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.

May 242016

Blanc Du Bois grapes nearing harvest at Haak Vineyards

Blanc Du Bois: Texas Grown – Gulf Coast and Now Beyond

Excerpt from Edible Houston Celebration May/June 2016 Issue story: Blanc Du Bois: Texas Grown – by Russ Kane of VintageTexas. Copies of this issue are available at local newsstands, sponsor locations, and by subscription on the Edible Houston website (click link above).

“In 2000, my wife Gladys and I opened our winery in Santa Fe, just south of Houston,” recalled Raymond Haak, owner of Haak Vineyards and Winery in Galveston County. “Immediately after opening, I invited then Houston Chronicle wine writer Michael Lonsford down to visit. After, I was surprised when he wrote a nice story on us in the paper, especially the really great things he said about our Blanc Du Bois wines.” Today, Haak cherishes a string of moments like this one garnered in Texas, California and abroad with gold medals galore.

The Texas Blanc Du Bois story started with Dr. John Mortensen, born in Texas and later a University of Florida professor, who helped developed Blanc Du Bois. In 1987, he released this hybridized wine grape especially suited for hot, humid southern climes. He named it ‘Blanc Du Bois’ (with both capital “D” and “B”) in honor of Tallahassee grape grower Emile DuBois. According to Mortensen’s 1987 release circular, “Blanc Du Bois makes a spicy white wine which was rated very good in formal wine tasting panels.”

It was around this time that two men in the greater Houston area, Haak and his soon-to-be friend Jerry Watson who started experimenting with growing it on the Texas Gulf Coast. This friendship was put to good use when the Haak’s opened their winery. Together they discovered the “Blanc Magic” of growing and winemaking with this grape that made wine judges and consumers take notice.


Now, others statewide have discovered Blanc Du Bois, too. It started close to home with Lynne Majek and her husband Randy with their vineyard and winery in Moravia near Schulenberg and the Bonarrigo family owners of Messina Hof Winery in Bryan, and now includes Chris Brundrett and co-founder Bill Blackmon of William Chris Vineyards in the hill country town of Hye and Doug Lewis at Lewis Wines just down the street from them, and Gene Estes at Lost Oak Winery in Burleson.

The story in Edible Houston includes quotes from all of these Blanc Du Bois converts who are now spreading the word about Texas Blanc Du Bois wines far and wide. It also includes comments received on my selection of eight Blanc Du Bois wines tasted by Camerata at Paulie’s with (now) Master Sommelier David Keck and his Houston Sommelier Association study group:


MS David Keck study group at Camerata at Paulie’s

Lewis Wines, Swim Spot, 2014

William Chris Vineyards, Sparkling Wine, 2013

Haak Vineyards & Winery, Estate Blanc Du Bois, Dry White Wine 2015

William Chris Vineyards, Mary Ruth, 2015

Messina Hof Winery, Blanc Du Bois, Private Reserve, 2015

Majek Vineyard & Winery, Blanc Du Bois, 2014

Lost Oak Winery, Carrabba Farms, Semi-Sweet Blanc Du Bois 2014

Haak Vineyards & Winery, Madeira Blanc Du Bois, 2013

Wines are available at Spec’s, Whole Foods or directly shipped from respective wineries.


VT selection of Blanc Du Bois wines from around Texas


 Posted by at 2:23 pm
May 202016


News Flash: Black Spanish is Cabernet Franc x Vitis Aestivalis

Previously, I blogged on the Black Spanish/Lenior Symposium being held today in Cat Spring, Texas. In response to this blog post, I received this very interesting email from Dr. Jerry Rodrigues who I believe is now a resident of South Africa:

I wish I were there attending your ‘Jacquez’ Symposium. My Name is Dr Jerry Rodrigues and I have Portuguese heritage but was born in South Africa. My ancestors grew Jacquez for many many years back in the day on the Island of Madeira where my parents were born.

I have been studying the parentage of Jacques (aka Lenoir, Black Spanish) and I have submitted a paper on this subject to a wine journal recently.

We now have ‘DNA evidence’ that Jacquez was naturally generated from hybridization events involving the Vitis vinifera cultivar, Cabernet franc, with a ‘wild’ Vitis aestivalis grapevine species that took place at some point in early colonial America (around the middle of the 18th century).

