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Is Roussanne The Next Breakthrough Texas Grape?

It is worse than that. At Sustenio, an allegedly 'cutting edge' restaurant in San Antonio, the wine list labels California jug wine (Becker, Merlot) as "Texas".

We have an educational task to accomplish.

Sep 12, 2013
achalk in Wine

Is Roussanne The Next Breakthrough Texas Grape?

Wow! Do you know who is handling them?

Thks.

Sep 12, 2013
achalk in Wine

Is Roussanne The Next Breakthrough Texas Grape?

Not conclusive at all. Agreed. But more than $#|+. These results are just three 'facts on the ground'. And, as you say, its when these kind of results are consistently replicated in other tastings and elsewhere that the preponderance of the evidence starts to shift.

One other thing that these tastings do is induce readers to try the wines and form their own conclusions. Many people may have never tried McPherson Roussanne before results like these and now they want to.

Sep 12, 2013
achalk in Wine

Is Roussanne The Next Breakthrough Texas Grape?

Those are fair points. I think the criteria were "currently shipping" but don't know why they did not use the V.V. Maybe because it is $180. Gusto is at gustotastings.com if you want to follow up with them.

I think the uniformity of the results across three tastings is suggestive that Texas Roussanne is on a par with similarly priced wines from California. More hard research is needed and i would like to see the test recast in California.

Sep 12, 2013
achalk in Wine

Is Roussanne The Next Breakthrough Texas Grape?

collioure: There are at least two earlier "breakthrough" varieties, Viognier and Tempranillo. These links refer to tastings that I organized but are not the exhaustive evidence:

http://cravedfw.com/2013/06/16/texas-viognier-is-tested-against-california-and-france-and-comes-out-the-winner/

http://cravedfw.com/2013/08/05/texas-...

- A

Sep 12, 2013
achalk in Wine

Is Roussanne The Next Breakthrough Texas Grape?

Robert: I just discovered why.

This is from the President of Calais Winery on Facebook:

"Benjamin Calais I ll just say it is humbling to be named in the same category as Chateau Beaucastel (they are the reason why I wanted to make Roussanne) let alone score higher than them. Through their Tablas Creek venture they provided us with true high quality Roussanne vines from Beaucastel estate and those are what we use in our CALAIS Winery "Cuvée Principale"
about an hour ago via mobile · 2"

Here is the best as I can do for a link:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/Texas...

Sep 11, 2013
achalk in Wine

Is Roussanne The Next Breakthrough Texas Grape?

Good news! The winners cited all are.

Sep 11, 2013
achalk in Wine

Is Roussanne The Next Breakthrough Texas Grape?

Look forward to the results of your tasting. Nothing like facts in a tasting debate!

Sep 11, 2013
achalk in Wine

Is Roussanne The Next Breakthrough Texas Grape?

Robert: McPherson is on three occasions, and Calais and Bending Branch on two, according to the judges in these blind tastings.

Of course, none of these wines has the reputation of Beaucastel Blanc, and that is what makes the results interesting.

Let us know what your tasting of these same wines shows. I bet you are craving to taste the facts on the ground.

Sep 11, 2013
achalk in Wine

Is Roussanne The Next Breakthrough Texas Grape?

(With the poster's permission, and in order to make this post comply with our blogger guidelines, we've added the text of the blog entry to this post. We're not able to reproduce the formatting/links so things may be a tad wonky -- that's our fault, not achalk's. -- The Chowhound Team)

I recently reported on a tasting of Texas wines made from the Rhône grape named Roussanne. Thirty four Dallas consumers blind-tasted 17 Roussanne wines (or blends) from major Roussanne growing regions (10 wines were from Texas) and when the results were in, Texas wines occupied four of the five top positions, including first.

