Rodeo season is nearly upon us. But before the new year’s rodeos can begin, the wine competitions must take place. This year, I attended the first two major events of the 2023 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo wine competition. In October, Texas Wine Lover founder Jeff Cope and I judged the competition with several Texas wine proponents, owners, winemakers, and staff. Just before Thanksgiving, I luckily got invited to attend the Champion Wine Auction Dinner.
The wineries, scholarship winners, and press came early to sample the wines showcased and take part in the awards ceremony. Four Texas wineries took home awards.
Best of Herd winery, Ab Astris, received Double Gold for 2019 Texas High Plains Tannat (Best of Show), 2021 Texas Hill Country Roussanne (Top of Class), 2019 Newsom Vineyards Tempranillo (Top of Class), and 2019 Texas High Plains Avignon Red (a Rhône style red blend). They graciously reserved multiple tables at the auction so the entire family and staff could attend.
Hilmy Cellars brought their Double Gold winning wines as well: 2020 Roussanne Reserve (Best of Show Texas White) and 2020 Texas High Plain Reserve Petit Verdot. Casey Felton, Chief Operating Officer, and Michael Barton, Winemaker, attended the event.
Ron Yates Wines attended with its Double Gold, Best of Show Texas Rosé, the 2021 Grenache Rosé, as well as the Silver, Top of Class 2021 Texas High Plains Picpoul Blanc. Glena Yates, Ron Yate’s mother and the new President of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association, attended as well.
The Best of Show Sweet Wine went to the regular winner, Sister Creek Vineyards, bringing their Double Gold 2021 Muscat Canelli.
Before the dinner, guests could meet owners and winemakers as they tasted the wine. Other events took place as well. Guests could bid on the various silent auction items which often included Texas wine. This year, bids were done online, allowing for those not in attendance to also bid on the items. Throughout the night, those that signed up for text alerts got updates on the items they bid on; I, unfortunately, got outbid.
In addition to perusing the silent auction items, guests could enjoy the other wine attractions. Guests could take part in the wine pull: for $25 guests could pull one wine, for $75 they could pull four, and for $100 they could pull five. I put in $75 and selected four wine categories. Volunteers randomly chose wines from the groups. Of my four, I managed to score one Texas wine, a 2019 Newsom Vineyards Tempranillo from Bending Branch Winery in Comfort. A Cork Pull also took place and the event announced winners after the live auction.
People made their way to their seats for dinner, and I was lucky enough to sit with three of the four scholarship winners and their friends and family, which included Andrew and Elena Bilger of Adega Vinho. In addition, we were joined by Dr. Ed Hellman, Professor of Viticulture at Texas Tech University, and his wife Pam. At the dinner, the Wine Committee thanked Dr. Hellman for his many years at Texas Tech and congratulated him on his upcoming retirement.
During dinner, the scholarship recipients were introduced to the gathered company, whose purchase of tickets to the event and bids on the auction items funded the scholarships. After college, Esiquiel Bilger plans to take a few years to work harvests throughout the world. Dalton Novak plans to start his career along the Gulf Coast making great wine out of the varieties that grow well in the unique environment. Sarah Yockey will graduate early, thanks to the scholarship, and plans to get started at a winery as soon as possible. She will continue her study for WSET and Sommelier certification. Not in attendance, George Love, plans to transition from wine to whiskey upon graduation.
The live auction, which takes place during dinner, fetches quite a bit of money for the scholarships. Many Texas wineries donated to the auction, including Adega Vinho, Messina Hof Winery, Six Twists Wine Bar, and William-Chris Wine Co, in addition to the winning wineries in attendance.
With the auction behind us, the next event is the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, February 9-26. Various winning wines will be available at the new Wine Garden. Those interested in attending should watch their website and Facebook page for special pairing and educational events taking place at the Wine Garden during the rodeo, as well as other events hosted throughout the year. Proceeds from the Wine Garden and other events fund scholarships for Texas students pursuing higher education in wine and related fields.