by Sandra Crittenden

by Sandra Crittenden

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Fall Creek Vineyards Celebrates 45 Years

Fall Creek Vineyards is one of the Texas wineries that I have visited the most, both at their Tow and Driftwood locations. This year the Aulers are celebrating their 45th anniversary in Texas wine. This month, I share some of their story in Galveston Monthly magazine, on the stands now.

Ed and Susan Auler have proven that together they can do just about anything. In the early years of their marriage, Ed was practicing law while Susan was the ideal mother taking care of their children. As if that was not enough to keep a young family busy, the two also took over operations of Ed’s family cattle ranch...

Read the on-line version at Galveston Monthly.com

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Pink Bubbles for Mother's Day

As seen in the Houston Chronicle

My daughter and I were both delighted to be asked to recommend some wines this year for Mother's Day in the Houston Chronicle. Check out our selections of pink sparklers to enhance your family celebrations.

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/life/food/article/Houston-mother-daughter-duo-offer-wine-15250654.php

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Scarpa Freisa Secco 'La Selva di Moirano' Monferrato 2006


Jeremy Parzen gave me this bottle of Scarpa Freisa Secco 'La Selva di Moirano' Monferrato 2006 to review. He is a friend and also works with the winery. Since I had taken my daughter to a Scarpa tasting at a local wine bar last fall, I decided to include her in this tasting. Morgan has the WSET2 certification. I also thought it would be fun to share how we go over a bottle of wine at family meals. Please excuse any Italian misprounciations.

Scarpa Freisa Secco 'La Selva di Moirano' Monferrato 2006 - This wine is very complex yet still somewhat youthful with notes of sour cherry, leather, sage, and black olive with a distinct savory element. It is beautifully structured, dry, with fresh acidity, fully resolved, smooth elegant tannins, and a lingering finish. It is very food friendly and quite easy to drink. As my daughter states in the video, "it's elegant with a rustic flair". Highly recommended.


As we are both very curious about this grape now, we will be seeking other versions and vintages. Please share in the comments if you have a recommendation.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Blaye - Côtes de Bordeaux

During my trip to the Côtes de Bordeaux last summer, I visited all five terroirs or sub-regions of the greater AOC. Blaye is the largest of the five regions, it is located along the Gironde Estuary. The fruit forward red wines produced here are accessible and easy drinking.

Regarding tourism in the region, there is quite a bit to see and do. It has a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Citadel of Blaye, which was built in the 1600’s. This historic site houses not only an ancient fortress and a herd of goats, it also has a recently remodeled hotel with nearby cafes and shopping. I stayed at the Hôtel de la Citadelle Blaye for two nights. It had a nice restaurant with a excellent breakfast spread and it also had live entertainment on Friday night. The pool overlooks the water and the rooms are air-conditioned which is always important to my fellow Texas travelers.


Our group participated in something more modern that you might not expect to find in such a historic region. In addition to enjoying a tasting at Chateau Monconseil Gazin, we also played an Escape Room game in their old cellar. If your group wants to win, knowledge about the history of wine in France and some tasting skills are definitely required.

We also got to enjoy a very French celebration at Château Le Camplat, a Festibalades. We were treated to a dinner feast with many wines and some live entertainment along with both a vineyard and nature tour. Everyone we met was very welcoming. While we were very focused on the red wines while we there, the region also produces some excellent dry, Sauvignon Blanc wines as well.

Some of my recommended producers that I tasted with during my visit are Chateau Le Camplat, Chateau La Croix St-Pierre, Chateau Mondesir-Gazin, Chateau Monconseil Gazin, and Chateau Cap Saint-Martin. I am always looking for their wines here in Houston.

Recently, I located two wines from Blaye in my area. While I did not visit these two producers, the exceptional drinkability brought back many fond memories of my time there.

