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Griffin to Go: A Taste of Texas Wine Offers Something Beyond the Same Old Chardonnay


Kim Murray McDonald of flutiemcd.com and Sarah Vernetti of WanderingOff.com enjoy the wines at the Taste of Texas Wine.

Veronique Barretto of VinouslySpeaking.com

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.

Wine from Haak, Becker, Alamosa and Inwood Estates.

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.

Westin sommelier Steven Krueger leads the discussion.

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.

Heather Hernandez of GeeketteBits.com (from left), John Madrid, Lauren Madrid of ohmypuddin and Stacy Teet of @steet

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.

Russ Kane of VintageTexas.com tweets.

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.

 

 

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Texas Food and Wine — What a Sensational Pair


Chef Kelly Casey (with pastry bag) of Hudson's on the Bend in Austin plates her dinners.

It wasn’t about the prosciutto-wrapped quail, so juicy and tender with each bite. It wasn’t about the cocoa powder and raspberry flavors that mingled so beautifully in each sip of the Inwood Estates Tempranillo-Cabernet blend.

It was, however, about how the lush red fruit flavors of the 2007 Fall Creek Meritus joined with slices of Texas beef tenderloin marinated in coffee and chipotle to reach new  gustatory heights.

That was the point of the first Edible Texas Wine-Food Match, held Friday at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin.

Five chefs, narrowed down from a field of more than 35, were competing to see who could make the most successful pairings of Texas ingredients with Texas wines.

It was clear to both the celebrity judges’ panel and to the audience who did that best: David Garrido of Garrido’s in Austin.

Susan Auler (left) of Fall Creek Vineyards and celebrity chef Jacques Pépin enjoy the Edible Texas Wine-Food Match.

The chef, who once worked for Bruce Auden at the original Biga, took home the $5,000 grand prize as well as the People’s Choice Award. The centerpiece of his meal was the already-mentioned beef tenderloin with the Meritus,  but he also presented a crispy oyster with habanero-honey aïoli partnered with the Fall Creek Vineyards Chenin Blanc 2010 and a pastel de calabaza, or zucchini cake, with lemon crema and spicy caramelized pecans served with the Sister Creek Muscat Canelli 2010.

Patrick James “P.J.” Edwards of San Antonio’s Bin 555 won a second place commendation from the judges for his meal, which started with a crudo of Gulf Coast group with cured Poteet strawberries and Becker Vineyards Provençal Rosé 2009. It was followed by roasted lamb loin with herb-glazed turnips and porcini-raspberry soil, which was presented with the Becker Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. A Grapefruit “Dreamsicle” with vanilla semifreddo and the Becker Vineyards Clementine 2010 rounded out his meal.

Organizer Marla Camp

Other chefs in the competition included Peter Smith of the JW Marriott in San Antonio as well as Kelly Casey of Hudson’s on the Bend in Austin and Josh Raymer of Navajo Grill in Fredericksburg. Each presented small plate versions of his or her entire menu to the crowd.

Chef Josh Raymer of Navajo Grill's Prosciutto-Wrapped Quail alongisde a Fredericksburg Market Salad with Pickled Peaches.

The local ingredients included a number of treasures worth seeking out at farmers markets as well as grocery stores: Pure Luck cheeses, Round Rock Honey, quail from Diamond H and Texas Quail farms, Shiner Bock, Broken Arrow Ranch Venison, Bluebonnet Hydroponics lettuces, and Texas olive oil. Alongside Casey’s blue cheese cheesecake were figs from her own trees.

Other Texas wines poured included Messina Hof’s Riesling and Riesling “Angel,” Perrisos Viognier and Petite Sirah, Stone House Scheming Beagle Port, and Flat Creek Muscato, Estate Syrah and Port.

Kelly Casey's Hopelessly Blue Cheesecake with her homegrown figs.

The judges included celebrity chefs Jacques Pépin and John Besh as well as Mozzarella Company found Paula Lambert, François Dionot of L’Academie de Cuisine and Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Proceeds from the evening, planned by Marla camp of Edible Austin and Terry Thompson-Anderson of the Texas Food and Wine Gourmet, will benefit the not-for-profit Texas Center for Wine and Culinary Arts, which is being planned for Fredericksburg. The goal is to raise all of the money needed to operate the center before it opens in October 2013.

 

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