Texas at TexSom

It has been over two weeks since TexSom came to a close and I am still basking in the afterglow. Thinking back over its highlights, I keep returning to the Taste Texas Wines hospitality suite, sponsored by Texas Monthly. It was the first of its kind in the nine years of TexSom and had an incredible turnout and reverberating buzz. As I moved between the other rooms, I heard people reminding their friends to visit the Texas room, or talking about the wines that surprised them the most… in a good way.

Texas Wins at TexSom. Photo courtesy of whatareyoudrinking.net

Texas Wins at TexSom. Photo courtesy of whatareyoudrinking.net

Texas wineries have been a part of TexSom since its inception, sending representatives, pouring their wines in the Grand Tasting and helping with the educational seminars, but this was the first opportunity for them to showcase their hard work all in one room and hold a place to interact with some serious wine enthusiasts. Fredrick Österberg of Pedernales Cellars was thrilled for the exposure: “We had at least a dozen Masters come and try our wines. The Texas-based ones know us and already support us. Masters from all over the country came too. Fred Dame walked up to me and we had a great conversation. And that means a lot from the somm community, to give them the chance to try our wines and show them Texas can do great things.”

Fredrik Österberg talking about Pedernales Cellars wine. Photo courtesy of whatareyoudrinking.net.

Fredrik Österberg talking about Pedernales Cellars wine. Photo courtesy of whatareyoudrinking.net.

TexSom is unfortunately scheduled at harvest time in Texas. This year harvest came later due to cooler weather in June and July, making it a little easier than years before, but there was still overlap. I spoke to several winemakers who said they harvested a few tons of grapes in the morning, took a shower and drove to Dallas for the conference, then rushed home to help process the crop. Perhaps future TexSom conferences will be on slightly different dates so more Texas wine industry professionals can be involved.

Due to that timing, this was the first year Pat Brennan was able to attend and he was happy about the success of the suite. He said in the days following he received emails, tweets and Facebook posts from people who were surprised by the Texas wine showing. He hopes to return next year and participate fully in the conference, attending seminars and holding a table at the Grand Tasting.

Four wineries poured their wines and only brought bottles made from 100% Texas grapes. A complete list of the wineries, wines and associated awards is below.

Cheers to Texas’ great showing at this prestigious event! And cheers to future years and increased involvement, showing the world what Texas can do.

Brennan Vineyards

−  2012 Viognier- Silver at San Francisco International Wine Competition

−  2012 Lily– Gold at Dallas Morning News and Texsom Wine Competition, Gold and Grand Star at Lone Star International Wine Competition

−  2011 Dark Horse- Chairman’s Award (unanimous gold) at Riverside International Wine Competition

−  2011 Tempranillo- Gold at Pacific Rim Wine Competition. Gold at San Francisco International Wine Competition, Silver at San Francisco International Wine Competition

−  2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Duchman Family Winery

−  2011 Trebbiano- Silver at San Francisco International Wine Competition

−  2011 Viognier

−  2011 Dolcetto- Silver at San Francisco International Wine Competition

−  2011 Tempranillo- Silver at San Francisco International Wine Competition

McPherson Cellars

−   2012 Les Copains- Gold at Lone Star International Wine Competition

−   2011 La Herencia– Gold at San Francisco International Wine Competition

−   2012 Dry Rosé Vin Gris

−   2012 Dry Chenin- Gold and Best in Class at Pacific Rim Wine Competition

−   2010 Sangiovese

Pedernales Cellars

−  2012 Viognier- Gold at Dallas Morning News and Texsom Wine Competition, Double Gold, Top Texas Wine, Class Champion and Texas Class Champion at Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition

−  2012 Viognier Reserve- Grand Gold at Lyon France International Wine Competition

−  2011 Texas Tempranillo

−  2010 Texas High Plains Tempranillo- Gold at Dallas Morning News and Texsom Wine Competition, Double Gold at Lone Star International Wine Competition, Gold at Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition

−  2011 GSM– Silver at San Francisco International Wine Competition, Gold at Lone Star International Wine Competition

The Best Little Winehouse in Texas


I have been searching for this trailer for months and am thrilled to finally share it with you. It’s a completely different take on Texas wine.

Wales Manor in McKinney, Texas is owned and run by John Wales, an American Airlines pilot and self-labeled entertainer. He wanted to make a reality television show based on his winery and this is the trailer he presented to networks to pique interest. You may or may not agree with his approach to the industry, but there’s no way to deny his penchant for entertainment.


– Margaret Shugart

Fall Creek Vineyards Throws Rockstar Independence Celebration

There is no reason to make today your only for Independence Celebrations. This is a four day weekend and lots of opportunities to continue the party. Tops on my list is the Burgers n Blues feast at Fall Creek Vineyards.

