Dec 012010

Five Things I’ve Learned about Napa Valley Wines That Apply to Texas Wines

Several weeks ago I attended the Napa Valley traveling road show that came through Houston, Texas. It was sponsored by Napa Valley Vintners. It was a mix of trade and consumer wine tasting events and educational programs held at Minute Maid Park home of the Houston Astros.

Over 40,000 acres of vines are now planted in Napa Valley that includes about 700 growers. There are a total of about 450 wineries. The breakdown of the wineries is as follows: 95 percent are family owned, 70 percent are less than 10,000 cases and 60 percent at less than 5,000 cases.

Unfortunately, it took me longer than expected to find my notes and my thoughts to post in this VintageTexas blog. I finally figured that the best way to present what I learned was to summarized the top five things I learned through my tastings and discussions with the Napa Valley Vintners that participated in this event. See below:

1. The one thing that is perhaps preeminent in Napa Valley is constancy of climate

Napa Valley offers growing conditions that offer little vintage-to-vintage variation. Most of their rain occurs during the winter period with little of it actually coming during the growing season. Growing conditions are normally warm to hot and dry. Occasionally, late frost will occur as will late season periods of intense heat (>100 F).  When comparing this to the climate we have in Texas, Texas is affected by the tug of war between the continental and gulf weather. It’s no wonder that Texas growers and winemakers alike have to deal with the effects of weather variability. This results in varying harvest yields and parameters (Brix and pH) for the grapes. Therefore, the Texas winegrowing is more like that in Europe where vintage-to-vintage variation is greater than it is in Napa Valley. Continue reading »

Nov 292010

Texas Wine Cask - Linda Phelps

Write Off the Vine: Texas Wine News – November 29, 2010

Texas Wine: It’s Time to Wine & Swine!

by Jessica Dupuy (Eat My Words/Texas Monthly)

What comes to mind when you hear the words: Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival? If you said ‘food’ and ‘wine,’ you’re on the right track. (If you didn’t, you may want to work on your reading comprehension.)

And next weekend, the festival architects are throwing an early three-day tasting extravaganza marrying two of the world’s most fêted flavors: wine and pork.

More on Wine and Swine Culinary Weekend (Austin, TX – This weekend December 3-5, 2010) at:

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The Most-Talked-About Wine in Texas

The wine directors at the Four Seasons Hotels in Dallas and Austin (where it is poured by the glass), legendary Texas chef Stephan Pyles, the Dallas Morning News, Britain’s favorite wine writer Oz Clarke, and Texas’ favorite wine writer Wes Marshall all agree: Duchman Family Vermentino is just one of the wines that has made the Duchman Family Winery “one of the hottest wineries in Texas these days.”

Wes Marshall called the Duchman Family Vermentino “the best of the night” and a “real revelation” in a recent tasting of Texas wines he conducted with Oz Clarke.

More at:

Also see: Continue reading »

Nov 282010

PREDICTION: Tempranillo Will Factor Greatly into Texas’s Wine Future; New Texas TAPAS Chapter

“If I had to do it all over again, I’d plant 70 acres of Tempranillo and one acre of Cabernet Sauvignon. I’d include the one acre of Cabernet, just to remind me daily how hard it’s been to grow Cabernet in Texas for the past twenty years.”

This was nearly the first comment that I heard when I arrived early last week at The Vineyard at Florence (near Georgetown, Texas) for the welcoming reception at a Tempranillo Symposium organized by Roy Renfro and Bob White at Grayson County College.

Who made this quote? Well, it was none other than Neal Newsom, the person that the Texas wine industry recognizes as the premium winegrower in the state. He started over twenty years ago and his grapes are the centerpiece of many premium wine programs at wineries around the state.

