Love to taste, talk and tweet about Texas wines and where they are in the global scheme for wines. After all that's the only way they will reach the full potential.

Oct 162016


Periwinkle Hosts Houston’s Premier Sommelier Competition and Wine Tasting

Iron Sommelier… Presented by AutoSol® Returns on October 20th, 2016

 VT – What more could you want:  a good cause, good wine/food pairings, a challenge and competition among some of Houston’s best and most creative sommeliers? It’s all in one at Periwinkle Foundation’s IronSomm event!

WHAT: Houston’s finest sommeliers will be put to the test for the title of Iron Sommelier in the city’s premier wine competition and fundraiser benefiting The Periwinkle Foundation. Now in its 8th year, Wine Chair Sean Beck and Sommelier Chair John Clutterbuck invite guests to an evening showcasing the expertise of 13 sommeliers while guests mingle and taste hand-selected wines that showcase a theme chosen by each sommelier. Competitors will be rated on wine choice, presentation, creativity and knowledge of their wine selections. 


Lindsay Thomas of Camerata presenting her wines

On hand will be: Rachel DelRocco – Camerata at Paulie’s; Thomas Moësse – divino Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar; Melissa Lamb – Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar; Evan Turner – Helen Greek Food and Wine; Travis Hinkle – Hunky Dory, Bernadine’s, Foreign Correspondents, Down House (Treadsack Restaurant Group); Samantha Porter – Oporto Fooding House, Oporto Wine Cafe, and Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen; Brandon Kerne – Pappas Bros. Steakhouse; Shepard Ross – Pax Americana; Christian Varas – River Oaks Country Club; Angie Chang – Sonoma Wine Bar & Restaurant; Matt Crawford – State of Grace; Adele Corrigan – 13 celsius Wine Bar; and Matthew Pridgen – Underbelly. 


Evan Turner, 2015 Iron Sommerlier winner will be back to defend his title! (Houston Chronicle photo)

VT – The question is: Will any of the somms be packing any Texas wines this year like they did in last year’s competition (William Chris Vineyards Rosé). Texas wines have been attracting more attention from restaurants, wine bars and somms across the state.


William Chris Cinsault Rose’ – in good company!

An Auction, Wine Pull, Iron Sommelier Wine Case and Making A Mark® Children’s Art Sale will round out the evening of vino, entertainment and food. A special thank you to Periwinkle supporters and The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa.

WHERE: Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa – 111 North Post Oak Lane, Houston, TX 77024

WHEN: Iron Sommelier 2016 Presented by AutoSol®, Thursday, October 20 at 6 p.m.

TICKETS: $200 for individual tickets purchased in advance, $225 for tickets purchased day of event.  $1,000 for the Aficionado Package that includes two tickets and a magnum of Juve Y Camps Familia Brut Reserve.    


James Watkins’ professional pour!


For sponsorship and underwriting opportunities, contact Alice Rohrman, arohrman@periwinklefoundation.orgFor more information, visit or

News Flash: They’ve added a 14th sommelier (Lexey Davis Johnson – B&B Butchers & Restaurant) and have the following judges lined up: Master Sommelier Brian Cronin of Palm Bay International, New York, NY; Liz Dowty of European Cellars, New Orleans, LA; and Antonio Gianola of Houston Wine Merchant. Great job again. You’d be crazy to miss this event. See the good cause below…

ABOUT: The Periwinkle Foundation develops and provides programs that positively change the lives of children, young adults and families who are challenged by cancer and other life threatening illnesses and are cared for at Texas Children’s Hospital. Funds raised through the Iron Sommelier help support the Periwinkle Camps, Arts and Survivor Programs that serve more than 14,000 children, teens and families. This is made possible by a collaborative community of 20,000 supporters with a reach of more than 12 million impressions worldwide.

 Posted by at 9:48 am
Oct 032016


Find the Best Texas Wines – Sign Up for the Specialist of Texas Wine Level 1 Class

What: Specialist of Texas Wine – Certification Level 1 Class. This Class is offered as part of the Texas Wine Schools regional wine specialists classes (United States). Click here for registration.

Where: The Texas Wine School, 2301 Portsmouth St, Houston, TX 77098; tele: (713) 828-7767.

When: This class will meet three times for 3 hours each time: Weds. October 19th and 26th, and Thurs. November 3rd (evenings).

Instructor: Dr. Russ Kane, award-winning Texas writer, author and Texas wine aficionado. Click here for Dr. Kane’s bio. The class will also feature guest presenters actively involved in Texas grape growing and wineries.



