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10 Texas Wines to Tempt Your Taste Buds


Gary Gilstrap of Texas Hills Vineyards pours a taste of his Tempranillo. What Texas wines are you pouring?

The calendar tells us that October is Texas Wine Month, but many of us “loca-pours” — the wine-loving equivalent of a locavore  — have been enjoying the state’s rich bounty all year long. The following is a list of 10 Lone Star wines worth seeking out. Many are at fine wine shops in the area. Others are available only at the winery or online.

Raymond Haak of Haak Winery

The list could stretch on an on to include selections from many of the state’s other fine wineries, such as Fall Creek, Brennan, Pedernales Cellars, LightCatcher and Inwood Estates. These are just to get you started.

1. Haak Winery Blanc du Bois (Dry) 2009 — The winery from Santa Fe, Texas, is gaining international recognition for its Madeira, which is standing up quite well alongside those from Portugal. But it is also doing some wonderful things with Blanc du Bois, a grape that resists fungus and disease while thriving in Texas. The grape’s flavors and aromas conjure images of tropical fruit blend, which means it’s at home in both sweet and dry versions. Haak attempts to please all palates, even using it in his Port of Call dessert wine. My favorite is the dry version, clean and delightful in the heat. (HaakWine.com)

2. Perissos Vineyard and Winery Texas Hill Country Viognier 2007 — Breathe in the aroma of honeysuckle, with perhaps an extra dose of honey. Then taste the peach and stone fruit with a touch of citrus that swirl across your palate in a medium-bodied treat that leads to a clean finish. Refreshing. (PerissosVineyards.com)

3. Stone House Vineyards Claros Norton 2008 — Norton is a grape that seems resistant to freezing, hail and flooding. Sounds almost too good to be true, right? Yet this varietal has done well in Virginia, where the results are rustic and rugged. This Texas version is much lighter and cleaner, both of which are welcome in the Texas heat. Not overly complex, just enjoyable. (StoneHouseVineyard.com)

4. Calais Winery Tempranillo 2009 — “The French winery of Texas,” as this newcomer bills itself, is soaring beyond expectations with its first bottling of that great Spanish grape, Tempranillo. Lush, rich, red fruit (from Neal Newsom’s much sought-after High Plains vineyards) fills your mouth with each pleasant sip. (CalaisWinery.com)

5. Texas Hills Vineyards Toro de Tejas Newsom Vineyards Tempranillo 2009 — For a persuasive argument that Tempranillo could be the state’s big red grape to rival California’s Cabs, pour the Calais side-by-side with this satisfying wine (again, lush and full of red fruit flavors). Both are made from Newsom’s grapes, so you’ll be able to experience how winemakers affect the wine making process. Get the grill ready, because a big ol’ hunk of steak should be part of the equation. And that’s no bull. (TexasHillsVineyard.com)

6. Sandstone Cellars Winery VI 2008 — This wine is a blend of European grapes made in a style that isn’t trying to emulate California, Washington or even its Texas neighbors. It’s more Old World in its earthy tones, which mingle elegantly with dark, dry fruit (think blackberry, not sweet cherry). It’s also sublime. (SandstoneCellarsWinery.com)

7. Becker Vineyards Raven 2008 — Raven is something of a departure for the Stonewall winery. The label is different. The feeling of the bottle in your hand is different. The weight and taste that fills your mouth are definitely different. This is a big, juicy blend of Malbec (75 percent) and Petit Verdot (25 percent) that packs a Texas-sized wallop. Ever bit into an overripe plum and had the juices explode in your mouth? Now, add plenty of sun-baked earth and sweet spices to fill out the inky palate.  (BeckerVineyards.com)

8. Flat Creek Estate Syrah 2008 — Fruit-forward flavors of plum and currant mix with leather and a touch of coffee on the palate of this wine, which initially seems to be a powerhouse but actually has some pleasant undercurrents of smoke and cocoa to give it complexity. (FlatCreekEstate.com)

9. Llano Estacado Superiore Rosso Viviano 2007 — This is perhaps the granddaddy of Texas high-end blends, and each vintage places consistently among the best Texas has to offer.  It’s not about tasting the mineral or fruit flavors individually. Sipping this wine is about enjoying the balance that exists among the various grapes, a richness that is neither too subtle or too overwhelming. It’s the liquid equivalent of the contentment Goldilocks had when she discovered something that was “just right.” (LlanoWine.com)

10. McPherson Cellars Grenache-Mourvedre 2007 — Some areas of Texas are ideal for growing southern Rhone varietals like Grenache and Mourvedre. Trouble is, not too many people want to take a chance at pronouncing them. What they’re missing, especially in Kim McPherson’s version, is a light-bodied yet lovely expression of raspberry and smoky spices that just loves food, whether you’re eating chicken wings, baked ham or chili. Definitely one to remember for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. (McPhersonCellars.com)

Richard Becker of Becker Vineyards

If you are seeking out these wines online, just be aware that not all of the websites have been updated. If you have a question, you may want to e-mail the winery before ordering.

