Monday, April 11, 2005

Texas Food and Wine Festival 2005

Big Ass CabSpring in central Texas is really a wonderful time. Some nice sunny weather, comfortable temps, flowers, everything’s green… For that matter, I suppose most places are pretty wonderful in spring. What better time though to get out to the parks in downtown Austin and celebrate some wine and food.

I liked the old location of the Wine & Food Fest out at the Salt Lick. It’s just a nice spot by a beautiful creek. But it got really crowded. In fact, I quit going to this a few years ago largely because of that. Now at Auditorium Shores in downtown Austin, there’s quite a bit of room to spread out.

Release The Hounds!
Judging by the way people were clamoring for food and wine you’d think that the folks attending hadn’t eaten in days. What a bunch of jackals. Let’s just say that most of these folks were clearly getting their three square meals a day. Overall though, I’d have to say that people were pretty friendly and courteous, but at times the crowd inside the tent was a little overwhelming.

To Drink or Spit?
I tasted as lot of wines over the weekend. The only way to remain upright was to spit what I was tasting, of course. But, generally, there were more people drinking than tasting. But then, I guess it all depends on what you’re interested in doing over the weekend. Most of the folks were just in a partying mood and there was plenty there to loosen things up. In fact the program at the gate mentioned 72 wineries.

Beef, Beef and more Beef
This is Texas – gotta have some beef. The Texas Beef Council had a nice group of “chuckwagon” booths set up. There were short ribs, sausages, sirloin and more stuff on or in a tortilla than I probably should have been eating. But it was some good stuff. Lines were long on Saturday, but Sunday was easy going.  

The Wines
With this being a Texas wine and food festival, you’d expect some Texas wines. And of course, there were plenty available. I sampled a bunch of them, but by no means all of them. The larger contingency of wines, though, were from California. Probably no surprise. When you look at my list below, I’m sure you’ll recognize a lot of familiar names.

Favorite Red
Tied. I loved the 2001 Treana. A mouthful of fruity goodness. And I also really liked the C.G. Di Arie Southern Exposure Zinfandel. A bit smoother and more balanced than others I tasted.

Favorite White
The Bonterra 2003 Chardonnay. Lightly fruity and nice mouth feel to it. The oak doesn’t hit you over the head. At a likely price of $13 this is a pretty good value in my opinion. Give me two!

My List of Tastings
Here’s the list of wines I tasted. Now, I’m going to caveat this list first by saying that it was a bit of a zoo in there and occasionally I may have missed a vintage or other relevant piece of information. Sorry. It is what it is. Unlike my other blog postings, the ratings are truly a first impression in the context of lots of other wines on the same day. The list is ordered first by rating and then alphabetical. Regarding prices, your mileage may vary. I took most from various web sites after the fact. Texas wines are clearly identified.

