In October, I helped judge the 2018 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo Wine Competition. Knowledgeable people from a variety of areas—wineries, restaurants, distributors, education, and even media—gathered on the grounds of AT&T Center (where the rodeo is held) to taste through a day’s worth of wines. And recently, many of those judges joined the wineries and many charitable locals from San Antonio to taste the wines and raise money for scholarships.
Judging for the Rodeo was a new experience for me. This marked my first time as a judge. We were divided into groups of five, with one member of each group being a wine professional. The judges included a good population of Texas wine ambassadors, mainly from wineries. I was lucky to judge alongside my friend, Lisa Nimmo, of Hye Meadow Winery.
The competition included two sessions, morning and afternoon. Although we tasted a lot of wines during each session, it did not compare to other larger competitions, like the Houston Stock Show and Rodeo. I did get out of my comfort zone and judged a number of wine styles I do not generally drink, and I got one of my favorite categories, Red Blends. When I left, I wanted to know which wines I tried.
A few months later, I would get a chance to enjoy some of the winners. Many judges, myself included, attended the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo 2018 Champion Auction. They held the event at the Witte Museum in a new area I had never been to.
And though the museum was beautiful, the early part of the evening was a bit uncomfortable. It was difficult to navigate and try the grand champion wines available. I only got a chance to try four, and two were Texas. The hallway leading down to the cramped Silent Auction was an obstacle all on its own. I never tasted any wines they had there.
When our hosts ushered everyone into the main ballroom, everything changed. The spacious room allowed for walking around, trying wines (most were available inside), and catching up with friends. Those associated with the Texas wine industry quickly found one another. Representatives from several wineries attended. A few wineries “hosted” tables of guests. There, the guests enjoyed a sit-down meal and wine from the hosting winery. Wineries included Bending Branch Winery, Messina Hof Winery, Becker Vineyards, Pedernales Cellars, and Lost Draw Cellars. Winners also in attendance included Haak Vineyards & Winery and Hye Meadow Winery.
The goal of the evening was to raise scholarship funds for those studying viticulture. Throughout the evening, guests could take part in a wine pull. Each pull cost $25, which included the wine randomly drawn. In addition, there were two wine tosses. For $75 or more, guests took the chance to win a set of rubies or rifles. Just before the live auction, the guest scholarship winner announced the winners of Rubies and Rosé, as well as Reds and Rifles. The silent auction offered an array of packages. All packages came with winning wines, but they also included other items like winery tours, jewelry, art, lottery tickets, and others.
The live auction was the main event for the evening. Guests could bid for 12 different wine packages. Many of the packages included winners from other regions, but several had some serious Texas roots. The second lot, which included Grand Champion Rombauer Vineyards’ Cabernet Sauvignon (CA), had a nice bonus. The lot included a private dinner cooked by local chef Brian West (who happened to be in my tasting group at the wine competition). Another, lot 4, came with floor tickets to see George Strait at the Erwin Center. However, it was lots 8 through 12 that mattered more to Texas wine lovers:
- Lot 8 included Rodeo tickets and a case of Haak Vineyards & Winery’s 2013 Madeira Blanc du Bois.
- Lot 9 interested all of the Aggies. It included a stay at Messina Hof’s bed and breakfast, dinner at the Vintage House, private tour and tasting for 20 at Messina Hof in Bryan, and a case of Messina Hof’s 2016 Tempranillo.
- Lot 10 was close to home. The winner bid for a private tour and tasting for six at Bending Branch Winery, along with a case of their 2014 Newsom Tempranillo.
- Lot 11 was for the white wine lovers. A case of Becker Vineyards’ 2015 Chardonnay Reserve came with a private tour, tasting, and cheese plate at Becker Vineyards, as well as a stay for six on the banks of the Pedernales River.
- Lot 12 included four cases of wine from a selection of Gold Medal winners. Texas winners were included in that sample.
With the auction done, all eyes are on the 2018 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. The Champion Wine Garden will offer Rodeo attendees a break: the tranquil atmosphere makes it easy to relax and enjoy great wines. The garden will be open February 8-25, 2018. On Sundays, February 11, 18, and 25, they will host brunch at 10:30 a.m. They will also have education wine seminars and food pairing events every Saturday, February 10, 17, and 24, at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.