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Kerrville 2014: They really like Texas wine

texas wineRosanne Palacios rose to her feet, took a breath, and then slowly and carefully, in front of the hundred or so people in the audience, said: “I”m a recovering Texas wine snob.”

The crowd cheered and there was even a ripple of applause. “Five years ago,” said Palacios, a hospital development director in Laredo, “I thought all Texas was wine terrible. Then I came here, and I’ve been drinking Texas wine since.”

Here was the Texas wine tasting at the annual Kerrviile fall music festival, where I’ve been preaching the gospel of Texas wine for almost a decade. So you can imagine how I felt when Palacios stood up. Giddy, practically. But that wasn’t the only reason to be excited about Texas wine based on what I saw during my three days in the Hill Country:

? There was the 20-something man at the Walmart automotive center getting a flat on his pickup truck fixed. “I don’t drink much wine,” he said, talking about the Texas wineries he and his wife had visited over the weekend, “but this has been a lot of fun.”

? The chef who stood up during the Kerrville panel and said, “Thanks to the Texas industry for getting this right. I was here 20 years ago, and I really wondered if they’d ever be able to do it.”

? The middle-aged Jack Daniels drinker who made a return trip to one winery tasting room because he couldn’t believe how much he enjoyed the wine. He even bought a couple of more bottles.

This does not mean there still aren’t problems, which I saw at this year’s Lone Star judging and that cropped up a couple times over the weekend. We still have a long way to go with wine education, for one thing, though that’s not necessarily a Texas problem. What’s important is that the first step in making Texas wine work has been taken. Consumers are willing to try it. Now the onus is on the wineries to produce quality wine at an affordable price that is uniquely Texas, and not a California or French knockoff.

Because consumers like Palacios are ready, willing, and able. “I’ve got a lot of wine drinking friends who won’t drink Texas wine,” she told me when I chatted with her after the panel. “So I’m going to do a blind tasting with these wines when we do our next tasting.”

What more can any wine business ask for?

WC returns to Grapefest next week

wine curmudgeon grapefestThat’s three days of appearances at Grapefest — at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 12, 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 13 and noon on Sept. 14. We’ll talk wine, the cheap wine book, and Texas wine as part of the People’s Choice Awards, one of the largest consumer-judged wine festivals in the country.

I’ll be at the Palace Theater in historic downtown Grapevine. In air conditioning, always a plus this time of year. Stop by, ask questions, buy books, and talk about wine.

The Wine Curmudgeon does the Grape Collective interview

Wine Curmudgeon Grape CollectiveJameson Fink of the Grape Collective, an especially popular wine website, asked some terrific questions as part of their regular feature, called SpeakEasy. This gave me a chance to offer several insights into the wine business and wine writing. More than a few people may be annoyed at my answers, but that’s their problem. If we don’t stick up for ourselves as wine drinkers, who will?

The interview is here. A few highlights:

? “I talk to consumers all the time, and they’re scared to death of wine. They apologize for not knowing more or for drinking something that might offend me. In what other consumer good does that happen? Does someone apologize to their dinner guests for serving Maxwell House coffee?”

? Asked what wines offer the best value, I suggested Gascony, Sicily, rose, and cava. Not shocking to regular visitors here, of course, but I never pass up a chance to spread the good news. I have a feeling the Grape Collective’s demographic may not be exactly the same as mine.

? “Winespeak (and I got an email about this other day from a consumer complaining about exactly this) scares everyone else off. What can it possibly mean to someone in a grocery store that a $12 wine has notes of beeswax, other than to make them run in terror?”

? My 10 favorite food- and wine- related places in Dallas, which doesn’t include most of the things other people would recommend. Which says a lot about Dallas, actually. And what does it say about me that two of my choices don’t have websites?

? Question: “What ?s changed in the world of wine blogging since you started in 2007?” Answer: “Fewer quality blogs, more snarkiness and bitterness among those who did not become rich and famous because they thought they should, and less professionalism. … Wine writing is the best job in the world, and I don’t understand why so many of us, both online and in print, have such chips on our shoulders.”

Wine of the week: Two reds from Josh Cellars

Josh cellars wine reviewsBecause both of these red wines from California’s Josh Cellars are worth wine of the week honors. But, given the way the blog works and that I don’t like to do two similar wines from the same producer as the wine of the week, I’d have to leave one of them out. And there isn’t enough quality cheap red wine from California to do that. In this, Josh Cellars is an example to the rest of California about how to make cheap wine honestly and honorably.

