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‘The Wineslinger’ Is Combining a Book Signing with Some Liquid Fun


To celebrate Texas Wine Month, the Westin La Cantera is hosting Russ Kane, who has recently written perhaps the most comprehensive guide to wine the state that has appeared to date.

Kane will be signing copies of “The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine” from 5 to 6 p.m. Friday in the resort’s Steinheimer’s Lounge. Kane is also the author of the wine blog, VintageTexas.

That’s also the time that the resort’s sommelier, Steven Krueger, shares his passion for local pours, so you can sample a flight of four 2-ounce Texas wines for $10.

Kane will be glad to answer any questions you have about the wines you’re sampling or the Texas wine industry in general.

The Westin La Cantera is at 16641 La Cantera Parkway. For more information, call (210) 558-6500.

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Harvests of Grapes and Rosés at Becker Vineyards


Rosés of all hues.

STONEWALL — Things were pretty in pink Saturday as Becker Vineyards hosted its annual Rambling Rosé panel.

The two sold-out sessions, sponsored by Culinaria, featured a half-dozen rosés from France, Texas and California that the panelists tasted blindly while discussing the wines and their fondness for rosé with those in attendance.

The growing popularity of rosé could be seen by the number of attendees who admitted that they had bottles of the summertime favorite at home. Several years ago, very few raised their hands when asked if they drank rosé; this year, more than a dozen hands shot into the air at the same question.

What’s the appeal?

In Texas, the eternal summer with days topping 100 for great stretches is a starter. As Richard Becker told the gathering, rosé is one of the two wines that the French served iced down (Champagne is the other). That means, dry, icy rosé is a great way to chill out.

Richard Becker inspects recently harvested grapes.

It’s also a great food wine, whether you’re serving seafood, a steak or roast chicken. As moderator Steven Krueger, sommelier for the Westin La Cantera, pointed out, it’s the perfect Thanksgiving wine, because it is so versatile.

This was brought home by a lamb dish with a spicy mustard, micro herbs and deconstructed peas and carrots, all prepared by chef John Brand of Las Canarias and Ostra.

Of the rosés sampled, four were from France, including the brightly acidic Jean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé, the subtle Whispering Angel from Chateau d’Esclans, the Syrah-based Sybel from Yves Cuilleron, and the grenache-based Le Poussin. California was the home of the “deeper rosé “(meaning almost red) from IM, or Isabel Mondavi, which had a touch of residual sugar.

The fresh and vibrant Becker Vineyards Provençal ably demonstrated what Texas can bring to rosé.

Among the other panelists were Woody de Luna of Vintages 2.0, artist and wine lover Harold Wood, Becker Vineyards’ new winemaker Jonathan Leahy and myself.

Chef John Brand (left) and sous chef Gene Moss.

And the message of it all: Go out and grab a rosé. Find out for yourself why this is such a rewarding, refreshing wine.

Visitors to the winery, and they were out in throngs Saturday, also got to see the grapes come in as harvest time is underway. The volume is much greater this year than last year, when the drought affected vineyards across the state. But this a similarity between the two harvests: Last year’s grapes had concentrated flavor, and so do this year’s grapes, Becker said.

Richard and Bunny Becker are also putting the finishing touches on a new private tasting area that’s underneath the main tasting room. The former barrel room has a lengthy table for tastings or dinners. There’s also an area that houses a library of the winery’s age-worthy wines, a few of which date back to the winery’s early days.

The winery started 20 years ago, as one of the Beckers’ sons, Joe, said. He was on hand to offer a few stories of how his mother and he planted the first vineyards around the property back in 1992, though the first wine wasn’t bottled for another three years.

Now the winery bottles more than 100,000 cases a year in a variety of styles, such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as grapes relatively new to Texas, including Barbera and Tempranillo.

Workers feed grapes into the crusher destemmer.

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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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Steven Krueger Tries His Hand at Blending Wine


Steven Krueger pours some Raymond Cabernet Sauvignon.

Steven Krueger spends most of his days recommending wines to the patrons of the Westin la Cantera as the resort’s sommelier. Recently, he was given the opportunity to try his hand at making some wine of his own.

He was one of a select group of sommeliers that spent time at Raymond Vineyards in the Napa Valley town of Rutherford, Calif., in order to learn about what goes into making wine. The end result will be bottled under the label 2009 Sommelier Selection Cabernet Sauvignon. It will be sold only at restaurants, such as Francesca’s at Sunset in the Westin.