One possible reason why Cabernet franc was more successful than other European cultivars in growing reasonably successfully at that time in the eastern American colonies could be because it is one of the most cold-hardy Vitis vinifera varieties known. This fact most likely played an important ‘role’ in that region that resulted in the eventaul hybridization event that gave rise to the ‘amazing’ Jacquez cultivar.

I have visited your country 15 years ago when my plane landed in Houston Airport. You have a beautiful country, I especially enjoyed Texas and New Mexico State while I was there for almost 3 months.
I hope you have a good Symposium today.

Cheers…have a good one!

Dr Rodrigues (PhD Biochemistry)

 Posted by at 1:06 pm
May 062016

Blanc Spanish grapes also known as Lenoir and Jacquez.

2016 Texas Black Spanish/Lenoir Symposium: Taming the Beast…

According to Cat Spring grape grower and a symposium organizer Jerry Watson, “Black Spanish has made world class Port for a long time and we can now add Madeira to that, as well.  What has been missing is a everyday table wine with premium qualities.”  

Jerry admits that there are several wineries already making very good dry and sweet wine from the grape.  But, and it’s a big “but”, making these wines with Black Spanish is still a challenge for most of the state’s winemakers.  

Jerry Watson, grape grower in Cat Springs with his Blanc Du Bois grapes.

Symposium chairperson and Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Program Specialist in Viticulture Ann Pontasch says, “The Black Spanish grape, a wine grape variety tolerant to Pierce’s Disease, has proven it’s ability to grow well throughout south, east, and northeast Texas. She acknowledges that while it is a reliable producer, relatively little is known about optimizing the grape for making a premium wine. Furthermore, while known as BlackSpanish it has also gone by other names like Lenoir, Jacquez, and Ohio; even it’s exact parentage remains a mystery.  

Symposium presenter and Haak Vineyards winemaker Marta Lastowska says, “For me this symposium will be a great chance to get more familiar with Black Spanish. A grape that grows great right here on the Gulf Coast where the wine industry is growing so fast and where we are in such a big need of Texas grapes. At this symposium, different winemakers will share their Black Spanish winemaking experiences and winemaking processes and it will also be a great chance for growers and wineries to meet and discuss new and different ideas.”

A Pour of Messina Hof Black Spanish Port from Previous Symposium

In 2011, the first Black Spanish symposium was held at the same location in Cat Spring (about an hour west of Houston between Sealy and Columbus).  Dry wines and after dinner sweet wines were featured.  According to Watson, this time the symposium will emphasize the potential for “additional styles of wine”.

In my mind, that says delicious red wines that can accompany fine dining that will be as good as white wines currently made from another local grape – Blanc Du Bois.  If Watson is right, this bodes well for further development of Black Spanish throughout the hot, humid zone in Texas, particularly in an around the Gulf Coast and East Texas, where well-known European Vitis vinifera grapes can’t be grown with confidence due to the threat of Pierce’s Disease.

Pontasch says, “My goal for this symposium is to get people to work together in raising the bar of the wine experience of the reliable producer, Black Spanish.” See details below… 

Symposium Contact: Fran Pontasch, 458-0131/ (254) 977-3641

Conference Title: Taming the Beast…In the Vineyard & Winery


9:00 -9:10 Welcome & Introduction Fran Pontasch, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

9:10-9:40 TWGGA Legislative Brief Paul Bonarrigo, Messina Hof Winery & Resort

9:40-10:00 Signature Estate Paul Bonarrigo, Messina Hof Winery & Resort

10:00-10:35 Managing Growth & Canopy for Quality Fruit Fritz Westover, Westover Vineyard Advising

10:35-10:50 BREAK

10:50-11:25 Evolution of Premium Black Spanish Mike Sipowicz, Texas Custom Wine Works

11:25-12:00 Lenoir By Choice Gary McKibben, Red Caboose Winery

12:00-1:00 LUNCH

1:00-1:35 Black Spanish on the Sweet Side Marta Lastowska, Haak Vineyards & Winery

1:35-2:10 100% Varietal Dry Black Spanish, Stephen Morgan, Saddlehorn Winery

2:10-2:45 Optimizing Harvest Chemistry Dr. Justin Scheiner, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

2:45-3:00 BREAK

3:00-3:30 Winemaker Panel

3:30-4:00 TASTE OFF

4:00-6:00 Wine Social

 Posted by at 3:09 pm
May 042016


Our Katy Prairie Needs Your Support With Email By End Of Day Today!