That tasting, organized by a wine event group named Gusto, has been replicated closely by them in Houston and Austin. Here are the results for the top five wines out of 17 in each tasting. I have highlighted the Texas wines to draw attention to their rankings:

Location: Austin @ Malaga Tapas & Bar. Date: 7/30/2013 – 27 Tasters

1. Truchard, Carneros, Roussanne, 2011 $22.

2. Calais Winery, Texas High Plains, ‘La Cuvee Principale’ Roussanne, 2011. $21.

3. Bending Branch Winery, Paso Robles, ‘Comfortage’ Roussanne 2011. (no price available on web site)

4. McPherson Cellars, Texas, Roussanne, 2012. $14.

5. Spicewood Vineyards, Texas High Plains, Roussanne, 2010. $14.

Location: Houston @ Solaro Estate Winery. Date 8/8/2013 – 18 Tasters

1. McPherson Cellars, Texas, Roussanne, 2012

2. Truchard, Carneros, Roussanne, 2011

3. Château de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape, Blanc, 2010. $80.

4. Spicewood Vineyards, Texas High Plains, Roussanne, 2010

5. Brennan Vineyards, Texas, ‘Lily,’ Roussanne Blend, 2012. $17.50.

Location: Dallas @ Calais Winery. Date: 8/28/2013 – 34 Tasters
1. McPherson Cellars, Texas, Roussanne, 2012. $14.

2. Wedding Oak Winery, Texas Hill Country, High Valley Vineyard, ‘Terre Blanc,’ Roussanne Blend, 2012. $22.

3. Calais Winery, Texas High Plains, ‘La Cuvee Principale’ Roussanne, 2011. $21.

4. Bending Branch Winery, Paso Robles, ‘Comfortage’ Roussanne 2011. (no price available on web site)
5. Blue Ostrich, Texas, Roussanne, 2011. $19.

Note: See Gusto web site for full results.

Top Overall Statewide (based on an average of all results)

1. Truchard, Carneros, Roussanne, 2011

2. McPherson Cellars, Texas, Roussanne, 2012

3. Calais Winery, Texas High Plains, ‘La Cuvee Principale’ Roussanne, 2011

4. Bending Branch Winery, Paso Robles, ‘Comfortage’ Roussanne 2011
5. Château de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape, Blanc, 2010

Some Observations

First, Texas wines fared well in all individual tastings and, in Gusto’s aggregate ratings, came in second and third. Second, although there were around 10 Texas wines in most tastings, there was some consistency in which ones wines made the top five. The top names in Texas Roussanne are McPherson Cellars, Calais Winery and Spicewood Vineyards (the latter did not make the cut in one of the three tastings). Third, these positions were obtained against California and French examples that, in the California case, are comparably priced. And, in the French case, are priced at least three times as high as the most expensive Texas wine.

Of course methodological criticisms can be made: not all Texas Roussanne wines were included in these tastings, Truchard did not appear in Dallas (so its earlier results were, apparently, extrapolated to give it the first place), blends were included as well as 100% Roussanne wines, and the identity of the tasters varied across the tastings. However, I take these results as suggestive that Texas Roussanne has improved to the point that the best are now comparable in quality with California and aggressively price-competitive with France, albeit with style differences. It needs further tastings in the future for these suggestive results to be raised to the level where they can be considered indicative. However, early results are promising.

I applaud Gusto for their fun, informative tastings and the Texas winemakers who are working so hard to improve Texas wines.

http://cravedfw.com/2013/09/11/is-rou...

Sep 11, 2013
achalk in Wine

23 Texas Tempranillo Wines Tasted In Blind Mega Tasting by Professional Sommeliers

Jason: Point taken.

Aug 07, 2013
achalk in Wine

23 Texas Tempranillo Wines Tasted In Blind Mega Tasting by Professional Sommeliers

The same.

Aug 05, 2013
achalk in Wine

23 Texas Tempranillo Wines Tasted In Blind Mega Tasting by Professional Sommeliers

Just to be clear:
1) I, achalk, am the the organizer of this event;
2) I am an Editor at CraveDFW and Texas Wine and Trail Magazine;
3) I have no commercial interest in any of these wineries;
4) I am not a publicist of any sort;
5) I am a whore to quality and the purpose of this event was purely educational.