Later in the symposium, Neal filled in the details in his presentation as to why he made his comment. He showed his experience growing Tempranillo and Cabernet and, in hard numbers, it revealed a stark comparison. The yields from his Tempranillo vines have been double what he’s been able to coax from the Cabernet growing in his same Texas high plains vineyards. As Texas is now entering a new epoch of winegrowing that is focusing on higher quality wines and economic sustainability for its winegrower, Tempranillo seems to fit the bill nicely. Continue reading »

Nov 252010

It’s Thanksgiving Day and No Wine. What Do I Do Now? Reach for Duchman

I’ll have to take the blame this year. I gave you my wines for Thanksgivings Day. They were released on Culinary Thymes along with my tasting notes and food pairings. These wines were:

Haak Vineyards Reserve Blanc du Bois 2009

Fall Creek Vineyards Meritus 2006

Becker Vineyards Clementine (Late Harvest Viogner) 2009

Only one problem, though….I forgot to go by the market and pick them up and now its Thanksgivings Day. What’s a body to do? Well, i’ll open the doors to my wine cooler and puruse the shelves, that’s what.

I’ll probably claim temporary insanity for the turkey day snafu; insanity induced by coming down to the final days before submitting my book manuscript. I’ve been reading, marking, re-reading, cutting, moving, pasting and re-reading from morning to night. By the time a realized that I didn’t actually go out to buy my times…it as too late.

Let’s go down the stairs to the office that I share with Paco, my Hans Macaw, and my wine cooler. Truth be told, I’ve also been ignoring my wine cooler this year, too. I’ve not been keeping up with stocking it with Texas wines like I normally do. In Texas, it’s important when you find something that you really like or find particularly interesting to pick up not one, but several bottles. In many cases, they are reserve wines or limited releases and these wines can sell out fast, usually before I can circle back around on the dusty Texas trail to buy more. Continue reading »

Nov 202010

Exciting Times at CapRock Winery: Glazer’s to Distribute; Will Use as Much Texas Grapes as Possible

Most of you remember the see-saw situation that occurred this past summer on the Texas High Plains with the on-again/off-again/on-again sale of CapRock Winery in Lubbock, Texas. It culminated with the “for real” sale of the winery to San Antonio entrepreneurs Jim & Cathy Bodenstedt. For the details, see:

Earlier today I was in communication with Phillip Anderson, CapRock’s GM, to follow up a rumor that that Glazers will distribute their wines on the condition that they make Cabernet, Chardonnay, and Merlot. I also wanted to clarify what was known about the speculation that their wines will likely be made with too much out of state fruit to be made Texas Appellation. Well, Phillip got back with me pronto with the straight story.

Anderson said, “We have signed up with Glazer’s [as our distributor].  It will probably take a little while to get everything going, but that’s the plan.  There weren’t any conditions like Cab, Chard, & Merlot, but we have always made Cab, Chard, & Merlot.  Our goal is to be all Texas fruit within 2 years (hopefully sooner) with the possible exception of a sweet red & sweet white & depending on availability, Chardonnay.” Continue reading »

Nov 162010

Whole Foods Market® unwraps its Top 10 Holiday Wines on Twitter: ‘Tis the Season to be Tweeting

Taste and tweet some holiday cheer during Whole Foods Market’s first-ever Twitter Tasting; This Wednesday, Nov. 17. Join in the Wine Tasting and Twitter Fun!

‘Tis the season to stock up on your favorite sparklers (and tweet about what you taste), winter whites and ripe reds to take the winter chill off without breaking the holiday budget. Whole Foods Market  has once again scoured the wine world to find some of the best wines for around $20 or less for its Top 10 Holiday Wines program.

What: Whole Foods Market invites shoppers and wine enthusiasts to taste and tweet some holiday cheer during its first-ever Twitter Tasting.

When: On Wednesday, November 17.  Starting at 7 p.m. EST.

Who: National wine buyers Doug Bell and Geof Ryan will taste six wines from the Top 10 Holiday Wine list, providing tasting notes and insights about the wineries and winemakers.  In addition, Whole Foods Market and are partnering to offer a contest to win a VIP trip to California wine country.