Specialist of Texas Wine is a first-of-its kind program that offers a comprehensive series of classes featuring the unique wines and wine regions of Texas. Never before has there been a wine program with specific classes focused solely on Texas focusing on their history, modern development and context with wines from major regions around the world (new world and old).

The program exposes students to unique landscapes of the major wine regions in Texas: Texas High Plains, Texas Hill Country, Texoma, Escondido Valley, and Davis Mountains AVAs, as well as non-AVA regions of East Texas and Gulf Coast.  This learning and tasting intensive program features important topics critical to the success of today’s wine professionals and savvy consumers that are looking for the best wines and wine values that Texas now has to offer.


This three-part class will cover:

Details of each wine region, including location, geologic history, soils, climate and leading grape varieties grown in the region;

The evolution of Texas winemaking from its early Spanish and immigrant European period (1600-1800) and early post-Prohibition (1940-1990) and modern period (1990-present), with a focus on winemaking techniques and grape varieties;

The links and contrasts between Texas wines and their old & new world counterparts through lectures and guided and blind tastings with benchmark wines.

Each class will  have a representative from the Texas wine industry’s grape growing, winemaking or winery owner communities in Texas that will be available to provide first-hand knowledge, Q&A and guided tasting.  The guided tastings will include over 20 Texas and benchmark wines. Tastings will include a range of grape varieties and blends originating from northern Europe (France & Germany), Mediterranean (Italy, S. France, Spain, Portugal) and hybrid wines from Texas and other American appellations. These tastings will help students understand the distinctions of wines from selected Texas regions and grape varieties and their attributes versus their counterparts in the American and global wine world.

The program concludes with an opportunity to test your knowledge of the wines, regions and laws on an exam.    The credential will be awarded to those that pass the rigorous exam at the end of the series with a score of 80% or higher.

This Specialist of Texas Wine Level 1 Certification Class is open for registration online or by phone directly from The Texas Wine School. Don’t wait, the last class in January of this year was sold out. Click here for registration.


 Posted by at 4:56 pm
Oct 032016

2016 Texas Grape Harvest (photo credit: Messina Hof Winery)

Two White Wines to Start out Texas Wine Month

Why is October Texas Wine Month? Well, because it is!

In many wine producing regions, the grape harvest takes place in September and October. In Texas, the fact that it is a warm growing region, usually leads to the grape havesting starting first in the Gulf area in early July, followed by the hill country and east Texas taking place in August and September, with the Texas high plains being at the tail end of September.

So now, in October, we make the transition from viticulture to viniculture. The grapes leave their summertime vineyard home and have been transported to and safely reside in the winery where the crushing, fermentation, punching down and pumping over is taking place. Eventually, the wine will be clarified, tanked and in some cases aged in oak barrels.

I thought that it would be good to take a moment to celebrate Texas Wine Month by tasting two very interesting wines, one from the Texas gulf coast and the other from northeastern Texas.


Messina Hof Spumante, 2015 Spumante (Sparkling Muscat Canelli)

A delightful peachy effervesce greets your palate the moment your glass touches your lips. It has sweetness, but not too much, and accompanied with bright acidity that keeps things in balance and lively. The bubbles carry lemon-peach and floral notes (wine is made Methode Traditionnelle with secondary fermentation in the bottle) producing a steady stream of olfactory and tactile sensations that last with the bubbles. It is precisely these characteristics that make this wine a delight to experience and serve to others. It can accompany hors d’oeuvres and main courses particularly well if they focus on fish and fowl and are a bit picante. I hope you save some for dessert where almonds, cream and citrus that meld particularly well with this wine. Available at the Messina Hof Winery and at select Houston-area Kroger stores.


Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards, 2014 Branco Grande (dry estate grown Blanc Du Bois)

I’ll admit that I was remiss not to have tried this winery’s wine sooner. Like many other wineries along the Texas gulf coast and up into east Texas, Los Pinos Ranch is able to focus some of their efforts on the locally available and few worthy white grape – Blanc Du Bois. This “Big White” wine offers a huge tropical mix of aromas and flavors much like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with lemon-lime and kiwi notes with tangerine highlights hiding in the mix if you send a moment to search for it. Great wine for Pan Asian fare with ginger, lemongrass and Kaffir lime. 2015 vintage is available at the winery, but the 2014 is showing very nicely and is available in the Houston area at Houston Wine Merchant.

During Texas Wine Month, don’t forget to tell us what you are drinking. On Twitter, please tweet and use the hashtag #TXwine. Or, if you are on facebook, join and post to Texas Wine Drinkers Group.


