Flavors Of The World: ¡Destinación Chile at the Omni Hotels & Resorts

After a recent dinner at the Omni Hotel in Chicago, I’m seriously considering a trip to Chile. The food friendly array of wines and culinary treats sampled at their ninth Flavors Of The World: ¡Destinación Chile promotion in partnership with Wines of Chile were enough to make me want to pack some bags. And if the people in Chile are as warm and welcoming as those at the contemporary Restaurant 676 with sweeping views of Michigan Avenue, when’s the next flight? Realistically, though, that trip won’t happen for awhile for me and perhaps for you. Thankfully, we can experience the local flavors of Chile at your nearest Omni Hotel.

Each year, the culinary team at the Omni Hotels & Resorts explores a new country boasting distinctive wine and food to promote. Until December 31, 2015, all hotels will be profiling an array of carefully chosen wines, bar bites, entrees, and desserts that reflect the bold, rustic flavors of Chile. I was invited to learn and taste a sampling of offerings that are characteristic of this fascinating country and presented in a modern, updated style. Chile is considered by many to be a “culinary mecca.” I found out why…(you’ll love the following video).



Let the evening begin! After the first sip of the Vina Cono Sur Brut, NV from the Bio Bio Valley I knew that this experience would be special. The persistent bubbles in this dry, sparkling wine led the way to gentle citrus tastes and a lovely finish – a perfect aperitif. The Vina Cono Sur Riesling, “Bicicleta” from vineyards in the Central Valley and the Wave Series “Right Wave” Pinot Noir from the Leyda Valley were a lovely counterpoint to the spicy tastes of the first course, fried potato cakes topped with avocado, banana pepper, tomato and Chilean sea salt.

Three traditional country empanadas each with tender beef, creamy shrimp and cheese, or caramelized onions were even more delectable when paired with the Vina Cono Sur “Bicicleta” Viognier from the Central Valley, a refreshing, snappy choice, or the Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere from Apalta with its bold, earthy profile. When the large platter of tender steamed mussels with tomato, onion, bell pepper, and cilantro arrived I couldn’t help but have a taste of the dry, crisp, fruit forward Haras de Pirque Sauvignon Blanc from the Maipo Valley with the spicy seafood. Are you hungry yet?

Empanadas at the Omni Hotels
Finally, pork ribs slowly cooked in beer and palm honey with Chilean smoked pepper graced our table. Our knowledgeable server, Adrian, suggested a pour of the rich, flavorful Haras de Pirque, “Character”, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere from the Maipo Valley. This was a delicious finale to a dinner bursting with flavors.

Although I have tasted and enjoyed many Chilean wines, I was excited to discover more choices that complement its bold, tantalizing cuisine prepared by Chicago’s Chef Anthony. Although I may not travel to Chile in the near future, the Omni Hotels & Resorts was a perfect destination for this unique experience. It should be yours, too!

Salud! ~ Cindy

Vineyards of Chile













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Give Thanks to America’s Diversity with Wine

Just because Thanksgiving is an American holiday doesn’t mean that you can’t serve wines from other countries. Many of those who have made the United States their home have contributed to its greatness.  They are an important element of the culture I love. And so are many of their wines.  Distinctive wines and dishes that reflect a variety of ethnicities certainly have a place at any table no matter what the occasion.

Following are reviews of several wines sent to me as samples along with suggested food pairings for the Thanksgiving celebration.  Whether your guest list includes large groups of friends or family or you plan to have a quiet gathering of two or three, any of these wines will be sure to satisfy and delight.  Remember to count your blessings and give thanks for the special people in your life and the diversity of our country.  Then pour a glass of a wine you love and enjoy.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

White Wines

Ziobaffa Pinot Grigio 2014 From the rolling Tuscan hills of Italy, Ziobaffa Pinot Grigio is a collaboration between filmmaker Jason Baffa and “friend, surfer, winemaker, and art patron”, Piergiorgio Castellani. Using estate harvested grapes that are organically grown with sustainable techniques, this wine reflects its Tuscan roots with aromas of pear, hint of honey, tropical fruit, and minerality. Balanced elements of rich fruit and snappy acidity were clean and refreshing; I found a depth in this wine that is not always detected in a Pinot Grigio that costs only $17.  Serve the Ziobaffa Pinot Grigio with lighter dishes such as fish or shellfish, salad with fresh, crispy vegetables, pasta with cream sauce, or as an aperitif when your guests arrive.

