2015 New Years Resolutions & Wishes from VintageTexas
2014 Top Texas Wines that Titillated My Taste Buds List (Part 2)
Well, I think that we’re about half way through my list. Memories keep popping-up and neurons flashing in my brain that keep reminding me of the wonderful Texas wine experiences that I’ve had this year. This has also call to my attention how fortunate we’ve been to have great “Vintage of the Century” years like 2010 and 2012. They have helped us collectively (both producers and consumers) in the aftermath of the incredible difficult vintages of 2011 (fire, heat and drought) and 2013 (multiple late spring freezes). Most of the white wines we have to enjoy currently are not from 2013 but from 2012.
One of my stops earlier this year was in Plains, Texas, to attend Newsom Vineyards 2014 Grape Day. Thinking back, I’m thankful for being able to attend this year’s event where I had the opportunity to meet new growers and re-establish connections with those I’ve known for years, now a decade or more. Most of all, it presented the opportunity to taste a few wines that I likely wouldn’t have had the occasion to taste. Two notables, both Roussannes, are presented together to start off the second half of this year’s “Notables” list.
The first Roussanne came courtesy of Howard Davies who presented winemaker-son Grayson’s Arché Winery 2012 Roussanne, fresh from its platinum award at the San Diego International Wine Competition. I caught a taste before the bottle was emptied. This Roussanne proved its mettle; vivid and rich nutty and lemon citrus aromas, great acidity balancing the grape’s viscous feel and gave attendees a taste of its Saint Jo Red River Valley heritage. The other was the 2013 Roussanne (Oswald Vineyard) with ripe lemon citrus and tropical pineapple carrying an overlay of nutty nuances and a silky mouthfeel. Please stop and think for a minute: this white grape could be destine for true Texas stardom (even more so that our state’s current favored white – Viognier. Every year a new one and a good one seem to appear as if by magic. But, in my opinion, it’s not magic, it’s destiny.
Pedernales Cellars 2012 Reserve Tempranillo
This wine has gained so many accolades that my first thought was wine bother included in my 2014 list. However, this IS a very special wine. Once to taste the Pedernales Cellars 2012 Reserve Tempranillo you know that it’s worthy of every bit of praise it has received. My taste came during my 2014 VintageTexas Tempranillo Day tasting shared with family and friends in Houston. The good thing about truly great wines is that they require few words. All I will say is that this Tempranillo was artfully made David Kuhlken and highlights dark cherry, earthy minerals, truffle, tobacco with firm tannins and a smooth lengthy finish. If you can still find this wine, or at least beg a taste or two, get as much as you can and it will please (either in your mind or cellar) for years to come.
Fall Creek Vineyards 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (Texas)
The Fall Creek Vineyards 2013 Sauvignon Blanc came to my glass during a tasting of Texas wines held at the Red Room Lounge in Austin. It was poured by the hand of the Fall Creek winemaker, Sergio Cuadra, and I was asked to taste it blind. The wine had such floral elegance in the glass that my first reaction was that it had characteristics that I’d only experienced in Viognier or Muscat, but this wine was much lighter bodied and brought an underlying note of green grass. Even after Cuadra told me that it was made from Sauvignon Blanc grown at Mesa Vineyards near Fort Stockton, I retorted something like “And, you blended in some Viognier or Muscat, right?”. Wrong! This wine is pure unadulterated Texas Sauvignon Blanc and, as far as I’m concerned, at its all-time best. You might still find some of this wine around at Spec’s or other wine shop.
Kiepersol Estate 2012 Stainless Syrah (Texas) No Oak
While at Kiepersol Estate for the release of their new grape-based vodka called Dirk’s Vodka, I came in early and had a chance to taste several of winemaker Marnelle Durret’s wines, some in bottle and some still in barrel and some bottled but not released. One thing that always is of interest to me at Kiepersol is what a great job they do with Syrah. Sometime it’s in their featured release of Barrel 33 and other times it’s their Estate barrel aged Syrah. But, this year it was their Stainless Syrah. It is amazing how extracted, dark, intense and grippy this Syrah is on the palate. In addition, it has an amazingly sense of terroir that I’ve come to associate with this estate vineyard. Add to this, clean aromatics of wild cherry, strong Earl Grey tea and a finish of a good char on BBQ beef brisket. If I’ve made you hungry for this wine, great…go for it!
Haak Vineyards and Winery, 2008 Madeira Blanc Du Bois
While I believe the current vintage of the Haak Madeira Blanc Du Bois offered at the winery in Santa Fe, Texas, is 2011 or 2012, I found this bottle of the 2010 vintage on the shelf at Spec’s in Houston. I had no fear as Madeira, by virtue of its method of extended Estufagem barrel aging at 105 F, is the most stable-for-the-long-haul wine you will find anywhere in the world. However, the things that make this wine worthy of distinction are the elements of the tasting experience this process produces: concentrated dried apricot, caramel toffee, countered with notes of Asian tea and lemon-tangerine citrus. I’m sure that the 2011 or 2012 will be similar as these are produced by what happens to Blanc Du Bois by this unique aging process. Also, recommended is the equally good Haak Madeira Jacquez that provides a more classic Madeira wine with intense walnut and hazelnut notes along with a hint of salty sea air. These wines are perpetual gold medal winners where ever they go and are a unique Texas product to share is others. I think that I will again tonight!
