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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.

Aug 112013
 

Texsom-Moscato-Muscat

At Texsom: Muscat beyond Moscato is where Texas is at!

It’s only the first day of the Texsom 2013 Texas Sommelier Conference at the Four Seasons Las Colinas and I’ve already found that Texas wines are relevant, especially when it comes to growing and making wine from the Muscat grape.

Unfortunately, the session did not highlight a Texas version of this highly characteristic grape. But, it was clear in the session titled “Muscat and Beyond” the flexibility of this grape (that just happens to grow well in Texas) has fueled the Muscat explosion in the wine industry with upwards of 25% growth year of year.

Variable wine styles – Muscat can accommodate that; variable crop loads – Muscat and handle that, too. Great tropical, floral and citrusy flavor and aroma component – Muscat’s got it covered.

We tasted wines from Austria, Alsace, Sutter Home (California but really from Chilean grapes), Italy, Sardinia, Australia. Please keep in mind that while not in this tasting – Texas is home to wonderfully floral dry, semi-sweet and full blown sweet Muscat wines.

I’m just glad to see that Texas with its focus on this currently very popular grape is keeping in step with the hip, rappin’ good wine fad of Moscato, and also knowing that it was popular here in Texas well in advance of the fad.

 Posted by at 3:13 pm
Aug 042013
 

Take-the-Pledge-2

Support is Building for the Texas Winemakers/Winery Owners Pledge

If you read my previous blog, you know that with the help of several people from the Texas wine industry, I’ve drafted a Texas Winemakers/Winery Owners Pledge (click here) or you can try to read the fine print in the photo above. It has created early support and generated a meaningful conversation among Texas wineries and consumers of Texas wine. This conversation has helped to make more visible what “For Sale in Texas Only” IS and what it ISN’T when it’s printed on a wine label from a Texas winery.

We have received nearly unanimous agreement on the follow points: Each winery should buy Texas fruit (where and when possible) and promote the appellation of Texas. Most respondents also agree that the GoTexan logo should not be used on non-Texas products. Additionally, within the Texas wine industry and especially from wine consumers, the consensus was that if Texas wineries made and sold wine where not enough Texas grapes were used in the wine to allow it to be labeled “Texas” appellation, then it should be clearly labeled “American” or another appropriate appellation of origin as allowed by the federal government that regulates wine labeling. Further, this non-Texas wine should NOT be labeled without an appellation of origin allowable when the label contains the phrase, “For Sale in Texas Only”.

As of today, the following Texas Winemakers and Winery Owners have indicated their support of the Texas Winemaker/Winery Owner Pledge:

Fredrik Osterberg, David & Julie Kuhlken – Pedernales Cellars

Pat Brennan – Brennan Vineyards

Jim Johnson – Alamosa Wine Cellars

Les Constable – Brushy Creek Vineyards

Gary Gilstrap – Texas Hills Vineyard

Dave Reilly and Stan Duchman – Duchman Family Winery

Doug Lewis – Lewis Wines

Billy Cox Jr. – Retreat Hill Winery

Chris Caldwell – Eaglefire Winery

Rick Magers – Grayson Hills Winery

Ben Calais – Calais Winery

Kert Platner – Times Ten Cellars

Gene Estes – Lost Oak Winery

To add your name as a winemaker, winery owner, wine industry or consumer supporter of The Pledge, send me an email russ@vintagetexas.com (cut and paste into your email).

Note: I have not officially heard from Llano Estacado Winery yet with respect to the pledge. However, I want to acknowledge that they are effectively following the terms of the pledge in their labeling in recent years. They lead by example…Go Llano Estacado! What about the other major Texas wineries? They’ve remained silent so far.

Both Texas wineries and Texas wine consumers need to embrace the fact that (due to the vagaries of Texas weather) non-Texas grapes are going to be an important part of the Texas wine experience for some time to come. The choice for Texas wineries is to use them as needed to supplement Texas grapes, but to do it clearly and honestly or try to hide it under the veil of “For Sale in Texas Only” labeling. My vote is for them to be open and honest by declaring the appellation of origin for these non-Texas grapes and for Texas wine consumers to be accepting while our industry tries to sort out it’s long term business model – what grapes it can sustainably grow and how to grow them.