C.G. Di Arie Southern Exposure Zinfandel 2002One of my wine fest favorites! Nicely balanced. 100+ yr old vines. About $30.
Treana Red, a blend, new 2001 releaseOne of my wine fest favorites! A price increase this year puts it in the $40+ range this year.
Alexander Valley Vineyards Cyrus 2000I really enjoyed this one. Wish it wasn't about $60.
Alexander Valley Vineyards Merlot 2002 Web page doesn't say, but I think this, like the Cab, is around $20.
Archery Summit Oregon Pinot Noir 2002 "Premiere Cuvee"$37
Becker Claret 2003 About $17.
Bonterra Chard 2003 The Bonterra wines are organic. The '03 is not on their web site, but the '01 goes for $13.
Bonterra Syrah 2003  The '03 is not on their web site, but the '01 goes for $24.
Calera Pinot Noir Jensen Vineyard 2001 Very enjoyable. $50.
C.G. Di Arie Shennandoah Zinfandel 2002Their Southern Exposure Zin outshines this one, but still, this one's quite nice. About $25.
Clos Du Bois Reserve Cab 2001About $22
Driftwood Muscat Cannelli A hint of grapefruit in the nose. Once again, either there was no vintage on the label, or I missed. The winery shipped it's first commercial bottle in 2003, so chances are this was only recently released.
Drylands Sauv Blanc 2004Very nice. Fresh, citrusy, hit of green peppers in the nose. Very typical NZ style. About $12.
Fess Parker Syrah “Santa Barbara County" 2001$20
*Geyser Peak Alexander Valley Cab 2002*Unfortunately, I did not catch whether this was from the Reserve or Block collection. So, I'll have to discount this rating. Their web site doesn't show a 2002 release yet in either case.
Franciscan Oakville Merlot 2002$22
Huntington Napa County Sauv Blanc 2002About $15
Jordan Cab Sonoma 2001Nice new leather scent on the nose. About $35.
Lindemans Reserve South Australia CabUnfortunately, the tasting notes card I picked up next to the wine did not include a vintage. Red label. Under $20 though.
Llano Estacado Riesling Either I missed it or no vintage on the label. Didn't find it on their web site either.
Messina Hof Merlot 2002 Doh! I did not write down whether this was "Barrel Reserve" or "Private Reserve". Though from memory I think it was the "Barrel Reserve", in which case it's about $13. (Private Reserve is about $25.)
Mettler Cab 2001 $22
Niebaum Coppola Diamond Shiraz 2003Nice & Spicy. About $16.
Pine Ridge Rutherford Cabernet 2001$39
Pine Ridge Stags Leap Cabernet 2000I liked this one a bit better than the Pine Ridge Rutherford. reports it in the $50 range.
Seghesio "Home Ranch" Zin 2003$32
Seghesio Barbera 2003$25
Siduri Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2003$35 Nice bit of spice on the finish.
Swanson Oakville Merlot 2001$32
Treana Westside Red, 2002 Very enjoyable as well. Not shown on their web site. Rep mentioned it was new. If memory serves, around $20.
Trinchero Merlot 2002About $12
Trinitas Cellars Old Vine Cuvee 2003About $18
Trinitas Cellars Old Vine Mataro 2003About $25
Trinitas Cellars Old Vine Petite Sirah 2003About $22
Alexander Valley Vineyards Cab 2002About $20.
Becker Chard 2004 About $15.
Bell Mountain Chard 2002
Calera Pinot Noir Central Coast 2001 Good, but no comparison to the one from the Jensen vineyard. $20.
Caprock White 2002
Cypress Merlot 2003About $10.
Cypress Shiraz 2003About $10.
Cypress Cab 2003About $10.
Erath Pinot Noir 2003$15. Light and thin. Good, but just a bit of an unpleasant taste on the finish.
Fall Creek Chenin Blanc 2004
Flat Creek Estate Primrosé 2004 Sweet and fruity.
Flat Creek Estate Primrossetti Seco 2004 Nice for quaffing on a warm day. The drier of the two rosés from Flat Creek.
Folie à Deux Menage à Trois 2003, a red blend$12. Struct me as a great picnic or pizza red
Hahn Pinot Noir 2003$18
Hess Select Chard 2003$10
Hess Select Syrah 2001Less than $15. Hints of blueberries.
Huntington Russian River Valley Chard 2001About $15
Iron Horse Pinot Noir 2001 
Iron Horse Cab 2002Tannic. I don't see this release on their web site. (?)
Jessie's Grove Earth, Zin & Fire Zinfandel 2003I liked it, but very tannic. About $15.
McPherson Viognier 2004
Messina Hof Port 2001 Unfortunately, upon review of their web site I see they have several ports and from my notes it's not clear which I tasted. Oops.
Messina Hof Pinot Grigio 2004
Niebaum Coppola Diamond Pinot Noir 2003Nice nose. About $17.
Novy Napa Valley Syrah$23 A handout at the table identified it as a "92" from Wine Spectator.
Penfolds BIN 128 Coonawarra ShirazThe tasting card I picked up turned out to be for multiple vintages. Sorry I can't be more specific. About $25.
Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel Dry Creek SonomaVery enjoyable. Sorry, didn't snag the vintage. My experience has been this is always pretty reliable. Less than $20.
Ravenswood Icon Syrah 2002Around $20. I toyed with giving this one a 2-glass rating.
Raymond Reserve Merlot Napa 2001About $20.
Sanford Chard 2002 
Sanford Pinot Noir 2001 
Sanford MoschofieroSweet and refreshing.
Seghesio Sangiovese 2003$24
Siduri Shaw Mountain Pinot Noir 2001$42
Sterling Sauv Blanc Napa 2003About $10.
Tintara McClaren Vale Cab 2002Big and fruity. Lots of tannins. About $22.
Tormaresca Negroamaro-Cabernet 2001Marketed as Parker giving it an 86. Personally I found it good but forgettable.
Truchard Zinfandel 2001$25
Wolf Blass 2002 Yellow Label CabAbout $10.
Zaca Mesa Estate Bottled Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley$19.50
Bell Mountain Riesling 2003Sweet, but otherwise flat. An odd kind of chalky mineral taste.
De Loach Pinot Noir 2002The taste just seemed really off to me. I dumped it. There were so many other wines tried on the same day that I'm willing to give it another try.
Montecillo Rioja White 2003A Spanish wine that tasted almost medicinal to me.
Peregrine Chard 2003 Didn't really taste much like a Chardonnay. No fruit, no oak, no nothing.
Spicewood Vineyards Chard 2000 Generally, I enjoy things from Spicewood, esp their Sauv Blanc. I found this one to be unpleasant though.


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