There is a lot packed into the six hour event- music by Bill Rives, art by acclaimed artist Daniel Adams– but I’m most excited for the food (and wine, of course). Chef Paul Petersen from Auguste Escoffier Culinary School in Austin will be spinning his rockstar magic on the grill and if you haven’t seen this yet, you are missing one of the best true-Texas chefs in the state.


Some lifetimes ago I worked under Chef Paul as a server at the Gage Hotel in Marathon, Texas  and my concept of wine and food was forever elevated. We were a hodge-podge staff with mixed experience and enthusiasm for the job. Paul, a CIA Chef with training in Manhattan and one wildly successful restaurant in Buda under his belt, entered the scene and lit a fire under our feet and in our minds. He taught us to taste wines like professionals, how to think and talk about food pairings, how to describe his creations with flourish and pride, how to polish our service and deliver the fine dining experience. With rockstar attitude. Our uniforms consisted of jeans, black and silver studded belts and Converse shoes. And Chef ran that kitchen like a rock show, music loud, pausing on the grill to play air drums with the tongs. Passion poured out of him and into us and I took that into all my future restaurant and tasting experiences. Chef Paul is the reason I really paid attention to wine and he gave me the basis for my culinary understandings. And I still wear that belt sometimes, when I need a little extra attitude. I have a lot to thank him for.

One of the first things Chef Paul did when he took ahold of the Gage wine program was make Fall Creek Vineyards our house pour. He wanted Texas wine in as many glasses as possible. I didn’t realize at the time how progressive this really was and had the chance to talk to him today about his connection to the winery and the people.

He said he was introduced to Fall Creek Vineyards through a blind tasting with a wine sales guy. The rep put a rich red wine in his glass and asked him to identify its origin. “I called it Bordeaux. Straight up. Not sure the producer or the exact region, but I knew it was Bordeaux.” The rep said, nope, it’s Texas. Fall Creek Meritus. Paul was amazed, impressed and became a loyal fan, then a close friend of Susan and Ed Auler, owners of Fall Creek.

Chef told me how he requested to hold a bottle of Meritus during many of his publicity and magazine shoots. I asked why and he said quite simply, “It’s the best wine in Texas. I am a Texas chef and this is my favorite Texas wine product.” He respects the care and attention Ed Auler puts into every vintage, and how it’s not made every year. Like Dominus Estate in Napa Valley, it has to be a stellar year to create the bottle.

You will have the chance to taste the new release of the 2010 Meritus at the winery on Saturday. It is 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot from Certenberg Vineyards in Mason County. It has won a Double Gold from the Tasters Guild International Wine Competition. Opaque in the glass, it shows layers of complexity from black fruit and dark cherries to mocha and leather; the tannins grip all over your mouth- a wine worth aging.

I asked Chef Paul if he would pair the Meritus with his burgers on Saturday and he laughed and said it might be too big of a wine. His recommendation for this weekend, and for every day drinking from Fall Creek is their Merlot. He said it’s always solid.

I’d also like to recommend their 2011 Tempranillo. It was aged in 1/3 neutral oak, 1/3 partially used oak, and 1/3 new American oak for a total of 14 months, and has cherry and cassis all over it with hints of leather in the finish. It was made for beef.

I had the opportunity to taste all these wines by invitation of Susan and Ed Auler last month and with Certified Sommelier, Matt McGinnis, including some preview barrel samples (get excited for the 2012 Tempranillo now! It’ll be in oak until 2014, but it’s already showing its steely berry fruits and herbaceous, floral notes). For Matt’s total tasting notes, visit his blog What Are You Drinking? I will add my own later on.

In the meantime, go make your own tasting notes. If not at Fall Creek Vineyards, then at a Texas winery near you. Explore all their offerings, buy a glass and enjoy it in some beautiful surroundings. For Chef Paul, I’d release the surprises he has in store this Saturday, but the Aulers don’t even know his plans yet. If you miss him this week, he’ll be cooking again in August for their Grape Stomp Festival.

Happy Red, White, Blue and Burgers to you.

– Margaret Shugart

Working on the book

I am really happy to report we are in last push to finish the book.  It’s such a joy and a pleasure to go through all of last year’s experiences on the road, meeting these incredible people, and we look forward to sharing that with you soon.  Our hope is to submit the material by the beginning of July for an October publication.  This means we won’t be doing anything else until we are finished, including the blog.  As soon as this portion is off our plates, we’ll start updating here again.

 Thank you so much for checking in and we look forward to writing more here soon.