 Posted by at 11:27 am
Sep 192016

Ron Yates and Elway

“Ron Yates” Wines New Winery: A Place “Where I get to play around and have some fun”

VT – Please note that right after posting this blog, I was contacted by the PR force working for Yates Wines and was notified that the Ron Yates’s winery called “Yates Wines” was changing its name to simply: “Ron Yates”. I guess now there is Ron Yates – the person, and Ron Yates – the winery.

Closely followed by his dog Elway and surrounded by the echo of the large chilly room stacked with oak barrels, winery owner Ron Yates, pointed to the features of his new winery’s production facility on Route 290 between Johnson City and Hye, Texas.

During my late-August visit, he said, “With what you see here, we are about 60% complete with the stainless tanks I need; about all I can afford right now. I’ve got other plans, too, including installing wood and concrete fermenters. I can’t wait to start my Gran Reserva Tempranillo program, too. But, some plans will have to wait.”

He appears off to a good start.

As Yates continued his tour we went outside of the large, dry-stacked stone building and onto a spacious high-covered crush pad in back and a shaded veranda in the front. I recall thinking that his plans, while still unfinished, seemed to rapidly be coming into reality.


Yates’s plans also include a 10-acre estate vineyard largely focusing on Tempranillo, a grape that he openly favors. Then, there will be a large event pavilion on the east side of the vineyard scheduled to take shape before the end of the year. As we looked out front of the production facility, his outstretched arm with finger pointed “out yonder”, aiming at the west wide of the vineyard. He said, “This is where I’m putting a dedicated tasting room, hopefully sometime in early 2017.”

Two questions that piqued my interest and the real reasons why I wanted to link up with Yates on this trip were: Why start another winery? Why not, just continue to expand at Spicewood Vineyards like he had been doing since acquiring the winery from founders Ed and Madeleine Manigold in 2007.

In response to my questions, Yates said, “When we acquired Spicewood, we wanted a place where we could be off-the-beaten-path, by ourselves with our hands in the dirt. But, now about a decade later, we have kind of maxed out the available space at Spicewood Vineyards. So, our plan is to take it back to the Manigold’s original concept of being mainly an estate winery. We may never get totally there, but our goal is to eventually use 85-90 % grapes grown right on the winery estate.”


Having followed the changes in the Texas wine industry during Yate’s near ten-year term at Spicewood, I sensed that the soon to opening Ron Yates winery operation on Route 290 was going to be something different and definitely bigger.

During the past decade, Route 290 has become to the Hill Country wine region what Route 29 is to Napa. It is the “main drag” for the many incoming wine tourists that has also become a draw for winemakers and their wineries from around Texas. For anyone with high aspirations in the hill country wine business like Yates, not having a winery on Route 290 is simply as many say, “leaving money on the table.”

In Yate’s case, he acknowledges this fact, but at Ron Yates new winery, he is also looking for something with a still higher meaning.

According to Yates, “Doing what we did at Spicewood, extending the Manigold legacy, has been great. But now, I’m looking to start something that is ours. Something new and larger in scale where we can handle grapes grown from all over the state, but where we get to pick the best. We have some west Texas Sangiovese lined up, and looking at a host of Mediterranean varieties like Tempranillo, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan that will be coming it, too.”


Ron Yates at Spicewood Vineyards

I sensed that another key aspect of Yate’s new plan is also to be able to do it front-and-center, right on the 290 wine trail directly in the eye of the many wine tourists that now travel this road and pack winery tasting rooms most any weekend of the year.

As we re-entered the winery, I asked about a hissing sound I heard as I looked around.

Yates said, “It’s the sound of carbon dioxide coming from this Rosé that I’m fermenting in neutral oak barrels. The wine’s made from some of Vijay Reddy’s Cinsault. These are the kind of things that I’ve wanted to do, but we just didn’t have the space to do before at Spicewood. In this new space, I get to play around and have some fun.”

Driving back home, I was still trying to assimilate Yates’s already long “to-do” list when something made me stop.


I thought, ‘Didn’t he also tell me that under the yet-to-be-constructed tasting room, he was going to have a cellar dug into solid limestone?”

 Posted by at 11:50 am
Sep 112016


Texas Wine Talk & Tasting:Texas vs. The World Roadshow:


WHERE: Whole Foods Market (Voss) – 1407 S Voss Rd, Houston, TX 77057 – View Map

REGISTER: $25 – Click here

The Texas Wine Journal is proud to present Texas Wine Talk & Tasting, a quarterly Texas vs. The World® roadshow. Join us for an interactive and educational tasting and talk followed by a mixer with Texas wine producers, the Journal team and other Lone Star wine lovers at the bar inside each Whole Foods Market where the event is held.

