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May 042011
 

Judgments of Texas Wine: Time for Another Texas Two-Sip. Join Me at Culinaria in San Antonio

Where, What, When: Culinaria Wine and Culinary Arts Festival for the Texas Two Sip on Saturday, May 14, Hilton Palacio del Rio Hotel in San Antonio, Texas, 5:30 p.m. – $25 pre-sale, $35 at the door.

If you know food and wine writer, Rob Walsh, like I do, you know that good ol’ Rob has not always been an outspoken fan of Texas wines. If anything, he’s been the outright opposite.

In a recent statement on HoustonPress.com, Rob came out and acknowledged both how far Texas wines have come in terms of quality and how far he has come in terms of accepting them. He said, “If you haven’t had a glass of Texas Viognier yet, put it on your “to drink” list. It’s a lovely white wine with huge floral aromas and flavors reminiscent of apricot and peach. Texas wineries make some of the best Viogniers in the world. I never thought I’d be calling Texas wines the best in the world, but it looks like the “Judgment of Texas” has arrived.”

In his statement, the use of the term, “Judgment of Texas”, Rob makes reference to The Paris wine tasting held in 1976 often called the “Judgment of Paris“. It was a wine competition organized in Paris on 24 May 1976 by Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant, in which French judges did blind tastings of top-quality Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons from France and from California. A California wine rated best in each category. This tasting was a monumental moment in the course of California (and new world) wines that caused surprise. At that time, France was regarded as being the foremost producer of the world’s best wines. At the time, Spurrier sold only French wine and did not actually believed that the California wines would surpass the French wines in the tasting.

Robb admitted that the change in his perception of Texas wines came in 2007. He said, “My Judgment of Texas” moment came on a Saturday afternoon in late April of 2007. At the Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit that year, I was a panelist for the Texas vs. The World Wine Tasting. Austin wine writer Wes Marshall put on the blind tasting. I love his style — he used Brown paper bags to disguise the bottles.

I’ve always considered Steven and I kindred spirits of sorts. On numerous occasions, I’ve put Texas wines to the test: always in blind tastings and putting them up against highly rated, 90+ Wine Spectator wines from around the world. Examples include things I’ve posted before on VintageTexas:

The Judgment of Houston:  The Wine Society of Texas organized “The Great Texas Conundrum” as part of its 6th annual Texas’ Best Wine Competition at the Conrad Hilton School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston. Approximately 150 wines entered the competition from 31 Texas wineries. It was a double-blind tasting and judging was based on a modified University of California Davis 20-point evaluation method conducted with noted wine experts from around Texas. Click here for more.

The Judgement of Bryan Texas: At Messina Hof Winery and Resort in Bryan, Texas, winery owner Paul Bonarrigo put it on the line at the Messina Hof Twitter Taste-Off. The tasting included recognized, premium and best selling non-Texas wines from around the world paired with wines from Messina Hof Winery. It was a blind tasting in which the tasters did not know if the wines they tasted were from Messina Hof or the non-Texas wines. Click here for more.

The Texas-French Wine Shoot Out: 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. Click here for more.

– — – — –

Well, get ready for another opportunity to challenge Texas wines head-to-head with the wines of the world. Come on down to the Culinaria Wine and Culinary Arts Festival for the Texas Two Sip on Saturday, May 14, Hilton Palacio del Rio Hotel in San Antonio, Texas, 5:30 p.m. – $25 pre-sale, $35 at the door.

Have some fun before the Culinaria Grand Tasting later Saturday evening at the Texas Two-Sip Tasting, where you will blind taste Texas wines against similar non-Texas wines from around the world.

Texas vs. The World; who makes the better wines?  You decide.

See the amazing strides in Texas wine quality since we stopped trying to emulate California and started to make the comparison between Texas wines and the wines of the old world: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sardinia and southern France.

The Westin La Cantera Resort’s Sommelier Steven Krueger, Becker Vineyards Owner, Dr. Richard Becker and I will lead you through the Two-Sip Tasting, providing information about Texas’ popular varieties that are winning awards and gaining international attention. This event will be a great aperitif before the Grand Tasting.

For more information and tickets for the Culinaria Wine and Culinary Arts Festival and Texas Two-Sip, so to:

http://culinariasa.com/wine-festival/main/events.php

See you there!

 Posted by at 10:17 am
Jan 122010
 

The Judgment of Bryan Texas – Messina Hof Head-to-Head Taste Off

This past Sunday morning at Messina Hof Winery and Resort, winery owner Paul Bonarrigo put it on the line at the Messina Hof Twitter Taste-Off. The tasting included recognized, premium and best selling non-Texas wines from around the world paired with wines from Messina Hof Winery. It was a blind tasting in which the tasters did not know if the wines they tasted were from Messina Hof or the non-Texas wines.

Twelve flights of wines were presented, each containing two wines. The job of the tasters was to indicate which of the two wines in each flight was from Texas. We also provided our ratings using the UC Davis 20 point evaluation methodology for each wine using the following point breakdown: Color – 1, Clarity – 1, Aroma – 4, Balance 3 – , Body – 2, Flavor – 4, Finish – 2, Overall Quality – 3.

