Nov 282013

Chef Terry Thompson Anderson

A Holiday Food & Texas Wine Pairing: Feast of the Seven Fishes

Earlier this year, I had a chance for work with friend Chef Terry Thompson Anderson on one of the most intensive food and wine pairing and writing projects in my 15 year career in Texas wines (second only to our now famous 2011 Edible Texas Wine and Food Match). This pairing was based on the Feast of the Seven Fishes of Italian tradition, but done Texas Style.

You can get the full dosage of our efforts in the November issue of Marla Camps, Edible Austin magazine. With its emphasis on Cooks at Home, Cooking Basics and Sustainable Kitchen, this annual issue, simply named “COOKS”, is worthy of your kitchen library or archive. You can also get a peek at our Seven Fishes article and Chef Terry’s recipes and my Texas wine pairings at:

At first blush, The Feast of the Seven Fishes: Texas Style, might seem somewhat of strange twist on Italian tradition for a Texas wine and food experience. The history of this feast originates from Italian tradition based on the Christmas Eve celebration of the Vigilia di Natale in Italy (See article or link for the significance of the number seven).

The Texas connection actually came at the turn of the 20th century when a flood of Sicilians settled in Galveston and the lower Brazos Valley while northern Italians moved farther inland. The bountiful Gulf Coast waters, with their delicious grouper, calamari, blue crabs, shrimp, briny oysters and more, became the new palette for this particular year end holiday feast.

The preparation for this Texas wine and food pairing extravaganza came at mid-year, far in advance of the November issue’s September editorial deadline. Terry and I met to discuss recipes and possible approaches to wine pairing. My Texas wine pairing task was made more straightforward than you might expect. First, Chef Terry’s recipes are well written prose that make mental manipulation of the major elements of the dish and wine approaches seem straightforward. Secondly and perhaps most importantly, Texas wine growers and winemakers have finally embraced their hot sunny clime (and perhaps their inner Italian). Texas wine country is now a mecca of Mediterranean wine production representing grapes grown locally, but that originate from Italy, Spain, Sardinia, Portugal and southern France.

After our initial meet-up, Terry worked up her recipes and I made several candidate wine selections for each recipe. The size of this task became apparent as we realized that  seven Gulf seafood preparations were involved that required two or three candidate Texas wines for each course to pair.


Then, the big night came. Terry and I and my wife Delia, got together at Terry’s house in Fredericksburg where she prepared three plates for each recipe for us to taste alongside two or three (and sometimes more) of my Texas wine selections. We voted separately for our favorites and as you will see, there were times when one wine just wasn’t sufficient. There are several ways to approach wine and food pairing: intensity and weight of the cuisine, ethnic origin, similar or contrasting flavor elements, and synergistic aspects (as with a hint of sweetness with the heat of the chili or a splash of brisk acidity with a buttery, creamy sauce).

At the finish of a grand evening, I tallied our votes and came up with the wine pairing notes that highlight the Texas wines that did very well alongside Terry’s gulf seafood offerings.


The following are Chef Terry’s Seven Fishes Feast recipes (that are linked to the Edible Austin website) along with our Texas wine selections (with links back to their corresponding winery websites for more information along with availability and ordering details):


I hope you have a fantastic holiday season no matter what your ethnic or religious persuasion. Celebrate and toast the occasion with your favorite Texas wine.

All Texas wines featured in this article were Texas appellation, meaning that they were made from 75 percent or more Texas-grown grapes. These wines are available at the wineries, many of which offer online sales and shipping to your home or drop ship location (with adult signature upon receipt). Some are distributed and found in local markets (Central Market and Whole Foods in Texas) and wine stores, and especially at Spec’s Wines, Spirits and Finer Foods across the state.

NOTE: Please be advised that wines from Texas wineries that display “For Sale in Texas Only” on their labels are not generally made from locally grown Texas grapes. Please support Texas wineries that have signed the Texas Winery and Winemaker Pledge.

 Posted by at 12:21 pm
Nov 252013


Interesting Insights into Texas Wine from 2014 Houston Rodeo Gold

The 2014 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition judging boasted 2,505 entries, including wines from over 40 Texas wineries and 16 different countries. Medals were awarded to 2,212 wines by 20 panels of judges, consisting of wine experts, collectors and knowledgeable consumers. The total list of wining wines is available on the Houston Livestock Show Website and the complete list of Texas winners has been compiled by Jeff Cope at The long list of Texas winery gold medal winners is given at the bottom of this blog.

