Llano Signature Series Shiraz

Type of wine: Shiraz
Nose: Mossy, mushroom, pungent earthiness, light berry
Palate: mushroom, earthy soil, blackberry, leather
Rating: 4 out of 5
Pairing: slow-cooked beef, mashed potatoes
Price: $10

I picked up this bottle of Llano Signature Series Shiraz at my neighborhood HEB store. Having had several Llano signature series wines in the past with mostly positive experiences this seemed to be a good choice to have with dinner. Upon pouring the wine there was a very strong, pungent, meaty and earthy aroma. This is typical for a Syrah or Shiraz, but this may have been a bit more pungent than usual. After letting the wine aerate and breathe a bit some blackberry notes as well as some more subtle mushroom notes came through, as well as a bit of leather. The mossy earthiness was still present but more balanced. This wine does take significant time to aerate before it becomes more enjoyable, in my experience. The taste of the wine corresponds with the aroma pretty well. There is a mushroom earthiness that dominates the palate upon first sip, however with subsequent sips and aerations the wine rounds out nicely with some of the tart blackberry notes and leather on the finish with the mushroom earthiness moving into the background a bit. This paired nicely with slow cooked beef and mashed potatoes though a steak and more spicy sides may lend better to full enjoy this wine experience. At $10 a bottle it’s definitely a Shiraz I would recommend to pair with a casual steak dinner.

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Messina Hof Pinot Noir Cuvee

Type of wine: Pinot Noir

Nose: oak, baking spices

Palate: blackberry, cherry, french oak, highly acidic

Rating: 4 out of 5

Pairing: Poutine

Price: $10

I picked up this bottle of Messina Hof Pinot Noir Cuvee from Specs Liquor to pair with my homemade poutine dinner this evening.  In the past i’ve enjoyed most Messina Hof Pinot Noir offerings so I was happy to find this on the shelf.  The nose of this wine has the familiar aroma that Messina Hof is known for.  Beautiful oak aromas along with some baking spices, and upon deep inhalation a bit of a peppery note.  When the wine was cold there were a lot of blackberry flavors coming through with just a hint of french oak/vanilla.  After letting the wine aerate and warm up the taste became a beautiful mix of tart cherry and french oak spiciness.  Also present is a bit of leather on the finish.  The only minor issue I have with the wine is that it is a tad more acidic than previous offerings (such as the 2010/2011 vintage Barrel Reserve Pinot Noir).  This could be due to the climate changes in the latest growing season.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing but it takes some time for your palate to get used to it.  I paired this with homemade poutine and I believe it was a success.  The tartness of the wine worked will with the saltiness of the gravy and cheese curds.  At $10 a bottle this wine is a steal.  You’d be hard pressed to find a better bottle of pinot for under $20.  If you are a medium-dry red fan and stop in a Specs (and probably HEB store as well) be sure to look for it.

 

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Enter to win a Fredericksburg Wine trip!

Wine Enthusiast and Travel Texas have put together a great giveaway this year to celebrate Texas Wines. Find more info about this great opportunity to win a fabulous trip below.

Everything really is bigger in Texas: It’s the No. 5 wine-producing state in the U.S., the Texas Hill Country American Viticultural Area is the second largest in the nation and its most promising wines boast supersized flavors. Visitors may flock here to sip wine, but they end up drinking in the romance of the region, too.

Take a peek at what you could win:

  • Round-trip flights and transportation for two to Texas
  • Up to 8-night accommodations at local B&Bs and winery accommodations in the Texas Hill Country
  • Guaranteed visits at up to 12 wineries
  • Select exquisite multi-course wine-and-food dinners
 

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Landon Winery 2006 Best Barrels Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Vineyard: Landon Winery, McKinney, TX

Type of wine: Cabernet Sauvignon

Nose:  cassis, light spice

Palate: blackberry, cherry, french oak, medium acid

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Pairing: Light pasta dish

Price: $18.99

This bottle of Landon Winery 2006 Best Barrels Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was purchased due to the older vintage.  The aroma of the wine is very faint cassis and spice.  This lends to the notion that this will be a lighter cab.  The first taste of the wine is also faint, with notes of blackberry and cherry and smaller traces of french oak.  The wine has a medium acid but pleasant finish.  I was expecting a more robust wine given the vintage but it seems this wine may not have spent much time in oak to begin with.  While not what I would expect from a vintage cab the wine is very pleasant and enjoyable at this price-point.  I would pair this wine with a lighter pasta dish and not a typical Cabernet Sauvignon pairing such as a hearty steak meal.