The wine line-up was as follows:
Flight 1 – Messina Hof Gewürztraminer 2008 ($9) v. Darting Gewürztraminer 2007 ($20)

Flight 2 – Escher Riesling 2007 ($13) v. Messina Hof Merrill’s Vineyard Riesling 2008 ($10)

Flight 3 – Sebeka Chenin Blanc 2008 ($11) v. Messina Hof Chenin Blanc 2009 ($6)

Flight 4 – Messina Hof Barrel Res. Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($9) v. Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006 ($28)

Flight 5 – Messina Hof Private Reserve Zinfandel 2007 ($17) v. Alexander Valley Vineyard Zinfandel “SinZin” ($23)

Flight 6 – Messina Hof Merrill’s Vineyard Angel Riesling 2008 ($17) v. Schmitt Sohne Eiswein 2008 ($23)
Break

Flight 7 – Messina Hof Reserve Pinot Noir 2003 ($17) v. David Bruce Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006 ($42)

Flight 8 – Messina Hof Barrel Res. Merlot 2006 ($9) v. Rodney Strong Sonoma County Merlot 2005 ($19)

Flight 9 – Iron Stone Reserve Cabernet Franc 2006 ($28) v. Messina Hof Barrel Res. Cabernet Franc 2005 ($9)

Flight 10 – Opus One 2003 ($167) v. Messina Hof Paulo (Bordeaux Blend) 2002 ($40)

Flight 11 – Messina Hof Paul Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 ($40) v. Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 ($105)

Flight 12 – Messina Hof Private Res. Port 2005 ($24) v. Fonseca Quinta do Panascal 2005 ($50)

I must admit that the results were quite surprising to me (on Twitter @VintageTexas). I had not done much blind tasting recently with most of my experience with Texas wines in a similar setting being five to ten years ago. So, when presented with these wines, I was set to use my previously developed biases and notions about Texas wine to try to discern the Texas wines in each flight. These qualities were namely: Very ripe to cooked fruit qualities and a lower perception of acidity and crispness in the wines. These are generally considered identifiers of warm climate wines.

The first thing that surprised me was the difficulty most of the panelists, including myself,  had in identifying the Texas wines. By and large, the Texas wines gave a first class performance comparable to their non-Texas brethren. A special shout-out goes to the two panelists that were able to correctly identify the Texas wines eighty percent of the time. These two panelists were Terry Thompson-Anderson (@girllovesfood) and Ross Outon (@rossthewineguy). I will readily admit that I correctly picked that Texas wine only half of the time. That is a fifty percent success rate, but I think that this is actually a good thing as the Texas wines were up to the quality point of the non-Texas wines and did not stand out with any difficient qualities. They were all well made wines. 

So much for my what now seems to  be my “very dated” rules of thumb for picking Teaxs wines. These Texas wines were admitedly clean and crisp, not what many would be expected from Texas. This shows that Texas growers have learned a lot about when and how to harvest their grapes, how to protect the grapes in transportation from the vineyard to the winery up to 500 miles away, and the winemakers know how to ferment and bottle the wines to preserve a fresh fruit wine experience.

The second surprise was that in many cases, the scores for the Texas from Messina Hof and the paired non-Texas wine were not that different. On the UC Davis 20 point method, the differences were generally only one or two points and not always in favor of the non-Texas wines. Several Texas wines from Messina Hof actually outscored the non-Texas wine in their respective flights. Examples of these wines were: Flight 2 – Messina Hof Riesling, Flight 9 – Messina Hof Cabernet Franc, Flight 10 – Messina Hof Paulo (Bordeaux blend). This latter scoring winner was most phenomenal since it was paired against Opus One at $167 per bottle versus $40 for the Messina Hof Paulo.

Robert Mondavi where ever you are, it is time to stop and take notice of Texas wines!

Many thanks to Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo at Messina Hof for hosting this “Judgment of Bryan, Texas” tasting event. They stepped up to take the challenge going head-to-head versus some of the most recognized wine brands and best selling wines in the  industry today. Based on this tasting, I can say that Texas has nothing to hide. More Texas winemakers and wineries need to step up and take the challenge testing their wines in the global marketplace.

The list of tasters at this event was:
Terry Thompson Anderson (www.thetexasfoodandwinegourmet.com)
Jeff Siegel (www.winecurmudgeon.com)
Martin Korson (www.centralmarket.com)
Ross Outon (www.linkedin.com/in/rossthewineguy)
Denise Fraser (www.denisefraser.com)
Jane Nickles (www. www.winespeak101.com)   
John Griffin (www.savorsa.com)
Russ Kane (www.vintagetexas.com/blog)
Dan Huerta and Phil Metzinger (www.brookshirebrothers.com)

Many other writers and wine aficionados followed the Messina Hof Taste-Off Twitter feed searching on the hashtag #Messina_Hof and made related comments. You too can search and find all of the event’s comments by going to www.search.twitter.com or www.hashtag.org.  When available, more information will be provided on the expanse and impact of this Twitter tasting event.

