Search Results : Corral » Vintage Texas Blog

Sep 202008
 

Shoot Out at the OK Corral

Shoot Out at the O.K. “Wine” Corral

One of the pleasures I have had, as a member of the Wine Society of Texas, is helping to organize interesting events involving wine and food. Because the WST is a 501c3 non-profit, educational organization, these events cannot be mere wine parties. WST has made a concerted effort to make these events educational….an actual learning experience, in a comfortable social setting.

A truly eye-opening experience was when we brought together about 55 people encompassing a wide cross-section of wine experience and tasting skills at the Culinary Institute Marie and Alain LeNotre in Houston for a Texas French Wine Shoot Out. In this head-to-head competition, the best Texas Merlot and Cabernet-based wines and blends were tasted against a selection of quality French Bordeaux wines.

The Texas wines were selected based on two major Texas wine competitions – The Houston Classic and the Lone Star International Wine Competition in Grapevine Texas. The French Bordeaux wines were selected by a local distributor based on French wine of comparable price point and quality. In terms of price point, the French wines actually came in on average 25 to 30 percent higher than the Texas wines.

To make for an “Even-Steven” Shoot Out, the identities of all wines were concealed from the tasters. Local foodie and writer, John DeMers, presided over the competition.

 

Book by John Demers

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Are you serious? How can this be? Texas wine going up against the French?” But, this is not as bizarre as you may think. Texas and France have a wine connection that goes back over 100 years to the late 1800’s.

In the late 1800’s, the French vineyards were being devastated by a blight called Phylloxera, a soil louse that invades the root system of the grape vines and eventually kills the vine.

One of the best-kept secrets of the wine world is that Texas actually came to the rescue.  Thomas V. Munson, a Texas agriculturist who experimented with cultivation of over 300 grape varieties, provided an improved, more resistant rootstock onto which the French could graft their vines.

For his contribution to the French wine industry, T.V. Munson was given the Legion of Merit, their highest civilian award.For more information on T.V. Munson and his Texas wine legacy, go to: http://www.tvmunson.org/index.htm

With this bit of wine history in mind, the judging lasted about two hours which gave all of the attendees ample time to taste, compare, think and cast their votes. The ballots were counted and tallied two ways: First, based on the most first place votes and then based on the most total votes including 1st, 2nd and 3rd place categories.

 

The “Big Surprise” of the event was that Texas wines received five out of the top six spots in the Shoot Out. Even the French and Franophiles that attended event were amazed at the quality of the Texas wines. Moreover, they were surprised that they had enjoyed and actually voted for some of the Texas wines.

Texas Hills Kick Butt Cabernet

The most total votes were cast for Texas Hills Cabernet Sauvignon made in Johnson City. Texas Hills wine maker, Gary Gilstrap, calls this wine his “Kick-Butt Cab” for a good reason. It has an intense black garnet color, with a spice-filled aroma.  As Gilstrap says, “The flavors of black berries and black cherries come through like a jackrabbit jumping fences.”

 

 

Becker Vineyards Reserve CabernetSecond place went to Becker Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve made in Stonewall near Fredericksburg. The Becker’s have made a name for themselves for making quality wines that include some of the best Cabernets, Bordeaux blends (Claret) and Vintage Port in the state.

Becker Reserve Cabernet produces essences of chocolate, dried cherries, espresso and spice.

Fall Creek Reserve MerlotFall Creek Reserve Merlot placed third based on first place votes. Fall Creek Vineyards is located in Tow, Texas, near the Texas BBQ capital of Llano. This Merlot, while being a big wine, is also soft, easy-drinking and silky smooth. It is loaded with bright cherry and plum fruit flavors. Even if you are not a red wine drinker, this might be a good place to start.

 

 

 

 

Chateau MoueixThe only French wine of the six entered in the Shoot Out to win an award was Chateau Canon Moueix Canon Fronsac – Bordeaux France.

