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Hill Country Wine and Food Festival Set for April 26-28


Pair Texas wines with local foods.

The third annual Hill Country Wine & Music Festival, a celebration of Texas wine, music and food that benefits the Texas Center for Wine and Culinary Arts in Fredericksburg, will be held April 26-28.

The three-day festival is held at Wildseed Farms on Highway 290 just east of Fredericksburg.

The event kicks off on Thursday, April 26, with a Texas vintners dinner at the Cabaret Grill.

Friday, April 27, brings an evening of Texas food and wine pairings with authors Terry Thompson-Anderson and Russ Kane, who will be signing copies of their latest books. The cost is $100 a person and includes both books.

Saturday festival highlights include tastings from Torre di Pietra Vineyards, Grape Creek Vineyard, Becker Vineyards, Texas Hills Vineyards, Fall Creek Vineyards, Chisholm Trail Winery, Fredericksburg Winery, Cap Rock Winery, Messina Hof Winery and Sandstone Cellars.

Food artisans and restaurants include CKC Farms, Dos Lunas Cheese, Texas Olive Ranch, Texas Hill Country Olive Company, New Bread Rising, Lick Ice Creams, Zhi Tea, Edis Chocolates, Kerbey Lane Cafe and Navajo Grill.

Music by Trevor La Bonte, John Arthur Martinez and Joel Guzman, Almost Patsy Cline Band and Thomas Michael Riley.

For more information on the festival, click here.

 

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Texas Wineries Shine at Various Competitions


Texas wines have shown well in recent competitions.

It’s been a good season for Texas wineries in competitions. Numerous producers from the Hill Country, the High Plains and beyond have brought home gold, silver and bronze medals. There was even a double gold for Flat Creek Estate.

Here are some of the winners of three competitions, the Long Beach Grand Cru, the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

Congratulations to all of these wineries, who were competing against the likes of Italy’s Castello Banfi, France’s Champagne Collet and Nicolas Feuillatte, Washington state’s Col Solare, and Napa Valley’s Newton Vineyards and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars:

2011 Long Beach Grand Cru

Becker Vineyards:

  • 2009 Barbera Reserve – Bronze
  • 2009 Claret – Bronze
  • 2009 Merlot Reserve – Silver
  • 2010 Albariño – Bronze
  • 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah Reserve – Silver
  • 2010 Grenache Reserve – Silver

2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

Bar Z:

  • 2004 Newsom Vineyard Texas High Plains Cabernet Sauvignon – Bronze

Becker Vineyards:

  • 2009 Fumé Blanc – Bronze
  • 2009 Texas Provencal – Bronze
  • 2008 Texas Claret – Silver

Brennan Vineyards:

  • 2009 Texas Viognier – Gold
  • 2008 Texas Cabernet Sauvignon – Silver
  • 2008 Texas Austin Street Red – Bronze

Bruno Collection:

  • Texas Cardinal Cranberry Wine – Silver

Grape Creek Vineyards:

  • 2009 Muscat Canelli – Silver
  • 2009 Texas Cuvée Blanc – Bronze
  • 2009 Cabernet Blanc – Bronze
  • 2008 Bellissimo – Silver
  • 2008 Mosaic – Bronze
  • 2008 Cabernet Trois – Bronze
  • 2008 Texas Cab/Syrah – Silver
  • Texas Port – Silver

McPherson Cellars:

  • 2009 Viognier – Silver
  • 2009 Texas Rosé of Syrah – Gold

Singing Water Vineyard:

  • 2008 Texas Texas Reserve – Bronze

White, red, sweet and dry - Texas has won wines in all categories.

