The Wine Curmudgeon endures much criticism because he doesn't really care for merlot and because he wishes California producers weren't so obsessed with high alcohol wines.
So what were two of my favorite wines in this week's Lone Star competition, the 28th annual? A merlot and a high alcohol viognier from California. Which, as I am constantly reminded, is why one should taste the wine before one judges it. And, not to be overlooked, we tasted the infamous blue wine pictured on the left. The rest of my judging panel liked it a lot more than I did.
More, after the jump:
• The merlot was Texas, the Becker reserve ($18). Talk about value: integrated oak, black fruit, supple tannins and not a hint of the over-the-top style favored by so many other winemakers.
• The viognier ($20) came from Robert Hall in Paso Robles, whose winemaker is native Texan Don Brady and who produces some of the the best (and not nearly recognized enough) wine on the West Coast. The viognier had beautiful white fruit and a long, elegant finish.
• The blue wine got a silver medal in a fruit wine category, but we were never quite sure what it was. The description on the judging sheet said "other." It was sweet and tasted more like a cocktail mix than a wine.
• Entries were up 20 percent this year, and the judges gave 58 gold medals -- about 9 percent of the entries, and the most ever. Many of the golds went to California grocery store wines, which always happens at competitions with a lot of entries, and that explains some of the increase. But the quality of the Texas wine entered was markedly better than in years past -- no doubt, says my pal Russ Kane, a function of the all-time best 2010 Texas harvest. And that added to the gold total as well.
• Another outstanding wine came from South Dakota's Prairie Berry Winery, a sweet red made from concord called Calamity Jane ($16). Don't start laughing; lots of people ask me for a sweet red recommendation, and this may be one of the best I've ever tasted.