For your speed and convenience, please CUT AND PASTE the following text and/or modify it as you see fit and EMAIL IT… TODAY! Please email your comments to (and copy by end of day today May 4, 2016! Further details on the impending actions by the Harris County Engineering Department that will adversely affect The Katy Prairie (Katy Prairie Conservancy – KPC) is provided follow the cut and past email.

 — — — — —

(Start of cut and paste email)

I DO NOT support building or widening proposed new or expanded roadways totaling over 15 miles through Katy Prairie Conservancy’s (KPC’s) owned, easement, and neighboring lands.

I also DO NOT support a loop or ring road totaling over 25 miles which effectively constrains future expansion of conservation lands.

I DO support the recommendation to remove 20 miles of other major thoroughfares and roadways through KPC’s preserve system.

Prairie advocates highlight the importance of keeping the Katy Prairie in its wild and natural state for the good of the all people of the Greater Houston Area, as KPC:

Reduces downstream flooding by absorbing and holding back floodwaters.

Improves water quality through filtration

Has grasses that sequester carbon by capturing greenhouse gases and improve air quality

Offers people in the Greater Houston area recreational opportunities

Provides local foods, supports the local economy through nature tourism and agricultural production

Last but not least… Serves as habitat for an amazing diversity of our area’s natural wildlife.



(end of cut and past email)

— — — — —


Katy Prairie Conservancy thanks everyone who attended Monday night’s meeting or has already submitted comments in support of the Katy Prairie. For those that want more information and details as to what Katy Prairie is fighting, here are some helpful links:

View a recap of last night’s meeting (click here)

Review key points and background on the importance of the Katy Prairie Preserves (click here)

Photos – People of the Katy Prairie – Families, Hunters, Volunteers, Students (click here)

The Harris County Major Thoroughfare and Freeway Plan will be submitted to the City of Houston’s Planning Commission on Thursday, May 5, 2016, along with a summary of the comments and/or concerns raised at the public meeting. Katy Prairie will keep you informed as to future meetings and opportunities to get involved.

If you wish more information, please contact Katy Prairie Conservancy’s Mary Anne Piacentini (Executive Director) at (281) 851-8762 cell phone or (713) 523-6135 office phone.


 Posted by at 11:26 am
Apr 302016

Indoor Monarch Caterpillar & Butterfly Enclosers Visited by Tuscany Village Residents

Monarch Garden: Golden-Agers Raising Golden Butterflies

Nursing facility residents are becoming grandmas and grandpas again

A movement involving golden agers, butterflies and native plants has begun in a quiet facility in Pearland Texas just south of Houston. The residents of Tuscany Village Nursing Facility and Rehabilitation are sharing the excitement of education on the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly.

Amy Harkins, a geropsychologist who sees patients at Tuscany Village, and Delia Cuellar, whose mother is a resident, have melded their ideas. They are spearheading a project to create a butterfly garden and indoor habitat at Tuscany Village to bring nature to the residents of this nursing facility.

This project has input from several knowledgeable experts, one of them being Margaret Gnewuch, past president of the Native Plant Society of Texas – Houston Chapter. She said, “Ninety-five percent of Pearland’s soil is ‘black gumbo’ clay, sticky when wet and like concrete when dry.  There are a number of Texas native plants that not only tolerate black gumbo, our heavy rains and summertime drought, but also thrive in it.  Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, a large shrub or small tree is a butterfly magnet with one-inch fragrant white balls in summer.  Large butterflies like Swallowtails love it, even if they’re getting tossed around in the wind as they seek its nectar.  The winter seed balls feed 25 species of birds including ducks. Needless to say, we plan to incorporate this and many other native Texas plants in the garden as food sources for the butterflies.”

