Tag Archives: Tempranillo

Battle of the Texas Tempranillos

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.

Photo courtesy Jeff Cope, http://www.txwinelover.com

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…

IMG_3823 IMG_3824IMG_3825 IMG_3826 IMG_3827 IMG_3828  

These are the top three…

Photo courtesy Jeff Cope, www.txwinelover.com
Photo courtesy Jeff Cope, http://www.txwinelover.com

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.

Photo courtesy Jeff Cope, http://www.txwinelover.com




Enoteca–Flat Creek arrives IN Marble Falls

Enoteca (EnoTECa)…literally means “wine repository.” It has been used more recently to mean a wine bar giving visitors the opportunity to taste a variety of wines. Flat Creek Estate Winery is doing this at their new wine bar/tasting room and light fare restaurant in Marble Falls called simply The Enoteca. Located just at the bridge on 281 crossing the Colorado River in a building they renovated for this venture, you can find a tasting room with a fine select variety of Flat Creek wines to sample, a wide variety of Flat Creek wines in the bottle to purchase, and…surprise…a nice group of import wines from Italy to purchase!


I have been anxiously watching the progress of Enoteca on Facebook as the construction has taken shape. We definitely made it a place to stop as we were planning our annual trek to visit the Hill Country wineries over Memorial Day to meet up with friends from different corners of Texas. When we arrived at the bistro we were warmly greeted at the door by Jessie and he offered us a complementary tasting of Blanco Brio as he explained how the concept works. He said it will be “go at your own pace” where you can step up to the tasting bar and enjoy a wine flight tasting, place your food order, place your wine order, and take your selections back to any number of seating arrangements inside or outside on the good sized patio that looks toward the river. He explained the wines available at the tasting bar will change weekly in order to keep the variety fresh. The wines are ordered by tasting flight of either dry red, dry white, or sweet; by bottle; or by full glass or by half glass.

There is a woodfired pizza oven, the tasting bar, gift shop items, and a back patio. The pizza oven definitely turned out some fine pizzas. We ordered the Margherita Pizza and the La Banderia Pizza. They also have beautiful sandwiches (I saw a patron eating one and it looked great) and salads in addition to cheese trays and simple dessert options. The chef that oversees the Bistro at the winery also oversees the menu at Enoteca so it is definitely up to his exacting standards.


We decided on sharing the dry red flight consisting of the 2012 Super Texan (a bold Sangiovese), the 2010 Tempranillo, and the Trooper Red. The Trooper ends up being the Super Texan just not aged as long and available “on tap.”


I also ordered a half glass of the Tempranillo to drink as I finished my half of the pizzas.


While we were enjoying our pizzas and wines we looked up as the front door opened and in walked Rick Naber, owner of Flat Creek Estate Winery and now this Enoteca Tasting Room. After quick hugs he asked how we were enjoying our experience? We assured him that it was very enjoyable and Jessie was doing a great job taking care of us and keeping us happy. Rick let us know they had their “soft opening” starting last Sunday so they could iron out any kinks before the Memorial Day Holiday hopefully brought in more people. I’ll be watching to see if they have their Grand Opening and hopefully we can make a quick run down for it.

Come for lunch, come for happy hour, come to sit and rest a bit with your friends. Come on your way through as you visit either end of the Hill Country wineries.

Will Work For Wine

“Free Labor”

My husband, Shelly, and I have enjoyed drinking Texas wines for quite some time now. We’ve followed the stories of how the wines are made, where the grapes are grown, and how they get to the winery. We “get” the basics and we’ve often talked about participating in the various steps of getting the grapes from the vineyard into our glass.

Earlier this summer we had the opportunity to spend a day with fellow wine friends Dave and Kelli Potter at Blue Ostrich Winery and Vineyard near Saint Jo, Texas, as they received Tempranillo grapes from Adam Bishop’s vineyard in Childress, Texas, and Dr. Bobby Smith’s vineyards just down the road in Springtown.

We stepped in and helped shovel grapes, stems and all, into the hopper as the auger took them into the crusher de-stemmer.