MEDIA RELEASE

Dallas, TX USA: August 6th, 2013. Immediate Release.
Contact: Andrew Chalk, Editor CraveDFW. +1 (214) 597-4659
Bottle shots available. Interviews with judges and wine makers available.
23 Texas Tempranillo Wines Tasted In Blind Mega Tasting by Professional Sommeliers

This weekend, 23 Texas Tempranillo wines from 15 wineries went head-to-head competing with each other in a blind taste test judged by seven professional sommeliers. The results are below (rank 1 is best, 23 is worst):

RANK
NAME
Price
1
2011 Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo, Reserve, Texas
$30.00
2
2011 Brennan Vineyards Tempranillo, Texas
$26.00
3
2011 Llano Estacado 'Cellar Reserve' Tempranillo, Texas High Plains
$20.00
4
2011 Brushy Creek Vineyards Tempranillo, Klassen Vineyards, Texas
$50.00
5
2011 McPherson Cellars "La Herencia", Red Table Wine, Texas
$14.00
6
2011 Crosstimbers Winery Tempranillo, Texas
N/A
7
2010 Calais Winery "La Cuvee de Manoir" Tempranillo, Newsom Vineyard, Texas High Plains
$35.00
7
2011 Calais Winery Tempranillo, Newsom Vineyard, Texas High Plains
$35.00
9
2010 Texas Hills Vineyard ‘Toro de Tejas’ Tempranillo, Reddy Vineyard, Texas
$20.00
10
2010 Brushy Creek Vineyards Tempranillo, Rush Creek Vineyard, Texas
$35.00
11
2012 Lost Oak Winery Tempranillo, Texas
$33.00
12
2011 Pedernales Cellars, Texas
$20.00
13
2011/2012 Lost Oak Winery Tempranillo, Texas
$24.00
14
2007 Red Caboose Winery and Vineyards Tempranillo, Texas
N/A
15
2010 Brushy Creek Vineyards, Texas
$30.00
16
2010 Texas Hills Vineyards, ‘Toro de Tejas’ Tempanillo, Newsom Vineyard, Texas High Plains
$20.00
17
2007 Bar Z Winery 'Enigmatic', Texas High Plains
$23.00
18
2011 Perissos Vineyard and Winery Tempranillo, Texas Hill Country
$45.00
19
NV Blue Ostrich Winery and Vineyard, Tempranillo, Texas
$24.00
19
2010 Times Ten Cellars Tempranillo, Cathedral Mountain Vineyard, Texas
N/A
21
2010 Pedernales Cellars, Tempranillo, Texas High Plains
$40.00
21
NV Tara Vineyard and Winery Tempranillo, Texas
N/A
23
2011 Pontotoc Vineyard Tempranillo, Estate Bottled, Mason County
$30.00

Notes:
1) All the wines are 75%+ Texas Tempranillo;

2) Texas wine prices are from the winery web site for a single bottle purchase. Case discounts usually apply;


Why The Tasting?
The organizer of the event, Andrew Chalk, an editor at CraveDFW, said “There is general agreement that Tempranillo is the red grape that has done best in Texas thus far. I decided it was time to do a comparative tasting in order to get an idea of how good Texas Tempranillo has become, and who is doing the best job with the grape. I put out an APB to every winery in Texas for their currently available Texas Tempranillos and received no fewer than 23 different wines from fifteen wineries in response. As with our earlier comparison of Texas Viognier, the tasting would be blind and the tasters would be volunteers from the Dallas sommelier community. ”

Choosing The Judges
Chalk said “I figured that if I did the judging the results would be about as credible as Kim Kardashian challenging string theory, so I emailed every professional sommelier in town and invited them to judge. Seven sommeliers, plus myself, assembled at WinePoste.com in the Dallas Design District over several hours to sip and slurp our way through the wines. I excluded my scores from the results as I was involved in the packaging of the wines into their numbered brown bags".