Addenudum:

Others that attended and have written about the event are given below:

Martin Korson at Central Market Blog:  http://moreplease.centralmarket.com/cm-news/messina-hof-blind-tasting/

Jeff Siegel – The Wine Curmudgeon: http://www.winecurmudgeon.com/my_weblog/2010/01/messina-hof-twitter-tasting.html

Paul V. Bonarrigo – Messina Hof Blog: http://blog.messinahof.com/2010/01/11/texas-versus-the-world/

Aug 272009
 

The Judgment of Houston Redux

With all of the talk about our recent Drink Local Wine Conference and Texas Twitter Taste-Off, I have had many emails that ask about other times that Texas wines have gone head-to-head with top rated (90+) wines from other parts of the known world. About a year ago, I posted a three part blog mini-series about a wine competition that I organized in Houston in 2004 that became known as the “Judgment of Houston”. The highlights from that blog series are given below with links back to the complete articles.

In reflection, I think that Texas wines have evolved in the positive direction since 2004 when we held that taste-off. Overal quality of the wines in the Texas Twitter Taste-Off was excellent.

The Judgment of Houston: Part 1

Rewind about thirty wine years to the mid-1970′s……France was king of wine and California was clamoring for credit. Then, on May 24, 1976, Harpers Wine and Spirit Weekly Magazine staged a double-blind tasting event that they called “The Great Cabernet Conundrum”.

This competition involved a head-to-head competition between top Californian Cabernets and the best French Bordeaux wines that was held in conjunction with The International Wine and Spirit Competition. Time magazine called the outcome “The Judgment of Paris” as the results sent reverberations around the wine world. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars took the top spot and was catapulted into the upper echelons of winemaking, signifying that the California wine industry had come of age.

In this same spirit,  The Wine Society of Texas organized “The Great Texas Conundrum” as part of its 6th annual Texas’ Best Wine Competition at the Conrad Hilton School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston. Approximately 150 wines entered the competition from 31 Texas wineries.

Continue Part 1 – go to: http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?p=4

The Judgment of Houston: Part 2
The major conclusion of the “Judgment of Houston” was readily evident in the rankings of the top scoring wines and how the top Texas wines placed with respect to the non-Texas ringers. The judges did their job well. They correctly identified all of the non-Texas ringers to be worthy of either gold or silver medals. Furthermore, roughly thirty of the top scoring Texas wines placed competitively with these wines.

Only one of the ringers outscored all of the Texas wines, this was the acknowledged “Wow-Wine” – Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with its intense grapefruit kick and citrus tones. Ten out of the next eleven positions were occupied by gold medal Texas wines.

The following twenty Texas wines were intermixed with the well known ringers. This shows that a good selection of Texas’ best wines have the quality to compare favorably with perennial favorites like California’s Kenwood and Chateau Souverain, and noteworthy value wines from Washington’s Columbia Crest and Australia’s Yellowtail.

Most astounding in the results was the diversity of grape varietals and winemaking styles that the gold medal winning Texas wines represented: Five were Bordeaux-style wines based on Cabernet or Merlot, one dry rosé, one Sauvignon Blanc, and three sweet wines made from Muscat and Chenin Blanc.

Continue Part 2 – go to: http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?p=5

The Judgment of Houston: Part 3
In early May, a post competition taste-off of the top ten scoring Texas wines was held at the Grand Wine & Food Affair in Fort Bend County Texas. This was a winner-take-all public event where the attendees tasted and voted for their single favorite wine out of the top ten scoring wines competition. The winner was Becker Claret, Le Trios Dames. This was the same wine that tied in the scoring with Chateau Gruaud Larose, one of the top selling restaurant red Bordeaux wines.

There were also many other interesting insights into the state of Texas wines that where highlighted by this competition friendly yet competitive event.

One aspect that is particularly exciting was the high scores for many new Texas wineries. This included the 11th ranked Zin Valley Vineyards near El Paso for their Rising Star Zinfandel.

Driftwood Vineyards also placed well with their Longhorn Red, a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet, and a floral, semi-sweet estate produced Muscat Canelli.

San Martino Winery received two silver medals for collaborations with Newsom Vineyard for their single vineyard designated Cabernet and Reserve Cabernet.

Continue Part 3 – go to: http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?p=6

That day in 2004, Texas wines had a good showing on a world wine stage. In Dallas two weeks ago, Texas wines also had a good showing with wine writers, bloggers and aficionados from around the USA. Texans can be assured that their wines are mostly good to excellent. To be honest, there are still some Texas wineries that have not yet gotten on a quality program; but they will fall by the wayside if they don’t change….survival of the fittest will take over. One problem is that many Texas wines are in limited production and consequently a tad expense. However, this will change over time as production increases and wines get into greater distribution both within the state and in export from Texas. In the meantime, enjoy Texas wine from quality producers, let your local wine shops and restaurants know which ones you drink and enjoy. This will help grow the market for the better Texas wineries that really deserve the business.