The garden will provide respite for the butterflies, a Monarch Waystation. It will also provide a relaxing and healing place for the residents of the facility.

Dr. Harkins said, “It is well documented that interaction with nature provides people of all ages relaxation and enjoyment. This is something that is particularly needed by elders facing medical crisis and decreased independence.  It is also hoped that community volunteers will come to the facility to help tend the garden and meet the residents. As a result, there will be greater interaction between the residents and the community with the garden as the meeting place.  Bringing the community to the elders will serve to reduce the isolation that many residents feel. Many elders have stories about gardens and nature to share that will stimulate discussion between elders and community volunteers.”

Ms Cuellar has built two enclosures (shown above) that are on display in the main dining room and has begun to aggregate many native Texas plants for the garden. One of her enclosures has a milkweed plant with hungry Monarch caterpillars munching on the plant’s leaves. The other houses the chrysalises that the caterpillars eventually form.

Ms Cuellar said, “Residents easily watch the life cycle of this beautiful creature. At any time of day, they can stroll by the enclosure in their wheelchairs and check on the progress of the little critters. Handouts are also available to explain what they are witnessing. As a Monarch chrysalis ecloses (hatches) they witness the fragile butterfly go through the process of drying their wings and gaining strength for their journey north or south, depending on the season. The residents then watch and help release the butterflies outside.”


Tuscany Village Butterfly Garden (nearing completion)

“The Barcelo Family owns this facility and have been very generous and supportive of this project”, Ms Cuellar added. “They graciously helped out by having their landscaper build an 18 x 4 foot, stone-lined garden bed easily accessible to residents. We’re hoping to get the soil in the garden and start planting milkweeds and nectar plants within the next two weeks.”

The results so far have been inspiring. The elders are enjoying the program and discussing it with their visitors. For those with greater disabilities, facility staff members are assisting them to visit the Monarch enclosures. Dr. Harkins is scheduling speakers to give presentations on native plants and about Monarch butterflies. Gail Barcelo is talking about decorating the facility with butterfly balloons. Michelle Ayala, the activities director, is even scheduling events at the nursing facility using a butterfly theme.

Dr. Harkins recently brought her two young children to Tuscany Village to see the caterpillars and visit with the residents. She said “My daughter Evie recently said that she wanted to go back and see all the grandmas and grandpas.”

It’s so magical.


Rainbow at Tuscany Village – A sign of good things to come!

 Posted by at 1:26 pm
Apr 292016

John Rivenburgh – Have Pruning Shears… Will Travel!

John Rivenburgh: Texas ‘Gipsy Winemaker’ Considers Opportune Times & Real Texas Wines

Sitting in the shady spot just off Fredericksburg’s busy Main Street with John Rivenburgh sharing some Texas wine, he said, “One day I knew I needed a change. Bending Branch Winery was a good place for me. But, I want to explore some new opportunities. Bending Branch’s Bob Young and I are still on good terms and we still plan to collaborate on some projects going forward. ”

The new opportunities that Rivenburgh now sees revolve around the changing paradigm in the Texas wine industry. We are coming on a time when many new vineyards are being planted in the hill country and many are entering their production phase that add substantial new acreage. As a result, there will be a lot more vines and grapes to work with, and in turn, a lot more Real Texas wines to be made.

“Where are we today?” John asked in a rhetorical tone. “We need more Texas wine. Sometime very soon, there will be a time like we have not yet seen. There will be so many Texas grapes available that wineries should not have to buy out-of-state of make their wines.”

I’m hoping that Rivenburgh is right. That will mean that the days of “For Sale in Texas Only” wines here will be a thing of the past. You think?

Rivenburgh wants to be the person with what he refers to as “the important combination of experience and reputation” that can assist anyone that is really serious about making hill country wines. Over the years at Bending Branch, Rivenburgh showed that he had a knack for exploring new grape varieties like Tannat that meet the demands of our Texas climate. Also, he has literally had his “hands in the mix” making gold medal winning wines from both established and “innovative” grape varieties.

“Some might be calling me a ‘Gipsy winemaker’ because I believe that I can help a number of hill country wineries up their winemaking game”, said Rivenburgh.” He even wants to make some wines that will carry his own “Rivenburgh Wines” brand, as well.