This wine is a very important winner since the Chateau is owned by the same producer that makes the famous Chateau Petrus (acknowledged to be one of the most exclusive – and expensive – wines in the world). As most wines in this locale of Bordeaux, it is based on the Merlot grape and had a perfumed berry and cherry aroma with medium body with light tannins and a light, fruity finish.

The wining Texas wines should be available at retail stores statewide such as:

Spec’s – http://www.specsonline.com/
Houston Wine Merchant – http://www.houstonwines.com/
Central Market – http://www.centralmarket.com/cm/index.jsp

The more readily available wines made by Becker and Fall Creek may also be found at Kroger Signature Stores.

Sit back and Toast at a Rising Star…..

Toast a Rising Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 252009
 

VintageTexas Wine Blog Surpasses 10,000 Readers and 32,000 Page Views per Month….

VintageTexas State of the Texas Wine Blog Report – by Russ Kane

As many of you know, back in July 2008 I started my VintageTexas Blog Project at http://VintageTexas.com/blog.

I originally viewed this as a writing exercise in preparation for a book project. With my sights now firmly set on the book and my detailed chapter outline in hand, I am starting the book that will contain my interpretation of the “Sense of Place” that IS the Texas wine experience.

When I started the VintageTexas Blog, I really did not know what it was going to be. I assumed that it would help me get back my writing “chops”. I also guessed that it would help me to document and organize my thoughts and experiences as I re-established old relationships and worked to understand the changes in the Texas wine industry that had occurred during my almost three year sabbatical. However, after a mere six months, I can definitely say that the Blog has taken on a life of its own, having connected with a readership that wants to share the Texas wine experience with me.

This month, the VintageTexas Blog achieved a couple of major milestones. It surpassed 10,000 readers and 32,000 page views per month. As I monitor the Blog’s stats, I can see that its growth has been continuous month-by-month with no plateau yet in sight. In December, VintageTexas established a presence on Chron.com, the online version of the Houston Chronicle. This has opened a whole new dimension to the coverage for VintageTexas. See link: http://www.chron.com/commons/persona.html?plckPersonaPage=PersonaBlog&plckUserId=vintagetexas&newspaperUserId=vintagetexas&plckScript=personaScript&plckController=PersonaBlog&plckElementId=personaDest

In the past several months, VintageTexas Blog has highlighted connections between Texas and famous wine growing regions like Chateauneuf de Pape, Rioja and Coonawarra, and reported the “surprizing results” that Texas wines compare well with award-winning wines from around the world in blind tastings, consumer shoot-outs and competitions judged by wine experts.

In October of last year, in an effort to better understand the blog phenomenon as well as my own VintageTexas blogging experience, I attended the North American Blogger Conference held in Sonoma California. Yes, there is such a meeting and no, it was not like some weird Star Trek convention with computer geeks standing around in funny ears. Although, I did see one lady with electric red hair and a guy trying to sell a wine gadget called a “Wine Chapeau”.

At the conference, I learned that the most likely reason for the growth in readership on my VintageTexas Blog was that this blog filled a demand in an “informational niche”. To help you understand what I mean by this, realize that at this time, Texas wines and Texas as a wine destination are not widely covered by the national wine media such as “Wine _________” Magazine (fill in the blank with any of the following: Spectator, Enthusiast, or Advocate). Why? The reason is contained in the following facts:

• Texas is the 5th largest wine producing state.

• Texas is the 4th largest wine consuming state.

• 95% percent of Texas is consumed within the state and only about 5% of Texas wine gets “nationally distributed” outside of Texas.

This data indicates that the lack of coverage of Texas wines in the national media is actually predictable and understandable in terms of the almighty dollar. The “Wine ________” Magazine receives little if any advertizing revenue from Texas wineries and therefore does not have a vested interest in giving Texas wines much coverage versus those from California, Washington, New York and Oregon.