Texas wine consumers and members of the wine trade that have indicated their support of the Pledge are:

Dale Robertson, Houston Chronicle, wine editor

Andy Chalk – Wine writer, columnist CraveDFW

Jeff Cope – Blogger, TXwineLover

Bill Elsey – Red Room Lounge, Advanced Sommelier

Jennifer Crawford – Texas wine consumer

Mark V. Fusco, CSW – Blogger @1337wine

Steven Krueger, Westin La Cantera Resort, Sommelier

Heidi Stine – Tempranillo Advocates Producers & Amigos Society

Julie Baker – Texas wine consumer

Jim Baker – Wine artist & blogger, TXwineGeek

Roger L Beery – wine writer, blogger, Bachus & Berry

Dave Potter – Texas wine consumer, blogger, The Grapes Around Texas

Gary Jones – blogger, Texas Wine Camp

Daniel Kelada – Texas Wine & Food Consortium

Leanne Holley – Editor, Texas Wine & Trail Magazine

Laurie Stevens Ware – Texas wine consumer

Darlene Wyatt Bruckbauer – Texas wine consumer

Maureen Demar Hall – Texas wine consumer

Lily Johnson – Texas wine consumer

 Posted by at 5:04 pm
Jul 312013
 

Take_the_Pledge

The Texas Winemakers/Winery Owners Pledge (and Good for Other Local Wine States, Too)

Some of you have seen the blog and reader comments over the past few days on CraveDFW (click here) on “For-Sale-in-Texas-Only” wine. I made an attempt to re-frame the discussion on my subsequent blog (click here) away from what Whole Foods and the state-supported GoTexan Program were doing to what Texas wineries were doing and what (in my opinion) should do. My thoughts focused on the ramifications of their using of the phrase “For Sale in Texas Only” on wine bottle labels versus having the wineries clearly label the source of the grapes used in this wine using “Texas” appellation*, “American” appellation or any of the other approved appellations given by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau at the U.S. Department of the Treasury – TTB (click here) that correctly describes the location of origin of the grapes in the wine.

The basis of my previous comments was that use of the confusing term “For Sale in Texas Only” – which some people actually have been told and others think means a special Texas product only for Texans). The situation is that such wines do not have enough Texas grapes in the wine to actually allow it to be a legal Texas wine according to the people that write the rules at TTB. In an effort to reduce or eliminate the use of “For Sale in Texas Only” on Texas wine bottle labels, I’ve developed a Texas Winemakers/Winery Owners Pledge as stated below:

Texas Winemakers/Winery Owners Pledge

I, (insert name & winery), pledge to the wine consumers of Texas that I will:

One: Where possible, based on price point, quality, and the competitive price in the marketplace, buy Texas grapes or use estate grown grapes, and where sufficient Texas grapes are included in the wine, label this wine as Texas wine using one of the Texas appellations approved by the TTB.

Two: If due to price or availability of Texas grapes, it is necessary to make and sell wine made from out-of-state grapes, this wine will be labeled as “American” appellation or other legally approved non-Texas appellations approved by TTB. I will not use the label exclusion for appellation authorized by TTB under the phrase “For Sale in Texas Only”.

Three: Support efforts to expand production of Texas wine grapes using varieties that can be sustainably and economically grown in Texas and, where possible, include these varieties in my wines.Raise-Your-Hands

Do you want to support this pledge?

If you are a Texas winemaker or winery owner and wish to support in this pledge, I will post your name and link to your winery from this site. Likewise, if you are a Texas wine consumer and wish to voice your support of this pledge for clearer wine labeling, please send a comment to this blog and I will post your name on this site, too.

Is this Pledge Ill-Timed? I say no, and I hope you do to

Some in the Texas wine industry may feel that, with the bad weather experienced this past spring (that is expected to cause a further shortage of Texas grapes from the 2013 harvest), this pledge is ill-timed. However, it is precisely why Texas needs to address this issue now. It is because of the unpredictable nature of this situation that we will likely see out-of-state grapes play a significant and important role in our state’s wine production for the near term.

This pledge is offered now to help Texas winemakers, winery owners and wine consumers bring out-of-state grapes from the darkness of “For Sale in Texas Only” and into the light of their proper sources as defined by their legal appellations. This is not too much to ask.

Frankly, if a Texas winery can make a really great wine from out-of-state grapes, with appellation correctly stated on the label, I would not hesitate to try it and encourage others to do the same. Many international wine brands now offer wines from multiple appellations both within their state and sometimes internationally, and label them accordingly. I’m not ashamed to say that I have purchased Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc (appellated New Zealand) and their Shiraz (appellated Australia) several times and they were good wines with good value for money spent. We should not be ashamed if a Texas winery could do the same.

We would all like to see high quality and quantity Texas grapes predominate our state’s wines. This will reliability be achieved only through the continued hard work of Texas winegrowers and over an extended period of time, and only with the support of Texas winemakers, winery owners and consumers. This is precisely how great appellations are created. Unfortunately, there are few short cuts in this process.

I believe that everyone’s “eye” needs to be on the “ball” and support Texas grape growing and working to increase the supply of Texas grapes that can be grown economically and sustainable here in Texas. Make no mistake: this is no small task.

Additional Note: It is not just a Texas issue…

This wine labeling issue is not restricted exclusively to Texas. Just about every state involved in producing local wine has experienced a rapid growth in wineries. As such, there is also a shortage of local grapes and wineries in those states, too, and their wineries have looked to out-of-state grapes for a portion of the wines they offer. Let’s work to get rid of “For Sale in (write in the name of your state) Only”, too. If you live in one of these wine-producing states and wish to borrow this pledge for your winemakers and winery owners, please feel free to do so.

