Last weekend’s Austin Food & Wine Festival not only spotlighted an array of tasty treats, savvy cooking tips, and insider pointers on savoring wine and beer, but it also offered seminar with a more focused look at some of Texas’ top award-winning wines. In a panel discussion moderated by noted Texas wine expert Russell Kane, a roundup of Master and Advanced level sommeliers—including Craig Collins (MS), Devon Broglie (MS), and June Rodil (AS)—joined Food & Wine magazine wine editor Ray Isle on a discussion of six gold-medal winners from this year’s Dallas Morning News/TexSom International Wine Competition.
Of the total twelve gold medal wines from the competition, Kane narrowed it down to six wines that he felt captured a broader spectrum of the grape varietals Texas winemakers are succesful with, while still giving the audience something familiar to enjoy.
First up was a selection from Brennan Vineyards, a white Rhone blend of Viognier and Roussane aptly called “Lily” for its beautiful floral aromatics and its silken fruit and floral palate.
Panelist June Rodil of the soon-to-open Qui Restaurant applauded the elegance of the wine saying, “It has a beautiful florality and this wonderful glycerol feel to it. I love suggesting white Rhone blends to people who enjoy Chardonnay as another option of a white wine that gives good weight and complexity, but has these added ‘pretty’ characteristics to it. This Lily is a perfect example.”
With a concentrated focus on Tempranillo and Viognier, Pedernales Cellars has been generating a lot of buzz in the local wine world. Their 2012 Viognier is a big hit, taking top honors not only in the Dallas Morning News/TexSom competition, but in the well-regarded Houston Live Stock Show and Rodeo, as well is with a recent win from Lyon, France, where this single wine was the only United States wine given a Double Gold medal in the Lyon International Wine Competition.
“This wine is remarkably balanced and complex, not just as an American example of Viognier, but compared to anything around the world,” master sommelier Devon Broglie of Whole Foods Market said. “Especially at a price of about $17, I’d put this wine up against any viognier on the planet. It’s just delicious!”
With perhaps the longest running stories in the Texas wine industry—aside from Messina Hof—Llano Estacado has made a name for its breadth of award-winning wines in the state. This Texas Tempranillo is a perfect wine to use as an example of what this type of wine should taste like.
“My overall sensory analysis on this wine is, it’s good,” exclaimed Isle. “It’s medium bodied, with good fruit and a tannic grip on the end.”
Our April Texas Wine of the Month, this unusual example of Cabernet Sauvignon gives a full expression of concentrated fruit, without the added characteristics that oak often imparts to this big, bold grape.
“Cabernet is inherently tannic, but this is remarkably balanced,” said master sommelier Craig Collins of Dalla Terra Wines. “They accentuated the beautiful fruit flavors with pronounced blackberry while letting the tannin mellow out just long enough in stainless steel. This would pair beautiful with a good fatty steak.
Who knew a grape that could put Uruguay on the wine world’s radar could also be a great grape for Texas? Winemaker Robert Young figured this out a while back, and took a gamble that it might produce good wine.
“Tannat is like Malbec on steroids,” says Isle. “when made well, it has beautiful dark berry fruit and can be super tannic. This wine has a good acidity that makes it more floral and refreshing with hints of cranberry, strawberry and cherry. This is an expression of a wine that has been treated with a delicate hand.”
Messina Hof Tribute to Heritage Riesling 2011
You can, in fact, make food Riesling in Texas. Messina Hof’s Tribute to Heritage is a perfect example of that with it’s stunning fruit and floral off-dry characteristics. This is a “father and son cuvée,” which signifies one of the first blends founder Paul Bonarrigo and his son, Paul VII collaborated on at the winery.
“I’m in love with Riesling,” says June Rodil. “It has the greatest range of characteristics than any white wine out there and it’s usually what professional sommeliers flock to as they learn more about wine. It’s something we drink to start a meal and finish a meal. This Messina Hof Riesling has beautiful floral notes and great balanced acidity. I’d drink this straight through an entire meal and enjoy every bit of it.”
The panel concluded with Kane commending the great strides Texas wine has taken in recent years.
“This sampling of Texas wine really shows the breadth of well made wines that can be enjoyed in this state,” he said. “We’ve taken lessons from grapes in warmer climates and we’re looking to place like Chile and Argentina to figure out how to do things differently. It’s a new world out there, and Texas wine is really showing it has the chops to make great wine.”
If you’d like a chance to taste some of these wines, join the Texas wine conversation on Tuesday May 14, for a special Texas Wine Twitter Tasting where Gold Medal winners from the Dallas Morning News/TexSom International Wine Competition will be tasted and tweeted about starting at 7 p.m. Messina Hof Winery has collaborated with other Texas gold medal winning wineries to put together a special Twitter Tasting three-pack of wines for the next few months to allow anyone with an interest in Texas wine to give these wines a try.