However, there are an increasing number of people that are interested in Texas wines, wineries and wine tourism. This premise is substantiated by facts that go well beyond the VintageTexas Blog activity cited above and includes the findings of a report titled, “The Economic Impact of Wine and Grapes on the State of Texas 2007”, produced by MKF Research for the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA), and an independent travel survey conducted by Orbitz Insider. See below:

• In 2005, there were only about 110 wineries in Texas. In 2007, there were over 150 wineries (a 43% increase).

• An estimated 958,000 tourists visited Texas wineries in 2007 resulting in wine tourism revenues of $296.6 Million (a 34% increase from 2005).

• The overall annual economic impact of the Texas Wine Industry on the Texas economy is now in excess of $1.35 Billion (hat’s with a big Texas “B”).

• In 2007, the Orbitz Insider Index named the Texas Hill Country as the second fastest growing destination for wine and culinary enthusiasts only behind Napa Valley, California.

While at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma, I also realized that most wine bloggers would “kill” for 10,000 readers per month (that is 120,000 per year) like attained on the VintageTexas Blog. This level of readership is comparable to many foodie magazines published in locales around the USA.

But, there is more information contained in the VintageTexas blogstats. Considering the stats along with emails that come to me directly (The virtual “backdoor” of the blog….Knock, knock. Who’s there?), I have peered deeper into the VintageTexas Blog readership and can now report that:

• 80 percent of VintageTexas readers are from the United States or use a mail server in the USA. I have a rough estimate that 70 percent of these readers are from Texas with 30 percent coming from the rest of the USA. From the emails that I have received, this 30 percent is mostly people considering wine tourism and a few other bloggers, many of which have provided links from their site to VintageTexas Blog, which has provided new readers for VintageTexas.

• 6 percent of VintageTexas blog readers are from international locations. In this latter group, Germany, Canada, UK, The Netherlands and Brazil are the most active international readers on the VintageTexas Blog. It is my opinion (based on my visits to many Texas winery tasting rooms) that this international readership is most likely driven by tourism to Texas and interest in visiting Texas wineries.

In closing this State of the Blog report, I must admit that my original thinking that the VintageTexas Blog would be a transitional exercise was wrong. I now believe that this blog has a bigger and better purpose than I originally comprehended. The VintageTexas blog provides a virtual, communal experience for those in Texas, across the USA and in even in distant lands that want to learn, share and enjoy the “Sense of Place” that is the Texas Wine Experience.

Thanks to the VintageTexas readership for making this blog experience possible. If you have any comments or suggestions for future blog activities on VintageTexas, please post comments to the blog or use the blog’s “back door” and send me an email at: russ@vintagetexas.com. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Enjoy,
Russ Kane
Wine Writer, Blogger and Aficionado

Jan 202009
 

Hill Country Hot Spot: The Cabernet Grill, the Texas Wine Country Restaurant

The Cabernet Grill is in a storied space at Cotton Gin Village, just south of Fredericksburg, Texas. The preceding restaurant in this space languished, never reaching notoriety for its drink or cuisine, but within the past two years, this has all changed.

The restaurant at Cotton Gin Village was rebranded as the Cabernet Grill. Executive Chef Ross Burtwell totally revamped the menu specializing in fresh seafood along with tantalizing offerings of Angus beef and wild game for his Fredericksburg-area patrons. The restaurant has a knowledgeable, “Texas friendly” staff.  But, best of all, the Cabernet Grill can boast of the largest, restaurant-based Texas wine list available anywhere in the Texas Hill Country, and most likely anywhere.

Saturday Night Dinner

Last Saturday, my wife and I decided to give the Cabernet Grill a try for dinner. This was the second time that we attempted it. Back in December, we were on our way to the Cabernet Grill, but our GPS sent us about five miles north of town on a dark country road smack dab in the “middle-of-nowhere”.

This time I waited to the last minute to make reservations. Oops! The restaurant was “filled to capacity”, the manager related to be me on the phone. But, I told him that we would come anyway and were willing to eat dinner at the bar if no tables were available in the main seating area.