Satellite of Love: Texas wineries make the movies

“The most important question we had to ask them was, ‘Can a girl in a bikini ride through the vines on a motorcycle?’  That’s what we needed to know.  Although, in the end, it was really a guy wearing a wig,” said Will Moore, when asked about his selection process for Texas vineyards as sets for his film.  In the end, he picked William Chris Vineyards in Hye, Texas for their incredible tasting room, and Duchman Family Vineyards in Driftwood, because they would allow the motorcycle.


Satellite of Love, an independent, locally shot film, just celebrated their Video on Demand release on Mar. 5.  Screened in twelve festivals around the nation including The Austin Film Festival and The Hill Country Film Festival, the movie is now available for download.  I met with director Will Moore, producer John Michael Measells, and music director Jonathan Case to discuss their experience with Texas wine during the filming.  The movie was shot all around the Hill Country and Austin, featuring locations like Justine’s, Apache Shores off Lake Austin.


Shooting at Justine’s restaurant

Roughly based on the 1960’s French film, “La Collectionneuse,” the story revolves around two couples meeting for a weekend in the California (but really Texas) wine country.  Opening scenes in the movie show that the men were best friends, one now married to the other’s ex-lover.  When they all arrive for their vacation, a sexy DJ from Barcelona is thrown into the mix, now dating the still-single friend.  Add wine, beautiful countryside, music and yes, girls on motorcycles (and bicycles), and the film plays around the questions of monogamy and the delicate messiness of the human heart.


The cast members are professionals, coming from productions like “The O.C.,” “True Blood,” and “Snakes on a Plane.”  They even found Patrick Bauchau an original leading man in La Collectionneuse and flew him over from France to play the role of vineyard owner and resident sage.  Their videography is stunning and highlights the beauty of the Texas Hill Country.


Will Moore and his wife spent six months location scouting, which, he says, primarily consisted of staying in Fredericksburg, going to wineries, drinking wine and hanging out.  In the process, they joined a handful of wine clubs that now ship wines to their home several times a year, an added bonus to the research.

There were two features Moore searched for when scouting out a perfect Texas winery: proximity to Austin for ease of travel, and permission for a girl in a bikini to ride a motorcycle through the vineyards.  Their initial choice was Becker Vineyards, but after talking to Duchman Family Winery, they decided it was better for its proximity to Austin.

They chose William Chris Vineyards for a different reason: the tasting room.  “It looks like someone’s home in the middle of nowhere,” Will Moore explained.  “The inside is so unique.”  It is crafted out of a farmhouse from the early 1900’s, refurbished by wine makers Bill Blackmon and Chris Brundrett.


One of its most defining features is the ceiling, covered in colorful barn doors and the film does a beautiful job showing it off in one, long shot.  Moore said they did not close the tasting room on the day of the shooting, but just moved the sample wines outside.  People were crammed in the windows, trying to catch a glimpse of the filming.  They only shot for a half day, but Moore, Measells, and Case all confirmed that everyone had at least one bottle of wine a piece before continuing on the day. Their favorite William Chris wine was the 2008 Enchanté, and a bottle of it is featured in one of the shots.  Producer Measells said he particularly enjoyed drinking it with his corn nuts on site.

Duchman Family Winery proved to be a great adventure.  They started the day by getting one of the equipment trucks stuck in the mud.  An employee of the Salt Lick BBQ and Tasting Room came over to free them.  The day was spent filming in the beautiful vineyards, riding bikes and motorcycles through the vines.  The cast, again, drank a lot of wine on site and tried most of the varieties and blends available.  They bought several cases of the Duchman Sangiovese 2010 and Moore, again, joined the wine club.


To see footage of our beautiful Hill Country and of these wineries, and to see an shining example of a thought-provoking, locally written and directed film, download a copy of Satellite of Love from iTunes.


– Margaret Shugart

Jack Allen’s Kitchen: heroes in support of Texas wine

I had the pleasure of meeting Jack Gilmore at the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas event Cowboys and Gauchos, and pretend to be the head on his decapitated cabrito as it slowly roasted in the pit.  Then the honor to interview he and his beverage guru, David Toby about Texas wines the following week.  And I learned, as fun as Toby and Gilmore are, they take buying and supporting local seriously.

Gilmore is involved in the selection process of everything for his restaurants, but he turned the majority of interview over to Toby, saying he had massive respect for his work and saw him as an encyclopedia of knowledge.  And he was right.  Toby works hard to keep his finger on the pulse of local wine and spirits and was a wealth of information about the industry and his choices for the establishment.