The 2012 cabernet sauvignon ($11, purchased, 13.5%) somehow combines cabernet varietal character with California fruitiness (very black) for less than $15. If I hand’t tasted it, I wouldn’t have believed it. Plus, this is not a soft wine, which is also surprising, since most cabernets at this price (like the old Avalon) sacrifice style for fruit. Look for some spiciness as well as well integrated oak. Highly recommended, but it does need food and especially red meat.

The 2012 Legacy ($13, sample, 13.9%) is a merlot-based red blend that has all the qualities it should have — sweet blueberry fruit, smoothish tannins, and enough acidity to offer some structure to the wine. It has more heft than I expected, which is quite welcome, because the fruit doesn’t get in the way. Like the cabernet, it needs food and probably red meat. Not quite as terrific a value as the cabernet, but that speaks more to the former’s qualities than the latter’s faults, since it’s also well worth drinking.

Winebits 349: Wine ingredients, 60 Minutes, wine judging

wine ingredients ? Ewwwwww: The Wine Curmudgeon has long advocated ingredient labeling for wine, despite intense opposition from the industry (including many of my friends, who tell me I’m crazy). Still, as the blog’s travel and resort correspondent recently emailed me: “I was offered a glass of wine from a box, from which I happened to read the fine print. It says ‘ascorbic acid added as a preservative’ and there is something added called Allura Red Dye #40 for ‘color stabilization.’ This must be a killer wine because it has other cool stuff, too: pectins, acetaldehyde, ethyl acetate, esthers, benzoic acid, and keytones. I remember keytones from college ? they ?re a sort of hallucinogen, not unlike mushrooms. The only thing that is a little concerning is a warning that says ‘added catechins and other phenols may combine with aluminum, barium and cadminium creating benzaldehyde ? a known carcinogen.’ But let ?s not worry about that. Man, I can ?t wait to try this stuff.”

? The French Paradox: One reason why I’m here to write this, and you’re here to read it, is because the “60 Minutes” television program ran a story in November 1991 about why the French — who smoked, drank copious amounts of wine, and ate red meat — lived relatively long, healthy lives. The program concluded that the reason was red wine, and the U.S. wine boom — which is still going on — began at almost that moment. The International Food & Wine Society website has a short piece discussing the “60 Minutes” episode, with a clip. Can it really have been 23 years ago? Have wine’s health benefits really done a 180 since then?

? Keep it in context: Dan Berger adds welcome perspective to the debate about wine judging with this article. Unfortunately, given the size of many competitions, judging is about pace almost as much as quality. That means, Berger writes, that “the faster the evaluation, the more often showy wines take the spotlight. As a result, subtlety rarely is rewarded in today ?s wine-tasting world.”

Labor Day 2014

The blog is mostly off today for the holiday, but will return on Tuesday with our usual features. That includes an update later in the week on the Wine Curmudgeon’s annual visit to the Kerrville Fall Music Festival.

Until then, the theme song from the 1970s cop show “Baretta,” featuring Sammy Davis Jr., a cockatoo, and sage advice: “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” (Video courtesy of MrBigrose11 at YouTube.)

Mini-reviews 64: Muscadet, Stoller, Prosecco, Villa Maria

Labor Day wine reviewsReviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This month, four more wines for Labor Day.

? No l Bougrier Muscadet 2012 ($8, purchased, 13%): This French white wine, a private label for the Total Wine chain, was tart and sour, with little varietal character. Muscadet, made with the melon de bourgogne grape, should be light and refreshing. This reminded me of bad cheap French wine in the old days.

?Stoller Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2012 ($25, sample, 13.8%): Delicious Oregon pinot noir, with berry flavors, zingy tannins, and as balanced as it should be. A fine value, even at this price. Highly recommended, and another example of the fallacy of scores. It scored 86 on CellarTracker, the blog’s unofficial wine inventory app, while the barely drinkable Bourgier scored 88.

? Deccolio Prosecco NV ($13, sample, 11%): This extra dry Prosecco is not too sweet, which is saying something. Extra dry is sweeter than brut, the most dry, and can be almost syrupy. It’s well put together with lemon fruit, a little minerality, and better bubbles than I expected. But extra dry cava will give you the same thing for a couple of dollars less, as will something like La Marca Prosecco.

? Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin 2012 ($15, sample, 13%): A wine I desperately wanted to like, but that shows again Villa Maria’s fall from grace. This New Zealand red is nothing but sweet cherry fruit, without any pinot character.