Jul 212012

Whitehall Lane Wine Dinner at Sullivan’s Steakhouse Houston: The Palate Dance

I will have to acknowledge that for Whitehall Lane Winery presented last Thursday evening, the Frog’s Leap wine dinner at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in May was a hard act to follow. For that event, everything seemed to hit on all cylinders: the wine, the food, the service, and the dark ambiance of Sullivan’s party room.

But, at this event, right out of the box the combined forces of Whitehall Lane Winery & Vineyards, the cuisine of Sullivan’s Chef Teli Trikilis and Sous Chef Horacio Degante, and the wine service lead by Sommelier, Kristie Farmer, hit it out of the park. Right now you’re probably saying, “With what? Was it a big, bold and brawny Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon? Was it a deep, dark and mellow Napa Merlot? Or possibly, a Carneros barrel fermented Chardonnay?” Wrong, wrong and wrong, again! Getting great palate-popping Cab, Merlot and Chard from Napa Valley has become no surprise, at least for me.

Whitehall Lane’s first wine at Sullivan’s called my attention back to what is now a reoccurring theme of northern California wine tastings that I have attended during the past year; not once, twice or three times. It’s been four times now that I’ve been surprisingly impressed with the sleeper wine of the region: Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. At this event, it was the Whitehall Lane 2010 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc (9% Semillon added for body, partial barrel fermented for mouthfeel, aroma and complexity). It was crisp and refreshing, really hitting the spot on that humid Houston night.

In fact, last year the San Francisco Chronicle called out the Ten Best Napa Valley Sauvignon Blancs and Whitehall Lane’s was in the pack. They said, “2010 Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($16, 13%): A lean, fresh effort from this St. Helena name that shows off its charming dry-grass presence – hay and apricot skin aromas, with a mineral edge to ripe lemon fruit.” This wine is not in competition with the intensely “grapefruity” New Zealand wines. It is more a step back into time and place of central France – the classic wines of Sancerre and Graves. My hat’s off to winemaker Dean Sylvester and thanks to special guest Edd Lopez for making a stop back in his old stomping grounds of Houston, Texas, to present the wines.

One last point that needs to be made is the great food pairings by Chefs Trikilis and Degante in each and every course, but particularly the fine accompaniment to the Whitehall Lane Sauvignon Blanc. With a wine of this finesse, it would have been easy to overshadow the wine with the passed appetizers. But, their creations were both flavorful, yet in balance and complementary with this wine. Shrimp on Grit Cakes (with tomato basil and balsamic reduction) and Togarashi Tuna on Cucumber (with chipotle lime aioli) worked their magic. Both the wine and appetizers did their palate dance to my delight, as well as in the following courses of the dinner.

 Posted by at 2:49 pm
Jul 042012

Houston’s Finest: L’Olivier Hosts Château la Nerthe Tasting

I jumped at the chance to sample the cuisine of acclaimed executive chef Olivier Ciesielski for Tony’s restaurant fame now in his own L’Olivier Restaurant & Bar with partner Mary Clarkson in the heart of Houston’s Montrose district. Equally appealing was the chance to revisit the wines of Château la Nerthe that I have admired since my visit to Châteauneuf-du-Pape almost a decade ago. It was an evening that focused on the artistry of the kitchen woven into a tapestry with the artistry of time and “le vignoble de pierres et le Pape”. My comment of le vignoble de pierres (or the vineyard of stones) is obvious if you have every walked the la Nerthe vineyard or even if you have Googled a picture of it.

The evening’s tastings took me back to a 2003 trip to the south of France. On that trip, I had my first experience with the chock-full-of-rocks estate vineyard and wines of Chateau la Nerthe, one of the most highly-regarded properties in the region. In fact, Château la Nerth has a deep connection to Texas being one of the first chateaus in France to replant with American rootstock following the widespread phylloxera vineyard disaster of the 1800’s. The rootstock that saved many French and European vineyards was from Texas wild grapevines sent by T.V. Munson of Denison, Texas.

Doc Russ, Texas Wineslinger sans gray hair!

A glass of Prieuré de Montézargues Rosé from nearby French region of Tavel AOC welcomed and refreshed me on my arrival at L’Olivier. The pleasantly tart red berry characteristics of this wine fit so well into my memories of southern France. After the first sip, I confirmed that this wine also fits quite well, better than most libations, right here on a sweaty summer evening in Houston.

From there, the fare was ceviche done with L’Olivier flair and two white Rhone blends, la Nerthe’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2010 and its single vineyard, Clos de Beauvenir 2009. The latter lingered with lemon drop, crisp acidity and the classic minerally character featuring Roussanne, the dominant blending grape and classic grape variety of the southern Rhône Valley.