Jun 252008
 

The Judgment of Houston – 3

In early May, a post competition taste-off of the top ten scoring Texas wines was held at the Grand Wine & Food Affair in Fort Bend County Texas. This was a winner-take-all public event where the attendees tasted and voted for their single favorite wine out of the top ten scoring wines competition. The winner was Becker Claret, Le Trios Dames. This was the same wine that tied in the scoring with Chateau Gruaud Larose, one of the top selling restaurant red Bordeaux wines.

There were also many other interesting insights into the state of Texas wines that where highlighted by this competition friendly yet competitive event.

One aspect that is particularly exciting was the high scores for many new Texas wineries. This included the 11th ranked Zin Valley Vineyards near El Paso for their Rising Star Zinfandel.

Driftwood Vineyards also placed well with their Longhorn Red, a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet, and a floral, semi-sweet estate produced Muscat Canelli.

San Martino Winery received two silver medals for collaborations with Newsom Vineyard for their single vineyard designated Cabernet and Reserve Cabernet.

Furthermore, brand new wineries like Circle S Vineyards and Wichita Falls Vineyards both earned silver medals for their respective Sangioveses.

Other notables were Pleasant Hill Winery with their Tawny Rosso Forte and Bruno & George Wines for their Candlelight Strawberry fruit wine.

By far, the most interesting and news worthy aspect of the abovementioned medal awards and rankings by Texas wines is that they scored comparably with well known quality wines from powerhouse wineries like Kim Crawford, Chateau Gruaud Larose, Chalone, and Kenwood, and value wine giants like Columbia Crest and Yellow Tail.

Texans can rest assured that the Great Texas Conundrum was solved by the “Judgement of Houston”. They can also be proud of their Texas wines that are both pleasing and competitive in the global marketplace, and are worthy to be served on your table.

– — –

For more information on Texas wines and winery, go to:

http://www.gotexanwine.org/findwinesandwineries

Jun 232008
 

The major conclusion of the “Judgment of Houston” was readily evident in the rankings of the top scoring wines and how the top Texas wines placed with respect to the non-Texas ringers. The judges did their job well. They correctly identified all of the non-Texas ringers to be worthy of either gold or silver medals. Furthermore, roughly thirty of the top scoring Texas wines placed competitively with these wines.

Wine Competition Aftermath

Only one of the ringers outscored all of the Texas wines, this was the acknowledged “Wow-Wine” – Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with its intense grapefruit kick and citrus tones. Ten out of the next eleven positions were occupied by gold medal Texas wines.

The following twenty Texas wines were intermixed with the well known ringers. This shows that a good selection of Texas’ best wines have the quality to compare favorably with perennial favorites like California’s Kenwood and Chateau Souverain, and noteworthy value wines from Washington’s Columbia Crest and Australia’s Yellowtail.

Most astounding in the results was the diversity of grape varietals and winemaking styles that the gold medal winning Texas wines represented: Five were Bordeaux-style wines based on Cabernet or Merlot, one dry rosé, one Sauvignon Blanc, and three sweet wines made from Muscat and Chenin Blanc.

The mix of high scoring varietals in this competition should not be surprising due to the size of Texas, which is actually comparable to that of France. It is like having the growing regions of Bordeaux, Rhone, Burgundy and Alsace all in the same state….and a lot closer to home.

Further, the Texas wines were also made by some of Texas’ best winemakers who are infusing Texas with international winemaking skills gained in France (Benedict Rhyne – consultant winemaker at Delaney Vineyards), Australia (Craig Parker at Flat Creek Estate) and California (Greg Bruni at Llano Estacado).

It was also interesting to note that the top ten Texas wines included five estate and single vineyard designated wines from Texas Hills, Flat Creek, Spicewood, Llano Estacado and Delaney Vineyards. Two came from collaborations with the powerhouse vineyard of the Texas High Plains – Newsom Vineyard. Remarkable? Not if you know the Newsom’s family commitment to quality vineyard operations and the impact that 3500 foot High Plains elevation has on grape growing. In total, Texas winemakers placed four single vineyard designated wines with gold and silver medal awards that were made with Newsom Vineyard fruit.

Next……The Texas Top Ten Tast-Off.

Jun 222008
 

 The Judgment of Houston – 1

Rewind about thirty wine years to the mid-1970′s……France was king of wine and California was clamoring for credit. Then, on May 24, 1976, Harpers Wine and Spirit Weekly Magazine staged a double-blind tasting event that they called “The Great Cabernet Conundrum”. 

Wine Competition Staging AreaThis competition involved a head-to-head competition between top Californian Cabernets and the best French Bordeaux wines that was held in conjunction with The International Wine and Spirit Competition. Time magazine called the outcome “The Judgment of Paris” as the results sent reverberations around the wine world. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars took the top spot and was catapulted into the upper echelons of winemaking, signifying that the California wine industry had come of age.