Gran Reserva Concha Y Toro Sauvignon Blanc 2014 – I’m always enamored with Concha Y Toro’s wine offerings – this time it’s a Sauvignon Blanc from their Riverbank Series, a portfolio of single vineyard wines from fruit grown close to one of Chile’s major rivers.  The south bank of the Rapel River in the Colchagua Valley with its semi-arid coastal climate is the origin of this lovely wine that is sure to please your Thanksgiving guests.  Gentle aromas of grapefruit, citrus, light herbs, and white flowers were enticing and noted on the palate as well.  Boasting lip smacking acidity, burst of minerality, lush mouthfeel, and a long refreshing finish, the Sauvignon Blanc will pair with soft cheeses, savory vegetarian dishes, roasted turkey, and grilled seafood.  Cost is $17.

Aa Assyrtiko 2014 – This dry, crisp white wine is a blend of 75% Assyrtiko and 25% Athini, two ancient varieties grown in vineyards that are over 3000 years old on the stunningly beautiful Greek island of Santorini. Shimmering gold in the glass, I found aromas of lemon, stone fruit, and bracing salinity. On the palate, mouthwatering acidity, a chalky mouthfeel with volcanic minerality, florals, and tart, juicy citrus notes led to a long, creamy finish.  You’ll enjoy this wine with strawberry feta salad, fresh cucumber with feta cheese and mint or steamed mussels. You may not be spending Thanksgiving in Greece, but with this sunny and bright wine, you don’t have to. Cost is around $20.

Thanksgiving Whites

Red Wines

Herdade do Esporao Monte Velho 2014 – The Herdade do Esparao estate can be found in the heart of Alentejo in Portugal.  As one of the leading privately held Portuguese producers of wines and olive oils, Esporao S.A. produces the country’s best selling wine brand, Monte Velho. The 2014 is a blend of Aragones, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, and Syrah…some of these grapes may be new to you! After aerating, aromas of bright cherries, oak, and vanilla paved the way to notes of red fruit, black berries, and touch of pepper and spice on the palate. Structured tannins, medium acidity, and fruit were balanced for this young wine which will complement charcuterie, red meats, and saucy side dishes.  Cost is $10.

MandraRossa Nero D’Avola D.O.C. Sicilia 2014Wines from Sicily continue to impress my palate (just look for the Sicilia D.O.C. label and you’ll know what I mean…) and this wine is yet another example.  This unique red wine bursts with aromas of delicate cherries, raspberries, vanilla spice, and smoke. Peppery notes combined with earth, more smoke, licorice, and rich red fruit were balanced with medium tannins and food friendly acidity. The long finish was more than satisfying.  You may want to enjoy this estate bottled Nero D’Avola with a vegetable lasagna as a side dish, roasted or grilled red or white meat, or, if you are getting creative, a rabbit stew. Cost is around $10.

Cruz de Piedra Seleccion Especial 2013A glass of easy drinking Garnacha will pair with just about anything on your table.  This choice from Spain will not disappoint.  Intense aromatics of spice, red jammy fruits, and minerality were easy on the nose and I looked forward to that first sip. Sure enough, more rich red fruit and spice, hints of balsamic and eucalyptus, integrated tannins and acidity helped create a truly balanced wine that will stand up to a cheese platter (don’t forget the El Chamizo or Manchego), Cornish hens, or traditional Thanksgiving turkey. Cost is $20.