Llano-American-Appellation2

 Posted by at 2:32 pm
Jul 272013
 

For Sale in Texas Only – Is this Texas wine or not?

Dear Whole Foods Market, Please Remove Non-Texas Wine From Your Texas Wine Display [Redux]

or, “Where are you Grover Norquist when you need a winery to sign a pledge?”

Those of you that have read and perhaps participated in the discussion started by columnist Andy Chalk in the online article of this name on CraveDFW (lick here for link), know that it has sparked quite a lively discussion (or what appropriately might be called an argy-bargy).

I’m now going a step further and calling for Messina Hof Winery, Becker Vineyards and Fall Creek Vineyards to follow their large Texas winery brethren, Lubbock’s Llano Estacado Winery, and drop the use of the confusing term “For Sale in Texas Only” for their non-Texas wine in favor of the use of American appellation. Where are you Grover Norquist when you need a winery to sign a pledge?

My edited response to Slinwood on Andy Chalk’s blog on CraveDFW posted early today is below…

The situation cited by Andy in Dry Comal Creek is just one example. But, if you go to just about any wine retail location in Texas (Kroger, Randalls, HEB and Trader Joes (to name just a few that sell a significant volume of wine from Texas wineries), you will mostly see wine from a few Texas wineries (mostly the major labels) that have the unfortunate appellation-less label moniker “For Sale in Texas Only”. As both Andy and I have said is that in most all cases, these FSITO wines are legally sold appellation-less by the federal labeling laws (from www.ttb.gov) and composed of by-and-large mostly non-Texas grapes are sold under nearly the same labels these same wineries use for their Texas appellation wines at their wineries. This is confusing at least, and at most, disingenuous, but nevertheless outrageous.

As you said, “What about Becker Vineyards’ Chardonnay, Iconoclast, and Malbec wine labels which state “For Sale in Texas Only”? What about Fall Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon wine label which states, “For Sale in Texas Only”? What about McPherson’s Sangiovese wine label which states, “For Sale in Texas Only”? What about Messina Hof’s Pinot Noir, wine label which states, “For Sale in Texas Only.” As you can see, there are many renowned wineries on this list.”

Yep, there are many that play this charade with Texas wine consumers, and they don’t have too!

I have to hand it to Llano Estacado, they have stopped using FSITO and provide honest information when their non-Texas wine is labeled as American appellation wine. I just wish that more Texas wineries would accept the same policy.

I understand completely that there are certain and important reasons why Texas needs to import grapes/wine from other appellations. The first reason is price point (Texas grapes are more expensive than other states that have much higher volume and lower cost to produce). The second reason is the weather (this year is an example of a quadruple whammy of spring freezes that dropped grape production in Texas to 10-30 percent in some areas). However, using the veil of FSITO only acts to confuse consumers that want a true Texas appellation wine and blurs the issue to the point that some wineries bring in cheap out of state grapes and charge premium prices and often use misleading statements and confusing labels to sham Texas wine consumers.

I agree wholeheartedly that the people that work to grow Texas grapes and make true Texas wines are people of grit and determination and they have my deep respect. (See and read: http://wineslinger.net)

While you are right that the beef is with TTB at the federal level of government. You know how it is to try to change federal law as a single party particularly when large CA wineries like Gallo and Kendall Jackson would flight long and hard, tooth and nail, and with deep pockets against you. Andy is simply making the pitch to the consumer to make and informed decision. They need to know what FSITO IS and ISN”T…and, in my book, it ain’t Texas wine, not by a large margin!

Russ

Llano-American-Appellation2

Llano Estacado American Cabernet – Truth in Labeling

 

 Posted by at 1:09 pm
Jul 252013
 
Jeff-Copes-Roussanne-Tastin

Jeff Cope – TXwineLover

It’s the Right Time for Texas Roussanne

Several years ago, in 2010, I experienced what I referred to back then as the breakout year for Texas Tempranillo. Texas wineries went from offering maybe only four or five Tempranillo wines statewide the previous year to over 30 Tempranillo wines and blends in 2010 – See my blog: Texas Tempranillo – It’s Coming on Strong; Consumers, You Better Get Ready http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?p=2400.

Well, a couple weeks ago on a Saturday night, Jeff Cope (@TXwineLover) organized a tasting at Nice Winery in Houston, Texas. He called it, “The Battle of the Texas Roussannes”. Details of the tasting and how it was assembled and his analysis of the blind tasting results are on his website at: http://txwinelover.com/2013/07/battle-of-the-texas-roussannes.

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If you need to take a step back and ask, “What’s Roussanne anyway?” Check out the following link to get more details on this grape that hails from the south of France (a place the really doesn’t look much different than parts of the hill country or west Texas. It’s one of several white blending grapes used to make white Rhone blends: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roussanne.