Landon Winery 2006 Best Barrels Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Landon Winery 2006 Best Barrels Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

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Duchman Montepulciano 2010

Vineyard: Duchman Family Winery, Driftwood, Texas

Type of wine: Montepulciano

Nose: bright fruit, tobacco, baking spice

Palate: acidic, cherry, blackberry, light spice

Rating: 4 out of 5

Price: $26

I first tasted this wine at the Duchman Family Winery tasting room in Driftwood, Texas while on the wine trail and enjoyed it enough to bring a couple of bottles home with me and one to share with my parents who are also red wine drinkers.  The wine pours a deep purple in the glass.  The aroma of the wine is noticed immediately and becomes even more prominent once given some swirling in the glass.  Scents of bright fruit such as plum and grape fill your nose, along with some more heavy tobacco and lighter baking spice which my girlfriend astutely likened to ‘Mexican Vanilla’.  These aromas are very inviting and upon first sip the wine feels somewhat tart and acidic.  Allowing time to reflect and given subsequent tastes, flavors of cherry and darker blackberry fruits come through and once the wine comes closer to room temperature a finish of the vanilla and other baking spices lingers.  This wine would pair perfectly with a red-sauce pasta dish where the tomato sauce might take some of the bite out of the acidity of the wine.  This wine was also enjoyable without a meal to accompany it.  I have seen Duchman wines available in most of the nicer H.E.B. stores around Houston and if you see a bottle you might want to give it a try if you like semi-dry red wines with moderate complexity.

 

Duchman Montepulciano 2010

Duchman Montepulciano 2010

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Messina Hof Festival Reserve red blend

Vineyard: Messina Hof Vineyards, Bryan, TX

Type of wine: red blend

Nose: baking spices, berry

Palate: semisweet, berry, spice

Rating: 4 out of 5

Pairing: chicken parmesan

Price: $8.99

We picked up a bottle of this Messina Hof Festival Reserve red blend at a local Spec’s store.  The bottle indicates it pairs well with meat or red sauce pizza so we decided to pair it with chicken parmesan and pasta.  The nose of the wine has hints of baking spices which I detected as brown sugar perhaps.  Also present is a mild berry note.  Upon first taste the wine is medium dry yet supple and smooth and what seems to be French oak.  The baking spices from the nose carry over to this wine as it is sweeter than the dryness would indicate with a pleasant strawberry and raspberry flavor.  The wine finishes dry as well.  This wine may be a good “gateway red” for those novice wine drinkers that are looking to delve into more drier red wines.  This is a very enjoyable red wine from start to finish and there is a medium complexity to it that will have you hypothesizing about what spices it is you are tasting.  At $8.99 if you happen to come across this wine in your neighborhood Spec’s give it a try, it won’t disappoint.

Messina Hof Festival Reserve red blend in bottle

Messina Hof Festival Reserve red blend in bottle

Messina Hof Festival Reserve red blend in glass

Messina Hof Festival Reserve red blend in glass

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Landon Winery 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Vineyard: Landon Winery, McKinney, TX

Type of wine: Cabernet Sauvignon

Nose:  light french oak, cherry, berry

Palate: soft, cherry, lightly oaked, semi-dry

Rating: 4 out of 5

Pairing: NY strip, baked potato, green beans

Price: $18.99

I picked up this bottle of Landon Winery’s 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon at an H.E.B. store to pair with some NY strip steaks since it had some age on it and I hadn’t yet tasted a Landon Winery offering.  The wine pours a nice deep purple.  Aromas of light French oak and inviting cherry make for an immediately pleasant nose, save for a light alcohol presence on deep inhale.  Upon first tasting I immediately noticed how soft this wine is for a cab.  Following the smoothness up front there is a delicate French oak footprint and it finishes through with notes of black cherry and darker berries.  The finish is a bit acidic and slightly alcoholic but not unpleasantly so.  While I had expected a bit more boldness from this wine it was very enjoyable and one of the better Texas Cabernet Sauvignon offerings i’ve consumed.  This bottle feels like it would do really well with another couple of years on it as it still tastes somewhat young.  This wine paired nicely with a steak and mushrooms, baked potato and green beans with bacon, though given how delicate it is for a cab it could have easily been paired with any meal and delighted.  At the $18.99 price-point it’s a very fair price and competes well with cabs from other regions.  I would recommend picking up a bottle at your neighbourhood H.E.B. store when you are looking for a delicate semi-dry red wine that is approachable for all.

