Sep 302015


Tomorrow’s the Night in Houston: The Periwinkle Foundation Hosts Houston’s Premier Sommelier Competition and Wine Tasting

Iron Sommelier Presented by AutoSol® 

(Photos presented are from 2014 Iron Sommelier event)

WHAT: Houston’s finest sommeliers will be put to the test for the title of Iron Sommelier in the city’s premier wine competition and fundraiser benefiting The Periwinkle Foundation. Chairmen Sean Beck and John Clutterbuck invite guests to an evening showcasing the expertise of 14 sommeliers while guests mingle and taste hand-selected wines that showcase a theme selected by the sommelier. Each competitor will be rated on wine choice, presentation, creativity and knowledge of their wine selections.


DETAILS: On hand will be Jane-Paige B. D’Huyvetter – B&B Butchers & Restaurant; Rob Brandani – Brandani’s Restaurant & Wine Bar; Lindsay Thomas – Camerata at Paulie’s; Freddy Opperman – Carrabba’s Kirby; Nathan Smith – Dolce Vita; Sam Governale – Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar; Evan Turner – Helen Greek Food and Wine; Brittany Brown – The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa; Taylor Mundy – Hunky Dory & Bernadine’s (Treadsack Restaurant Group); Samantha Porter – Oporto Fooding House, Oporto Wine Cafe, and Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen; James Watkins – Pappas Bros. Steakhouse; Whitney Seng – River Oaks Country Club; Angie Chang – Sonoma Wine Bar & Restaurant; and Adele Corrigan – 13 Celsius Wine Bar


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

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

WHEN: Iron Sommelier 2015 Presented by AutoSol® – October 1, 2015 at 6 p.m.

TICKETS: $150 ($175 day of event) for individual tickets  Check for availability or confirm at:


 Posted by at 10:38 am
Jun 302015

Messina Hof Sneak Peek – Awards, Events & Wines

Sneak Peek of Messina Hof Winery 2015 at Vic & Anthony’s

Paul Mitchell Bonarrigo, the seventh generation winemaker in the Bonarrigo family, addressed the assemblage at Vic & Anthony’s Steak House in Houston to taste and savor the wines from Messina Hof Winery and Resort. With Paul Mitchell were his family: father and mother, Paul and Merrill, who started their family winery in Bryan, TX, in the 1970s, and his wife Karen.

During a break in the tasting, Paul Mitchell highlighted a few of Messina Hof’s long list of accomplishments, including:

  • Most awarded winery in Texas with over 200 competition medals in just the past three years and over 150 gold medal wining wines.
  • From 1983 to 2015, the annual case production of Messina Hof Winery increased from 550 to over 70,000 cases.
  • Being the fourth modern era winery established in Texas, Messina Hof now has three locations including the Messina Hof Winery and Resort (Bryan), Messina Hof Hill Country (Fredericksburg) and Messina Hof Grapevine.

Selection of Messina Hof Award Winning Wines

He said, “During the last few years, there has been a lot of investments in Texas vineyards that have accumulated more than 2000 new acres of vines. Many growers on the high plains are converting from cotton to grapes. I want to specifically acknowledge Bill and Gail Day (Houston area residents) who planted their Buena Suerte Vineyards near Lubbock. Their vineyard has provided the Viognier, Tempranillo and Sangiovese that are in the wines you enjoying tonight.” Continue reading »

 Posted by at 2:24 pm
Apr 142015


Texans Sure Do Like Their Bubbles: Domaine Carneros Provides

When Domaine Carneros winemaker Eileen Crane and I met for lunch last week for lunch at Houston’s RDG Bar Annie, nearly the first thing that came up in conversation was the fact that the second largest Domaine Carneros wine club was the one right here in Texas. The largest of their wine clubs was the one back on its home California turf: the winery’s 138-acre estate parcel in the heart of the cool Carneros region of Napa Valley, California.