The Results
Chalk: "My first impression from the tasting was how huge the variation was between the wines. Some reasons for this are clear:

Among the bottles tasted were several vintages (from 2007 to 2012) and some multi-vintage and non-vintage (NV) wines.

The grapes came from all over the state. Texas is so huge that weather conditions in one area may be no guide to weather conditions in another in any given vintage;

Some wineries have more than a decade of experience making Tempranillo and others are brand new;

Some grape sources were young vines and others more established;

All the wines could be described with Texas on the front label but several used more specific locations. For example, six wines used the Texas High Plains American Viticultural Area (AVA), and one the Texas Hill Country AVA. One even adopted the legitimate practise of using the name of the Texas county as the designated area of origin.

My second impression was how Texas Tempranillo as a category has improved over the long term. The best are now very good, something we will measure more precisely in a future tasting of Texas versus the wines of Tempranillo’s native country of Spain. While the best are better, it should also be said that the bottom of the scale is as bad as ever. However, placement in the rankings can be changed quickly. For example, I tasted the 2005 Crosstimbers Winery Tempranillo at the ‘Big Red’ wine tasting at The Joule in Dallas in 2010. I reported “Nose: Alcoholic. Taste: Thin fruit and battery acid volatility.” How times change. Crosstimbers came sixth in this tasting.

My third impression was that experience counts. The top five wineries are all ‘old hands’ who have learned good winemaking and are now moving on to specialize and develop their own styles. McPherson Cellars (5th) even has the courage to call their Tempranillo just ‘Red Table Wine’ in the belief that its quality will speak for itself.

My best newcomer award goes to Calais Winery (7th) just six years old. Benjamin Calais is establishing himself now that he is finally on the list to get grapes from a quality vineyard. The winery is in Deep Ellum and worth a visit."

The judges did not hold back on their opinions. On the number one ranked wine, 2011 Pedernales Reserve, Jeff Solomon, of Max’s Wine Dive also rated it first and noted an aroma that was “bright red fruit, earthy, dirty, dusty with dried fig” and a taste that was “well balanced”. He summarized it as a “great representation of what Tempranillo can be in Texas”.

On the second-placed wine, 2011 Brennan Vineyards, Jeremy King with The Gaylord Texan Resort rated it a personal second and noted its ”rich dark fruit” on the nose and that in the mouth it had “great balance and a long finish”.

The third-placed 2011 Llano Estacado was Advanced Sommelier Steve Murphey’s second favorite and he listed notes of ‘tea leaves, dried red fruit, herbal, chicory..”.Russell Burkett with SER Steak+Spirits at the Hilton Anatole ranked it fifth and described it as “bright ruby color leading with earth notes of turned soil, wet leaves, stewed fruits of blackberry, chery, raspberry. Moderate-plus acidity. Long finish”.

Brushy Creek Vineyards entered several wines and their 2011 Klassen Vineyards (the vineyard name is spelled that way on the label, but differently on the web site) placed fourth. It was the favorite of Chris Morgan, Divisional Beverage Sales Manager of Oceanaire/Morton’s. He said that it had a “dark, cherry, integrated oak. Not Rioja but good Tempranillo”. Anthony Martinez of The Gaylord Texan Resort placed it fifth in his ranking noting that it was “showing nice fruit and low to medium tannin”.

The fifth-placed 2011 McPherson was “young, green” with “fresh strawberry” and was “clean” according to Jamie Glover of Lesko Enterprises

Chalk summarized the implications thus:
"To consumers: Consider a Texas Tempranillo with your next steak, lamb or barbecue. Also, on day trips, consider visiting some of these producers and tasting thses wines on their premises.
To sommeliers: Use the results here as a guide for the best choice for your list;
To the wineries and grape growers in Texas: Stay the course. Tempranillo was one of the ‘right choices’.Quality continues to improve and this is the path to greater consumer acceptance.
To the wine media: Consider adding the best of these to Tempranillo tastings featured in your pages. The quality improvement has been ongoing.