My mission in this blog is to dig deeper into the results from this year’s wine competition, just focusing on the best-of-the-best: the Texas gold medal winning wines. Believe it or not, it tells a story. It’s a story different from that any other top wine producing states (California, Washington, Oregon and New York) can tell.

The Focus in Texas is NOT to Try to be Like Bordeaux or Burgundy

The bottom line is that Texas wineries are doing their best by not focusing on wines that have become known as the “California Set”. Those wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made famous by Bordeaux and Burgundy wine regions of France.

Only 11% of the gold medal wines from Texas wineries in the 2014 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition were from this group of wines. These same results indicate that gold medal wines can flow from these grapes in Texas, but everything has to be just right; the vineyard location, the weather, the winemaker, and perhaps even the phase of the Moon.

Texas IS the Mediterranean of the USA

These gold medal results indicate one thing very significant. That is, Texas IS the “Mediterranean of the USA”. Its warm summertime weather works well with grapes from southern Europe and Mediterranean shores of France, Italy and Spain, perhaps better than it does with grapes derived from the cool climes of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

The best examples of what’s working in Texas vineyards and wineries is Tempranillo, a red grape that originates from Spain that is commonly associated with their Rioja region, and red wines and blends made from Syrah, Tempranillo, Mourvedre and Sangiovese. Over 40% of the Rodeo gold medals presented to Texas wineries were for red wines and blends with a Mediterranean lineage. For white wines, it’s Viognier, a grape that similarly comes from the Rhone River Valley in southern France. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 8:20 pm
Nov 152013


John Rivenburgh and Bob Young at Bending Branch Winery

You Just “Tannat” Argue with the Success of Texas Tannat: Bending Branch Winery Brings in Gold

Bending Branch Winery in Comfort, Texas, has won the coveted “Top Texas Wine” from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ Uncorked!® International Wine Competition. This accolade brings with it the signature saddle award for the winery’s first Hill Country estate-grown Tannat 2011.  Its Texas Tannat, Texas High Plains 2011 also received a double gold medal, earning a Reserve Class Champion award, and its Tempranillo, Newsom Vineyards 2010 earned gold.

Robert Young, Bending Branch founder and co-winemaker said,“We are so proud to win Top Texas Wine at the Houston competition, particularly for our first-ever estate Tannat. Our signature grape, Tannat, has found a sweet spot on the planet here and makes a remarkable and distinctive wine.  We couldn’t be more proud to bring home a saddle for our Tannat.”

[Bob- call me when you saddle up your horse for the photo-op!]

These prestigious awards come on the heels of earning two gold and four “Top of Class” medals at the 2014 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo Wine Competition.  Bending Branch Winery won two gold medals for its 2009 Petite Sirah Reserve, Paso Robles and 2009 Petite Sirah Port style, Paso Robles.

Earlier this year, Bending Branch won a prestigious double gold, at the 2013 San Francisco International Wine Competition.  The 2010 Bending Branch Cabernet Sauvignon, Newsom Vineyards, which received unanimous gold medals from every judge on its panel, is the first 100 percent Texas Cabernet Sauvignon to win double gold in at least 16 years.

2014 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition Awards

Bending Branch will be presented with its saddle at the Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup and Best Bites Competition on Sunday, Feb. 23.  The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo 2014 Rodeo Uncorked International Wine Competition boasted 2,505 entries, including wines from 40 Texas wineries and 16 different countries.

Bending Branch wines awarded medals at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition include:

  • Top Texas Wine:  Bending Branch Tannat, Estate Grown, Texas Hill Country 2011
  • Class Champion and Double Gold:  Bending Branch Tannat, Estate Grown, Texas Hill Country 2011
  • Reserve Class Champion and Double Gold: Bending Branch Texas Tannat, Texas High Plains, 2011
 Posted by at 12:23 pm
Nov 112013


Haak Vineyards Brings in Old World Gold & Silver with New World Madeira

Haak Vineyards & Winery announced today that it was awarded a Gold and two Silver Medals by the largest international wine competition in the world with over 12,000 entries competing.  The AWC Vienna International Wine Challenge 2013 awards and trophy presentations took place in the imperial ambiance of the Vienna City Hall in the presence of 3,000 invited wine professionals.

