Mar 232014
 

Wines-of-Chile

Exciting Times in Chile: Redefining Their Terroir & Wines

If you think you know Chilean wines, take another look. The Chileans are redefining their terroir and in the process are redefining their wines and improving quality using a simple concept – find the right grape varieties for the right location and terroir. This was the message that came across when I attended a luncheon seminar held by the Houston Sommelier Association at Camerata’s Wine Bar at Pauli’s Restaurant in Houston’s Montrose district. Featured speaker was Fred Dexheimer, MS.

The concept for the new classification of Chile’s wine regions is really quite simple: There is more diversity in grape growing conditions going west to east (from the Pacific coast to the high Andes Mountains) than going north to south. To handle the west-to-east diversity, the new system calls out Costa areas (coastal regions with the cool, moist influence of the sea), Entre Cordilleras areas (regions between mountain ranges with intermediate conditions and deep soils), and Andres areas (regions with increasing elevation that make vines work hard, reducing crop loads and thus adding structure to the wines).

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Using this new approach, the wine growing regions of Chile can be understood more easily since it relates to what we’ve learned about wine growing in northern California with the coastal Russian River,  Sonoma and Napa regions. In much the same way, Chile’s winemakers are optimizing production of white wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and lighter reds (Pinot Noir) from the coastal areas going up the scale with Syrah, Merlot, Carmenere to Cabernet going inland and up to the Andres areas. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 9:41 pm
Mar 222014
 
Texas-Fine-Wine

Texas Fine Wine (Photo credit Austin Chronicle)

Texas Fine Wine: A New Alliance and a Class Act for Texas Wine Consumers & Growers

Four Texas wineries – Bending Branch Winery, Brennan Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery and Pedernales Cellars – recently announced the launch of “Texas Fine Wine” their new marketing initiative.

This initiative will promote their award-winning Texas wines as some of the best in the state (and made from Texas grapes) and their wineries as top wine tourism destinations.

Fredrik Osterberg, co-owner of Pedernales Cellars highlighting this venture said, “Texas Fine Wine represents a distinctive group of highly respected wineries recognized for making quality Texas appellation wines, delivering excellent customer experiences, and setting the highest standards in the Texas wine industry.”

Fostenberg

Fredrik Osterberg (Pedernales Cellars) at 2013 Texsom

By now, just about everyone has blogged, tweeted and Facebooked the announcement of this new marketing initiative. But, I want to go on record saying that I believe that the formation of this alliance comes at a particularly opportune time and the principals in this venture need to be acknowledged. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 1:34 pm
Mar 072014
 
Wine-Education

WST Promotes Texas Wine through Scholarship

The Wine Society of Texas Announces Scholarship Grant Program

The Wine Society of Texas will provide up to $5,000 in assistance for the wine education, internship or field study, and appreciation of wine through education.

On Wednesday, 5 March 2014, The Wine Society of Texas (WST), a 501c3 non-profit educational organization announced that it is accepting applications for its annual Scholarship Grant Program. In order to apply for the grant, individuals must be: (a) attending institutions around the State of Texas studying viticulture and oenology, or (b) pursuing winery internships in Texas, or (c) involved with Texas winemaking or field studies / wine education, or (d) involved in promoting the education of grape growing and wine making in the State of Texas. Grants may be given depending on the quality of requests in the amount totaling up to $5,000 by the WST. The scholarship program is consistent with the founding idea of WST and its continued mission to enhance the appreciation of wines, foster the knowledge of oenology and viticulture, support charitable activities, promote winemaking, and to educate.

According to Ms. Shirley Choate, WST President, “The WST Scholarship program offers financial assistance for tuition, books, or for related travel expenses for individuals registered or in a program of study with a Texas university or college offering accredited courses in viticulture or oenology. Financial assistance can also be provided for winery internships in Texas or for Texas winemaker studies. The funding for the WST Scholarship program is provided from charitable donations, local WST Chapter fund raising events, and various WST statewide wine events such as the wine education seminars. Our scholarship supports local Texas wine talent, which will be the future of the Texas wine and hospitality industry.”