Also on the panel were Virginia Phillip of The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla.; David Flom of Chicago Cut in Chicago;  Matthew Turner of San Francisco;  Emily Wines of Kimpton, San Francisco; Steve Giancotti of Lawrys in Dallas;  Ron D’Allegro of Knickerbocker, New York;  Jim Gallagher of Cole’s Chop House in Napa; and Steve Hirsch of Heritage, Chicago.

All of their names will appear on the back label, which will fold out and include a short bio of each.

According to the Raymond website, this was the second year that sommeliers have been invited to create a Cabernet Sauvignon blend for the winery. Of the first, it says, “Together, the sommeliers crafted a unique Cabernet Sauvignon, blended from the finest quality grapes in Napa, Sonoma and Lake Counties into the 2008 Raymond Sommelier Selection. The Sommelier Selection is an exclusive on-premise offering from an iconic Napa winery and a small cadre of the country’s most prestigious sommeliers.”

Krueger was honored to be included in the group. As he writes on his blog: “For me it was very exhilarating to contribute.”

The 2008 Raymond Sommelier Selection is now available at Francesca’s now for $14 a glass or $55 a bottle. The 2009 bottling that Krueger worked on will not be released until after the new year.

Also at the Westin, in the newly renovated  Steinheimer’s Lounge, Krueger offers an ever-changing list of wines that can be sampled from 5 to 6 p.m. The four-wine tasting costs $10 a person.

For more information, call 210-558-6500.

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Bring a Healthy Appetite: Chefs & Cellars Set for Sept. 18


Jesse Perez

Culinaria presents several of the city’s best chefs at the exclusive event, Chefs & Cellars, which is set for Sept. 18.

Five chefs will be featured this year — John Brand, Jason Dady, Johnny Hernandez, Jesse Perez and Andrew Weissman. Each will be cooking a multi-course meal for 12 guests. Each course will be paired with fine wines donated from local residents’ private cellars.

The meal will be presented at the Culinary Institute of America. Tickets cost $300 a person. So, get your tickets before they’re gone. this event always sells out, and for good reason. Call 210-822-9555.

The food, wine and spirits festival has scheduled its Hole in One Golf Classic for noon Oct. 18 at the Quarry Golf Club. The event begins with registration and lunch, followed by a shotgun start at 1:30 p.m. Fine wine and food will be featured at a reception afterwards.

The cost is $125 a person. Corporate foursomes cost $1,000 and come with team recognition and other perks.

The ever-popular Totally Tejas returns to Rio Cibolo Ranch from 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 30.

A salsa cook-off and salsa dancing has been added to the festival this year, and salsa dancing will also be featured. Texas vendors, plenty of food and wine will also be on hand as well as ranch activities, live music and more. The cost is $35 for adults, $10 for those ages 6-21, and free for thsoe ages 5 and under.

And here’s a last reminder that Culinaria is presenting Rambling Rosé this Saturday at Becker Vineyards. Seminars are 2 and 4 p.m. Dr. Richard Becker, Westin La Cantera sommelier Steven Krueger and SavorSA’s Bonnie Walker and John Griffin will be among those on the panel this year.

For more information on Culinaria events, click here.

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Tasting the Tops in Tequila


A panel tastes tequilas for Culinaria.

Tequila experts and lovers gathered at Tre Trattoria Wednesday to judge the finals of Culinaria’s first tequila competition.

The top six finalists in each category — blanco/silver, reposado and añejo — were judged on aroma, initial taste, body, finish, smoothness and quality. The tequilas were judged blindly, so the panelists did not know which labels were being tasted.

Judges included chefs Jesse Perez and Johnny Hernanadez, sommelier Steven Krueger, TequilaMe’s Neal Williamson, and Bonnie Walker and John Griffin of SavorSA.

Tequilas set for judging.

The overall winners will be announced at Culinaria’s Best of Mexico, which is being held in La Villita Assembly Building, 401 Villita St., at 7:30 p.m. May 13. Tequilas will also be available for sampling at the event, and a People’s Choice Award will be presented that evening, along with the rest of the awards.

Best of Mexico features chefs from Mexico and San Antonio preparing the best cuisine that Mexico has to offer. In addition to tequila, beer and wine will also be available.

Tickets for Best of Mexico are priced at $35 in advance or $50 at the door. To purchase tickets, click here.

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