In this same spirit,  The Wine Society of Texas organized “The Great Texas Conundrum” as part of its 6th annual Texas’ Best Wine Competition at the Conrad Hilton School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston. Approximately 150 wines entered the competition from 31 Texas wineries. It was a double-blind tasting and judging was based on a modified University of California Davis 20-point evaluation method conducted with noted wine experts from around Texas. Points were given to each wine for color, clarity, aroma, taste and overall impression. Medals were awarded based on competitive evaluation of the highest scoring wines in each wine category provided that minimum required scores were achieved for gold, silver and bronze medals.

To organize the “Judgement of Houston”, the Texas’ Best Wine Competition included a selection of national and internationally recognized, non-Texas benchmark wines as “ringers”.

These wines included notable Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines – Kim Crawford, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc; Columbia Crest, Grand Estates Columbia Valley Merlot; Chalone Vineyard, Estate Syrah

Wine Judging Panel #1

Best Selling Restaurant Bordeaux Wine – Chateau Gruaud Larose, Bordeaux – Ste. Julien

and, well known and regarded favorites such as Chateau Souverain, Sonoma County Chardonnay; Kenwood, Chardonnay Russian River Valley Reserve; and Yellow Tail, Cabernet-Shiraz.

The tasting was conducted in a double-blind manner and therefore, neither the judges nor their servers knew the source of the wines being served in each flight. The backroom work of tagging and serving the wines went to Kevin Simon from the Hilton College and a select group of his hospitality students.

Wine judges were:

Wes Marshall – Wine Writer/Austin Chronicle

Michele and Chesley Sanders – Lone Star Wines

Chris Shepherd – Brennan’s of Houston (currently Catalan)

Silas Rushton – Advantage Wine Sales and Marketing

Randall E. McCrea, CSW – A Class of Wine, LLC

Sean Beck – Backstreet Café & Hugo’s

John Demers – Delicious Mischief Radio Show

Mark La Rue – Smith & Wollensky

Mark C. Roberts, Wine Service Consulting Inc.

Martin Korson – Central Market

Dan Redman – WineRight Inc.

Jim Cubberly – Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill

Mark Mattingly – Fine Wine Specialist – Republic

 
Next Installment……The Judgement! 

Jun 172013
 

Pedernales-Viognier-Reserve

Texas Viognier Is Rocking the Wine World Against Big Names in California and France

Yesterday, I received this media release from Andrew Chalk, who you’ve known as a wine writer and blogger at D Magazine and currently editor of CraveDFW. It is another arrow in the quiver for the still fledgling but rapidly rising Texas wine movement.  See Andrew’s comments below…

This weekend, sixteen Texas Viognier wines went head to head competing with each other, two California Viognier wines and a Viognier from the modern home of the grape, Condrieu, France in a blind taste test judged by seven professional sommeliers.  The result, Texas wines took the top six spots.

The full results are here:

RANK (1 is highest) WINE NAME
1 2012 Pedernales Cellars Reserve ($40)
2 2011 Brennan Vineyards ($17.50)
3 2012 Becker Vineyards ($15)
4 2012 McPherson Cellars ($14)
5 2012 Lost Oak Winery ($21)
6 2012 Pedernales Cellars ($18)
7 2011 Melville ‘Verna’s”, Santa Barbara County, CA ($25)
8 2012 Flat Creek Estate
8 2012 Perissos Vineyard and Winery
10 2010 Calera, Mt. Harlan CA ($34)
10 2011 Cross Timbers Winery
12 2010 LightCatcher Winery
13 2012 Llano Estacado Winery, TX Raider
14 2011 Landon Winery
15 2011 Saint Cosme Condrieu, France ($65)
16 2012 Landon Winery
17 2010/11 Blue Ostrich Winery & Vineyard
18 2012 Kiepersol Estates Winery
19 2010 Llano Estacado Winery, ‘Mont. Sec Vineyards’

Notes: All the wines from Texas wineries are designated “Texas Viognier” on the label. Texas wine prices are from the winery web site for a single bottle purchase. Case discounts usually apply. Prices for the other wines are single bottle prices that I paid at retail stores in Dallas.

Why The Tasting?

The organizer of the event, Andrew Chalk, an editor at CraveDFW, said “I put together this tasting because, after four years touring over 80 Texas wineries, I concluded that Viognier was the white grape that was most successful in the state. In fact, I felt it was reaching a level comparable with California Viognier (although maybe not that of France). I was baffled that the national media did not include Texas wines when they evaluated Viognier. Clearly, this was a matter that only the facts would settle: a blind tasting of French, California and Texas Viognier by expert palates to determine where the wines stood.”

Choosing The Wines

Chalk contacted every Texas winery and asked them to supply two bottles of each Viognier they made that was currently available for resale. The wineries came through with 13 wineries supplying 16 wines. As a result this was not just a sample, but every Viognier made in Texas (the only known absentee was Cap Rock Winery).

Next, he needed a strong California benchmark for comparison. He asked Sigel’s wine buyer, Jasper Russo, to pick three, and Chalk would buy the first two that he found at retail in Dallas.  Russo suggested: Miner Family Vineyard, Calera, and Melville. Chalk found the 2010 Calera, Mt. Harlan, $34 (91 points, Wine Advocate) and the 2011 Melville Estate Viognier “Verna’s”, $25 (91 points, International Wine Cellar) and purchased them.