If Texas and wine hold equal parts of your heart, you’ll love this intimate tasting event. Experience a blind tasting of four Texas Wine Journal top-rated wines up against four world wines along with a talk about the regions, grapes and people moving Texas wine forward. This time around, we’ll be tasting Viognier and Syrah. Plus, get insider intel from featured producers, Journal’s Tasting Director and panel judges that will leave you feeling like a Texas wine boss.

Don’t miss out! There’s only 25 tickets available per event. Get yours before they’re gone.

100% of the ticket sales from The Texas Wine Talk series benefits the Texas Wine Journal and its mission to build awareness for Texas wines through independent, credible, and objective ratings.

*Must be 21 to attend. Wines subject to change based on availability. Sorry, no refunds.

**Wine will be made available for sale during the mixer by the bottle and glass. You do not have to have purchased a ticket to the Talk & Tasting to attend the mixer. 

 Posted by at 8:24 pm
Sep 032016

Rachel DelRocco surrounded by her sommelier study group members (from left) Cat Nguyen, Adam Toon and Matt Crawford. Photo by Courtney Perry

Sommelier Rachel DelRocco Goes from Teahouse to Texsom Champ (Parts 1 & 2)

This post includes Part 1 that was recently published on Edible Houston’s blog (click here) written by Russ Kane,, wine writer, author and naturalist. Part 2 at the bottom of this blog provides more on Sommelier Rachel DelRocco’s career leading to her championship win in the 2016 Texsom Sommelier Competition.

Part 1 -From Teahouse to Texsom Champ 

Houston Sommelier Rachel DelRocco from Camerata at Paulie’s returned from Dallas after attending the Texas Sommeliers Conference – Texsom. This was her fourth trip to attend, test or volunteer at Texsom. But this year she returned as the winner of the 2016 Texsom Sommelier Competition where she bested 23 other competitors from Texas and surrounding states. For DelRocco this illustrates the long leap from her early days as a New York teahouse manager to Texsom Champ today.

For many that attend Texsom, the closed-door sommelier competition is a bit mysterious. Competitors go inside a room, the door closes and only a precious few come out to a winner’s fanfare.

Clearing the mystery, Rachel said, “The Texsom competition is attractive to wine professionals like me because it is a snapshot of what is required and what challenges lay ahead to advance through the Master Sommelier certification process. There was a wine theory exam, a blind tasting exercise and a service exam where I had to serve wine to a table of Master Sommeliers. Total time is only about an hour, but it’s broken up into three parts given over a full day, which is a bit nerve racking.”

In her Texsom win, DelRocco acknowledged the role of her Houston study group who are all going through the advanced sommelier certification process. They spend late-night hours testing each other on the finer points of wine knowledge and service. The group includes co-worker Adam Toon, Matt Crawford (State of Grace Restaurant) and Cat Nguyen (Republic Distributing). They were all present at Texsom and were DelRocco’s cheering section between exams and at the award presentation.


Rachel high-fives with her study group members after Texsom competition win. Photo by Courtney Perry

Study group member Adam Toon said, “This was really Rachel’s win. But, it was also a win for Camerata where Rachel and I work and are tutored by Master Sommelier David Keck. We feel that this is also a big win for our study group.”

DelRocco said, “I left the competition not really having a good feeling about my service exam. But later, I was lifted because the judges said that despite a few miscues they appreciated my comfortableness and the sense of hospitality that I conveyed under the stress of competition. I was buoyed because this is the stuff that as a sommelier I feel is our ultimate mission. It’s what t I strive to do everyday, and it was highly regarded in the competition.”

Part 2 – DelRocco’s Knows There are High Expectations for Her

When reflecting on her career path that brought her to the recent Texsom Championship, DelRocco said, “It was definitely not something that I planned in great detail. After I graduated from school, I was manager of a Teahouse in New York City. I looked at other fields, but the restaurant industry seemed to work all parts of my brain and kept pulling at me.”

In 2012, DelRocco was looking for a change and moved to Austin. This is where she found herself interested in the local beverage scene: drinks, spirits and Austin’s whole mixology movement.


Somellier Rachel DelRocco relaxes at Camerata after returning from Texsom. Photo by Jame Skogsberg

DelRocco said, “There were many people that helped guide me in my career; some great people that took me under their wings. Austin’s June Rodil, the seventh certified Master Sommelier from Texas, was a draw that attracted me to work with her at Qui on Austin’s 6th Street. At Qui, I was part of the opening staff as bartender. As I recall, this is about when wine being something that I wanted to know more about. And, I was excited for the opportunity to learn about wine firsthand from a sommelier like June.”