You can Participate: To join the Twitter Tasting, pick up one or more of the featured wines to open during the tasting. Sign up for a free Twitter account at Go to the TweetChat room set up for this event ( to tweet directly. Taste, tweet and follow along with the Whole Foods Market Wine Guys wine buyers @WFMWine. Tweet your comments and wine experiences with the WFMWine guys and other wine enthusiasts on Twitter. Remember to use the hashtag #WFMWine in your tweets so that we can find them and others can follow the complete discussion. VintageTexas will be tasting and tweeting. I hope to see your tweets and compare notes. Continue reading »

Nov 162010

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ Announces its 2011 International Wine Competition Champions

Becker Vineyards takes top Texas spot with their 2009 Viognier.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo officials announced today the champion wines from the 2011 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition.

The eighth annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition judging, held Nov. 13-14, 2010, at Reliant Center, boasted 1,789 wines from 591 wineries around the world. Sixteen countries participated in the competition and 1,147 medals were awarded by 15 panels of judges, consisting of local, national, and international wine experts.

2011 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition Champions:

Grand Champion Best of Show – Alexander Valley Vineyards Cyrus, Alexander Valley, 2006

Reserve Grand Champion Best of Show – Stanton Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, 2007

Top Texas Wine – Becker Vineyards, Viognier, Texas, 2009

Top Spanish Wine – Acústic Cellar Blanc, Monsant, 2009

Top All-Around Winery – d’Arenberg, Australia

Top Wine Company –E&J Gallo Winery

Top Sparkling Wine – Heidsick & Co. Monopole Blue Top Brut, Reims, NV

Top White Wine – Vasse Felix Chardonnay, Margaret River, 2008

Top Red Wine – Vision Cellars Pinot Noir, Gary’s Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, 2008

Top Sweet Wine – Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars Riesling, Bunch Select Late Harvest, Finger Lakes, 2008

Top Value Wine – Fat Monk Merlot, Central Coast, 2009

Buckles, chaps and saddles will be awarded to the champions at the Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup and Best Bites Competition Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011, at Reliant Center. In addition to the champion wines, guests will sample food from area restaurants and catering institutions, and vote on their favorites in the Best Bites Competition. The top three restaurants or catering institutions will be named that evening.

All champion wines will be auctioned at the Rodeo Uncorked! Champion Wine Auction and Dinner Saturday, March 5, 2011, 6 p.m., Reliant Center, 600 series meeting rooms.

For tickets to these Rodeo Uncorked! events, visit or call 832.667.1128.

A selection of winning wines will be available for tasting, or by the glass and bottle, throughout the run of the Show in the Champion Wine Garden, located in Carruth Plaza.

Nov 122010

On Culinary Thymes: Thanksgiving Day is a Time for Texas Wine

The Thanksgiving Day table is set with abundance: savory, tasty and sweet. This meal requires wines that offer flexibility gained from fresh ripe fruit, lean or little oak aging or perhaps a kiss of sweetness.

My Thanksgivings Day wine selections along with their descriptions and wine and food pairings have been posted on Culinary Thymes (click this link).  These Texas wines are up to the occasion:

Haak Vineyards Reserve Blanc du Bois 2009

Fall Creek Vineyards Meritus 2006

Becker Vineyards Clementine (Late Harvest Viogner) 2009

Why not buy some Texas wine?

Locally: Check out your local wine merchant. If no Texas wines are available, talk to them about carrying these and other fine wines now being produced in wineries all across Texas; all regions of Texas are now growing grapes and making wines.

Online: Alternatively, you can go to the winery websites (see above) and order the wines online for shipment to your home. Listings for Texas wineries are given at

Nov 102010

Texas Wineries Reaching Critical Mass in Fredericksburg with New 4.0 Cellars

I must have been brain dead yesterday, or just too absorbed in my book project to see the new and important development taking place in the Texas hill country. I saw the article in the online Fort Worth Star Telegram Indulge Food and Wine Section titled, “Meet the Fort Worth Doc Behind Brennan Vineyards”. I read most of it, but it was really a long article (too long for my web-based ADD’ed mind). I’ll admit that I didn’t go to the bottom of the page. I even posted a snippet from the article on my regular VintageTexas, Write Off the Vine: Texas Wine News segment yesterday  ( and went on with my business.

My only defense is that I’m only a little more than two weeks out from my editorial deadline for my book.