After repartee from our hosts, presenter’s comments from Christophe Bristiel (Ex. Manager, Château la Nerthe) and two quaffable and quite enjoyable red wines (Domaine de Renjarde Cote du Rhône Village Rouge and La Petite Fontaine Cote du Rhône Rouge), the main players of the evening were on the table. In a blink on an eye we were into the serious red wines of the southern Rhône region: the la Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2008 and the classic Cuvee des Cadettes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005. The wines were expertly decanted and prepared by sommelier James Watkins over two hours prior. The Cuvee des Cadettes was striking by its deep purple color, full body and overall balance, well appointed with an overlay of aromatic spice, vanilla extract, game and leather. There was almost too much in the glass to behold and appreciate.

I think that you can tell, it was a night not be forgotten any time soon. If not, please read more comments from Tanji Patton (click here).

P.S. For those that following VintageTexas for tips on where to find Texas wine, don’t overlook our “In the hood” French restaurant L’Olivier. They feature Duchman Family Winery’s Vermentino, Viognier and Sangiovese.

L’Olivier Restaurant & Bar
240 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77006
Phone :   713.360.6313


 Posted by at 2:48 pm
Jun 292012

Write Off the Vine – Texas Wine News (Harvest 2012 Edition)

The 2012 Texas Wine Harvest is Coming Fast: Both On Vine and Online

Grape harvest time in Texas usually starts on or around July 1st. This year it’s already here; a bit earlier than normal with some gulf-area vineyards with Blanc Du Bois starting around June 20th. If you want to participate in this year’s harvest, you can do it either online or on the vine.

Denise Clark (@DeniseClarkeTX), Jeff Cope (@TXwineLover) and I (@VintageTexas) hope you can join us for the next TXwine Twitter Tuesday at 7 p.m. Central Time on Tuesday, July 10th, 2012. This month we’d like to share tales from Texas Wine Grape Harvests (2012 or in the past) by posting comments and pictures. Join in on Twitter.

If you prefer your harvesting on the vine, check out the upcoming Texas vineyard harvest and grape stomping festivities:

Details for both online and on vine activities are at: http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?p=6365. Hope you can join us online on July 10th to share Texas vineyard, harvest, stomping experiences/pictures.

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Texas Wine: CapRock Winery Makes A Comeback

by Jessica Dupuy (Eat My Words/Texas Monthly)

By now we all know that the Napa Valley of Texas is the Hill Country—at least in appearance. The winding roads that bend around ranches and homesteads and lanscapes of live oak mots and cedar-post fences. And every now and then, you come upon rows and rows of vineyard. Of course, it’s on a significantly smaller scale than the vineyards you see in Napa. And if you judge by the amount of wine many of these wineries are selling, you can quickly estimate that there’s no possible way these vineyards are supplying all of the juice these wineries need to fill these bottles….But what if you want to check out where the heart of the Texas Wine agriculture really is? Are there wineries up there that you can visit? Absolutely, though they are few and far between. In fact, three primary spots I’d point you too can be all be visited in a single day and they include: McPherson Cellars, Llano Estacado Winery and CapRock Winery.

More at: http://www.texasmonthly.com/blogs/eatmywords/?p=7593

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Like That Wine? Try This One: A Guide to Texas Wine Varietals

by Katharine Shilcutt (Eating My Words/HoustonPress)

In last week’s cover story, we discussed the fact that Texas vineyards still stubbornly grow varietals that aren’t suited to the Texan weather or soil — well-known grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet and Chardonnay. But they’re doing it for a reason: Too many wine drinkers don’t want to stray from the varietals they know and love.

So here’s a suggestions, Texas wine drinkers: Try a wine that is similar to your preferred grape, but which actually thrives here. You just might discover a new favorite, and you’ll encourage Texas grape growers to diversify their offerings as a result. It’s a win-win all around.

More at: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2012/06/like_that_wine_try_this_one_a.php

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It’s Now Official: Texas Wine is the Official Wine of the Texas Hamburger!

Super-Size Your Texas Hamburger with a Glass of Texas Wine

Calling all Texas wineries and Texas Hamburger lovers, too.

According to “Hambassador” Rick Vanderpool, “It’s time to name your favorite Texas wine that you think is best-paired with the Texas Hamburger.” Why?

Well, the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association Board of Directors recently voted to adopt the Texas Wine as “The Official Wine of the Texas Hamburger”.  They encouraged Texas Wineries to select one of their wines that’s the perfect complement for the Texas Hamburger and market this wine on their winery’s website.  TWGGA is also going to update winery members’ information on the association website with the wine chosen to pair with the Texas Hamburger.

More: http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?p=6401

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High Plains Vineyards Tour [The Primo Grapegrowing Region in Texas]

By Jeff Cope (TXWineLover)

Dusty Timmons, former viticulture advisor for the past two years for the West Texas region including the High Plains, had offered to give us a tour of the High Plain vineyards whenever we went to the Lubbock area. Since he had to travel to the various vineyards and help with any problems they may have in their vineyard, we could not have asked for a better guide so we gladly accepted his offer.