Overall, a very instructive tasting and a compelling snapshot of the state of Texas Tempranillo. The grape has come a long way in the state but still has a way to go. Future Crave tastings will assess it against Spain and Tempranillo from California, Arizona and other promising areas.

Availability
These wineries are all small. Order direct from the winery web site or, in the case of some, from the Amazon.com wine site. If you are out of state, and experience problems with either of the above, call the winery to see if they have a legal way to deliver to you.

Appendix – The Judges
Russell Burkett - SER, Hilton Anatole Hotel, Dallas
Jamie Glover - Lasco Enterprises
Jeremy King - Gaylord Texan Resort
Anthony Martinez - Gaylord Texan Resort
Chris Morgan - Oceanaire/Morton's;
Steve Murphey - Mid-West Wine
Jeff Solomon - Max's Wine Dive

Aug 04, 2013
achalk in Wine

Texas Viognier Is Tasted Against California and France – And Comes Out The Winner

>> "Modern home"? What was its ancestral home?

"Original origin is uncertain. Unconfirmed origin is Vugava grape from the island of Vis off the Dalmatian Coast.
Legend says that Viognier was brought to Rhône Valley from Dalmatia by Emperor Probus in CE 281."

source James Tidwell, MS presentation to Texas Viognier symposium 2012.

You weren't naive enough to think it think it originated in the Rhône, were you?

Jun 25, 2013
achalk in Wine

Texas Viognier Is Tasted Against California and France – And Comes Out The Winner

McPherson also does.

- A

Jun 24, 2013
achalk in Wine

Texas Viognier Is Tasted Against California and France – And Comes Out The Winner

Becker is another winery that can ship to CA.

Jun 23, 2013
achalk in Wine

Texas Viognier Is Tasted Against California and France – And Comes Out The Winner

I checked and:

1) Some wineries are on Amazon.com;

2) According to one respondent "Texas wineries can fill out Type 82 form and pay $10. Send the State a copy of your Winery Permits. That’s it, and you are shipping direct to CA consumers"

I have sent this information to all the wineries in the tasting. This may make it easier.

- A

Jun 21, 2013
achalk in Wine

Texas Viognier Is Tasted Against California and France – And Comes Out The Winner

PhillyBestBYOB: Thanks for your comments. I expect that their is zero distribution in PA! Best to order from the winery's web site. Or does PA make that illegal?

Jun 21, 2013
achalk in Wine

Texas Viognier Is Tasted Against California and France – And Comes Out The Winner

Correct on the interpretation of the rankings.

Surprised that Brennan does not ship to a final consumer in CA. I thought CA law was very wine friendly.

Jun 21, 2013
achalk in Wine

Texas Viognier Is Tasted Against California and France – And Comes Out The Winner

Robert: I let each judge use their preferred scale. But they had to do a "ranking" in the right-hand column. I used the ranking to compare ratings. There was in fact an enormous amount of very lively discussion about the typicity issue, and much else. It is a legitimate criticism that I simply did not reproduce enough of it in the article at CraveDFW.com (a press release can't go into that detail).

Personally, I recommend you compare the Pedernales Reserve with the Brennan. I have opinions - but will hold them until you have tasted them. Suggest you post your review in this forum.

Jun 21, 2013
achalk in Wine

Texas Viognier Is Tasted Against California and France – And Comes Out The Winner

Many thanks for your interest Julian. In choosing the 'ringers' I tried to set the TX wines the hardest test possible, subject to not comparing them with wines way out of the TX price range. With the California wines, I think that allowing a knowledgeable third-party to choose them, plus the 91 scores in two of the leading publications, achieved that. I don't think that the number of TX wines vs. the Californians misrepresented California. Both CA wines were sound. As I said in a previous answer, they were not random data points contributing to a sample but known, very non-random, parameters for the TX wines to beat.