But, it’s not all about making wine for Rivenburgh. He said, “There are so many new growers that they need somebody with my viticultural expertise. With my background, I’m able to help new growers avoid costly mistakes in their vineyards. I can also work the other direction to help new wineries source their fruit specifically for the wines they want to make. In some cases, I might be bringing together both growers and wineries for their mutual benefit. That’s actually one business model that I’d prefer.”

An example of Rivenburgh’s ambitions is the relationship he has already established with John and Dabs Hollimon at 1851 Vineyards located south of Fredericksburg on Highway 16. He has provided assistance in all aspects of vineyard and winery operations down to varietal selection working under a multi-year contract.

Let’s wish Rivenburgh, one of our most favored ‘Gipsy Winemakers’, the best of success in his new business venture.


JR’s (John Rivenburgh’s) Holster

 Posted by at 3:18 pm
Apr 172016

Paul and Merrill Bonrrigo – Learn about Texas Wine for two of its Modern Pioneers

Texas Wine: April 19th at Texas Wine School with Texas’s True Wine Pioneers and More…

Texas Wine – Past, Present & Future with Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo of Messina Hof; Tuesday, April 19, 7-9pm – only $20 per person

Messina Hof is the 3rd oldest winery in Texas, and is the most awarded and renowned Texas wine in national and international competitions. Hear from Messina Hof founders Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo how Messina Hof has influenced the Texas wine industry, and learn what grape varieties are their futureRegister now!

For White Wine Lovers…

Everyday Whites – Tuesday, April 26, 7-9pm – only $40 per person

Ready to branch out beyond Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc? Come discover a new go-to white wine just in time for summer.

SPIRITS at The Texas Wine School

Bourbon – Thursday, May 12, 7-9pm – only $40 per person

Gin – Thursday, May 26, 7-9pm – only $40 per person

 Posted by at 10:32 am
Apr 142016

Texas Fine Wine Wineries Offer New Spring Releases

Texas Fine Wine’s New Rich Reds, Whites and Fruit-Forward Rosés Come from Abundant 2015 Harvest

Spring in Texas signals bluebonnets and a whole host of other wildflowers. But, for wine enthusiasts across the State, they are anxiously awaiting the new releases from the 2015 vintage and newly bottled red wines. The wineries of Texas Fine Wine have exciting new releases to share, including the first-ever “orange wine” [no they don’t mean orange like the fruit] in Texas as well as a new winery keg program for guests who want to take home a growler of Texas wine.

The group of five distinctive Texas wineries that make up Texas Fine Wine are dedicated to making quality Texas appellation wines from Texas vineyards and thus setting the highest standards for wine in the Texas. Here’s a look at the new releases and offerings from the Texas Fine Wine wineries:

Bending Branch Winery in Comfort is releasing its 2015 Comfortage, Hoover Valley Vineyards, Roussanne ($28) and 2015 Riven Rock Vineyard Viognier ($34), both grown in the Texas Hill Country, as well as its 2015 High Plains Cinsaut ($24).  The Comfortage Roussanne is fermented half in stainless steel and half in oak barrels, so it offers crisp citrus flavors that comes with a great mouthfeel, pairing well with creamy cheeses, vinaigrette salads, quiches and a host of light recipes. The 2015 Riven Rock Viognier shows notes of apricot and a hint of vanilla creaminess, and exhibits minerality that complements seafood dishes. Bending Branch’s 2015 High Plains Rosé tastes of ripe strawberries and has a slight green olive brininess that pairs well with charcuterie and cheese, smoked pork loin, and pasta with pesto.
These wines are available at the winery; Comfortage can be found at some H-E-Bs.

