Cowboys and Cabernet: Lone Star Wines Shine at California Conference
Mr. Parker, are you out there?

By Jane Nickles, Texas Culinary Academy – Austin, Texas
Guest Blog on VintageTexas

Howdy, y’all.  Jane Nickles here.  I’m the Wine Educator at the Texas Culinary Academy (www.tca.edu) in Austin, and today I’m happy to be guest blogging here at Vintage Texas.  Those of you who know me know that as part of my “day job” I speak – an awful lot – at wine, food, and education conferences all over the country.  I’ve been doing it for quite a while, and every year the toughest crowd I face is at the Annual Conference of the Society of Wine Educators (www.societyofwineeducators.org).

SWE is a great organization…any of you interested in teaching wine courses at any level should check them out.  But just imagine…a room full of people who know enough about wine to teach it to other people.  Scary!  Now, take that room, populated with Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wine, and professional wine judges, and plop it in the middle of California Wine Country.  Then, take the stage and lead a tasting of Texas Wines!

That’s just what I did last week, and I’m happy to say I loved every minute of it.  My seminar and tasting, “Cowboys and Cabernet,” was billed as “journey through the past, present, and future of the nation’s fifth largest wine producing state.”  We had a good crowd of people interested in all facets of wine – and not a one of them too shy to speak their minds.

My First Taste of Texas Wine

I started the workshop with the “true Texas wine tale” of how I was introduced to Texas Wines. This was about 15 years ago just after I moved to Austin.  Of course, being a Californian and new to Texas I had no idea Texas even made wines.  Somehow, a salesman from Block Distributing – after much convincing – managed to get me to taste Llano Estacado Viviano, which was at the time a Texas High Plains Meritage Blend.  As we say in Texas, “that wine was as sharp as the snap of a Cowboy’s quirt”, and I was an instant convert to the world of Texas Wine.

Next, I gave the crowd a quick run-down of the facts and figures of Texas Wines; the history, the grapes, the stats.  One thing I will never forget is how the statement, “today, Texas is the fifth largest wine producer in the nation” stunned the group.  They just couldn’t believe it…I spent about five minutes shielding questions like “what about New Mexico, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio???”.  Yep, heard them all, and those states are kicking at our heels, but as of today we are number five!  Thankfully, one of the Texas Master Sommeliers in the audience backed me up and we got that matter settled once and for all!

The Texas Tasting

Then, we tasted.  The first Texas wine I poured was Brennan Vineyards (www.brennanvineyards.com) Viognier 2008 (Comanche County).  I am so proud that this wine was the first in the line-up and I think it stunned this California crowd, creating more than a few new  believers in the ways of Texas Wine.  They loved it.  Lemon, lime, green apple and apricot aromas, followed by honeysuckle, jasmine, honey, and almond flavors; all wrapped in voluptuous softness.  What’s not to love?

Next up was Llano Estacado (www.llanowine.com) Viviana 2008, a new white blend of Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Muscat Canelli, Chardonnay, and Viognier.  This aromatic charmer – as tart and floral as fresh-pressed apples with jazzy nuances of lime and peach – has just a tickle of sweetness to keep the bracing acidity in check.  The crowd loved the wine and (wine educators that they are) noted that it would be a great foil to spicy Texas foods such as Shrimp Diablo, Fiery Salsa, and anything off the grill.

Next up was a pair of Sangiovese-based wines.  I loved telling the story of Rick and Madelyn Naber and the original “Super Texan.”  We tasted Flat Creek Estate  (www.flatcreekestate.com) Super Texan 2006 in a flight with Llano Estacado’s Viviano 2005.  Both wines are Cabernet Sauvignon/Sangiovese blends, and both showed extremely well.  I believe I described both wines as being “like Antonio Banderas…spicy, sexy, smooth.”

Return of the Natives

The next segment of the workshop I dubbed “Return of the Natives” as we discussed Stone House Vineyards (www.stonehousevineyard.com) and their delightful wine called Claros.  Claros is made from 100% Norton grapes, a grape native to America and the only non-vinifera wine I poured.  Claros shows aromas of ripe red plums, raspberries and cherries combined with mint, chocolate and eucalyptus. A bit of carbonic maceration in the fermentation process gives this wine a wonderful juxtaposition of the crisp, juicy acidity of a young Burgundy and the rich, meaty fruit of a Sonoma Zin….The classic iron fist in a velvet glove.

The total line up of Texas Wines, all which showed beautifully, was:

#1 – Brennan Vineyards Viognier 2008
#2 – Llano Estacado Viviana (White Blend) 2008
#3 –  Flat Creek Estate Super Texan 2006
#4 –  Llano Estacado Viviano 2005
#5 –  Alamosa Wine Cellars (www.alamosawinecellars.com) “El Guapo” Tempranillo 2005
#6 – Inwood Estates (www.inwoodwines.com) “Cornelious” Tempranillo 2007
#7 – Stonehouse Winery “Claros” 2006
#8 – Llano Estacado Signature Melange 2007
#9 –  Fall Creek Vineyards (www.fcv.com) Meritus 2005
#10 – Pillar Bluff (www.pillarbluff.com) “Boar Doe” 2007
#11 – Inwood Estates “Magellan” 2007
#12 – Texas Legato (www.texaslegato.com) Petite Syrah 2008

Mr. Parker, are you out there?

At the end of the session, one gentleman who at first had been ultra-resistant to the whole idea of Texas Wines summed up the feelings of the crowd by asking, “Why don’t you just get Robert Parker (www.erobertparker.com) to rate these wines?  That would get the word out, once and for all, about just how good Texas wines can be.” 

Now that’s the best idea I ever heard. Mr. Parker, are you out there?
 
Many, many thanks to all the wineries and winemakers who were so generous with their time, stories, and wines.  Thanks also to Bobby Champion of the Texas Department of Agriculture (www.gotexanwine.org) for providing some beautiful handouts and giveaways.  Together, we are spreading the true tale of Texas Wines!

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