All wine entries were judged in an Absolute Blind Tasting in single flights by an international tasting panel. In this way, all wines received a fair chance in the competition. Haak Vineyards & Winery has set the standard for quality, innovation and creative wine styles in today’s wine industry, and in Vienna it did not shy away from the international competition, it scored well.

The Haak winning wines were a 2008 Madeira Blanc Du Bois (Gold), a 2006 Madeira Blanc Du Bois (Silver) and a 2010 Madeira Blanc Du Bois (Silver).

Raymond Haak was honored to join the ranks of world class medal and trophy winners at this prestigious ceremony in the city hall of Vienna, Austria.

Hat’s off to you Raymond (your’s too) and to your lovely wife and business partner, Gladys.

 Posted by at 2:23 pm
Oct 222013


Winners of the 2013 Austin Country Fair Wine Show Judging

On Saturday, October 12, 2013, the Austin County Fair held their 2013 Non-commercial Wine Show and Judging at the Austin County Fairgrounds – Turnverein Building, in Bellville, Texas. The event was coordinated by the Austin County Grape Growers Committee.

In this event, the wines were evaluated by two panels of judges in the following classifications: 1-Red Wine- Dry, 2-Red Wine – Sweet, 3-White Wine – Dry, 4-White Wine – Sweet; 5-Fruit/Berry, 6-Dessert/Port Style, 7-Kit Wine/Non TX Grapes, 8-Kit Wine/Non TX Grapes, 9-Native/Mustang Grape, 10-Blush.

The aim of this competition is to promote local grape growing and winemaking in Austin County and the surrounding area, a region that is rapidly expanding with commercial vineyard and winery operations specializing in Blanc Du Bois and Lenior (Black Spanish) grapes and wines.

Having served on the judges panel several times, I can definitely say that with every year the quality of the wines has increased. This year was no exception!

Featured winners were the Runner Up Best of Show Michael Goode and the Best of Show Martha Tarkington:


and the Best Austin County Produced Wine Billy Schaffner (Representing Billy was his daughter Laurie Michalke, Granddaughter in Law Lauren Michalke, great grandson Sterling Michalke and granddaughter Michaela Fleming):


The complete list of winners of this year’s competition in the various classifications are given below:


 Posted by at 11:20 am
Oct 182013



Join in the fun, meet Russ Kane, Texas Wineslinger, get his book!

Russ Kane, The Texas Wineslinger, at Kiepersol Estate Harvest Festival Scholar’s Tent – Tomorrow Sat. October 19th

Kiepersol’s 2013 Harvest Festival & Grape Stomp celebrates October as Texas Wine Month with a family event at the heart of their East Texas vineyard near Tyler, Texas.

Adult activities include:

  • Scholars tent – visiting speakers get you ‘in the know’ on the latest wine trends, how-to’s and must haves on the Texas wine scene
  • Sangria & Wine by the Glass

Russ Kane will be appearing at the Kiepersol Harvest Festival in the Scholar’s Tent between 2:00 and 3:30 pm tomorrow (Saturday, October 19, 2013) for two presentations titled:

  • “Secrets of the Wine Trail”
  • “Real Cowboys Drink Syrah – A Tasting”.

During this period, he will also be selling autographed and personalized copies of his best-selling book, The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine. Russ’s book has had critical acclaim in Texas, nationally and internationally. International wine luminary Oz Clarke said:

“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.”

The festival’s other family activities will run all day and include:

  • Grape Stomping
  • Painting Stomping Shirts with Your Feet
  • Live Music
  • The KE Corkscrew 5K Fun Run
  • Guided Winery Trolley Tours  – Order Tickets Here
  • Cork Art Activity for Kids
  • Artisan Vendors & Visiting Wineries
  • Festival Food brought to you by Ted Camel Foods

Join other Texas wine lovers at the 2013 Kiepersol Harvest Festival. Saturday activities and schedule are show below. We hope to see you there. The weather is beautiful and the wine will be wonderful.

More information on tickets, parking and location for the 2013 Kiepersol Harvest Festival is available online at:

Visit Kiepersol Estates sister event at Bushman’s featuring the Vietnam Wall Traveling Tribute.