We met Dusty in Brownfield and jumped into his truck to begin the tour. We learned later it was a great idea to be in a pickup instead of the small car we had rented with the roads we drove on. The biggest concentration of vineyards is just east of Brownfield with around 300 acres in about 6 or 7 square miles. Terry County, where Brownfield is located, has the highest concentration of vineyards anywhere in the state of Texas, and includes the two largest vineyards in the state. Terry County has around 700 acres of grapes in its 30 square miles. Last year the state of Texas produced about 3,100 tons of grapes and this year alone Terry County will produce almost 4,000 tons.

More: http://txwinelover.com/2012/06/high-plains-vineyards/

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The Best Wine in Texas? La Cruz de Comal Pétard Blanc Tasting Notes

by Jeremy Parzen (Eating Our Words/HoustonPress)

“Pétard Blanc,” writes La Cruz de Comal owner Lewis Dickson on his winery’s Web site, “is a proprietary name and means ‘white firecracker’ in French. We call it that because of the hallmark natural acidity this wine always has and thus, its explosiveness on the palate.”

If you read our recent cover story on the Texas wine industry, “Texas Wines: Behind the Cellar Door,” you know that attaining healthy acidity in wine is one of the great challenges that Texas winemakers face.

In the case of criminal defense attorney-turned-winemaker and native Houstonian Lewis Dickson, he is able to deliver acidity-driven white wines thanks to the grape that goes into the bottle — Blanc du Bois, a hybrid naturally high in acidity developed by Florida University researchers to combat Pierce’s disease.

More: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2012/06/the_best_wine_in_texas.php

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Cabernet Grill Texas Wine Country Restaurant

from Trip Advisor

Chef Ross Burtwell’s wonderful and creative cuisine is paired with Texas wine. He has the largest (and amazingly diverse) Texas wine list in the whole dang universe!

Restaurant Reviews:

“Delicious food, wonderful atmosphere” – Fabulous food. We ate on the patio complete with water feature.

“Elegant and delicious meal!” – Food and service were fantastic. I had the coconut shrimp with beef tenderloin and my husband had the chicken fried ribeye steak topped with the lobster in a cream sauce. Through the recommendation of the waitress we enjoyed a wonderful wine with our meal. Everything well worth the money!

For more reviews and map, click here. Location: 2805 S State Hwy 16, Fredericksburg, TX 78624

 Posted by at 3:05 pm
Jun 282012

It’s Now Official: Texas Wine is the Official Wine of the Texas Hamburger!

Super-Size Your Texas Hamburger with a Glass of Texas Wine 

Calling all Texas wineries and Texas Hamburger lovers, too.

According to “Hambassador” Rick Vanderpool, “It’s time to name your favorite Texas wine that you think is best-paired with the Texas Hamburger.” Why?

Well, the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association Board of Directors recently voted to adopt the Texas Wine as “The Official Wine of the Texas Hamburger”.  They encouraged Texas Wineries to select one of their wines that’s the perfect compliment for the Texas Hamburger and market this wine on their winery’s website.  TWGGA is also going to update winery members’ information on the association website with the wine chosen to pair with the Texas Hamburger.

How did Rick become the Hambassador of Texas? Well, I guess if I can be the self-appointed Czar of Texas wine (click here), Rick has all the right to be the Texas Hambassador. His qualifications include an authoritative book on the hamburger’s roots and lineage in Texas titled, “The Texas Hamburger: History of a Lone Star Icon“. He has also traveled Texas doing his “research” in burger joints all around the state that he documented in a slick new Texas burger poster complete with his photographs of many of the burger joints and shacks he’s visited.

Bigger Version: http://www.whatssograpeabouttexas.com/purchase#texasHamburgerPrint

Hambassor Rick said, “According to my research, the hamburger goes back to its genesis at the patty shaping hands of Fletcher “Short” Davis in the late 1880’s. “Ol Dave” as he was called made it at his Fletcher Davis Lunch Counter in Athens, TX.  The rest is just left to history that I track in my book.” Details at: The Texas Hamburger Poster Details.

He continued and said, “What better match for our Texas burgers than our very own Texas wines. Any self-respecting Texan just wouldn’t accept a California wine if served with his Texas burger”.

I can’t argue with that…

— — — — —

Rick and I would like to hear from you. What do you think about Texas wine, The Official Wine of the Texas Hamburger? and what Texas wine do you choose? Give us your feedback!

Please post your comments and suggestions. Enjoy!


 Posted by at 12:52 pm
Apr 182012

Sullivan’s Steak House: Low Lights, Dark Paneling & New “Bar None” Menu

The night was made for red wine: the lights were low and the paneling that surroundedd the room was dark. Our server presented a bottle of wine with a black label with familiar red lettters that conveyed the name “Sullivans”.  This was Sullivan’s Steak House in Houston, Texas yesterday with the evening’s host, Saidi Syed.

