2010 Grape and Gridiron Classic: The post game commentary and analysis
As I mentioned in my previous blog post last night, the 2010 Grape and Gridiron Classic (sponsored by the Texas Department of Agriculture) was a fun and frenetic event where twenty-two wines, eleven from both Texas and New York went head-to-head, glass-to-glass, helmet-to-helmet (you chose the metaphor) in a blind tasting amid forty wine industry, trade and media representatives.
Since Monday evenings event, the electronic and print media is abuzz with Monday Tuesday morning quarterbacking wine evaluation, some hyping up the Texas victory while others are call foul. Nevertheless, the goal that I shared with Jeff Siegel (The Wine Curmudgeon) was to hold a fair and friendly competition between two developing wine states to the extent possible. The tasters walked into the room with each place setting having 22 pre-poured wines: Eleven from each state; four white, two rose’, five red and one dessert. There were no other clues except for a sheet for note taking that provided the varietal or stylistic categories for the eleven wines.
It was fascinating to watch the event’s attendees tasting as they tried to reconcile their experiences with their preconceived notions of what wines from New York and Texas were supposed to taste like. My co-organizer of the tasting and leader of Drinklocalwine.com, Jeff Siegel told the crowd, “The wines in this tasting are all fine wines, no doubt out it. But, don’t expect them to taste like wines from California. They have different qualities and characteristics that they gain from the locale. Savor them and experience the local terroir. This is what drinking local wine is all about.”
Perhaps his comments were meant to manage expectations, but from the comments voiced from the tasters at the Grape and Gridiron Classic, they enjoyed the experience and found the wines delectable.
The 8 to 3 score in favor of Texas suggests a blow out (See detailed results below). However, when the numbers were tallied, the voting in most f the categories was very close. Only in a few categories was a blow out evident. New York excelled in expected categories: Riesling, Cabernet Franc and with its dessert “ice wine”. Texas showed well with its white Viognier, red wines based on Mediterranean varieties like Dolcetto and Tempranillo (this tasting confirmed the double gold and gold medals for these two wines in the recent San Francisco International Wine Competition), and its hybrid grape wines made from Blanc Du Bois and Black Spanish.
The later category (Hybrid/Native grape wines) left the crowd most surprised. All of the tasters that I talked with after the event thought that the wines made from these two French American hybrid grapes that can be widely grown in throughout Texas exhibited fine qualities. One attendee said that these wines could go against the wines from the classic European grapes on he table any day. Believe it or not (now, don’t shoot the messenger), they ARE getting that good.
Another surprise was the win for Texas in the Chardonnay (unoaked) category. Most said that they didn’t think that Chardonnay of this quality just could be grown in Texas. Well, the tasting proved that it can. The only problem is that its hard. The sun, moon and stars have to be in alignment (something that doesn’t happen at all locations and in all years).
The tasters at the event included a delegation from New York and the U.S. East Coast including New York Wine and Grape Association President, Jim Tresize, Richard Leahy from Richard Leahy’s Wine Report and Fred LeBrun from the Albany Times Union.
Whereas I was tasked with the job of selecting the slate of wines from Texas (and had Jeff available to bounce my selections off of), we left the selecting of the wines from New York up to a knowledgable New Yorker, Jim Tresize. Frankly, I’ll admit that Jim had a sizable task.
The issue wasn’t finding excellent wines from his state, the problem was caused on the arcane and onerous wine laws that relate to shipment and distribution of wine in New York and Texas. In this case, he was limited by the wine laws to selecting from the slate of New York wines that had label approval and were approved for distribution in Texas. This seemed a bit excessive since the wines in our event were donated (no money changed hands), no distribution was involved, they were poured at an unlicensed venue, and no fee was charged for the tasting. It was no different than if I had a group of friend to my home and shared and tasted wine that I had brought back from New York. Go figure!
Therefore, there are some in the Blogoshere from New York that said, it was an unfair competition. Perhap there is some merit in this contention. However, the ground rules were not set by us Texans. They were already there well before we set up the match. They were set in play by the legislators that make the laws and implement them through their state control boards. In order to even the playing field, the Texas delegation has already been served with an informal request for a rematch, but this time the tasting will be held in the great state of New York, the home turf for the New York wine. So, Texas winemakers, get ready, get your distribution credentials set, and be ready for an even tougher competition next time.
As an independent observer and blinded participant in the 2010 Grape and Gridiron Classic, I was actually quite pleased with the New York wines. It was actually harder to tell the difference between the wines from the two states than I though. However, I really hadn’t tried many New York wines in Texas since they are hard to find in wine shops and retail outlets here.
As I led the tasting, I asked the participants if they could distinguish the wines from the respective states. Several people thought that they could taste riper fruit in the Texas wines and conversely some noted what they thought were cool weather nuances in the New York wines. But, in general, even the Sommeliers that participated in the tasting said that they were surprised how hard it was to pick out the Texas and New York wines. In the case of Texas, I believe that varietal selection of grapes like Dolcetto, Tempranillo, and Viognier was one of the reason. They seam to ripen and keep their acidity better here than do the classic European set of Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay.
