OkieWineGirl

A Wine Drinker Rambling about Wine

On the Oklahoma Wine Trail: Route 66 & Cabernet Sauvignon

Summer break is almost upon us! How do I know? This is the last week of school, my kids are freaking out over finals and the air conditioner just clicked on for the third time this hour despite the interspersed chilly days of rain and tornadoes.  Anyway, I’ve started planning a few mini-road trips and hope to get to a couple Oklahoma wineries before school starts again in August. Ya, I know, it’s only May but I guarantee we’ll both wake up in July in a week or two and pre-school activities will be on the horizon!

Oklahoma Wine Trail

I know I’ve mentioned my home state’s love affair with sweet wine. However, there appears to be a steady growth in the production of good red blends, Cabernet Sauvignons, and Merlots among Oklahoma vineyards that’s simultaneously gaining appreciation among Oklahoma wine drinkers. Make good wine, they will come. Even the number of licensed wineries has multiplied since the mid-90s from 4 to over 60 with a handful located along the historic Mother Road – Route 66, which can make for a very pleasant road trip. 

We had the opportunity to taste two Oklahoma Cabernet Sauvignons a few weeks ago while in the middle of a very successful DIY project; successful because it only required two additional trips to Lowes. The first one we tried was while strolling through our town’s annual Arts Festival. The evening was calm and comfortable, crowned with a clear twilight sky. A couple Oklahoma wineries had tasting booths where you could buy a ‘Large Taste’ to enjoy alongside the art appreciation. It cracks me up that the ‘taste’ was really a big glass but the law requires creative semantics. Anyway, we sampled several wines from Sparks Vineyard and Winery located in southeastern Oklahoma and decided their Cabernet Sauvignon was worth bringing home.  

Yup. The bottle’s empty. We drank it.

The second Cabernet Sauvignon we picked up was from a vineyard closer to us, Clauren Ridge Vineyard. The challenge of wiring in a new kitchen light can produce great thirst as well as anxiety, so we took a break and enjoyed the sunshine and wine on CRV’s lovely porch. It made for a good comparison between the two wines. Clauren Ridge is nice but Sparks resembled more of a traditional Cabernet with pronounced bold fruit and tannin. However, both contained a certain native flavor on the finish. 

Here’s the thing. If you’ve tasted an Oklahoma Cabernet, you’ll notice immediately a certain something consistent with all of them. A particular aroma/flavor I like to refer to as the Oklahoma ‘umami’. Regardless of the vineyard, this ‘umami’ seems to show up in almost every bottle. I think it’s born from the windy, heat kissed red clay terroir of these Great Plains. So, this summer if you get a chance to visit our panhandled patch of red earth, make a point to visit a winery and try it. 

The Historic Mother Road

Last weekend, while a few of our teens played Commencement and our college kid took her first road trip sans parents to Texas, we explored Route 66 between Oklahoma City and Stroud. The main reason; there’s a winery tucked in among the historic attractions and, of course, Pops with its nearly 700 sodas. Our youngest daughter got stuck with us for the afternoon so we bribed her with the promise she could drink herself into a sugar-induced coma.

Pops is a diner and gas station with two main attractions: a gigantic roadside soda bottle and 700 sodas.

It’s lights up at night!

Soda flavors range in everything from Chocolate Covered Maple Smoked Bacon (It really does taste like chocolate bacon), buffalo wings, peanut butter & jelly to jalapeno. Their monikers are just as interesting with the likes of Deadworld Zeek Cocktail Cotton Candy, Rowdy Roddy Piper Bubble Gum, Avery Bug Barf and Gross Gus’s Bloody Nose. I think Gus’s  is actually cherry but I don’t have the courage to try it. And for the coffee lover there’s a soda called Martian Poop. Yum. Overall, a worthwhile stop with or without kids. 

Sugar coma complete, we headed up the mother road toward Stroud and Stable Ridge Vineyards which sits a mile off Route 66 in a relocated Catholic Church. The vineyard and winery were actually started from the result of two separate tornado events. Moral of the story: if a tornado wipes out your house, plant a vineyard. 

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It’s friendly tasting room is located in the town’s original Catholic Church.