“Finally”, said Chalk,” I needed a wine from the modern home of the Viognier grape, and the place that is still regarded as the benchmark. I chose the 2011 Saint Cosme, Condrieu because this $65 wine scored over 94 points out of 100 in web reviews and is made by maybe the most decorated producer in the Rhône over the past two years. I expected this wine to win hands down, the compensation being that it was over twice the price of most of the Texas entrants.”

Choosing The Judges

Chalk said “I figured that if I did the judging the results would be about as credible as Paris Hilton challenging Newton’s Laws of Motion. So I emailed every professional sommelier in town and invited them to be a judge.  On the day, seven sommeliers came to The WinePoste.com and spent two hours in silence comparing nineteen wines and passing written judgment. “

Chalk excluded himself from the scores reported above as he was involved in the packaging and preparation for the tasting. He also knew the identity of the non-Texas wines and any of this could be conceived as biasing the result.

The Results

The results are a stunning endorsement of Texas Viognier. Chalk had hoped Texas would be close behind the Californians and the Condrieu. In fact, no fewer than six Texas wines beat the first non-Texas wine (the Melville from California), and the expensive Condrieu was beaten by 12 Texas wines. The top three were all experienced Texas producers: Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall in the southern Hill Country, Brennan Vineyards in Comanche, a scant 90 minutes drive from Dallas, and Becker Vineyards, probably the best known of these three producers, also in Stonewall .  Two relatively new producers: McPherson Cellars out of Lubbock in The High Plains, and Lost Oak Winery, in Burleson, just south of Fort Worth, placed fourth and fifth.

Feedback From The Judges

Writing about the winning wine, 2012 Pedernales Cellars Reserve, Russell Burkett  (wine director at Sēr at The Hilton Anatole) commented that it had “ripe stone fruits, long finish, notes of honeysuckle and white flowers and light minerality”. Aaron Benson, sommelier at the Dallas Country Club, described it as “classic Viognier…an underlying minerality balances the redolent ripe fruit” and gave it a commanding 92/100 point rating.

Regarding the second-placed 2011 Brennan Vineyards, Hunter Hammett, sommelier of The Fairmont Hotel, Dallas gave some advice to the winemaker that it was “a bit thin to be excellent but a great example of this classic Rhône varietal”. Simon Holguin, general manager at the forthcoming Kitchen LTO, said that it “finishes delicately”.

Benson and Hammett, two judges who work the floor each night trying to deliver the most suitable wine to their customers, when asked about selling Texas Viognier said that selling a Texas Viognier is no harder than selling any other Viognier. The problem is selling Viognier. It is a “hand sale”, meaning that it is up to the sommelier to make the case to the customer, who typically has over 100 choices on the wine list. Hammett suggested wineries provide more guidance as to what food was intended to go with the grape. He pointed out that the choice of compatible food is not as broad as with Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.

The Implications

Texas Viognier has come of age. Chalk said “For the customer, next time you shop for a white wine, consider purchasing one. Next time you are looking for a white wine on a restaurant wine list, ask for a Texas Viognier. Even if there isn’t one on the list at the time, sommeliers choose based on customer feedback. If you are a sommelier, check the results of this tasting for the quality and value most suitable for your list. If you are a publication that reviews wines, Texas Viognier has now shown that it deserves a place at the table for your next Viognier review

To order these wines: Some wines are available at retail stores in Texas. Others are available direct from the winery (all can ship to consumers in Texas and more widely dependent on state and Federal wine shipping rules).

The Judges

Karla Barber – International Sommelier Guild

Aaron Benson – Dallas Country Club

Russell Burkett – SER, Hilton Anatole Hotel, Dallas

Hunter Hammett – The Pyramid Restaurant and Bar

Simon Holguin – GM, Kitchen LTO

Jeremy King – Gaylord Texan Resort

Steve Murphey – Mid-West Wine

Contact: Andrew Chalk, Editor CraveDFW. +1 (214) 597-4659

– — – — – –

For those of you that may not have seen the following release before. The first place wine from Andrew’s competition also has some major international accolades to it’s name gained in Lyon France at the 2013 Concours International des Vins à Lyon (Lyon International Wine Competition).

PEDERNALES CELLARS WINS PRESTIGIOUS GRAND GOLD IN ITS FIRST-EVER FRENCH WINE COMPETITION

Pedernales Cellars is proud to announce that its 2012 Viognier Reserve won the prestigious Grand Gold award – the French version of the Double Gold at American wine competitions – at the 2013 Concours International des Vins à Lyon (Lyon International Wine Competition), held earlier this year.

Pedernales Cellars was the only American winery to win the Grand Gold – this year, a select group of 201 wines won the competition’s highest honor, from a record pool of more than 3200 entrants. The majority of winning wines in this year’s competition were French, though two other Texas wineries (Becker and Flat Creek) won silver and bronze medals respectively for their Viognier entries.