This time, armed with the restaurant address, detailed instructions and the phone number, we arrived at the Cabernet Grill at 7:45 pm. As promised, we were met by a full house of what looked like ravenously hungry people. But, a short wait gave us a chance to review the wine list that featured over 75 selections of wines from around the State of Texas and taste a few wines in preparation for our main wine selection. At the bar, with glasses of Texas Hills Sangiovese in hand, we were notified that our table was ready.

While the main dining room at the Cabernet Grill was tall and spacious the exposed beams yielded a cozy, country experience warmed by a large stone hearth and wood fire. Above the fireplace were the remnants of the boiler that likely powered the old cotton gin in bygone days.

The Menu

The menu at the Cabernet Grill could be described as mostly “ranch fare” with a stroke of Texas gourmet. I just have this weird mental picture of a bunch of Texas ranch hands, trying to get their escargot to stay in the corral over night. But, it is a good thing that they did because the appetizers range from escargot to crab cakes that can easily be followed by widely varying preparations that include grilled steaks and enchiladas to shrimp scampi.

Our evening food escapade started with two Hill Country Caesar salads with some of most delicious garlicky, creamy dressing that we could remember.  My wife ordered the Black Diamond Buffalo Enchiladas and I bellied up for the Grande Chicken Fried “Pork” Steak with chipotle country gravy.

The All Texas Wine List

The Texas wine list at the Cabernet Grill was indeed impressive. We couldn’t recall ever having encountered a restaurant with this many Texas wines. In fact, this month’s feature was wines from Sister Creek Vineyards just about 30 minutes down the road in Sisterdale, Texas. Their winemaker, Danny Hernandez, has an “old world hand”, making food-friendly wines that impress with finesse rather than with a big alcoholic explosion.

The Cabernet Grill was offering flights of Sister Creek wines that included three, four- ounce pours all for $18. Do the math….that’s a real value at only $6 per glass. But, to get the best out of each wine, my suggestion is to ask for their larger wine glasses. You don’t get any more wine, but there is more room in the glass. That yields an enhanced aroma experience from the wine.

Pairing Wines by the Flight

The best part of the wine flight is that my wife and I shared the wines and both of us experienced how each wine paired with our respective entree. We selected a three-pour flight, two red wines (Sister Creek Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon) and one white wine, Sister Creek Muscat Canelli (slightly sweet and with an interesting hint of carbonation).

The most appealing part of this wine and food pairing was the fun educational experience finding out which of wines worked best with the food, and why. In fact, they all made for good matches, each in different ways. The Pinot Noir was a medium-bodied, red wine that lended itself more to the light-meat, pork steak, and the fuller-bodied, Cabernet Sauvignon harmonized with the Buffalo and black beans in the enchiladas.

The most astounding pairing incident was the white wine – Muscat Canelli and how it melded with both dishes. The slightly sweet, honeysuckle qualities in the wine played with the spicy qualities in both preparations. Normally, people don’t think of white wine with meat dishes, but the Muscat Canelli handled the buffalo enchiladas in a commanding fashion leading to a grand food and wine moment. Yet, the Muscat Canelli also had enough grace to pair with the much lighter preparation of the pork steak. The common element in this food and wine pairing that led to its success was the light sweetest in the wine, its spicy aroma, and the spiciness in the food or sauce. In the case of the pork steak, it was the warm heat of the chipotle sauce and with the enchiladas it was its combination with the more staccato notes of the chili peppers.

White Wine with Red Meat Then Why Not Red Wine with Dessert

For closers, we shared a warm German chocolate bread pudding topped with brandied black cherry ice cream and had enough of each wine left to pair with the bread pudding. If you don’t think that a dry red wine goes with dessert, try it with something made from chocolate. In this case, the Cabernet worked better than the Pinot since the Cab had more dark-berry fruit qualities. But, the remnants of the Muscat Canelli provided an interesting lighter counterpoint to deeper chocolate and berry flavors in the dessert.

