Flight of the Phoenix: First Look (and Taste) of the New CapRock Winery

Flight of the Phoenix: First Look (and Taste) of New CapRock Winery

Last Saturday evening my Texas high plains wine and vineyard tour was nearing completion with one more event on the schedule. Over the previous three days, our delegation rambled and rolled through everal 100+ acre vineyards owned by Newsom, Reddy and Bingham in Terry and Yoakum counties.

I experienced the taste of the Texas high plains red sandy terroir in my glass and as blown by the thirty mile per hour winds into every one of my exposed body orifaces. We managed to get our van stuck in the windblown red sand only one time: on the “doorstep” of Reddy Vineyards as we turned off the paved road. On Friday, we heard lectures at longtime winegrower Neal Newsom’s Grape Field Day. They were by Texas’s viticultural extension and winemaking specialists on the latest techniques for frost and disease protection and for making crisp high acidity wines. Friday evening, we sampled some of Lubbock’s best wines (aromatic whites, Rhone-style reds, Tempranillo, and Cabernet-Sangiovese blends) at McPherson Cellars and Llano Estacado Winery.

However, Saturday evening event was the much anticipated culmination of the trip where our delegation would be presented a first look and taste of the “new” CapRock Winery.

I say the NEW CapRock Winery because, as you may remember, VintageTexas and Vinotology provided exclusive in-depth text and video coverage of a real barnburner of a bankruptcy auction of the nearly twenty-five year old CapRock winery, the winery that originally opened in the 1980s as Teysha Cellars. Last year’s bankruptcy, one of several in CapRock’s long and storied past, nearly brought CapRock into the hands of Laurant Gruet (the Frenchman from the New Mexico Champagne house by the same name) only to have him default in the midst of personal problems. A month later, a second round auction lead to the winery being purchased by Cathy Bodenstedt of San Antonio just in time for the huge 2010 Texas harvest to begin. This might have been an opportune time to buy a Lubbock-based winery. Lots of fruit was harvested; more than any Texas vintage on record.

As I walked up to the CapRock Winery, I took time to study the Native American statue over the doorway. He benevolently presented his offerings in hand as he did when the winery first opened. Some say that he has a curse on winery, whereas some reflect that he may be the protector that has given CapRock its ability, like the Phoenix, to continually rise time after time from the flames of its own demise.

After a brief reception in the winery tasting room, the tour showed a winery that had been whipped back into shape. Tall jacketed tanks, some encrusted in frosty ice crystals, reached to the three story ceiling. They were surrounded by a maze of shiny stainless steel piping.

Grand Wine and Food Presentation at CapRock

It was an equally impressive display as we entered their main events room at CapRock after completing the tour.  A long table was set in black linens before us, which provided a stark contrast to the array of silver and glassware around each place setting. As the dinner began, seated at the table were representatives from the major high plains vineyards, the Lubbock area wineries (some the largest in the Texas), CapRock management (Cathy Bodenstedt – owner and Phillip Anderson – general manager) and the invited media and guests from around the state.

I was seated between Jessica Dupey (Texas Monthly’s Eat My Words Blog) and Dr. Ed Hellman, Professor of Viticulture Texas Tech University with joint appointment with Texas AgriLife Extension. Across the table were Neal and Janice Newsom, Newsom Vineyards.

Presented before us was an over-the-top, eleven-course dinner that presented the new CapRock wines, each paired with a separate Asian dish. In a bit of tongue-in-cheek levity, I provided a name for this adventure. Taking in the history of CapRock and its ability to rise from its own fiery ashes, I proclaimed it, “A Flight of the Phoenix”, a grand eleven wine flight.

Details of the wine and food pairing are indicated below (with color commentary in parentheses):

Tropical shrimp soup – 2010 Viognier, Reddy Vineyard (Rich, aromatic white wine)

Lobster mango salad – 2010 Chenin Blanc, High Plains (wonderful melon fruit and semi-sweet)

Steamed banana wrapped shrimp and pork – 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Martin Vineyards (Citrusy dry and refreshing)

Vietnamese eggrolls – Blush Royale, Texas High Plains Cabernet and Grenache (purple-pink color, sturdy red fruit flavor with balanced acidity)

Tao tom shrimp cakes with sugar cane – 2010 Grenache Rosé, Reddy Vineyards (dry, pink, strawberry aroma and crisp)

Mung bean noodles stir friend with crab – 2010 Roussanne, Bingham Family Vineyard (Lemon drop note with rich mouthfeel)

Spicy bacon wrapped salmon – Sweet Tempranillo (Spanish Joven-style, young, refreshing and fun)

Tilapia steamed in banana leaf and vegetables – 2009 Pinot Noir (light on the nose and palate, more like a medium bodied Red Zin)

Grilled lamb with blueberries – 2010 Tempranillo (Deep red fruit character, a serious wine)

Deboned pork stuffed chicken – 2009 Merlot (soft on the palate with dark fruit)

Frozen terrine with mango and blueberries – Sweet Moscato Royale (highly aromatic, sweet and crisp)

By and large, nearly all of the wines were 2010 vintage and Texas appellation, and they proved interesting particularly alongside the exotic Asian tasting menu.

