Interested in wine but not sure which of the dozens of tastings each month will really teach you how a specific grape tastes and show you examples from great to gruesome? Gusto, a wine education event organizer aligned with the Texas Wine and Food Consortium, may have the answer that you have been looking for. After a 2008 start in Houston, the organization expanded to other major Texas cities, reaching Dallas just this week. Their winning event is a series of tastings running under the general heading “Texas vs. The World”. Each tasting in the series is based around a single grape type and compares multiple examples of that grape from major producing areas around the world.
A distinguishing feature of the events is that since they are “Texas vs..” there is a strong Texas representation among the wines. They are all served blind over a two hour interval during which attendees do the flight of wines at their own pace. Each attendee gets a scorecard and at the end is the ‘reveal’, an event that leads to revelation among the beginners to wine tasting and, among those who think they know their wines, some egos being massaged but others pricked.
I was a guest at the inaugural Dallas event last week which matched 17 wines, 10 of which were from Texas. The chosen grape was Roussanne, a native of the Rhone region of France. The grape makes wines that are high acid, minerallly, aromatic and elegant. Recent vintages in Texas have been promising, so it was interesting to compare them with Californian and French examples that typically cost more.
The event was held at Calais Winery in Deep Ellum. While spiritually sympathetic, the venue proved too small for the 40 or so attendees and the air conditioning quickly showed the white flag under the humid 98° evening temperature. Future events will likely be in a different venue. Nonetheless, when the winners were revealed Calais proved itself skilled at producing top-tier wine. As the table below shows, their example from the Texas High Plains AVA came third overall (out of 17).
TEXAS vs. THE WORLD – ROUSSANNE
TOP FIVE WINES
August 28th, 2013 – 34 voting consumer blind tasters judging1. McPherson Cellars, Texas, Roussanne, 2012. $14. 2. Wedding Oak Winery, Texas Hill Country, High Valley Vineyard, ‘Terre Blanc,’ Roussanne Blend, 2012. $22. 3. Calais Winery, Texas High Plains, ‘La Cuvee Principale’ Roussanne, 2011. $21. 4. Bending Branch Winery, Paso Robles, ‘Comfortage’ Roussanne 2011. (no price available on web site)
5. Blue Ostrich, Texas, Roussanne, 2011. $19.
Note: See Gusto web site for full results.
The highlights that I draw from these results are:
- Four out the top five wines were from Texas (the exception, the Bending branch ‘Comfortage’ is made from California grapes and it is not clear from the bottle what involvement the winery had with making the wine).
- McPherson continues to place near (in this case at) the head of the pack in every tasting I see them in;
- Blue Ostrich Winery and Vineyard did well, considering that they are a very new winery.
- Calais Winery just gets better and better. In just five years they have developed a core of Texas wines that are challenging those of longer established wineries in the state.
It should be noted that the Wedding Oak wine is a blend of Roussanne and Marsanne as is commonly found in the northern Rhône.
Overall, the quality of the wines was high. These wines would go well with chicken, blanquette of veal or fish.
(listed in order of tasting)
The World (varietal. i.e. 75%+ of the wine is Roussanne grapes)1. Château de Beaucastel, Châteauneuf du Pape, 2011 2. Renard, Santa Ynez Valley, Roussanne, 2009 3. Sobon Estate, Amador County, Roussanne, 2010 4. Russell Family Vineyards, Paso Robles, Roussanne, 2010 5. Bending Branch Winery, Paso Robles, ‘Comfortage’, Roussanne, 2011 6. Domaine Phillipe & Vincent Jaboulet, Ermitage, 2007
The World (blends)
7. Domaine de la Becassonne, Côtes du Rhône 2012
Texas (varietal)8. California Winery, Texas High Plains, La Cuvée Principale, Roussanne, 2011 9. Cap Rock Winery, Texas High Plains, Bingham Family Vineyards, Rousanne, 2010 10. McPherson Cellars, Texas, Roussanne, 2012 11. Arché Wines, Texas, Roussanne, Vintners Reserve, sur lie, 2012 12. Blue Ostrich Winery and Vineyard, Texas, Roussanne, 2011 13. Brushy Creek Vineyards, Texas, Oswald Vineyard, Roussanne, 2010 14. Spicewood Vineyards, Texas High Plains, Roussanne, 2010 15. Spicewood Vineyards, Texas High Plains, Newsom Vineyards, Roussanne, 2012
Texas (blends)16. Brennan Vineyards, Texas ‘Lily’, Roussanne Blend, 2012 17. Wedding Oak Winery, Texas Hill Country, High Valley Vineyard, ‘Terre Blanc’, Roussanne Blend, 2012. Gustos next Dallas tasting is ‘Texas vs. The World – Viognier’ on October 16th. Sign up or join the mailing list here.