Loading the destemmer
Loading the destemmer

The only problem with that process came when the grape clusters were so tight that the berries were holding on too tight to the stems! There was no room for the grapes to slip inside the holes of the barrel to be pulled off and then be dropped into the bin, while the stems are dropped into another bin for composting.

Watching to see if the grapes make it off the stem
Watching to see if the grapes make it off the stem

With these tight clusters, too many grapes were being left on the stems and the whole cluster was being dropped into the compost bin. This was not good at all! So we were taking these clusters by the double handfuls and dropping them back into the de-stemmer. As they were rolled back around and grapes were still left on the stems we reached in and started pulling the grapes off the stems by hand!!

After purple fingers and sunburned necks and legs we got all the bins processed and into the cellar to start the fermentation process. Several groups of people came out and watched as the grapes began their transformation from vine to wine.

Visitors coming to watch destemming process
Visitors coming to watch destemming process

Both Dave and Shelly assisted Patrick Whitehead, the winemaker, in doing pH analysis and brix readings as well as creating the yeast culture that would be used to inoculate the just crushed grapes. Other additions to the “must” included pectin enzymes, and untoasted oak dust to aid in color extraction.

Dave wants to have his own vineyard and winery one day so he was paying particular attention to the process and asking questions of Patrick and John, the vineyard manager.

While Patrick, Presley, and other employees cleaned up the equipment, Shelly and I along with the Potters went to the front porch and enjoyed the picnic lunch we brought ….and some Texas wine, of course!

Perfect picnic spot
Perfect picnic spot

It was very interesting to see the beginning process of how the grapes become wine!!

The Spirit of a Texas Winery

Beautiful country settings…

Cheerfully decorated buildings…

Tables on a patio…

Bottles of wine lined up on a bar…

Glasses hanging at the ready…

These items await your visit to a Texas Winery. What also awaits are friends you have yet to meet. Going to a winery and tasting wines are only a small part of the true experience at a Texas winery. Usually the people you meet are there to enjoy their afternoon just like you are. Take some time. Bring a picnic. Buy a bottle of wine or at least a glass to share while you enjoy the scenery from the patio.

Smile and greet the other visitors. Pretty soon you might find that you like the same wine; have visited the same wineries or the one you want to go to next; or have something else in common.

We’ve seen it happen…even experienced it ourselves. One of the first times was at Woodrose Winery on Hwy 290 east of Fredericksburg. It was Thanksgiving week and a beautiful Texas Hill Country winter day. We enjoyed our tasting inside and then the staff invited us to step outside to have s’mores on their deck out of a shared basket of supplies. While we were doing so another couple came to share the fire and supplies and a conversation was begun. We found out that they were from the Dallas side of the metroplex, they had a couple of sons about our son’s ages, and they too were very much into soccer. Unfortunately we only had a small amount of time to spend before we needed to scoot on to the next winery and we said our goodbyes and went on our way.

Another experience I’ve had recently was fun to witness. I was on the patio at Lost Oak Winery in Burleson enjoying a glass of Tempranillo and reading my book in the sunshine. Across the patio was a couple visiting the winery from Fort Worth for the first time. A local couple came in and sat a couple of tables over from them.  Casual greetings were exchanged and soon conversations began across the tables. Before long, the second couple invited the first couple to join them as more of their friends arrived. Introductions were made, food was shared, and good feelings were made.

The most recent was one of the most fun. I was again at Lost Oak Winery (we are wine club members) waiting for my husband to meet me after work. While I waited I was enjoying a couple of tastings at the bar. A lady arrived that I had seen at the winery before, but had not actually met. She was there to meet friends. She invited me to wait with her. We had a wonderful visit! Her friends and my husband arrived and we made room around the table. We all laughed and told stories for hours. We compared winery notes and spring festival dates. We had introduced ourselves by first names, but something came about with last names and all of a sudden light bulbs went off as we decided we knew the same people and more stories and laughter were shared. We left that evening sharing hugs till the next time.

What it boils down to is drink some Texas wine…share some Texas smiles…enjoy the Spirit that is Texas Wineries!!