The association with Rodil in Austin and DelRocco’s experience at Texsom led to meeting Camerata General Manager and newly awarded Master Sommelier David Keck. When her fiancé got a job in Houston, she would come to town and they would hang out at Camerata.

DelRocco said, “This is when I got to know David better. Eventually, it made more sense for me move here. So, I reached out to David. One day we got together for coffee and he called me a couple months later when he had an opening and asked me to join his staff.”

She continued, “At Camerata, from day one, the amount that I have learned here has been phenomenal. My educational channels include tasting and learning the wines on David’s incredible lists.  It also involve the educational opportunities that he provides to his staff and graciously provides to other wine professionals in the Houston area. His expectations for me are high. This pushes me to learn and do more.”

The Texsom competition was more than the trophy and notoriety for DelRocco. It was a great personal experience. She also walked away from it knowing how far she progressed professionally and how much wine knowledges she had assimilated since her early teahouse days. It also gave her an appreciation of how much more is required for her future advancement through the levels of certification from The Court of Master Sommeliers.

 Posted by at 10:00 am
Aug 222016

Ron Yates, owner of Yates Winery, at his Spicewood Vineyards Tasting Room

Texas Wine Industry Veterans Open the New Yates Winery in Hye, TX

The owners of Spicewood Vineyards are set opened Yates, Texas’s newest premium winery in Hye, Texas in September, 2016. Building on the experience of making award-winning wines at Spicewood Vineyards, the Yates team is eager to expand its winemaking with a new winery proudly carrying the family name.   

Led by owner, Ron Yates, along with a talented winery team from Spicewood, the new winery will make high quality wine in proximity to several other wineries on the Wine Road 290. 

“We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved at Spicewood Vineyard since purchasing the winery almost a decade ago,” says owner, Ron Yates. “We’ve learned a lot from our success at Spicewood, and will use that experience to create this new, namesake winery with a different focus. Spicewood Vineyard will remain committed to making Texas wine with estate-grown Portuguese and Spanish grapes. Yates will make top-notch Rhone, Spanish, and Italian style wines, along with several vineyard-designated Tempranillo wines with fruit gown in the Texas Hill Country, West Texas, Davis Mountain, and the Texas High Plains. Texas wine lovers will have a lot to choose from.”

Yates will offer a distinctive wine experience at a 6,000 square-foot contemporary winery that includes a 20,000 case production facility, and an adjacent 1,800 square-foot, covered crush pad. Initially, guests will enjoy tastings of Yates premium wines on the patio overlooking the vineyards and in the production winery. Visitors can choose from eight wines to purchase by the glass or by the bottle to enjoy at the winery or while exploring the property. In the near future, Yates will complete a Pavilion that will serve as a tasting area with cheese and wine pairings, as well as a site for wine club and other events space. It will be abutted by a relaxing swimming pool.

Soon guests will enjoy an elegant, 5,000 square foot tasting room, complete with a private room for library wines and cellar for private tastings. The tasting room building will also feature an underground cellar for Gran Reserva Tempranillo aging.

“Building a completely new facility is a winemaker’s dream,” says Yates winemaker, Todd Crowell. “I was able to design the winery from the ground up with the exact specifications we want to create the highest quality wines possible. We installed the finest state-of-the-art equipment such as a custom designed crush pad complete with a variable speed crusher and a programmable ‘smart’ press, a two-inch diaphragm pump for gentle juice and wine transfers, and fully jacketed stainless steel tanks accessible via aluminum catwalk. Soon, we will be doubling our tank capacity with French oak tanks and a champagne tank. The result will be excellence in the bottle.”

The winery is situated on 15.8 acres abutting Highway 290. The acreage is currently planted four acres of primarily Tempranillo grapevines, with an additional six acres of estate vineyards planned. As a specialist in Tempranillo, Yates will plant that grape extensively in its vineyards, along with grapes such as Graciano and Petite Sirah.

Beyond our estate-grown fruit, we work with well-established grape growers in Texas who share the passion for being in the vineyard to ensure we have a steady supply of high-quality grapes in a wide selection of varieties. Yates has long-held relationships with top grape growers to source excellent fruit for its wines. Near-term vintages will include grapes such as Albariño, Grenache, Malbec, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Touriga Nacional and Viognier from top Texas vineyards like Bingham Vineyards, Bayer Family Vineyards, Martin’s Vineyards, Reddy Vineyards, Farmhouse Vineyards, as well as others. In addition, Yates will source ultra-premium Pinot Noir and Zinfandel from California.