Stable Ridge Vineyards has a variety of wines to sample. Their most popular and award-winning is Jeremiah Red, a dessert wine made from a blend of full-bodied reds and blackberries. However, the owner/winemaker has an affinity for growing Chenin Blanc. Chenin Blanc is hard to impossible to grow in Oklahoma but the winemaker enjoys the challenge. The owners have recently planted more of the vines to try and replace dwindling growth. 

In the end, we left with a semi-sweet white wine made of Riesling and natural lemon flavoring named Soleil which was a refreshing compliment to the humid evening. It’s basically wine lemonade and pairs very well with summer. 

At the beginning of June, I’ll have another opportunity to compare more Cabernet when a majority of Oklahoma vineyards and wineries gather for Wines of the West in historic Stockyard City. You’re welcome to join me. Just shine up your cowboy boots and ride into town on June 3rd. 

Anticipating Hot Summer Nights – Coppola Wine

In a few short weeks, the unusually cool rainy weather we’ve been experiencing in Oklahoma will disappear into a hazy memory and hot, humid summer will arrive. In anticipation of the rising temperatures, we’ve been holding auditions for the summer patio wines and this Coppola made the cut.

Yes, pun intended.

Coppola Rosso & Bianco Pinot Grigio 2015

($12) 13% alc.

Coppola Rosso & Bianco Pinot Grigio 2015 is actually quite refreshing, crisp and gives you a mouthful of ripe fruit. The price is reasonable enough as well for keeping a few stocked in the garage fridge for the summer. It’s weird to admit I have a fridge in the garage. It’s a long story but every time I see it Tommy Boy pops in my head about stocking it with bee…yogurt and soda. Anyway, here’s a trivial bit: the wine is named for the gray color the grapes turn at full ripeness. See, you thought you weren’t going to learn anything during my rambling about cheap summer wine! 

On a side note: 

The Coppola paired well with a surprisingly hopeful opening series of the baseball season. I’m excited for the first time in about 5 years. Our ‘team’ is beginning to resemble the one from 1996 now that the expensive albatrosses were cut loose in my modest opinion. The 1996 season was when I really started to enjoy baseball much to the delight of my baseball loving husband. The relaxed pace of the game really grew on me. (Except the game with 22 innings!) To some, baseball might be slow and even boring, but the team that year was a group of consistent, modest, solid players who worked well together. And it helped that they were on a hot winning streak! 

So I say bring on those hot summer nights! There’s nothing like a refreshing wine and the crack of a bat. 

Will this be the year?

 

Oklahoma Skies #3 – Sunset

There are approximately a thousand pictures on my iPhone of the Oklahoma skies. Apparently, I’m infatuated with them. Some days, they can be fairly spectacular. We might not have much here in tornado alley, but more often than not the skies are saturated in a range of glorious colors. 

 

Taken on the eve of the season opener at our new high school stadium. A promising beginning . . . 

August 23, 2016

Artfully Crafted Inside and Out: Meeker Vineyard Winemaker’s Handprint Merlot

“There’s nothing too serious except the wine itself.”

~ Molly Meeker, Owner, Meeker Vineyard Sonoma County

Where do I start?

After participating in a speedy hour of #Winestudio chat covering various aspects of Meeker Vineyard wines, I feel like Dorothy gazing out the window as the tornado spins objects around her. Spring time in Oklahoma and my mind goes automatically to twisters! However, instead of a Spinster flying by on a bicycle, it’s a 2nd generation dynamic wine duo and their deliciously full-bodied Merlot. Their impressive social media and wine acumen has me thinking of those purple clad super twins from the ’80s which is fitting since it was their Merlot we were chatting about! For those who grew up in the early 80s, you’ll know them. Yup, the Wonder Twins. Except, these Wonder twins activated their superpowers in  form of Merlot crafting winemaker, shape of wine savvy social media maven and are working to preserve a strong family tradition while progressing toward the future. Who are these Wonder Twins wielding their wine power in Sonoma, you ask? Brother and sister team, Lucas and Kelly Meeker, of Meeker Vineyard in Sonoma County, California.

