to seafood, cows, sheep and pigs are also very prevalent due to the fact that Galicia’s grasses and shrubs are green year round and are excellent for grazing.  Another favorite, Caldo Gallego, is a hearty white bean Galician stew that is made with chorizo.  The most notable cheese is the Tetilla cheese.  The milk used comes from Galician cows and its name, Galician for small breast, comes from the cone-like shape of the cheese itself. 

Tasting Menu:


 Pulpo a la Gallega

Octopus broiled and laced with olive oil, salt, and paprika

  • Wine pairing:  Coleccion Costeira Treixadura 2008D.O. Ribeiro – This winery, Bodegas Vina Costiera, was established in 1968 and within 2 years it launched the first labeled D.O. Rebeiro wine to market, the Pazo.  This wine is 100% Treixadura that has not undergone any aging.  It is crisp with lemon and pear and is very refreshing with a tangy finish.  The flavor profile along with the acidity levels should complement the salty light octopus. 

Merluza a la Gallega

Hake served in a Galician sauce of olive oil, garlic, and paprika

  • Wine pairing:  Castelo do Papa 2009 – D.O. Valdeorras – The Ladera Sagrada winery was founded in 1920 and focuses on two main varietals in the Valdeorras appellation:  Godello and Mencia.  The wine maker, Jose L Sotos produces this wine with 100% Godello grapes and uses stainless steel fermentation techniques to achieve aromas of grapefruit and citrus.  The mouth shows more lime zest with flavors of Meyer lemon and white pepper.  Like using a lemon wedge and pepper to flavor, the hope here is to use this flavor profile as a compliment to the fish.



Empanada Gallega

Pastry stuffed with pork and a tomato, garlic, and onion sauce

  • Wine pairing:  Baltos 2008  – D.O. Bierzo – This 100% Mencia was grown in the Bierzo DO.  The Dominio de Tares winery was founded in 2000 and has been producing primarily Mencia for reds and Godello for whites.  This particular wine was harvested from 40 year old Mencia vines and has good acidity and structure.  Violets and minerals with very subtle red fruits are shown on the nose and palate.  I chose this particular wine due to the weight of the dish.  I feel that its acidity and structure will stand up to the tomato sauce, and that its subtle fruitiness will not overpower due to its more terroir driven flavor profile.


Tetilla (Cheese Course)

A creamy and mild cheese made in Galicia

  • Wine Pairing: Laxas Albarino 2009 – Rias Baixas – This wine was produced by the As Laxas Wine group.  They have been producing wines in Rias Baixas since 1862.  The estate is located in the Arbo parish on the bank of the river Mino.  This wine is 100% Albarino and has youthful aromas of apples and apricots on the nose and palate.  The thought here is to use the fruit and hopefully impart it upon the mild creaminess of the cheese while using the acid to cut through some of that creaminess as well.


Tarta de Santiago (St James Cake)

A dense almond cake that is decorated with a cutout of a cross made with powdered sugar

  • Wine pairing:  Tostado De Costeira 2006 – Ribeiro – This is a naturally sweet wine made with Treixadura grapes that have been dehydrated under cover for three months.  This winery, Bodegas Vina Costiera, was established in 1968 and within 2 years it launched the first labeled Rebeiro wine to market, the Pazo.  On the nose you get raison fruit or honeys and on the palate you see a balance between sweetness and acidity.  I chose this wine due to its sweetness and flavor profile.

Somm News: Michael Muser

As you may or may not know, I am currently attending the International Sommelier Guild (ISG).  I just received news that the former ISG student and current Wine Director of The Peninsula in Chicago, Michael Muser, was just named as the "BEST SOMMELIER" in the 2011 Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence. 

----Full Story----

February 2, 2012



The Peninsula Chicago's Wine Director Michael Muser is named "Best Sommelier" in the 2011 Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence.  The winners were announced at the 15th annual Grand Chefs Gala on January 27, 2012.  In an effort to raise funds for The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the gala showcased a diverse collection of award-winning culinary artists who each prepared and presented a signature dish for over 750 guests.  Every year during this event, the Jean Banchet Awards are formally announced.

The Jean Banchet Awards is the only Chicago-based awards program that recognizes culinary originality and talent.  Forty four chefs, sommeliers, mixologists, restaurants and catering companies competed to be named the best in each respective category for the 2011 awards.  The winners were selected by participating and nominated chefs and industry experts by secret ballot.

Michael Muser joined The Peninsula Chicago in 2006 and serves as the Wine Director and Sommelier for the hotel's four venues: Shanghai Terrace, The Lobby, Pierrot Gourmet and The Bar.  He also oversees the wine program for catering functions and private events. Prior to that, he worked for Lettuce Entertain You as Sommelier and Wine Director for three of the company's restaurants: Ambria, Mon Ami Gabi, and Café Ba Ba Reeba.  While at Lettuce Entertain You, he was also responsible for creating all wine lists for restaurants in Chicago, Las Vegas, and Maryland.  Previously, Muser was Sommelier at Frasca Hospitality Group in Chicago.

After graduating from Northern California State University, where he majored in history and theatre arts, Muser studied with the International Sommelier Guild (ISG), the only formal credentialed wine program in the United States.  He then spent time traveling throughout Europe, specifically the regions of Burgundy, Champagne, Tuscany and Piedmont, working harvest and learning the fundamentals of wine first-hand before returning to Chicago to finish his last two years of training with the ISG.  Muser is now the only instructor in Chicago for the ISG.

The Peninsula Chicago was named the Number One Large City Hotel in the US and Canada by Travel + Leisure's Reader's Survey, August 2011 and Number Two Hotel in the United States in Condé Nast Traveler's annual Reader's Choice Awards, November 2010. The hotel is located on the "Magnificent Mile" at 108 East Superior Street (at Michigan Avenue), within the city's premier shopping district. The 339 guestroom hotel opened in 2001 and features three distinctive restaurants, a popular bar and a world-class spa. For information on The Peninsula Chicago, please visit


Congratulations and great work!  It gives me great inspiration in my quest.

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