The Taittinger family behind the world-famous Taittinger Champagne founded Domaine Carneros in California after a search for a worthy U.S. counterpart in the 1970-80s. In 1987, the location of the estate was selected followed in short order by the appointment of Eileen Crane to oversee the development of the winery and vineyards. She has garnered accolades for her winemaking skills. She is still today, the estate’s only winemaker from the inception of its operations.


Domaine Carneros Winemaker Eileen Crane

International wine reviewer, investment advisor and highly credited Houston oenophile Denman Moody also attended our Bar Annie lunch. As we tasted through three of Eileen’s sparkling wines (Brut, non-vintage Rose’, and Le Rêve) Denman pounded question after question about dosage, release date, alcohol content and price point. I took a more laid back approach trying to better absorb why a lady of Eileen’s winemaking stature was doing a tour through Texas, albeit well-timed to get an advance on our soon to be hot season.

The Domaine Carneros sparkling wines were stellar:

2010 Domaine Carneros Estate Brut – Rich, substantial mouth feel, essence of roasted almonds and hazelnuts melded with lemon citrus and brioche. A value priced sparkling wine at about $30. This one get’s my acknowledgement of “Best Buy” in the sparkling wine category.

Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé NV – A Lively combo of raspberry, ripe stone fruit and citrus with underlying mineral notes. A worthy drink with a wondrous color and sparkle at $38.

Domaine Carneros Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs – A traditional tête de cuvee made from the chateau’s estate Chardonnay playing with yellow delicious apples, young ground ginger, brioche and pleasingly tart lemon citrus. A worthy and classic sparkling cuvée for enjoyment at the moment of a special encounter at $108.

I have to admit that I initially missed Eileen’s point about her Texas customers until later in our conversation when she reiterated the significance of the ardent following Domaine Carneros has in Texas. But, it hit home to me when she said, “Texans sure do like their bubbles”. You know something? It was over a decade ago, long before I met Eileen, when I realized precisely the same thing.

While doing research on wine drinking in Texas, I came across one very old receipt for a purchase of French Champagne by early Texas impresario, statesman and revolutionary Lorenzo de Zavala from May 18, 1831 (France – Île-de-France – Paris). Those were the days on the Texas frontier when you really had to plan ahead for a good bottle of bubbly (and hope for the best). Later, I found further evidence for the Texas love of bubbles in numerous accounts of Texans’ Champagne toasts on occasions of New Years, baby births and corporate promotions; also to mention launching of ships and celebrations of our Texas wildcatting successes, too. In their day, Texans of high society have reportedly been seen in some of the finest restaurants in the State drinking Champagne (with a certain Texas flourish, no doubt)  from their lady fairs’ high-heeled slippers.

It is obvious that Eileen and her colleagues at Domaine Carneros know what Texan’s like and that Texans know their favored brands. She said, “They like brands like our that always denote quality, value and that have been consistently in the Texas marketplace for many years.”

As we received our lunch offerings, Eileen, Denman and I moved forward with a tasting to two of Eileen’s Domaine Carneros Pinot Noirs:

2012 Domaine Carneros Estate Pinot Noir – A blend of eleven unique clones of Pinot Noir, all from the Chateau’s estate vineyard. Near the cool north end of San Francisco Bay with ethereal smoky notes overlaid onto nuances of black raspberry and mineral rich soil. Plays quite well at this value price of around $36 (Just try to beat this for price and quality points).

2012 Domaine Carneros The Famous Gate – A blend of four select, estate-grown Pinot Noir clones; an artisanally-made wine with wonderful color and aromatic extraction. A sophisticated mélange of ripe red and black fruit, minerals with a soft and silky finish.