This sibling duo are 2nd generation heirs wanting to preserve their parents legacy while crafting a progressive vision for the future of Meeker Vineyards. Definitely, No Woolworth heiresses here. Their parents, Charlie and Molly Meeker, who purchased the first vineyard in 1977, are still very much involved as President, CEO and chief bottle-washers. However, Lucas is now head winemaker and bottle decorator while sister, Kelly, manages the winery’s social media, website and marketing.

Confession:

I was only going to ‘check-in’ on the March #winestudio chats but the second week’s wine, Meeker Vineyard 2013 Winemaker’s Handprint Merlot Sonoma County, (14.4%, $43 SRP), immediately had me contacting my trusty wine shop guru about the bottle. I love artful approaches and wanted to see it in person. The winemaker’s actual hand print adorns every bottle. All 2000 to be exact. I wasn’t able to buy the 2013 that #winestudio was tasting with the discussion but the 2012 Merlot was just as marvelous.

Upon opening, we quickly discovered an artfully crafted Merlot on the inside as a heady aroma of berries, cherries and spices filled the air. My husband and wine partner remarked of it’s strong resemblance in color and aroma to a Cabernet Sauvingon. However, the body was a touch lighter with complex layers of luscious cherries, strawberry, rhubarb, spices, vanilla and oak notes and long-lasting tannin.

The Meeker Winemaker’s Handprint Merlot is their flagship wine and a Bordeaux varietal. The Handprint is almost always a blend of two core Merlot vineyards, one in Dry Creek and one in Alexander Valley with around 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Syrah blended in to achieve a more layered flavor profile. The core wine making focal points are centered on acid and tannin structure building. According to Lucas, “A lower pH and increased tannin (grape tannin more than oak!) build integrated, seamless structures with elegance because Meeker wines are made to age. It’s a core part of how we view our identity and style goals: we’re part of a tradition we value.” 

After ‘tweeting’ with the Meeker Wonder Twins and experiencing a little of the superpowers they’re using to preserve and broaden the family wine tradition, I think Meeker Vineyards might age quite nicely. If you get a chance to visit, the Meeker Vineyard tasting room is located in the 113 year-old Geyserville bank building in Geyserville, CA. The original tasting room, interestingly enough to this Okie, was a Sioux Tipi. For more info. about Meeker Vineyard click here.

If you happen try this artfully bottled Merlot, I’d love to know your thoughts on it. My empty Handprint bottle is now displayed in our kitchen. Heck, maybe I’ll make a lamp out of it! In the meantime, I’m activating my own superpowers in the form of WineDrinker and shape of patio for pairing! 

Cheers friends,

Allison

Off the Vineyard Trail #5: The First Anniversary of a Life Well-Lived

An entire year has gone by since my mom passed away or as I try to remind myself ‘moved to heaven’.  We have a reassurance in Christ of seeing her again, but as life has gone on, filled with milestones, I’ve struggled with the fact my mom has missed every single one. Two Graduations. Spring concerts. Wedding. Milestone Birthdays. First grandchild to college. Trips. Reunions.

I keep wondering how one deals with this type of anniversary? It’s not really something to celebrate. I want to be sensitive to my family, but, honestly, sitting and staring out a window is the most appealing; which for some reason, immediately makes me think of my mother rolling her eyes and saying ‘oh brother!’. And that makes me laugh. You have to have known my mother to understand. Sweet, kind, compassionate, and bossy and no nonsense. She was a doer. DAV volunteer, Veterans Advocate, Fundraiser, Church Food Pantry, Reading Specialist. She adored young people and Veterans.

Looking back, the events of That Week are a blur of pain lined with a dawning realization there was a lot more to my mom than the person I thought I knew. One thing became crystal clear; my mom’s life had a greater impact than I ever suspected. Her life was indeed ‘a life well-lived’.

Friends, neighbors and family crowded my mom’s memorial service and funeral. As they sought to speak words of comfort, each conversation began to take on a similar tone, “When I was. . . in school, put my mom in a care unit, moved to a new city, lost my job, struggled with depression, lost my spouse, was in cancer treatment . . . your mom sent me a card every week, every birthday, holiday. Your mom is why. . . . I graduated, kept going, am here today. Your mom told me I mattered. She prayed with me. She said I’d succeed when everyone around me said I’d fail. She told me mistakes don’t define you and I was loved no matter past choices. Your mom sent a gift card . . . for diapers, groceries, date night, the electric bill. By the end of the week, I had lost count of how many had shared what my mom had meant in their life. One thing was obvious; she had spent her time investing in the most valuable commodity – people.

