Tag Archives: Lone Star International

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Is Texas wine at a crossroads?

Texas wineTexas wine may be approaching a crossroads, something that was evident during the 31st annual Lone Star International wine competition this week. That’s because some of the best wines at the competition weren’t Texas, but included California wines sold by Texas producers. Which is not supposed to be the point of what we’re doing here.

Years ago, when a lot of Texas wine left much to be desired, what happened this week wasn’t unusual. Or, as I told the competition organizer when I first judged Lone Star in 2005, “Give us better wines, and we’ll give you gold medals.”

Given the revolution in Texas wine quality and production over the past decade, I had hoped those days were gone. But the uneven quality of many of the wines I judged, this year and last, has me wondering. Has Texas wine reached a plateau, where quality isn’t going to get any better given the state’s resources and climate? Or is something else going on?

After the jump, my take on what’s happening: Continue reading

Lone Star International Wine Competition 2013

We saw the future of Texas wine during one of the championship flights at the 30th annual competition this week, where there wasn ?t a chardonnay in sight. The five wines competing for best white from Texas were all outstanding, and each was worthy of winning — two Rhone blends, a viognier, a roussanne, and an albarino.

Can I write, finally and after 20 years, that Texas producers and growers have figured this thing out? More, after the jump:

Continue reading

Lone Star International Wine Competition 2012

The first day of judging in the 29th annual event, which focuses on Texas but includes wines from other regional states, California, and the world, was not much fun. The quality of the wine was uneven at best, and many of the judges I talked to wondered if the 2011 competition, perhaps the best ever, had been a fluke.

Not to worry. The second day, when we judged best of class, reaffirmed my faith in the quality of Texas wine. In many ways, it was a landmark for the state ?s producers. The wines that earned top honors were distinctive and reflected Texas ? terroir, demonstrating that wineries here finally seem to have figured out that they should not make chardonnay and merlot, but wines better suited for our climate and soil.

I can ?t emphasize enough how disappointing the first day of the competition was. Regional chardonnay is often poorly made, but the ones we tasted were even more poorly made than usual ? green and stemmy and unripe. Someone entered a white zinfandel in a red wine category, which was either a cynical attempt to fool the judges or just plain dumb. Most of the sweet wines, usually a pleasure to taste, were candy bar sugary sweet, hardly the stuff great wine is made of.

All that changed on the second day. We judged seven best of class flights, and almost all of the wines were exceptional. That rarely happens; there are always several wines that raise eyebrows and make us wonder how they got a gold medal. There were 34 gold medals among the 515 entries, compared to 58 golds and 650 entries last year.

Best yet, six of the seven wines that won were made from a lesser known vinifera or hybrid ? exactly the grapes that should be grown here. And the seventh was a red blend developed for Texas, which was also good news. A few highlights:

? The winner in the the best white table wine from Texas category was a blanc du bois from Chisholm Trail in the Hill Country. It ?s not so much that a blanc du bois won, which was impressive enough, but that it beat two outstanding wines in the process, an albarino and a viogner (two other grapes that have made great strides in Texas).

? In the Texas red table wine category, Texas ? Llano Estacado won with its sangiovese blend, the 2008 Viviano. I ?ve always enjoyed this wine, which is an excellent example of how grapes that don ?t like it here, like cabernet sauvignon, can be blended with something like sangiovese, which does like it here, to make excellent wine.

? A syrah from Kiepersol in east Texas was astoundingly well made ? blended with a little viognier to produce an elegant, supple wine and well deserving of its gold medal.

? Presque Isle in Pennsylvania makes some fabulous dessert wines, and if you can find their Lake Erie Eskimo Kisses, made with vidal, buy it (despite the name). I actually drank the whole glass, which never happens at a judging.

? A big thanks to Sonya Terpening, our table captain who put up with us, and to my fellow judges, including Hunter Hammett of Dallas ? Pyramid Room, whose palate is matched by his wicked sense of humor; and my old pal Bill Rich of Glazer ?s, the distributor.

Finally, a note about something that has emerged as an issue in many regional competitions ? local wineries that use grapes from elsewhere (mostly California) and then enter them as local wines. That happened at Lone Star this year, but the competition czar, Michael Zerbach, said the rules will likely change for next year. He wants to add a special category for these wines ? call it local wines made with un-local grapes– so that they compete against similar wines and not in the Texas category. That ?s a terrific idea, and one I support wholeheartedly.

Photo from the 2010 Lone Star competition courtesy of Russ Kane at Vintage Texas

Judging Lone Star today and tomorrow

It's an annual traditional for the Wine Curumudgeon, Texas' Lone Star International Wine Competition. We'll judge not only Texas wines, but those from other regional states and the big guys — California, Australia and Europe.

And yes, I'll try to tweet (@wine_curmudgeon) as we go through the next two days. Who can forget my classic blue wine tweet from last year?