2011 San Francisco International Wine Competition

Brennan Vineyards:

  • 2009 Buffalo Rhône – Silver
  • 2010 Viognier – Bronze

Duchman Family Winery:

  • 2009 Vermentino – Silver
  • 2009 Bianco – Silver
  • 2009 Dolcetto – Bronze
  • 2009 Aglianico – Bronze

Flat Creek Estate:

  • 2010 Viognier – Double Gold
  • 2009 Syrah – Gold
  • 2010 Pinot Grigio – Silver
  • 2010 Muscat Canelli – Silver
  • 2010 Rosé of Sangiovese – Bronze

Lone Oak Winery:

  • 2008 Tempranillo – Bronze

Pilot Knob Vineyard:

  • 2010 Sweet Rosé – Silver
  • 2010 Viognier – Bronze

Sandstone Cellars Winery:

  • 2009 VIII Red Blend – Silver
  • 2006 Touriga IV – Bronze

Sister Creek Vineyards:

  • 2010 Muscat Canelli – Silver
  • 2009 Red Blend – Silver
  • 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Sangiovese – Bronze
  • 2009 Red Blend – Bronze

Torre di Pietra:

  • 2009 Blanc du Bois Reserve – Bronze

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Thanksgiving Wines to Be Thankful For


If you are serving red wine, think of something light-bodied and bright.

Ask five different wine people what they will be pouring for thanksgiving dinner and you’ll likely get five different answers. Why is that? Because the foods on the table are so broad in flavors that they lend themselves to a remarkable number of wines. So, serve Champagne and let the bubbles cut through the heaviness of the gravy and dressing. Or pour an off-dry Riesling and let its touch of sweetness complement the relish, the sweet potatoes and the turkey. Pinot Noir is a favorite with many because of its versatility with food.

Better still, have several choices, from dry to sweet, to appeal to all tastes at the table.

About the only answer you’ll get an agreement on is that a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is not for your heavier wines. So, leave the oaked Chardonnays and California Cabernets in the wine rack. Think brightly acidic wines or low-tannin treats, and you’ll do just fine.

Here are a few choices from five local people involved in the wine business.

Sarah Verheyen of Glazer’s of Texas:

“We are going to the big family set-up where I bring Beringer White Zinfandel because that is what my in-laws like. I don’t even bring any food — that is what they want!

“Beforehand, I am going to make a stuffed chicken with wild mushrooms and sage dressing for the four of us, so I will probably pair that with some Pinot Noir of some sort. Pinot Noir was the turning point, which I am sure it is with a lot of wine folk; (it made) me fall in love with wine, food and wine pairing and literally, (and) that led to meeting my husband, having my awesome step children, and now my son. Can’t be more thankful for anything in a glass than Pinot Noir!”

Kellis Chandler of Republic National Distributing Company:

“My mother and I are adopted by the Walthal family (a retired Trinity prof) for Thanksgiving. I’m the wine guy, so it’s an opportunity to pull that great Pinot Noir I have been wanting to share with special people. I usually bring a well-made, crisp Chablis-like (if not Chablis) to start things off.

Put away the oaky Chardonnays in favor of something crisp and light.

“It’s funny, these folks are not wine geeks, so we very rarely talk about the wine. They just look at me and nod with a smile on their faces, and comment on how nice the wine is.”

Don Pullum, winemaker for Sandstone Cellars and winemaking consultant for Torre di Pietra Winery:

“I’m going Moroccan for Thanksgiving.  Appetizers include Fried Eggplant Jam, Sweet Tomato Jam, Marinated Olives and Spicy Gulf Shrimp. The wine? Torre Di Pietra 2009 Blanc Du Bois Reserve: It’s a full-bodied, complex white with about 0.5 percent residual sugar that is very versatile in pairing with food. It’ll handle the the complex spices, sweetness, and peppers in the various appetizers. This wine is the first time I’ve worked with Blanc Du Bois, and I’m thankful that I had the opportunity. I’ve a new respect for this varietal.

“The entrée: Tagine Turkey Meatballs with Herbs and Lemon. Sides include Baked Root Vegetables with Prunes Spiced Lentils with Pumpkin Couscous. And the wines: Sandstone Cellars 2009 IX, a blend of 75 percent Tempranillo and 25 percent Touriga as well as the 2006 Bodega Muga Reserva Rioja. I’m thankful for having Mason County growers growing interesting Iberian varietals that produce wines which favorably compare to many wines produced in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and southern France.

