Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Texas Summer Doldrums/Tarantula Part Two

Nothing thwarts travel and the desire for wine like triple digit heat. I hope you'll forgive me for my month-long lag.

Apparently, I'm not the only one having trouble keeping up: the informative Texas Wine Trails website seems to have signed off as well. I'm in the process of finding out what happened.

There were a couple of wineries up on the Tarantula Trail that I neglected to mention, and I want to do that now.

Cross Timbers Winery

Tasting rooms are even more fun if they're housed in an historic building, doncha think? A little extra ambiance makes the wine taste better. Cross Timbers chose a country Victorian homestead built in the 1870's by a family from Mississippi, one of the oldest structures in the area. There was a little girl rocking on the front porch swing as I headed up the stairs and I felt compelled to ask her if her folks were home. Inside the tasting room was small but with high ceilings and the dark brown clapboard looked like the original to me.

I was happy to see that Cross Timbers also uses all Texas fruit, this time coming from either the High Plains AVA or an area around the Bryan/College Station area, home of Texas A&M.

I tried two Chardonnays and a Merlot. The first Chardonnay ($16.99) made from Bryan fruit, had a very sweet green apple front end that didn't work for me, but the second, called 'Evi Mi Amor' was much better ($19.99). High Plains Chardonnay can be hit-and-miss, but this one was nice. Creamier and fuller with a tropical fruit profile, this one was as good as any Texas Chard I've ever had. Nice work.

The 2004 Merlot was, like many I've tried, a little dilute, and a bit high on the vegetal aromatics, but with bright, juicy acid and good tannins. Speaking of that bell pepper aroma...you know, I've had quite a few Merlots from small producers that have this. It's caused by pyrazines, an aromatic compound found also in Cabs and Sauvignon Blanc. Generally, you don't want it around in your reds, but I have to say that there have been a few times I kinda liked it. But I'm weird that way.

La Buena Vida Winery

This winery's tasting room and the area around it are being refurbished, replanted and expanded, but for now it's a bit of a mess. Still a good stop on the trail; the staff are friendly and the tasting room guy had a bit more wine knowledge under his belt than the others, which makes a big difference to me. Many times you might enter a tasting room and be served by someone who hasn't the faintest idea what they're talking about beyond the spiel they've been taught, and I think that's a shame.

Some of their grapes come from a fifty acre vineyard near Springtown, northwest of Weatherford. Chamborcin, Tempranillo, Pinot Blanc and Viognier. But currently none of these were available to taste. The Merlot fruit is from the High Plains, where they also get some Tempranillo and Cabernet.

While there I tried two wines I thought were nicely done. The La Bodega Merlot was smoky, spicy and had a touch of those bell pepper pyrazines on the nose with candied fruit and juicy acid on the palate. The second was a tawny port from Walnut Creek Cellars, an award winning port that did not suck at all: great acid holding up a rich nutty core. Tasty.

Homestead Winery

Here's a little factoid for ya: in 1880, a Texan by the name of T.V. Munson was pivotal in saving the philoxera-ravaged vineyards near Cognac, France. That's right, our rootstocks saved Cognac. The town of Denison in the Red River Valley is sister cities with Cognac to this day.

Homestead is the oldest continually operating winery in North Texas. Once a corn and wheat field, the Parker family planted vineyards near the tee-niny town of Ivanhoe, east of Denison. The tasting room in Grapevine is also housed in an historic Victorian home, and the first thing that hits you when you walk in is the graffitti scribbled in black marker covering every inch of the walls.

Now I love honesty, and the woman running the tasting room flat-out refused to show me the Pinot Noir, and I thanked her for that. People: Pinot Noir does not, I repeat, does not do well in Texas. If the bottle says Pinot Noir, it's either not Texas fruit or it's real bad. Prove me wrong, please. But you know it's true.

Both the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon and the Homestead Red Merlot/Cab blend had what I call a "scattered", or unfocused finish, something I find a lot in Texas reds. But both had the good acid and bright berry fruit I expect. The unoaked High Plains Chardonnay wasn't too shabby--good body and bright tropical aromas. The real star of the whites was the Dry Muscat from the Ivanhoe vineyard. Dry! Yay! Dry Muscat rules. Big grapefruit, crisp acid...thank you Homestead for taking it to the dry side.

But what they really do well is sherry. The La Crema Del Sol Texas Cream Sherry is a knockout. Really. Made from the oldest Solera in the state (36 years) and blended with Cognac, it's just bursting out of it's seams with rich toasted pecan and bright lemony acidity. Gramma would be sooo proud.

Next up: I explore a rumor that Italy is planning to invade The High Plains. Stay tuned.



Anonymous jordan said...

Pyrazines... is that the stuff that reminds me of jalepenos? Very prevalent in the Granite Reserve from Fall Creek...

8:15 AM  
Blogger taj said...

Yes, that's the stuff. It occurs frequently in fruit grown in hot climates.

8:24 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Ivy said...

I have found that pyrazines can be prevalent in Sauv Blanc and Cab when the canopy is overgrown and not properly managed, which minimizes the amount of sunlight reaching the clusters during ripening, especially after verasion.

1:07 PM  
Blogger taj said...

So would you categorize it as a "flaw" per se, as in something that can be reduced with better canopy management, or is it inevitable in some areas of the country?

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Ivy said...

I think its a personal preference whether one likes some pyrazines. I myself find the compounds distract from the fruit in the aromas. I think pyrazines can be minimized with good canopy management, but I also think it is important to plant on sites that are not too fertile on rootstocks that reduce excess vegetative growth.

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Blogger Dave said...

Don't ever have a wedding at Cross Timbers Winery. The staff is grouchy, not willing to help you, and shady. The owner does not communicate with anyone who works there. They charged an extra $2,000 to our credit card after the wedding without showing us the bill first. They charged us for 113 people, when we only had 80. They served drinks we told them not to serve and charged for it. After we left in the limo, the guests were kicked out, even though we were told we'd have the place for 2 more hours. They poured the wine into HUGE glasses all the way full so that they could charge for more wine. When someone would set a wine glass down for a minute, they'd pick it up and dump it out so the guest would have to get a new one... thus costing us more. The owner would not work with us on the bill when we raised these concerns. He just laughed it off and called me a liar. I tried my best to reason with him, but it looks like we're going to court. I've talked to many others now that had the same problems. DON'T DO IT! IT'S NOT WORTH IT.

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Blogger Dave said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

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