The WST has awarded over $32,000 in grants over the past 9 years. The awards have been used for a variety of purposes – research for the Texas wine industry including Pierce’s disease, Wine Symposium and Conferences, financial assistance for students attending Viticulture or Hotel Management programs, wine sommelier studies, and authors on the Texas Wine Industry.

The WST will be accepting applications up to 18, May, 2014. All applications must be returned by this date, fully completed, to The Wine Society of Texas. Applicants are required to fill out the WST Scholarship Application, which will be reviewed by the WST Scholarship Committee. The committee may recommend single or multiple awards depending on the quality of applications received. All decisions will be final and applying does not guarantee receiving a grant. The WST scholarship award(s) will be announced in the summer of 2014.

For more information about the scholarship program or the WST please visit our website at www.winesocietyoftexas.org.

The Wine Society of Texas (winesocietyoftexas.org), headquartered in Midland, Texas, was started in 1996 and received its 501(c) 3 non-profit status in 1999. It has about 200 members around the State of Texas. The WST mission is: to enhance the appreciation of wine, especially Texas wines; educate the experienced as well as the beginning wine taster; promote the wine makers, and grape growers; foster the knowledge of oenology and viticulture; help in charitable activities throughout the state of Texas; and promote the responsible consumption of wine. It organizes events that promote appreciation of wine through education in a comfortable social setting. The WST offers annual grants from its Scholarship Fund to assist in wine education, internships and field training.

 Posted by at 9:48 am
Feb 082014
 
GoTexan-Preference

1st Round TDA GoTexan Wine Rule Comment Summary

Make your voice Heard: Deadline Nears for 2nd Round Comments on GoTexan Wine Rules

…Texas consumers need honest labeling. Texas grape growers deserve support from Texas wineries. New GoTexan rules and an end to For Sale in Texas Only with help on both counts.

I don’t want to beat this topic to death (any more than it already has been beat).  However, if you have:

  • An interest in fair and honest labeling of Texas wine and use of the GoTexan logo, and
  • An opinion on the amount of Texas grapes needed to qualify the wine to be a Texas wine,

please send a simple email voicing your opinion on GoTexan wine rules no later than Monday, February 10th, 2014. This is the deadline for the 2nd Round commenting. If you wish to submit a comment, or an additional comment, send it by e-mail to gotexan@TexasAgriculture.gov. The text from my 2nd round comment to the TDA GoTexan Program is given at the bottom of this blog.

Dallas-based wine writer Andy Chalk has been riding point on this matter for the past few months, started the petition to the TDA goTexan program for a rule change, and has nicely summarized the issues and the consequences.

For the background, click here and you will go to his CraveDFW blog titled “Go Texan: 80% Of Consumers Favor The 100% Rule”. He has also summarized the comments by category and rule preference, which I have reformatted and posted at the top of this blog.

The results indicate:

  • 59% of wineries and 100% of Texas politicians want to keep it at 0% Texas grapes are needed to qualify the wine for GoTexan labeling.
  • 85% of consumers want to change the requirements to 75 – 100% Texas grapes are needed to qualify the wine for GoTexan labeling.
  • 100% of Texas grape growers want to change the requirements to 75 – 100% Texas grapes needed to qualify the wine for GoTexan labeling

Sounds like a majority of the 1st round responders want stricter GoTexan requirements on wine carrying the GoTexan logo that are in close alignment to the Federal requirement of at least 75% Texas grapes needed to qualify a wine to be labeled as Texas appellation (a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown). If we look at the preferences a different way, it is even more obvious what the results from 1st round say… It appears plainly simple from the 1st round results: only 38% of the comments favored keeping the 0% rule, while 56% of the comments favored making the rule 75 to 100% Texas grapes.