There are different issues with Condrieu wines generally. The main one is that they are so much more expensive than the TX wines (three times the price of the average TX wine and 50% more than the most expensive) that I think they are not direct competitors. I included the one Condrieu (at enormous personal expense for the two bottles!) more for completeness and curiosity.

The real competitive battle is between California and TX. In that respect I think I proved my claim that TX wines deserve a place at the table in reviews and any publication that reviews (shall we say domestic Viognier?) does a disservice to its reader if it omits them.

At this point I might say that I did not include other states (e.g. Virginia) where I hear good things because of my own lack of knowledge of those producers. In the case of TX, I had the luxury of including EVERYTHING because the producers have seen my articles and/or met me so would readily send samples. And in saying that, I am not referring to an incestuous relationship. I know of nobody in print who has been more vehement about Texas wines when necessary -- and a Google search will find that stuff (mainly in D Magazine). This tasting was a revelation in showing real excellence - and that I applaud.

Jun 20, 2013
achalk in Wine

Texas Viognier Is Tasted Against California and France – And Comes Out The Winner

I don't promote a single Texas Viognier. The (re)publication of the result reflects the significance of the result and the rigor of the test..

Jun 20, 2013
achalk in Wine

Texas Viognier Is Tasted Against California and France – And Comes Out The Winner

The names and corporate affiliations of all the judges are at the bottom of the press release. So you can contact them and ask them for their notes. It is hard to imagine more transparency.

You have to prove that it was "stacked". I have shown that enormous lengths were gone to in order to ensure that it was not. And I've addressed objections that have been raised. So far you haven't shown that it was stacked but I'd love to hear you do more than just assert it.

Jun 20, 2013
achalk in Wine

Texas Viognier Is Tasted Against California and France – And Comes Out The Winner

budnball, many thanks for your comments.

The California entries were not chosen randomly, so the Law of Large Numbers that implies statistics get closer to their population parameters as sample size increases, does not apply. The California entries were chosen as known value entries (in this case, proven examples of 'very good' California Viognier).

I would love to do more (send me a check for $500, I'll supply the same Texas wines, and you can be there to meet the professional sommeliers who do the judging!) but the results are not invalid because there were more Texas wines. Again, the CA wines are not a random sample. A few years ago, the two Californians would have come 1st and 2nd. Things have changed. What this tasting showed very strongly was that TX Viognier deserves a place at the table. Any review of domestic Viognier that excludes them is letting down its readers.

The relevance of the result is indicated by some of the posts in this thread. There are people who consider themselves knowledgeable about Viognier but who are totally oblivious of the improvement in TX wines. The results came as a complete surprise.

Finally, a major strength of this tasting, and a feature that I would not want to change, was the inclusion of the <<universe>> of TX examples, and not just a sample. I did not dwell on the wines in the lower reaches but there is a story there too.

Thanks again for your comments.

Jun 20, 2013
achalk in Wine

Texas Viognier Is Tasted Against California and France – And Comes Out The Winner

Read the article and you will see that the testing was carried out in the strictest of conditions and that it was the most comprehensive comparison of TX Viogniers with themselves and with Viogniers from elsewhere on record.

There was no "heavy-handed promotion", and this is certainly not a PR post. I organised the tasting and wrote the press release that I reproduced here (and the article in the blog that I write for). I do not have any clients - nor am I remotely in PR. Someone has been having you on if they told you that. In fact, I am out of pocket by several hundred dollars as a result of organizing this! And I don't sell wine - I drink it!

My motivation was purely educational. The national media omit Texas Viognier from comparative tastings because their knowledge is several years out of date.Now that this tasting has established a benchmark, the next step would be for those publications to organize a reprise where they can certainly alter the number and composition of non-TX wines. I look forward to seeing the evidence.

