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”.
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. 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
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!
The Top Ten Scoring wines from the this Competition were (no order)
Delaney Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc
Spicewood Vineyards, Rosé of Merlot
Becker Vineyards, Claret
La Bodega Winery, Private Reserve Merlot
Fall Creek Vineyards, Granite Reserve
Llano Estacado Cabernet Sauvignon Cellar Reserve, Newsom Vineyard Flat Creek Estate, Travis Peak Select, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Llano Estacado, Chenin Blanc
Texas Hills Vineyard, Orange Moscato, Newsom Vineyard
Flat Creek Estate, Muscato Blanco