The downside of this type of list is that they could and should go further than the limited number of wines presented. Secondly, not all of these wines are still available, but please check your local supermarket, wine shop, Spec’s or even at the winery. I’ve sometimes been surprised what shows up long after the words “Not Available” are spoken. Also, if not available locally, in most cases, Texas wineries can, in most cases, ship their wines right to your doorstep or to your drop ship location (Mine is a friendly wig salon near my house that has an adult to sign for the shipment five days a week).
I hope you find the Texas wines you want for your holiday and year-end festivities. Please drink in moderation, plan for designated drivers when and if needed, and celebrate well with family and friends at this wonderful joyous time of year.
Drink well, my friends.
Russ Kane, Doc Russ Texas Wineslinger.
2014 Top Texas Wines that Titillated My Taste Buds List (Part 1)
As in previous years, if you recall, the year finishes with lists of “Best Texas Wines” and then the discussion starts about why everyone’s favorite wine was not on the list, and how deficient the “best wine” process is. Well, this year (under the fictitious but well-intentioned “Truth in Blogging Act of 2014”), I’m just going to present a list of MY favorite wines that I had the opportunity to taste in 2014. My tastings were done in a tasting rooms, as a wine competition judge, from an unsolicited sample, at a wine event somewhere in Texas, dinner with friends, or as part of a notable monthly tasting group in Houston.
Arguably, the venues and manner of tasting and the conditions under which these wines were tasted varied. But, none the less, in a bit of intentional understatement, I present the 2014 Top Texas Wines that Titillated My Taste Buds List. As you know, I usually try to limit it to ten wines, then fail miserably and end up with 11, 12 or 13 wines on the list. Here are the first six wines:
Duchman Family Winery 2012 Estate Nero d’Avola
From a timing standpoint, this wine made it to me just in time, but it was worthy…every last drop of it. The wine was part of a food and wine pairing run-thru that Chef Terry Thompson Anderson and I did for an upcoming issue of Edible Austin. Grown on a limited parcel on the Duchman estate vineyard in the Texas hill country, it approaches with luscious black cherry and red beet root characteristics that floats aromatics of florals that end in mineral earthliness. This wine has nearly endless food pairing potential; its flexibility makes it a delight to have handy in your wine cabinet. Our wine pairing will surprise you. But you’ll have to wait until Spring to find out what it was.
Llano Estacado Winery 2010 Viviano Rosso Superiore (Texas)
The Llano Estacado Viviano (Rosso Superiore) has been an acknowledged favorite of mine for nearly a decade now. It’s not an annually produced wine, but when winemaker Chris Hull and his boss Greg Bruni say “This is it!”, they put it in the bottle and ship it out. This was one of my featured wines in the Houston Chronicle during October for Texas Wine Month. The stunning presence and complexity this wine is of dark berries, tart red cherries, smoke, earth and spice and comes from the blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Sangiovese after 40 months (yes, 40 months) aging in French and American oak. Gotta grill something (but without sweet soppin’ sauces, please), give this wine a try.
Fall Creek Vineyards 2010 Meritus (Texas)
Very much like the previous wine, is not produced every year. In this case, this is owner/winemaker Ed Auler’s baby. He determined the blend and makes the call when it’s ready to go. This wine came to me (and others in a Dale Robertson Houston Chronicle monthly tasting) tasted blind in a group of over 50 wines. Yet, it was a standpoint for every one of the tasters that I polled once the wines were revealed. This is what a Cabernet-dominated blend in Texas should taste like: dark berry nuances, rich in body and spicy notes on the nose with a raciness brought by acidity on the finish. This wine’s got them all covered.
Inwood Estates 2012 Chardonnay (Dallas County)
I’ll admit not being one of the cheerleaders when it comes to Texas Chardonnay. But, it seems that this year, many roads and chance meet-ups have brought me to find some pretty darn good stuff. The year started with an excellent taste in Mason of a previous vintage Pilot Knob Chardonnay (fruit from Dan McLaughlin’s Robert Clay Vineyard). But, I tasted this Inwood Estate wine in Dan Gatlin’s Hill Country tasting room near Fredericksburg (thanks Dan for opening this place which is a lot closer to my hill country cabin than Dallas or even Florence). I liked this wine so much paired with one of his tasting room’s pull-pork sandwiches) that I featured it in a Feast of the Seven Fishes article redux in this month’s Edible DFW magazine and online. The Inwood 2012 Chardonnay from Dallas County is special wine with its green apple fruit, toastiness from light French oak aging, and minerally complexity (yep – that wet rock aroma) that harmonize in the glass to be sipped almost indefinitely or paired in myriad directions from smokey pulled pork to the creamiest Poulet Parisienne.