What are your favorite Texas wines? Post them below. Drink Texas the next time you open a bottle, but drink responsibly.

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Want a Great Wine? Check Out the KLRN Winners


Wine lovers, it’s time to stock your cellars. The winners of this year’s KLRN Wine Competition have been announced.

This year, the best in show winners went to a robust Texas red and an icewine made with the uncommon grape Vidal. The champions are the Becker Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Wilmeth Vineyard 2007 and the Jackson Triggs Vidal Ice Proprietor’s Reserve 2007.

The judges sampled more than 500 wines and awarded about 300 gold, silver and bronze medals. The wines were from all over the world, from Spain and Italy to Canada and Australia.

In the end, medals went to a host of well-known wineries, including Trinchero, Sutter Home, Rodney Strong, Franciscan, Banfi and Marques de Riscal.

In addition to Becker Vineyards, Texas wineries to win medals include Brennan Vineyards, Dry Comal Creek, Flat Creek Estate, Grape Creek, Haak, Kiepersol Estates, Llano Estacado, McPherson Cellars, Mandola, Messina Hof, Pillar Bluff, Singing Water, Sister Creek, Texas Hills Vineyard and Water 2 Wine.

For a complete list, click on the PDF link below.

KLRN Wine Competiton – 2010 Medalits

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Thanksgiving Wines, From Traditional to New


MulderboschFinding the right wines to serve at Thanksgiving is never an easy task. You have to start with what you’re serving.

Get beyond the turkey and look at your side dishes. Are you having candied yams and a sweet cranberry relish? Mashed potatoes and stuffing? Green bean casserole? All of the above?

Each of those foods calls for a separate wine, so you may want to have a couple of glasses on the table or offer a couple of wines to suit people’s tastes.

With the candied yams and the relish, both loaded with sugar, you’ll want a sweeter wine, something like a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer from Washington state. That’s because your wine should always be sweeter than the food you’re pairing it with or the wine will taste shrill and bitter. Hogue Cellars and its sister label, Genesis, make fine examples of both starting at about $10 a bottle.

HogueReisling2

Hogue Cellars Riesling

If your plate will be filled more with roast turkey, mashed potatoes and a not-too-herbal stuffing, then think about a Chardonnay or a Burgundy (either white or red, but not California’s “hearty Burgundy” out of a jug). The bold flavors of these wines will bolster the meal without clobbering it into submission.

An elegant Pinot Noir, with plenty of acid, is supremely food friendly. Fine examples of this can also be costly. But, we like the 12 Clones Pinot Noir from Morgan, which runs in the $20s. If you want to spend more, Morgan has a line of single-vineyard Pinots as well, each equally stunning.

Another red suggestion could be a Rhone blend, either from France or the United States. These are lighter bodied wines that won’t clobber your dinner with its brashness. Llano Estacado Signature from Texas is a fine example of this at a reasonable price of about $10 a bottle.

There are many lighter-styled reds that are very good matches with giblet gravy or a gorgeous goose. Inexpensive Spanish Tempranillo or Garnacha, Chilean or New Zealand Pinot Noir, Beaujolais Villages, and even Italian Montipulciano reds can slip right into your Thanksgiving dinner beautifully.

Cool, refreshing rosé certainly pair well with many Thanksgiving favorites. The acid cuts through the sauce of the green bean casserole and gives turkey a little pick-me-up. Plenty of youthful rosés from the southern hemisphere have begun appearing in the market now, with the Mulderbosch Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon ($12-$16) being a perennial standout. Also, be sure you’re purchasing a dry rose — white Zinfandels and other blush wines will be sweeter.  (So, maybe have those with the candied yams!)

If you have to have Cabernet Sauvignon, especially a big one in the California style, then feel free to do so. But think about serving it after dinner, so you can enjoy the wine on its own and be thankful for every drop in your glass. Remember, these wines are more geared to go with beef than turkey. Serving one will only help disguise all the flavors of what you’re eating.

