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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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– Margaret Shugart

Cowboys and Gauchos

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The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas is gearing up for their annual Cowboys and Gauchos event at the Salt Lick in Driftwood this Sunday, February 24th.  It’s bound to be a great party celebrating the overlap between South American and Texan food and wine.  Foundation board member Howard Kells was so inspired by Francis Mallmann’s book, The Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentinian Way, he started the event as a way to taste Texas and South American grilling styles and wines side by side, and celebrate their unique cultures.  It is the Foundation’s top event for supporting Texas wines.

Chefs from restaurants around the Austin area including Jack Allen’s Kitchen, Fore, Live Oak BarbecueEstancia Churrascaria, Sentelli’s Sweets, Cafe Josie, El Alma and El Chile, will be cooking local meat using a wide variety of barbeque techniques like iron rig, iron crosses and parrilla.  Since it’s difficult to marinate or brine large animals, the Foundation and chefs search for an beast that will bring flavor and sweetness to the table after being cooked on a live fire.  This year, under the guidance of Jack Gilmore from Jack Allen’s Kitchen, they chose a Nilgai Antelope from a Hill Country ranch and will be offering samples after its long roast.

Alongside this incredible smorgasbord will be wines from all over South America and Texas.  Distributors specializing in South American wines will pour samples from their wineries, and winemakers and representatives from Texas will be on site talking about their bottles.  Participating local wineries include Pedernales Cellars, Becker Vineyards, Fall Creek Vineyards, Flat Creek Estate, McPherson Cellars, Spicewood Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, William Chris Vineyards, and Cap*Rock Winery.  It will be an incredible opportunity to compare varietals like Tannat (the national wine of Uruguay and my favorite red varietal in Texas), Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon from the different regions, paired with barbecued game meat and other culinary specialties like homemade chorizo, beef tongue, wild boar tacos and bison chile.

In addition to all this tasting goodness, there will be a dance floor and live band for some twirling, and a raffle with a grand prize tour of the Hill Country valued at $3000.

Tickets are on sale now through The Wine and Food Foundation of Texas site and entry gets you into the best party around this weekend.

We’ll see you there!

Margaret Shugart

Tasting at Salt Lick Cellars

The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association is headed to the Salt Lick in Driftwood for a winery dinner tonight.  And what a perfect place to explore different personalities of wine in the bottle.

I like to think of Salt Lick Cellars as an art gallery of sorts.  Jay Knepp, the Salt Lick vineyard manager, grows near 40 acres of grapes on the property in Driftwood, then sends those grapes to different winemakers around the region to craft into wine.  So if you don’t have time travel around to several different wineries in a day, you can make one stop here and explore the styles of a variety of winemakers, all creating art from the same grapes.

At this moment, there are five different wines in this category produced by three different wine makers, all done with Salt Lick fruit:Image

1) Salt Lick Cellars Mourvèdre by Bill Blackman and Chris Brundrett of William Chris Vineyards and Winery.  It carries the signature flavors of William Chris’ coal toasted South Armenian Oak.  The wine is rich with prominent oak flavors of cooking spices and vanilla, the fruit rounded by its time in the barrels.

2) Salt Lick Cellars GSM by Dave Reilly at Duchman Family Winery.  A grenache, syrah, mourvèdre blend aged in neutral and French oak barrels.  True to Reilly’s style, the fruit expresses itself in bright flavors with a clean and lingering finish.

3) Hill Country Blend by Dave Reilly at Duchman Family Winery.  A blend of grapes from different vintages: sangiovese from 2010, syrah from 2009 and cabernet sauvignon from 2010.  All the fruit is from Salt Lick vineyards, except for the cabernet sauvignon from Limestone Terrace, Reilly’s first vineyard (now otherwise owned/managed) in Wimberley.  Aged in American and neutral oak, it has pleasant hints of vanilla.  The finish is tight with good acidity that is sure to cut through your BBQ lunch, er, dinner.

4) Salt Lick Sangiovese by Dave Reilly at Duchman Family Winery, the newest addition to the tasting room selection.  The fruit is from 7 year vines at Salt Lick and was picked in the middle of a 6 1/2 inch rainstorm, then aged in neutral French barrels.  The rain apparently didn’t affect the grapes and the wine is still all the things I love in a sangiovese: beautiful color, bright, red fruit, again, great acidity.