In any regard, tasting wines in flights with food pairings in the friendly, warm surroundings of a restaurant like the Cabernet Grill can be lots of fun and even a bit educational.
 

More information can be found online at: http://www.cottonginlodging.com/

P.S. Note: We are trying to help get their GPS issue resolved.
Until then, please call the Cabernet Grill at 830-990-5734 and ask for directions and check out the ajoining cottages at Cotton Gin Village.

LAST CALL: Win Two Free Tickets to the Texas Hill Country Lovers Wine Trail – February 6-8 & 13-15, 2009 – 26 entries received so far…send us your Romantic Texas Wine Moment to enter!

Post your Romantic Texas Wine Moments to VintageTexas.com using the comments field (bottom of page) at: http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?p=423 or email me at russ@vintagetexas.com. This will enter you to win two free tickets good for 4 people, to the Texas Hill Country Lovers Wine Trail compliments of http://www.texaswinetrail.com. The deadline for posting your comment to VintageTexas.com is Friday, January 23, 2009. The winning entry will be selected and notified by email by Wednesday, January 28, 2009.

More Texas Hill Country winery and wine trail details at: http://www.texaswinetrail.com

Nov 282008
 

My Kindred Wine-Spirit in Tokyo

As you may have seen in my previous blog posting, I had the opportunity to celebrate the arrival of the 2008 Beaujolais Nouveau earlier this month in Tokyo. See:

http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?p=186.

Little did I realize that I would find my kindred spirit there, too, in the likes of Steven Spurrier.

Spurrier is now Consultant Editor of Decanter Magazine.  He also organizes the Japan Wine Challenge that was held this year at the Sheraton Miyako Hotel in Tokyo. The Japan Wine Challenge is the most prestigious wine competition in Asia providing a head-to-head competition among the wines of Japan and Asia and those from leading producers in the western world.

 

 

 

Does this format sound somewhat familiar?

Like maybe…The Judgment of Paris?

Spurrier is undeniably best known for organizing the famous blind tasting and wine judging in Paris, France in 1976. This event involved a selection of California Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays pitted against a well known contingent of French wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. The choice by the judges of several California wines over the French wines is often referred to as “The Judgment of Paris” and catapulted California to fame as a premier wine producing region. This event was recently made (with a bit of artistic license) into the movie – “Bottle Shock”.

Interesting factoids associated with the Paris event are numerous. For example, Spurrier invited many reporters to cover this judging, but the only reporter to attend was George Taber from Time magazine. Taber promptly revealed the results to the world.

In response to Spurrier’s actions, leaders of the French wine industry then banned him from the nation’s most prestige wine-tasting tour for a year, apparently as punishment for the damage his tasting had done to its former image of superiority.

However, the French then said that the real test for the red wines would come in 30 years’ time when they would be fully mature – then real judgement would be reached. Well, the ”Judgment of Paris – Part Deux” took place in 2006 with much the same results as in the initial judgement.
 
Another interesting aspect of the tasting was, at the time of the first Paris tasting, Spurrier was a purveyor of French wines. Some people involved with the tasting suggest that he did not actually expect that the California wines would out score the French wines in the competition. But, this was of little consequence….the die was cast. Literally overnight, the results of this competition put California in a prominent position on the global wine map.

It sounds like Spurrier is up to his old tricks again, but now in Japan.

Spurrier – My Kindred Spirit

I think of Spurrier as a kind of kindred spirit. I have studied his 1976 Paris tasting and have used it as my inspiration to do blind tastings and competitions involving Texas wines. Not only Texas wines versus Texas wines, but head-to-head competitions of Texas wines versus medal-winning wines from around the world.

My experience has been that, if judges (or wine critics, for that matter) know that they are tasting exclusively Texas wines, they often have preconceived notions that they cannot overcome. This knowledge generally leads to a more negative mindset and suffering scores for the Texas wines.