Becker Vineyards 2013 Provençal (Mourvèdre – Dry Rosé) Tallent Vineyard
This wine is a near annual performer on the Texas wine seen. It’s a work of passion for Dr. Richard Becker in his untiring efforts to bring a “Taste of Provence” (the acknowledged “home base” of dry rosés) to the Texas hill country. I tasted this wine soon after it became available at my local Spec’s Smith Street store, the “Mother Ship of Wine” in Houston. It’s classically colored salmon-pink with tart red-berry and minerally essences that capture memories of my trips to southern France with many balmy Mediterranean nights spent sipping wines made precisely like this one from the Mourvèdre grape. The wine’s single vineyard designation acknowledges longtime Becker Vineyards grower and exalted Texas hill country vigneron Drew Tallent.
Driftwood Estate Winery 2012 Longhorn Red (Cabernet/Syrah Blend)
I was back judging at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s International Wine Competition this year. After blind tasting and evaluating over 100 wines on Saturday, I came back on Sunday to judge the finalists in several categories including best Texas wine, again all done blind. In the Texas flight, one wine stood out for me for it overall balance, structure and quality. It was dark, nearly opaque, a grand display of well extracted black fruit and yet something more. In addition, the wine had a well-crafted tannic grip and high toast notes on the finish. Having previously tasted owner and winemaker Gary Elliot’s gold medal winning 2011 Longhorn Red and several of his Syrahs, I would have bet my bottom dollar that the wine I was tasting in the finals was his, but I really didn’t know (that’s why blind tastings are such great events). The long and short of it, Elliot’s 2012 Longhorn Red is a wine of distinctions and truly deserves the title of Best Texas Wine from the 2015 Houston Rodeo wine competition.
There will be a few more to come in my next VintageTexas post, I assure you…Russ Kane, Doc Russ – Texas Wineslinger”
P.S. Look for my new book set for release on January 19th: Texas Hill Country Wineries (click here for info and discounted pre-release sales).
Your Guide to the Texas Hill Country Wine Experience
The Texas Hill Country Wineries have roots as old as any around. Texas grapes grow in soils made from ancient calcareous sea deposits, similar to many of the grape-growing regions of Europe. Texas wine culture arrived in the 1600s with Spanish missionaries who settled and planted vineyards in El Paso del Norte. The 1800s brought German and Italian immigrant farmers to Texas; they considered wine a staple of everyday life.
In what is now America’s No. 5 wine-producing state, the Texas Hill Country was named by Wine Enthusiast magazine to its 2014 list of best international wine destinations. It may surprise some, but not the wine aficionados who have visited the Texas Hill Country’s 50 or more wineries, that wine-and-culinary tourism is currently the Texas Hill Country’s fastest growing sector.
This book (click here) is your guide to the Texas Hill Country winery experience. It is time to sip and savor Texas for yourself.
I share my time between Houston and the Texas Hill Country. I’m a technical writer, researcher, wine blogger, and book author with work spanning three decades. My best-selling book, The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine (Texas Tech University Press, February 2012), provided me insights and stories from the pioneers of Texas wine.
In the book Texas Hill Country Wineries (Arcadia Publications, the largest publisher of local history, January 2015), I tell the story of the Texas hill country wine experience in words and over 170 images, some going back into the late 1800s. This story is not only what the Texas hill country wineries are now, but also what came before from all around the state and from far away Europe to start wine culture in Texas.
Reserve your copy of the Texas Hill Country Wineries book at a pre-release discounted price. For more information and ordering, click here.
For your holiday gifts, give your wine-loving friends, family members and business associates a copy of The Wineslinger Chronicles, click here. All books are discounted for the holiday season, autographed and personalized by me as you request.
Many thanks for your support and following my VintageTexas blog.
Russ Kane – Doc Russ Texas Wineslinger
Texas Hill Country Wineries – December 2014 Newsletter
Reprinted by permission of Texas Hill Country Wineries (click here).
Holiday Wine Kick-0ff Tasting at Flat Creek Estate
Join us THIS Friday! Friday, December 5, 6-8pm – Hill Country tasting with Flat Creek Estate, Stone House Vineyard, Fall Creek Vineyard, Westcave Cellars and Perissos Vineyard. Tickets are only $25! Click here.
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Holiday Wine Trail
Less than 60 Tickets Available! The most coveted wine trail of the year is almost SOLD OUT! Get your tickets now for the 2014 Holiday Wine Trail, December 5-21. Click here.