It is interesting to me that the Texas Department of Agriculture GoTexan officials decided that a 2nd round of comments was needed. It also surprises me that they would not support the consumers interests for clear and accurate labeling and follow the federal TTB labeling requirements that apply in Texas and all other American states.

Furthermore, I thought that the Texas Department of Agriculture would be in favor of promoting a Texas agricultural product (grapes) rather than wineries that would like to import bulk California wine and slap a GoTexan logo on the bottle thus giving the appearance of it being a Texas wine. But, then again, maybe I see things differently because I’m not a Texas politician or a GoTexan official working in Austin.

If you did not provide your opinion in the 1st round comments, it is important that you do so in the 2nd round, no later than this Monday (February 10th – the end of the 30 day comment period). It is a simple and easy way to make your opinion known. Then, we can hopefully put this issue to rest.

If you have already commented in the 1st round, just sit back, put your feet up and have a sip of real Texas wine.

– — – — –

If you want to review the complete proposal and request for 2nd round comments from the TDA GoTexan Program, click here: TDA Go Texan Notice.

– — – — –

Here is a copy of my email to the TDA GoTexan Program:

Dear TDA GoTexan Program:

I am in favor of fair, honest and accurate labeling for all products. Allowing wineries to use the GoTexan Logo on wine that is made primarily from non-Texas grapes does not accomplish any of these three mandates.

I am in favor of using the well-established and accepted federal TTB regulations that determine the appellation of origin for wines in all states including Texas. This is the 75% rule that requires a minimum of 75% of the grapes used in a wine that carries a state’s appellation. The same should be mandated for a wine that includes the use of the GoTexan logo.

This approach, based on 75%, is better and more workable than a 100% rule. The 75% rule provides 25% margin for wineries to use grapes from other sources if and when needed due to the year-to-year variations in harvest conditions and availability of wine grapes within the state.

Dr. Russell D. Kane

 

 

 Posted by at 2:52 pm
Feb 032014
 
Mustang-Grapes

Mustang Grapes – Photo Credit: http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/mustang.asp

Vintage Texas: Texas is really a wine country! 1868

“We have received a sample of the pure Mustang wine from Mr. L.N. Halbert of Long Point, Washington County, Texas. All we can say is, that the best judges of our office (who, by the way, ought to be good judges, as they have often tried similar samples of Texas wine) have given it a fair trial, and they all pronounce it “excellent”, with increasing emphasis after the second and third trial.

We venture to say that no one, after tasting this wine, will question that Texas is really a wine country!

We may remark that, even now, without any [cultivation], or other expense than gathering grapes, we have thousands of gallons of this wine now made annually in nearly all parts of the State.”

From: Galveston Daily News, October 25, 1868

 Posted by at 10:11 pm
Feb 022014
 
Bob-Cottle-at-Pleasant-Hill

Bob Cottle. Owner Winemaker at Pleasant Hill Winery

Cat Spring Grape Field Day 2014: So You Want to Grow Grapes, Texas Gulf Coast Edition

The Cat Spring Grape Field Day is February 7 this year, and it is shaping up to be another good one. In addition to many of the previous speakers, we have several new ones.

Dr Justin Scheiner, our new AgriLife Viticulture Advisor, will be speaking on a vineyard spray protocol for the coming year. Jim Kamas and Andy Labay continue their work on hybrid varieties suitable for our area. Wine evaluations from the hybrids are showing promise. Dr. Levi Russell, the new AgriLife Economist for our region, will give a talk on operating budgets for vineyards based on grower interviews.

Dr. George Ray McEachern will talk on the theory of vine pruning. Fritz Westover will talk on subtleties of grape vine training systems and techniques of balanced early cropping. Bill Price will give a growers perspective on olive production in south central Texas. We have invited Bill to speak as a result of the increased interest in olive production in the area.

Registration is 8:30-9:00 a.m. At the conclusion of the meeting there will be wine social from 4:00-5:00 p.m.

The cost of the meeting is $35, which includes lunch and a complimentary wine glass. Cash, checks and credit cards are welcome.