 

Landon Winery 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Landon Winery 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

 

 

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Becker Iconoclast Fascination 2012

Vineyard: Becker Vineyards, Fredericksburg, TX

Type of wine: semi-dry red blend

Nose:  earthy

Palate: soft, tart cherry, semi-dry

Rating: 4 out of 5

Pairing: Red sauce pasta dish

Price: $12

I picked up this 2012 vintage bottle of Becker Vineyards’ Iconoclast Fascination Red Blend at an HEB store.  I’ve had this wine in previous vintages but had never written a review.  I remembered the wine being a respectable red blend from Texas previously.  The wine pours an inviting deep, almost purple color.  The nose of this wine is lightly earthy with a grassy scent.  The first sip of the wine is very soft, smooth, supple.  Immediately there is a tart cherry and dark fruit taste with hints of plum as well.  The wine finishes spicy with medium acidity and semi-dry.  This wine can easily be enjoyed by itself but if you are looking to accompany a dinner with it I would suggest a red sauce pasta dish or perhaps some barbecue with a tangy and/or sweet sauce.  At $12 a bottle and with high availability I would definitely recommend picking it up the next time you visit the grocery or liquor store to keep around.

Becker Iconoclast 2012 Fascination red blend

Becker Iconoclast 2012 Fascination red blend

Becker Iconoclast 2012 Fascination red blend

Becker Iconoclast 2012 Fascination red blend

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Windy Winery Independence Red

Vineyard: Windy Winery, Brenham, TX

Type of wine: semi-dry red (lenoir)

Nose: leathery

Palate: spicy, earthy, medium acid, cherry

Rating: 3 out of 5

Price: ~$18

I visited the Windy Winery tasting room out in Brenham while on the Texas Blue Bonnet Wine Trail a few weeks back.  Speaking with those who worked at the winery I immediately realized they take a lot of pride in the wine that they vint.  Windy has a great mix of white and red wines, sweet and dry.  The tasting room is small but inviting and everyone was extremely friendly and knowledgeable about the wines that they offer.

Windy Winery outside

Windy Winery outside

 

Before giving me the sweet wines that they were sampling that day they asked me what type of wine I preferred.  I stated that I enjoy dry reds moreso than sweet reds or whites and they brought me a tasting of this Independence Red wine.  Along with the pairing they also provided us with their “Fire and Ice” salsa, which I enjoy every time I visit them.  Fire & Ice is a watermelon salsa with jalapenos, so you get the sweetness and coolness of the watermelon paired with the spiciness of the jalapeno.  I highly recommend giving them a visit just on the salsa alone.

Windy Winery Independence Red is a red wine that is produced using Texas lenoir grapes.  The nose of the wine is leathery, earthy and medium alcohol, indicating it might be a bold wine.  Upon first taste though, the wine, while spicy and earthy, was not as bold as the nose would have led on.  The wine gives a light cherry fruit flavour and tastes rather young.  It has a medium acidic, fruity finish.  As with other wines vinted from the lenoir grape this one would pair nicely with some Texas BBQ, maybe a beef brisket and some sausage.  This may be a young wine but it is still enjoyable to drink right now and if you are looking to try a red that is actually produced from Texas grapes you might want to give this one a try on a visit to the Windy Winery tasting room.  At the $18 price point it does feel a little over-valued but it is a respectable semi-dry red.

 

Windy Winery Bottle

Windy Winery Independence Red Bottle

Windy Winery Independence Red in glass

Windy Winery Independence Red in glass with “Fire and Ice” Salsa

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Messina Hof Texas Holdem (red blend)

Vineyard: Messina Hof Vineyards, Bryan, TX

Type of wine: red blend (syrah, merlot)

Nose: bold oak, spice

Palate: acidic, cherry, medium oak, light spice

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

Price: $8.99

I picked up this bottle of Messina Hof Texas Hold’em at a local Spec’s Liquor Store (Jones Rd @ 290 in Houston) to unwind with this evening.  I have seen this bottle several times over the years as well as the large tanks of it at the Messina Hof Vineyards in Bryan yet I never picked up a bottle until tonight.  Texas Hold’em is a red blend consisting of 50% Syrah / 50% Merlot.  The nose of the wine is that of a bold, oaky and spicy red, with light alcohol.  The first taste of the wine is a bit acidic up front with supple cherry flavor.   There is a hint of vanilla or another baking spice I can’t quite place.  The wine finishes with a nice medium oak.  This wine definitely has a Messina Hof footprint.  The aroma and taste of the wine instantly takes me to their vineyards.  If you’ve had a few of their wines you know exactly what I mean.  This is a very enjoyable red table wine.  At this extremely low price I would definitely recommend picking up a few bottles to have on hand for casual dinner parties or for those nights where you just want a nice, simple bold glass of wine to enjoy.

 

Messina Hof Texas Holdem in the bottle

Messina Hof Texas Holdem in the bottle

Messina Hof Texas Holdem in the glass

Messina Hof Texas Holdem in the glass

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