Tag Archives: Texas wine

Four highlights from the 2015 American Wine Society conference


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


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

Texas wine developments: 2015


texas wineSome thoughts after driving some 900 miles through the Texas High Plains in search of Texas wine:

• It’s not so much that this year’s harvest was plentiful, or that quality looks to be good. Rather, it’s that growers who normally had a couple of tons of grapes to sell have six or eight. Or 10. That means wineries may have more grapes than they know what to do with — something that could only happen in Texas, where short harvests have been the norm for a decade. Hence, there may not be anywhere to store the extra crushed grapes, and I don’t even want to think about what it will do to grape prices over the next couple of years. The good news? That there will be almost no excuse to sell Texas wine that doesn’t carry a Texas appellation, a practice long common here and which has generated huge controversy.

• Even I get tired of ragging on Dallas restaurants that don’t carry Texas wine, but after eating in three Lubbock restaurants that do Texas wine justice — the Pecan Grill at the Overton Hotel, La Diosa, and West Table — Dallas restaurants have no excuse for not carrying Texas wine. If they can do it in Lubbock, why can’t we do it here? We are supposed to be more cosmopolitan than Lubbock, aren’t we?

• Neal Newsom, a west Texas cotton farmer who planted his first grapes 30 years ago and today grows only grapes, says his fellow cotton farmers used to heckle him — literally — over that decision. Because what kind of self-respecting cotton farmer would grow something as silly as grapes in a part of the country where cotton is king? Today, though, says Newsom, they’re practically jealous, given his success. “I got more people asking me about growing grapes last year than I did in the previous 29 years put together,” he says.

• The less said about my experiences in Post, about 50 miles southwest of Lubbock, the better. Who knew driving through a small town, no bigger than five minutes from north to south, could cause so much aggravation, and both times I went through it?

• The best wines I tasted? A tempranillo from Llano Estacado (which I’ll use in my American Wine Society seminar about Texas wine in November) and the McPherson rose. The former had varietal character — some earthiness, a bit of orange peel — but tasted of Texas, with more red fruit than a Rioja and more balanced acidity. It’s about $15 for people lucky enough to have an HEB in their town. The rose, about $10, is sold out in much of the state, but a couple of restaurants in Lubbock still had it. That it sold out so quickly speaks to how well it’s made — juicy strawberry fruit and a crispness that makes me smile when I write about it — as well as how much Texas wine drinkers have changed. Just a couple of years ago, to paraphrase my pal John Bratcher, you couldn’t sell rose here if you left it outside the liquor store with a sign that said free for the taking.

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