One of the sweetest moments for me occurred during her visitation service. In the middle of greeting others, my brothers and I noticed two young women whom we didn’t know, slip quietly in to pay their respects. It was later that evening, after reading the guestbook, we realized they worked at the Sonic near my parents’ house.

Now, if you ever had the privilege of meeting my mom, you’d quickly discover her ‘addiction’ to Sonic ice tea. We loved to tease her mercilessly about her favorite accessory; a Route 44 Sonic cup. Mom went to Sonic so often, she knew the workers by name and their life stories. They would save free drink coupons for her and even take a tea out to the car before she finished parking. Mom fretted over their life situations and constantly tipped far beyond the cost of the tea. I only discovered this after she sharply reprimanded me the one time I forgot the tip! The day before mom’s service, my dad stopped by Sonic to tell them what had happened.  As they stood at the drive thru window, the crew tearfully shared how mom had encouraged and blessed their lives.

Today, when I drive by a Sonic, those two young women come instantly to mind and the impact my mom’s life had on them. I find it comforting in the midst of missing her. I’m not exactly sure how the actual day will play out but I do know, instead of dwelling on the life we now live without her, I want to choose to be thankful to God for her example and make this the first anniversary of a life very well-lived.

Love you mom.

“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:3-4

Aroma vs. Palate: Domaine de Valmoissine Pinot Noir 2013

Domaine de Valmoissine Pinot Noir 2013

Happy spring break!

We’re still trying to recover from the 3:30 am trip to the airport to drop off our college kid so she could visit the Grandparents back East. Thankfully, she landed before the “Blizzard of 2017” and she went prepared with a coat packed in her suitcase. Why wear it when you can have the baggage guys carry it around for you? There’s something sweet and nostalgic watching her experience the carefree days of youth. I’m definitely jealous!

Not much else is going on this week except a trip to the Science Museum and planning our youngest’s 13th birthday party. The theme: Chocolate. I’m currently on the hunt for a chocolate fountain. And chocolate crafts and chocolate flavored lip gloss for party favors. Planning’s been almost as easy as our son’s 13th and his raucous party at Laser Quest. I just had to show up. Chocolate’s easy because it’s everywhere. The hard part about chocolate and often wine, is choosing from the endless possibilities which is the segue I’ll use to this Pinot Noir we opened in January. You remember January, right? Frankly, neither do I because some how I skipped February and went directly to Spring Break.

Back in January, before we took a short wine break, we opened a bottle of Louis Latour Domaine de Valmoissine Pinot Noir 2013 ($16). Occasionally, a wine talks to you in an entirely different voice with it’s aroma than what you actually taste. This was the case with the Louis Latour Pinot Noir. A strong personality showed up in the aroma with floral stems, tobacco leaves, funky turnip greens, asparagus, cigar smoke and leather. The aroma kept evolving. There was a lot going on. I wondered if there might be a problem. However, the palate was entirely different than what I was expecting with soft tannins, red currents, black cherries, raspberries, spices and a lovely earthy floral accent. Overall, a very enjoyable Pinot Noir. 

This Pinot will most certainly be making a reappearance! Cheers! 

Sonoma Winemaker to Watch – Eppie Ordaz & Sandoval Vineyard Malbec 2012

To wrap up the February #winestudio with Ordaz Family Wines and it’s winemaker, Eppie Ordaz, we opened his Sandoval Vineyard Sonoma Valley Malbec 2012 and chatted about growing Malbec. Malbec is rarely produced in Sonoma and that’s exactly why Eppie chose it.

This was probably one of the most enjoyable #winestudio sessions I’ve participated in. Drawing from a rich family heritage in farming and vineyard management, Eppie is humble, friendly and focused on crafting wines rare for the Sonoma AVA. Working alongside his father, Jesus ‘Chuy’ Ordaz, they operate by the philosophy “great wine is made in the vineyard.”  This philosophy encompasses their entire approach to winemaking by using small lot, single varietal vineyards to pioneering organic vineyard practices and safe farming practices for the protection of vineyard workers.