Toby explained how, from the beginning, the beverage program and restaurant were designed for buying local and dedicated to quality.  He said he’ll drop everything to consider a local product someone brings him: “I try to accommodate everyone here who’s passionate.”  And quality is paramount in his decisions.  If it’s great, he’ll put in on the shelves.  If he feels it needs more time or development, he is honest with the producer and asks them to return later.  His passion and consideration have resulted in shelves full of local spirits, all beer taps flowing with local beer, and lots of Texas wine in the cooler.

And how serious is Jack Gilmore about Texas wine?  When he served his James Beard dinner in New York, he featured only Texas wines paired with dishes made by he and his son, Bryce Gilmore of Barely Swine.  And when he brings Texas wines into the restaurant, he pushes them, educating his staff and educating the consumers.  “I don’t care how I get it.  Bring it to me.  Our job is to promote it.”  They learn all they can about the wine and the establishment that makes it, then encourage servers to share those stories at the tables and to offer pairing ideas.  He even threw a restaurant-wide contest and took all the winning servers to Flat Creek Estates for a tour and tasting.  They have hosted several dinners with Texas winemakers where, as Gilmore says, “I talk about the food and they talk about juice.”  He said he has serious respect for what they do and for the farmers that grow the fruit for those bottles.

They rotate their list and offer special features regularly.  On the list when I went in were the below selections, chosen for their quality:

~ McPherson Cellars Rosé

~ Fall Creek Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay

~ Messina Hof Winery Cabernet Franc

~ Becker Vineyards Viognier

~ Brennan Vineyards Buffalo Rhone

~ Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo

~ Driftwood Estate Longhorn Blend

~ Flat Creek Super Tuscan and Pinot Grigio


Cheers, David Toby and Jack Gilmore for your great work with the Texas wine industry!

– Margaret Shugart

TWGGA Legislative Session


Last Tuesday members of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association met in Austin to talk with their legislators about matters closest to them and to the Texas wine industry.  I visited the educational tasting room in the evening to hug friends and catch up on some important happenings in the business.  It was a joy to see Betty and Cliff Bingham and to chat with Bobby Cox, all down from Lubbock.  I also had the opportunity to meet some legends face-to-face, like Carl Money of Pontotoc Vineyards and Ed Hellman, a professor of viticulture for Texas Tech and Texas A&M programs.  And I learned a few great things:

1) The Department of Plant and Soil Science at Texas Tech University and Texas AgriLife Extension are working together to devleop a Texas Viticulture Certificate Program based in Fredericksburg.  It is a two year curriculum covering grapevine biology, site assessment and vineyard development, vine nutrition and water management, disease, insect and weed management, and canopy and crop load management.  There will be hands-on vineyard practices, including planting the first test vineyard in April of this year.  Classes will be held in the ACC building just east of Fredricksburg and are now accepting students for courses starting in June: http://winegrapes.ttu.edu/viticulturecertificate.html.

2) The Binghams will be opening their own custom-crush and wine making facility.  They’ve dedicated the site and Betty received news that evening that plans to lay cement were underway.  It will be a way for the family to use any overflow of harvest and also to provide higher quality product to wineries outside of the High Plains.  They will be able to immediately select, destem and press grapes on site, then send refrigerated juice to buyers.  Much like Texas Custom Wine Works, a crush facility designed by Dusty Timmons, Mike Sipowicz, Jet Wilmeth, and Steve Talcott, the facility will be paired with a wine making operation as well.  (As a kicker- Bobby Cox will be their wine maker!)  And much like Texas Custom Wine Works, people are excited about the prospect of pressing and refrigerating juice before fermentation begins, and a fresh base for higher quality wine.  With Bending Branch Winery discussing a mobile crush unit that would provide similar opportunities to growers around the state, it’s an exciting trend for the industry overall.

3) Carl Money, owner of a series of buildings in downtown Mason, will be re-appropriating several spaces for wineries: his Pontotoc Vineyards, Don Pullum’s Sandstone Cellars, and a winery by Alphonse and Martha Dotson of Certenberg Vineyards.  That’s three great wineries in the heart of the “Sonoma of Texas,” sure to draw visitors to the area.

4) And in the vein of combining wineries, another facility is set to open in the 290 corridor.  Called Six Shooter Cellars, it is a collaboration of Cross Timbers Winery out of Grapevine, Texas, Yepez Vineyard out of southeast Texas, and four others that remain a secret.  (Could one be Arché since the man who makes ceramics from their grapevine ashes, Michael Obranovich, will be represented at Six Shooter…?)  Final approval for the business just went through, and the facility could be up and running by the end of next month.

Four very exciting announcements for the industry!  And I am happy to report that all were optimistic about their legislative visits, saying the representatives listened well and understood the proposals, a far cry from the way such meetings used to go.  A great sign as the Texas wine trail barrels on.