My choices of non-TX wines were not random -- they were deliberately chosen as independently scored strong examples of wines that already do get national attention. So this result is a strong result indeed.

What you need is some facts. Unsupported assertions about the motives of others just make your case look empty and your own motives look suspect. Who do you work for?

Jun 20, 2013
achalk in Wine

Port tasting in Oporto, Portugal

Also, stuff you find at home will taste the same in Oporto. Port doesn't suffer during transit.

Jun 19, 2013
achalk in Spain/Portugal

Port tasting in Oporto, Portugal

There are public tasting facilities that are 'consolidators' (i.e. retail stores that serve multiple brands so tasting is not a problem.

When I went to Oporto my main focus was on trying as many houses as I could that do not get distribution where I live (the U.S.). Typically family-run 'micro port producers' if you will. It was fascinating. The quality varied widely but the friendliness was universal.

Jun 18, 2013
achalk in Spain/Portugal

Texas Viognier Is Tasted Against California and France – And Comes Out The Winner

This weekend, sixteen Texas Viognier wines went head to head competing with each other, two California Viognier wines and a Viognier from the modern home of the grape, Condrieu, France in a blind taste test judged by seven professional sommeliers. The result, Texas wines took the top six spots.
The full results are here:
RANK (1 is highest)
WINE NAME
1
2012 Pedernales Cellars Reserve ($40)
2
2011 Brennan Vineyards ($17.50)
3
2012 Becker Vineyards ($15)
4
2012 McPherson Cellars ($14)
5
2012 Lost Oak Winery ($21)
6
2012 Pedernales Cellars ($18)
7
2011 Melville 'Verna's", Santa Barbara County, CA ($25)
8
2012 Flat Creek Estate
8
2012 Perissos Vineyard and Winery
10
2010 Calera, Mt. Harlan CA ($34)
10
2011 Cross Timbers Winery
12
2010 LightCatcher Winery
13
2012 Llano Estacado Winery, TX Raider
14
2011 Landon Winery
15
2011 Saint Cosme Condrieu, France ($65)
16
2012 Landon Winery
17
2010/11 Blue Ostrich Winery & Vineyard
18
2012 Kiepersol Estates Winery
19
2010 Llano Estacado Winery, 'Mont. Sec Vineyards'
Notes:
1) All the wines from Texas wineries are designated “Texas Viognier” on the label.

2) Texas wine prices are from the winery web site for a single bottle purchase. Case discounts usually apply. Prices for the other wines are single bottle prices that I paid at retail stores in Dallas.



Why The Tasting?
The organizer of the event, Andrew Chalk, an editor at CraveDFW, said “I put together this tasting because, after four years touring over 80 Texas wineries, I concluded that Viognier was the white grape that was most successful in the state. In fact, I felt it was reaching a level comparable with California Viognier (although maybe not that of France). I was baffled that the national media did not include Texas wines when they evaluated Viognier. Clearly, this was a matter that only the facts would settle: a blind tasting of French, California and Texas Viognier by expert palates to determine where the wines stood.”

Choosing The Wines
Chalk contacted every Texas winery and asked them to supply two bottles of each Viognier they made that was currently available for resale. The wineries came through with 13 wineries supplying 16 wines. As a result this was not just a sample, but every Viognier made in Texas (the only known absentee was Cap Rock Winery).
Next, he needed a strong California benchmark for comparison. He asked Sigel’s wine buyer, Jasper Russo, to pick three, and Chalk would buy the first two that he found at retail in Dallas. Russo suggested: Miner Family Vineyard, Calera, and Melville. Chalk found the 2010 Calera, Mt. Harlan, $34 (91 points, Wine Advocate) and the 2011 Melville Estate Viognier “Verna’s”, $25 (91 points, International Wine Cellar) and purchased them.
“Finally”, said Chalk,” I needed a wine from the modern home of the Viognier grape, and the place that is still regarded as the benchmark. I chose the 2011 Saint Cosme, Condrieu because this $65 wine scored over 94 points out of 100 in web reviews and is made by maybe the most decorated producer in the Rhône over the past two years. I expected this wine to win hands down, the compensation being that it was over twice the price of most of the Texas entrants.”