- – - – -

What I found interesting at Jeff’s tasting event were two things…

First, Jeff was actually able to round up 15 Texas Roussannes and I contributed two more to make it and “even” 17 Texas Roussannes. They varied in vintage date from 2009 through 2012. Most were single varietal wines but some were blends. Most were vintage dated, but at least one was multi-vintage. More details on the wines and a complete listing are available on Jeff’s blog cited above.

The notable point is that the tasting actually involved 17 Texas Roussanne wines and I know that there some notable missing wines like those from Perissos Vineyards that has offered a dry Roussanne and a Roussanne blend, their semi-sweet “Sweet Lucy” composed of Roussanne (44%), Viognier (44%), and Muscat (12%).  This qualifies 2013 as the breakout year for Texas Roussanne.

Secondly, when I looked at my tasting sheet after the evening’s festivities were finished, by far, the lion’s share of the Texas Roussannes and blends were very respectable and palatable wines. When I reported the good results to Texas high plains viticultural consultant Bobby Cox from Lubbock, he didn’t really seem to surprised.

Bobby-Cox

Bobby Cox – Texas Viticultural Consultant

Bobby said, “It was part of our plan all along to spread our Roussanne around to as many Texas wineries as possible. It buds later than most white grapes and should produce a good crop in most years. It’s also a grape that can be easily made into a decent wine even in rudimentary winery operations. It just doesn’t take a lot of special technique or equipment like some grapes do. After all, if you’ve seen how they make their wines in southern France, you shouldn’t be surprised that we can do a decent job of it here in Texas.”

What Bobby talked about is something I’ve actually experienced from my trips to small, family-run Rhone valley wineries…generation’s old concrete fermenting vats and all. I understood him completely.

According to my notes, I rated six of the 17 wines at 90 points or better on a typical 100-point wine judging scale. These were wines from McPherson Cellars, Calais Winery, Brennan Vineyards and Becker Vineyards. Another six were rated above 80 and 89, and these were respectable wines. Three of my lower rated wines were from one winery that appears to need some help (and I was told it usually makes red wines). Two others appeared to have issues related to the cork or possibly storage conditions.

One of the Roussannes that I took to Jeff’s tasting was a 2009 Reserve Roussanne made by a hill country winery from Texas high plains fruit. It was significantly French oak aged, and frankly, when first released I didn’t really care for it. However, after several years of bottle age, it showed very well at this tasting, and it was my second highest scoring wine. This suggests that Roussanne made in Texas has similar characteristics as the French have noted. Chardonnay drinkers, please listen-up! That is, Roussanne can be a very age worthy white wine (like Chardonnay) and gains depth and complexity with bottle age.

The only thing that appears could  hold up Roussanne from further gains in Texas in the coming years is the bad to horrendous spring weather the Texas high plains has seen this year. According to Bobby, “Good God! This year, the best I can say is that we WILL have a Roussanne harvest, and that’s more than I can say for Viognier that got hit severely this spring. Roussanne that buds later than most whites still took a hit by the late 2013 freezes but not like the early budding Viognier.”

Great job Jeff. What do you have ready for the next tasting? Texas Tempranillo, Aglianico, Montepulciano or Mourvedre? Texas has lots of what most wine drinkers might consider “new” or “unusual” or perhaps “no-name” varieties of grapes from which you can chose.

Line-up of Texas Roussanne

Line-up of Texas Roussanne

 Posted by at 4:01 pm
Jul 192013
 

Texas IS the Mediterranean of the USA!

First Ever “Taste Texas Wines” Hospitality Suite At Texsom: Somms, Ethusiasts, Get Your Taste of Texas

Sponsored by Texas Monthly, Suite to Feature Four Premier Wineries Pouring Award-Winning Wines and Consumer Favorites

News Release – For the first time ever, four of the Lone Star State’s most distinguished wineries have joined together to host a “Taste Texas Wines” hospitality suite at the 9th annual TEXSOM, a two-day educational and tasting conference for sommeliers and wine buyers, enthusiasts and educators. Featuring only Texas appellation wines, the Taste Texas Wines hospitality suite is Sunday, August 11 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for registered TEXSOM conference attendees.

Sponsored by Texas Monthly, the Taste Texas Wines hospitality suite features wines that were recognized as “Best Texas Wines of 2012,” which included 10 red and 10 white wines from Texas appellations.

Brennan Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, McPherson Cellars and Pedernales Cellars will share some of their finest wines, all of which have received national and international acclaim at prestigious wine competitions, and represent some of the best wines produced in Texas. The owners of these wineries will be available at the suite to discuss their wines and the growing Texas wine industry. The list of wines to be tasted is given at the bottom of this release.

VintageTexas note: Notice that there is almost not a Texas Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet or Pinot to be had. FINALLY! Texas IS the Mediterranean of the USA! Something that I’ve said before is “Texas is not Bordeaux and  it sure as hell ain’t Burgundy!”  It’s about time that we embrace what our wine country can deliver: grapes that stand up to the heat and make wonderful wines in the style of the Mediterranean.

