Texas Wine Gal

Sep 25

Treaty Oak - Rockin’ and Rollin’

Lots of big news coming out of Treaty Oak (#3 distillery in Texas) — most notably, founder Daniel Barnes received the prestigious 2014 Distiller of the Year award! 

Distiller of the Year is well-deserved when you look at some of the medals Treaty Oak has recently won:

Kicking off a recent tasting, I enjoyed a refreshing Texas Tea Vodka cocktail — just what I needed after a long work day.

Soon, we were treated to a simple, but delicious Treaty Oak Barrel Reserve Rum dacquiri made with fresh lime juice, of course.

Next up: an Old Fashioned, which is usually made with whiskey, but cocktail expert David Alan served it up with the Waterloo Antique Barrel Reserve Gin.  Knock your socks off!

Their successes are quickly outgrowing their current distillery so they are expanding and have broken ground on the 30-acre Ghost Hill Ranch near Dripping Springs. They will be located near the popular Jester King Brewery, Solaro Estate Winery and Argus Cidery.

They envision not only a distillery, but also a tasting room and cocktail house for spirits education.

I sure hope they plan to have lots of bike racks because I see my cycling group making a pit stop after a long Fitzhugh bike ride in the Hill Country.


Wines from Swartland, South Africa

Lucky me, I recently attended a wine tasting at Josephine House with two of South Africa’s celebrity winemakers — Eben Sadie of Sadie Family Wines and Adi Badenhorst of AA Badenhorst Family Wines.

On a whirlwind USA trip, which included a New Orleans Saints game (who dat!), they were like brothers, finishing each others sentences while giving each other a little hell, too.

Eben Sadie and Adi Badenhorst

One thing they both had in common — a passion for and commitment to making truly special wines in the Swartland Mountain Areas.  They both are small production wineries (4,000 cases for Sadie and 10,000 for Badenhorst), making white wines from Chenin Blanc, Semillion, Palomino, and Roussanne, and red wines from Cinsault, Grenache, Tinta Barocca and Shiraz.  They both grow as sustainably as possible, and with little manipulation.

Both of them share a similar philosophy when it comes to the wines they make: you become the wine, and the wine becomes you.

My favs from the tasting were Sadie’s Skerpioen (smoky, chalky, minerally white with salinity notes) and Treinspoor (100% Tinta Barocca with great violet/floral notes, raspberry flavor and crazy red dirt minerality).

From Badenhorst, the Family White blend (Chenin, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Verdehlo and several others!) had underripe pineapple flavors with terrific honey and orange notes, coupled with crazy acidity.  The Secateurs Rose (Cinsault, Shriaz and Grenache Noir) had pretty raspberry, strawberry flavors with racy acidity.

If we’re lucky, some Austin restaurants and retailers will pick up some of these wines so we can enjoy them again.


Gruner, Gruner

Yes, my go-to, inexpensive white wine is Gruner Veltliner from Austria — and tonight it’s this Berger Gruner in a 1-liter bottle (with a bottle cap, no less). 

Super dry, crisp with notes of grapefruit and lemon, super nice acidity and that rocky minerality I love.


Sep 07

Sunday Funday & Texas Wine Rock Stars

Nothing beats spending a Sunday in Texas wine country — because you never know who you might run into. Today, I took my dear college friend Monica who is visiting from St. Louis to Hye to check out Compass Rose Winery’s new tasting room and to make a quick stop at William Chris Vineyards.

Needless to say, I brought home a few wines.

And lo and behold — there’s Alphonse Dotson of Dotson-Cervantes, with a new bottle of his Cab-Merlot blend that promises to be a stellar, complex  red.  Lucky me, I got to bring one home.  (You can find it at Salt Lick Cellars.)

After a great tasting of William Chris wines in the tasting room, Chris Brundrett took us to the winery for some preview tastings of his 2014 Blanc du Bois (pineapple, citrus) and Syrah Rose (strawberry, watermelon). I’m super excited about the 2014 vintage.

And of course, I was thrilled to finally taste the Tatum Rose (100% mourvedre) made by William Chris assistant winemakers Josh Fritsche and Matt Jaksik.  Inspired by rose wines from Provence, this is a beautiful, delicate wine with nice fruit and minerality.  Nice work fellas!

New to the Hye wine area is Compass Rose Winery’s tasting room, an intimate winery designed to bring people together outside on the porch to enjoy not only their beautiful wines, but also the fantastic Hill Country views and nice breeze

Lucky for us, owner Mark Watson was at the winery and shared his vision for the Hye tasting room, which already includes a kitchen for private dinners, but also will eventually include vineyards and a pavilion for special events.  Of course, I brought home a bottle of the Compass Rose Syrah, a cherry-raspberry number with spicy, minty-peppery notes.

Last but not least, I ran into a group of Houston-area restaurant and retail somms and wine buyers who I met a few months ago who were visiting wineries up and down Highway 290 for a long weekend.  I love to see the support for Texas wine across the state.


Aug 17

TEXSOM 2014 — 10th Anniversary

Congrats TEXSOM on 10 years of great wine education, amazing tastings and professional and personal networking.  My favorite weekend of the year, TEXSOM is like candyland for people who love wine.


Here are some highlights of the weekend.

Dinner at Pappas Bros Steakhouse where wine friends Rachel, Ed, Adam and others enjoyed some amazing wines, including this Jacques Selosse champagne, Chablis Premier Cru from Montee de Tonnerre, and Gaja. The talented Jason Huerta (Top Texas Sommelier in 2010) took care of us!





Speaking of bubbles, I attended the Franciacorta (italian bubbles) session where the Bellavista Rose Grand Cuvee Millesimo knocked my socks off.

