Texas Wine Lover was invited for this coverage. All opinions, experiences, and photographs are entirely our own.
Texas Wine Lover recently attended The Sip, Season Two, hosted at Spicewood Vineyards on September 30th, 2015. This event was chock full of great sippin’ and very little drippin’, as all the wines we tasted were representative of the top tier of the Texas wine industry. The Sip, Season Two, was an eye opening opportunity to taste a glorious flight of several stellar Texas wines, including previously released vintages from 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2014 as well as tank and barrel samples from the 2015 harvest. Presentations were given by several renowned Texas winemakers and winery owners regarding Texas climate, our growing regions, phenolic ripeness, tons per acre, harvest schedule, and much, much more. These are all important factors relating to growing and producing high quality wines, and I wish I could write for you every detail that was discussed, but I simply cannot. Instead, I will provide an overview of a few of the important topics, and highlight the wines that were tasted as the evening transpired.
The soiree began with a leisurely stroll out into the Estate Vineyard all while savoring a glass of Spicewood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, 2015 vintage. Although a mere infant, this wine is already showing sound character and the youthful bright acidity was refreshing in the early Texas fall heat. Here is a fun fact… Were you aware Spicewood Vineyards has ~25 year old Sauvignon Blanc vines still producing intense fruit on the Estate? Well, it is true and the complexity shown in the Estate Sauvignon Blanc is a clear indication the vines are pretty happy at their Spicewood, Texas residence. We then meandered over to the winery event space and took a seat in preparation for listening to interesting lectures by five lovely people representing the four wineries we tasted wines from.
Ron Yates of Spicewood Vineyards hosted the event, and discussed some of the grapes that are thriving on the estate property. He also touched on the importance of low yields in relation to quality grapes capable of making solid wines.
Susan Auler of Fall Creek Vineyards discussed planting and growing Tempranillo in the early days of Fall Creek Vineyards. I learned that Fall Creek relies on 100% Texas Hill Country grown fruit for their Texas appellated wines, which is quite rare. I don’t know of many wineries that do not source at least some fruit from the Texas High Plains AVA. Fall Creek Vineyards winemaker Sergio Cuadra gave an exciting presentation covering the state’s intense heat, and how it really helps, not hurts our viticulture. With proper farming, we can harness the heat and use it to our benefit to ripen the grapes and bring out intense flavors and aromas. He also showed everyone a side by side chart of temperature patterns between Texas and Iran in the Middle East. The results are baffling, with temperatures being nearly identical throughout the year. Here is a blog post highlighting his discussion. After all, vitis vinifera originated in the Middle East thousands of years ago, which could mean vinifera grapevines are quite possibly more at home here in Texas than they are in cooler climates.
Winemaker Dan “The Gatlin Gun” from Inwood Estates shot straight from the hip in his lecture on phenolic ripeness and the need for properly ripening grapes, vs. relying merely on textbook harvest recommendations for when to harvest, relating to brix (sugar levels) and pH. He talked about the importance of anthocyanins in grapes, which need to be at the correct level while hanging on the vine in order to produce world class wine from year to year. He made a solid point regarding some of the weaknesses in our current wine industry, most of which are easily avoided with proper viticulture practices.
Gina Ross from Stone House Vineyard, discussed their confidence in and the history of the Norton grape, all while we tasted a brilliant 100% Norton wine which is their Texas signature, called Claros. Here is an ironic fact… In 2011, my wife and I tasted the 2010 Claros from Stone House Vineyard and it was the very bottle that proved to us Texas can make great wine!
Below is a list of the wines we tasted during the event:
In the Vineyard:
- 2015 Spicewood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Vineyard (tank sample)
In the winery event center:
- 2014 Spicewood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Vineyard
- 2014 Fall Creek Vineyards Chardonnay, Texas Hill Country AVA
- 2014 Spicewood Vineyards Mourvèdre Rosé
- 2012 Spicewood Vineyards Estate Tempranillo
- 2012 Fall Creek Vineyards Tempranillo, Salt Lick Vineyards
- 2013 Fall Creek Vineyards GSM, Salt Lick Vineyards
- 2013 Spicewood Vineyards Syrah, Mesa Vineyards
- 2012 Fall Creek Vineyards Cabernet/Sangiovese/Merlot blend, Texas Hill Country AVA
- 2013 Stone House Vineyard Claros (Norton grape), Estate Vineyard
- 2012 Inwood Estates Magdalena, Bordeaux style blend and Tempranillo
- 2010 Inwood Estates Mericana, Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2012 Inwood Estates Cornelious, Tempranillo
- Stone House Vineyard Scheming Beagle Port, Norton Grape
In the underground Cellar:
- 2015 Fall Creek Vineyards Chardonnay (tank sample)
- 2015 Inwood Estates Cabernet Sauvignon (tank/barrel sample)
The evening was an utter success in my opinion! Getting schooled by some of the greats in the Texas wine industry, as well as tasting through a fabulous selection of Texas wines which proved to be both educational and extremely flavorful.
A special thank you to Matt McGinnis of Pen & Tell Us for coordinating the event, and to Ron Yates for hosting. Thank you Susan Auler, Gina Ross, Sergio Cuadra, and Dan Gatlin.