Chateau at Domaine Carneros

As we sipped, Eileen related a story highlighting Domains Carneros’s special relationship with Texans. She said, “Many years ago, one of our good sparkling wine customers in Texas, a guy named Bill in Dallas I as I recall. He called the chateau and asked why we didn’t make a sparkling Rosé. Well, I decided to take Bill’s lead and made a limited release; 100 cases or so. We ended up with our telemarketers getting an instant demand for the product in Texas even before we could ship this new wine into Texas. Shortly thereafter, we started to see Texans showing up at the chateau in California in their SUVs. They were coming to pick up our Brut Rosé and drive it back to enjoy in Texas.”

Eileen Crane thank you for your time for conversation and the opportunity to enjoy your wines over a very interesting and enjoyable lunch. Also, thanks for your chateau’s commitment to Texas wine consumers and for including Houston in your travel plans.

 Posted by at 10:32 am
Jan 222015

Crisped Kitchen Pride Portabella Mushroom

Sneak Peeks: “Texas By The Book” Dinner Offerings from Chef Ross Burtwell

Last week I posted an announcement for the upcoming Friday February 27th Six-Course Texas Wine Dinner and book signing event with Chef Ross Burtwell, Chef Terry Thompson Anderson and me. Click here for details. Come to this event and start your Texas Hill Country weekend off right!

Well, Chef Burtwell has been in his Cabernet Grill kitchen in Fredericksburg “fine-tuning” the recipes for the event. Shown above is the Crisped Kitchen Pride Portabella Mushroom with Red Pepper Aioli and Pico de Gallo. This preparation has it all: savory, crunchy and spicy. I have paired this dish with Texas Hills Vineyard Sangiovese that will be presented by winery owner and winemaker Gary Gilstrap.

Shown below is Chef Ross’s rendition of Oyster Shrimphooley “Road House Style”…Fresh pecan-smoked Gulf oysters on the half shell topped with a mélange of Shrimp, garlic, butter and Parmesan. I can just about smell the briny, cheesy aromas from here. This dish is in the lead off position for our dinner event.  I have paired it will Duchman Family Winery Vermentino. It will be presented by winemaker Dave Reilly.


Oyster Shrimphooley

Included in the event price, attendees receive a set of three author-autographed books:

Tickets and further information are available from Cabernet Grill. Click here for more details.

 Posted by at 9:51 am
Jun 042014

David Cole – WST, Julie Kuhlken – Pedernales Cellars, Jennifer Beckman – Bending Branch Winery, Ed Dent – WST

WST Greater Houston Chapter Presents Some Mighty Fine, ‘Texas Fine Wine” at Reef

Guest Blog by Ed Dent, The Wine Society of Texas Greater Houston Chapter

The May 31st Greater Houston Chapter of The Wine Society of Texas food and wine event at REEF Restaurant featuring Texas Fine Wines in Houston for the first time was a huge success. The event was sold out by Thursday, with a waiting list. The wines served were Duchman Winery Vermentino, Brennan Vineyards Viognier, Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo and Bending Branch Winery Tannat. Some attendees were treated to Bending Branch’s new Tannat Port. Representing the wineries at this event were Duchman Winery owner Stan Duchman, Julie Kuhlken co-owner of Pedernales Cellars, and Jennifer Beckman,  Sommelier and Director of Marketing at Bending Branch Winery.


Herbert Mitchell, John Adams and Helena Cheng (WST), Dr. Stan Duchman – Duchman Winery

Each winery representative spoke about their wines and winery. There was a question and answer period which included such questions as the future of the Texas wine industry and why was there not enough storage capacity so more wine can be made in the good years and held for the leaner years. Stan Duchman expressed the importance of asking for Texas Wines at your favorite restaurants. Jennifer Beckman indicated that Texas wineries were doing some great things and were winning awards both nationally and internationally. Julie commented how wonderful it was to see how engaged the members of the Texas Wine Society were with Texas wine.

At the end of the evening, a raffle was held for the Wine Society of Texas’s scholarship fund. The wines which were raffled was 2012 GSM from Pedernales Cellars, 2012 Tempranillo from Brennan, 2011 Vermintino from Duchman, and Bending Branch’s 2011 Tannat as well as their sold out Tannat Port.