“We are happy that these four wineries have banded together to promote not only the individual wineries, but also the dynamic Texas wine industry as a whole,” says James Tidwell, MS, TEXSOM co-founder. “While TEXSOM is an international conference, Texas wineries have a significant presence at the various events and activities, including the Grand Tasting and Awards Reception and educational seminars. The Taste Texas Wines Hospitality Suite is a natural extension that allows even more wine professionals from around the world to experience Texas wines and winemakers.”

Tidwell notes that Brennan Vineyards 2011 Lily as well as the Pedernales Cellars 2012 Viognier and 2010 High Plains Tempranillo won gold medals at the 2013 Dallas Morning News and TEXSOM Wine Competition.

In addition, at the 2013 Lyon France International Wine Competition, Pedernales Cellars received grand gold for its 2012 Viognier Reserve. At the 2013 Pacific Rim Wine Competition, McPherson Cellars was awarded gold and best in class for its 2012 Dry Chenin and Brennan Vineyards received gold for its 2011 Tempranillo. Brennan Vineyards also won the chairman’s award (unanimous gold) for its 2011 Dark Horse at the 2013 Riverside International Wine Competition.

At the 2013 San Francisco International Wine Competition, McPherson Cellars and Pedernales Cellars both earned gold medals for their 2011 La Herencia and 2011 Tempranillo Reserve, respectively. Taking home silver at the competition was Pedernales for its 2011 GSM; Duchman Family Winery for its 2011 Trebbiano and 2011 Dolcetto, as well as bronze for its Tempranillo; and Brennan Vineyards earned silver for its 2012 Viognier, as well as bronze for its 2012 White Rhône Blend and 2011 Tempranillo.

At the 2013 Lone Star International Wine Competition, the Brennan Vineyards won gold and grand star award for its 2012 Lily; Pedernales Cellars won double gold for both its 2010 High Plains Tempranillo and 2010 Tempranillo Reserve and gold for its 2011 GSM ; and McPherson Cellars received gold for its 2012 Les Copains.

At the 2013 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition, Pedernales Cellars won double gold, Top Texas Wine, Class Champion and Texas Class Champion awards for its 2012 Texas Viognier, as well as gold for its 2010 Texas Tempranillo.

TEXSOM attendees will enjoy many of these award-winning wines and others at the Taste Texas Wines Hospitality Suite. Here is a complete list of wines that will be poured:

Brennan Vineyards

 

  • 2012 Viognier
  • 2012 Lily
  • 2011 Dark Horse
  • 2011 Tempranillo
  • 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Duchman Family Winery

 

  • 2011 Trebbiano
  • 2011 Viognier
  • 2011 Dolcetto
  • 2011 Tempranillo

McPherson Cellars

 

  • 2012 Les Copains
  • 2011 La Herencia
  • 2012 Dry Rosé Vin Gris
  • 2012 Dry Chenin
  • 2010 Sangiovese

Pedernales Cellars

 

  • 2012 Viognier
  • 2012 Viognier Reserve
  • 2011 Texas Tempranillo
  • 2010 Texas High Plains Tempranillo
  • 2011 GSM

For more information about the Taste Texas Wines hospitality suite and the Texas wine industry go to www.TasteTexasWines.com.

 Posted by at 12:57 pm
Jun 172013
 

Pedernales-Viognier-Reserve

Texas Viognier Is Rocking the Wine World Against Big Names in California and France

Yesterday, I received this media release from Andrew Chalk, who you’ve known as a wine writer and blogger at D Magazine and currently editor of CraveDFW. It is another arrow in the quiver for the still fledgling but rapidly rising Texas wine movement.  See Andrew’s comments below…

This weekend, sixteen Texas Viognier wines went head to head competing with each other, two California Viognier wines and a Viognier from the modern home of the grape, Condrieu, France in a blind taste test judged by seven professional sommeliers.  The result, Texas wines took the top six spots.

The full results are here:

RANK (1 is highest) WINE NAME
1 2012 Pedernales Cellars Reserve ($40)
2 2011 Brennan Vineyards ($17.50)
3 2012 Becker Vineyards ($15)
4 2012 McPherson Cellars ($14)
5 2012 Lost Oak Winery ($21)
6 2012 Pedernales Cellars ($18)
7 2011 Melville ‘Verna’s”, Santa Barbara County, CA ($25)
8 2012 Flat Creek Estate
8 2012 Perissos Vineyard and Winery
10 2010 Calera, Mt. Harlan CA ($34)
10 2011 Cross Timbers Winery
12 2010 LightCatcher Winery
13 2012 Llano Estacado Winery, TX Raider
14 2011 Landon Winery
15 2011 Saint Cosme Condrieu, France ($65)
16 2012 Landon Winery
17 2010/11 Blue Ostrich Winery & Vineyard
18 2012 Kiepersol Estates Winery
19 2010 Llano Estacado Winery, ‘Mont. Sec Vineyards’

Notes: All the wines from Texas wineries are designated “Texas Viognier” on the label. Texas wine prices are from the winery web site for a single bottle purchase. Case discounts usually apply. Prices for the other wines are single bottle prices that I paid at retail stores in Dallas.