Even the Twitterverse Attended CapRock Dinner

With a near overwhelming event like this, it’s impossible to provide a good description, let alone a detailed play-by-play. However, many of the attendees seated around the table provided photographs as well as live commentary via Twitter. Some of the comments were:

VintageTexas: “Steamed bannana wrapped shrimp/pork at new CapRock winery #txwine #GOTEXAN served with TX Chenin Bl http://yfrog.com/h6ryamfqj

denisefraser: Super impressed with CapRock #txwines. Love the Roussanne and Grenache Rose. #txwine #GOTEXAN http://t.co/UMAs7Jw

seanbuckley: Remarkable food and wine pairing tonight at Caprock Winery. Get ready for some great things headed your way. #txwine http://t.co/dU95wKP

BinghamVineyard: http://yfrog.com/hshugypj Bacon wrapped salmon (spicy) with 2010 Sweet Tempranillo with fruit from @BinghamVineyard #TXwine

BinghamVineyard: http://yfrog.com/h0y9ajej Cha Gio (Vietnamese Eggroll) with Cap Rock blush royale #TXwine, 4th course

People that weren’t physically in attendance participated via our Twitter chatter with some adding their own comments and retweets:

mySA_food: RT @JenMcInnis Funny! RT @VintageTexas Off to 1st look @ CapRock Winery; Perhaps should call it The Flight of the Phoenix #txwine #GOTEXAN

JFTxWine: RT @BinghamVineyard: http://yfrog.com/gyqupxsj #TXwine @Caprock has @BinghamVineyard <MORE TEXAS ROUSSANNE! 😀

akashicvineyard: RT @VintageTexas: Steamed bannana wrapped shrimp/pork at new CapRock winery #txwine #GOTEXAN served with TX Chenin Bl http://yfrog.com/h6ryamfqj

I was even having a running conversation via Twitter with Don Pullum (Akashic Vineyard) and Jim Johnson (Alamosa Wine Cellars) when we came up with an idea for another grand evening of Bodenstedt wine and food with items from Jim Bodenstedt’s Muy Brands selections:

VintageTexas: @alamosawineguy @akashicvineyard waiting for CapRock F&W pairing dinner w/Muy fun foods: KFC PizzaHut TacoBell http://www.muybrands.com/AboutUs/tabid/1634/Default.aspx/

Faves of the Night

Probably the best way to finish mhy description of a night as grand as this is to focus on what were (in my humble opinion) the best of the new CapRock wines that are soon to be bottled and released commercially; some to be distributed in the marketplace and others only in the CapRock tasting room (but they do ship to many locale both in and outside Texas).

  1. 2010 Roussanne – Great citrus-lemon fruit and palate filling presentation. It should join the best versions of Roussanne in Texas so far at Texas Hills Vineyards, McPherson Cellars, Becker Vineyards and Perrisos Vineyards (Roussanne blend). This grape has proven that it can handle our heat and also bud late enough to handle our late spring freezes. Now, we just need more of it planted in Texas.
  2. 2010 Chenin Blanc – Excellent fruit character in this semi-sweet wine, sweetened with Chenin Blanc juice. Chenin is typically overcropped and underwhelming, but NOT this one.
  3. Both Tempranillos were excellent. The “Sweet” Tempranillo which is more fanciful name than literally sweet. It was made in a fresh fruity Beaujolais style of carbonic maceration, but also much like the young Joven Tempranillos that I’ve enjoyed with Spaniards in summertime. The other 2010 Tempranillo was a fruit-driven and sturdly oaked wine.
  4. Sweet Moscato Royale, while NOT Texas Appellation, was complete fruit and aromatic enjoyment on the palate. I hope that in the future that this wine will be made from Texas grapes. [A note from Phillip Anderson indicated that CapRock IS in fact contracted with three high plains growers to provide the Muscat for this wine in this year’s 2011 vintage (keep your fingers crossed].

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Love to taste, talk and tweet about Texas wines and where they are in the global scheme for wines. After all that's the only way they will reach the full potential.

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