Tag Archives: TX Wine Lover

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




Texas Friends and Texas Wines

Cookies and milk

Chips and dip

Bogey and Bacall

Wine and friends

Some things just seem to go better together. We love Texas wines. We love being with our friends. Visiting Texas wineries with our friends really brings it all together.

It may be several months between our visits, but when we meet up for either a few hours or a couple of days we are guaranteed fun and laughter.

Wineries just have a knack for bringing people together with something in common…to have a good time! This weekend was planned as a tasting weekend. We met up with our friend and Texas wine blogger Jeff Cope at Kiepersol Estates Winery…outside of Bullard just south of Tyler. Fellow wine lovers Roger and Darlene Bruckbauer met us there as well. They live in the area so they are frequent visitors to Kiepersol. We met Roger and Darlene last year at a wine festival in Fredericksburg and had a great time. Through social media, in this case Facebook, we follow each other’s wine adventures.

TXWineLover Jeff Cope Roger and Darlene Bruckbauer
TXWineLover Jeff Cope
Roger and Darlene Bruckbauer

We spent a few wonderful hours touring and tasting at Kiepersol and even though we had more stops on our schedule, we found it hard to say our goodbyes and leave.

We made our way to the next wineries on Jeff’s list, Briar Creek Vineyards, KE Cellars, and Crump Valley Vineyards, visiting and tasting and purchasing as we went. Briar Creek Vineyards opened just last year having planted their first vines in 2007. In true Texas fashion, Kiepersol helped them out while they got their winery set up and their equipment purchased and in place. That happens often throughout the Texas wine industry, winery helping winery.

We ended up at our final destination for the evening: Dave and Kelli Potter’s house. They too are Texas wine lovers and bloggers we met through social media groups and we’ve attended several festivals and tastings with them. We stayed up talking and drinking more wine as we related our day’s adventures and laid out the plan of attack for the next day.

The Grapes Across Texas Bloggers Kelli and Dave Potter Texas Wine Lover Blogger Jeff Cope Wines At Road's End Blogger Laurie Ware
The Grapes Around Texas Blogger Kelli Potter
Texas Wine Lover Blogger Jeff Cope
Wines At Road’s End Bloggers Shelly and  Laurie Ware

We filled the next morning with coffee, breakfast, clean up, and dinner preparations before we headed out the door to the wineries on the list to visit for the day: Mitas Hill, Caudalie Crest, and Eden Hill Winery. It was wonderful visiting these new wineries and hearing about their plans to be part of the exciting future of the Texas wine scene.

We visited with vineyard owners, asked questions of wine makers, and tasted wines made with new grapes being grown in the area. While Shelly and I have enjoyed our visits to wineries as a couple over the years, we have really come to appreciate the fellowship of our friends and the different perspective and questions that they think to ask as they continue to learn more about wines and grapes too.

Kelli Potter, Jeff Cope, Shelly Ware, Chris Hornbaker (winemaker at Eden Hill)
Caudalie Crest Winery

Battle of the Texas Roussannes

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.

Wine blogger Jeff Cope (rear)
Wine lover Delia Cuellar (left) and wine blogger, author, Russ Kane (right)
•Daniel Kelada – GUSTO Founder, Executive Wine Sommelier, Senior Wine Instructor, International Wine Guild Master Candidate, Vice President The Texas Wine and Food Consortium (seated)
•Dave Foley – Sommelier (standing)

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.