In blind tastings of Texas wine versus notable wines from around the world, two things happen. First, the playing field is leveled – the judges do not know if the wine being tasted from any particular glass is from Texas or some well a respected winery from a longstanding producing region. Therefore, the wine judge figuratively has the “gun to his head”, and must provide a simple, straightforward, yet critical evaluation based solely on the sensatory experience provided by each wine whether from Texas or not. Sounds fair to me.

Secondly, by including non-Texas “ringers” (typically involving respected brands, highly-rated by major wine publications and gold medal winning wines from major competitions), the competition results have an automatic benchmark with respect to quality and price point in the global marketplace. This provides instant credibility for the winning Texas wines in the eyes of both the judges and the consumers. In summary, comparative and blind tastings (and competitions) lead to a better experience for all parties involved and a more honest and benchmarked evaluation of Texas wines.

For descriptions of two major events that I have organized in the past that have used Spurrier’s techniques, go to the following previous blog postings:

The Judgment of Houston – http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?s=judgment : This is series of three posts in reverse order that describe the Texas’ Best Wine Competition blind tasting that used a panel of professional judges and a slate of highly-rated non-Texas ringers.

Shoot Out at the O.K. “Wine” Corral – http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?s=Corral: This post describes a blind tasting held at a French culinary school in Houston – Six French Bordeaux and six Texas Cabernet/Merlot-based wines. The judging panel consisted of about 50 professional and “recreational-yet-knowledgeable” tasters who attended the event. They included area chefs, a host of Francophiles and Texas wine consumers.

In a similar vein, the Texas Department of Agriculture has taken to using this blind tasting philosophy in doing what they refer to as the “Texas Two-Sip” (See: http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?p=19). These tastings involve groups of two wines, one from Texas and one not, poured side-by-side from masked bottles. Then, the tasters have to determine which one is the Texas wine and which is not.

I recently witnessed the Texas Two-Sip during and Texas Sommeliers’ Conference in Austin. The tasters in this case were representatives of wine distributors and restaurant sommeliers from around the state. The response from the tasters was overwhelmingly positive. Some picked the origin correctly, but many were unexpectedly “fooled” by the quality of the Texas wines.

Back to the Japan Wine Challenge

I found the results of Spurrier’s Tokyo wine competition to be very interesting and informative. The list of awards showed that Japan is making western-style wines that are becoming competitive with the likes of:

Trapiche Malbec – Argentina
Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvee Brut – France
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Pian Dell’Orino – Italy
Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc – New Zealand
Borsao Clasico Tinto – Spain
Heitz Wine Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – USA

These are names that most wine consumers know and respect.

2008 Wine Challenge Top Awarded Japanese Wine

The highest scoring Japanese wine in this year’s competition was Grace Merlot 2006. Not knowing much about Japanese wines I made an effort to find information on this winery and purchase the award winning Merlot while I was in Tokyo. Being in Aoyama near Shibuya Station, I took a taxi to Tokyu, one of the urban department stores with an excellent wine section. Evidently, there had been a run on the Grace Merlot after the competition results were made known in Tokyo earlier this year. Tokyu was sold out of the award winning wine. But, the manager of the wine section recommended two wines from Grace for me to taste:

Grace Koshu 2008 (about US$ 16)
Grace Cuvee Misawa 2004 (about US$ 85)

While the prices for these wines were a bit on the steep side, so are the prices for most everything thing in the Tokyo area and also in Japan right now due to the very strong Yen versus the US dollar.

Background: Classic Varietals vs. Koshu

In 1923, Chuo Budoshu (currently using the brand name Grace) was established in Katsunuma in Yamanashi prefecture, the birthplace of the Japanese wine industry. Grace is making western-style wines from estate-grown grapes that include the classic varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Pinot Noir. In addition, they also make wine from Koshu, a traditional Japanese grape varietal. The growing region utilizes the local terroir provided by the mountain soils and climate to make high quality wines. This terroir includes a unique microclimate caused by the rain-shadow of Mount Fuji that mitigates the high annual rainfall experienced on the island of Japan.