Tweets were flying from me @VintageTexas and @TXWineLover, supported by Cookbook Chef Erwin Hicks Miller and MyTable Magazine’s associate publisher Taylor Byrne Dodge.

The night celebrated the inauguration of Sullivan’s new wine and bar menu:

1. New bar menu – that, bar none, was a delight to behold…personal faves were the Tuna Tacos and the Wild Arugula Flatbread. But, then came the steak…Wow!

2. New specially blended Sullivan’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from the hand of rock winemaker Bob Foley.

3. Mid-menu, Sullivan’s Wine Sommelier Kristie Farmer presented our taste of Flora Springs Trilogy over the top red blend (on the wine card for only $99). I no sooner lauched my Tweet, but I got the following response via @FloraSprings: Yum! MT @vintagetexas Sliced NY Strip steak at @SullivansSteak with Flora Springs Trilogy “delightful” http://t.co/NtBg9U86

4. We received  a preview of an upcoming Sullivan’s vintner dinner featuring wines from Frog’s Leap (a taste of Frog’s Leap Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon that gave the famous “Rutherford Dust”).

What to see more? Do a Twitter search on the Sullivan Steakhouse twitter handle…@SullivansSteak. We posted lots of TwitPics of great bar food.

Then,  stop on by and do your own taste test of Sullivan’s new bar menu. You’ll be glad you did.

 Posted by at 9:45 pm
Apr 132012

On the Texas Wine Trail with Seri (I Want a Texas Roussanne…No Don’t Want Texas Rue in Sun City)

Well, I’m in Lubbock this weekend signing my book (The Wineslinger Chronicles) at the Lubbock Arts Festival 11 am to 2 pm today and later at 3-5 pm at Llano Estacado Winery and then from 6-7:30 pm at Barnes and Noble. Stop by if your are in the area.

While I’ve got some time this morning, I decided to give my new iPhone 4S a little quality time that included getting better acquainted with my new travel partner with a great sounding feminine voice…Seri.

Here is how my morning’s get to know Seri session went:

Russ: Seri, what does you name mean?

Seri: I don’t think that I can explain it in YOUR language.

Russ: Seri, want to go to a wines?

Seri: I found two wineries fairly close to you…McPherson Cellars and CapRock Winery.

Russ: What’s a good wine?

Seri: Want to do a websearch for a good Texas wine?

Russ: OK

Seri: Looking for a List of Really Good Texas Wine? Here it is:

Russ: That’s very good Seri.

Seri: I don’t understand!

Russ: Seri, (I don’t think I can explain in YOUR language) I’d like to find a good Texas Roussanne.

Seri: Here’s Texas Ave. in Lubbock, but I’m not certain this is where you want to go.

Russ: Seri, I want to find a good Texas Roussanne wine.

Seri: I’ve found a number of wine bars in Texas and I’ve sorted them by rating.

Russ: No, I want to find a good Texas Roussanne wine.

Seri: Sorry but I couldn’t find Texas Rue in Sun City. (Now, I think that she is playing with me, don’t you?).

Russ: No Seri, I want to find a good Texas wine made from R-O-U-S-S-A-N-N-E.

Seri: Sorry, Russell, I can’t look for places in Burkina Faso.

Russ: OK, Seri, let’s forget Roussanne. Find me a good Texas Chardonnay.

Seri: I found 14 restaurants whose reviews mention Chardonnay.

Russ: Do any of these restaurants have Texas Cabernet Sauvignon?

Seri: I found 8 restaurants that have Cabernet?

Russ: Do any of these have Texas Cabernet?

Seri: I did not find any restaurants that have Texas Cabernet

Russ: Seri, I’m looking for Texas wine in Lubbock.

Seri: I found these wine bars in Lubbock (shows map to The Funky Door Bistro)

Russ: Website for Funky Door Bistro.

Seri: http://www.thefunkydoorwineroom.com/

Upon searching this website I found the following Texas wine:

Flat Creek “Super Texan” $49 that compares to Allegrini Palazzo Delle Torre at $48.
Flat Creek Pinot Grigio $42 that compares to MacMurray Pinot Gris at $38.
….and finally:
CapRock Roussanne $32.

Well, this was my first real attempt to get to know my new travel partner. After a long, somewhat accidental and convoluted path, I finally found my bottle of Texas Roussanne.