Thanksgiving Reds

Cheers! ~ Cindy




Posted in Regional Wines, Thinking Out of the Box, Wine Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , 3 Comments


3 Responses to “Give Thanks to America’s Diversity with Wine”
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  1. I love pairing new wines with Thanksgiving dinner! :)

  2. It’s great to support local, but there is much to be said for exploring the world through wine at home as well.

    Great post. Feel free to add it, or any other wine/food posts, to my monthly #WINENOT blog post sharing party: opens first wednesday every month, and is open for a week.


    Louise @ WillungaWino.com

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Two Superb Thanksgiving Reds (that aren’t Pinot Noir)

You may be shocked to learn that there are people who never call the Butterball turkey hotline or pour Pinot Noir at Thanksgiving. Instead, gourmet burgers, grilled salmon, and even lasagna for heaven’s sake are just some of the rogue offerings to hungry family and friends. And the wines? These crazies are popping the corks from bottles ranging from Assyrtiko to Zinfandel.

If you’re one of those aforementioned Thanksgiving hosts or hostesses I have recommendations for two of the most delicious, memorable, knock-your-Pilgrim-boots-off, killer wines (sent to me as samples) that I’ve tasted in a very long time.  When the last drop from each bottle was poured, I actually uttered an “Oh no!” (or something like that).  Rich and luscious, each will be a mouthwatering complement to your favorite recipe for short ribs, Beef Wellington, a juicy steak from the grill, or a hearty pasta dish. You. Will. Love. These. Wines.

Cornerstone Cellars 2012 Michael’s Cuvee

Once again, Cornerstone Cellars has produced a wine of such quality that Craig Camp, Partner and Director of Winemaking, declared it “a true statement wine”.  Fruit was selected from their best vineyards in the Napa Valley: Oakville Station Vineyard (To Kalon), Kairos Vineyard in Oak Knoll, and Ink Grade Vineyard on Howell Mountain.  91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot were blended to create this first release named for Dr. Michael Dragutsky, founder of Cornerstone Cellars and the inspiration behind the “spirit and passion” of their portfolio of consistently outstanding wines.

Intensely rich aromas of vanilla and cassis led to a strong, complex palate profile.  Wood, juicy plums and dark red, jammy fruit with a hint of spice were entwined with elegant tannins and bright acidity.  The finish was long, mesmerizing, and satisfying. Fresh and youthful now, the well balanced 2012 Michael’s Cuvee will be even more luxurious and sensuous in years to come.  Congratulations are in order to Cornerstone Cellars for this mind blowing wine.  Cost is $75.

Thanksgiving reds

2011 The Oracle

Miner Family Winery released the 2011 The Oracle on September 1, 2015.  This sophisticated wine is a Bordeaux blend that is so lush, sexy and powerful that you may want to forgo Thanksgiving dinner completely.  49% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot were from their Stagecoach Vineyard located in the eastern hills of Napa Valley.

Focused and refined, gentle aromas of vanilla spice and mellow notes of red berries led the path to blackberries, plums, blueberries, herbs, dried florals, and earth on the palate. The silky smooth tannins lifted by vibrant acidity provided a structure that was magnificent. Cost is $90.

Thanksgiving reds

You may want to enjoy Pinot Noir and that traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner another time.  This year, pour a glass of these exceptional wines.

Cheers~ Cindy

Posted in Regional Wines, Thinking Out of the Box, Wine Reviews | Tagged , , , Leave a comment

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Wine and Dine: Chateau Paul Mas Belluguette 2013 and Mediterranean Fish Stew

If your Thanksgiving menu is the same year after year, perhaps it’s time to get creative. Your green bean casserole may be delicious, but after twenty years? Even Aunt Mary and Uncle Elmer have had enough! But don’t fret…help is on the way! On Saturday, November 14 at 10am Central Time, a creative group of wine and food lovers using the hashtag #winePW will share a plethora of ideas (see below) that just may be considered your new tradition!