Note:  Yates will be open to guests by appointment only starting in September.

Connect with Yates

For Reservations contact: 

Yates on Twitter

Yates on Facebook


About Yates

Established with a mission to create the finest wines in Texas, Yates builds on the award winning experience of its sister winery, Spicewood Vineyards. The family-owned and operated winery employs a seasoned team of winemaking experts, using start-of-the-art equipment to craft Spanish, Italian, Rhone-style wines with estate-grown and sourced grapes. Opening in September, 2016, Yates, is Texas’s newest premium winery located in Hye, Texas in the center of the Texas wine country.     

 About Spicewood Vineyards

Founded in 1992, Spicewood Vineyards, produces the finest award winning wines. Wines that are known for their timeless appeal and unique flavor of the Texas Hill Country. Nestled in the Texas Hill Country amongst 32 acres of vines, enjoy great wine and a relaxing atmosphere. We have over 12 varieties of wine including Tempranillo, Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. Visit us for a wine tasting, glass or bottle. Hosting a special event? Check out our elegant event center.


 Posted by at 11:21 am
Jul 282016


Wine a l’Orange: 2015 Brennan Vineyards Cellar Select Viognier

While it is possible to ferment a wine made from orange juice and infuse a wine with the juice of citrus (like Sangria), I hope that you realize that this story is NOT going to be about that kind of wine. However, it IS a story that came about while I was looking for a wine to serve with a favorite dish I make – Duck a l’Orange and thus appeared… my Wine a l’Orange, Voila!

As my story goes, on a recent trip down the Wine Road 290 near Fredericksburg I stopped in at Four Point Cellars for a taste or two or four or six (actually forgot how many) with manager Jesse Barter. When we got to wine three (I think it was), he pulled up a bottle of Brennan Vineyards 2015 Cellar Select Viognier.

I recall that it had an interesting orange-red label. In short order, Jesse proceeded to pour me an ounce and a half of a wine with a noticeable orange color and a bracing kick. For a grape that would normally be considered a “white wine” grape, I thought this a bit odd for Viognier. But, he gave a reassuring glance followed a comment, “This is Brennan Vineyards winemaker Todd Webster’s “orange wine”.

Later, I followed up with Todd Webster, Executive Winemaker at Brennan Vineyards about his orange wine. He said, “I saw an article about skin fermented wine in one of our trade magazines.  So I started reading more about was called ‘orange wine’.”

I guess there is a need for a little background here for those not familiar with the term orange wine…

Typically, white wines are made by crushing the grapes and quickly getting the juice off the skins and into a fermenter with little skin contact. All grape skins contain color and tannins (whites and reds), but we mostly bring that into the winemaking equation only when making red wines through extended skin contact with the grape must to impose color and tannin to bring both visual appeal and structure to the wine. 

In the making of white wines, this skin contact is usually considered undesirable and some cases a flaw. But, orange wines get their name from the noticeable orange hue that they get from extended contact with grape skins in the winemaking process. 

Then, I asked Todd why would someone want to make orange wines in the first place, especially in Texas.

He said, “A common theme in this style of winemaking is that it produces more wine.  We get low press yields with Viognier so if there was a way to produce more Viognier with the same amount of grapes, I was all in.”  


From here, it was all about the 2015 vintage in Texas that brought about the Todd’s first orange wine and, as far as I know, the first made in this state.

According to Todd, “In 2015, we had an abundance of Viognier; in fact, more than we have even had.  So, it was a perfect year to try something new.  I contacted our Texas supplier and we talked, and finally came up with a protocol for making our orange wine.”  

It turns out that one can leave different varieties of grapes on the skins for different amounts of time.  Viognier, in particular, happens to be one variety you don’t want to soak on the skins too long because it is high in phenolics to start with.  

Todd said, “So, we decided that we would go for skin contact of a few days and we fermented the wine at a little higher temperature than we normally do for our other whites.” 

“I love how the wine turned out, Todd added.  “But, serving temperature is key with this wine.  If you serve it like a white wine (too cold), it loses all of its greatness. So, it needs to be served at the temperature you would use for a red wine.” I took this a just under normal room temperature – may be 60-65 F.

In my wine and duck a l’orange pairing, I heeded Todd’s advise on service temperature. It appears that skin contact tends to mute the normal floral and stone fruit characteristics of Viognier. The warmer serving temperature tends to bring out more of these nice floral aromatics. Warmer serving also takes a bit of the harsher side of the tannic bite off the wine that you get when the wine is cold. It also brings palate dryness and olfactory characteristics of citrus and note of roasted hazelnuts or walnuts.

