Houston Uncorking Some Good Rodeo Wines with a Few Best Bites, Too


Houston Uncorking Some Good Rodeo Wines with a Few Best Bites, Too

For the past several years now, come mid-February, the best ticket in H-town has proven to be the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s, Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup and Best Bites Competition. This year’s event was equal to that billing. It was held this past Sunday evening and included thousands of wine and foodie revelers at Reliant Center assembled to sample the top wines from the 2013 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition and to taste and vote on food from some of the area’s best restaurants and caterers.

When my wife and I walked into the hall, the spread was breathtaking in its expanse. I think that I even said….”Wow!” Many of this year’s over two thousand medal-winning wines were present for sampling having been submitted for judging by 943 wineries in Texas, across the United States and around the world. If that wasn’t enough, attendees went from table-to-table tasting and voting on their favorite eats for the Best Bites Competition.

The grand magnitude of this event made it necessary for me to focus. I reviewed the program, circled my intended stops. My attention was primarily on the award-winning Texas wines from the competition. As I have already written (click here), the Texas winners included 246 medals, 178 of which were made with Texas grapes with eight double gold medals and 32 gold medals for Texas wineries. Even focusing on just the medal-winning Texas wines at Sunday’s Best Bites event, it was impossible to sample all of them while trying to make a reasonable attempt to taste a hefty sampling of the bites.


Texas stars of the evening were The Bonarrigo family (Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo and son Paul Mitchell and his wife Karen) whose Messina Hof Winery (in Bryan, TX, and an outpost tasting room and B&B in the hill country) took the 2013 Best Winery Award in the Rodeo’s international wine competition. This gave Messina Hof a grand total of eight saddles garnered over about a decade of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s annual wine competitions. This is a remarkable record for a Texas winery playing on an international stage.


After grabbing a taste of the Messina Hof Paulo Cabernet Franc, we moseyed around a bit to sample more bites.  The range of offerings included ceviche, Cajun cuisine, prime rib, beef bourguignon, BBQ, short rib sliders, smoked meats and oysters, and not to forget many cookies and pies. Winners of the best bites competition were:

Popular Choice Award

First Place – Royer’s Round Top Café

Second Place – Jonathan’s The Rub

Two-Stepping Bread/Cheese/Dessert Award

First Place – Mango Caramel from Cacao & Cardamom Chocolates

Second Place – Bread Pudding from Joyce’s Seafood and Steaks

Trailblazing Appetizer/Entrée Award

First Place – Barbecue Short Ribs from Killen’s BBB

Second Place – Mini Pork Crispy Tacos from Molina’s Cantina

Third Place – Short Rib Sliders with Shaved Ham and Debris from Frank’s Americana Revival

Showmanship Award

Catering to Your Tastebuds

Rookie Award

Mango Caramel from Cacao & Cardamom Chocolates

Tasty Traditions Award

Bread Pudding from Joyce’s Seafood and Steaks

Another Texas star in the 2013 Rodeo wine competition was the hill country’s Pedernales Cellars for their 2012 Viognier (the Best Texas Wine judged in the Rodeo wine competition). Equally impressive was the double gold awarded to Range Rider (a multi-vintage blend of Tempranillo, Syrah and Cabernet from 2008 and 2009 harvests) made by Red Caboose Winery in Meridian, TX. Range Rider has been a favorite of mine since I stopped by there last summer.

These were two of my many stops. Even with that, I unfortunately missed an opportunity to taste wines from Perissos Vineyards near Burnet, TX, another of my favorites. I hear that they poured a great sampling of their Syrah, Petite, Viognier and Roussanne.

I also had a chance met up with Rick Nabor pouring his Flat Creek Estate Pinot Blanc with his typical flair.


The most interesting observation of the evening was comparing the wine offerings from Texas wineries with those of the large contingent of west coast American wineries (from California, Oregon and Washington) and those from international wineries. Most of the wines poured from California, Oregon and Washington were the standard set: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. As mentioned above, the Texas offerings were lacking in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These are cool weather grapes that are very hard to grow here. What I did find were varietal offerings of Viognier, Roussanne and Muscat for the whites and Tempranillo and a host of red blends leading the way for Texas. In this regard, the Texas wineries were more like Mediterranean wineries present in the event like those from Spain, Portugal, Italy and southern France.

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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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