Greg Frisby, JoAnn Miller, Karie Gulley, Norine Stein and Jan Frisby – WST members

As an added bonus Dr. Duchman donated two tours and tastings for 10 people. In keeping with the spirit of the evening, Jennifer donated a tour and tasting for 10, too. To say the least, the raffle was also successful.

The members of the Greater Houston Chapter of the Wine Society of Texas thank each of the wineries, Bill Floyd, co-owner of REEF, and his staff, as well as all the attendees for such an enjoyable and successful evening.


VintageTexas – Unfortunately, I was out of town the weekend of the WST Texas Fine Wine dinner event and was unable to attend. But, I did manage to get back in time for a Texas Fine Wine trade tasting that was also held at REEF the following Monday afternoon. Under the watchful eye and guitar of Willie Nelson (see below), and appetizers provided by Chef Brian Caswell, I had a chance to taste wines from all four wineries (Duchman, Bending Branch, Brennan and Pedernales Cellars). The tasting was commendable both for its quality and breadth of grape varieties and styles. Keep in mind, Texas is just about the same size as France and France offers quite a wide range of wines and styles, too. Texas Fine Wine is truly a diverse group, too. Remember, what brings them together is the desire to promote Texas wines from the standpoint of their quality, which I am glad to say is very competitive to well-accepted brands in the marketplace.


 Posted by at 2:08 pm
Sep 222013

Come on Down for the Edible Escape in Marble Falls, Texas

Come on Down for the Edible Escape in Marble Falls on September 29th!

Edible Austin and Marble Falls Chamber of Commerce/CVB Present Edible Escape…”A Texas-style Artisanal Picnic”

On Sunday, September 29, Edible Austin and the Marble Falls Chamber of Commerce/CVB invite Central Texans to enjoy an escape from the city to discover all that Austin’s north and northwest neighbors have to offer. Edible Escape will be hosted at the beautiful Lakeside Pavilion (307 Buena Vista, Marble Falls, TX 78654) overlooking scenic Lake Marble Falls—bringing Edible Austin’s Travel Issue to life and benefiting the Helping Center of Marble Falls.

From 4 – 8 pm, this Texas-style artisanal picnic will allow guests to taste samples from regional chefs and food artisans, enjoy wine from eight featured local wineries and sip specialty cocktails mixed at the Tipsy Texan Cocktail Bar. The event will also feature a chef demonstration by Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen’s Kitchen, an artisan demonstration by Sebastien Caillabet of Celtic Seafare and a wine makers panel moderated by Dr. Russell Kane, author of The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine. During the event you can purchase copies of The Wineslinger Chronicles and Russ will available to personalize and autograph his book.

Marshall Ford Swing Band will set the mood with Texan swing-style tunes along with Go Dance offering professional dance lessons to get the crowd moving. Other activities will include a good old-fashioned cowboy boot contest sponsored by Harry’s and some creative painting fun provided by Pinot’s Palatte.

Tickets are on sale at A limited number of Early Bird tickets are $35. Prices will go up to $45 when the Early Bird tickets are all sold out.  Guests must be 21 to attend.

For guests planning to make a weekend out of it, Edible Austin has created a Guide to Marble Falls to help plan a weekend adventure. Guests may also call for room rates available at the LaQuinta Inn & Suites in Marble Falls (830-798-2020).

Chef and Artisan Tastings By: 87BakeShop, Alamo Pecan and Coffee Company, Aquasana, Celtic Seafare, Jack Allen’s Kitchen, Noon Spoon Café, Otto’s German Bistro, Saucy’s Restaurant and Catering, Spiral Horn Apiary, Turtle Restaurant and Veldhuizen Cheese

Wine Tastings By: Brennan Vineyards, Hilmy Cellars, Messina Hof Winery, Pedernales Cellars, Perissos Vineyards, Pontotoc Vineyard, Texas Hills Vineyard and Wedding Oak Winery.