The obvious cases where regional differences were evident were in the categories of Riesling, Cab Franc and the dessert ice wine from New York which ultimately beat their Texas counterparts.
No doubt about it, a blind tasting like this is the best way to test the theories and preconceived notions you have with wines. In general, both Texas and New York came out shining. The voting was close in most cases with only a few categories showing a wide spread in the preference of the tasters.
But, vive la différence, savor local wines. If you don’t, there’s so much out there that you’ll be missing.
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See what others are saying about the 2010 Grape and Gridiron classic.
Sidedish from DMagazine:
Wine Curmudgeon (Wine as a Spectator Sport/Texas, New York and regional wine):
Richard Leahy’s Wine Report:
Albany Times Union article by Fred LeBrun:
News Release from the Texas Department of Agriculture:
Complete list of Texas and New York Wines involved in the 2010 Grape and Gridiron Classic
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Several people have emailed me today saying that they’d rather have had the Dallas Cowboys win in the Monday Night NFL football game rather than have the Texas wines win over their brethren from New York State. However, I’ve responded, “Have another glass of Texas wine and perhaps it won’t seem so bad.”
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For more comments from tasters at 2010 Grape and Gridiron Classic and from the Blogosphere on Twitter, go to:
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A comprehensive list of the wineries, wines and winers from the 2010 Grape and Gridiron Classic are presented below:
2010 Grape and Gridiron Classic
Flight Winners (based on votes of participants in blind tasting)
1. Chardonnay – Llano Estacado Unoaked Chardonnay 2009 (Texas)
2. White Wine – Brennan Vineyard Viognier 2009 (Texas)
3. Riesling – Dr. Konstantin Frank Semi-Dry Riesling 2009 (New York)
4. Hybrid/Native White Wine – Haak Vineyards Blanc du Bois Semi-Dry 2010 (Texas)
5. Rose’ Dry – McPherson Cellars Rose’ of Syrah 2009 (Texas)
6. Cabernet Franc – Wagner Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2007 (New York)
7. Red Wine (light body) – Duchman Family Winery Dolcetto 2008 (Texas)
8. Red Wine (medium body) – Lone Oak Winery Tempranillo Lost Draw Vineyards 2008 (Texas)
9. Red wine (full body) – Inwood Estate Vineyards Magellan 2006 (Texas)
10. Hybrid/Native Red Wine – Dry Comal Creek Vineyards Black Spanish 2008 (Texas)
11. Dessert wine (sweet) – Wagner Vineyards Vidal Blanc Ice Wine 2008 (New York)
MVP Wines (voted by participants based on blind tasting)
McPherson Cellars Rose’ of Syrah 2009 (Texas)
Dr. Konstantin Frank Semi-Dry Riesling 2009 (New York)
Participating Wineries/Wines from Texas
Llano Estacado Winery 2009 Chardonnay Unoaked
Brennan Vineyards 2009 Viognier
Messina Hof Winery and Resort 2009 Father and Son Cuvee Riesling
Haak Vineyards and Winery 2010 Blanc duBois, Semi-Sweet
McPherson Cellars 2009 Rosé of Syrah
Becker Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve
Duchman Family Winery 2008 Dolcetto
Lone Oak Winery 2008 Tempranillo Lost Draw Vineyard
Inwood Estates Vineyards 2006 Magellan
Dry Comal Creek Vineyards 2008 Black Spanish
Flat Creek Estate Mistella NV
Special Team Wineries/Wines from Texas
Fall Creek Vineyards 2006 Meritus
Homestead Winery la Bodega de Mitchell,Texas Cream Sherry (NV/solera aged since 1973)
Driftwood Estate Winery 2006 Lone Star Cab
Grape Creek Vineyards 2009 Viognier Lost Draw Vineyards
Kiepersol Estate 2007 4You Merlot
Red Caboose Winery 2007 Tempranillo
Participating Wineries/Wines from New York
Heron Hill Winery 2009 Unoaked Chardonnay
Ravines Wine Cellars 2008 Sauvignon Blanc
Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars 2009 Semi-Dry Riesling
Bully Hill Vineyards 2007 Traminette
Ravines Wine Cellars 2008 Pinot Rosé
Wagner Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2007
Brotherhood, 2008 Pinot Noir
Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars 2008 Merlot
Heron Hill Winery 2006 Eclipse Red
Bully Hill Vineyards Bulldog Baco Noir NV
Wagner Vineyards 2008 Vidal Blanc Ice
Special Team Wineries/Wines from New York
Swedish Hill Winery Riesling Cuvée NV
Keuka Lake Vineyards 2009 Semi Dry Riesling
Bedell Cellars 2008 Cabernet Franc
Arbor Hill Grapery Griesa Hill Iona Rosé NV
Casa Larga Winery 2007 Fiori Delle Stelle Vidal Ice Wine
Torrey Ridge Winery Scarlet Red NV