5) Fall Creek Tempranillo by Ed Auler at Fall Creek Vineyards.  100% Salt Lick fruit bottled under the Fall Creek label.  Aged in American, French and neutral French barrels, this wine is a full-bodied gem.  The fruit is prominent with creamy vanilla notes and the complex sweet/sour play that comes from good American oak.  The finish is long and lingering, even after a few sips of water.  Stellar meat pairing wine.

Tonight should offer an amazing experience to all TWGGA participants.

And all others over these next few months, as long as the wine lasts!  Cheers to the chance to witness so many artists in one place.  Image

Best Texas Wines of 2012

This year I had the opportunity to taste through some of Texas’s best wines in preparation for the next edition of The Wine Roads of Texas. The good news is, the state of the art is getting better each year.

I would describe about 10-15% of our wineries as capable of competing on the world stage, and if that sounds stingy, I would say the same thing about California. Even better, virtually every winery had at least one good wine. The best news for folks traveling in Texas is we are there are so many terrific wineries, including, of course, all three of my picks. The wines of 2012 included these three clear winners.

White Wine: Duchman Family Winery’s Vermentino – Cliff Bingham Vineyards. Start with some of the best organic grapes in the wine business from Bingham’s high plains farms and then add the perfect winemaker, Dave Reilly. He is making as good a Vermentino as you will find anywhere on earth.

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Red Wine: Becker Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – Canada Vineyard. I first tasted this wine along with a large group (two busloads!) of KLRU subscribers and was nearly speechless. When I recovered, I made sure the crowd understood they were tasting a benchmark. Given all the great newish wineries like William Chris, Pedernales, Inwood, etc. I have to admit being surprised that Becker, after 20 vintages, is still setting the standard.

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Dessert Wine: Dotson Cervantes Gotas de Oro. Restaurateur/Chef Damian Mandola called me a few months ago and asked me to come to lunch to meet the first Texas winemakers that would be represented in all Mandola’s markets. I was happy to come because Damian is a lot of fun and the people he wanted me to meet are two of my favorite folks in the Texas wine business, Alphonse Dotson and Martha Cervantes. We had a great time telling tall tales and tasting the wines with a few of Damian’s dishes. Not only did the Gotas de Oro have the unctuous sweetness you find in almost every sweet wine, it also had perfect acidity, something very few Texas dessert wines have.

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So there you have it. I wish I had the time and space to mention all the wonderful Texas wines I tasted this year. The important takeaway is, it is time to start visiting the many (25+) wineries within a two hour drive of Austin. All have a decent wine and many have wines that compare favorably with other U.S. wines. Then you’ll be able to discover the 10%-15% that really are world class. In the meantime, congratulations to Duchman, Becker, and Dotson Cervantes.

Wes Marshall

faces of the next generation

Some faces of the new generation of Texas Wine:

Nolan Newsom in his new Mouvedre vineyard, 2 acres and 1/4 mile long. Poised to take on the tradition of beautiful High Plains fruit. Today he will help host and educate at Newsom Grape Day in Plains, Texas, one of the biggest gatherings of grape growers in the state.

J.P. St. Charles, barista at Times Ten Cellars, understudy at Inwood Estates Winery, determined future winemaker. Just planted his first vines in east Texas. His response to a question about the next generation of Texas wine?- “Oh look out, it’s coming.”

Grayson Davies of Arché. First graduate of Texas Tech University's four year viticulture and enology program and new winemaker with his family's vineyard and winery.

Evan McKibben and his father Gary McKibben (and Buddy the dog) at Red Caboose Winery and Vineyard. Evan won one of the precious few awards at the Jefferson Cup last year, the only winery in Texas to do so.

Rachel Cook with her mentor, winemaker and nuclear physicist, Les Constable at Brushy Creek Vineyards where she is now winemaker and vineyard manager. Two great minds pushing the envelope on Texas wine.

On right: John Rivenburgh (director of wine and vine ninja) with his father-in-law, Robert Young at Bending Branch Winery. Two great experimenters dedicated to growing organic grapes and building a sustainable family business based on clean, quality, serious Texas wines.

Dave Reilly, winemaker at Duchman Family Winery, smiling as usual. Ask him about his craft though, and it's no joke. He is set to blow the doors off Texas wine.

Miles Elsey, cellar hand and assistant winemaker at Duchman Family Winery, passionate student of the industry.

Craig Pinkley relaxing in one of the many beautiful spots at his Pilot Knob Vineyards and Winery. Craig believes in running a family friendly winery, dedicated to bringing people together to enjoy the place and each other.