RSVP to Philip Shackleford at austin-tx@tamu.edu or 979.865.2072

Blanc-Du-Bois-2011-Harvest-

Blanc Du Bois Harvest

 

 

 Posted by at 8:57 pm
Feb 012014
 
le-cigare-volant2

Flying Saucers not welcome in Chateauneuf-du-Pape; only in California!

The Wacky World of Wine Laws

Perhaps the most famous law that haunts the world of wine is a 1954 decree stating that no flying saucers may fly over, take off from, or land on the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This is, of course, very unfortunate for grenache-loving Martians who have screaming kids in the backseat and a trunk full of groceries. I guess they’ll have to park the flying saucer in nearby Vacqueyras and walk.

Why you should wear a sword if you want a glass of wine in Ireland and more at:

http://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2014/01/the-worlds-wackiest-wine-laws

Protecting Wine With Condoms

Wine Condoms are the invention of a young Texan, Mitchell Strahan, whose big blue eyes and sandy blonde hair suggest considerable experience with regular condoms. On the rare occasions that there is wine left in your bottle, you can gently roll one of the small rubber contraptions he’s designed over the top to preserve its contents. If you practice, you might even be able to do this with your mouth.

More at: http://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2014/01/protecting-wine-with-condoms

 

 Posted by at 12:19 pm
Jan 302014
 
Buffalo-Gap-Day-2-night-001

2014 Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit

It’s Time Again to Mind the Gap: 2014 Tenth Annual Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit

Internationally recognized Argentine chef, restaurateur, television personality, and author, Francis Mallmann, will make his first appearance at the Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit April 25-27, 2014, at Perini Ranch in Buffalo Gap, Texas.

Francis Mallmann was born in Buenos Aires and raised in Patagonia where he started his first restaurant at 19 in Bariloche. After that, he worked in many of the 3 – star kitchens of France and Italy of the late 70′s and 80′s. He has restaurants in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. He has published 6 cookbooks and has been running his TV shows for the last 30 years in Latin America. Most recently, he published Argentina’s most celebrated cookbook: Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way.

Nationally acclaimed Chef Stephan Pyles, owner of Stephan Pyles, Stampede 66 and Samar restaurants in Dallas, will make his eighth annual Summit appearance, preparing lunch on Saturday – this time featuring his Stampede 66 menu and his Texas roots. He got his start at The Great Chefs of France Cooking School where he worked with Michelin 3-star chefs such as Michel Guerard and later worked with, and became a close friend of, Julia Child.  A native of neighboring Big Spring, Texas, he is known as a pioneer of New American cooking and a founding father of Southwestern Cuisine as well as an expert on international cuisines.

Winemakers will be in attendance from Argentina, Texas and California, bringing their wines to Buffalo Gap. The pairings promise to be “over the top” and the opportunity to participate in the educational panel and tasting featuring Master Sommelier Guy Stout (representing Glazer’s Family of Companies) is unique: He will present an introductory class on wines from Argentina including a comparative tasting of varietals – from Texas and California.

Gut Stout MS will host a tutorial tasting on Argentine wines

The Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit, Inc., is non-profit organization founded by Tom Perini of Perini Ranch Steakhouse (Buffalo Gap, TX), Dr. Richard Becker of Becker Vineyards (Stonewall, TX), and the late Fess Parker of Fess Parker Winery and Vineyards (Los Olivos, CA). The mission of the organization is to cultivate the appreciation of fine wine and food through education and industry discussion. A portion of the proceeds benefit a graduate fellowship within the Department of Viticulture & Enology at Texas Tech University.

TICKETS: Weekend Patron Passes available Wednesday, February 5, 2014, and a la carté tickets available beginning Wednesday, March 5, 2014. For more information visit www.buffalogapsummit.com or call 800.367.1721

More pictures from previous Buffalo Gap Summits:

Alfonso-Cevola2

Alfonso Cevola in a Twitpic “Duel” at The Gap

Buffalo-Gap-Bruni-Lunch

Llano Estacado Executive Winemaker Greg Bruni

Longhorn-BUffalo-Gap

Where the deer, longhorns and food & wine all play!