Always trying to find a new food and wine match, I found a pairing which is not only creative for Thanksgiving but a sure winner as a first course: a glass (or two) of Chateau Paul Mas Belluguette 2013, a rich blend of Vermentino, Roussanne, Grenache, and Viognier, and a cup of authentic Mediterranean Fish Stew known as Bourride in France. After tasting (and loving) both, I’m betting that your friends and family will ask for seconds!

A few weeks ago, I had lunch with Jean-Claude Mas, Owner of Les Domaines Paul Mas, and tasted through a portfolio of ten wines from his estates in the Languedoc region located in the South of France. Engaging and confident, Mas explained that his approach is to produce “old world wines with a new world attitude.” In his view, wine “should have structure and muscles, be elegant and have complexity.” His wines have garnered awards and received international attention which is no surprise to me. Currently, Les Domaines Paul Mas consists of ten estates with nine wineries, each with its own philosophy. Whereas many wineries in the Languedoc are adhering to traditional viticultural techniques, his embrace modern methods as well in an attempt to “preserve our environment and respect our rural roots.” Jean-Claude Mas shared that “for all of the wines we make, we have one goal in mind and that is that you experience a moment of real and unique pleasure when you taste them.”

Domaine de Martinolles (4)
One of the many interesting wines I enjoyed that day was Chateau Paul Mas Belluguette 2013 ($23.99). From the appellation of Coteaux du Languedoc where soils are predominantly limestone with gravel, this dry, white wine was aged in French and oak barrels for four months after undergoing malolactic fermentation. A pale lemon color in the glass, intense aromas of tropical fruit such as pineapple and melon, vanilla and toasty notes were enticing. On the palate, I found low acidity, a creamy texture, more rich, ripe fruit and a deep, lingering finish. Ageworthy for up to eight years, you may want to purchase several bottles for future Thanksgiving dinners (if you can keep them that long)!

Chateau Paul Mas Belluguette 2013
A savory pairing with the Chateau Paul Mas Belluguette 2013 is Mediterranean Fish Stew (this recipe serves four to six guests) with ingredients found in so many classic dishes from the South of France. Firm white fish (the recipe calls for monkfish but you can substitute), olive oil, tomatoes, onions, garlic, thyme, saffron, lemon, and orange helped create an explosion of tastes that were complemented by the blend of crisp Vermentino, aromatic Roussanne, rich Grenache, and low acid Viognier. With a basket of toasted French bread on the side, the first course of your Thanksgiving dinner will delight!

Mediterranean Fish Stew (Bourride)


  • 1 1/2lb monkfish or other firm white fillets
  • 1 cup olive oil (approximately)
  • 2 tomatoes (roughly chopped)
  • 1 onion (roughly chopped)
  • 7 garlic cloves (peeled and diced)
  • 1/2 sprig of thyme
  • 1/2 orange (zest of)
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 glass white wine
  • 1/4 lemon (juice of)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • salt and black pepper (to taste)


Step 1
In a large pan, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and heat.
Step 2
Add the roughly chopped tomatoes and onions, 2-3 cloves of garlic, the thyme, saffron, orange zest, 1/2 glass of white wine and 2 cups of water.
Step 3
Simmer for 20 minutes.
Step 4
Meanwhile, pound the remaining garlic to a puree in a mortar and pestle.
Step 5
Blend in 1 egg yolk and add salt and pepper.
Step 6
Add lemon juice to taste and leave mixture aside.
Step 7
Cut the skinned and boned fish into 1 inch chunks and add it to the saucepan. Poach for 15 minutes. Remove the fish with a draining spoon and keep warm.
Step 8
Sieve the stock to the pan and reheat gently.
Step 9
Take about half of the aioli and beat the remaining egg yolk into it. Slowly pour the warmed stock onto it, stirring constantly.
Step 10
Return this mixture to the pan and heat gently, stirring all the time, until it thickens slightly.
Step 11
It should be the consistency of thin custard. Don't let it boil - it will curdle!
Step 12
Divide the cooked fish between four to six serving bowls and pour the soup over it.
Step 13
Serve with thin slices of toasted French bread and the remaining aioli.
Step 14

Enjoy your Thanksgiving and cheers to delicious wine paired with a memorable, creative dinner, friends, and family! ~ Cindy

Mediterranean Fish Stew

For more creative Thanksgiving pairings, please enjoy these recipes from some of my favorite food and wine bloggers.  I hope to see you Saturday at 10am Central Time on Twitter for #winePW!

Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares Simple Elegance: Beurre Noisette-Braised Radishes + Sips from Languedoc

Cooking Chat shares Garrigue Roasted Turkey Breast with Wine from Languedoc #winePW

A Day in the Life on the Farm pairs Turkey Tetrazzini with a Michigan Wine

Curious Cuisiniere shares French Herb Roasted Turkey with Languedoc Wine

Confessions of a Culinary Diva plans A Sud Ouest Thanksgiving

Pull That Cork posts #winePW Thanksgiving for Two: Storm Pinot Noir and Seared Duck Breast

Tasting Pour will Pick Picpoul, Choose Corbieres: Languedoc Wines and Thanksgiving

ENOFYLZ Wine Blog shares Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake Paired With An Aussie Sticky

Dracaena Wines discusses How to Be Creative with Your Thanksgiving Table

Rockin Red Blog wants you to Celebrate Thanksgiving Lodi Style


Posted in Recipes, Regional Wines, Wine Connoisseurs, Wine Reviews, Wine School, Wineries | Tagged , , , , 3 Comments


3 Responses to “Wine and Dine: Chateau Paul Mas Belluguette 2013 and Mediterranean Fish Stew”
show comments ⇓

  1. How thrilling to be able to taste through a portfolio of Languedoc wines. [and with the owner, even better] And yes, you were very creative with the pairing!

  2. This stew sounds amazing and the wine pairing exceptional.

  3. I love the way your wine sounds Cindy. I can definitely see that being great with your fish stew. I may have to give your recipe a try. It looks fairly easy!

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Of Note: The Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc Wines of Mulderbosch Vineyards

When you take a sip of Chenin Blanc, you may have thoughts of the Loire Valley where dry, light wines from Touraine and Anjou-Saumur can be found in a variety of styles from still to sparkling. In the Languedoc, winemakers in Limoux also cultivate Chenin Blanc, an ingredient in one of my favorite sparkling wines, Cremant de Limoux. But a country which boasts the largest area of all Chenin Blanc production, one that may be of a surprise, is South Africa where 20% of all vines cultivated are Chenin Blanc. In fact, the variety viticulturists termed Steen and which has been growing in the Cape for centuries was discovered in the mid-1960s to be, you guessed it, the Chenin Blanc grape.

Selected members of the Chicago trade and media welcomed Adam Mason, winemaker at Mulderbosch Vineyards in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa, when he hosted a luncheon recently at Shaw’s Crab House.  Guests had the opportunity to learn about his single estate Chenin Blanc, savor delicious pairings, and engage in lively conversation all the while appreciating his knowledge and (let me speak for myself right now…) enjoying his accent, a reminder of a suave Hugh Grant.

Adam Mason, Winemaker

Exuding unbridled enthusiasm about his work, Mason spoke of the wines, vineyards, and South Africa, his home. Experience harvesting Muscadet grapes in France for the year before enrolling in college motivated Mason to pursue a career as a winemaker. A degree in Oenology and Viticulture from Stellenbosch University and his work as a consultant in the south of France and Bordeaux fueled his passion as his resume was building. At the same time, Mason worked vintages at his home in the Cape region where he finally returned full time as a general manager and winemaker for a negociant and winemaking business.  From 2003-2011 he was winemaker at Klein Constantia where he produced their acclaimed dessert wine, Vin de Constance, and in 2008 Mason traveled to Napa Valley where he worked a harvest with Andy Erickson of Screaming Eagle.