Also, during the “Beyond the Big Three” session, the Gruet Grand Rose from New Mexico confirmed it will always have a place in my wine fridge.

Other wine favorites: 2013 Kruger-Rumpf Estate Riesing Dry and Chappellet Chenin Blanc. From Chile: the Cono Sur Pinot Noir from Chile, Concha y Toro Carmin de Peumo Carmenere, and Mendel Semillon. 

From Portugal, the Quina Dos Roques was a terrific surprise.

I was fortunate to host a hospitality suite with the Texas Fine Wine wineries: Bending Branch Winery, Brennan Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, and Pedernales Cellars.


(L-R) Bob Young with Bending Branch, Pat Brennan with Brennan Vineyards, Julie Kuhlken with Pedernales Cellars, Jeff Ogle with Duchman Family Winery, Fredrik Osterberg with Pedernales Cellars

Cheers to my friends and colleagues!


My study bunnies Matt and Jessica


Me and study bunny Margaret


Michael Wangbickler, Jessica Dupuy, Matt McGinnis, Dave McIntyre, James Tidwell


TEXSOM Founders James Tidwell and Drew Hendricks


Devon Broglie and Guy Stout


Craig and April Collins

Craig Colins, Kristi Willis and me


Last, but definitely not least, the one and only Fred Dame

The weekend is not complete with a poolside Negroni.

Jun 23

I just can’t get enough

And I’m not talking about the Black Eyed Peas song, which is playing through my head now. 

I can’t get enough of rose or “pink” wines — and I’m talking the super dry (not sweet!) pink wines that are super refreshing and that just dance in your mouth.

Tonight it’s the Starmont Rose 2013 from Merryvale Vineyards in Napa Valley.  Salmon color, watermelon and citrus on the nose, and gorgeous peach on the finish. 

Lettie Teague of the WSJ just did a story on summer rose wines — of course, when in doubt, go with a rose wine from Provence (Bandol) or Travel. Check out some pink wines from the USA too… I recently enjoyed some terrific Rose of Pinot Noir from Oregon….and this delicious number from Texas’ own Pedernales Cellars.

Below are some other terrific roses to check out.


Jun 18

Some Texas Wine Gal favorites

White and rose wines make me smile, but sometimes a girl needs some red wines to balance things out.

Here are some beauties I have recently tasted:

2012 Duchman Dolcetto — This is a Texas winner! Lush black plum with a hint of raspberry and cocoa.  A smooth, medium-bodied dry red to enjoy just slightly chilled. (A Texas Fine Wine made from grapes from the Bingham Family Vineyards)

2010 McPherson Cellars Sangiovese

Made from some of the oldest vines in Texas, this light-bodied red has terrific cherry and cola notes with a hint of violet flower.

2010 Primus from Veramonte

This Carménère (member of the Cabernet family) does not disappoint! Dark cherry, plum, cocoa and black pepper notes.  Lush and full-bodied.



Jun 08

Spicewood Vineyards — What’s Next?

Spicewood Vineyards is among the oldest wineries and vineyards in Texas, with 20+-year-old vines still producing some of the best Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion in the state.  And they can add Tempranillo now to their notoriety.

Since Ron Yates purchased the winery from the Manigolds, he has planted new acres of mostly Spanish and Portugese grapes. While he makes several estate wines, he also relies on High Plains fruit to make his portfolio of wines, which are winning medals right and left.

Yates credits his award-winning wines to his new winemaker, Todd Crowell, who studied at Texas A&M and got hands on wine-making experience working for several Sonoma wineries.  Like every good Texan, Crowell wanted to return to the Lone Star State and Ron snatched him up.

Todd Crowell and Ron Yates

And just in time because Yates is expanding with a new tasting room, production facility and vineyard just six miles outside of Johnson City in the burgeoning new Johnson City-Hye winery corridor. 

Here are some notes from a recent tasting with Ron and Todd:

Estate Sauvignon Blanc - refreshing (not overpowering) grapefruit, lemon, white floral.  No oak.  Delicious. 

Estate Semillion — lemon, grapefruit, herbal notes, but softer, rounder than the Sauvignon Blanc.  One of my favs.

Rose of Tempranillo — watermelon, green notes, reminds me of the Muga Rose.  Can’t wait for the new vintage because they are sold out of this wine.

2012 Bayer Vineyard Tempranillo — blackberry, blueberry, floral and pepper notes, soft tannins.

2012 Estate Tempranillo — black and blue fruit, violets, cocoa and pepper notes, nice minerality.  Won Gold at the TEXSOM-DMN Competition.

Estate Merlot — blue and black fruit, green notes, pepper. :Lush.

Finally, the barrel sample of The Good Guy 2013 (named after Ron’s grandfather) — delicious goodness of cherry and raspberry flavors.


Jun 03

Les Hauts de Bel Air Sauvignon Blanc

This refreshing 100% Sauvignon Blanc is so beautiful — clean, crisp grapefruit and citrus flavors, with a ton of minerality on the finish.  Les Hauts de Bel Air Sauvignon is a bargain for a Bordeaux white — under $20 at Whole Foods Market.


Perfect for a summer evening, paired with sushi, chicken or fish. 

Or just as a sipper. 

For more great value wines, check out Whole Foods Market’s Top 10 Summer Wines, all under $20.


May 28

Starry, starry night

It’s a beautiful night so I pulled out this Celeste Crianza from the Ribera del Duero region of Spain.  With intense dark color, this wine is supple and lush with ripe red fruits and spice on the palate.  A terrific example of Tempranillo (called Tinto Fino in Ribera del Duero), it’s one I would definitely buy again. 

I think I picked this up at Costco for less than $20.