If there is one ubiquitous wine for the multifarious dishes on the Thanksgiving table, it might be the most logical choice for a celebration: sparkling wine. Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, all sparkling wines and all worth exploring. An off-dry Prosecco like Zardetto often sells for $10-$15, while the ever-reliable Domaine Ste. Michelle series from Washington state sells in the same price range. We recently judged a wine competition where both the Korbel Brut Rosé and the Korbel Blanc de Noirs (very light rose color) took top prizes. These are under $15.

You could also use a less-expensive sparkler in the following Thanksgiving-inspired cocktail, the Relish: Mix 1/2 ounce cranberry juice and 1 ounce orange juice in a Champagne flute. Top with chilled sparkling wine. Serve.

Bonnie Walker and Cecil Flentge contributed to this article.

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A Chance to Sip, Savor and Hoist That Umbrella


NWWFF-SipShop7

Intermittent showers couldn’t dampen spirits Sunday at Sip, Savor & Shop, the opening event of the 10th anniversary of the New World Wine & Food Festival.

NWWFF-SipShop6Guests strolled through the new section of the Shops at La Cantera where fashion shows, food and fine wines were served up while the stores offered discounts and makeovers.

Wines ranged from Domaine de la Gardine and Franciscan Magnificat to Texas’ best from Becker Vineyards, Llano Estacado and Messina Hof. Restaurants and caterers, including Kona Grill, Grimaldi’s, Mariposa at Nieman Marcus, El Papalote, Così and the RK Group, served up a host of dishes including tacos norteños,  tuna tartare, bacon-wrapped chicken bites and pizza.

Towards the end of one shower, a rainbow arched briefly over the Shops at La Cantera, and the sight of it made the raindrops inconsequential.

NWWFF-SipShop2SavorSA was also on hand offering tastes of holiday Cran-Raspberry Sauce (for the recipe, click here), an easy-to-make relish that’s great with Thanksgiving turkey or poured on top of ice cream. As the afternoon progressed, more ideas on how to make and serve the sauce evolved. Pour it over cream cheese or alongside baked Brie for an easy appetizer. Serve it with pork tenderloin, pork chops or roast chicken. Add jalapeños or serranos for a kick, or stir in pecan pieces for a welcome textural addition.

The New World Wine & Food Festival continues at 7 p.m. Tuesday with Burgers & Beer at Bin 555. For a full schedule, click here.

NWWFF-SipShop5NWWFF-SipShop3NWWFF-SipShop4

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Griffin to Go: Any Locapours Out There?


Three Texas WinesLast year, when I visited Chile, every wine list was filled entirely with Chilean wines, except for a stray French sparkler or two. A couple of months ago, I visited South Africa where the wine lists were all local, again with the exception of one or two Champagnes. In Portugal, Spain, Germany, Cyprus, and Greece, it was the same way.

Yet in Texas, the few Texas-only wine lists I know of are at brewpubs. Why are we so different from the rest of the world?

Gretchen Neuman of Vino Verve has taken up the issue in her blog (click here). She calls herself a “locapour,” the wine version of the locavore who tries to eat only locally grown food.

As she writes: “Unknown to most people in America, there is a licensed winery in every state in the union. Yet, even the Governor of Kansas in 2007 was unaware that there were 15 wineries in her state. Among those that are aware of the presence of these wineries, many have dismissed them out of hand as producing low quality products. Are they all producing outstanding products? Maybe not. But then again, neither are the wineries in the rest of the country, or indeed the world. Yet local wineries do not seem to enjoy the same kind of encouragement that local breweries have enjoyed for the last 20 years.”

I have enjoyed a number of Texas wines in recent months that are perfect for our climate and our cuisine. McPherson Cellars’ crisp, clean viognier is the perfect antidote to the sweltering heat we have been experiencing. Becker Vineyards Provençal Rosé is made for an afternoon picnic or barbecue. And Llano Estacado’s Signature Mélange, a Rhone-style blend, is a light-bodied yet full-flavored red that won’t seem too heavy this summer.

But I haven’t seen these wines on too many wine lists, even though the viognier copped a gold medal in this year’s San Antonio Wine Festival, and the retail price on the Llano Estacado is a steal at a scant $10 a bottle.

What do you think of this situation? Do you want to see more Texas-only wine lists? Or do you prefer something more diversified? What Texas wines have you enjoyed lately? Post your answers here.

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