Sandoval vineyard is indicative of Eppie’s vision to make exceptional wine from single variety, small lots. Located on Sonoma Mountain, the vineyard is a whopping 2 acres of 30-year-old Malbec vines planted and managed by Chuy Ordaz. The vines thrive in the rocky, clay soil and a climate of cool, foggy nights and hot days that helps manage Malbec’s susceptibility to mildew.  Eppie crafts the Malbec closer to the Argentinian style while tinkering with it depending on the year. His tinkering tends to drive his father a little crazy since Chuy’s a farmer and likes predictability. Eppie ages the Malbec in lightly seasoned French oak for 18 months before bottling. Only a 132 cases of the 2012 Malbec were produced with 40 cases still available.

“It’s cool to work on something that has a finite amount. Two acres can only produce so much fruit” – Eppie Ordaz

The Sandoval Vineyard Sonoma Valley Malbec 2012 ($25, 13.5%) was dark plum colored, medium bodied, with nice acidity that smoothed into gentle tannins on the finish. Aromas of muted cherries, blueberries and cinnamon opened up slowly. I was surprised I picked out the cinnamon. I guess all this wine drinking is starting to pay off. I was mighty proud of myself for recognizing an aroma other than ‘berries’. The taste was a nice blend of earthy tobacco, cinnamon, cocoa, blueberries and dried plums or prunes. Plums and prunes are the same thing, right? They’ve always baffled me. When plump, they’re plums (hot young things). Dried and wrinkly, they’re prunes (Old Grannies). And that, my friends, is a tiny peek into how my mind works. Probably more than you wanted to know.

For the meal pairing portion of our #winestudio evening, I picked up a Tony’s Italian and House salad from our favorite corner hang out, Upper Crust.

 

It proved to be a classic case of food and wine doing what they are made to do: compliment each other. With the pizza, the Malbec came alive! The spicy flavors woke up the fruit while in turn the wine tamed the heat of the peppers and spicy meats. It was a happy marriage and I thought it made the Malbec even better. As the evening wrapped up, I asked Eppie what surprised him about becoming a winemaker.

“How difficult it is to be a small label amongst titans of  (the) industry.”

For now, Ordaz Family Wines are only available through their website. However, based on the wines sampled, and the Ordaz Family tradition of tenacity, hard work and excellence; I suspect this small label has a good chance of distinguishing themselves and growing to stand strong among the Titans. 

 

The wines were samples courtsey of #Winestudio and Ordaz Family Wines. All rambles are my own. Salud! 

Oklahoma Skies #2 – Sunrise

There are approximately a thousand pictures on my iPhone of the Oklahoma skies. Apparently, I’m infatuated with them. Some days, they can be fairly spectacular. We might not have much here in tornado alley, but more often than not the skies are saturated in a range of glorious colors. 

Morning has broken like the first morning . . .

August 26, 2016

 

 

Ordaz Family Wines on #Winestudio

After having to take a short break from participating in #Winestudio, because Tuesdays seem to be the most popular night to schedule school/church/sports activities, I was able to accept a kind offer to participate and sample the wine for February. If you remember, #Winestudio is an online wine education program produced by Tina Morey. The focus is on a producer or winemaker and participants get to sample their wine and live chat with the winemaker. It’s a fun evening of wine learning.

Ordaz Family Wines

This month we are meeting a winemaker whose family history is marked by “perseverance, passion and a little bit of danger.” His story and the story of his family heritage, in some respects, have roots common to us all; an ancestry born in a different place.

As usual, I was so giddy to be in the “room” with my fellow participants and talk to a winemaker about his origins and his wine that I missed a few answers to the questions, due mainly to the fact that I was, well, excited to be there. I know that sounds weird but excitement can be distracting. I’ve seen it happen with our new puppy while trying to teach her to come or sit.  I was the puppy running around crazily, trying to greet everyone instead of paying attention. But fortunately, there are several participants self-controlled enough to stay on topic so I was able to go back and re-read their discussion tweets and find out what I’d missed learning about. Also, if you haven’t had the opportunity to participate in an online live chat, it’s not easy keeping up with everyone’s tweets/replies so things do get missed.