According to Pedernales Cellars co-owner, Dr. Julie Kuhlken, the winery was encouraged to enter the competition at the urging of Melba Allen, a French wine consultant with Oeno-com, who felt that Pedernales Cellars’ signature white varietal compared favorably to French versions of the wine. Pedernales Cellars then coordinated with Becker and Flat Creek to send the trio of Texas Viogniers across the Atlantic for consideration.

“It’s absolutely an honor to be awarded with a double gold in a major French wine competition,” said David Kuhlken, winemaker at Pedernales Cellars. “It speaks well to the evolution of Texas wine that a Texas-grown Viognier can be awarded at this level, at a competition held in the heart of the Rhone region where Viognier thrives.”

The 2012 Viognier Reserve will be available for sale starting on May 17; bottles and cases can be ordered by calling or visiting the winery’s tasting room. Visitors to the winery can also sample the brand-new Spring 2013 nine-varietial tasting, highlighting white, red, and dessert wines that flourish in the Texas terroir, including the winery’s latest takes on Albarino, Tempranillo, and Moscato Giallo.

Pedernales Cellars will participate in two of the premier food festivals in Texas later this month — the Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit, April 19-21, and the Austin Food & Wine Festival, April 26-28.

For more information about Pedernales Cellars, including tasting room hours, events, and wines available for online purchase, please revisit the newly-redesigned and relaunched website at pedernalescellars.com.

 Posted by at 10:18 am
Sep 052012
 

Kiepersol Estates Vintner’s Dinner Featuring The Wineslinger Chronicles

Join us at Kiepersol Estates in the East Texas piney woods near Tyler, Texas, for a five-course gourmet dinner with author Russ Kane from VintageTexas – a.k.a. Doc Russ, Texas Wineslinger – featuring readings from his newly published book:

The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine

Each of the meal’s five courses will be expertly paired with a delightful Kiepersol Estate wine presented by Kiepersol winemaker Marnelle Durrette who will discuss the wines while Russ provides short enjoyable and reflective readings from The Wineslinger Chronicles highlighting his travels, meet-ups and tastings around the state. This special event will be hosted at Kiepersol Estates B&B at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, September 12th, 2012. For reservations, call 903.894.3300; email: bed_and_breakfast@kiepersol.com. Seating is limited. Click here for address and click here for prices that include a personalized and autographed copy of The Wineslinger Chronicles.

MENU
Duck Crostinis
Kiepersol Vit

Texas Shiner Bock Cheese Soup with Smoky Bacon
Kiepersol Viognier

Iceberg Wedge Salad with Chipotle Ranch and Grilled Peaches
KE Bushman’s Vitzin

Filet Mignon topped with Shrimp and Cabernet Barbeque Sauce
Kiepersol Cabernet Sauvignon

Home-Style Bread Pudding with Cognac Caramel Sauce
Kiepersol Port

Russ’s book, The Wineslinger Chronicles, has received critical worldwide acclaim for its literary, historical and engaging treatment of the Texas wine experience starting with its beginnings near El Paso in the 1660s, the period of emigrant farmer/winemakers the 1880’s, and its growth into a modern wine region in just the past 30 years. Readers have said that Russ’s stories made them feel like they were there in person to experience memorable events, talk with great people, and taste internationally award-winning wines that have made Texas the fifth-largest wine producing state in America.

– — – — –

“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!” —Oz Clarke, author of Pocket Wine Book and 250 Best Wines Wine Buying Guide

“With wine now made in all fifty states, the gift of the gods is on the way to becoming a national drink. In The Wineslinger Chronicles, Russ Kane tells the tale of Texas wine in an educational, friendly style. . . . So sit back and enjoy both Texas wines and Kane’s book.” George M. Taber, author of Judgment of Paris

– — – — –

Click here for chapter highlights from The Wineslinger Chronicles. I hope to meet you and share a bite, a taste and a true Texas story at Kiepersol Estates on Wednesday, September 12, 2012.

Russell D. Kane divides his time between Houston and Fredericksburg, Texas. A technical writer whose research spans three decades and has garnered two awards for writing excellence, he has covered Texas wines and cuisine since 1998 and now blogs on the subject of Texas wine at VintageTexas.com and writes a weekly column (Texas Wineslinger) in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal and lubbockonline.com.

 Posted by at 2:53 pm
Feb 072012
 

Heard It Through The Grapevine: The Wineslinger Chronicles to debut Saturday, Feb. 18th at TWGGA Conference

“With wine now made in all fifty states, the gift of the gods is on the way to becoming a national drink. But each state has unique growing situations, and it’s not yet certain where truly great American wine will be produced. In The Wineslinger Chronicles, Russ Kane tells the tale of Texas wine in an educational, friendly style. . . . So sit back and enjoy both Texas wines and Kane’s book.” — GEORGE M. TABER, author of Judgment of Paris

If you’re among the wine-and-grape-industry professionals attending this year’s Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA) Annual Conference in San Marcos, TX, Feb. 16-18, you’ll be able to attend a brief release ceremony and catch a brief reading by the Texas Wineslinger himself, Doc Russ Kane, during Saturday’s Learning Luncheon, 12:00-1:45, with book signing and sales to follow that afternoon and prior to TWGGA’s Gala and Auction Dinner that evening.

