Author: avail1

“Queen of the Vineyards” – Theodora Lee of Theopolis Vineyards

“Queen of the Vineyards” – Theodora Lee of Theopolis Vineyards

The name Theopolis is associated with a high priest from the Bible referenced in the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. And in my case, it’s also associated with the name of one of my high school classmates. Theo, who is an accomplished musician, is the only person that I know who has a name that evokes images of Greek antiquities.

Fast forward to 2017 and during my 2nd Wine Blogger’s Conference, I was presented with a rich Petit Sirah produced by Theodora Lee of Theopolis Vineyards ( Theodora is a dynamic African American winemaker who bottles bottling a high-quality wine grown where grape growing and production take place in her Anderson valley facility.

Today as we begin to re-emerge from the pandemic, we embrace the proliferation of Zoom virtual wine tastings. A Pinot Noir event advertised on my IG timeline in April caught my attention. You can only imagine the large number of Zoom wine tastings that vie for the attention of wine writers and the public during this time of careful quarantining. This particular wine talk interested me for a few reasons: 1) Frank Morgan is an excellent moderator, 2) the geographic variety of Pinot Noir grape growers in the U.S. and 3) Theodora Lee was one of the 4 featured wine producers.

#Pinotchat hosted by Frank Morgan featuring Theodora Lee, Christine Vrooman, Jason Lett and Janie Brooks

Theodora graced the Zoom virtual stage with the 3 other prominent US vineyard owners; Christine Vrooman (Ankida Vineyards), Jason Lett (Eyrie Vineyards) and Janie Brooks (Brooks Winery). Theodora shared her life growing up in a family that embraced owning and working farmland while living during the week in the urban center of North Texas – Dallas. She spent her weekends and summers helping with the farm and riding horses in nearby Ennis. Today she manages a vineyard, a winemaking operation, is a partner in a law firm and she’s a real estate investor. Her focus is on producing excellent Petit Sirah and Pinot Noir wines in her prize-winning vintner’s portfolio.

I ordered a bottle of the Theopolis Wines, 2017 Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir to enjoy during the talk. This Pinot is sourced from the Lost Creek Vineyards in Mendocino County. Mendocino County is one of the northern most wine growing regions in California. Among other things, this region is known for its rugged rolling mountains and coastal views of the Pacific Ocean.

Lost Creek Vineyard and Theopolis Vineyards

Lost Creek in Mendocino is an 8-acre vineyard that grows organically certified Pinot Noir grapes. The area is known for having red loam soil and the grapes grown are of 114 and 115 Dijon variety.

PositiveVines Notes: 114 and 115 Dijon are clone classifications for grapes that have been propagated from a single plant. With over 200 total clones these are some of the oldest ones producing darker fruit flavors.

The 2017 Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir exhibits a beautiful clear ruby red color of medium intensity. Think of a ruby red ring with light shimmering off of it as it’s viewed from multiple angles in the glass. The nose has a bright cherry aroma with florals, damp leaves and hints of spice woven in. The palate is medium bodied with dark cherry, vanilla, cloves and mushrooms playing together in the glass. Medium tannins round off this Pinot Noir. The Yorkville Highlands offering was aged in French Oak with 25% of that new for 11 months and bottled unfiltered.

The retail price is $42 which lands it as a solid value for a high-quality Pinot. Pinot Noir grapes are generally more expensive to grow due to the complexities in cultivating each harvest.

Theopolis Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir

Alcohol 12.0%, price $42, pairing: salmon, tuna, roasted chicken, mixed vegetables

Pinot Noir grapes are believed to be 1000 years older than its fuller bodied relative Cabernet Sauvignon. Pinot Noir is a very popular red because of its lighter, yet complex characteristics. Theopolis Vineyards’ 2017 Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir is a PositiveVines recommendation to enjoy for sipping, snacking and dinner pairings. 

Remember to drink
what it is that makes you truly happy and always think positively!

Drink Responsibly!

@blackwinelovers @theopolisv @winemendocino

From Big Tex to French Vineyards

From Big Tex to French Vineyards

Medal Awarded to Dr TV Munson There are many historic and celebrated connections between France and the U.S. Likewise, there are many direct and celebrated connections between France and Texas. Aside from the recognition of Texas as a country by France, the history of winemaking 

Champagne the gift of life!

Champagne! The life-giving elixir of love and happiness. As Napoleon Bonaparte would say, “In victory, you deserve Champagne; in defeat, you need it.”

Champagne is the life of the party for special occasions and a gracious companion when you need to relieve stress with a bubble bath at the end of a hectic day.