The Brennan Vineyards Cellar Select Viognier is a BIG wine yielding much more than your typical white wine mouthfeel. It comes with good dose of dry tannins and alcohol (at 15.4%). It is a wine that perhaps will be best appreciated by red wine drinkers or maybe those used to drinking those good old well-oaked California Chardonnays. This wine really paired well with my very flavorful duck preparation with the orange color and citrus notes from the wine melding with the l’orange sauce. Additionally, with the duck being primarily dark meat, it had the body and flavor to match that offered by the wine. Other pairing ideas are salmon, wild game birds and possibly even farm-raised boar or venison.

— — — — —

Factoid: Orange wines were common in Italy in the 1950s and 1960s mainly in the northeastern regions which were growing white grapes. It gave them another style of wine to make from grapes like Pinot Grigio that like Viognier gain a rose or orange color on their skins when they ripen. Some in Italy refer to this style as “copper wines” or “ramato wines” as the skins of Pinot Grigio give the wine a coppery orange color. Gradually orange wines became a footnote in history as fresh white wines became the dominate style in the marketplace. But, it appears not so for winemaker Todd Webster and Brennan Vineyards who is working to keep the style alive.

 Posted by at 7:22 pm
Jul 232016

Texas Fine Wine Predicts 2016 Harvest to be a Yield & Quality Barnburner

With 2016 grape harvest right around the corner in some parts of the Texas Hill Country, the wineries of Texas Fine Wine are encouraged by the quality and yield of this year’s crop. In fact, some vineyards are expected to produce their best crop in many years.

“The 2016 vintage is shaping up to be one of the best crop yields, and weather conditions are right where they need to be to have a stellar vintage,” says Dave Reilly, winemaker at Driftwood-based Duchman Family Winery.

Pedernales Cellars, in Stonewall, expects its Kuhlken Estate Vineyards, located 11 miles north of Fredericksburg, to yield a record harvest of Tempranillo, with recent dry conditions providing pristine, completely disease-free canopies and clusters, while Brennan Vineyards predicts its Nero d’Avola harvest from its Comanche County vineyards will be the best in four years.

“We expect to have a full harvest of our estate Tempranillo after two years of reduced yields due to hail,” says David Kuhlken, Pedernales Cellars winemaker. “We’re also anticipating a good crop of some new grapes for our winery this year, including Alicante Bouschet, Dolcetto, Carignan, Tannat, Graciano and Grenache Blanc, all from the Texas High Plains.”

“Heavy rains in May and early June, as well as hail, caused fungal disease and damage to some Texas vineyards, but we were fortunate to have avoided these issues,” says Pat Brennan, owner of Brennan Vineyards. “Overall yield will be down somewhat from projections; however, fruit and vegetative growth are well balanced. Our Tempranillo, Viognier and Mourvedre all look strong.”

Dr. Bob Young, owner of Bending Branch Winery, agrees this year is showing a wide variation in grape crops across the state. “Several of our vineyard partners are having a great growing season thus far with our signature red wine grapes Tannat, Petite Sirah, and the up and coming varietal, Souzão,” Young says. “Other vineyards have been hit by hail and Hill Country vineyards have experienced fungal pressure, including at our estate, after continuous heavy rains earlier this season. Despite these conditions, Bending Branch expects to once again have a good crop of Hill Country Roussanne and Texas High Plains Malbec to work with.”

Hill Country Harvest Gets Underway

At its estate vineyards, Spicewood Vineyards has already started harvesting Chardonnay and Semillion for its new sparkling wine program, and predicts its Hill Country white wine harvest will be done before August.

“It looks like we may complete harvest in the Hill Country by early August and the High Plains may not get started until a couple weeks later, so we might have a very welcomed break between the two,” predicts Ron Yates, owner of Spicewood Vineyards.

Yates noted that he is particularly pleased with the quality of his Graciano grapes.

“Bud break for our Graciano grapes occurred nearly four weeks after other grapes, providing extra protection from late freezes,” says Yates. “This is exactly why we planted Graciano and the grapes look beautiful.”

Pedernales Cellars has also begun harvesting its Hill Country vineyards, starting with Albarino.

