Summer is in full swing and things are really starting to heat up outside. I'm always looking for a refreshing beverage to quench my thirst, so I decided to try out the re-launch of Leprechaun Cider. Founded by 25 year-old Houston-based entrepreneur, Jake Schiffer, Leprechaun Cider is available in three flavors and is entirely gluten free with zero added sugar. Produced and bottled at the Vermont Hard Cider Company, Leprechaun only uses fresh juices and hand picked apple varieties.
The Golden Cider is semi-sweet with subtle hints of apple and pear. It is slightly effervescent and has just a touch of tartness to it. I found it to be quite similar to a Riesling. It's perfect as an apertif or everyday drink. It was definitely my favorite of the three flavors.
The Pomegranate Cider has pomegranate juice with just a splash of cranberry. The cider has a pleasant rosé color and a nice balance of sweet and tart. Add a little vodka to it and you have a great summer cocktail.
The Dry Cider is made European-style. This cider is full-bodied and well balanced. It is easily drinkable on its own or substituted for a sparkling wine with your favorite dish.
(Photos and product samples courtesy of Leprechaun Cider)
Last month I was invited to Jasper's in the Woodlands to attend a wine dinner hosted by Mac McDonald, owner of Vision Cellars. I didn't know anything about Mac or Vision Cellars, but I love Pinot Noirs and was excited to try something new. Vision Cellars is a boutique winery located in Sonoma County, CA. This area is known for its fabulous Pinot Noirs. Its proximity to the Pacific Ocean results in a cool morning fog that eventually burns off during the day. The climate and complexity of the soil help produce Pinots that are rich and velvety, with a bright acidity.
The event took place in Jasper's private room upstairs. In the center of the room stood Mac, greeting each guest and wearing a straw hat and overalls. As we waited for people to arrive, we were presented with Japser's Signature Cocktail, The Big Daddy (House Infused Cirtus Vodka, Triple Sec, Fresh Lemon & Orange, and House Made Sweet & Sour) and delicious bites which included Shrimp Arancini and Crab Tostones.
Mac started the evening off by telling us a little about himself and how he got in the wine making business. Mac grew up in Texas and was the son of a Moonshiner. Around the age of 12, he tasted a sip of French Burgundy and his life was forever changed. He knew he wanted to make wine and eventually moved to California. With the help and guidance of Chuck Wagner, owner of Caymus Vineyards, Mac founded his own winery in 1995 and produced the first vintage in 1997.
The first course was Pan Seared Scallops with a Pineapple-Vanilla Beurre Blanc Sauce and a Mango Relish. It was paired with Vision Cellars White 2012 (88% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Pinot Gris). This was an amazing pairing! The pineapple and tropical notes of the wine were perfect with the scallops. Mac made this wine for his wife, since she likes Sauvignon Blanc. Mac's wife has two Master's degrees, one in business and one in Psychology. Mac says when his wife wants something, "Yes, dear is the answer".
The next course was Seared Salmon and Sesame Soba Noodles with Sonoma County 2013 Pinot Noir. For those of you that think seafood should be paired with a white wine, think again. Salmon and Pinots are a great complement to one another.
The third course was Cocoa Rubbed Lamb Chops with a Blackberry Demi-glaze and Goat Cheese Potatoes. This was paired with Gary's Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir. The warm days and cool nights of the Santa Lucia Highlands give this delicious full-bodied wine luscious cherry and blackberry flavors. It was definitely my favorite wine of the evening.
The final course was a Chocolate-Chipotle Empanada with Pink Peppercorn Syrup and a White Chocolate Sauce. It was paired with Vision Cellars 2012 Petite Syrah. I have never had a Petite Syrah with dessert before, but the spice and fruit in the wine went superbly with the chocolate and subtle heat of the empanada.
This was definitely one of the most fun wine dinners I have ever attended. Mac is a great story teller. When he first started making wines, Mac set a few goals for himself. He wanted to be a top 100 winemaker and he wanted his wines served at the White House. Mac has achieved both of those goals.
If you are interested in trying Vision Cellars wines, you can visit their website for information about their wine club or ask your local liquor store about ordering it for you. However, Vision Cellars' wines are limited production. Mac says, "I don't want to make a lot of wine, I just want to make damn good wine." I can honestly tell you that Mr. McDonald does indeed make a damn good wine!
The 11th Annual Wine & Food week was held June 1-7 in the Woodlands, Texas. Thousands of people enjoyed a variety of events that included a wine walk, fancy dinners, grand tastings, art exhibits, and event beer & tacos. This year I attended the Ladies of the Vine Luncheon, as well as the Grand Tasting.
The Ladies of the Vine luncheon was held at the beautiful Club at Carlton Woods Jack Nicklaus Golf Course. Our host for the afternoon was the fabulous Charlotte Neuville (The Fashion Chef and Wizard Gourmet owner). The panelists included some of the best women winemakers in the business - Sara Floyd (Master Somm. - Luli Wines), Cindy Sebek (Founder/Owner - The Gracious Gift Wines), Lisa Mattson (Director of Marketing - Jordan Winery), and Katie Wetzel Murphy (Owner and Brand Ambassador - Alexander Valley Vineyards).
The Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting and Chef Showcase was held at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott. More 2,500 wine and food lovers participated in the final event, which included hundreds of wines and over 60 restaurants. Kris Jacob, executive chef of Culinary Institute Le Nôtre, won top honors and the coveted Waterford Crystal Chef of Chefs trophy along with $5,000 for his Foie Gras Crème Brûlée with ginger snap cookies. First runner-up was Corner Table executive chef Ja'Nel Will with a Summer Yellow Gazpacho, and second runner-up went to Robard's chef John Brazie with a Candied Bacon French Toast topped with pickled cherries, bourbon syrup, and blue cheese ice cream.
It was hard not to be in sensory overload with so many wonderful wines and delectable bites. My favorite dishes of the night were the Blue Cheese Stuffed Lamb Chops from Bob's Chop House, the Smoked Duck Confit from Jasper's, and the Crawfish and Pork Boudain from Oxlot 9. One of the most unique wines I discovered was The Gracious Gift. Every bottle sold helps feed 3 families in your community. The Gracious Gift Wines are available at most HEB stores.
About the Author
I like eating, traveling, and enjoying liquid libations. I'm all about great wines, signature cocktails, and local brews.