Wonderful sparkling wines are too numerous to name and perhaps too numerous to drink – Even though, I’d love to try! Prosecco and Cava styles are great sparkling wines – just to name a few.

But, there really is only one Champagne. Champagne is the original sparkling wine. And, all real Champagne is only from the Champagne region of France.

This summer was my first (and definitely not my last) trip to the Champagne region in Northern France. I decided to visit 3 wineries in the commune of Épernay. First, let’s revisit the drive from Paris to Épernay. Every movie that you’ve ever seen of a quaint French countryside is accurate. We could have taken the train but, enjoyed the drive and wanted to have the freedom to stop in multiple locations.

The drive was about an hour and a half through small towns and well paved scenic winding roads. Churches, small towns, farms, and homes dot the countryside. And, the ever-popular roundabouts popped up every few miles along the highway. Perhaps one of the most beautiful sites was a flower lined bridge as we drove through La Marne.

Bridge in La Marne

Upon arriving in Épernay we immediately drove to La Avenue de Champagne. The beauty of each house on the avenue is indescribable. We visited two houses for tasting in order to take as much time possible to enjoy each location and a third for photos and shopping.

The first house on our visit was Champagne de Venoge. Founded in 1837 by Henri-Marc de Venoge it features a beautiful white chateau, an outdoor dining and drinking patio and indoor wine bar and tasting area. The Champagne houses in Épernay  are attentive to visitors and limit the number of individuals that they host during each hour. You get full attention by the knowledgeable staff. No crowding around a wine bar for hurried tastings. We sampled 3 Champagnes, each from the Princes line. I have to say that my favorite was the Blanc de Blancs. Poured from the Champagne de Venoge’s distinctive bottle style, the Blanc de Blancs is made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes. 

Wine Steward Champagne de Venoge

A Gold medal winner at The World’s Finest Bubbly Awards in 2017, the Blanc de Blancs exhibits a crispness with flavors of dry pear, a little grapefruit, and beautiful bubbles with medium acidity. Featuring aromas of white flowers and minerality this is an excellent Champagne to enjoy as a multi-course meal starter. It is light, aromatic, very flavorful and the bubbles cascade up in the flute. We were very fortunate to secure seating at Champagne de Vonage and I recommend anyone traveling to Épernay  to visit this house, see the beautiful craftsmanship of their unique bottles and of course drink the Champagne!

Princes Blanc de Blancs

The next Champagne house that we visited was Champagne Alfred Gratien. This house was established in 1864. The cellar master – Nicolas Jager – is the 4th generation member of his family to create cuvees from the Gratien cellars. This visit included a cellar tour deep into the damp and chilly caverns of Épernay . The Gratien house benefits from an extensive network of vineyards in the Champagne region to purchase grapes for winemaking.

The visit began by viewing the preparation work underway to clean barrels housed onsite. We visited 2 weeks before grape picking started in Champagne. The production side of the house was busy ensuring that they would be ready for the grape juice when it arrived. All grapes are picked by hand in Champagne and pressing is done at the vineyards. The region swells with an additional 150,000 people to support the short window of time for grapes to be picked and pressed. Two-thirds of the grapes are selected from Grand Cru and Cru vineyards. The cellar room is kept at an 80% humidity level, 14 degrees Celsius. The winery uses approximately 1 thousand French oak second-hand barrels shipped from the Burgundy region of France.

Barrel Room Alfred Gratien

Our next stop on the tour was my favorite, deep into the cellars where Champagne is bottled, turned (both by machine and hand) and stored until time for labeling. The cellars are chilly with damp chalk walls. If you rub against the walls you’ll definitely come away with chalk on your clothes. It is a dark and fascinating part of the winery. I was fortunate enough to see bottles of wines locked away in caverns where they were protected and hidden away from the Germans during the occupation of France during World War II.

Cavern at Champagne Alfred Gratien

After touring the labeling room, we had an opportunity to sample Champagnes produced at this house. My favorite was the Brut Rosé with aromas of berries and a dry palate with berries, crème brulee and roasted almonds. This Champagne had very light acidity and tannins making it an excellent sipping wine.

Champagne Alfred Gratien Brut-Rosé

Another Champagne with a taste that was an entirely new experience is the Brut Nature. This Champagne is the true definition of dry with absolutely no sweetness. There are aromas and flavors evoking hints of nuts and butter. The acidity is bright with an explosion of bubbles in the flute. Champagne lovers should experiment with food pairings to experience this bubbly.