 

 Posted by at 4:36 pm
Jan 252014
 

Clinton “Doc” McPherson & his son Kim at Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit in April 2012

In Memoriam: Clinton “Doc” McPherson, Pioneer of Texas Wine, Passed Today

The passing of Clinton “Doc” McPherson was reported this morning on Texas Wine Lover blog.

Those in the Texas wine and grape industry and countless people that now enjoy Texas wine, please stop and take a moment to savor a sip of Texas wine in honor this man. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for helping to start the Texas wine industry and initiating what we know as today’s Texas wine experience.

I would like to honor Doc McPherson using a combination of his and my words captured in my book The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine.

Doc grew up on a cotton farm and evolved from Army Air Corps navigator with hundreds of combat flying hours and numerous medals, to PhD college professor and aspiring wine aficionado in a region of the world better known for cotton, corn, and soybeans than for grapes and malolactic fermentation. It was Doc’s headstrong attitude and association with Robert Reed, Roy Mitchell, and others that got the whole dang modern Texas wine thing started back in 1970s.

Doc attended a Mentors Panel at Neal Newsom’s Field Day in Plains a few years back and addressed the assemblage:

“Bob Reed and I were professors at Texas Tech, and we used to meet over noon lunch. We brought our own lunches because we were poor professors and couldn’t afford the food they sold at the union. I said to Bob, ‘Let’s grow some grapes. We can make jelly and sell it on the roadside during the summer for some extra cash.’ We agreed, OK, we’ll just do that.”

Then, Doc stopped for a moment to think, and interjected, “I’ll tell you what. If I had all the money that Bob and I made and lost with grapes in the early days, both of us would be millionaires.”

“We finally got five acres of grapes planted in 1969, some for makin’ wine. Then, the university president came by and told us that all the assistants and professors had to get themselves a research project. I said RE-SEARCH? So, later I asked him about putting in a small experimental winery in the basement of the chemistry building. I don’t remember all the facts and figures—Roy Mitchell might—but I finally got it put in. That’s where the modern Texas wine industry all started.”

“But, one day when Bob and I were talking about what to do with our grapes, a lady came by and asked us, ‘Why don’t you boys put in a real winery?’ I said, Ma’am, we’re professors, we don’t even have enough money to buy groceries, not to mention a winery. She turned to her secretary and said, ‘Write these boys a check for $50,000 to get them a winery started.’ Today, Bruni is making mighty fine wines over at Llano Estacado, the place I started back in those early days.”

Llano Estacado winery was established in 1976.

Doc, in my opinion, is one of the true Texas Wineslingers. He is survived today by his family and his son Kim who carries on Doc’s Texas wine legacy. It all started after Doc said to Bob Reed, “‘Let’s grow some grapes.

 Posted by at 11:04 am
Jan 242014
 

TexasHillCountryWinery

Why Did the Texas Hill Country Make Wine Enthusiast’s Top 10 Wine Destinations List? A Wine Conversation on KUHF

As you may know by now, Texas is the 5th largest wine producing state and 7th in production in wine grapes. But, what made the Texas Hill Country worthy of being named to the Wine Enthusiast (WE) Magazine’s list of its 2014 Ten Best Wine Travel Destinations?

Well, WE in their own words was out looking for both “traditional wine regions”, but also this year “added several modern classics and a sprinkling of up-and-comers” to make a compelling list of destinations.

During my conversation with host Craig Cohen on Houston PBS-affiliate KUHF’s noon-time talk show, Houston Matters, he asked me the same question. My response went something like this…

The Texas Hill Country provides the wine country experience that savvy international wine travelers expect. Some of the Texas Hill Country Wineries are up-and-comers alright with most less than 15 years old with the hill country’s oldest just turning 30 this year (the oldest in Texas is Val Verde Winery in Del Rio that was started in 1883). However, the hill country wineries are at work with other local factors that provide the combination of quality (international medal winning) local wines and first rate local cuisine, arid climate, scenic views and great nights in the area’s B&Bs (not to mention great wildflowers, fishing, hiking and bike or motorcycle riding). [Click here to hear the complete interview starting at the 16:30 minute mark in the show.]