Presenting Sponsor: Marble Falls Chamber of Commerce & CVB

Community Sponsor: Marble Falls Economic Development Council

Click here for more information on this event and for online ticket sales for The Edible Escape.

— — — — —

 Helping Center of Marble Falls Area, Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, providing services specifically focused on food, financial support towards utility bills, antibiotics and short-term prescriptions to permanent residents of the southern Burnet County area. Non-residents, homeless and short-term residents can also qualify to receive food, assistance with lodging or other emergency financial support. The Helping Center is not funded through any form of government assistance or grants. Assistance is made possible solely by it’s volunteers and charitable donations from individuals and community organizations.

Edible Austin is a bi-monthly publication celebrating local food and food culture in Central Texas, season by season. Edible Austin is a member of Edible Communities, winner of the James Beard Foundation 2011 Publication of the Year Award and won the 2012 Austin Chronicle’s Readers Poll award for “Best Non-Chronicle Publication.”

 Posted by at 3:47 pm
Mar 292013

Chef Olivier Ciesielski (photo via L’Olivier Restaurant)

Duchman Winery Dinner at Houston’s L’Olivier Restaurant: High Time for Texas Wines on the Gourmet Scene

A splash of Vermentino on a knee and hearty conversation around well-matched gourmet food and excellent wines made for a lovely evening this week at Houston’s French-inspired, Montrose-area L’Olivier Restaurant. But what if I told you this wasn’t a French wine affair, but rather a Texas wine dinner would you think any different of it?

Well, the consensus if those in attendance was you shouldn’t.  It was a delight. Famed Chef Olivier Ciesielski did his usual best; taking the finest of European cuisine and pairing it with the wine flair from a quite different part of the universe – the world of Texas wines.


More specifically, the wines were provided by Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood, Texas. Winery owners and fellow Houstonians Stan and Lisa Duchman attended and dined and conversed with friends, associates and the restaurant’s faithful patrons, some of which kept asking if their first wine was a Chardonnay.

OK, after hearing this, I had to take the bait and resurrected the comments I made previously in another winery’s tasting room who was pouring their Texas Viognier to another California Chardonnay drinker.

While on the restaurant’s patio during the reception, I said, “Try it, you’ll like it. It IS Texas Chardonnay! It just happens to be made from Viognier, a grape that does as well here in Texas as Chardonnay does in California.” With that, I saw a cringe from Duchman winemaker Dave Reilly. However, in a flash and with a shared wink, we both smiled knowing that this is how Texas wines will gain new followers…one California Chardonnay drinker at a time.


Winemaker, Dave Reilly  (photo via Duchman Family Winery)

During the evening, the Duchmans and Reilly provided point-by-point commentary on their wines along side Chef Olivier’s impeccable gourmet cuisine. On the patio,tThe hand-passed Hors D’Oeuvres accompanied the 2011 Duchman Viognier that showed a lighter, less aggressive style than found in many other Viogniers. Dave used one simple word to describe what he was after in this wine: “finesse”. Implicit in this statement is his working with properly harvested fruit (not over-ripe) and his personal style of providing a light hand in the winery, just as his mentor Mark Penna taught.


We settled into our seats in the dim light of the restaurant. The serious food and wine pairing began with the Chef’s English Pea Ravioli teamed with the Duchman 2011 Vermentino, pairing herbal characteristics of both while also playing on the counterpoint of fatty pancetta and the white wine’s crisp acidity. Vermentino is a grape widely planted in Sardinia and in the Liguria region of Italy, but this slow ripening white grape has found a new home in Texas. This has mainly come through the initial efforts from Duchman Winery and Texas high plains winegrowers whose efforts have gained critical acclaim at international wine competitions and even from Oz Clarke during his wine sipping trip to Texas.

Next came a new Duchman release: the 2011 Tempranillo accompanied with a sliced veal chop, potato cake and morel sauce. Each was absurdly good separately and also incredibly fine together. Borrowing from Dave’s initial one word statement, this pairing could be characterized simply by the description: finesse on the plate, in the glass and in the mouth.