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Inwood Estates offers Shuttle Service
Free shuttle service provided by Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro for Fredericksburg. Interested parties can call the winery for more information 830-997-2304. Reservations or appointments are recommended for all guests but advance notice is required for larger groups of 6 or more.
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** Don’t Drink & Drive **
Use a designated driver or one of our great, local tour and transportation partners. For more info on Limos & Tours, click here.
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Winemaker Profile – – Angela Moench, Stone House Vineyard
by Texas Wine Lover
Angela Moench is the co-owner and winemaker at Stone House Vineyard in Spicewood, Texas. At the winery is a vineyard with Norton grapes. Angela Moench is from the Barossa Valley of Australia and the wines at Stone House Vineyard showcase Australian wines in addition to Texas wines. We asked Angela Moench about her background and philosophy of winemaking.
Q: If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
A: I’d probably have a larger garden as I enjoy the outdoor life so much, read more books, and definitely do something creative. I used to think I’d like to have a restaurant but I’ve certainly outgrown that idea.
Read the full interview with Angela at Texas Wine Lover (click here).
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Wine Cocktails of the Month – Drinks with The Drakes
I Don’t Bake-Tini
– 1 oz William Chris Dessert Roussanne – 1 oz Praline Original Pecan Liqueur – 1/2 oz Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka – 1 oz Fat Free Whipping Cream * – Smuckers Sugar Free Caramel Sundae – Syrup* – William Chris Cocoa Almonds – Nutmeg – Martini Shaker – Ice
*I used Fat Free cream & Sugar Free options to cut calories, and it’s what I had on hand. It was delicious…but use what you like!
Pour Roussanne, Praline Liqueur, Whipped Vodka and Cream over ice in a chilled Martini shaker. Shaken or stirred is up to you…I prefer swirled! Carefully coat the rim of your Martini glass in Caramel, then into the Crushed Nuts. Pour cocktail into glass and top with fresh grated Nutmeg.
Hye Society Holiday Nog
– 1 part William Chris Dessert Roussanne – 1 part Southern Comfort Vanilla Spice – Eggnog – Splash 7-Up – Smuckers Fat Free Caramel Sundae Syrup – William Chris Cocoa Almonds – Cinnamon – Nutmeg – Ice (optional)
Carefully coat the rim of your Martini glass in Caramel, then into the Crushed Nuts. Add a small amount of ice as to not water it down. Pour in Roussanne and Eggnog. Splash with 7-Up and top with Cinnamon and Fresh Nutmeg!
Twice as nice for the Holidays, two drinks for the price of one! Our dear friends at William Chris asked us to mix up a cocktail for the holidays. I made one you can enjoy in their tasting room, and one you can buy a bottle to make at home. Time and I wish you all a Happy and Safe Holiday Season…Don’t Drake and Drive! Seasons Greetings ~ The Drakes
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Dry Comal Creek Vineyard, Event Coordinator – This full-time position will work with Managemet & Customers to promote, sell & book, coordinate & execute all events at the winery (winery sponsored & 3rd party). This full-time position will be responsible for all pre-planning activities, scheduling & execution. This position will also have input into customer engagement & outreach program planning. For more info & to submit resume, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro, Part-time Bistro & Tasting Room – Now seeking part-time Saturday help in the Bistro & Tasting Room. Interested candidates should contact Vinny at email@example.com or 830-997-2304.
Messina Hof Hill Country, Assistant Tasting Room Manager & Tasting Room Associates – For more information & to apply, Click here.
Texas Wine Trail Member Wineries
4.0 Cellars, Alamosa Wine Cellars, Becker Vineyards, Bell Springs Winery, Bending Branch Winery, Chisholm Trail Winery, Compass Rose Cellars, Driftwood Estate Winery, Dry Comal Creek Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, Fall Creek Vineyards, Fiesta Winery, Fiesta Winery Fredericksburg, Flat Creek Estate, Flat Creek Enoteca Marble Falls, Fredericksburg Winery, Grape Creek Vineyards, Hye Meadow Winery, Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro, Kerrville Hills Winery, Lewis Wines, McReynolds Winery, Messina Hof Hill Country, Pedernales Cellars, Perissos Vineyards & Winery, Pillar Bluff Vineyards, Pontotoc Vineyard, Rancho Ponte Vineyard, Santa Maria Cellars, Singing Water Vineyards, Sister Creek Vineyards, Solaro Estate, Spicewood Vineyards, Stone House Vineyard, Texas Hills Vineyard, Texas Legato Winery, Torre di Pietra Vineyards, Wedding Oak Winery, Westcave Cellars Winery, William Chris Vineyards, Wimberley Valley Winery, Woodrose Winery.
Click here for more info.