 Posted by at 9:38 am
Apr 062012

Celebrate Texas Hill Country, Wine & Music at Fredericksburg Festival April 26-28th, 2012

If you love Food and Wine and the Texas Hill Country in the Springtime, come CELEBRATE Texas Wine, Texas Music and Texas Cuisine at the 2012 Hill Country Wine and Music Festival! Join us for a WINE and FOOD LOVERS SPRING-FLING, benefiting the Texas Center for Wine and Culinary Arts, in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Tickets and more info: http://www.hillcountrywineandmusic.com/tickets

Lodging: Click here

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 – The Prelude
Plan to arrive in Fredericksburg, Texas, on Wednesday evening, April 25th! You will want to be a part of ALL the INCREDIBLE Wine and Food Prelude Events planned just for YOU!
After you check into your hotel or B&B, have a wonderful, relaxed meal in Fredericksburg, at one of our World-Class restaurants; and then take in some live music – on Wednesday nights in Fredericksburg, Texas, you’ll find a variety of GREAT “Live Music” options: the “TEXAS Songwriters Showcase” at Hondo’s on Main, Crossroads, Silver Creek… or, maybe, a drive out to Luckenbach Texas, for a world-famous “Pickers Circle” – You just never know who might be there!

Thursday, April 26, 2012 – Explore Wine Road 290
Spend your day EXLORING the “2nd Fastest Growing Wine Region” in the USA! All along US HWY 290, on either side of Fredericksburg, you’ll discover award-winning wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms. If you want a TOTAL WINE WEEKEND book accommodations at a Bed and Breakfast in the Vineyards. Several Wineries offer a delightful “Wine Destination Bed and Breakfast Experience” – Becker Vineyards, Grape Creek Vineyards, Messina Hof.

Thursday, April 26, 2012 Evening – “Texas Vintners Dinner and Reception”
Join us for a very special evening of Texas Food, Wine and Music at the 2012 “Texas Vintners Dinner and Reception”. This years’ “Vintners Dinner” will be hosted by Executive Chef Ross Burtwell from the AWARD-WINNING, Cabernet Grill – Texas Wine Country Restaurant. Enjoy a FABULOUS evening of Texas Hill Country Cuisine paired with select wines from SEVEN wineries! AMAZING!

Menu: http://www.hillcountrywineandmusic.com/index.php/download_file/-/view/83/

Friday, April 27th, 2012 – Explore art Galleries, Wineries, Museums, Natural Beauty
EXLORE! So much to do and see in and around Fredericksburg, Texas! Shops in the Historic Main Street District, Art Galleries, Wineries! and Tasting Rooms, Chocolat – Devine! Restaurants! Enchanted Rock! Museums! Parks!

Friday, April 27th, Evening – 6:00pm to 9:30pm “Texas Wine Tasting and Food Pairing – BON APPETIT from the TEXAS HILL COUNTRY! Salute!

Venue: National Museum of the Pacific War’s Ruff Haus

Our incredible Friday Night prelude Event – “Texas Wine Tasting and Food Pairing” was “Specially” planned for the “Texas Wine and Food Lover”! Join your hosts, acclaimed Texas authors, Dr. Russell Kane and Chef Terry Thompson-Anderson for a delightful evening of EXPLORING TEXAS WINE and FOOD, with music by award winning Texas singer/songwriter, John Arthur Martinez!

Sample Texas Wine and delectable “Local Texas” culinary offerings and find out why TEXAS is so special! Your hosts will be “Signing” copies of their recently released books: The Texas Hill Country – A Food and Wine Lover’s Paradise by Terry Thompson-Anderson and The Wineslinger Chronicles – Texas on the Vine by Dr. Russell Kane. Your hosts have collaborated to pair wines from Becker Vineyards, Grape Creek Vineyards, Messina Hof Winery, Sandstone Cellars, Texas Hills Vineyard, and Torre di Pietra Vineyards with tapas-style recipes from Terry’s book. Our Festival’s first silent auction will be held in conjunction in this event. What a NIGHT IN THE TEXAS HILL COUNTRY! Event admission price of $100 includes signed copies of both author’s books. Please purchase your tickets now as attendance is limited.

Menu: http://www.hillcountrywineandmusic.com/index.php/download_file/-/view/84/

Saturday, April 28, 2012 – 11am to 7pm HILL COUNTRY WINE AND MUSIC FESTIVAL at WILDSEED FARMS

Experience a Texas Hill Country spring at Wildseed Farms, while sampling the most delicious Wine and Food from the HEART of Texas Wine Country! We’re bringing together libations, vibrations, and great Texas food in a celebration of Texas Wine and Texas Culinary Traditions. The Festival will be held at Wildseed Farms, just east of Fredericksburg, Texas. Come join us for a Wine and Food EXPERIENCE TEXAS-style. Sample Texas Wine and Hill Country cuisine from participating restaurants and specialty food purveyors. The 2012 Festival Music line-up includes Texas Hill Country Favorites: Trevor La Bonte Jazz, John Arthur Martinez and Joel Guzman, the Almost Patsy Cline Band, and Thomas Michael Riley! These bands will get you out on the DANCE FLOOR for a “Wine Country Boot Scoot” – now that’s TEXAS! Admission includes a souvenir wine glass, seven wine tastings, and DELICIOUS food samples. Participating restaurants will offer a variety of foods for sale and wine will be available for purchase by the glass or bottle, along with non-alcoholic beverages, souvenir T-shirts, hats and posters. A wonderful selection of domestic and foreign beer is available at The BrewBonnet Biergarten.

