Thursday, May 25, 2017

Lost Draw Cellars - 2014 Arroyo Rojo

Arroyo Rojo is a great intro to Lost Draw Cellar's wines and gives a good snapshot of the state of Texas wines.  With Lost Draw Cellar's ties to Lost Draw Vineyards and the High Plains AVA as a whole, this wine gives a glimpse of what's next for Texas wines.  The 2014 is made up of a blend of three red Mediterranean grape varieties that tend to thrive in Texas, with a dash of Viognier.  Mourvedre takes the lead with 40% of the blend, and I think Mourvedre-heavy blends will cement themselves as regular offering from Texas wineries in the future.

Strawberry and dried cranberry on the nose.  On the palate it starts with dried cranberry, and dried black cherry, then some blackberry and a smokey note; Medium body, Medium tannins, Medium-plus acidity

Composition: 40% Mourvedre, 30% Carignan, 27% Grenache, 3% Viognier; Texas High Plains AVA

Price: We found a great sale at the Fredericksburg HEB, so we picked up this bottle for $19.  HEB regular price is about $24.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Texas Hills Vineyard - 2010 Syrah

A 2010 Texas Hill Country AVA Syrah you can still buy at the winery for 18 bucks!?  This is definitely one of the hidden values among Hill Country wineries.  This Syrah from Texas Hills Vineyard's estate vineyard in Johnson City is full of blackberry, herbal and tobacco notes, and that black pepper on the finish we like in the nice Syrah.  Excellent tipicity, so it'll run against anything from California at this price point.  Full body, medium plus tannins and acidity.  13.7% ABV

Composition: Syrah from Texas Hills Vineyard's estate vineyard

Price: $17.95 at Texas Hills Vineyard in Johnson City

Saturday, April 29, 2017

William Chris Vineyards - 2015 Mary Ruth

This is one of Maria's favorite Texas white wines, a blend a Malvasia Bianca, Muscat Blanc, and Blanc du Bois from William Chris.  Malvasia Biana has it's roots in Greece, but it is widely planted in Italy.  Mary Ruth is named for William Chris co-founder Bill Blackmon's mother, who had a big part of bringing Bill into the world of vineyards and wine.  The blend changes a bit from year to year, but the profile remains fairly consistent.  The 2016 is the most current release.

Honeysuckle and floral notes on the nose; honeydew melon, mandarin orange and lemon curd on the palate; bright but balanced acidity makes it a food friendly wine; 100% aged in Stainless; 12.5% ABV

Composition: 40% Malvasia Bianca, 39% Muscat Blanc, 21% Blanc Du Bios; all Texas fruit

Cost: $28.00 at William Chris Vineyards in Hye.  We picked up this bottle as a 4-pack shipped special.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Writing for Texas Wine Lover!

I've recently signed up to write for Texas Wine Lover, which is not only the most comprehensive website for Texas wine enthusiasts, but is also ranked as one of the top wine blogs in the world.  Over the past year and a half Vitis Texas has been a great avenue for me to further develop my wine knowledge, writing skills, and photography skills.  I still plan on using Vitis Texas to share tasting notes and random thoughts, but I'll be pitching my bigger and better ideas, trips, and event experiences as posts for Texas Wine Lover.

You can check out my Texas Wine Lover profile on their Meet out Team page.

My first post for Texas Wine Lover was for a Flat Creek Estate Tasting at H-E-B Creekside Park.

I recently took my parents on a trip to the Texas Hill Country to introduce them to Texas wine.  We visited quite a few wineries!  You can read about our trip through my first "big" article for Texas Wine Lover: Introducing Family to Texas Wine.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Flat Creek Estate - 2014 Super Texan

Flat Creek Estate's Super Texan won Double Gold at the San Francisco International Wine Competition back in 2003, a first for a Texas red wine.  This provided a launching pad for Flat Creek Estate's wines and brought a lot of positive attention to the Texas wine industry.  Following the style of a Super Tuscan it is predominately Sangiovese, with Caberbet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Syrah in the blend.

