The Judgment of Bryan Texas – Messina Hof Head-to-Head Taste Off
This past Sunday morning at Messina Hof Winery and Resort, winery owner Paul Bonarrigo put it on the line at the Messina Hof Twitter Taste-Off. The tasting included recognized, premium and best selling non-Texas wines from around the world paired with wines from Messina Hof Winery. It was a blind tasting in which the tasters did not know if the wines they tasted were from Messina Hof or the non-Texas wines.
Twelve flights of wines were presented, each containing two wines. The job of the tasters was to indicate which of the two wines in each flight was from Texas. We also provided our ratings using the UC Davis 20 point evaluation methodology for each wine using the following point breakdown: Color – 1, Clarity – 1, Aroma – 4, Balance 3 – , Body – 2, Flavor – 4, Finish – 2, Overall Quality – 3.
The wine line-up was as follows:
Flight 1 – Messina Hof Gewürztraminer 2008 ($9) v. Darting Gewürztraminer 2007 ($20)
Flight 2 – Escher Riesling 2007 ($13) v. Messina Hof Merrill’s Vineyard Riesling 2008 ($10)
Flight 3 – Sebeka Chenin Blanc 2008 ($11) v. Messina Hof Chenin Blanc 2009 ($6)
Flight 4 – Messina Hof Barrel Res. Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($9) v. Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006 ($28)
Flight 5 – Messina Hof Private Reserve Zinfandel 2007 ($17) v. Alexander Valley Vineyard Zinfandel “SinZin” ($23)
Flight 6 – Messina Hof Merrill’s Vineyard Angel Riesling 2008 ($17) v. Schmitt Sohne Eiswein 2008 ($23)
Flight 7 – Messina Hof Reserve Pinot Noir 2003 ($17) v. David Bruce Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006 ($42)
Flight 8 – Messina Hof Barrel Res. Merlot 2006 ($9) v. Rodney Strong Sonoma County Merlot 2005 ($19)
Flight 9 – Iron Stone Reserve Cabernet Franc 2006 ($28) v. Messina Hof Barrel Res. Cabernet Franc 2005 ($9)
Flight 10 – Opus One 2003 ($167) v. Messina Hof Paulo (Bordeaux Blend) 2002 ($40)
Flight 11 – Messina Hof Paul Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 ($40) v. Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 ($105)
Flight 12 – Messina Hof Private Res. Port 2005 ($24) v. Fonseca Quinta do Panascal 2005 ($50)
I must admit that the results were quite surprising to me (on Twitter @VintageTexas). I had not done much blind tasting recently with most of my experience with Texas wines in a similar setting being five to ten years ago. So, when presented with these wines, I was set to use my previously developed biases and notions about Texas wine to try to discern the Texas wines in each flight. These qualities were namely: Very ripe to cooked fruit qualities and a lower perception of acidity and crispness in the wines. These are generally considered identifiers of warm climate wines.
The first thing that surprised me was the difficulty most of the panelists, including myself, had in identifying the Texas wines. By and large, the Texas wines gave a first class performance comparable to their non-Texas brethren. A special shout-out goes to the two panelists that were able to correctly identify the Texas wines eighty percent of the time. These two panelists were Terry Thompson-Anderson (@girllovesfood) and Ross Outon (@rossthewineguy). I will readily admit that I correctly picked that Texas wine only half of the time. That is a fifty percent success rate, but I think that this is actually a good thing as the Texas wines were up to the quality point of the non-Texas wines and did not stand out with any difficient qualities. They were all well made wines.
So much for my what now seems to be my “very dated” rules of thumb for picking Teaxs wines. These Texas wines were admitedly clean and crisp, not what many would be expected from Texas. This shows that Texas growers have learned a lot about when and how to harvest their grapes, how to protect the grapes in transportation from the vineyard to the winery up to 500 miles away, and the winemakers know how to ferment and bottle the wines to preserve a fresh fruit wine experience.
The second surprise was that in many cases, the scores for the Texas from Messina Hof and the paired non-Texas wine were not that different. On the UC Davis 20 point method, the differences were generally only one or two points and not always in favor of the non-Texas wines. Several Texas wines from Messina Hof actually outscored the non-Texas wine in their respective flights. Examples of these wines were: Flight 2 – Messina Hof Riesling, Flight 9 – Messina Hof Cabernet Franc, Flight 10 – Messina Hof Paulo (Bordeaux blend). This latter scoring winner was most phenomenal since it was paired against Opus One at $167 per bottle versus $40 for the Messina Hof Paulo.
Robert Mondavi where ever you are, it is time to stop and take notice of Texas wines!
Many thanks to Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo at Messina Hof for hosting this “Judgment of Bryan, Texas” tasting event. They stepped up to take the challenge going head-to-head versus some of the most recognized wine brands and best selling wines in the industry today. Based on this tasting, I can say that Texas has nothing to hide. More Texas winemakers and wineries need to step up and take the challenge testing their wines in the global marketplace.
The list of tasters at this event was:
Terry Thompson Anderson (www.thetexasfoodandwinegourmet.com)
Jeff Siegel (www.winecurmudgeon.com)
Martin Korson (www.centralmarket.com)
Ross Outon (www.linkedin.com/in/rossthewineguy)
Denise Fraser (www.denisefraser.com)
Jane Nickles (www. www.winespeak101.com)
John Griffin (www.savorsa.com)
Russ Kane (www.vintagetexas.com/blog)
Dan Huerta and Phil Metzinger (www.brookshirebrothers.com)
Many other writers and wine aficionados followed the Messina Hof Taste-Off Twitter feed searching on the hashtag #Messina_Hof and made related comments. You too can search and find all of the event’s comments by going to www.search.twitter.com or www.hashtag.org. When available, more information will be provided on the expanse and impact of this Twitter tasting event.
Others that attended and have written about the event are given below:
Martin Korson at Central Market Blog: http://moreplease.centralmarket.com/cm-news/messina-hof-blind-tasting/
Jeff Siegel – The Wine Curmudgeon: http://www.winecurmudgeon.com/my_weblog/2010/01/messina-hof-twitter-tasting.html
Paul V. Bonarrigo – Messina Hof Blog: http://blog.messinahof.com/2010/01/11/texas-versus-the-world/