I motioned to Dave to come over and have a seat beside me while I was concentrating on his Tempranillo (this being my first taste of this wine).

I said, “Dave, you know…I find that the people that pointlessly bad-mouth Texas wines the worst are Pinot Noir drinkers. They typically can’t find any Texas wines that satisfy their need for a light/medium bodied, red-fruit dominant wine with crisp acidity escorted with hints of smoke and earthy characteristics.”

I followed this with, “Dave, this Tempranillo’s got it all: red fruit, medium body, crisp acidity, and a light earthy smokiness on the finish. It could score big with that group of yet unsatisfied and potential Texas wine drinkers.”

Over hearing this, Stan Duchman said, “We had our Dolcetto (another well-awarded Duchman red wine) in a blind tasting with one of our tasting groups that was pouring high end Pinots one night. Our wine showed amazingly well, something that later surprised everybody at the tasting when the wines were revealed. Interestingly, the only person that correctly identified our wine out of the cast of high end wines featured that night was my wife Lisa.”

Finishing off the evening of fine dining were a Roquefort terrine and berry compote paired with the Duchman Canto Felice, a mildly sweet red wine. Who said, sweet red wines, can’t be serious? Nobody here. The pairing teamed up sweet red fruit characteristics on the plate and in the glass. The fifth and final course was the Chef’s strawberry soup with a personal favorite, Duchman 2009 Muscat, both of which were bright, lively, tart yet sweet.

— — — — —


Stan and Lisa Duchman (photo via Duchman Family Winery)

For more information on tours, tastings and events at the Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood TX, click here.

For menu and reservations for Chef Olivier Ciesielski’s L’Olivier Restaurant in the Montrose-area near city center Houston, click here.


 Posted by at 1:07 pm
Feb 192013


Houston Uncorking Some Good Rodeo Wines with a Few Best Bites, Too

For the past several years now, come mid-February, the best ticket in H-town has proven to be the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s, Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup and Best Bites Competition. This year’s event was equal to that billing. It was held this past Sunday evening and included thousands of wine and foodie revelers at Reliant Center assembled to sample the top wines from the 2013 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition and to taste and vote on food from some of the area’s best restaurants and caterers.

When my wife and I walked into the hall, the spread was breathtaking in its expanse. I think that I even said….”Wow!” Many of this year’s over two thousand medal-winning wines were present for sampling having been submitted for judging by 943 wineries in Texas, across the United States and around the world. If that wasn’t enough, attendees went from table-to-table tasting and voting on their favorite eats for the Best Bites Competition.

The grand magnitude of this event made it necessary for me to focus. I reviewed the program, circled my intended stops. My attention was primarily on the award-winning Texas wines from the competition. As I have already written (click here), the Texas winners included 246 medals, 178 of which were made with Texas grapes with eight double gold medals and 32 gold medals for Texas wineries. Even focusing on just the medal-winning Texas wines at Sunday’s Best Bites event, it was impossible to sample all of them while trying to make a reasonable attempt to taste a hefty sampling of the bites.


Texas stars of the evening were The Bonarrigo family (Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo and son Paul Mitchell and his wife Karen) whose Messina Hof Winery (in Bryan, TX, and an outpost tasting room and B&B in the hill country) took the 2013 Best Winery Award in the Rodeo’s international wine competition. This gave Messina Hof a grand total of eight saddles garnered over about a decade of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s annual wine competitions. This is a remarkable record for a Texas winery playing on an international stage.