Choosing The Judges
Chalk said “I figured that if I did the judging the results would be about as credible as Paris Hilton challenging Newton’s Laws of Motion. So I emailed every professional sommelier in town and invited them to be a judge. On the day, seven sommeliers came to The WinePoste.com and spent two hours in silence comparing nineteen wines and passing written judgment. “
Chalk excluded himself from the scores reported above as he was involved in the packaging and preparation for the tasting. He also knew the identity of the non-Texas wines and any of this could be conceived as biasing the result.

The Results
The results are a stunning endorsement of Texas Viognier. Chalk had hoped Texas would be close behind the Californians and the Condrieu. In fact, no fewer than six Texas wines beat the first non-Texas wine (the Melville from California), and the expensive Condrieu was beaten by 12 Texas wines. The top three were all experienced Texas producers: Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall in the southern Hill Country, Brennan Vineyards in Comanche, a scant 90 minutes drive from Dallas, and Becker Vineyards, probably the best known of these three producers, also in Stonewall . Two relatively new producers: McPherson Cellars out of Lubbock in The High Plains, and Lost Oak Winery, in Burleson, just south of Fort Worth, placed fourth and fifth.

Feedback From The Judges
Writing about the winning wine, 2012 Pedernales Cellars Reserve, Russell Burkett (wine director at Sēr at The Hilton Anatole) commented that it had “ripe stone fruits, long finish, notes of honeysuckle and white flowers and light minerality”. Aaron Benson, sommelier at the Dallas Country Club, described it as “classic Viognier…an underlying minerality balances the redolent ripe fruit” and gave it a commanding 92/100 point rating.
Regarding the second-placed 2011 Brennan Vineyards, Hunter Hammett, sommelier of The Fairmont Hotel, Dallas gave some advice to the winemaker that it was “a bit thin to be excellent but a great example of this classic Rhône varietal”. Simon Holguin, general manager at the forthcoming Kitchen LTO, said that it “finishes delicately”.
Benson and Hammett, two judges who work the floor each night trying to deliver the most suitable wine to their customers, when asked about selling Texas Viognier said that selling a Texas Viognier is no harder than selling any other Viognier. The problem is selling Viognier. It is a “hand sale”, meaning that it is up to the sommelier to make the case to the customer, who typically has over 100 choices on the wine list. Hammett suggested wineries provide more guidance as to what food was intended to go with the grape. He pointed out that the choice of compatible food is not as broad as with Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.

The Implications
Texas Viognier has come of age. Chalk said “For the customer, next time you shop for a white wine, consider purchasing one. Next time you are looking for a white wine on a restaurant wine list, ask for a Texas Viognier. Even if there isn’t one on the list at the time, sommeliers choose based on customer feedback. If you are a sommelier, check the results of this tasting for the quality and value most suitable for your list. If you are a publication that reviews wines, Texas Viognier has now shown that it deserves a place at the table for your next Viognier review”
To order these wines: Some wines are available at retail stores in Texas. Others are available direct from the winery (all can ship to consumers in Texas and more widely dependent on state and Federal wine shipping rules).

Appendix – The Judges
Karla Barber - International Sommelier Guild
Aaron Benson - Dallas Country Club
Russell Burkett - SER, Hilton Anatole Hotel, Dallas
Hunter Hammett - The Pyramid Restaurant and Bar
Simon Holguin – GM, Kitchen LTO
Jeremy King - Gaylord Texan Resort
Steve Murphey - Mid-West Wine

Jun 18, 2013
achalk in Wine