Our final stop was the house of Moet and Chandon. My favorite part of visiting this facility was the statue of Dom Perignon gracing the main plaza of the house. Dom was a French Benedictine monk credited with major improvements to the production of Champagne at a time when most wines produced were reds. The monastery where he spent the bulk of his adult life is owned by the house of Moet and Chandon.

Me and Dom

Épernay is a beautiful town. There are amazing and very French architectural details that are visually stunning on each house. We found the Champagne houses hosts to be very welcoming and the product is simply phenomenal.

Strolling through Texas wine Hill Country

Strolling through Texas wine Hill Country

I love traveling. To hear my husband describe it, I have some seriously “itchy feet”. When the weather starts to warm up, I like to jump in the car, head for the Texas Hill Country, spend time exploring new wineries and visiting the old favorites. 

Fiola Mare – Where Exceptional Wine, Food and Service meet

Fiola Mare – Where Exceptional Wine, Food and Service meet

Fiola Mare – courtesy of the restaurant

I’m an explorer who loves to seek out new venues to taste exceptional wine and food pairings. During a recent trip to visit one of my daughters in Washington, DC, I had the opportunity to enjoy 3 delicious wines each with unique profiles and accompanied by culinary delights. Washington, DC has a well-deserved reputation for having an abundance of unique places to enjoy wine and food pairings. My plan is to visit as many places as I can find!

Fiola Mare, located at the intersection of 31st street and Waterfront, is a beautiful restaurant nestled next to the Georgetown Water Park overlooking the Potomac River. The restaurant specializes in serving the highest quality seafood and pairing these with a selection of wines from around the world. The wine menu itself extends over 80+ pages in an eloquently presented leather-bound book. Fiola Mare’s wine operations are significant with 3 sommeliers in residence – Megumi Awaya, CW Kelley and Pawan Negi.

Sartarelli Verdicchio

While keeping it traditional by pairing a white wine with seafood, I decided to venture away from standard offerings to try a Verdicchio varietal. The Sartarelli Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (link is an offering produced by the Sartarelli family since 2011. This is a lovely entry point wine that is sold by the glass at Fiola Mare. The wine has a beautiful nose of pear, minerals and green apples. The palate is crisp and fresh with a nice high level of acidity. My daughter and I enjoyed this wine offering with 3 dishes created by Executive Chef Anton Bolling:

  • A palate cleanser not on the menu and offered by the wait staff of layered calamari, red onions and wafer-thin sliced radishes in a light sauce;
  • Pennsylvania Brook Trout – flaky with leeks, truffle and a light Pesto Cetarese and;
  • Gragnano Spaguetti Alla Chitarra loaded with pasta, Manila clams, Surf clams and San Marzano Tomatoes (by the way, spaguetti is an accepted alternative spelling).

Each pairing showed a different characteristic of the Verdicchio. The calamari dish with its sharpness of onions and radish balanced with the minerality of the wine. The trout entrée rounded the acidity in the wine providing a softer rounded mouth. And, the seafood pasta dish allowed the pear flavors to come through with a hint of almond as an aftertaste. This was a delicious example of how the food flavors influence the flavor profile of a wine. At an average of $18 per bottle this is value priced offering to easily be enjoyed at home.

Vietti Moscato and Broadbent Medeira

Our wine offerings for the evening finale paired two sweeter wines with an Orange Blood Spumoni dessert. One wine enjoyed was Vietti Cascinetta Moscato (link The burst of sweetness was toned down by the ricotta donuts included in dessert. By contrast the strong alcohol forward fortified sweet wine Broadbent 10-year Boal Medeira (link, paired well with the spumoni ice cream. The strength of the fortified wine covered the shell of the orange spumoni with melt in your mouth delight.

I would be remis if I didn’t highlight the exceptional service at Fiola Mare. The staff is a well-orchestrated team never letting a plate or empty glass linger. We had the added benefit of being seated in an area of the dining room where we could view the executive chef and his staff at work creating the masterpieces of dining experience.

Treat yourself and ask your local wine shop for a bottle of each of the wines enjoyed at Fiola Mare to share at home. It goes without saying that when you’re in DC please make a reservation to visit Fiola Mare. If you work the timing just right, you’ll be able to enjoy sunset over the Potomac along with an exceptional bottle of wine and exceptional food.

Remember to drink what it is that makes you truly happy and always think positively!

Drink Responsibly!

@sartarelliwine @blackwinelovers @italianwine

Northeastern Thai meets South America

Northeastern Thai meets South America

Today, I’m going to share a wine and food paring experience blending two different regions of the world. It was just about 10 years ago when I was first introduced to Thai food. I was instantly drawn to the complexity of the cuisine with richness