November 8, 2014…Houston, Texas
Battle? Smack down? War? Beating?
The third Texas Wine Lover’s “Battle of the Texas Wine” was determined back in May to be the Battle of the Texas Tempranillos. Wineries across Texas were invited to participate in this event which would pit Texas Tempranillo against Texas Tempranillo. Twenty-eight wineries across the state eagerly accepted and offered their finest bottle. The requirements for this smack down were simple: the wine had to be at least 75% Texas Tempranillo and had to be readily or soon to be readily available. Several other wineries would love to have participated, but they did not have a wine readily available at this time. In order to participate, one even winery pulled a couple of cases of their wine out of their library hold to make available. Now that is dedication to this event!
While the wines were being accumulated, the decision for who would be judges was determined. I like how Jeff invites a variety of levels of participation. In the mix of 15 judges were winery owners, winemakers, blog writers, sommeliers, grape growers, and wine enthusiasts. The date was finalized for November 8 and the location would be at the NICE Winery in Houston where the Battle of the Texas Roussannes was held last July. This is a great venue with enough room to hold everybody and not be tight or crowded.
With all these details set, we waited for the event to come up next on our calendar. When it did, The Boy got to have his gramma/grampa visit and Shelly and I loaded the car and headed south to Houston. We arrived in plenty of time to enjoy lunch in the vicinity of NICE Winery and relax for a bit before we got down to business.
The winery is located in an industrial business park and seems to be an odd site, but when you open the door and step inside you are transported to what feels like someone’s luscious home. Bookcases flank a large stone fireplace on one wall where large couches and a coffee table would normally be arranged in front of it. A wet bar is at the back of the room and a hall takes you to the restrooms and the bedrooms, I mean offices. The kitchen area is located on the other side of the bar down another hall. Overall, it easily offers the illusion of someone’s home.
As we entered we saw some of the other judges had already begun arriving and were visiting with each other. Of course Jeff Cope and Gloria Schlanser, original Texas Wine Lover bloggers; Jeremy Wilson, Texas Wine Lover correspondent and Sommelier; and Rebecca Marmaduke, new Texas Wine Lover correspondent and also a Sommelier, and her husband Ben were all busy putting on various finishing touches. Ryan Levy, owner/winemaker of NICE Winery was also putting on finishing touches for a wine dinner that was to be held after we were finished. I also saw Mike Batek, owner of Hye Meadow Winery in Hye, and Bob Landon, owner and winemaker at Landon Winery in McKinney and Garland. Not being one to pass up a hug, I approached both gentlemen and greeted them and got wonderful hugs! I LOVE this industry!!! Soon Bill and Gail Day, grape growers with Buena Suerte Vineyards in the High Plains, arrived followed by Sergio Cuadra, winemaker at Fall Creek Vineyards in Tow, then Marta Lastowska winemaker at Haak Vineyards and Winery in Santa Fe. Jerry and Gail Levy, Ryan’s parents and fellow wine lovers and wine industry supporters, and Jarrett Buffington and James Watkins, Houston area Sommeliers, rounded out the field of judges.
Since Ryan had a wine dinner almost immediately following our Tempranillo tasting, he and Jeremy began pouring the first flight of three wines as we continued assembling and greeting each other.
All of the bottles had been painstakingly wrapped in brown paper bags so as to hide any and all identifiers.
We found out at that time that there would be 28 wines tasted in flights of threes. Scoring sheets and pens were provided along with blank paper for personal notes.
The scoring would be similar to the Battle of Texas Roussannes that we attended last July. Each wine would be scored with a number grade. There was also a block where notes were encouraged. Each flight would last 5 minutes, an opaque cup was provided to spit and dump, and pairings of crackers, meats, and cheeses were available to cleanse our palettes as needed. Discussion during the flights was discouraged, but that’s ok because there wasn’t much time to talk, taste, and spit anyway. Everyone took the task at hand very seriously.
As I began tasting and spitting the first couple of flights it became clear to me that I was not getting the “whole” picture. I was finding that by spitting out the wine that was in my mouth I was lacking the finish that I enjoyed so much in a good Tempranillo. I decided that I would go ahead and swallow the taste, but not drink what was poured in my glass. I was there to judge the wines, but I was going to enjoy doing it as well! After that I was able to give more honest opinions about the wines. I find it very interesting that while there were 28 wines made from the same grape by 28 different people each and every one was different. Some were very different. Some were fruit forward, some were smoky, and some were spicy. Some I liked. Some I liked a lot! Some I didn’t like at all. I wish I had kept better personal notes so I would know which ones to go add to my collection.
These are all 28 contenders…
These are the top three…
1st: Lost Draw Cellars, Tempranillo 2012, Texas High Plains, $36
2nd: Brushy Creek Vineyards and Winery, Tempranillo 2012, Rush Creek Vineyards, $34.99
3rd: Bending Branch Winery, Tempranillo 2011, Newsom Vineyards, $40
I’m not going to repeat information that you can get better from the gang at Texas Wine Lover, but I hope I could convey the process that we went through to arrive at the conclusion. It was a privilege and an honor to be invited and included in such a prestigious group of judges.