VintageTexas “Wineslinger” Shoots Six Straight In Grand Tasting
Friday evening the Grand Tasting at the Grand Wine and Food Affair was held in Sugar Land, Texas (just southwest of Houston). It was definitely a “Grand Affair” with wines from major producers the likes of Mondavi, Sterling, Gallo of Sonoma and foods prepared by the best Texas chef’s. I poured and discussed my personal six favorite Texas wines. I was in grand company as Master Sommeliers Doug Frost and Guy Stout, Mark Sayre of Austin (Texas’ Best Sommelier for 2007), and Martin Korson (Central Market, Houston Wine and Beverage Manager) highlighted their six picks, as well.
Read below for my personal wine picks, notes and a few taster comments received at the event:
Texas Hills (www.texashillsvineyard.com) Roussanne 2007
Roussanne, a white Rhône varietal is a relative newcomer to Texas and still rare as a single varietal wine. Pale straw in color but carries, rich citrus and peach blossom aromas and similar flavors; ripe yet light and crisp character from time spent hanging in the intense sun, but kissed with cool nights on the Texas High Plains. This varietal promises to be excellent for Texas white wine drinkers in the coming years.
Attendee comment: “Wow, it’s like a Sauvignon Blanc on Steroids!”
Brennan Vineyards (www.brennanvineyards.com) Viognier 2008
Medium straw-yellow color wine exudes aromatic fragrances of apricot, honey and orange blossom. On the palate, fresh apricot flavors are joined by white peach in a creamy, smooth approach. Crisp acidity with balanced citrus and fruit flavors carry through a very long and satisfying finish.
Attendee comment: “The fruit is ripe and luscious, almost sweet tasting.”
Becker Vineyards (www.beckervineyards.com), Prairie Rotie (Martin’s Vineyard) 2007
Smooth, medium bodied and balanced Rhone-style red blend with earthy notes, licorice, red-black berry mix, chocolate notes and spice – quite ripe but with good acidity and a medium finish. Made with Texas High Plains Grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault from Andy Martin’s Vineyard.
Attendee comment: “This could be my personal house wine.”
Sandstone Cellars (www.sandstonecellarswinery.com) III 2006
Limited release Texas-Med wine, 3rd in the continuing Sandstone Cellars red blend saga. “Inky-luscious” pubescent dark fruit create a firm yet pleasant tannic structure. Wine driven by the Mourvedre (52%) conjoined with Primitivo and several other red Mediterranean varietals. It closely follows wines from Bandol in the Provence (France). Decant or aggressively aerate to obtain the best presentation; high aging potential.
Attendee comment: “I would love to have a time machine to fast forward this wine five years.”
Llano Estacado (www.llanowine.com) Viviano 2005
Refreshing Cabernet blend with Sangiovese; grapes from long time premium Texas High Plains wine grower, Neal Newsom (Newsom Family Vineyards) made in the style known as “Super Tuscan”, also referred to as “Superiore Rosso”. Character of cherries, plums (and hint of cola) dominate with crisp acidity punctuating the Italian style supported by the more tannic Cabernet grape and 27 months of oak aging. Should age for 5+ years.
Attendee comment: “A big red wine that has a refreshing zing.”
San Martino Winery (www.sanmartinowinery.com) Tempranillo 2005, Newsom Vineyards
Emphatically the most “Spanish” of all of Texas wines. Characteristics of black cherry, dark plum and field herbs. A healthy dollop of oak aging provides a sweet vanilla note. This wine has a powerful and gripping tannic structure on the palate despite relatively young vines in Texas. Drink now or hold.
Attendee comment: “Texas has its own Gran Riserva!”
Texas wineries that I visited at the event included Alamosa Cellars, Becker Vineyards, Brennan Vineyards, Llano Estacado, Messina Hof, Fall Creek Vineyards, Flat Creek Estate, Haak Vineyards, McPherson Cellars, Pleasant Hill Winery, and Pheasant Ridge.
The Impresario du Bois
I had a chance to taste two new wines from our own “Impresario du Bois”, Raymond Haak (Haak Vineyards – www.haakwine.com). He has been a leader in making quality wines from a French American hybrid grape varietal called Blanc du Bois. Raymond has made five differently stylized Blanc du Bois wines: Dry (Green Label), Semi-Sweet (Blue Label), White Port, and more recently his Reserve with oak aging (Dark Green Label) and Blanc du Bois Madeira (short squatty bottle).
I tasted the latter two wines for the first time at the Grand Tasting and was indubitably impressed. The “Reserve” made “sur lie” and oak aged should be a Chardonnay drinkers delight offering a complex mix of crisp citrus and apple aromas overlaying yeasty notes and a dash of toasted oak. The “Madeira” carries the essences of dried apricots, green tea and fresh lemons suspended over sweet caramel cream.
California Winemaker Comments on Texas Wines
Probably the best comments of the evening came from a California (Sonoma) winemaker with over 20 years experience who understandably wished to remain anonymous. When sampling my Texas Pick Six wines, he said, “These are all impressively well made wines.” When I asked him to compare them to comparable wines in California, he said, “Californians have spent so much time in recent years pumping up the fruit ripeness and alcohol that it is impossible to taste the terroir anymore. These Texas wines are not overblown like many that I taste. Enjoy them, as you can still taste the interplay of local and varietal flavors.”
I want to give special thanks to Elsie Wilmoth and Brenda Wilkins from the Houston Wine Merchant (www.houstonwines.com) for their pouring assistance during the event, and to Bill Rives (Fall Creek Vineyards – www.fcv.com) making a special stop in Johnson City while driving into Houston from the Hill Country to pick-up a missing ‘Pick Six’ wine.