Wine Awards & Recognition
Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo International Wine Competition, Top Texas Wine – Driftwood Estate Winery Longhorn Red, Texas 2012
San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo International Wine Competition, Best Herd of Texas Winery – Messina Hof Winery; Reserve Champion White Wine – Hye Meadow Winery, 2013 Gewurztraminer; Becker Vineyards – 8 medals, Brennan Vineyards (4.0 Cellars)- 4 medals, Driftwood Estate- 6 medals, Duchman Family Winery- 6 medals, Fall Creek Vineyard- 5 medals, Fiesta Winery- 2 medals, Flat Creek Estate- 3 medals, Hye Meadow Winery- 14 medals, Kerrville Hills Winery- 7 medals, Messina Hof Hill Country- 27 medals, Pedernales Cellars- 2 medals, Perissos Vineyard- 6 medals, Rancho Ponte Vineyard- 2 medals, Singing Water Vineyards- 4 medals, Spicewood Vineyard- 4 medals, Stone House Vineyard- 1 medal, Texas Hills Vineyard- 6 medals, Texas Legato- 2 medals, Wedding Oak Winery- 6 medals, Westcave Cellars Winery- 3 medals, William Chris Vineyards- 5 medals
Texas Monthly Top 5 Texas Tempranillos – Alamosa Wine Cellars, El Guapo Tempranillo 2011; Spicewood Vineyards Estate Tempranillo 2012; Pedernales Cellars Reserve Tempranillo 2012 & Texas Tempranillo 2012
Spicewood Vineyard – New York World Wine & Spirits Comp – Gold- 2013 TX High Plains Roussanne, Silver- 2012 High Plains Tempranillo, Bronze- 2012 Estate Tempranillo
December Winery Events
5th – 21st – Holiday Wine Trail at all 42 wineries
2nd – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca
3rd – Wine Profiling Workshop: Understanding Champagne & Sparkling Wine & Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca
4th – Ladies Night Out at Texas Hills Vineyard – Rustic Wine Diner & Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca
5th – Holiday Wine Kick-off Tasting – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca – First Friday! at Stone House Vineyard – Texas Hills Vineyard at Fredericksburg Christmas Parade – Baby Back Rib Night with Live Music at Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro – Holiday Painting & Wine Party at Messina Hof Hill Country
6th – Pontotoc Vineyard Wein Halle in FBG – Baby Back Ribs & Guitarist Bobby Beal at Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro – Saturday Food Vendor, Live Music & VIP “Wine Library” Cellar & Barrel Tasting at Becker Vineyards – Live Music by Ryan Morris at Singing Water Vineyards – Live Music at Bell Springs Winery – Live Music Under the Pavilion at Torre di Pietra – Live Music Saturday at Pedernales Cellars – Private Reserve Tasting & Live Music at William Chris Vineyards – Book Signing by Chef Ross Burtwell at Texas Hills Vineyard – Live Music at Fiesta Winery FBG 290 – Smokin’ Rose of Texas BBQ & Live Music by Jeff Wood at Grape Creek Vineyards – Holiday Wine Couture at Solaro Estate – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca
7th – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca – Happy Sunday! at Kerrville Hills Winery – Holiday Wine Couture at Solaro Estate – Sunday Music at Becker Vineyards – Wine & Chocolate Pairing at Messina Hof Hill Country – Live Music by Jeff Wood at Grape Creek Vineyards – Sunday Music at Westcave Cellars – Wine Profiling Workshop: Misconceptions of Sweet & Dessert Wine at Flat Creek Estate
9th, 10th – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca
11th – Rustic Wine Dinner & Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca
12th – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca – Holiday Wine Couture at Solaro Estate – Baby Back Rib Night with Live Music at Inwood Estates Winery &Bistro
13th – Crepes by Crepe Nation & Live Music by Lonnie Lett at Grape Creek Vineyards – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca – Winery U! Cabernet – The King of Reds at Dry Comal Creek Vineyards – Live Music at Fiesta Winery FBG 290 – Private Reserve Tasting & Live Music at William Chris Vineyards – Terry Thompson-Anderson Book Signing at Texas Hills Vineyard – VIP “Wine Library” Cellars & Barrel Tasting, Live Music & Food Vendor at Becker Vineyards – Live Music Saturday at Pedernales Cellars – Live Music Under the Pavilion at Torre di Pietra – 2nd Saturday Concert featuring Shan & Annie at Singing Water Vineyards – Live Music featuring Brad Blackburn at Kerrville Hills Winery – Live Music at Bell Springs Winery – Baby Back Ribs & Guitarist Bobby Beal at Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro – Holiday Dinner! at Stone House Vineyard – Pontotoc Vineyard Wein Halle in FBG
14th – Live Music by Lonnie Lett at Grape Creek Vineyard – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca – Happy Sunday! at Kerrville Hills Winery – Sunday Music at Becker Vineyards – Dave Lewis from Spicewood Food Company at Texas Hills Vineyard – Sunday Music at Westcave Cellars Winery
16th – Fights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca
17th – Wine Profiling Workshop: Misconceptions of Sweet & Dessert Wine & Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca
18th – Rustic Wine Dinner & Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca
19th – Fights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca – Holiday Wine Couture at Solaro Estate – Baby Back Rib Night with Live Music at Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro
20th – Pontotoc Vineyard Wein Halle in FBG – Baby Back Ribs & Guitarist Bobby Beal at Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro – Saturday Food Vendor, Live Music & VIP “Wine Library” Cellar & Barrel Tasting at Becker Vineyards – Live Music at Bell Springs Winery – Live Music featuring Acoustic Jungle at Kerrville Hills Winery – Live Music Under the Pavilion at Torre di Pietra – Private Reserve Tasting & Live Music at William Chris Vineyards – Live Music at Fiesta Winery FBG 290 – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca
21st – Live Music by Derek Spence at Grape Creek Vineyards – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca – Happy Sunday! at Kerrville Hills Winery – Sunday Music at Becker Vineyards – Wine & Pie Pairing at Messina Hof Hill Country – Sunday Music at Westcave Cellars Winery
23rd, 24th – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca
25th – Merry Christmas!