Why The Tasting?

The organizer of the event, Andrew Chalk, an editor at CraveDFW, said “I put together this tasting because, after four years touring over 80 Texas wineries, I concluded that Viognier was the white grape that was most successful in the state. In fact, I felt it was reaching a level comparable with California Viognier (although maybe not that of France). I was baffled that the national media did not include Texas wines when they evaluated Viognier. Clearly, this was a matter that only the facts would settle: a blind tasting of French, California and Texas Viognier by expert palates to determine where the wines stood.”

Choosing The Wines

Chalk contacted every Texas winery and asked them to supply two bottles of each Viognier they made that was currently available for resale. The wineries came through with 13 wineries supplying 16 wines. As a result this was not just a sample, but every Viognier made in Texas (the only known absentee was Cap Rock Winery).

Next, he needed a strong California benchmark for comparison. He asked Sigel’s wine buyer, Jasper Russo, to pick three, and Chalk would buy the first two that he found at retail in Dallas.  Russo suggested: Miner Family Vineyard, Calera, and Melville. Chalk found the 2010 Calera, Mt. Harlan, $34 (91 points, Wine Advocate) and the 2011 Melville Estate Viognier “Verna’s”, $25 (91 points, International Wine Cellar) and purchased them.

“Finally”, said Chalk,” I needed a wine from the modern home of the Viognier grape, and the place that is still regarded as the benchmark. I chose the 2011 Saint Cosme, Condrieu because this $65 wine scored over 94 points out of 100 in web reviews and is made by maybe the most decorated producer in the Rhône over the past two years. I expected this wine to win hands down, the compensation being that it was over twice the price of most of the Texas entrants.”

Choosing The Judges

Chalk said “I figured that if I did the judging the results would be about as credible as Paris Hilton challenging Newton’s Laws of Motion. So I emailed every professional sommelier in town and invited them to be a judge.  On the day, seven sommeliers came to The WinePoste.com and spent two hours in silence comparing nineteen wines and passing written judgment. “

Chalk excluded himself from the scores reported above as he was involved in the packaging and preparation for the tasting. He also knew the identity of the non-Texas wines and any of this could be conceived as biasing the result.

The Results

The results are a stunning endorsement of Texas Viognier. Chalk had hoped Texas would be close behind the Californians and the Condrieu. In fact, no fewer than six Texas wines beat the first non-Texas wine (the Melville from California), and the expensive Condrieu was beaten by 12 Texas wines. The top three were all experienced Texas producers: Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall in the southern Hill Country, Brennan Vineyards in Comanche, a scant 90 minutes drive from Dallas, and Becker Vineyards, probably the best known of these three producers, also in Stonewall .  Two relatively new producers: McPherson Cellars out of Lubbock in The High Plains, and Lost Oak Winery, in Burleson, just south of Fort Worth, placed fourth and fifth.

Feedback From The Judges

Writing about the winning wine, 2012 Pedernales Cellars Reserve, Russell Burkett  (wine director at Sēr at The Hilton Anatole) commented that it had “ripe stone fruits, long finish, notes of honeysuckle and white flowers and light minerality”. Aaron Benson, sommelier at the Dallas Country Club, described it as “classic Viognier…an underlying minerality balances the redolent ripe fruit” and gave it a commanding 92/100 point rating.

Regarding the second-placed 2011 Brennan Vineyards, Hunter Hammett, sommelier of The Fairmont Hotel, Dallas gave some advice to the winemaker that it was “a bit thin to be excellent but a great example of this classic Rhône varietal”. Simon Holguin, general manager at the forthcoming Kitchen LTO, said that it “finishes delicately”.

Benson and Hammett, two judges who work the floor each night trying to deliver the most suitable wine to their customers, when asked about selling Texas Viognier said that selling a Texas Viognier is no harder than selling any other Viognier. The problem is selling Viognier. It is a “hand sale”, meaning that it is up to the sommelier to make the case to the customer, who typically has over 100 choices on the wine list. Hammett suggested wineries provide more guidance as to what food was intended to go with the grape. He pointed out that the choice of compatible food is not as broad as with Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.

The Implications

Texas Viognier has come of age. Chalk said “For the customer, next time you shop for a white wine, consider purchasing one. Next time you are looking for a white wine on a restaurant wine list, ask for a Texas Viognier. Even if there isn’t one on the list at the time, sommeliers choose based on customer feedback. If you are a sommelier, check the results of this tasting for the quality and value most suitable for your list. If you are a publication that reviews wines, Texas Viognier has now shown that it deserves a place at the table for your next Viognier review

To order these wines: Some wines are available at retail stores in Texas. Others are available direct from the winery (all can ship to consumers in Texas and more widely dependent on state and Federal wine shipping rules).