 Posted by at 10:08 am
Oct 092013



New Fall Creek Vineyards Winemaker: Sergio Cuadra Schlie

Fall Creek Vineyards Hires a New Winemaker: Sergio Cuadra Schlie

In a recent news release, Susan Auler announced the hiring of a new winemaker at Fall Creek Vineyard – Sergio Cuadra Schlie. He is  an experienced winemaker from Chile who was recommended by Paul Hobbs!

Sergio is an Agronomy Engineer and Winemaker with nineteen years of experience in the Chilean wine industry. He had the privilege of having worked in two of the most successful Chilean wine companies, Viña Concha y Toro and Viña Caliterra, sister company of Viña Errázuriz, where he gathered a comprehensive knowledge and skills in many angles of the business, which includes all the way from vineyard assessment to supporting sales teams in several markets. He also lead the production of significant amounts of wines of different varieties over twenty vintages, including one in Fetzer Vineyards in the mid-1990s, and making wines from a wide range of origins in Chile.

Sergio has also taken part in the creation of marketing strategies for new wine brands to be introduced in different markets. Widely experienced on the design, control and managing the annual winery budget. He has also worked with renowned winemakers like Paul Hobbs, Jacques Lurton, and Kym Milne MW.

– — – — –

Here is an excerpt from Sergio’s 2013 Fall Creek Vineyards vintage report:

Chardonnay.  This year we harvested only a very small amount of this variety due to the freezes.  Regardless of the small sample, we had the chance to try a whole cluster pressing to direct the juice straight to the barrels to ferment.  It took about three weeks to finish and after the first racking it tastes just wonderful.  It is such a shame we have so little, because we would love for everyone to taste this wonderful wine.  We plan to sell it only through the tasting room.  Therefore, if you want a taste of it, you will have to come and get it at Fall Creek Vineyards in Tow!

Merlot.  We harvested this on August 8th with a nice ripeness in terms of sugar and taste. There were no green characters after tasting the fruit, which evidenced a good healthy condition.  The wine, even though it’s a bit too early to tell, is phenomenal, actually.  This was a very good surprise for me as it is difficult to see this quality from where I come.  Good color and fruity aromas, soft and round tannins only presage a tremendous wine.

Cabernet.  It was harvested on August 15th, just at the right time.  Like the Merlot, it already is showing a promising future.  As a matter of fact, both are resting in barrels where we are expecting malolactic fermentation to happen.  They might be good candidate for Meritus quality, which is our top wine.

Mourvedre and Syrah.  We put them together because we wanted them to ferment in the same tank, so we have a co-fermentation of the two. There are very interesting fruit characters and a soft and easy mouth feeling.  The idea is to blend them with Grenache to make a wonderful “GSM”.

Sangiovese.  This grape was severely hit by the freeze, so a very small amount of grapes were produced.  Hence, the plants were not in the best balance to concentrate the fruit, so this is not a good year to evaluate the potential of the grape.  Anyhow, with such a small amount of Sangiovese, there is a great chance we will only have it available in the tasting room.

Grenache.  It came in on August 29th, even though it behaved like if it did not want to get ripe, strangely enough.   It may be one of the grape varieties least hit by the frost, as evidenced from the more generous yield, compared to the short crops of the other varieties.  It took its time to ripen, maybe because of the heavier load it had.  There is a nice fruity nose and smooth mouth feeling.  As usual, color is not its main attribute, but it isn’t all about the color, is it?

Black Spanish.  This variety is so well adapted to the local conditions that it was not even harmed by the freeze.  The grapes experienced good yield and healthy condition even though the vineyard received some rain in August and early September.  The vineyard management went beyond organic practices, limiting them only to irrigation and mechanical weed control so not even a drop of any agrochemical touched the whole vineyard area. The grapes were harvested on September 9th and 10th.  As usual, it adds honor to its name when observing its deep red color.  We tried a combination of winemaking methods with the Black Spanish, and some look very promising.  Stay tuned.


Mother Nature may have been elusive this year in terms of yields, but nevertheless the grapes were carefully handpicked as usual and we are certain of an amazing quality vintage is being nursed at the winery.

Sergio Cuadra, Fall Creek Vineyards Winemaker

 Posted by at 9:49 am
Oct 042013


Writers, Bloggers and Enthusiasts Get Ready for the 6th Annual Regional Wine Week – October 6-12, 2013

Drink Local Wine will hold its sixth annual Regional Wine Week from October 6th to 12th, where wine writers, bloggers and enthusiasts share information about wine from lesser known wine regions throughout the country — providing a one-stop shop to see what’s cutting edge in regional wine.