“Dessert is  Semolina Pancakes with Figs, Almonds, Butter and Warm Honey. The wine is Haak 2007 Blanc Du Bois Madeira. I’m thankful to Raymond Haak for going through all the trouble to make this wine.

“And assorted cheeses with the Sandstone Cellars 2006 IV (a port-style wine). Thanks to Paul and Nancy Buist for growing Touriga at their Robert Clay vineyard.”

Nichole Bendele, public relations and tasting room coordinator for Becker Vineyards:

Rosé complements many of the Thanksgiving dishes.

“Our dry rosé, the Becker Vineyards Provençal (made from Mourvèdre) and a dry Robert Weil Riesling (Erstes Gewachs) are what I’ll be bringing to my brother’s house for a traditional Thanksgiving meal!  Yum!  I haven’t decided on what red I’ll bring – maybe a Seghesio Vineyards Zinfandel.

“The Provençal (and hopefully our Alsatian-style Gewurztraminer will be bottled by then) and some of the lighter-bodied reds like the Prairie Rotie (Rhone-style blend) and Reserve Grenache are some people also enjoy with the Turkey and trimmings.  These reds aren’t too heavy with tannins and won’t overpower the food.”

Philippe Placé, co-owner, Coco Chocolate Lounge & Bistro, 18402 U.S. 281, Suite 114:

“I am actually hosting the Thanksgiving meal this year. My wife Kim’s family will be here, so we will have about 15 people.

“We will start  with a cold fresh salmon and asparagus terrine paired with an Auxey Duresses 2007. It’s one of the underdogs of Burgundy, and I absolutely love it. It is a little leaner and racier than a Meursault with a deep gold color and hints of hazelnut.

“The turkey will be rubbed with sage and spices about three days before being cooked, and the rub will be reapplied every day. I will have some haricot verts sautéed with almond, plus black-eye peas prepared by the 94-year-old grandmother of Kim. Sweet potato fries. Garlic mashed potatoes two colors. Parsnip tournés with a citrus zest. The stuffing will be made of French brioche, apples, chestnuts, onion, leeks, parsley, fresh grapes and chicken stock.

“The wine served with that will be a Morgon ‘Les Charmes’ 2006. I love it that wine that my parents would always serve for special occasions will be served at my home. From the Beaujolais appellation, the Morgon has a beautiful rich purple color with hints of plums and cherries. It’s full bodied wine with a lot of character.

“For dessert, there will be apple tart tatin by me and pumpkin pie made by Kim. I will be serving the dessert with the Becker Vineyards Muscat Canelli Amabile. We finish with a Texas wine that I happen to love! I love the hints of nutmeg and cinnamon and that tender sweetness.

“I have much to be very thankful for this year. I had the chance to visit my family in July. My dad’s health is degrading rapidly, and I was able to talk to him and spend some amazing time with him and my French family. I am very thankful for my wife that keeps me going every day and never doubts my ability to be a good dad, good husband and a good restaurateur. I am thankful for my two outstanding sons that I love immensely. I am very thankful for having a successful business that allows me to take care of my employees, partners and my family.”

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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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Torre di Pietra Wins Award


Don Pullum has had a busy year. In addition to growing grapes at his Mason vineyard and making wine for Sandstone Cellars, he’s been making wine for Torre di Pietra in Fredericksburg. But his efforts have been fruitful.

“One of the first wines, Torre di Pietra 2009 Black Spanish Reserve, just received a silver medal at the 2010 National Women’s Wine Competition in Santa Rosa, Calif.,” he says.

You can find the wines at the vineyard as well as Sandstone Cellars, which is carrying the Black Spanish, the Torre di Pietra 2009 Blanc du Bois and the Torre di Pietra 2009 Late Harvest Reserve Zinfandel. You can also order the wines directly from Torre di Pietra (click here).

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