Come on out for this FESTIVAL and support the Texas Center for Wine and Culinary Arts!

 Posted by at 9:01 am
Apr 032012

The Best Texas Wine Money Can’t Buy

…and it’s not from Greece!

I had dinner with friends last Saturday evening at Lucio’s on Taft in downtown Houston. They are a tremendous BYOB establishment ($5 corkage fee!) with a great menu to boot. I brought a bottle of wine to the gathering and asked my dinner companions to guess the origin.

It was a white, nearly colorless wine, light in body and crisp beyond the norm.The aroma was that of white flowers, citrus and a hint of musk. As the reviews came in from my guests, it was apparent that the wine gave the revelers nuances of a Mediterranean white wine, the likely source of which was Greece (at least in their opinion). You know what I’m talking about…crisp, white and floral, but made from a grape with a name that you can’t spell (lots of O’s, X’s and Y’s) and if you saw it written out, you still couldn’t pronounce it either.

However, in this case, the unlikely source of the grapes was not a Mediterranean island but Austin County Texas, located inland from the Texas Gulf Coast around where the flat Gulf margin starts to roll and undulate indicating the coastal outline some two million years ago.

The wine was made from Blanc Du Bois grapes grown in Jerry Watson’s Austin County Vineyard. In fact, Jerry also made this wine himself in his estates micro-winery under controlled low temperature fermentation.

The reason I say that this was the best Texas wine that money can’t buy is because it’s not for sale! Jerry make it for himself and his wife Cozette and a few of his close friends to enjoy. He is an amateur winemaker, but a damn good one. I feel honored that Jerry gave me a bottle to enjoy that I shared with my friends at dinner.

Most people have never heard of Blanc Du Bois and if they knew its heritage and where it is grown, they would likely turn up the noses and not give it a fair shake. Well, Blanc Du Bois is ready to go mainstream, ready to be poured on any table next to vinifera wines from major growing reagions. More of it is grown in Texas than anywhere else in the modern wine world. Furthermore, most of it is grown around the Texas Gulf Coast and up into East Texas, with a little even making it up to the Hill Country and North Texas, too.

For those of you that are overly self-conscious and fear what your friends might say to you enjoying a Blanc Du Bois from Texas, just tell them it’s a wine from Greece and that you’d like to tell them what it is, but you can’t spell it or pronounce it.

 Posted by at 8:36 pm
Mar 182012

Houston Rodeo - Messina Hof Solera Sherry $105,000 at Auction

Write Off the Vine: Texas Wine News – March 18, 2012 | Top Stories this Week

Asador at Dallas Renaissance Hotel: Better Than Ever. Why Don’t Locals Eat There?

Posted on March 13th, 2012 12:35pm by Andrew Chalk – Andy asks a good Question…

One thing I would like them to revisit is their wine list. They need to carry over the local element of the food to to the list. There is not a single Texas wine on the list. This is at the very time in Texas wine history at which there is least justification for such an omission. I suspect that it happened because the list is sourced from ‘central listing’ and, rather like the case at the similarly focused Central 214, the local people need to bring the issue to the attention of the powers that be. If Hunter Hammett at The Pyramid Restaurant can sell Texas wine, then so can others.

More: http://sidedish.dmagazine.com/2012/03/13/asador-at-dallas-renaissance-hotel-better-than-ever-why-dont-locals-eat-there/

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Houston Rodeo Uncorked breaks another record

Posted: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 4:00 am By Ron Saikowski / Houston Wine Walk

The Texas Champion Wine, Messina Hof Solera Sherry broke another record garnering $105,000 for scholarships. Paul Bonarrigo VII was very proud of his family’s creation. As the second generation of the family at Messina Hof Winery, Paul VII is equally excited about another creation expected around the middle of July, being Paul Anthony Bonarrigo. Congratulations to a wonderful Texas wine family!

When the dust settled after 52 wine lots were auctioned, the scholarship fund for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was richer by $1.41 million dollars.

More: http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/greater_houston/entertainment/houston-rodeo-uncorked-breaks-another-record/article_46bbb755-67ad-518b-832b-de401d034b07.html

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Wine Time

Tasting Notes: This Week in Wine Blogs

By Jeremy Parzen | Eating Our Words, HoustonPress Blog, Wed., Mar. 14 2012 at 11:12 AM

TX Wine Lover: Although the Texas Hill Country Wineries website does have a calendar of wine events, the Texas wine industry as a whole still relies on bloggers like Jeff Cope for exhaustive coverage of upcoming events and winery profiles. Someone ought to give Jeff a medal for his newly updated calendar here, including events through July of this year.

