The Sip has been appearing around the state and its most recent trip was to Houston where representatives from the four wineries and local media took over Camerata at Paulie’s for most of an afternoon. The four wineries and representatives present were:
- Fall Creek Vineyards – Co-owner Susan Auler and winemaker Sergio Cuadra
- Inwood Estates Vineyards – Assistant Winemaker Spencer Gatlin
- Spicewood Vineyards – Owner Ron Yates
- Stone House Vineyard – Assistant Winemaker Gina Ross
It was a rainy day in Houston, but it didn’t prevent a great turnout to listen to the wineries and also get a chance to blind taste Texas wines against comparable wines from around the world.
Host Matt McGinnis of Pen and Tell Us started the event by introducing the winery representatives, who in turn introduced themselves and told us a little about their winery. It was then time for what we had all been waiting for—tasting wine. The four wine glass flights started to be poured and all pours were done blind. The concept behind the tastings was to compare a Texas wine with a comparably structured non-Texas wine. We had no idea if the flight might be all Texas wines or even all non-Texas wines.
After sipping the four wines in a flight, a discussion took place among everybody to decide what grapes might have been used and also which might have been the Texas wines. Some were kind of obvious to me which were Texas wines (maybe I have a little Texas palate), but it was also in large part because I had tasted some Houston Rodeo award-winners just the week before.
Once the discussion for a flight was over, it was time for the unveil. If it was a Texas wine, the representative would tell about the wine and about the comparable wine if one was present. Then it was on to the next flight. In all, a total of 16 wines were sipped during the blind tasting.
Here are the first four wines tasted:
- Fall Creek Vineyards, Vintner’s Selection Chardonnay 2014 (unoaked)
- Fall Creek White Comparative – French Chablis
- Inwood Estates Chardonnay 2015 – City of Dallas
- Inwood Estates White Comparative 2013
As you can tell, these were all Chardonnays. Even though it is commonly said by some that Texas cannot make Chardonnay, the people present were impressed with the Texas Chardonnays.
Flight two came and they were:
- Spicewood Vineyards, 2014 Mourvèdre Rosé
- Fall Creek Vineyards, Vintner’s Selection Grenache Rosé 2015
- Fall Creek Vineyards Rosé Comparative – French Bandol Rosé
Again, the Texas wines were very impressive to the audience and most preferred them to the Bandol. If you haven’t had a Texas rosé lately, you are doing yourself an injustice.
- Fall Creek Vineyards, 2013 Terroir Selection GSM – Salt Lick Vineyard
- Spicewood Vineyards, 2012 Estate Tempranillo
- Spicewood Vineyards Red Comparative – Rioja Tempranillo 2009
- Stone House Vineyards, Claros Norton Reserve 2013
There was definitely interest in this flight for the sippers because we had gotten to the reds. Some were surprised that the Fall Creek GSM came from the same Texas Hill Country vineyard. The Spicewood Vineyards Tempranillo presented by Ron Yates and crafted by winemaker Todd Crowell was very impressive, even up against a 2009 Rioja Tempranillo. Did you know Ron Yates is a cousin to Fall Creek Vineyards’ co-owner Ed Auler? And when we got to the Norton by Stone House, people at first made a face when hearing the Norton grape name, but they came around after tasting it. Gina Ross explained how this was their estate grape and winemaker and owner Angela Moench had been perfecting the growing and winemaking of the grape for years. Even one media person in attendance agreed she had tasted a number of Norton wines recently and this was by far the best she had ever had.
And finally flight four:
- Inwood Estates 2010 “Mericana,” 100% Cabernet Sauvignon – Newsom Vineyards
- Inwood Estates Red Comparative – 2011 California Cabernet Sauvignon
- Inwood Estates 2012 “Cornelious Reserve,” 100% Tempranillo, High Plains
- Inwood Estates Red Comparative – 2011 Spain
It was now time for Spencer Gatlin, son of winemaker and owner of Inwood Estates Dan Gatlin, to shine. Even though there was a difference between the Inwood Estate wines and their comparatives, there was agreement that these were definitely bold red wines that were a good representation of what Texas can produce.
What is the point of a whole tasting of wines without a little dessert wine at the end? And that is what we had left, one last wine. After people enjoyed the dessert wine which was done in a port-style, it was mostly obvious that it had to be a Texas wine because there was no comparative. Sure enough, this was the wine:
- Stone House Vineyards, Scheming Beagle Port NV
Gina Ross explained that the Scheming Beagle Port was made from Norton grapes and named for their winery dog, and the port style wine is done as a tawny port.
Everyone thanked us for coming and we thought we were done after a wonderful blind tasting of wines. However, if we wanted to stay a little longer, there were two bonus wines we could try. I don’t think I saw someone leave at that point. The wines then poured were:
- Spicewood Vineyards 2013 Good Guy (32% Tempranillo, 32% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Graciano)
- Fall Creek Vineyards 2014 Chardonnay (oaked and from Certenberg Vineyard)
Everybody that stayed enjoyed the tasting of the bonus wines and mingling more with the winery representatives. Most media people that were in attendance do not usually write about Texas wines, but I would say that The Sip: Houston showcased some very fine wines and opened up some eyes as to what Texas wines can be.