The Judges

Karla Barber – International Sommelier Guild

Aaron Benson – Dallas Country Club

Russell Burkett – SER, Hilton Anatole Hotel, Dallas

Hunter Hammett – The Pyramid Restaurant and Bar

Simon Holguin – GM, Kitchen LTO

Jeremy King – Gaylord Texan Resort

Steve Murphey – Mid-West Wine

Contact: Andrew Chalk, Editor CraveDFW. +1 (214) 597-4659

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For those of you that may not have seen the following release before. The first place wine from Andrew’s competition also has some major international accolades to it’s name gained in Lyon France at the 2013 Concours International des Vins à Lyon (Lyon International Wine Competition).

PEDERNALES CELLARS WINS PRESTIGIOUS GRAND GOLD IN ITS FIRST-EVER FRENCH WINE COMPETITION

Pedernales Cellars is proud to announce that its 2012 Viognier Reserve won the prestigious Grand Gold award – the French version of the Double Gold at American wine competitions – at the 2013 Concours International des Vins à Lyon (Lyon International Wine Competition), held earlier this year.

Pedernales Cellars was the only American winery to win the Grand Gold – this year, a select group of 201 wines won the competition’s highest honor, from a record pool of more than 3200 entrants. The majority of winning wines in this year’s competition were French, though two other Texas wineries (Becker and Flat Creek) won silver and bronze medals respectively for their Viognier entries.

According to Pedernales Cellars co-owner, Dr. Julie Kuhlken, the winery was encouraged to enter the competition at the urging of Melba Allen, a French wine consultant with Oeno-com, who felt that Pedernales Cellars’ signature white varietal compared favorably to French versions of the wine. Pedernales Cellars then coordinated with Becker and Flat Creek to send the trio of Texas Viogniers across the Atlantic for consideration.

“It’s absolutely an honor to be awarded with a double gold in a major French wine competition,” said David Kuhlken, winemaker at Pedernales Cellars. “It speaks well to the evolution of Texas wine that a Texas-grown Viognier can be awarded at this level, at a competition held in the heart of the Rhone region where Viognier thrives.”

The 2012 Viognier Reserve will be available for sale starting on May 17; bottles and cases can be ordered by calling or visiting the winery’s tasting room. Visitors to the winery can also sample the brand-new Spring 2013 nine-varietial tasting, highlighting white, red, and dessert wines that flourish in the Texas terroir, including the winery’s latest takes on Albarino, Tempranillo, and Moscato Giallo.

Pedernales Cellars will participate in two of the premier food festivals in Texas later this month — the Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit, April 19-21, and the Austin Food & Wine Festival, April 26-28.

For more information about Pedernales Cellars, including tasting room hours, events, and wines available for online purchase, please revisit the newly-redesigned and relaunched website at pedernalescellars.com.

 Posted by at 10:18 am
May 282013
 

Blue-Ostrich-Glass

Wicked Weather in the Vineyard: An Open Letter 5/22/2013

VintageTexas Note: I received this message in an email last week from Julie Whitehead at Blue Ostrich Winery and I asked her to share it in an open letter. I believe that her statements typify the grit and gumption of our Texas winegrowers in their yearly battle with the elements of Mother Nature. Please keep in mind that Texas is but one state that is working to discover its terroir.

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The unparalleled force of nature is never taken for granted in our part of the country. Growing grapes and making wine in a region where we experience frost in April, followed by violent storms in May, would be enough to make anyone scratch their head and wonder, “why do we do this?” Nevertheless, we persevere, as this is what we love to do.

Although we have been on a high state of alert, this week’s storms had minimal direct impact on our facility. Our hearts and minds go out to our Oklahoma neighbors. Like many of you, Patrick, John and I have many friends and relatives in these affected Oklahoma communities, including several of our Blue Ostrich family of guests.

This weekend our vineyard and countryside will serve as a reminder that nature also has a beautiful and nurturing side as well. Come see how the rain has beautified our valley and our vines.

Julie Fredrick Whitehead

Blue Ostrich Winery & Vineyard

Hours: Thurs 12pm – 6pm | Fri & Sat 12pm – 7pm | Sunday 12pm – 5pm

Location: 5611 FM 2382 | Saint Jo, TX 76265

Contact Us: 940-995-3100

Ostrich-Head

 

 

 Posted by at 8:17 am
May 222013
 
Paul-Mitchell-Bonarrigo-Cer

Paul Mitchell Bonarrigo (Photo from Messina Hof Winery)

News: Paul Mitchell Bonarrigo Receives UC Davis Winemaking Certificate

The credentials and winemaking accolades of Paul Mitchell Bonarrigo, son of Paul V. and Merrill Bonarrigo and heir-apparent at Messina Hof Winery, continue to grow.

As reported in a recent Messina Hof Winery Newsletter, Paul Mitchell has just received a Winemaking Certificate from the University of California, Davis extension program. Paul began apprenticing under his father, Paul V. Bonarrigo, as a child and teenager, and he grew up working in all of the areas of the winery.