26th – Baby Back Rib Night with Live Music at Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca
27th – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca – Live Music at Fiesta Winery FBG 290 – Private Reserve Tasting & Live Music at William Chris Vineyards – VIP “Wine Library” Cellar & Barrel Tasting, Live Music & Food Vendor at Becker Vineyards – Live Music Under the Pavilion at Torre di Pietra – Live Music at Bell Springs Winery – Baby Back Ribs & Guitarist Bobby Beal at Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro – Pontotoc Vineyard Wein Halle in FBG
28th – Sunday Music at Westcave Cellars – Live Music by Jeff Wood at Grape Creek Vineyards – Wine & Cheese Pairing at Messina Hof Hill Country – Sunday Music at Becker Vineyards – Happy Sunday! at Kerrville Hills Winery – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca
30th, 31st – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca
Happy New Year!
For more information on these events visit Winery Events (click here).
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Words to Sip By….
“The Texas Hill Country offers the complete wine country experience” including the genuine look and feel of what serious wine travelers have come to expect: quality wine yet something more…a beautiful setting that conveys ambiance and the region’s “sense of place”.
-Russ Kane, Vintage Texas
New Book from Doc Russ Texas WineSlinger on the Texas Hill Country Wineries
Upon reviewing my previous best-selling book, The WineSlinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine, international wine luminary Oz Clarke rattled off the following blurb:
“Doc Russ is the kind of guy who can mix blues, barbecue and Barbera in a truly Texan way, and as he writes I can smell the mesquite smoke, hear the wailing guitar and chew the High Plains ripe red fruit. Right on Russ!”
The WineSlinger Chronicles (published by Texas Tech Press) is a literary treatment with stories the shed light on the heart and soul of the statewide Texas wine industry and focuses on its key people, their key contributions and personal stories. The personalized and autographed book makes a great gift for friends, family and associates that love good stories of Texas pioneering grit, gumption and perseverance. For your holiday discount on your purchase of The Wineslinger Chronicles, click here.
As you may know, I’ve not been sitting around letting the blowing west Texas red dirt gather in my boots. I’ve been working on a new book titled, Texas Hill Country Wineries, and it will be released by Arcadia Publications next month (in January 2015).
This new book is a pictorial treatment of the Texas wine experience going back to its genesis in the 1600s in the Mexican town of El Paso del Norte. It follows the evolution of the immigrant farmer/winemaker experience that survived national Prohibition. The book culminates with today’s emergence of the central Texas hill country that was recently recognized by the Wine Enthusiast on their 2014 list of International Must-See Wine Destinations. This book contains approximately 100 pages and over 170 mostly color images carefully selected to tell the evolving story of the Texas Hill Country Wineries.
For more information on my Texas Hill Country Wineries book and your pre-release discount purchase option for an autographed and personalized copy of this book, click here.
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Award winning author Russell Kane, shares his time between Houston and the Texas hill country. He is a technical writer with over 250 publications, researcher, wine writer/blogger and wine aficionado whose international wine travels and work spans three decades.
Need Some Muscrat Love? It’s at Kerrville Hills Winery
I like this Kerrville Hills Muscrat Love wine for several reasons. The first reason is because at the first public wine tasting that I think that ever did (in Old Town Spring, TX, in the mid-to-late 1990s) I included a sweet and slightly sparkling Muscat Canelli wine from Sister Creek Vineyards in my presentation. When I got to that wine, I dutifully announced the name of the wine as “Muscat Canelli”. Nearly immediately, a loud voice with a down home Texas twang came from the back of the room. He boomed, “Did y’all say ‘Muscrat’ Canelli? What kind of grape is that?” Now, I can actually say, “yes, this is Muscrat wine”…. almost.