However, later in the day, I saw the following tweet that made be stand up and take notice (a value point for Twitter):

@texaswinetweets: A new winery in the Hill Country near Fredericksburg: 4.0 Cellars. Get the scoop here. #txwine”

I was glad to see that the #TXwine hashtag was used. I even retweeted it before I realized that it was referencing the same article that I “read” earlier in the morning. When I went down the the bottom of the article, I finally got the message:

“Next summer, Brennan Vineyards is poised to enter the state’s most hallowed wine region, the Hill Country, via a joint venture with McPherson Cellars and Lone Oak Winery in Burleson. The new destination winery, set to open in Fredericksburg, will be called 4.0 Cellars.”

So, I decided to get a little more detailed information and contacted Pat Brennan and Gene Estes from Lone Oak. Pat responded first with the following information:

“4.0 Cellars will be located across from Grape Creek on US 290, west of Grape Creek and the old Grape Creek Market. We have a 4.3 acre site that will feature a winery, courtyard, storage building, etc. It will be very cool! We plan to sell the three wineries’ (Brennan Vineyards, McPherson Cellars and Lone Oak Winery) wines plus a new 4.0 Cellars line that will be unique wines such as sparkling, Sherry, etc. The name came from three wineries coming together to form a fourth. We hope to start construction before the end of the year and be open by next summer.”

I thanked Pat for his usual quick response.

Gene added, “It’s funny, We spent months trying to come up with a name that was not already trademarked or that wouldn’t be a trademark target. 4.0 Cellars was what we finally came up with. I look forward to seeing you in Fredericksburg.”

This could be a real game changer. I feel like we are very near critical mass now where there might be an uncontrollable thermonuclear reaction; an explosion in the number of Texas wineries in the Fredericksburg area. We might even see other big names or many new players joining in on the Fredericksburg fun before it’s over. The more the merrier.

Then, I realized the really good news….4.0 Cellars will be only about 20 minutes from my Texas hill country hilltop doorstep in Alamo Springs Ranch.

I’ll be able to get my full supply of wines from three of my fave wineries’ wines, all close at hand. If this sounds too cool to be true, there’s something that’s gonna be  even “cooler” about it.

4.0 Cellars will be on the part of the Route 290 Wine Trail near Stonewall where I can already (ala Napa Valley) drive in and out of back-to-back-to-back wineries: Grape Creek, Torre di Pietra and Becker Vineyards. 4.0 Cellars will be the forth winery close by making them back-to-back-to-back-to-back wineries: A first for Texas (as far as I know).

Then, it’s only a short drive to other nearby wineries like Rancho Ponte, Perdenales Cellars, William Chris and Texas Hills Vineyard.

I know that I’m probably leaving out a few more that are nearby (please comment or email what they are).

Nov 092010

Write Off The Vine: Texas Wine News – November 9, 2010

Big Red Fundraiser at Charlie Palmer’s Benefits North Texas Food Bank

by Andrew Chalk (Sidedish)

Charlie Palmer’s at The Joule held a major wine and food fundraiser for the North Texas Food Bank to help correct that situation. The Big Red, was a two-night event.  Friday was the opening salvo, Taste of The Big Red, a walk around tasting of wines from 20 Texas wineries and food by an A-list of Dallas restaurants.


2009 Texas Hills Vineyard Toro de Texas, Tempranillo, Newsom Vineyard High Plains AVA . I have never had their wines before but this Tempranillo, made from grapes from the most famous vineyard in Texas, is a solid example. Color: Young wine purplish red. Nose: Characteristic Tempranillo red fruit (raspberry). Some oak in the nose. Soft tannins and forward fruit in the mouth.

2007 Kiepersol Estates, Barrel 33 Texas Wish. Texas. Estate Bottled. A Cabernet-Merlot blend. Dusty nose, Chewy tannins, fruit-oak-tannin mix gives it great character. Medium length finish. Bucking the trend towards forgettable Merlot (everywhere in the state) and Cabernet Sauvignon (everywhere in the state except West Texas) this Tyler-grown blend stands tall as a complex, exciting, New World wine.

More: Continue reading »

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