While cultivation of classic grape varietals is relatively new in Japan, the Koshu grape has a long history there. The original Koshu grapes, were a strain of Vitis Vinifera similar to Europe’s great wine grapes. They were brought from the Caucasus through the Silk Road and spread into Japan with Buddhism reportedly over a thousand years ago. They took root in Katsunuma, where the natural terroir around Fujiyama is most suitable for grape growing. Koshu grapes skins also have a slight anthocyanin pigmentation resulting in a pink coloration when ripe, but the resultant wine is a white wine.

The Tasting: Grace Koshu 2008 (Yes….2008)

Being that the Koshu grapes were likely harvested in early September 2008 and it was now only November 2008, this wine qualifies as a Nouveau wine. This was actually fitting since the date of my Japanese wine hunting expedition was the date of the release of the 2008 Beaujolais Nouveau (the 3rd Thursday in November).

The Koshu wine was dry, young and fresh. The color was that of sun-bleached straw, similar to that observed in Pinot Grigio. The fruit aromas and flavors were those of light citrus (lemon and grapefruit) and herbs (chopped Italian parsley). There was also a touch of that yeasty aroma common in recently fermented, Nouveau-style wines. When the bottle was initially opened, it had a slight hint of carbonation that fleeted rapidly thereafter. In many respects, it was similar to the young “green” (Vino Verde) wines of Portugal that I have sampled both in Houston and especially on a stay in Lisbon.

The Tasting: Grace Cuvee Misawa 2004

The Cuvee was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. When poured in the glass, it had a medium body and red-purple color and pink rim. While being medium bodied, the wine had a slight, but noticeable opacity. Either the wine was not completely filtered or it had a minimal set of sediment developed during bottle aging. The aroma was of ripe plum and fresh raspberries with a hint of clove spice. The taste followed with similar characteristics true to its nose.

The most striking quality of the Cuvee Misawa was the combination of its lighter body and the acidity that is generally uncharacteristic of the super-ripened, Cabernet and Merlot fruit-bombs made by New World wineries. Accordingly, the Grace Cuvee Misawa may leave the western palate unsatisfied with this wine as a pairing with full- flavored, meat-dominated cuisine. But, if you have ever experienced a Japanese pickled plum (a delicacy in Japan) and tasted the acidic, briney fruit sensations, you will immediately recognize why this wine may hit the mark with Japanese wine drinkers.

Wines Compatible with Japanese Tastes and Cuisine

Characteristically, Asian cuisines use meat, not as a dominant theme, but in a supportive role as a condiment. In this regard, the meat is used in lesser quantity and in context with vegetables, rice or noodles more for its savory characteristics (in Japan referred to as “Umame” – The fifth taste sensation after sweet, sour, salt and acid) and for a tactile counterpoint on the palate. In this context, a lighter-style Bordeaux like the Grace Cuvee Misawa is completely to be expected and in balance with how red-meats (including raw or seared tuna) are presented in Japanese and other Asian cuisines.

Having traveled extensively in Japan for almost 30 years, I can say that both of the wines in this tasting were completely in tune with the local cuisine and likely the tastes of most Japanese. Koshu makes a superb accompaniment to light, uncooked delicacies like sushi and sashimi, steamed or sautéed vegetables and seafood, and other light regional fare. Likewise, the Cuvee Misawa is a reinterpretation of the classic Bordeaux blend (lighter bodied and higher acidity) to be more compatible with Japanese style meat preparations.

In Closing….

All in all, this was a much unexpected and fulfilling wine experience in Japan with teachings for Texas winemakers, too.

Teaching 1 – To gain wine respectibility, you have to challange the world.

Teaching 2 – Success comes to those that make wine in harmony with the local cuisine.

Hopefully, next time, I can come face-to-face with my kindred wine spirit Spurrier, compare notes with him, get a few more tips for upcoming Texas wine tastings, and maybe participate in his Japan Wine Challenge. Or, maybe invite him to Houston to take on Texas wines as his next project.

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