October is such a fun month for a wine lover. After all, the annual harvest is wrapping up, and wineries are inviting club members out to pick up their latest stash of wines. It is Texas Wine Month, and thankfully the weather is starting to turn delightfully cooler and crisper. To top that off, the annual Texas Fine Wine dinner falls in the month, and this year, it was back after the COVID-19 hiatus in 2020.
This event has become an annual tradition for some and a sign that it is once again time to celebrate the beauty of Texas wine and food. If you are unfamiliar with Texas Fine Wine, this group of four distinct Texas wineries has banded together in their commitment and passion for crafting fine wines that showcase the terroir and highlight the character of what exceptional fruit and wine in Texas represent. The wines are produced with meticulous detail and attention to showcasing the best and brightest of what Texas wines have to offer. These wineries include Bending Branch Winery, Duchman Family Winery, Pedernales Cellars, and Spicewood Vineyards.
The dinner provided an opportunity for roughly 75 wine enthusiasts to converge outside of Dripping Springs at the Duchman Family Winery to enjoy a selection of wines from each of the wineries. The multi-course meal was served family-style in the spacious event room in the winery. Guests were seated at round tables of eight allowing everyone to optimize their socialization with their tablemates. After over a year of living more socially distant, we enjoyed the company and the laughs and sharing notes regarding favorite wineries, wines, and adventures.
Throughout the evening as each course was ready, the associated winery’s representative, from winemaker to owner to general manager got up and introduced themself, as well as their winery and their wine that was being served in that particular course. They each enjoyed sharing a bit about the tasting notes of their wine or an interesting story about how it was created. Seeing them enjoying the evening and everyone’s company was also fun as you can tell there is a true affinity among the group.
The amuse-bouche of plated farmer cheese on sweet corn puree topped with herbs was the first dish to greet us. Think creamed corn deconstructed with a light whipped cheese and corn scoop sitting atop the sunny yellow creamy corn flavored sauce. This was a nice palate starter paired with Duchman Family Winery 2019 Vermentino sourced from Bingham Family Vineyards. The pairing was a delight and the award-winning white wine hallmark of the Duchman Family Winery whites did not disappoint.
The first course was probably a favorite of several guests at our table, the shrimp aguachile consisting of lovely plump ruby red butterfly shrimp bathed in a chile salsa and garnished with cilantro, cucumber, and red onions. This was served with large fresh tostadas. Think a bright tomato chile salsa that is something akin to a gazpacho, but oh, so better. Had additional salsa been provided in little cups, that would have thoroughly delighted this attendee. The combination of the shrimp with the salsa and the crunchy tostadas in each bite was lip-smacking good. This beautiful dish paired perfectly with the Duchman Family Winery 2020 Roussanne of Oswald Vineyards. Citrus notes, smooth, and medium-bodied, this was a great treat with this dish.
The second course was a nod to the season with grilled sweet potatoes in the jacket, served with a preserved lemon aioli and herb salad. This was a warm dish paired with Pedernales Cellars 2017 GSM Melange which truly delighted many at our table. This melding of varietals was silky smooth perfection that drank delightfully well and complimented the beauty of the sweet potatoes. This was probably my second favorite dish of the evening showcasing the simplicity of flavors and the melding of the caramel and honeyed notes of the sweet potato paired with the warm lemon cream sauce and the medium-bodied red with sumptuous notes of blueberry, cocoa, and cherry with a peppery nose and a smokey finish. Perfection.
The third course was harvest squash enrobed in candied nuts and seeds served with whipped mascarpone cheese. This course was paired with Spicewood Vineyards 2018 Texas High Plains Tempranillo. This wine shone with juicy black currant, cocoa, and blackberry notes and a touch of leather. Another lovely fall dish and wine pairing for the evening.
Our fourth course did not disappoint in size or content. It featured a seared ribeye with herbed relish and broccolini florets served with a green bib lettuce salad with watermelon radish and grapefruit sections. The meat was served on large platters already hand-carved on the bone. Massive and impressive. This was paired with the Bending Branch Winery 2017 Tannat from Newsom Vineyards. Big, bold fruit featuring cola and cherry notes with that distinct deep ruby color in the glass. This dish made certain no one left hungry.
The final course was a Texas olive oil cake served with macerated berries and a dusting of powdered sugar. The cake was moist and not very sweet making this an excellent dessert and pairing opportunity with the sweet sherry. Paired with the Duchman Family Winery Sherry, a bold experimentation of the winemaker to see if he could craft a dessert-style sherry using wine aged in barrels in the Texas heat. It worked and this unique dessert wine was born. This sherry featured a light nuttiness, a soft caramel color, and sweetness like liquid honey in the glass.
All in all, this was another great evening by the group and their chef and wait staff. No one left disappointed and everything was safe, fun, and enjoyable. What a delight to begin to feel like things are finally starting to get back to normal. Kudos to the winemakers and grape growers who contributed to the delightful wines enjoyed during the evening that helped make our dinner a true celebration of Texas fine wine and food. Looking forward to next year’s event and hope some of you will join us.