About UsWine ReviewsArchivesAdvertiseContact Us


Posted by Robert Whitley on June 22, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Texas Winery Shines at San Diego Challenge

 A number of eye-popping performances were put on at the 2016 San Diego Wine Challenge.

Italy's Castello Banfi served an impressive Super Tuscan and a sensational Brunello from a so-so vintage.

Australia's Mr. Riggs did what Aussie wineries often do: It dominated with delicious wines at price points typically reserved for second-tier wines.

V. Sattui Winery of Napa Valley soared as usual, and neighboring Imagery Estate — just over the Mayacamas Mountains in Sonoma County — was the life of the platinum-award party.

But the greatest performance of all was given by a winery from Texas Hill Country, due west of Austin, Texas. Grape Creek Vineyards of Fredericksburg, Texas, entered 18 wines and bagged 14 medals, including one platinum (the top award) and four gold.

What made the Grape Creek performance especially noteworthy was the relative obscurity of a wine from the Texas wine industry appearing outside of Texas. It is somewhat rare to see a Texas wine entered in a major international wine competition, and most unusual to see so many entries from one Texas winery.

Grape Creek's platinum award went to a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah that retails for $37. This wine was released with the generic "American" appellation, suggesting it is composed of a blend of grapes — some from Texas and some from another part of the country — which seems to be the Grape Creek model.

That being said, Grape Creek's list of medals is a reflection of some serious know-how in the winery cellar.

Speaking of know-how, Jen Wall, winemaker of the value brand Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, did her usual number, winning 10 medals for Barefoot Bubbly and 10 medals for Barefoot Cellars. The most expensive Barefoot wine retails for $9.99, but the modest price hardly suggests mediocrity. There were nine gold medals and one platinum in Barefoot's 20-medal haul.

Banfi Wines took home four medals — two platinum, two gold — for its Montalcino estate, including the 2011 ExcelsuS ($90), which was one of the three best wines I, as director and overseer of the Best of Class and Best of Show awards, tasted over the course of the competition. Banfi's other division, which includes the Chianti and Piedmont regions, bagged five medals, including one platinum and two gold.

For a complete list of competition awards, including the Best of Show and Best of Class, visit www.SanDiegoWineChallenge.com.

Biokult, Neusiedlersee (Austria) Pinot Noir Rosé Secco 2015 ($17, Natural Merchants)
Here is a new wine worth seeking out -- and it may take some real seeking out.  I'd liken it to a barely off dry Pinot Noir rosé, with strawberry, cherry and citrus flavors, but with a light frizzante character that really makes it fresh and fun.  The finish is quite long and invites another sip.  Pair this with sailing or beaching, and just about anything you'd eat in those situations.  Bravo!
91 Rich Cook

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
The Distinctive Dry Wines of Roussillon
Paul Lukacs

Roussillon is not Languedoc. The two regions are often bundled together-by tourist guides let alone wine writers-but they have very different cultures and histories, and produce very different wines. Languedoc is a horizontal rectangle on the map, and its wines are influenced by the two dominant wine cultures on its sides-the Rhône to the east and Bordeaux to the west. By contrast, Roussillon is more of a vertical amphitheater, and produces wines that owe little allegiance to anyplace else. Many of them are relatively new arrivals in the global marketplace, but the best taste deliciously distinctive.
Siepi, a True Super Tuscan
Michael Apstein

Today, the term Super Tuscan has become almost meaningless because its widespread use encompasses anything from expensive wine made entirely from Sangiovese to low-end blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with Sangiovese. The original Super Tuscan moniker referred to innovative wines, blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, or those varieties with Tuscany's traditional Sangiovese. The wines arose in two distinct areas of Tuscany for different reasons.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Crab Imperial with Lime Crème

It's time to revisit this delicious American classic, which was an especially popular dish during the Mad Men era. Of course, Crab Imperial meant different things to different people even then. It was usually a super-rich, creamy creation spooned into scallop shells, ramekins or a casserole dish, sprinkled with parmesan and baked until brown and bubbly. Sometimes the mixture was stuffed into a fileted fish or mushroom halves. We prefer a somewhat scaled down version than the original. It's less creamy, less cheesy, and with more emphasis on the succulent crabmeat itself. And we leave out the diced bell pepper, a common ingredient but one that we find too aggressive. Our Crab Imperial is more like exceptionally elegant crab cakes made all the more delicious with a topping of lime crème.
On My Table
A Gem of a Grenache
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Yangarra Estate Vineyard, McLaren Vale (Australia), Old Vine Grenache, 2013 (Majestic Imports, $32): One of the most memorable wine-tastings I have ever attended was a Grenache vertical conducted last year outdoors under a huge tent in the middle of Yangarra's High Sands Grenache vineyard. The occasion was a visit - maybe infestation is a more accurate word! - by more than 40 Masters of Wine who were making the rounds of the most important wineries in Australia. Gnarly, head-trained vines surrounded us on all sides. At the head table, winemaker Peter Fraser and vineyard manager Michael Lane sat with octogenarian Bernard Smart, the original owner of the site, who helped his father plant those very vines in 1946. The takeaway was clear: Yangarra takes Grenache very, very seriously.