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.

Apr 102014


What a Difference Four Years Made for Texas Wine – 1910 to 1914

While doing background research for my new book, Texas Hill Country Wineries, for Arcadia Publications, I came across two newspaper advertisements from the early 1900s. The first (shown above) is for a the Lone Star Saloon in Castroville, Texas, that offers “Wines, Liquors, Beers, Cigars, Smoking and Chewing Tobacco. Liquors of all kinds and prices, in Flasks, Quarts and Gallons for family use.”  I assume family use means not for resale.

The second advertisement from 1914 is for the Broadway Bar as found in the Cameron Herald. This was just four years later and 6 years before National Prohibition was imposed. Nationwide prohibition did not begin in the United States until 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect.

In advance of America’s National Prohibition, the Texas state legislature (then in the “forefront” of the temperance movement) granted communities and/or countries the “local option” that allowed them to elect to “go dry” thus banning the manufacture, transportation, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in various defined territories within Texas. Notice the fine print on this advertisement that says, “No orders solicited from prohibition territory.”

National Prohibition was repealed in 1933, with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment. However, this action by the federal government just handed the question of prohibition back to the states to decide. In Texas, the decision went back to the “local option” that allows prohibition to persists in some form or another around the state today.

Many people from other states often ask me “If Texas is such a good wine producing state, why is it so far behind other major wine producing states in America?” The longstanding run of prohibition in Texas (much longer than in most other states and still today in affect in some jurisdictions in Texas) is one of several things that delayed the development of wineries in Texas.

In 2001, a Texas state constitutional amendment gave Texas wineries the unique ability to make and sell wine anywhere (in wet, dry or damp areas in the state) as long as they maintain the use of 75% Texas grapes. This was a watershed moment for local wine in Texas and since then is when the number of Texas wineries started a rapid increase all around the state of Texas.

 Posted by at 2:47 pm
Apr 092014

Sedàra Silicia DOC Rosso by Donnafugata

Join the Whole Foods Market Twitter Tasting: Spring is the Time for Italian Food & Wine

There is no better time than Spring to treat your taste buds to a trip across Italy. The air is clear and fresh, and the heat and humidity of summer have not yet arrived, what better time to cook. So, stop at Whole Foods Market, and pick your wine and food selections during their Wines from Italy spring feature. Then, get in the kitchen, pop a cork, pour a glass, and light up the burners.

In fact, why not join other Italian vino-enthusiasts (21 and older) for a Twitter tasting live tomorrow (April 10th 7-8 pm CT) at Whole Foods Market Stores (consult your local store for participation). Or, even better, while your sipping and cooking, join the action through the “Twitterverse” with others by following the hashtag #WFMwine. You can do this live and/or add you comments through TweetChat by logging in with your Twitter name then adding #WFMwine in the space indicated for the hastag to follow (click here). You can also post comments about your experiences by joining the Facebook group “Anything But Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot” (click here), an international group of wine lovers dedicated to seeking out any wines but the usual suspects.

HRB Twitter Italian Wines

Italian wines are some of the most food friendly wines available. Native Italian grapes are not your standard set of Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (although you can find them in Italy, too). They come by names of the grapes such as Pinot Grigio and Prosecco. However, they sometimes are labeled under their places of origin like Sangiovese from the Chianti region or Nero d’Alova from Sicily.

Why are Italian wines so food friendly? Well, they come with a natural acidity and are usually made in a medium bodied style with lighter use of oak that matches well with food, particularly if it is grilled or accompanied with a hearty tomato, cream or butter sauce.

My two selections from the Whole Foods Market Italian wine selections for Spring were one white wine and one red wine from their Spring Italian wine selections.


Principessa de Gavia DOC

For starters, I opened a bottle of Banfi Principessa de Gavia DOC (Dallas Wine Competition 2014 Silver medal winner)  100% Cortese, a white Italian wine grape variety predominantly grown in the southeastern regions of the Italian Piedmont. The wine was rich in tropical aromas balanced with tart apple and citrus followed with a tangy yet substantial feel on the palate. This combination of tasting elements yields a wine with extremely broad wine pairing capabilities. It is light enough to handle delicate fish dishes and yet strong enough to handle more substantive and flavorful dishes, especially with sharp tomato sauces and cheeses. My food pairing was with a mixed plate with hard sheep milk cheese with rice crackers, grilled chicken in tomato sauce and fig-Gorgonzola cheese.

