On a Saturday in July, Shelly and I travelled down to Houston and found ourselves among some pretty interesting members of the Texas wine industry: vineyard owners, wine makers, wine educators, sommeliers, chefs, wine bloggers, and fellow wine lovers. We were all invited to the NICE Winery by wine bloggers Jeff Cope and his fiancée Gloria Schlanser for one reason, this time…to participate in a wine smackdown! Well, actually a Battle of the Texas Roussannes. I have tasted a few Roussannes on our Texas wine travels. All I knew about it was it’s a white wine grape that is proving to be a decent variety for Texas. I further learned that night that it does very well in the Texas High Plains due to its late bud break and its affinity for the warm sunny days and somewhat cool nights.
Disclaimer: Shelly and I are not huge white wine fans. We are still trying to find a white that we can claim as one we really like. The Roussanne is on the fringe of this claim. It is dry, crisp, tropically-fruity, and a little earthy.
This tasting would be conducted “blind.” That is to say that the whole bottle would be hidden in a paper sack and the sack would have only a number on it. There were 17 bottles that had been purchased from wineries or various retail outlets. It was explained to us that we would be judging two glasses at a time and we were given a quick lesson on the scoring system on the score sheet. There were plates of cheeses, crackers, and grapes and glasses of water to cleanse our palates between flights. It was suggested that a time limit of 5 minutes would be used for each flight in order to keep things moving along. Due to the number of people participating (19), a 1-ounce measured pourer was used to insure there would be enough of each wine to go around.
As the tastings proceeded I found some tastes that I liked and some I did not. It still amazes me that the same grape is really not the same over all. Where it is grown, how it is handled, and what the wine maker does with it all have influences on the final product.
After the tasting was complete Jeff unbagged the bottles as we called out our scores. The wines being judged turned out to be from Becker Vineyards, McPherson Cellars, Brennan Vineyards, Blue Ostrich Winery, Brushy Creek Vineyards, Arche, Spicewood Vineyards, Wedding Oak Winery, Calais Winery, and Cap Rock Winery. Most of the bottles were 100% Roussannes, but there were a couple of Roussanne blends. We did not know where these were in the lineup. There were some surprises as the bags came off. Jeff then took our scoring sheets into another room and quickly entered our scores into a spreadsheet designed for this purpose. The wines were ranked and presented:
(88.21) McPherson Cellars, Texas, 2012 Reserve Roussanne
(87.53) McPherson Cellars, Texas, 2011 Roussanne
(86.95) McPherson Cellars, Texas, 2012 Roussanne
(85.95) Brennan Vineyards, Texas, 2011 Roussanne Lily blend
(85.74) Brennan Vineyards, Texas, 2012 Roussanne Lily blend
We were amazed that McPherson Cellars took the top three and Brennan Vineyards Lily blend rounded out the top five.
It was a wonderful July evening spent tasting Texas wine and talking about Texas wine with people who also enjoy and support the Texas wine industry.
For a more thorough account of the evening be sure and visit Jeff Cope’s blogpost Battle of the Texas Roussannes. While there take some time and read his other posts. He has written about quite a number of Texas wineries he and his fiancée Gloria have visited across the state over the years.
Wine blogger and author Russ Kane also provides his account of the evening along with further insight of the Roussanne grape on his blogpost It’s the Right Time for Texas Roussanne.