Vintage Texas: And speaking of upcoming Texas wine industry events (and medals that ought to be awarded to Texas wine bloggers), we wouldn’t know about the March 19 Viognier Symposium in Comanche if it weren’t for top Texas wine blogger and industry insider Russ Kane and his preview of the conference.

While Blanc du [Bois] remains the “great white hope” for Texas in our view, Viognier is quickly gaining traction as a top white grape variety here. Its sturdiness in the vineyard and its unctuousness in the glass seem to play well here in the Lone Star state.

More: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2012/03/oysters_wine_fake_wine_labels.php

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From the Twitterverse:

@FourPointWine: 4.0 Cellars is progressing swiftly….we R excited about being open soon! Plan2 join us for the #Txwine Experience soon!

@VintageTexas: Top 3 Wineries in Central Texas http://t.co/iOYzpXiE @flatcreekestate @VintageTexas @CityWineJournal @DuchmanWinery

Hilmy Cellars – Grand Opening this weekend between Stonewall and Fredericksburg. http://t.co/ub8wYCmE #TxWine #wine http://t.co/WHo0AiXl

@Vino50Wines: Delish! TX Reserve Roussanne. Lush! @mcphersoncellar Wine America Spring Congressional.) http://t.co/2ztPrevd #TXWine

@RetreatHillWine: St. Patty’s Day Retreat Hill Cellars Montgomery, Tx. The big leprechaun, 2much grn Riesling http://t.co/LWzrDovg #TXwine

@seanbuckley: Yes http://t.co/gu1fNZix” <<Bet this looks even worse the morning after! #greenbeer

@alawine: Wine Blogs, Dirty PIctures and Growing Your Anatomy http://t.co/HO8iQMi6 #fb #wine

Perhaps it’s not local wine quality the problem but the wine bloggers? http://t.co/Xv4SNyX0 #drinklocal #localwine #txwine #vawine #wbc12

The folks at Arche’ had to rip up some serious old vines! Kudos. (via Texas Wino) #txwine http://t.co/Wko62hAi

Local Wine Movements active in Colorade & Texas > http://t.co/qPFLKniM < @DrinkLocalWine #COwine #TXwine

 Posted by at 8:48 am
Feb 202012

Impressions from the 2012 Houston Rodeo Uncorked Best Bites Competition

WARNING: This is not a short form blog today. So, you’d better sit down and pour of glass of Texas wine before you start reading. If you don’t have time now, just wait until later for some quiet time. Lead photo from http://houston.culturemap.com.

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Tanji Patton summed up last night’s Houston Rodeo Uncorked and Best Bites Competition festivities best on the Chron.com blog this morning by saying, “There are plenty of great food and wine events in Houston, but the HLSR Uncorked is one of my favorites.  Easy to see why it’s always a sell-out event!”

Yesterday, I barely had time to set down my suitcase after the debut of my book, The Wineslinger Chronicles, at the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA) meeting on Saturday in San Marcos. However, my wife and I donned our best western duds and got back in the car and headed to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR), Rodeo Uncorked and Best Bites Competition at Reliant Center yesterday evening.

Bloggers Meet-Up – A Tweet for a Tweet

We met-up with Jeff (the @TXwineLover) Cope and Gloria for a festive evening of biting the best bites and sipping the best wines that the 2012 HLSR International Wine Competition had to offer. Jeff and I decided to take simultaneous phone pics and link to our photos when we blog. Here is the link to his photo of my wife Delia and me, our Tweet-for-Tweet Pics.

Jeff has already done the Texas wine loving blog community a big favor by publishing a list of the Houston Rodeo’s 2012 winning wines from Texas wineries on his blog (click here for list). The complete list of 2012 rodeo wine competition winning wines from around the world can be found on the HSLR website. They were all there, well not really, but more on that later.

If you know anything about the HLSR, they do things in a big way, especially if it’s getting a crowd together in the name of fund raising for charitable, educational and scientific purposes. I experienced it personally the first year that the HLSR held their wine competition. I signed on as a wine judge and it was impressive to see the HLSR wheels start to turn. Before anyone knew it, they had a national-scale wine competition and fund raising mechanism in place. If you want to see what I mean, take a look behind-the-scenes at the wine competition manual for starters (click here). The rules are as comprehensive as any major wine competition in the country, and the amount raised through the HLSR wine competition, auction and related activities is on par with the biggest nationwide.

Best Organized Best Bites

Well, nuff said about the origins of the HSLR wine competition and the winning wines. All I can say was “WOW”! If you don’t know the size of the Reliant Center it’s big, offering over 706,000 square feet of exhibit space. Last night, a good hunk of it was dedicated to Rodeo Uncorked and Best Bites Competition. Estimates of the attendance were around 4,000 people. I must confess that I didn’t do a head count. There were over 60 best bites offered up to attendees at this year’s competition.