Brennan Vineyards in Comanche has three new 2015 Viognier releases: Classic Viognier ($17) from the estate vineyard, Reserve Viognier ($25) from the Newburg Vineyards in Comanche County, and the first-ever Cellar Select Viognier ($25).
Brennan Vineyards Classic Viognier has big, bold, beautiful notes of grilled peaches, Meyer lemons, and citrus blossom. The Reserve Viognier, specific to the Newburg Vineyard, is refined with an aromatic presence of honeysuckle, nectarines, and key lime zest rounded out with a mineral- driven finish.  The Cellar Select Viognier is the state’s first “Orange Wine” [referring to its bronze-like color] a white wine for a red wine lover. This white wine was made using red wine techniques, with intentional skin contact to produce extra color. The Cellar Select Viognier offers big, dry, intense aromas of granny smith apples and subtle hints of white flowers, with gentle tannins.  Viognier pairs well with grilled salmon, soft cheese, and grilled quail and dove. Brennan is also releasing its 2015 Mourvèdre Dry Rosé ($20), a dynamic blend of 71 percent Mourvèdre and 29 percent Grenache. A winery favorite, this rosé offers notes of strawberry, golden raspberries and rose petals. These wines are available at the winery in Comanche and 4.0 Cellars in Fredericksburg; the Classic Viognier can also be found at Specs, Total Wine, Goody Goody and other Texas wine stores.

Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood, specializing in Italian wines, plans to add a keg program this spring, making it one of the only wineries in the state with a “wine on tap” system. Duchman Family Winery will offer its popular Vermentino, Montepulciano and Dry Rosé in 750-ml growlers, which save on packaging and promotes sustainability.
It also announces several new spring releases, including the 2015 Duchman Dry Rosé of Montepulciano ($20), with notes of wild strawberry – a perfect sipping wine that also pairs well with cheeses and lighter fare. The 2015 Vermentino ($20) with classic citrus and light floral notes, pairs well with seafood and pesto. Duchman is having a limited release of its 2012 Estate Aglianico ($46; only 52 cases produced). It’s a rustic, savory wine with dark fruit and structured tannins and pairs with braised meats, grilled game, and hearty mushroom dishes. These 2015 Vermentino will be widely available at fine wine retailers and restaurants in Texas. The Dry Rosé and Estate Aglianico will only be available in the tasting room and online. Made especially for the Old Settlers Music Festival in Driftwood (April 14-16), Duchman will also be releasing limited edition Festival blends – Harmony White ($16) and Mandolin Red ($22). These wines are available at the festival and winery.

Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall has its fifth release of its Texas Albariño ($30, winery only) with prominent notes of candied green apple with subtle hints of banana and freshly cut grass. A buttery mouth feel balances the crisp acidity. The Texas Albariño pairs excellently with sushi (and lighter seafood fare). Its flagship wine, 2015 Texas Viognier ($16), reflects the mild weather and long growing season with aromas of peach and honeysuckle, with a touch of orange zest on the palate, pairing well with roast chicken and pasta dishes. The 2015 vintage of its Texas Dry Rosé ($30, winery only) is a Provencal-style Grenache Rosé, featuring lovely aromas of strawberries and ripe red fruits, is well-balanced with fresh, crisp acidity. They also offer two new reds, including the 2014 Texas GSM ($26), representing the seventh year of its Rhone-style blend incorporating Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Grenache from the estate Hill Country vineyard and partner vineyards in Texas. This medium-bodied, rich red blend delivers aromas of raspberry, fennel, mushroom, and molasses, and a soft finish for pairing with savory meat dishes and sautéed vegetables. Finally, the 2013 Bingham Vineyards Tempranillo Reserve ($40, winery only) showcases the elegance of Texas Tempranillo. The nose includes notes of cherry, raspberry, and truffle along with hints of licorice and sage, with a rich and complex finish, pairing well with roast pork and BBQ. Pedernales wines are available at fine wine retailers in Texas.

Spicewood Vineyards introduces two new signature releases: its 2015 Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($20) along with its first-ever Texas High Plains Sauvignon Blanc ($18) and Texas High Plains 2014 Tempranillo ($24). The Estate Sauvignon Blanc has aromas of citrus and papaya with notes of ripe grapefruit and a refreshing minerally notes, while the Texas High Plains Sauvignon Blanc, made from grapes from Martin Vineyards, expresses more gooseberry and lemongrass flavors. Both Sauvignon Blancs pair well with spring and summer vegetables, fish and grilled chicken, and are great summer sippers, too. Spicewood also offers a new Texas High Plains Tempranillo (made from Bayer Family Vineyards grapes) that just won gold at the 2016 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. This red has notes of blueberries and plums and is a softer style of Tempranillo with subtle tannins and brighter fruit notes, pairing well with grilled meats, pizza and Mexican food. These wines are available at the winery or online only.