After grabbing a taste of the Messina Hof Paulo Cabernet Franc, we moseyed around a bit to sample more bites.  The range of offerings included ceviche, Cajun cuisine, prime rib, beef bourguignon, BBQ, short rib sliders, smoked meats and oysters, and not to forget many cookies and pies. Winners of the best bites competition were:

Popular Choice Award

First Place – Royer’s Round Top Café

Second Place – Jonathan’s The Rub

Two-Stepping Bread/Cheese/Dessert Award

First Place – Mango Caramel from Cacao & Cardamom Chocolates

Second Place – Bread Pudding from Joyce’s Seafood and Steaks

Trailblazing Appetizer/Entrée Award

First Place – Barbecue Short Ribs from Killen’s BBB

Second Place – Mini Pork Crispy Tacos from Molina’s Cantina

Third Place – Short Rib Sliders with Shaved Ham and Debris from Frank’s Americana Revival

Showmanship Award

Catering to Your Tastebuds

Rookie Award

Mango Caramel from Cacao & Cardamom Chocolates

Tasty Traditions Award

Bread Pudding from Joyce’s Seafood and Steaks

Another Texas star in the 2013 Rodeo wine competition was the hill country’s Pedernales Cellars for their 2012 Viognier (the Best Texas Wine judged in the Rodeo wine competition). Equally impressive was the double gold awarded to Range Rider (a multi-vintage blend of Tempranillo, Syrah and Cabernet from 2008 and 2009 harvests) made by Red Caboose Winery in Meridian, TX. Range Rider has been a favorite of mine since I stopped by there last summer.

These were two of my many stops. Even with that, I unfortunately missed an opportunity to taste wines from Perissos Vineyards near Burnet, TX, another of my favorites. I hear that they poured a great sampling of their Syrah, Petite, Viognier and Roussanne.

I also had a chance met up with Rick Nabor pouring his Flat Creek Estate Pinot Blanc with his typical flair.


The most interesting observation of the evening was comparing the wine offerings from Texas wineries with those of the large contingent of west coast American wineries (from California, Oregon and Washington) and those from international wineries. Most of the wines poured from California, Oregon and Washington were the standard set: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. As mentioned above, the Texas offerings were lacking in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These are cool weather grapes that are very hard to grow here. What I did find were varietal offerings of Viognier, Roussanne and Muscat for the whites and Tempranillo and a host of red blends leading the way for Texas. In this regard, the Texas wineries were more like Mediterranean wineries present in the event like those from Spain, Portugal, Italy and southern France.

 Posted by at 2:49 pm
Jan 022013


We Ate Our Black-eyed Peas (And Sampled Some Wine) At William Chris Vineyards

We drove into Fredericksburg on Monday afternoon knowing that cold weather was coming (with some much needed rain) and our car’s battery was weak. But, we made it and celebrated our New Year’s Eve in the comfy confines of our Texas hill country cottage provisioned with delights from Houston’s Central Market: three dozen oysters (to be freshly shucked), a healthy-sized slab sea bass and a bottle of McPherson Cellars (almost-Texas) Sparkling Wine. As you may know, it’s a cuvée made with Texas fruit, but the sparkle is added with a little California Charmant carbon dioxide. By 1 pm yesterday, we drive into Hye to celebrate New Year’s Day by judging a black-eyed pea cooking contest and sampling some wine at William Chris Vineyards.

It was a fun affair lead by winemeisters Chris Brundrett and Bill Blackmon, with live music and at least 7-8 contestants each with a different version of the venerable pea (or is it a bean) of good luck. My favorite was from Contestant #7: a chorizo-laced concoction of spicy black-eyed peas topped with homemade jelly. I dredged my chip into it and my topping of choice was a purple jelly made with Mourvèdre grape. This got all three of my votes.


We roamed with other judges, some from near our little hill country homestead. This was the first chance to taste several of the William Chris wines. For starters, both my wife and I had a white blend called Mary Ruth from the 2011 vintage, a blend of Orange Muscat, Chenin Blanc and Grenache Blanc. a
A great off-dry sipper to pair with spicy beans on a chilly January 1st afternoon. Chris pulled me aside and provided a tank sample of an upcoming white wine which was outstanding. I promise to blog more about this when it’s ready for release in about a month from now.