Lots of dark cherry and spice on the nose;  On the palate it starts with blueberry and blackberry, followed by some oakiness and spice, dark fruit and more spice on the finish.  Medium body, medium-plus tannins, and acidity.  13.7% ABV.

Composition: 94% Sangiovese from Flat Creek Estate & Lepard Vineyards, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon from Newsom Vineyards, 1% Syrah from Flat Creek Estate, and 1% Zinfandel from Diamonte Doble Vineyards

Price:  About $18 at HEB.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

1851 Vineyards - 2014 Grace Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

It's always great having a chance to enjoy one of the first wines from a new Texas winery.  1851 Vineyards' Grace Vineyards Cabernet gives a glimpse of how this new winery is coming together.  1851's winemaker, John Rivenburgh, has sourced the fruit from California's Sierra Foothills, and he happens to be well versed at making wines with the very ripe fruit that this region is capable of producing.  This wine is vinted and bottled at Bending Branch Winery.  It is fairly common to see the first wines from a new Texas winery vinted and bottled at one of the more established wineries.  This is a fine example of the "we're all in this together" spirit among Texas wineries and how established Texas wineries help the new guys get off the ground.  1851 Vineyards has quite a bit of fruit growing on their estate, so we'll start seeing estate wines before too long.

The Grace Vineyards Cabernet starts with lots of blackberry and spice on the nose, followed on the palate with rich blackberry preserves, oakiness, an herbal/eucalyptus note, and spice through a long finish.  There's a bit of heat from the 16.3% ABV.  Full body, medium plus tannins, medium acidity.  At 28 bucks it's an excellent value. 

Read about our visit to 1851 Vineyards.

Composition: Cabernet Sauvignon from Grace Vineyards in the California Sierra Foothills

Price: $28 at 1851 Vineyards in Fredericksburg, TX

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Pedernales Cellars - 2013 Tempranillo Reserve

Pedernales Cellars' High Plains Tempranillo recently won Top Texas Wine at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, and I bet this one is just as good.  Red cherry, spice and a little note of olive on the nose.  On the palate it starts with dried red fruit, followed by a good bit of spice and cedar, then onto dried dark fruit and more spice through the finish.  Tannins kick in mid-palate and follow through a long finish.  Medium-plus body and medium acidity. 13.3% ABV.

Composition: Tempranillo from the Texas Hill Country and High Plains; Kuhlken estate and partner vineyards

Price: Retails for $49.95 at Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall, TX.  We picked up this bottle last year as part of a wine club shipment.  The 2014 is the current release.

Monday, February 20, 2017

2017 Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association Conference: An Enthusiast's Take

We had the opportunity to attend the Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association Annual Conference in San Marcos, and we had a blast!  The TWGGA annual conference isn't just for folks in the Texas wine industry.  Anyone interested in Texas wine is welcome, and everyone we spoke to was happy to see Texas wine consumers like us at the conference.  No one held back with sharing their enthusiasm about Texas wine, making the conference a great learning experience for us.  All of the folks in the industry are very supportive of each other, making it feel like a big family.

Attendees can commit to as much or as little of the conference as they would like.  The registration setup gives options for individual day, multiple day, and with the special events listed a la carte; including tasting, dinners, and the big gala on Saturday night.  The one day registration will set you back about what you'd spend on a day's worth of winery tasting fees.  This makes a one day visit to the conference a very approachable option for folks that would like to learn more about Texas wine.  Last year we just attended the conference on Saturday, but this year we expanded our experience a bit.  TWGGA also offers consumer memberships at very reasonable rates, which is a great way to help support the industry and get the inside track on where Texas wine is going. 

On Friday evening we attended a walk around tasting where thirteen Texas wineries were tasting two wines each.  It was packed with people eager to enjoy some Texas wine!  It was a good chance for us to try some wines that were new to us and taste the most current releases of some old favorites.  We had to start a new shopping list for our next Texas wine trip.

Saturday morning we kicked off our full conference day with White Wine Sensory Analysis by Cristin Hosmer from VESTA, a grape and winemaking education alliance.  Cristin walked us through the various steps of tasting white wines, including assessing visual characteristics, aromas, and flavors.  We practiced by blind tasting our way through three Texas white wines.  Blind tastings really make you pay attention since it takes away any preconceptions one might have about a particular type of wine.  They can be intimidating for those of us that aren't pros, but don't worry, even the pros are challenged by blind tastings.   