Anyway, our guest winemaker is Eppie Ordaz of Ordaz Family Wines based in the Sonoma Valley.

Here’s what I gleaned from the evening:

  • Eppie was recently named one of several “winemakers to watch” according to Sonoma Magazine, although he only took over as winemaker in 2013.
  • His father is Chuy Ordaz. Chuy has been a vineyard manager (40+ years) of several of Sonoma’s most famous vineyards and is highly respected in the field of vineyard management. Chuy began Ordaz Family wines in 2009.
  • The family is originally from Mexico.  (It took 33 attempts for Chuy to make it into the United States. You can read more about the adventure here.) 
  • Eppie has a degree in accounting. Winemaking and accounting may seem wholly unrelated but both require attention to details and certain elements have to add-up correctly to get a successful bottom-line. 
  • Eppie’s goal is to try to be a steward of the vineyard work so the “wines represent both the variety and the vineyard.”
  • All Ordaz’s wines are produced from vineyards Chuy oversees although the family has the goal of owning their own winery and estate vineyard in the near future. Currently, the operation is out of a custom crush facility. 
  • Eppie is committed to producing single-vineyard wines.
  • The focus is Small lot, High quality wines. 
Small Lot, High Quality Wines

For Tuesday’s discussion, we opened Pinot Noir Placida Vineyard Russian River Valley 2014 ( $38, 13.7%)

“Placida Vineyard is a 9 acre lot in the heart of the Russian River Valley appellation. it’s selection of clones provides great fruit characteristics needed to create well layered and balanced Pinot Noirs.” ~ Eppie Ordaz

The Russian River valley has a “gold ridge aspect” meaning a portion of the area has a yellow clay-like soil. According to Eppie, “It’s like striking gold for the region” in terms of making RRV Pinots and Chardonnays. The wines in the words of the winemaker are  “distinctly wonderful”. 

For February, my tasting partner has been on “vacation” so I’ve had to go it alone in drinking and discovering the Pinot. I’ve missed his straight forward palate! However, we had fun deciding on the menu pairing. Pinot is delicious with chicken, mushrooms, and even Indian dishes but we went classic with a Roasted Veggie Tart and Goat Cheese Souffle. Souffles are surprisingly easier than I expected, especially if you bake them in little Ramekins instead of trying to tackle the Julia Child sized ones. 

The Pinot was bright and aromatic: earthy, baked cherries, spice and buttered toast.

Tasting it alone, there were cranberry/cherry, cloves, cola, spices, and acidity.  The veggie tart smoothed it out and brought out berries. The goat cheese souffle was the dish that made it taste like a spoonful of Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. Since I was drinking for one, I emptied the bottle over a span of three days. The second and third days were still as good but with an added touch of roses.

 

 

A dahlia flower adorns the Ordaz labels. Eppie said the flower represents his dad’s love of gardening and being a native flower of Mexico, the family’s Mexican heritage. The website states: “the Dahlia symbolizes the cultural beauty that continually shapes our lives. Universally, the Dahlia expresses diversity, elegance, dignity, personal expression, and the eternal bond between two people, all things that are inherent in any great bottle of wine.”

Next Tuesday evening #Winestudio will dive into the Ordaz Sandoval Vineyard Malbec. You’re welcome to join in the discussion on Twitter at 8pm CST. Use the hashtag #winestudio. There will be more chatting with Eppie and discovering the unique relationship between wine, vineyard and family heritage. 

Cheers, Allison

 

 

The wine featured is a sample courtesy of Ordaz Family Wines. 

Oklahoma Skies #1 – Sunset

I thought I’d start a new blog feature after noticing there are approximately a thousand pictures on my iPhone of the Oklahoma skies. Apparently, I’m infatuated with them. Some days, they can be fairly spectacular. We might not have much here in tornado alley, but more often than not the skies are saturated in a range of glorious colors. 

            Hope you enjoy a little slice of heaven. 

Sunset – January 21, 2017

 

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