My second pairing was with the Sedàra Silicia DOC Rosso by Donnafugata (pictured at top), a wine with an effortless tannic structure, dominant red fruit in the aroma and on the palate with underlaid hints of baking spices and mineral character. It is a blend of mostly Nero d’Avola, supported with Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and small amounts of other grapes. My food pairing with this wine was a simple plate of brown rice pasta with a sauce of tomato paste, olive oil and garlic, served with steamed asparagus with tarragon butter sauce. The versatility of this red wine goes with its ability not to fight with the asparagus, known to create “palate wars” with strongly tannic red wines. The clean bright red fruit in the Sedàra ameliorated and tamed the asparagus bringing the two disparate components of the dish together into harmony.

Lettie Teague, wine writer for the Wall Street Journal, credits the food pairing ability of Italian wines to a few important factors (click here for more details):

  • Italians, in their culture, naturally associate wine and food together (this is a good example of the pairing concept – wines and foods that grow together, go together).
  • Natural high acidity of Italian wines: Acidity lends a wine liveliness to the meal by keeping your palate fresh and ready for the next bite.
  • Commonly Italian winemakers are unlikely to use a lot of new oak (there are some exceptions), but as a rule, wines with lighter oaking allow the fresh fruity characteristics in the wine meld with the flavors from the food.

– — – — –

VT Note: Enjoy this Whole Foods Market Twitter Tasting and their Italian wines. But, also remember that wine from Italian grape varieties are appearing in wines from Texas wineries from grapes grown in Texas vineyards. They are a good match for our hot and sunny clime. Check out the soon to be released 4.0 Cellars Nero d’Avola 2012 Comanche County, Texas, at their tasting room near Fredericksburg, Texas (click here). See below:


 Posted by at 1:08 pm
Apr 062014


Rios de Chile: Carmenère, the Grape Lost, Found and Doing Very Well in Chile

Carmenère, a member of the Bordeaux family of red grapes,gets its name from the French word “carmin” referring either to the red highlights in the wine or the crimson color of its post-harvest foliage. Carmenère was originally found in Bordeaux vineyards prior to the Phylloxera infestation of the 1800s. However, it was not part of the vineyard mix in the Medoc when these vineyards were replanted post-Phylloxera. This situation was likely because of the difficulty Carmenère has in ripening in the cool, wet Medoc weather. At one point, Carmenère was thought to be the lost grape variety of Bordeaux.

However, Carmenère came to Chile over 150 years ago as vine stock that sent from Bordeaux. At some point, it was misidentified and thought to be Merlot. It was not until the 1990s and the advent of DNA testing that these grapes in Chile were positively identified as Carmenère.

Carmenère is now far from extinct, and doing very well in Chile. In recent years, it has become the most widely recognized wine grape variety and now hallmark grape from Chile. It has been found, identified and is doing very well there.

Notes from a recent tasting of two Carmenère wines (one Carmenère and the other Reserva Carmenère) from Rios de Chile winemaker Alfonso Duarte are presented below:

2011 Rios de Chile Carmenère (D.O. Central Valley) —  This Carmenère has a red purple color with intense, raw young black fruit on the nose with green herbal notes following. Medium extraction and skin tannin bring with them the essence of crushed blackberry that governs this wine on the palate balanced with crisp (not overripe) acidity. These qualities bring value to this very affordable wine (<$10) for those that enjoy fresh, fruit-dominated red wines.

2009 Rios de Chile Reserva Carmenère (D.O. Cachapoal Valley) — This Reserva Carmenère shows a red-black color. Intense black fruit (blackberry and plum) merge enjoyably on the nose and palate with the addition of vanilla, mushroom, tannin and a hint of cinnamon spice on the finish obtained from limited duration oak aging adds complexity over its non-Reserva sibling wine. There is only a slight price escalation to this Reserva (about $14) but the gain is in its density and intricacy of aromas and palate characteristics.