I served both of the wines to my family with a steak dinner.
Château Peyredoulle Blaye - Côtes de Bordeaux 2016 - This wine is 91% Merlot, 6% Malbec, and 3% Petit Verdot. Intense cherry/berry aromas and juicy flavors with a distinct floral note, dry, full-bodied, with good acidity, velvety tannins and a slightly spicy, mineral-laced finish, a steal for $19 at Total Wine.

Château Belle Coline Blaye - Côtes de Bordeaux 2014 - This wine is a blend of Merlot and Malbec. It is loaded with red fruit aromas and rich, red raspberry flavors, nicely structured with a medium body, good acidity, and smooth, rounded tannins, it is dry with a pleasant, fruity finish, quite quaffable and affordably priced, $22 at Houston Wine Merchant.

Both wines are highly recommended.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Texas Wine on the Table

Texas Twitter Talk happens every Tuesday on social media. As the name would indicate, the main discussion is taking place on Twitter but Texas wine lovers also post and discuss their Texas wine choices on Facebook and Instagram as well. Some earlier picks were included in a weekly roundup of wines that I tasted during the first few weeks of the Stay Home order. I decided to separate them out a couple of weeks ago to make it easier for Texas wine lovers to find my notes on these home grown wines.


This wine was selected when favorite Texas white wines was the theme of the talk. I consider Duchman to be one of the best wineries in the state. My favorites have typically been the Vermentino tasted here and their Aglianico, but they also make a good Trebbiano and Montepulciano.
Duchman Family Winery Vermentino 2016 - Grapes sourced from the Bingham Family Vineyard. Dry, smooth, medium body white wine with tropical aromas of white flower and pineapple with notes of lemon peel and a hint of saline in clean, refreshing finish.
Full disclosure, one of the owners is now my husband's cardiologist but I was enjoying the wines long before they met. Read more about the winemaker for Duchman in a feature I wrote for a local magazine.

This wine was selected when favorite Texas winery was the theme. I met Ron Yates a few years ago at Spicewood Vineyards. Since then, he has expanded with a new winery producing wines under the Ron Yates Wines label. I wrote about meeting Ron in 2014, you can click here to read more about him. I tasted both of these wines at that first meeting mentioned above and purchased both of these bottles at that time. The High Plains was my favorite of these two wines then. This was my last bottle of each. Halfway through dinner, I pulled the Hill Country wine out. We were discussing that first trip and I couldn't resist comparing the two again. My son and daughter were also at home to join the discussion, both bottles were fully consumed.
Spicewood Vineyards Texas High Plains Tempranillo 2012 - This wine was starting to show its age a bit but has become more elegant as well. I had a friend that used to make oven dried fruit snacks with no added sugar for her kids and that was the aroma and flavor of which I was reminded. Dried strawberry with leather, and a dusty note, the wine was dry, and medium bodied with a lingering white pepper finish. It was definitely different than the fruity wine, I remembered.
Spicewood Vineyards Texas Hill Country Tempranillo 2012 - This wine is also evolving but it is defying its age a bit better. This wine had the similar strawberry note but was more vibrant, it displayed some fig and tobacco, along with a lighter leather note, it was fuller bodied, a bit more structured but still with a persistent spicy finish. On this evening, the Texas Hill Country was the preferred wine by all.

The theme for this night was wines made from Italian grape varieties. 86% of this wine meets that criteria. I was also curious to see how the 2013 vintage was holding up after tasting the 2012s. The THP on this label stands for Texas Hocus Pocus named because it is a blend of grapes that are not usually blended together. This red is composed of 54% Aglianico, 21% Montepulciano, 14% Tempranillo, and 11% Barbera.
Llano Estacado Texas High Plains THP Stampede 2013 - Red cherry and cranberry aromas and flavors with fresh cracked black pepper, and dried herbs, medium-bodied and easy drinking with good acidity and fine, powdery tannins, and a juicy, spicy red fruit finish. 

These vintages are no longer available on the winery websites but you can find more current releases.