The reds were uniquely William Chris in style: not fruit monsters, but medium-bodied wines of finesse driven by terroir (the sense of place – Texas high plains and hill country where the grapes originate) and aromatics that most winemakers long for. All small batch, artistically-done wines. Favorites for the afternoon were:

  • Artist Blend 2010 – Predominantly Mourvedre and Tempranillo driven by red berries and hints of vanilla and spice (everything nice)
  • Emotion 2011 – Another red blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, Mouvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon showing lots of character and balanced structure from the Cabernet.

You might find them in a few select restaurants (like Mark’s American Cuisine in the Montrose-district in Houston), but they are not widely distributed. These wines highlight what I talk about in next week’s Texas Wineslinger column – the need to ride Texas wine trails to find the hidden gems. Make your resolution now!


More pictures and info on this event at:

 Posted by at 10:36 am
Dec 062012

TXwine Twitter Tuesday: Join Us Dec. 11th, Chat with Chef Josh Watkins on Texas Wine and Food Holiday Pairings

Happy Holidays everyone!  The holidays are always a fun, busy time of year – and shopping to find the right gift can sometimes be stressful. But there’s no reason to stress over picking out some great Texas wines to pair with holiday favorites! Austin’s Denise Clarke (@DeniseClarkeTX) with Jeff Cope (@txwineLover) and me (@VintageTexas) in Houston welcome you to participate in our December TXwine Twitter Tuesday taste and tweet event.

Chef Josh Watkins at The Carillon Restaurant

Join us for the December 11 at 7 pm Central for TXwine Twitter Tuesday chat when Austin native and Chef Josh Watkins will join us and share some of his favorite Texas wines to pair with a holiday menu.  Watkins (@chefjoshwatkins) is the executive chef at The Carillon Restaurant, a fine dining restaurant at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center.  His culinary education combined with his San Francisco and Dallas restaurant experience was a huge plus when he joined the culinary team at the historic Driskill Grill under the tutelage of nationally acclaimed chef David Bull. (Watkins and Bull even teamed up and appeared on Food Network’s Iron Chef America).  In 2007, he was named executive chef at the Driskill Grill, which earned a consecutive five-star rating.

Watkins’ passion for farm fresh, ingredient-driven food has earned him significant accolades at The Carillon, one of the highest-rated restaurants in Austin.  Watkins suggests these Texas wines to pair with some of his holiday favorites:

Duchman Family Winery Viognier

  • Celery root-apple soup
  • Spiced apples with brandy syrup

McPherson Cellars Sangiovese

  • Free-raised veal tenderloin with sweet potato hash, and mustard greens with bacon gastrique
  • Beef tenderloin with Brussels sprouts and potato puree
  • Braised beef short ribs with grilled romaine and pickled radish

Fall Creek Vineyards Muscat Canelli*

  • Buttermilk panna cotta
  • Manchester cheese
  • Almond cake

*Fall Creek Vineyards Muscat Canelli is available at The Carillon Restaurant, but is not available in stores. We suggest that you either stop by the restaurant or try Messina Hof Winery Muscat Canelli (Tribute to Innocence) which is available in stores around Texas.

Make sure to pick up these wines to ring in the holiday season and to chat with Josh about pairing wines with food! Look for these wines at Spec’s, Kroger, HEB, Central Market or Total Wine or the wineries. Try a recipe or two and some wine/food pairing. Get some advice from the chef.

Here’s how you participate:  If you don’t already have one, just sign up for a free Twitter account at Go to the Tweetchat room set up for #TXwine ( No registration is required; you can login using your Twitter account info. In the Tweetchat room, participants are invited to follow tweets, add comments or tasting notes and share thoughts as participants taste and discuss the wines. On TweetChat the hastag will be added automatically. If using TweetDeck or another Twitter application, you will need to add #TXwine in your Tweets.

This month we are also going to be posting to Facebook before, during and after the event.  Click here and login and follow, post and discuss on Facebook.

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