Following the tasting, these two Carmenère wines were paired with Chicken Florentine Albondigas (meat balls) served with Japanese “sticky” rice and braised kale in tomato broth with matchstick carrots and shitake mushrooms.

A range of varietal Chilean wines are available under the Rios de Chile label from the Pacific Wine Group. Samples were provided for this tasting.

– — – — –

Samples Policy: VintageTexas accepts wine samples for review with the understanding there are no preconditions about what is written. Wineries, distributors or importers that want to send samples should email me for information.

 Posted by at 6:44 pm
Mar 262014


Texas & Beyond: Texas Wines Are Having a Break-Out Year recently tabulated the Texas wine winners from the recently held Texsom – Dallas Morning News International Wine Competition in held in Dallas in January (click here). There were eleven Texas appellation gold medal wines and NOT ONE was made from grapes whose lineage came from Bordeaux or Burgundy. This is a huge statement for two important aspects of wines, wineries and vineyards in Texas. Grapes with Mediterranean heritage are making the best wines in the state. It also shows you can’t count our hybrids either, like Blanc Du Bois and Norton.

It’s only taken thirty years or so for the Texas wine industry to break their infatuation and misguided dependence on what is known far and wide as “The California Set” (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). These grape varieties are great, I love them, and in some years, they can produce some wonderful wines in Texas. But, they are not what Texas can base a sustainable wine industry. The Texsom Dallas Morning News results are the cap on a stellar year for Texas wines, a year where Texas (the 5th largest wine producing state) has proven to the world, it knows how to make world-class wines and do it in a different manner than states 1st through 4th (California, Washington, New York and Oregon). It’s time to embrace your inner Mediterranean. We need more grapes planted precisely from the grapes that produced the winners in this competition: Tannat, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Viognier, Roussanne, Pinot Grigio, Blanc Du Bois and perhaps even Norton (or possible Lenoir).


Wine from Houston Rodeo Texas Wine Seminar

You may also recall, my blog from November 25th that analyzed the early results from the 2014 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition: Interesting Insights into Texas Wine from 2014 Houston Rodeo Gold (click here). It said something significant has happened on the subject of Texas wineries and vineyards. What was that, you say? Well, Texas wineries have finally shed most of their inferiority complex about not being in Napa, Bordeaux or Burgundy. Texas wines are increasingly becoming wines of the warm and sunny Mediterranean region albeit they are still 10+ hours apart by a speeding jet.  The recent Rodeo gold medal results confirm that Texas’s wines with Mediterranean lineage (such as Tempranillo, Mourvedre, Viognier, Muscat, Roussanne and Sangiovese and blends of these grapes, too) are gaining both national and international accolades. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 4:10 pm
Mar 232014


Exciting Times in Chile: Redefining Their Terroir & Wines

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

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


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

 Posted by at 9:41 pm
Mar 222014

Texas Fine Wine (Photo credit Austin Chronicle)

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

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

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

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


Fredrik Osterberg (Pedernales Cellars) at 2013 Texsom

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

 Posted by at 1:34 pm
Mar 072014

WST Promotes Texas Wine through Scholarship

The Wine Society of Texas Announces Scholarship Grant Program

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about the scholarship program or the WST please visit our website at

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

 Posted by at 9:48 am
Feb 082014

1st Round TDA GoTexan Wine Rule Comment Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The results indicate:

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

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

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

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

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

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

– — – — –

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

– — – — –

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

Dear TDA GoTexan Program:

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

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

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

Dr. Russell D. Kane



 Posted by at 2:52 pm
Feb 032014

Mustang Grapes – Photo Credit:

Vintage Texas: Texas is really a wine country! 1868

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

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

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

From: Galveston Daily News, October 25, 1868

 Posted by at 10:11 pm
Feb 022014

Bob Cottle. Owner Winemaker at Pleasant Hill Winery

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

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

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

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

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

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

RSVP to Philip Shackleford at or 979.865.2072


Blanc Du Bois Harvest



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 Posted by at 8:57 pm