The second reason I like this wine is because it is made well and made with Orange Muscat from the Texas High Plains. The grapes came from Jet and Gay Lynn Wilmeth’s Diamante Doble Vineyards near Tokio, TX (click here). The wine is luscious and delightfully playful with citrus and stone fruit notes and slightly sweet on the palate. It finishes light and crisp leaving thoughts in my mind of a breezy night on a tropical island. It will go wonderfully with spicy Mexican or Pan Asian cuisine.
Thirdly, the label art is deliciously playful, too. It is almost real enough to touch. The original floral was created by Doreen Shann in Hunt, TX.
Still another reason I like this wine, it has only 10.9% alcohol and it fulfills my quest for wines with low alcohol. The world has enough 15% alcohol Pinot Noir and dessert wines with up to 20% alcohol, or more.
The last but not least reason that I like this wine is that Wayne Milberger owner and winemaker at Kerrville Hills Winery and his wife Carol are good people. When my photographer and I stopped by early on a Sunday morning to take photos for my new book on the Texas Hill Country Wineries, Wayne and Carol were friendly and gracious hosts and generous with their time.
Wayne is a bit of a handy man/engineer who tries to re-purpose just about everything he comes in contact with. That is how he got his winery’s refrigeration system and, in fact, that is how the whole winery building came about with a chimney right in the middle of the tasting room, as well. Ask Wayne how that happened.
Stop by and experience Wayne’s handy work both in the winery and in his wines. His winery is not on the main hill country drag of Route 290, but it’s well worth a little extra time getting there:
Hours: Thurs – Monday 11:00 am to 6:00 pm; 3600 Fredericksburg Road (Route 16), Kerrville, TX 78028; 830-895-4233; www.kerrvillehillswinery.com
P.S. If you are coming down Route 16 from Fredericksburg to Kerrville, take a look for a bit of Texas wine history. As you approach the “hairpin” in the road (obvious on a map or on your GPS) that the locals call “Deadman’s Curve”, the white wooden building (now being re-purposed as a church school) on the right side of the road is the last vestige of the old Pedernales Vineyards that met an untimely demise and a mystery. Pedernales Vineyard should not to be confused with Pedernales Cellars on modern day fame. Click here to learn more about the mystery of Pedernales Vineyards. It will be worth it.
Is Texas Wine Like Orange Juice?
A friend of mine related the following story to me with the caveat that many wineries were likely tired of hearing people like Andrew Chalk (click here) and I (click here) rant about sourcing of grapes used in Texas wines and how wine labeling should accurately reflect the source of the grapes. Who cares any way?
The Anonymous Friend said, “I’ll pass on one story that was told to me by a winery… ‘Take Minute Maid. They have to have orange juice on the shelves [in stores]. What if Florida where they get their oranges from gets a freeze that year and there’s no crop. It happens. Do they just say we’re not going to make orange juice until we can get Florida oranges? No, they look anywhere in the world (outside the country) to get oranges so they can still provide a product. Do consumers care then that the orange juice is not made from Florida oranges or just that Minute Maid made a really good orange juice?'”
If I follow this analogy and apply it to Texas wine (like I believe was the intention of the story), then Texas wine SHOULD BE just like orange juice, right? It doesn’t really matter if Texas wine is made with grapes that come from Texas or Lodi or Washington State or anywhere else. But, should the label on the wine (or orange juice) accurately reflect the source of the fruit?
This story got me thinking how orange juice drinkers might feel about the source of the oranges and what the companies that make orange juice do to label there orange juice products. So, I went and did some research at HEB and Whole Foods Market. What do you think I found out?
As I suspected, of people in the store that day that were buying orange juice, some wanted to know where the oranges came from and some didn’t. OK, that issue was settled. Orange juice consumers WERE just like wine consumers.
Next, I inspected several containers of orange juice. Do you know what I found out? Each carton of orange juice indicated where the oranges came from, as least to an extent. As these photos show: (a) Containers of Florida orange juice indicated “Florida Orange Juice”, (b) Containers of California orange juice indicated “California Orange Juice” clearly on the front label. Containers of more generic orange juice indicated that it was just made in the USA and some indicated a mix of sources like “USA and Mexico”. In all cases, the origin of the fruit was clearly and correctly indicated.
Now, I don’t profess to know the labeling regulations for orange juice (how much is needed to be Florida or California orange juice). After all, I can barely remember some of the rules that apply to wine labeling.
It appears to me that orange juice manufacturers do correctly indicate the source of the fruit in their juice. The use of the words “California” and “Florida” on orange juice cartons appears to me to be analogous to using the word “Texas” on the wine label to indicate Texas appellation of wine. Using the words “USA” on orange juice looks to be analogous to wine labels containing the words “American Wine”. Frankly, I don’t know if there is anything in the wine world analogous to “USA and Mexico”.