The fifth annual regional wine week, held last year in November, linked dozens of stories and blog posts about wine produced in more than half of the other wine states (besides California, Oregon, and Washington). Yes, there ARE other wine producing states…46 or 47 of them depending how you count!

This year’s bonus -– We’ll be announcing a special contest people can enter to win wine-related prizes. The announcement may be viewed at

During Regional Wine Week, writers from across the United States are asked to post stories to their blogs, Web sites, magazines, and newspapers about their favorite regional and local wines, wineries and events. Then, send us a link to the post, and our website will aggregate the stories, providing a snapshot of regional wine. Over the past four years, writers from across the country have covered dozens of states’ wine industries.

Regional Wine Week is open to anyone –- from professional wine writers to wine enthusiasts with Facebook pages or Tumblr sites. You can submit stories about anything related to wineries, winemakers and wines from anywhere in North America (though we prefer not to include areas like Napa and Sonoma, since they already get enough attention).

For information about Regional Wine Week or to submit a story link, please click here to email

We’re looking forward to another great year. Please help us spread the word about regional wines.

 Posted by at 10:47 am
Oct 042013

Toast Texas Wine Month Tonight

Tonight’s The Night: Texas Wine Month Kick-off Tasting – October 4, 6-8pm

Brand new this year, Texas Hill Country Wineries (THCW) will Kick-off each trail with a local wine tasting!  The first Friday evening of each trail (like tonight), local wineries in one area will gather together to share a sample of their wines with you.

Start October – Texas Wine Month – off at Fiesta Winery along with Alamosa Wine Cellars, Pillar Bluff Vineyards, Texas Legato and Wedding Oak Winery.  Enjoy this evening with these five wineries then take your time on the trail the next few days and really discover what the northern area wineries have to offer.  They even have Walking S Wagon coming with a good ol’ BBQ plate including Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler for $10.  It’s a perfect wine and food pairings happening!

The Texas Hill Country AVA covers a vast area, some member wineries are over 100 miles apart.  We encourage you to take the first weekend of each trail and enjoy more of a local feel within the Hill Country.  All of our local communities have so much to offer…charming Bed & Breakfasts, scrumptious restaurants and many extra activities to showcase the Hill Country.  Check out our Eat, Sleep, Travel page or visit the Lampasas Chamber of Commerce or San Saba Chamber of Commerce websites to help plan your weekend.

For just $25, ($15 with your W&WT ticket, purchase) tickets include 10 tastes, logo glass, light appetizers and a casual, fun evening in the Hill Country plus take your ticket to participating wineries and receive a 15% discount on 3 bottle purchases over the weekend, October 5-6!  Local food trucks will be onsite as well for you to purchase larger meals. Note: $30 at the door if available, tickets are limited.

Click here for more information on the Texas Hill Country Wineries event schedule and online ticket purchases.

 Posted by at 10:25 am
Oct 012013


U.S. Government Shutdown: Impact to Texas Wine & Grape Industry

Probably the last place you would have thought to look for an impact of the U.S. government shut down would be in your glass of wine. Well…could it mean more “For Sale in Texas Only Wine”, maybe even wine with no labels, or maybe even nobody picking grapes to make wine?

WineAmerica reported that due to the continuing debate over the Affordable Healthcare Act, the Federal Government shut down at midnight last night. What does this mean for wineries?

Services deemed non-essential have been suspended:

  • Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has suspended all regulatory functions, non-criminal investigative activities and audit functions.  This means that all reviews of alcohol beverage labels, formulas and permits will be suspended until funding is reinstated.
  • The TTB has been bogged down with label reviews for quite some time now, and any suspension or services will only exacerbate this problem.
  • Meanwhile, all tax remittances will continue to be processed by the TTB as these functions are deemed necessary for safety and protection of property.

While Congress works to sort out government funding, issues important to wineries remain unaddressed.  The TTB website has posted an Appropriations Lapse Notice.

  • Farm Bill: If the Farm Bill is not reauthorized or extended this year, it will revert to the 1948 version, ending all funding for wine assistance programs.
  • Immigration Reform: Current law (H2-A) is cumbersome and ineffective. Labor shortages are common place and are causing crop and financial losses. We need bi-partisan cooperation to write legislation that works.

From: “Off The NewsVine”, News from the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA).

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 Posted by at 4:31 pm