Texas Fine Wine is a group of five distinctive wineries dedicated to making quality wines from Texas appellation vineyards and setting the highest standards in the Texas wine industry. For more information, go to, and follow Texas Fine Wine on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 Posted by at 11:57 am
Jul 222016

David Keck (left) with Jon David Headrick (right) at Camerata

Loirefest: Houston’s David Keck at his Best

In the Houston wine community (those of you in wholesale and retail, the restaurant trade, and lets not forget the groupies of writers and consumers), we are blessed having David Keck MS among us. Who is he, you ask? If you don’t know, I’ll tell you.

David is our Bayou City’s operatic singer cum sommelier, Vermonter cum Houstonian who traded in his Julliard credentials for the similarly prestigious Master Sommelier diploma. He is a Monteverdi of Mourvèdre of sorts in residence now at the hip Montrose-area wine bar, Camerata at Pauli’s.

David is someone with unquestionable talent with wine and people. He has the poise of a stage actor (with looks, projecting voice and smile to boot) who offers us his lust for the wines of the world and the people that make and sell them with the underlying message “Better tasting through knowledge”. From personal experience, he encourages people at all levels of “this community” to advance their wine knowledge and expand their tasting horizons, even if they, at times, do so begrudgingly.

Early in my many stops to Camerata, I realized something and I posted it on their Facebook page, an honest and heartfelt comment: “Find the quaff you’ve been looking for, especially if you didn’t know what you wanted.” Largely through David’s efforts, Camerata is the go-to-place to experience the breadth of the wine world in a relaxing yet often frenetic setting… literally not knowing what might be poured into your glass next. It is a place where you can learn the secrets of wine and experience their pleasures, too.


His most recent community opportunities have come during the current month’s 2nd annual “Loirefest”. It is a festival of wines Loire, created by Keck that has gone statewide. What better way to beat the heavy Texas heat than with the clear, crisp pop and refreshing zip on the palate gained from the wines of Loire. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the world’s great pairings. Loirefest is a crusade of wines (and not the usual suspects) usually centered on Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, the principal grapes from this pastoral wine region along France’s longest river – the Loire.


Peter Wasserman – Fine wine purveyor & self-appointed Head of Antimarketing and Sales Preventions

This year again, David’s current home base at Camerata has been Houston’s ground zero for savoring the wines of Loire: some old (1989) and some new (2015). First, there was a 4th of July tasting with Peter Wasserman whose cool crisp imported wines revived Houstonians from their heat-induced stupor. Earlier this week, Jon David Headrick provided a very personal tasting in which he shared experiences at wineries in the Loire Valley intermingled with tales of the regions ancient geology.

Please stop a second to understand why David does these events

In his own Facebook words, David says, “I try to host as many events with the Houston Sommelier Association (HSA) or at Camerata at Paulie’s with what I would consider the most influential winemakers, importers, and wine professionals in the world.”

While presenting these luminaries to his friends and associates, he also hosted a contingent from his adopted state, a Texas winery group called “Texas Fine Wine” that is an assemblage of some of the best and brightest wineries in our emerging wine region. When I was doing a story on Texas Blanc Du Bois for Edible Houston, David without hesitation offered up the assembled palates of his HSA group so they could try wines from a grape that while making wonderful wines in Texas is literally not on any wine map any of these people had seen before. What I’m saying is, there is nothing snooty about David when it comes to trying something new, he has an open mind.

From the perspective of a wine industry sideline watcher, I see a day when David Keck will get a call from either the east or the west coast. It will be followed by an offer that he just will not be able to refuse. It will take him away from the many friends and associates he has made in Houston.

My reason for doing this blog today is to mainly to acknowledge David’s efforts and to say thanks hopefully well before we have to say goodbye. I’m also hoping that when that day comes, David leaves a trail of many friends and associates in his wake with which he connected that caught the “bug” from David. The bug I’m talking about is the quest for knowledge and his desire to improve the skills of people at all levels around him that make up the industry that he loves so much.


— — — — —

For those that want to experience the fun-filled educational last-light of this year’s Loirefest, stop by at Camerata on July 26th. They will feature Zev Rovine of Zev Rovine Selections and Byron Bates of Goatboy Imports to talk and taste Natural wine in the Loire Valley. Click here for more information.

Also coming is another David Keck collaboration… “Lünch”, a pop-up food and wine experience being held at the Oxheart Restaurant venue, July 29th through August 7th. When Oxheart shutters so their team there can have a summertime break, Chef Peter Jahnke (formerly of Underbelly, Anvil and Bank to name a few), and Master Sommelier David Keck of Camerata along with Jillian Bartolome (formerly of Common Bond) will be moving into the space for this ten-day pop-up. Click here for more information and reservations. I’ll be there!

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 Posted by at 2:54 pm