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


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

Cowboys and Gauchos


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

art and wine

A lovely union for the senses.  Art and wine by themselves are incredibly stimulating.  Combined, the neurons are truly on fire.

I’d like to take a moment to highlight a small handful of favorite examples of local art exhibition from the winery journey so far:

Sylvia of La Diosa in Lubbock provides support for local artists as a part of her business model in her winery and restaurant.

The McPherson winery in Lubbock is drenched in art, even in the bottling area- featuring pieces created by employees.

Labels of Christoval Winery bottles designed and created by tasting room manager and local artist, Christine Jackson.

Man's Best Friend wine and labels released once a year, featuring the pet of charity auction winner for the local Humane Society fundraiser. Paintings are by local artist Robert Carlson.

Wine labels at WestCave Winery by Tim Wooding.

The list goes on, and will continue to grow as the journey progresses.

And it’s refreshing to see that art is not the only sensual element sourced locally in Texas wineries.  There’s also local produce for on-site bistros, finished products like olive oil and crafts in the gift shops, and most wineries act as venues for local musicians.  Since the beginning of this research, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard the word “community,” as in the winery being an active part of it.

Think about that: a community being in tune with its sensual characteristics and a winery being a center for that.  Definite treasure.