At the Live Auction, following dinner, I will offer up the first copy of The Wineslinger Chronicles (Numero Uno) which I will personalize and autograph for the winning bidder. So, bid high and big often.

These events will kick off the release of my new book, in Texas and nationwide, of The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine, a delicious collection of essays on Texas wine culture and history cultivated over the author’s years of blogging at VintageTexas.com.

But, if you can’t attend this event, you’ll have the chance to meet the Wineslinger at events around the state this spring, in Fredericksburg, Houston, Austin and Lubbock.

– — – — –

Touring Texas wine culture with one of the state’s best known connoisseurs  

The Wineslinger Chronicles 

Texas on the Vine

Russell D. Kane
Foreword by Doug Frost
$29.95 | cloth | 978-0-89672-738-0
$19.95 | e-book | 978-0-89672-744-1

To purchase a personalized and autographed copy of the book online, go to: http://wineslinger.net/purchase-book/

For reviews of The Wineslinger Chronicles, go to: http://wineslinger.net/book-reviews/

– — – — –

 Posted by at 10:38 am
Jul 192010
 

Texas Wine Quality: Something that Will Get Even Better the More We All Talk About It

Realize that now Texas wineries have obtained a certain level of acceptance from consumers and support by the legal system in Texas. They can go to and sell wine at farmers markets and wine festivals statewide.  They can make wine and sell it from their tasting rooms, no matter if it’s in a wet or dry precinct [for those not in Texas, I am not talked about rainfall, here, but wet/dry for sale of alcoholic beverages]. But, I remember back to the days when a winery could do a public tasting, but legally the winery personnel couldn’t touch a bottle of their wine. Volunteers where needed to do that. Wine been a crazy business in Texas, but things have changed dramatically and it’s high time for all of us to focus on wine quality.

I left Houston yesterday morning, traveling north on I-45. Within the first hour, I was up in Montgomery County and facing a wall of tall green monsters; the classic piney woods sixty feet or more high lined the road and was joined by the huge statue of Sam Houston. Farther north, the land was dominated by lesser post oaks, some looking like green zombies with long shaggy hair and outstretched arms formed from tentacles of wild grapevines. Still farther north as I approached the blackland prairie, the black bark and lime green leaved mesquites made their appearance, a weed tree to most farmers and ranchers, but one that makes its considerable contribution to Texas cuisine through its oh so good smoke when burned.

I spent the afternoon with Gabe Parker at the Homestead winery in Ivanhoe (http://www.homesteadwinery.com). It’s a place tucked down a narrow dirt road far back into the woods. You can imagine, only a few decades ago, the estate was home to a whole other kind of facility that produced a different alcoholic beverage known by many names – Moonshine, White Lighting, Bootleg Whiskey. Gabe started by acknowledging that he was likely the first member of the Parker family that produced a legal alcoholic beverage in North Texas.

Then, we talked about the evolution of the modern Texas wine industry, the changes in the laws that we now acknowledge to be supportive, and how they actually came to be. As I departed for the wine quality reception, Gabe said, “Keep in mind that wine quality in Texas is something that will get even better the more we all talk about it – growers, winemakers, and consumers.”

The festivities began Sunday evening at Grayson Hills Winery (http://www.graysonhillswinery.com) for a meet-up reception, some BYOB tasting and barbeque. It was a warm, muggy evening as we assembled alongside the vineyard.  There was an eclectic mix of wines that started with the standard set: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There were also new varietal wines from Texas made with Mediterranean varietals such as Barbera, Dolcetto, Viognier and Vermentino. The Becker Barbera and Mandola (Duchman) Dolcetto were fresh from gold medal performances in recent international wine competitions.There was also a Prickly Pear (Tuna) wine, a roadside grown Mustang grape wine, and even a chili pepper infused white wine that nobody seemed to have the courage to open.

We reassembled this morning at the T.V. Munson Center at Grayson College (http://www.tvmunson.org) for Wine Quality Boot Camp. Dr. Roy Mitchell, the camp commander called everybody to attention. The Monday morning presentations that followed addressed the concept of wine quality. It’s usually sensory based and can include comparisons to classic styles. However, it may include confrontation with historical critics (the gatekeepers that pass judgment such as wine writers), or judges in wine competitions. It can also get into analytical parameters that involve lab tests and field evaluations. From there, it get even more complicated as it gets into varietal character, wine styles, purity, flaws and complexity. Throw in doses of personal tasting preferences and winemaker’s ego and things really get more interesting [maybe even a bit confrontational] than easily quantified.

I think most here agreed that it’s not an easy subject to approach. In warm growing regions like Texas, the discussion often goes to consideration of alcohol content, acidity, tannic qualities, color extraction and stability, and wine longevity.

So, for the next day and a half, we will try to address and discuss these issues and hopefully, with only minor interjections of name-calling and outright fisticuffs.

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