After our breakfast wine (yes, the first seminar started at 9:45AM), we spent some time walking the exhibit hall.  Everything you need to participate in the wine industry is here; from grapevines, to big stainless tanks, to oak barrels and wine packaging.  The exhibit floor is another place to learn a lot of the wine industry, the folks representing their companies where all happy to talk to a couple of Texas wine enthusiasts.  Bonus, there's also some pretty awesome swag at a wine conference.  Nested in the exhibit hall was a space for small informal sessions that are held throughout the day.  I attended an Ask April session, where I picked up some some great social media insight from April Sunshine Hawkins of Digital Brand Makeover.    

Saturday afternoon I attended the Mourvedre Symposium.  Tempranillo has become the de facto red wine of Texas, but Mourvedre is on the move.  The panelists shared their opinions and experiences with Mourvedre while being guided by David Kelada from Texas Wine Journal.  It was very interesting symposium as several of the big names in Texas wine discussed aspects of growing Mourvedre grapes, to the kind of wine it makes, to where Texas wines fit into the rest of the world. (Nerd fact: Andy Timmons of Lost Draw Vineyards mentioned they are using two Tablas Creek Mourvedre clones.  We had a chance to visit Tablas Creek in Paso Robles last year, and learn about their work to bring Rhone grape varieties to the US.)  Having four excellent Texas Mourvedre wines to taste through over the course of the symposium was icing on the cake.  

Saturday night was Gala Time!  Maria had a new fancy dress, so it only made sense for us to attend the Gala.  It turned out to be a really enjoyable night, starting with some time to mingle with lots of fun people from the Texas wine industry, then on to an auction held by the very entertaining Paul Bonarrigo of Messina Hof, a 4 course dinner paired with 5 Texas wines, then a fun band and lots of dancing.

So if you have a chance to attend the TWGGA annual conference in the future, do it!  The folks of the Texas Wine industry are looking forward to spending more time with their customers, and it will give you a much greater appreciation of what goes into making that bottle of Texas wine.  Who knows, maybe there will even be a photo op with Mr. Paul himself.   

Monday, February 6, 2017

William Chris Tasting at The Empty Glass

Last Saturday we made it to The Empty Glass to check out a special William Chris tasting event.  The Empty Glass is a great wine bar in Tomball with an impressive selection of Texas wines.  It's location in a historic building, keeping well with the classic Texas theme.  We always enjoy William Chris wines, so this is one we knew we couldn't miss.  The tasting included four of their wines:

Mary Ruth - A blend of Malvasia Bianca, Muscat Blanc, and Blanc du Bois; lime, mandarin orange and melon, very nicely balanced
Blanc du Bois - A varietal Blanc du Bois with bright acidity, lots of grapefruit and lemon with some floral notes
Sangiovese Klenk - Sangiovese from the Klenk Family vineyard in the Hill Country with a little Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. Dark cherry and spice jump out with medium body and integrated tannins.
Skeleton Key - A big red blend.  We've actually picked up a few bottles of this one in the past at William Chris in Hye.

The first three wines are listed on William Chris' website.  The Empty Glass has a lot of great events from special tastings to live music, and even a Texas wine festival in the fall.  Check out their website and Local Wine Events to see what's coming up next.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Torr Na Lochs - 2014 Dolcetto

I think this was our first Texas Dolcetto, and we look forward to trying more.  We picked up this bottle last fall when we visited Torr Na Lochs.  If you have a chance to visit them, definitely do so.  The wines are very good across the board, and the views are stunning.  Lots of dark berry and a little pepper on the nose.  Dense blackberry, blueberry, and dark cherry carry through the palate with dark fruit on the finish.  Full body with lighter tannins and medium acidity.  13.9%  ABV.  The full body and fruit forward character of this wine make it a good bottle for California Zinfandel fans to try.

Composition: Dolcetto from the Texas High Plains AVA
Price:  $30 at Torr Na Lochs in Burnet, TX