Sunday, March 29, 2020

What I'm Drinking Now - Week of 3/22


Francois Diligent Brut Nature Pinot Blanc Champagne NV - While every wine student knows the three main grapes of Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, many people don't know that there are actually seven approved grapes that could be in your bottle. This 100% Pinot Blanc sparkler was sourced from the Côte des Bar and spent three years on its lees. It is a Brut Nature which means that no sugar was added. It is currently on the list at Backstreet Cafe and is available chilled on the restaurant's take-out menu.
Fresh and dry with a more rounded feel, it had notes of pear and almond with a persistent mousse and clean finish. It was delicious with our takeout dinner of crab-cakes and spicy crab bucatini. Affordably priced at $39, this unique bottle of bubbles is a great choice to upgrade your dining at home experience.

Cantele Chardonnay 2018 - This Italian Chardonnay is sourced from Guagnano and Montemesola in Puglia. Surprisingly aromatic, I had to check to see if it was blended, it is not, it is 100% Chardonnay which has been fermented in stainless steel. 

In the glass, it displayed typical citrus aromas and flavors but it also had abundant floral notes, primarily chamomile with hints of lily. The wine is dry, medium bodied, and has a lingering finish. I served this wine with grilled chicken, sautéed mushrooms, roasted potatoes, and green beans. 
This easy drinking white was purchased at Vinology Bottle Shop & Wine Bar for $18 during a winemaker tasting event, it has since sold out.


Domaine Séguinot-Bordet Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2015 - I am a lover of Chablis wines and this one was no exception. The Fourchaume vineyard area is one of the most well-known Premier Cru vineyards in the region. It is located north of the town of Chablis on the east bank of the Serein river where there are limestone soils. I had opened this bottle to enjoy with some salmon roe on blinis while we waited on my son and his girlfriend. I had already prepared rice pilaf and had some shrimp ready to cook for dinner. 
This white was crisp and dry with a medium body displaying notes of peach, pear, and a hint of white pepper, with citrus blossom and zest in the long mineral-laced finish. It was elegant, it was rich, it was beautifully balanced. 
I decided to open a bottle of rosé for my son and his girlfriend to have with the grilled shrimp just so my husband and I could have the rest of the bottle for ourselves. This bottle was purchased at Spec's over a year ago for about $37.


Matthiasson Limerick Lane Vineyard Zinfandel 2017 - This wine is sourced from a vineyard in the Russian River Valley that Steve Matthiasson helped a friend plant in 2008. It is not your typical California Zin, Steve Matthiasson made the choice to produce a lighter, fresher style that he refers to as a “California Claret”. 
Bursting with mixed berry aromas and flavors, the wine is dry, soft, and zesty with only 14.2% ABV. Fresh and easy drinking, it was delicious with our barbecued brisket and ribs. This wine was purchased directly from the winery which I have been doing yearly ever since I made a visit there in 2015.


Bending Branch Newsom Vineyards Tempranillo 2012 - Sourced from one of the largest vineyards in the state located in the High Texas Plains, this wine is a dry, medium-bodied red that is loaded with black cherry fruit, black pepper spiciness, and a hint of mint. Despite being 8 years old, it still seems quite youthful. It is nicely balanced with good acidity and soft, silky tannins. There is an interesting mix of sweet cherry flavors and a hint of tartness which continues through the lingering finish. Beautiful, elegant, and a delight to drink!
I pulled this bottle from the back of my collection. I had tasted it when it was the current release but the Bending Branch Tannat that year was what had really impressed me and was the one I chose to recommend in Galveston Monthly magazine. This Tempranillo was aged 24 months in American Oak, the same length of time a Spanish Rioja Gran Reserva would be in barrel and I found the oak to not be very integrated at that time. A Rioja Gran Reserva calls for a total of five years of aging including time in the bottle before release. The additional years of bottle aging have done this wine well!  
This was the wine I chose to share on the #TXWine Twitter chat this week which happens every Tuesday night at 7:00pm CST. 

All of these wines are highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

En Primeur at Fall Creek Vineyards


  Texas cattle ranchers, Ed and Susan Auler, became excited with the idea of growing wine grapes after a trip to France in 1973. Ed saw many similarities in the soils and climates in the great vineyard areas of France and his land back home. He was certain that some of the unique features of the Texas Hill Country would make it ideal for grape growing. Over the next decade, they began to bring their dream to fruition by first planting a test vineyard on a corner of their Fall Creek Ranch in 1975 and then eventually progressing into making wine.The couple was also the force behind the Texas Hill Country getting their AVA status.
  
  Today, Fall Creek Winery produces many award winning wines and has long been revered for their Bordeaux-style blend Meritus. A recent project by current winemaker, Sergio Cuadra, is the single varietal ExTerra line. This premium group of three wines is sourced from the Salt Lick Vineyards and includes wine made from Tempranillo, Syrah, and Mourvedre and all have received high scores from critics.

  I visited with Ed Auler at the Fall Creek tasting room in Driftwood when I first arrived to the Hill Country. I sampled three of the rosé wines they are producing this year, the Chez Rosé,  the Merlot Rosé “Vintner’s Selection”, and the Grenache Rosé “Vintner’s Selection,” all from 2019. Each one is sourced from the Texas Hill Country appellation and is charming in their own unique way.  Ed shared the story of his and Susan’s early trip to France with me. They initially went to look at a French breed of cattle that they were interested in breeding with their Angus beef. Ed laughed as he recounted how they spent two days looking at cattle and nineteen days touring and tasting wine across France. Their family thought they had lost their minds when they returned home and discussed their idea to plant a vineyard.

