Where but the TEXSOM wine competition could you find jalapeno wine as well as some of the world’s great reds?
This year’s TEXSOM wine competition featured both the sublime and the silly – some incredible California pinot noir as well a cabernet sauvignon that might have been one of the world’s great wines. But we also tasted a jalapeno wine.
Never a dull minute, is there?
It’s no surprise about the first group. TEXSOM is one of the best wine competitions in the U.S., attracting a record 3,500 entries this year and featuring some of the most qualified judges in the world. And that I get to judge, with my cheap wine background, remains both a pleasure and a mystery.
That makes it the kind of competition that attracts the flight of 12 pinot noirs, which were from the highly-regarded Santa Lucia Highlands. Most were not only classic in their elegance, but reminded me how well-made California pinot noir can be when its winemakers want to make pinot noir and not some bastard marketing child.
I probably shouldn’t write too much about the cabernet, since the results haven’t been released yet. It’s enough to know that it was part of a three-wine flight from California’s Santa Cruz Mountains appellation, whose producers include the legendary Ridge and its Monte Bello cabernet, plus the well-respected Mount Eden Winery. We tasted the wines blind, of course, so I don’t know that either of those were part of the flight, but that the wines were from that area should give you an idea about how complex, subtle, and amazing they were.
Unfortunately, not everything else was that much fun. The first day of the two-day event included almost an entire afternoon of grocery store plonk from Washington state, the kind of wine that makes me wonder why any producer would think a consumer would enjoy it. Call those wines the seamy underside of premiumization; I can’t shake the suspicion that too many were entered not because anyone thought they were worthy of a medal, but because they cost $15 or $20 and consumers are buying $15 or $20 wine.
And the jalapeno wine? It was so spicy that it was undrinkable, and this comes from someone who pickles jalapenos every summer because I like jalapenos. There is no doubt a market for this sort of thing, though I can’t imagine what it would be.