Texas Fine Wine group wineries promotes its award-winning wines, events, winemakers and growers at major wine education conferences such as TEXSOM, wine and food festivals, sommelier meetings and tastings, media events, restaurant dinners, and its signature Texas Fine Wine events. Texas Fine Wine invites wine enthusiasts to follow Texas Fine Wine on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Duchman Growlers - Very Interesting!

Duchman Growlers – Very Interesting!


 Posted by at 11:35 am
Mar 022016

“Texas High Plains A-Team” – Left to Right: Jason Centanni (Llano Estacado), Vijay & Subada Reddy (Reddy Vineyards), Greg Bruni (Llano Estacado), Janice & Neal Newsom (Newsom Vineyards)

Texas Wine’s High Plains A-Team: Newsom, Reddy, Llano Estacado

As I disembarked from the plane in Lubbock, I recall thinking that the skies above the Texas high plains are bigger and bluer than just about anywhere I’ve been on this good Earth. The air had the familiar dry bite of the area’s fine red sands, and if I took a deep enough breath, I could also sense the underlying desiccant of the porous caliche limestone. After this brief reflection, I started my way to Brownfield, about an hour south of Lubbock. It’s in Terry County, the acknowledged wine grape growing capital of Texas.

At my destination, Reddy Vineyards, was the point of rendezvous for the wine writer meet-up with the rightfully named “Texas High Plains A-Team”. The A-Team consisted of winegrowers Vijay and Subada Reddy (Reddy Vineyards) and Neal and Janice Newsom (Newsom Vineyards), and winemakers Greg Bruni and Jason Centanni and CEO Mark Hyman (Llano Estacado Winery). The grape growing and wine making/selling experience packed into this assemblage spans the last 30 years with some of the best Texas wines on record being credited to their collective hard work and dedication.

Lunch was served with a selection of Llano Estacado Winery wines as we looked out from Vijay’s second story office into his vineyard. The vines were “all-Reddy” easing their way into their winter slumber period, contrasting themselves against the bright, red-orange vineyard soil. This soil (red sandy loam over pour caliche limestone, something that covers much of the Texas High Plains region) has already obtained notoriety for its low-vigor way of making grapevines focus on making fine, high quality wine grapes.

Presented were two of Llano Estacado Winery’s unoaked wines:

2014 Pinot Grigio (67% Reddy Vineyards and 33% Newsom Vineyards) and 2014 Cinsault Rosé (100% Reddy Vineyards), both with Texas High Plains appellation. The third wine was Llano Estacado THP Stampede (oaked red blend) made with 56% Petite Verdot, 29% Petit Sirah, and 13% Syrah (all Reddy Vineyards), and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon (Newsom Vineyards).


Neal Newsom (on left) and Greg Bruni and Jason Centanni (on bottom right)

This presentation was very appropriate since the High Plains region was where the words “Texas wine” in its modern sense were likely first spoken. Texas wine, also in its modern sense, was first made and tasted in the basement lab in the Texas Tech Chemistry building in Lubbock. Much of the credit for these events has been given to Clinton “Doc” McPherson, the college chemistry professor that took the plunge into Texas wine research and later helped to start the first and longest running of Texas’s modern wineries, Llano Estacado Winery (federally bonded in 1977), the winery that now hosted our high plains visit. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 8:37 pm
Feb 172016


Tasting with Fall Creek’s Winemaker Sergio Cuadra: What Grows Well in Texas (Part I)

I love sunny winter days in Texas. Being raised up north, it is something that I appreciate almost as much as well made wines. Recently, I had the opportunity to score both of them on the same day when I visited Fall Creek Vineyards, Director of Winemaking Sergio Cuadra at the new Fall Creek tasting room in Driftwood.

It is already known by most that following Texas wine that, from the early 1980s, Ed and Susan Auler’s Fall Creek Vineyards played an important role in the winegrowing, winemaking and culinary development of the Texas Hill Country. But, it seemed, in 2013, when experienced Chilean winemaker Cuadra came to Texas on the referral of legendary Paul Hobbs (click here), things were posed for a change.

