Cabernet Showdown

On the last Tuesday of every month, the Texas Wine and Food Consortium hosts a good old-fashioned duel.  While there may not be a definitive winner, there is definitely a good time had by all.  Gusto Tastings Sommeliers, Daniel Kelada and Oscar Montes-Iga choose a grape and draw a line between producers from all over the world and those in Texas.   We get to enjoy the battle.

TWFC

I previously attended the tastings in which we looked at Viognier and Tempranillo, both grapes that do very well in the Texas climate.  This month, Cabernet Sauvignon was the star of the show.  I will admit that I had my doubts.  After all, how well can Cab really do here?  Denise Clarke, shared my skepticism and chose to taste blindly.  I think we were both surprised by the evening. 

As with each of the competitions, the evening was divided into four flights: Old World, New World, Texas, and then a vertical tasting of a Texas wine.  This month, Becker Vineyards provided the vertical tasting.

For the Old World tasting, we had two French and one Israeli wine.  For the New World flight, we tasted Washington, Chile, Napa, and South Africa.  We then moved to nine Texas wines and the vertical flight.

Tasting this many wines can be a funny thing.  My palate begins to fade.  I can taste through a flight and think I know which one I prefer.  Taste them again, and it becomes less clear.  As a wine opens it changes.  Have a snack, it changes again.  If you asked me which wine was my favorite, I would also have to ask, “With food or without?”  And if you asked the person next to me, there may be very little overlap in the list of favorites. 

Some of my tasting notes of the evening included the classic terms such as, “cherry, leather, tobacco, greens.” And then there were some less common descriptors: “dill pickle, green pepper with cherry on top, cream soda, tomato leaf.”

Some personal highlights included:

Le Relais De Dufort-Vivens, Margaux, Grand Vin, 2009 (classic notes, Bing cherry, tobacco)

Marques de Casa Concha, Puento Alto, 2010 (Less classic but friendly, cherry cola, Eucalyptus, Green tomato leaf)

Flat Creek, Texas High Plains, Newsome Vineyard, Reserve 2010 (Big, impressive, yet subtle fruit, cherry, and greens)

The Vineyard at Florence, Williamson County, ‘Veritas’ 2010 (huge sour cherry and berry blend)

Becker Vineyard, Texas High Plains, Canada Family Vineyards, 2007 (elegant nose, hazelnut and cranberry, some vegetative notes)

Becker Vineyard, Texas High Plains, Canada Family Vineyards, 2009 (earth, leather, fruit, surprising elegant for age)

Becker Vineyard Claret 2011 (drought year so concentrated fruit, bright sour cherry, some green, cocoa)

As an encore, Tim Drake of Flat Creek Estate, decided to finish the evening with something very special.  He opened a 2002 Flat Creek Cab that was amazing.  If there was any question about whether Texas can do Cab, more importantly, a Cab that can age, Flat Creek gave us the answer. 

So who was the winner?  Well, there is no clear answer to such a subjective question, but you can judge for yourself.  Next month’s tasting will look at Tannat and will be featuring wines from Bending Branch.  In April, Texas Wine and Food Consortium will bring us fortified wines (port, Sherry, Madeira) with Haak winery.  Upcoming tastings will feature Roussane, Rose, Red Blends, White Blends, Merlot, Malbec , and Sangiovese.

For more information on these tastings, contact Daniel Kelada.

 This piece was originally written for and posted on Texas Wine and Trail

Wines

Three “Wines-men”

I could tell you about a few of my picks for the holiday season, and I probably will at some point.  But I thought it would be a little more interesting to hear from those who know just a little more about Texas wines than I do.  I elicited help from three fabulous Texas wine makers to tell you which Texas wine they might be pouring this holiday season and the pairings they would choose.  The catch?  It had to be someone else’s wine.

Dave Reilly has been getting a lot of attention as the winemaker for Duchman Winery.  And with good reason.  Just this year his wines has received several awards and three spots on the Jessica Dupuy’s Top Texas Wines list.  What Texas wine would he pour?  A Roussanne.  He thinks that it is one of the most interesting grapes being produced in the state. 

Although he didn’t name a specific producer, I have had lovely Roussannes from both Cap*Rock Winery and McPherson Cellars.  The McPherson Reserve Roussanne was on Russ Kane’s list of his favorite Texas whites of 2012 and Jessica Dupuy included a Roussanne from Perissos Vineyards on her list.  Promising, indeed.  The traditional pairings are seafood and buttery dishes.  You could also pair with poultry.  Doing a Christmas turkey?  This would be lovely.  Especially with a chestnut stuffing or with butternut squash to bring out the nutty flavors in the wine.

Tim Drake made the move to Texas from Washington in 2010 because he and his family saw that something special was going on in the Texas wine industry.  He joined Flat Creek Estate in 2011 and we are just now seeing the first of his whites.  If the 2011 and 2012 barrel sample of Viognier are any indication, we are in for a whole lot of special.  And if his pairings are any indication, I’ll be asking for an invitation to dinner. 