The event was as well planned as the wine competition with food and wine stations laid out (appropriately enough) in a wagon wheel fashion. Each section between spokes of the wheel was labeled with the letter code found in my program where the list of all the wines and best bite offerings were itemized. I’ve been to nationally recognized events such as the Aspen Food and Wine Festival with their grand tasting and food pavilions, and they are no match to this one by a long shot!

Standouts of the Evening

Despite my grease-smudged smartphone camera lens, I’ve managed to salvage a few photos from last night’s event. Memories of the best bites include a mouth-watering piece of sausage from Ciro’s Italian Grill that most people likely passed right over, a ceviche guacamole combo from Cyclone Anaya’s. There was much, much more that came to fast to record as I carefully balanced my wine glass, plate, program and greasy smartphone. I’ve got to find another way to do this; maybe with a head-cam and shoulder contraption to secure my plate. I’d could be a walking literal “one-man-band” of wine and food tastings and blogging.

The wines were simply wonderful. Being that Texas is now growing and making wines from the Tannat grape, I dove into the award-winning Tannat-based wines from Madiran in the French Pyrenees (Chateau Barrejat) and Bouza Bouza from Uruguay as part of my palate calibration.  Next, I tasted Yalumba Y Series Vermentino from South Australia. Why? Again, it was because Vermentino is starting to make a run in Texas. Particularly exciting is what Duchman Winery is doing with Vermentino grape grown at Bingham Family Vineyard on the Texas High Plains. From my previous tasting, my opinion was that Duchman’s was a far superior wine. A great taste came when we stumbled onto Dr. Loosen (for some reason, I mistakenly thought Dr. Konstantin Frank (of New York Finger Lakes Region Riesling fame). Man alive was my mind boggled, or maybe bloggled. But nevertheless, we stumbled into what I then remembered as the greatness of the Dr. Loosen Rieslings of Germany: Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese, Mosel, 2010 – crisp, semi-sweet fruit and light in body and alcohol, and Dr. Loosen Estate Eiswein, Mosel, 2008, made with grapes left on the vine into winter and harvested after they’ve been frozen. This wine was a delight to taste (sweet and tart and minerally all at the same time).

Most exciting of all was a taste one of my favorite new wines in Texas, Pedernales Cellars, Reserve Tempranillo. I believe that it’s sold out, but you might check with the Pedernales Cellars winery tasting room. They might have a bottle or two left to sell. I hope since I’m out too!

We also tasted one of the top scoring wines in this year’s Houston Rodeo competition. It was the Messina Hof, Solara Sherry that exuded essences of chocolate, cherries and caramel with a well-structured balance of acidity and residual sugar gained from baking in barrel in the hot Texas Sun for three months.

Also, noteworthy for those like me that say perhaps a bit too often that Texas just ain’t Bordeaux, was the gold medal winning Llano Estacado Winery Cabernet Sauvignon and their refreshing Pinot Grigio, all made Texas appellation. Others tasted were Pilot Knob Vineyards Viognier (a silver medal winner) and Tyler, Texas’s own Kiepersol Estates Stainless Cabernet Sauvignon (also a silver medal winner) made entirely without oak aging, but it still has a tannic kick, made (I’m guessing from evidence in the glass) by extended maceration and cold soaking in the style of many of the new Chilean Cabs and Merlots. I know that I have missed a few, but it was all coming at me fast and furiously. I’d check Jeff Copes TXwineLover blog for more (and perhaps different) highlights of this event.

Now…The Rant and The Rave

THE RANT: My rant is aimed at the no-show wineries. It is great to win awards, but then to not have the courtesy to show up for the tasting (or even take you sign down at the event) that is just bad form. You all know who you are (both Texas and non-Texas wineries) and for that, you get the trashy award of the evening. Every wine is somebody’s favorite wine. It’s disappointing to fight the crowd up to the pouring station that proudly displays the name of your favorite wine only to be told that the winery did not present their wines.

But now THE  RAVE: I particularly want to thank the long time stalwarts who gave the Texas wine industry it’s restart in the the early modern days (1970s and early 1980s) and who still show the dedication to its ongoing success. Messina Hof’s Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo and Fall Creek Vineyard’s Ed and Susan Auler (above with Fall Creek Vineyards 2006 Meritus) were at the Rodeo Uncorked event, personally pouring their own wines like they have done so well for decades. I’m sure that they could have stayed comfortably at home and delegated the job to others, or perhaps in what seems to be a new tradition for the Rodeo wine competition award winners, not even had their wines poured at Rodeo Uncorked and Best Bites Competition. I also want to acknowledge in the same regard, Bill Friedhof, V.P. of Llano Estacado who manned their pouring stations (Llano Estacado had two of them as did Messina Hof to handling all of their award winning wines). I hope that more Texas wineries take their lead from you dedicated people. Thanks for all that you do!

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 Posted by at 12:27 pm