Before coming to Texas, when examining Texas’ summer temperature records, Cuadra had some trepidation. However, when he got here and ventured into our vineyards, all he found (in this description) were “healthy and great-looking vineyards”. Since his arrival, Cuadra has experienced the 2013 harvest (literally the jet-lagged day he arrived) and more recently, gained first-hand experience with the vintages of 2014 and 2015. He has also looked with “new eyes” at some of the Fall Creek wines in barrel going back to 2012.

It is with this backdrop that we tasted Fall Creek wines that bright winter day. To start, Cuadra reminded me, “Recall, in 2013, we only made a small amount of Chardonnay”, admitting that “we only had one barrel of it.” Then, he poured.


“In 2014, from the same vineyard, Alphonse Dotson’s Certenberg Vineyard, we had a very good harvest. There was enough to make two wines and make more of them. Both were whole cluster pressed to get their best expression. The first one, Fall Creek Vintner’s Selection Chardonnay is where the juice remained in stainless steel as we left it on lees for the following nine months. For the second wine, Fall Creek (our top of the line) Terroir Reflection Series, Certenberg Vineyards Chardonnay, we selected areas of vineyard that had the best grapes, in my opinion, the tastiest. After pressing, the wine was fermented in new French oak barrels where it laid for a year on lees and allowing the wine to undergo malolactic fermentation.”

In the glasses before me from 2014 was the net result of what I’ve already gone on record as calling a Chardonnay vintage for Texas that year. Upon tasting, I concurred: Two gold medal wines judged in Houston and San Francisco, respectively. My personal preference is the former, lighter and crisper style of Chardonnay. However, Cuadra’s personal recipe for the latter with a careful hand at ML resulted in a soft, silky mouthfeel, interaction between fruit and leesy notes while minimizing over-the-top “buttery” aromatics, which he said, “is something that winemakers in Burgundy have long known how to do.”

Cuadra followed these two wines with in interesting parlay; what he referred to as “a pretty good Sauvignon Blanc” what I recalled he previously made (and I liked) in 2013. He said, “In 2014, we made another Sauvignon Blanc from the same place, Mesa Vineyards near Fort Stockton.

This Sauvignon Blanc that gave a complex array of aromas and flavors impressed me. There was an interplay of gooseberry, green bell pepper, and grapefruit with a note of white spring flowers. It wasn’t the grapefruit bomb commonly expected these days in Sauvignon Blanc wines from New Zealand.

Cuadra, perhaps still noting a bit of his personal surprise of making this wine from Texas fruit said, “You need a good site to get all these characteristics rather than one focused on only one characteristic.” Cuadra’s style of Sauvignon Blanc is something more like found in old-world Sancerre rather than new-world New Zealand.

Imaging my surprise having gone three white wines into the tasting and not even one was made from an acknowledged “warm weather” grape like Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc or Muscat. Finally, by the forth wine, Fall Creek Vintner Selection Series Grenache Rosé 2015, we finally made to a grape with real warm-weather credentials. The combination of Grenache, Texas’s weather and Cuadra’s experienced winemaking style resulted in this gold medal wine from competitions in both Houston and San Francisco.


Cuadra admits that to get this fine wine made, he was nervous. He said, “In 2015, the rains came early in the season, but in June they stopped just at the right time. I was getting really worried about ripening.”

He continued, “To make things more complicated, in this Grenache vineyard, we had two kinds of plants – some that ripening faster and some slower – that we harvested separately. The riper grapes went into our red wine (GSM). However, the grapes in this rosé were treated like a white grape; pressed and the juice taken off the skins rapidly and fermented cold.”

The aromas from this Grenache rosé were striking with stone fruits, in particular nuances of peach pit, and followed mid-palate by ripe cherry.

As we tasted, Cuadra commented, “We will definitely keep making this wine, the response has been great. Texas has become “Rosé Country”.

It goes to show that, in Texas, cowboys can and do drink pink!”

— — — —

Part II of this tasting (red wines) will appear in a future VintageTexas blog.

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