Tim chose William Chris Merlot paired with a Demi-Glace Veal Chops served with Gorgonzola Risotto and sautéed green beans.  Yes, please.  William Chris is located in Hye, Texas and they produce some incredible wines.  I have a bottle of Enchante that I have been saving for the holidays, so you’ll hear more about them in the near future.

Kim McPherson of McPherson Cellars knows a thing or two about wine.  In fact, he is kind of wine royalty here in Texas.  His father, “Doc” McPherson, was one of the fore-fathers of the Texas wine industry and Kim has continued the elevation of Texas viticulture.  His wines have received over 450 awards.  So what would he choose? 

A peek at either Jessica or Russ’ list will tell you that Tempranillo does very well here.  Kim agreees.  He chose Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo with a Hanger Steak made in a Spanish style.  That shouldn’t be a problem since his wife, Sylvia, owns La Diosa Cellars.  Think Romesco sauce, rubs with herbs and paprika.  Smoky, spicy, with some lime juice for acid.  Serve with polenta or fingerling potatoes.  Maybe some greens with roasted peppers?  Yum.

Although most of these specific wines are not available nationwide, these pairings are great inspiration no matter what state you call home.  And great inspiration to visit us here in Texas.  Thank you to all of the winemakers who helped me in writing this.  You are doing amazing things.  Merry Christmas and happy pairing!

Discoveries from Columbus Weekend

Although some would question the political correctness of celebrating Columbus Day, few would argue about the long weekend. And a long weekend means more time to drink wine, especially enjoyable when you have been doing (mostly)dry weeks. We packed this weekend with equal parts productivity and revelry. Here are some fun discoveries.

On Wednesday, I joined Gusto Tastings at III Forks for an evening of Viognier.  Anatoli Levine, who writes Talk-A-Vino, happened to be in town so I invited him to join me. I thought it was a great opportunity to see what is going on here in the wine industry. Texas vs. The World is a comparative tasting of Old World, New World, and Texas wines. We tasted seventeen Viogniers including a vertical tasting from Flat Creek Estate. As luck would have it, we sat with the winemaker, Tim Drake and his lovely wife, Spring. It was a fantastic evening. In my opinion, Texas took this one. The 2011 Flat Creek was amazing. A glorious nose and equally impressive taste. I am also a fan of McPherson Cellars and the Brennan Vineyards. We even got to do a barrel tasting of the Flat Creek 2012 which is only six weeks in to a very promising journey.

I spent Friday and Saturday consumed in garage sale drudgery, motivated only by the fact that it was for charity. I realized that, in the future, I will likely take the path of less torture and donate both the items and some money. Needless to say, I was ready for a glass of wine at the end of the day. I had been wanting to try a sample that I recently received from Mommy Juice wines*. Great name and marketing. The white is 100% Chardonnay and the red is a blend of mostly Cab Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cab Franc, with a dash of this and that. I am a tough sell on Chardonnay, especially entry-level wines, but I really liked the red blend. It was a very nice, easy drinking wine.  Berry nose with a hint of vanilla. I tasted a lot of Bing Cherry and some brighter red fruit. At about $10, it makes a perfect Monday wine. And I know many Mommy’s that need a little juice at the end of a Monday, or Tuesday, or any day.

On Sunday, the hubs and I headed out to Flat Creek Estate for Grape Jam. The event featured wines from eight wineries and music. I love seeing the growth in the Texas wine industry. Collectively, there are some very exciting things going on here and I love trying new producers. I was introduced to new grapes like Bending Branch’s Tannat and Black Spanish grapes of Dry Comal Creek. I found some new loves in Flat Creek’s Super Texan and Pinot Blanc. More importantly, I was able to spend time with some fabulous people. I talked at length with Rick Naber, the owner, and Tim Drake, the winemaker. I came away with a better sense of the challenges and the tenacious spirit of the Texas winemaker. But that is a whole different post.

On Monday, after my man trimmed the trees, and the kids and I hauled the branches, I headed to Whole Foods for a …PIE FIGHT! The event kicked off the fundraising efforts of Les Dames E’scoffier. They have some great items up for auction. No matter where you are in the country, if you love food and wine, there is something for you. Check it out at www.austinfoodfight.org. Because my partner, Scott Calvert of The Cake Plate, and I had the most Social Media buzz (thank you!) we got to go last. We faced the reigning champion, Chef Josh Watkins and his partner Jennie Chen of Miso Hungry. I was doing pretty well at dodging and weaving, but they took us in the end. Scott was a true gentleman and took most of the hits. And speaking of hits? I hit a JUDGE. In the FACE. My thumb got stuck in the melting crust and my frisbee attempt failed miserably. Oh my goodness, I was mortified and profusely apologetic. Other than my egregious throwing error, it was a great evening.

Tonight, we are headed out again to The Taste of Kenichi, an event introducing their new Executive Chef, Richard Lee. It should be fabulous! I’ll keep you posted on the yummies. Cheers!

*Mommy Juice wine was provided as a media sample.