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Tag Archives: Texas wine

2016 Virginia Governor’s Cup

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Virginia Governors CupIt’s not the high quality of the wines that impressed me when I judged a preliminary round in the 2016 Virginia Governor’s Cup earlier this month. Rather, it was the consistency. There were almost no undrinkable wines among the five dozen or so wines we did, a far cry from the first time I did the competition in 2010.

If this is not unprecedented, it’s certainly rare in any state that’s not on the west coast. One of the biggest difficulties for regional wine, given that most local producers have too little experience and too little money, is consistency and improving toward that consistency. It’s not enough to make one great wine every three or four years; for regional wine to succeed, it must make drinkable wine every year. If it can do that, the great wines will follow on a regular basis.

And my panel saw that consistency earlier this month, allowing for the small sample size and that we judged blind. Especially impressive — but not surprising, given past experience — were the viogniers, where I though three of the five wines deserved gold medals (though medals won’t be awarded until the final judging in February). The other two were well worth drinking, too. Every wine was fresh and varietally correct, and even the two that had been oaked were nicely done. The oak complemented the wine, and was not its reason for being.

The half dozen cabernet francs, another Virginia specialty, were surprisingly fruity, without the elegance I have come to expect. But they were enjoyable and two were worthy of silver or gold meals.

Even those regional wines that usually fare poorly, like chardonnay and dry rose, were professional and competent. The former are usually under-ripe and over oaked, while the latter are usually just a mess. But though simple, they were drinkable, and that’s not damning with faint praise given the difficulty in making those wines drinkable.

This is the slow, steady improvement that we haven’t seen in Texas for several years, and is one reason why I despair about the Texas wine business. But if Virginia, Texas’ arch-rival, can do it, maybe we can be motivated to do it as well.

Four highlights from the 2015 American Wine Society conference

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American Wine Society conferenceLast weekend’s American Wine Society conference reminded me that U.S. wine drinkers aren’t the stereotypes the wine business wants us to be. What a pleasure to be around curious, intelligent, and passionate wine drinkers for two days, people who want to learn more about wine and who are open to something that isn’t what they’re told they should drink.

Yes, it’s a small sample size, and yes, anyone who attends something like this isn’t going to be exactly typical. But when I mentioned the grocery store Great Wall of Wine in my first presentation, there was more than one nodding acknowledgment from the audience. Which means every wine drinker, no matter how experienced, faces many of the same problems.

Among the highlights:

• I took a lot of kidding when I offered to do a Texas wine seminar at an East Coast event, but it sold out almost immediately. The McPherson rose, the Llano Estacado Harvest tempranillo, and the Haak dry blanc du bois were the biggest hits, each speaking to Texas’ terroir and what happens when Texas winemakers make Texas wines. But that’s the point, isn’t it? That Texas wine will only grow and get better if the focus is on making Texas wine, and not California (or wherever) wine that comes from Texas.

• The other key from the Texas seminar? That people elsewhere seem eager to buy the wines, and that it’s time — if the grape harvests cooperate — to start exporting Texas wine to the rest of the U.S. The days when 95 percent of Texas wine was sold in Texas, and everyone was content with that, appear to be over.

• We aren’t scared of weird grapes, even though the wine business does its best to terrify us. That the hybrid blanc du bois impressed so many, with its clean citrus flavors, was one thing, but that the Augusta chambourcin was one of the hits of the regional wine seminar says even more. Chambourcin, a red hybrd, is notorious for its off, foxy aroma, but winemaker Tony Kooyumjian has solved that problem. This is probably the best chambourcin in the U.S., with spiciness, dark Rhone-style fruit, and a wonderful Missouri elan.

• The best wine that almost no one has ever tasted is the Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly gamay from California’s Sierra Foothills. It seems so simple, but there is so much going on that it’s difficult to believe. Most winemaker tasting notes don’t say much, but Steve Edmunds is exactly right: “Juicy and precise on the palate, mouth-watering, showing lot of depth. The finish is long, and clean. This is already really versatile at the table, as always.” How much do I like it? It’s worth every penny of the $21 it costs.

Four wines for International Tempranillo Day

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International Tempranillo DayToday is the fifth annual International Tempranillo Day, in which those of us who appreciate value and quality tip our hats towards Spain’s signature grape — even when the wine isn’t from Spain. How wonderful is tempranillo? This year, the wine that the students in my El Centro class have enjoyed the most was a tempranillo from Spain’s Ribero del Deuro, and they’re a tough audience.

Tempranillo, and especially from Spain, is food friendly, terrific for Thanksgiving, and something that I drink almost as often as I drink rose. It’s one more example why the best wine values in the world come from Spain. This year, four wines for International Tempranillo Day:

• El Coto Rioja Crianza 2010 ($10, sample, 13%): This Spanish red, from the Rioja region, is always well done, always more traditional (brighter acid and cherry fruit), and always with just enough oak to round out the wine. And the stag label isn’t bad, either.

C.V.N.E. Rioja Cune Crianza 2010 ($15, purchased, 13.5%): Sophisticated crianza (the first of three quality levels of Rioja) that is more complex than its $10 cousins, with deeper and richer cherry fruit, more layered oak, and a fuller, more complete finish. Highly recommended and worth the extra money.

Llano Estacado Harvest Tempranillo 2014 ($18, sample, 12.8%): This is a beautiful wine, rounder than a Rioja, with less obvious red fruit and that speaks to Texas’ terroir. I was one of the doubters when Texas producers started making tempranillo, and I’m happy to say I was wrong. Highly recommended and one of the highlights of my American Wine Society presentation, though availability will be limited outside of Texas.

Emilio Moro 2011 ($20, sample. 14.5%): The wine that wowed those hard-nosed students, showing what Ribero can do when its producers want to make great wine and not just get a 98. The Moro is fruitier (black instead of red), with more oak, and less tart than a Rioja, but the alcohol doesn’t get in the way. Highly recommended.

For more on tempranillo:
12 wines for International Tempranillo Day
Wine of the week: Barao de Vila Proeza Dao Tinto 2010

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