Steinheimer’s Lounge at the Westin La Cantera features a treasure map on the ceiling that supposedly points to hidden gold. But on Friday night, the gold was found in glasses, as the bar was the setting of a Taste of Texas Wine Tweet-Up.
Resort sommelier Steven Krueger and Vintage Texas wine blogger Russ Kane led a tasting of four uniquely different Texas wines, each made from grapes that extend far beyond the California classics, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
“Texas is its own growing region, unique,” Krueger told the audience of local bloggers and tweeters. “You walk into a Texas winery and you don’t know what they’re going to serve you … and that’s a challenge.”
Grapes with names like Aglianico, Touriga Nacional and Vermentino aren’t household favorites, Kane admitted. Yet these seem to be among the grapes that are proving to be perfect for the state’s climate and great for those “locapours” out there who want to drink locally, he said.
“Our wine experience is not going to be what a California wine experience will be,” Kane said.
California has cast a giant shadow that the rest of the wine growing regions in the nation all have to operate under, Krueger said.
But Texas winemakers are making strides with lesser-known varietals that are offer great flavors in the glass.
To prove that, Krueger started the tasting with the 2009 Haak Vineyards Blanc du Bois, which was steely and bracing with a citrus edge. “Lemon meringue pie,” pronounced Veronique Barretto, who writes the Vinously Speaking blog.
Blanc du Bois is a grape that was introduced in 1987. It was developed in Florida to withstand harsh growing conditions while being resistant to Pierce’s disease, a bacterial infection that has wiped out countless acres of vineyards in the U.S. and beyond. With a grape so new, “there’s not a history or tradition of making it,” Krueger said.
So, people like Raymond Haak of Haak Vineyards are writing that history with their attempts. Though the version poured at Steinheimer’s was dry, Haak also produces a sweet Blanc du Bois.
The main point of the event was to spread the word about Texas wine, which the various writers did with their tweets. The gathering included Heather Hernandez of GeeketteBits.com; Lauren Madrid, @ohmypuddin; Kim Murray McDonald of flutiemcd.com; Emily Stringer, @definedelicious; Stacy Teet, @steet; and Sarah Vernetti of WanderingOff.com.
While the bloggers tweeted away, our attention turned to the 2010 Becker Vineyards Viognier, all viscous and full of peach or apricot flavors. This is another grape that grows well in Texas, so well, in fact, that “it has kind of become our Chardonnay,” Kane said.
Richard and Bunny Becker have been pioneers of the grape in the state, Krueger said, adding that Bunny deserves credit for pushing for the grape’s growing acceptance among wine drinkers and growers alike.
Third was the Alamosa Wine Cellars Palette, a Rhone-style blend that winemaker Jim Johnson likes to call “Chateauneuf-du-Bend,” a reference to the grapes’ Texas home town. This blend features Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache and Mourvèdre, with a touch of the aromatic Viognier added for good measure.
Kruger said the wine showed Johnson’s “Old World soul” in its rustic yet elegant nature, with a slight touch of barnyard on the nose.
The tasting concluded with the 2007 Inwood Estates Tempranillo, another grape that is gaining great reviews for its robust flavors and adaptability to Texas soil. Tasting this made me want a large glass alongside venison with a blueberry or huckleberry sauce.
Barretto pointed out an almost Port-like quality to the wine, though it was dry. That could be because the Tempranillo grape is related to Touriga Nacional, the major grape used in Port, Kane answered.
When the wine opened, huge aromas of toffee, caramel, cajeta and other sweet and creamy combinations seemed to explode from the glass, all the while maintaining its fruit flavor.
But don’t take my word for it. Or Krueger’s, Kane’s or any of the bloggers on the scene. Only you can tell you what kind of wine you’ll like. And you can sample four Texas wines for $10 every evening from 5 to 6 p.m. at Steinheimers in the Westin la Cantera, 16641 La Cantera Parkway. Krueger changes the selection regularly, so there’s always something new to taste.