Maybe labeling of orange juice and wine do have something in common. But, you know, I didn’t see one carton of orange juice with the meaningless and confusing words, “For Sale in Texas Only“. If I had seen that on a carton of orange juice, just like for Texas wine, I would have wrongly interpreted that the juice carrying that label was a special product of Texas only allowed to be sold to fellow Texans within the confines of the Great State of Texas.
What do you say, let’s try to make the source of wine grapes in Texas wine as easy to determine as the source of oranges in orange juice. That shouldn’t be too hard for all Texas wineries to do. Then, maybe Andy and I can shut up and spend more of our time sipping more wine and less time typing borderline esoteric wine blogs. We are almost there, there are only a few Texas wineries that persist in using “For Sale in Texas Only” rather than America or other correct grape source.
P.S. I hope that you all take these points under serious consideration while also understanding and accommodate my tongue-in-cheek approach used in this blog. I also know that it is seriously hard to start a new wine producing region. I’ve talked to most of the key people in the Texas wine industry that have made an impact here. I appreciate their hard work and dedication; their grit and gumption, and so do many consumers. By and large, nearly all people in the Texas wine industry want to be honest and deal squarely with consumers. Please keep in mind that in the modern marketplace, trust starts with clear and honest labeling. There is no room for anything else. Thanks to all Texas wineries that, if enough Texas grapes are not available, that you correctly indicate the source of the grapes on the label – from American Wine to Temecula, Sierra Foothills, to Columbia River Valley. I’d rather have a bottle of wine that I can appreciate it’s source than one that has no source. Cheers to your success, now and in the future.
2015 Houston Rodeo Uncorks The Best in Texas: Driftwood Estate Winery Longhorn Red 2012
Well, it’s official. The 2015 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition just released the results of their top award winners and champions are:
- Grand Champion Best of Show – Rombauer Vineyards Diamond Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California 2010
- Reserve Grand Champion Best of Show – Charles-Le-Bel, Brut, Champagne, France NV
- Top Texas Wine – Driftwood Estate Winery Longhorn Red, Texas 2012
- Top Sparkling Wine – Ricossa Winery Moscato d’Asti, Italy 2013
- Top White Wine – McManis Family Vineyards Viognier, River Junction, California 2013
- Top Red Wine – Antinori Guado Al Tasso, Bolgheri DOC Supierore, Italy 2011
- Top Region Wine – Shirvington Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, Australia 2010
- Top Sweet Wine – Yalumba Antique Tawny, Southeastern Australia, NV
- Top Value Wine – Fancy Pants Red Blend, California 2012
These wineries should feel very happy with their awards as there were 2,578 entries, including wines from 43 Texas wineries and 16 different countries. I don’t think that they count Texas as a separate country from the USA, but they do feature the best wine from Texas. There were 20 panels of judges, consisting of wine experts, collectors and knowledgeable consumers. This is first time since the competition’s early history that I was able to join the panel of judges. It was impressive to taste a wide selection of fine wines from around the world. I personally tasted about 150 wines over the two day weekend period (November 15-16) allocated for my judging panel in the competition.
On the first day of the competition, my panel handled Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo, Syrah/Shiraz and Meads. After we finished judging, we were keep waiting nearly two hours to be released only to find out that we needed to go back for a tie breaker round between five Texas wines in medal contention in the Syrah/Shiraz category.This really tells you something about Texas Syrah.
On day two, I participated as a judge in the “taste off” for the top Texas, regional (Pacific Rim), and value wines. In this round, it was obvious that Texas was well represented. We tasted and judged each of the top five scoring Texas wines on its own merits with each judge casting votes without discussing or sharing the results. To me, one wine stood out in this flight of Texas wines. It was dark, nearly opaque. It had a grand display of well extracted dark fruit and a well crafted tannic grip. It got my vote. Later, I found out it was Gary Elliott’s Driftwood Estate Winery Longhorn Red (2012).
By the way, now Gary Elliott’s winery not only has the best vineyard view in Texas, but offers the Best Texas Wine, as well. Congratulations Gary, I’m sure that both you and your wine will represent Texas well.
Driftwood Estate Winery is located 6 miles south of Hwy 290 on Ranch Road 12 between Dripping Springs & Wimberley. It offers Mediterranean and classic style wines. it has a breathtaking hilltop view overlooking the vineyard, giftshop, tastings, picnic area and covered deck. Weddings & private parties welcome! More at: http://www.driftwoodwine.com/
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The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a Section 501(c)(3) charity that benefits youth, supports education, and facilitates better agricultural practices through exhibitions and presentation. Since its beginning in 1932, the Show has committed nearly $375 million to the youth of Texas. For more information, visit rodeohouston.com and connect with RodeoHouston® online via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Tumblr for all of the latest news. Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Heritage Partners are Reliant, Ford, Miller Lite, Coca-Cola, BP America and Mattress Firm. The 2015 show will run March 3 – 22, 2015.