Texas fans of ABC’s The Taste, a cooking competition show, may have recognized a certain well-known Texas winemaker in the season’s first episode. Don Pullum of Mason, a small town west of Fredericksburg, wowed celebrity judges Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Marcus Samuelsson, and Ludo Lefebvre with his savvy culinary skills in the on-set kitchen. 

The show gives home cooks and aspiring chefs a chance to impress the four judges with one bite of a dish that is served in a blind tasting. For the first episode, the judges tasted bites from a number of potential contestants in an effort to select a team of four competitors for each judge to mentor throughout the remainder of the show. Each week, new bites are created by the contestants under the tutelage of their team judge in an attempt to keep their spot on the show. 

Having enjoyed a memorable meal from Pullum’s capable hands last spring when the jovial winemaker “threw together” a Spanish seafood stew at Pontotoc Vineyard, I can personally vouch for his artful kitchen skills. Though not everyone may know of his culinary charms, many have savored a bottle or two of his wines over the years. Pullum most notably makes the wine for Mason’s own Sandstone Cellars, but has also served as winemaker/consultant to many Texas wineries including Torre di Pietra Vineyards, Fly Gap Winery, and Pontotoc Vineyards. Later this year, Pullum will open his own winery, Akashic Vineyards, in Pontotoc, Texas near Mason.

The charming character made his television debut last night, strolling onstage with a glass of wine, which prompted the judges to ask his occupation. French judge, Chef Ludo Lefebvre of Los Angeles hot spot Tres Mecs incredulously asked, “You’re a Texas winemaker? They have wine in Texas?” giving Pullum a chance not only to prove to the judges the promise of Texas wine, butto educate the nation’s viewers too. 

Pullum made it through the first round, preparing a Texas-sized fried oyster in a Thai gastrique with a spicy jalapeño salsa. His dish won over Chef Lefebvre and New York’s Marcus Samuelsson of the Red Rooster, who both proceeded to fight over Pullum in an effort to get him to choose either of their teams. Pullum’s humility spread across his blushing face as he kindly accepted Samuelsson’s offer, having witnessed the stylish Ethiopian-Swedish chef’s teaching skills at live demonstration from the 2013 Austin Food and Wine Festival. Time will tell if the cheerful winemaker will stay on to the end to receive the $100,000 grand prize, but we’ll be sure to raise a glass of Texas wine to the competitor in the coming weeks.

(Photo Courtesy Matt McGinnis of WhatAreYouDrinking.net)