Field Notes from a Wine Life – Texas Style Pt. II

More observations from a life lived through the prism of the wine glass …

Drinking Local, BBQ and Becker Vineyards

While in Dallas, TX this past weekend, I made a stop at a local wine shop where I picked up some wine to pair with catered Texas BBQ from Red Hot and Blue BBQ.  The BBQ denoted Saturday as a food orgy day – an abundance of smoked sausage, brisket, turkey, and pulled pork with slaw, beans and potato salad.

Besides the winking compliment the wine shop owner gave me because I pronounced Viognier correctly, apparently an isolated incident, her low slung animal print clad cleavage vertically winking at me in an altogether different manner, I picked up a Becker Vineyards Claret, the aforementioned Viognier, also by Becker, lauded by Andrea Robinson Immer and Food & Wine magazine as one of the finest in the country, a subsequently unremarkable Rhone white blend, and a Ste. Chapelle Riesling from Idaho – the French Rhone blend being an outlier amongst the otherwise small, local wine pick-ups.

I know Zinfandel gets the barbecue pairing publicity, but I normally prefer a Coca-Cola over ice or an ice-cold beer with my ‘cue. Barring soda, as I mentioned, a Bud Light will do just fine. Though, this time I had my sights set on the local Claret pairing with the regionally indigenous Texas-style smoked meat smorgasbord. 

Becker Vineyards is one of Texas’ best wineries producing an impressive line-up of wines across the varietal spectrum, quality-oriented and notable from stem to stern. 

The Becker Claret is a Bordeaux style blend with 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, 2% Petite Verdot and a wine, despite its international lineage, that seems pre-destined for a BBQ.

Fruit forward and ripe, but not overbearing, with structural integrity, this Claret paired beautifully with notes of raspberries, blackberries, sweet, dark cherry juice, toasted baguette (Parker’s so-called ‘pain grille’)  and vanilla bean with an earth and nutmeg-like, spice box finish, this wine was a delight and revelation with BBQ.

I guess the, ahem, experts are correct; when in doubt eat what the locals eat with what the locals drink. Excellent.

Jess Jackson on Horses (and Wine)?

Congratulations to Jess Jackson, owner of Jackson Family Wines for his win at the Preakness Stakes this past Saturday.

Rachel Alexandra, a female, a filly, running against male thoroughbreds, won the race with jockey Calvin Borel, the Kentucky Derby Champion, at the reigns.

I have given Kendall-Jackson and their advertising a hard time in the past, mostly because their “Taste of the Truth” campaign seems a little overwrought and dissonant to the amount of production they do.

However, as I read a quote from Jackson about racing at the upcoming Belmont Stakes, I couldn’t help but hearken back to his roots as a steward of the grape and think about harvest when he said in reference to Rachel Alexandra and the upcoming purse at Belmont:

The horse will always tell whether they’re ready.  We’ll wait for three or four days and see how she comes out of the race.  Would we love to race?  Yes. Could she win?  We think so.  We’ve already shown she can run with the colts.

Take out the word “horse” and and “race” and replace with “grape” and “harvest” and it’s almost a one-to-one translation.

Kudos to Jess Jackson for being a champion at everything he does.

Beer is the New Wine?

Oh the irony when somebody looks to wine as a model for product positioning innovation. 

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In Wine & Spirits Daily, reported on Friday, Jim Koch founder of Boston Beer Company, speaking at the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, said (excerpted):

Brewers have been a little late to that level of appreciation and respect and dignity around their beverage…both these industries [wine and spirits] are good at trading people up and developing the high end. Beer didn’t follow that until recently, maybe 5 years ago.

With the emergence of the new mentality about beer driven by small craft brewers, America is starting to create a beer culture in the same way America has created a wine culture.”

“Beer is becoming the new wine. I had a beer dinner last night in Dallas that was very well received and we designed a special glass for beer like a good glass for wine. All of those things are very important in teaching people respect. To me, the rules are about having respect for your product.”

Back in November I wrote a post about exactly this subject, in fact I warned against the perpetuation of craft beer akin to wine.  You can read the full post here, but in it I exhorted craft brewers to NOT go down the same path as wineries:

“We (speaking on behalf of the wine industry) have tried the tactics you are trying and the thing that we have found that works best is engaging with customers on a one-to-one basis, providing meaningful education, being accessible, but not goofy and, most of all, demonstrating our passion for creating a high-quality product with a compelling storytelling narrative that is authentic.”

Jim Koch is something of the craft brewer’s equivalent to Robert Mondavi.  Koch can save himself a lot of heartache if he doesn’t mythologize beer.

The grass always seems greener, but if he only knew the ongoing consternation in the wine world about how wine marketing is affected with pretension …

I say to small brewers, “stop while you can …”