  On day 2 of my trip, I went to the original Fall Creek location in Tow, TX and was greeted by Sergio Cuadra who led me out to the estate vineyard. He explained that they were in the process of retraining their vines to help “renew the plant.” The vines have been spur pruned for decades and they are transitioning to cane pruning. The goal is to improve both yields and quality. Most Texas vineyards had followed the California method of cordon training and spur pruning when they were originally planted. Sergio feels that this is not the best method for these Hill Country vineyards. He has previously worked for Viña San Pedro, Anakena, and Viña Concha y Toro in Chile and said, “I did not come here to make great Texas wines, instead I came here to make great, world-class wines that just happen to grow in Texas.”

  Forty-five years later. the Aulers, along with the other first families of Texas wine, have proven they were visionaries and not so crazy after all. Today, the winery produces five different lines of wine priced from $12-100 which allows wine lovers at every price point to enjoy a taste of Texas from one of the modern day pioneer couples of Texas wine. 


The tasting:

Fall Creek Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Vintner’s Selection Escondido Valley 2019 - This area was once under the Gulf. Its formation dates back to the Cretaceous period, the soils are composed of clay, sandstone, siltstone, and limestone. The sandstone is highly calcareous and, in some areas, contains beds of oyster shells. It is very dry with little rain which has kept the minerals from leaching from the soils. The vineyard was an experiment planted in the 1970s by Texas A&M and the University of Texas. Very little Sauvignon Blanc is grown in Texas, the acreage isn’t even counted, so this is a very unique wine for the state. The wine is fresh and lightly fruity with citrus notes and a distinct saline minerality that persists through the lingering finish.

Fall Creek Vineyards Chardonnay Vintner’s Selection Texas Hill Country 2018 - Sourced from sandy loam soils with fragmented sandstone and mixed clay below, this wine is fermented and aged with sur lie stirring for five months in a stainless steel tank before bottling. It is fresh and flavorful with a medium body, classic notes of apple and citrus and a lush feel from the lees stirring and has a lengthy finish.

Fall Creek Vineyards Chardonnay Terroir Reflection Certenberg Vineyard 2019 - This wine was a barrel sample, it still looked a bit cloudy and is not ready for release. The grapes are hand selected from a single vineyard with sandy loam soils with fragmented sandstone and mixed clay. It goes through malolactic fermentation and will be aged sur lie in French oak barrique for about 13 months before bottling. Sergio waits for the natural Diacetyl, which gives wine a buttery note to dissipate. This wine has juicy, tropical notes  and a hint of spice with a bigger structure and a richer texture than the previous Chardonnay. 

Fall Creek Vineyards Chez Rosé 2019 - This was the most affordable rosé in the lineup that I tasted yesterday. It is composed primarily of Merlot (87%) with some Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes were grown to be a rosé wine versus an early bleeding off from a red wine production. It is dry, fresh, and fruity with notes of sweet red fruit.

Fall Creek Vineyards GSM Terroir Reflection Salt Lick Vineyards 2017 - This wine is made from a blend of Grenache 4%, Syrah 36%, and Mourvèdre 60% sourced from    clay and loam topsoils over weathered limestone. The vineyard is deep and nutrient rich from years of flooding from nearby Onion Creek. The wine is loaded with red fruit flavors and has a savory edge to the finish.

Fall Creek Vineyards Tempranillo Terroir Reflection Salt Lick Vineyards 2018 - This wine was a barrel sample. It is barrel aged for 18 months in predominantly American oak of which 20% new. The wine is showing red fruit and sweet spice notes.

Fall Creek Vineyards Tempranillo ExTerra Salt Lick Vineyards 2017 - This wine has just been released. This wine is produced from the same clay and loam topsoils over weathered limestone of the Salt Lick Vineyards but from the highest quality grapes which are carefully selected. In the last vintage, only 72 cases were produced. The wine is full-bodied and robust with a firm tannic structure with notes of red cherry, plum, and currant fruit with hints of tobacco smoke, sweet spice, and coffee along with a persistent finish. It is barrel-aged for 18 months in 66% new American oak.

Fall Creek Vineyards Meritus Certenberg Vineyards 2018 - Prior to the advent of the ExTerra line, this wine was the most premium priced in the line up. Like the ExTerra line, it is only made when the quality of the vintage warrants it. The blend is composed of Merlot (80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) from the Certenberg Vineyards and is aged for 18 months in French oak barrels with an additional 2 years in bottle before release. The plum notes from the Merlot defines the flavor profile of the wine while the Cabernet Sauvignon adds black currant and floral violet notes. It is firmly structured yet elegant with good aging potential.

  In addition to these wines, Sergio offered up barrel samples of three new wines which are not finished yet but with which they are experimenting: a Pinot Noir, a Carignan, and a Cabernet Sauvignon from a new vineyard area. I was quite taken with both the pale and elegant Pinot Noir and the fruit forward Cabernet. The Carignan was very acidic and quite earthy, Sergio stated that he is looking at it as a potential blending component due to its natural higher acidity.

  Fall Creek is one of the oldest 100% Texas grown and Texas made wineries in the state. It is a quintessential stop when hitting the Texas Wine Trail whether in Driftwood, located outside of Austin, or at the original Tow location. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Rosé All Day this Spring

As originally seen in the March issue of 
Galveston Monthly magazine

  Springtime is upon us and the time to think pink has begun. This month, all of the recommended wines are available on the Island so wine lovers can shop locally without leaving their spring break fun. Top picks include sparkling rosé from New Mexico, a Rioja, and a classic Provence pink. 
  Lovers of Texas wine will also find a suggestion of a Texas rosé to pre-order directly from the winery to make the most of their time off so they, too, can rosé all day.