Founded in 1989, then boutique Mulderbosch Vineyards located in the hills of the Stellenbosch gained worldwide recognition and consideration with its Sauvignon Blanc and rosés. Many award winning wines later, Terroir Capital, with well-known wine investor Charles Banks in command, purchased the winery in 2011.  A crucial item on Banks’ agenda was to find the “dream winemaker who could take the wines to the next level”. He found that winemaker in Adam Mason, who he had met in the Napa Valley during Mason’s work with Andy Erickson. Mason, who began winemaking at Mulderbosch with the vintage of 2012, shared that he is thrilled to have “the opportunity to work with Chenin Blanc”. I was able to taste why.

Adam Mason of Mulderbosch Vineyards

The Chenin Blanc of Mulderbosch Vineyards

During a delectable lunch of oysters on the half shell, lobster tacos, and a crab cake Caesar salad, Adam Mason promoted and praised the age-worthy Chenin Blanc, in particular, three selections from his single vineyard project.

As we arrived, an aperitif of Chenin Blanc Steen Op Hout 2013 ($10) from grapes grown in vineyards on the Western Cape was poured. Fruit forward aromas of tropical fruit such as papaya, mango, and grapefruit and hints of oak, minerality and more fresh fruit on the palate with bright acidity were a most welcome beginning to the afternoon. Aged in 10% new French oak and 90% stainless steel for eight months, I was surprised to learn that the Steen could be held for five to seven more years…but who would want to?

Mulderbosch Vineyards Chenin Blanc Steenn Op Hout
During lunch, Adam Mason explained that his single vineyard project at Mulderbosch was prompted by the fact that he wanted to “look at wines from different Stellenbosch sites made in an identical fashion”. All three vineyards of bush vines were of similar age, 33 years. After harvest, Chenin Blanc grapes from each site were destemmed, crushed, and pressed. The free-run juice settled then transferred to neutral barrels for fermentation.  There was no addition of yeast and sulfur to prevent malolactic fermentation; wines were aged on the lees in neutral French oak after which they were racked and lightly filtered prior to bottling which was done separately. The difference? Terroir. Thanks to plenty of geological activity throughout the centuries, soils in the Coastal Region where Stellenbosch is located are varied: granite, clay, schist, gravel, shale, sand, and sandstone (a red soil) are examples.

Our first wine, Mulderbosch Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2013 was from Vineyard Block A of sandy fraction in topsoil over gravel and clay. The lightest of the three wines, Block A’s location near False Bay contributed to its freshness. The intense, pure aromas were appealing and surprising at the same time. In this well balanced wine, I found licorice and notes of pineapple and citrus, high acidity, ribbon of minerality and a creamy, clean mouthfeel.

Soils from the ancient Malmesbury Shales characterize the wines from Mulderbosch Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc from Vineyard Block 52. Absolutely brilliant with the raw oysters, this was a “wow” wine. Mesmerizing floral aromas led to flavors of dried fruit, apricots, a whisper of vanilla, and cinnamon…the finish was long and pure.

Rich, deep, and broad, Mulderbosch Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc from Vineyard Block W boasted minerality, structure, and texture. Baking spices, wild flowers, ripe fruits, and a lasting, satin like finish reflected the sloping vineyard site of granite derived soils overlooking False Bay. Delicious.

Mulderbosch Vineyards Single Vineyards Project
Thirsty yet? When the 2014 vintage is released, the 2013 Chenin Blanc from the single vineyards project will be available in a three-pack for $100.  This is a fantastic price for these distinctive wines…they may just be the most satisfying Chenin Blancs I’ve tasted.

Take note. With Adam Mason leading the way, South Africa’s Mulderbosch Vineyards Chenin Blanc is award worthy and should be in everyone’s glass. You can be sure that it will be in mine!

Cheers! ~ Cindy

Mulderbosch Vineyards







Posted in Old World v. New World, Regional Wines, Wine Connoisseurs, Wine Reviews, Wine School, Wineries | Tagged , Leave a comment

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