For the past three years, Paul V. and Paul M. have been collaborating on winemaking duties here at Messina Hof all while Paul M. and their knowledge and expertise have grown that much stronger. An example of their combined winemaking ability is the recently awarded Messina Hof (Texas Appellation) Tribute to Heritage, Father and Son Cuvee, Naturally Sweet, Riesling 2012. This wine garnered a gold medal in the 2013 Dallas Morning News – Texsom Wine Competition (click here for more information)

The wines of Messina Hof appear to be in good hands now and for a long time into the future! Congrats to Paul Mitchell.

 Posted by at 7:42 pm
Apr 252013
 

Texas Viticultural Consultant Bobby Cox (left) and his flappy hat during the 2009 Spring Freeze

2013 Late Spring Frosts Texas: But, Winegrowers Live and Learn

“Hi there Bobby, How y’all doing up there?”

That’s how I started my conversation with Texas high plains viticultural consultant Bobby Cox this week. I already knew that Texas winegrowers were having a time of it with the “cold flashes” since mid-March.

Bobby said, “Well, where I’m sitting this morning, I’m looking at my iPad and its 32 degrees in Brownfield and wondering how much lower its going to go around here. We’ve been fighting it hard this spring. This year has already brought back memories of 1994. That was the year of the ‘double whammy’.”

What Bobby was referring to was the shock of two freezes that came in two episodes after the vines started to bud out. For grape growers and their vines, it was like double barreled shot gun blasts that left many vines wilted along with their tenders.

I asked Bobby for a comparison between this year’s spring freezes and those in 1994.

He said, “This year, we’ve already had the double whammy. We had double freeze events about 10 days apart; one at the end of March and the second in early April. And, if it freezes again tomorrow it will be a ‘triple whammy’. But, you know, I think that the growers in Texas are in much better shape in 2013 than they were after the late freezes of 1994.”

Here’s the deal, the way I understand it from Bobby’s description.

After Texas’s Llano Estacado Winery won a gold medal in California way back in 1984 for their Chardonnay, lots of people planted all around Texas said, “Let’s plant Chardonnay”. By 1994, about 30 percent of the acreage of Texas grapes was Chardonnay – the darling grape of the Burgundy region of France and California’s Napa Valley, and apparently with lots of starry-eyed Texans, back then.

Llano1984DGold

Gold Medal Winning Llano Chardonnay

Bobby said, “Chardonnay just doesn’t handle the kind of weather we have in Texas at all. First, it wakes up far too early in the spring and starts to push buds and send out shoots. Well, it’s primary buds get frosted and its secondary buds are just not fruitful.”

Well, according to Bobby, there is not much Chardonnay planted in Texas anymore and for good reason…it just doesn’t do well here. It’s working itself out of Texas vineyards as people learn. Texas winegrowers are starting doing a better job now of what he calls “varietal selection”. That is, choosing grape varieties that start to bud later and “site selection” that basically means, don’t plant in low lying locations where the coldest air tends to hang out.

Bobby said, “The good news this year is that so far, anyway, Marsanne and Roussanne appear to have full crop potential in most vineyards, as do Trebbiano, Picpoul Blanc and Malvasia Bianca.”

I commented, “They’re not exactly household names!”

He responded, “This year’s results will add emphasis to the switch from the more common California varieties, because in general, these grape have the characteristics we need in Texas to handle the weather.”

Bobby admitted that this year’s spring freezes have been very hard on Viognier, a grape that’s had great acclaim in Texas and made some well-awarded wines.

Bobby said, “I originally planted Viognier at Cliff Bingham’s place as they were organic at the time. I knew that Viognier could handle the heat, it budded a bit early for Texas, but it is very disease resistant and does not rot. So, I figured that we could manage the frost situation. But, keep in mind that what we’ve seen with this year’s frosts, it’s been about 20 years since we’ve had spring freeze events like this. It’s not the normal situation.”

According to Bobby, some red grapevines got hurt in the freeze that occurred April 18-19 even though this is generally less of a problem since they tend to bud out later than white grape vines. He included Tempranillo in the damage, but from prior experience in Texas, Tempranillo can manage a decent crop on its secondary buds. Generally, better sited vineyards (those not planted in low spots) did substantially better than others.

One final note from Bobby was that growers are working to fight spring frost with a new version of very old vineyard technology – application of a Copper-based fungicide (copper was used on grapevines in Europe since the 1840s). But, the new twist is that it also works against ice-nucleating bacteria that reside on the vines, and the application of the fungicide depresses the freeze temperature on the vines down to about 28 F. It’s an approach used on strawberries produced in colder regions.

Bobby reflected a moment on this growing season’s hard start.  Then, with the positive attitude required for anyone that considers themselves a serious farmer and especially if they are dead-set on breaking new ground in Texas winegrowing, Bobby said, “This is a year that separated the men from the boys on vineyard techniques and varietal selection. Live and learn that’s what I say!”

BobbyCoxAndJennifer

Bobby Cox and his wife Jennifer

 

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 Posted by at 2:01 pm