CabernetGrillBottlesCorks

All Texas wine list and fine dinning at Cabernet Grill

Craig also asked me how I discovered that Texas actually had its own wine country. Well, my story on this started around 1995 when I wife (who was both my life partner and business partner in my Houston-based technology company) told me that we were working too much and needed a hobby.

At the time, my wife and I were both foodies and into wine, with many excursions under our belt to wine destinations, mostly in Napa, Sonoma and Russian River wine regions in California and, since then, many destinations in Europe. It wasn’t until a cold December weekend in Old Town Spring, Texas, that I found a brochure that that mentioned that Texas had a wine industry. However, back then Texas only had a handful of wineries, maybe 30-35 statewide at the most versus the 260 or more there are today.

DriftwoodVineyards

View and a sip of wine at Driftwood Vineyards

We joined a wine consumer and education group called The Wine Society of Texas and started visiting wineries. At first, they were the wineries nearest to Houston at Messina Hof Winery in Bryan and Haak Vineyards in Galveston County. Then, we attended wine dinners where fine cuisine was paired with Texas wines from wineries like the hill country’s Becker Vineyards and Llano Estacado Winery from Lubbock. Then, we got the wine country bug and visited the hill country and were surprised to find the wine country experience that we had previously found in California. In fact, we found it so pleasurable, we eventually acquired a second home near Fredericksburg.

I also commented to Craig and his listeners that I believe several things have come together that now culminate in the world-class Texas wine country experience. It’s reached a critical mass that statewide now contributes over $1.8 billion dollars annually to the state economy and attracts about 1.5 million wine tourists a year (See Texas wine economic impact study summary and if you are interested the detailed report).

HighPourAtBeckerVineyards

Henri’s high pour at Becker Vineyards

The situation in the Texas hill country is that it has the highest concentration of Texas wineries (somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 wineries). This trend has combined with the changing state demographics leading to more (and younger) wine drinkers, in turn, leading to Texas rising to the number 4 wine consuming state. But wait there’s more….

Becker-Vineyards-Lavender

Lavender Field at Becker Vineyards

There’s been the added synergy of more wineries and grape growers embracing the fact that Texas’s hot sunny climate have led them to plant more grape varieties that originate from warmer Mediterranean counties of Europe like Spain, Portugal, Italy and areas in southern France. Texas is now producing international award winning wines made from here-to-for lesser known wine grapes: white grapes like Viognier, Roussanne, Vermentino and Muscat, and red grapes like Sangiovese and Tempranillo and with its blends and Rosés made with Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache.

DryComalCreekWinery

Winery and vineyard of Lenoir grapes at Dry Comal Creek

I’m sticking to what I said on the radio show, “The Texas hill country offers the complete wine country experience” including  the genuine look and feel of what serious wine travelers have come to expect: quality wine yet something more…a beautiful setting that conveys ambiance and the region’s “sense of place”.

BluebonnetsInTexas

Springtime in the Texas Hill Country is for Wildflowers & Wine!

Download this Texas hill country winery map and get out into the Texas hill country and on the wine trail. You’ll be just in time for the Wine Lovers Trail that runs from February 7-23 and Wine and Wildflower Trail April 4-20.

Bob-John-Bending-Branch

John Rivenburgh and Bob Young Co-Owners at Bending Branch Vineyards

If you want to follow my experiences in Texas wine country read my book – The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine – where I tell 26 stories set on the Texas wine trails, with best Texas winemakers and growers, and from the genesis of the Texas wine experience (also available in hardback on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and in Kindle and eBook formats.

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 Posted by at 2:25 pm