Old vine in Pheasant Ridge Estate Vineyard

Pheasant Ridge — An Underrated Texas Winery

Pheasant Ridge is again under the ownership of its original owner and winemaker Bobby Cox,  and this is a winery in Texas to watch.  It demonstrates a lesson in winery success and in my opinion, is an underrated Texas Winery.  Soil is an essential and irreplaceable element of terroir and Cox originally selected this land with great care as an initial priority.  Terroir will determine the parameters of a wine and the choice of land here is an obvious favorable foundation to the wines.

The wines from the Pheasant Ridge vineyard demonstrate a consistency of potential.  Here are some initial notes from a tasting of their wines in December of 2017.

Pheasant Ridge 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve:

Although near the point of its decline, this wine is still amazingly healthy (in comparison to other Cabs I’ve tried from the Texas High Plains) and very rewarding at this age.  The oak is a fraction dominant, but the dark side of blackcurrant’s profile is still well entrenched.  The tannins are smooth and apparent and are well integrated — a testimony to this variety’s finding a true home in the Pheasant Ridge vineyards.  Rating:  89.

An impressive vertical of their Cabs reveals this is a unique spot for Cabernet Sauvignon in the high plains and firmly demonstrates the presence of the raw material for great winemaking.

Pheasant Ridge 1993 Pinot Noir – An Eye-Opener!

The depth of fruit in this Pheasant Ridge Pinot Noir is still solidly holding its ground and at 13.8% alcohol, it shows no signs of sliding over the hill yet.  I detected strawberry (as expected); raspberry and blackcurrant notes are wonderfully balanced with coffee, leather and a hint of cedar, which begin the influence of oak that deepens into vanilla, clove and spice, and perhaps a touch of nutmeg.  The vines are 40 years old and I have not tasted anywhere in Texas such an impressive Pinot Noir.  Rating: 89 (But earlier in its history it may have well rated 93).

Pheasant Ridge 2015 Chenin Blanc:

Another of the noble grapes finds a home here, too.  The Pheasant Ridge 2015 Chenin Blanc is a high award winner, and rightly so.  Many awards mean little, but this one deserves the highest and I would rate it a 91.  Varietal, fresh and vibrant, rich and full with a distinctive touch of ripe pear.  It liked its residence in American oak and displays a complimentary wood edge on the finish.  It’s the best white wine I have tasted in Texas wineries and one that will stand up to Chenin Blancs across the country.

Again, watch this winery and especially the return of the original owner to winemaker.

C. S. Vin

Author and originator of the wine evaluation course, Experiencing Wine’s Wonders.

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Style and the Tempranillo Grape

December 5, 2017 Update

Style is personal and sometimes we condemn a grape because of the style in which it has been made.  All grapes can be made in different styles.  Riesling is a prime example.  It can be made dry or with layers of sweetness all the way to very sweet, affected by botrytis or not affected, very low in alcohol or high alcohol, full and round in texture or light and slender, fruity or dominantly mineral.  Therefore, it can be chosen in a style to pair well with light dishes or with  more robust dishes.  It’s no surprise that we tend to like it for the style we prefer.

Tempranillo is another example of wide style variations.

In the territory that made it famous, Rioja, it can vary in style, but it is known most for the long time it spends in American Oak, which emphasizes the effects of oak and its flavors.  Whereas a similar time in oak for many wines would destroy the fruit, not so in a Rioja Gran Reserva.  But in the upper Ribera del Duero and the Douro Valley in Portugal, it can be another creature altogether.

Texas is known for its Tempranillo, ranging from exciting to just plain spiritless juice.

Two wineries stand at the peak of what Texas offers in Tempranillo and warrant your attention for an examination of their styles.  It will be a great exercise.  Their Tempranillos are both well made and come from different parts of the state.

Tempranillo Reserve, Becker Vineyards 2015.  From the high plains of Texas, this example is full and rich in fruit flavors with a touch of sweetness.  All that fruit changes its style and adds a little sweetness.  Smooth, with hints of oak, it can make a wonderful sipping wine as well as a great complement to some lighter Tex-Mex dishes.  Recommended.

Compare the former to the Tempranillo’s from Pedernales Cellars, which are made with more backbone and minerality.  They lend themselves to sipping for the red wine lover but also to complementing savory meals.  Less full and rich, in this case, does not mean less in quality and personal reward.  It’s just another style.  Also recommended.

As I said, style is personal and I prefer Becker’s on one occasion and Pedernales’ on another.  Appreciation of style, you will notice, is also connected with our mood and whim of the moment.  Choose your styles and keep experimenting.

Becker Vineyards' "Raven"

Grapes From a Varied Region and a Notable Winery – Becker Vineyards

Notable Becker Vineyards and Winery  

As you travel east on the Highway 290 Wine Trail out of Fredericksburg, you will need to watch for the sign informing you to turn right toward the notable Becker Vineyards and Winery.  The road to nowhere is what it suddenly feels like.  An imposing entrance?  No!  But wait.  After a short distance, Petite Sirah vines greet you on the right, followed by Syrah and then a small sign that simply tells visitors to turn right and follow a short dirt road.  Follow it to your palate’s reward.  At last, an imposing structure, fields of lavender, and more vineyards stretch to the rear of the winery.

Both finesse and power in the notable Becker Vineyards wines

Some wineries focus on wines of finesse and others on wines of power and boldness.  This winery does both.  If you have tasted at many Texas wineries, you will have encountered average to below average wines — green on the edges and, for a wine evaluator,  disappointments.  Not here at Becker.  Your opinion of Texas wines will escalate as you encounter whites and reds of excellent quality and appeal.

The owner’s favorite

“Raven” is the owner’s favorite and I agree.  It is a wine that can stand with quality wines from around the globe.  It is full and bold with defined and undefined flavors.  A wine will often have flavors that marry so well with other flavors that the demarkation line is hard to find.  The tannins and fruit are sufficient, indicating the wine has a future.  Texas is still young in terms of a serious wine history. Finding the right location and the best vineyard practices for the vines is an ongoing exercise.  Mediterranean grapes do well here, but they produce wines that should be measured against standards of quality rather than the expectations of their home soils.  Standard grapes like Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, and Chardonnay also show well and may produce some outstanding wines.  So, don’t think of Texas as Mediterranean varietals only.  The limestone influence in the Hill Country and the cooler nights of the high plains are places to watch, as well as new areas around the Guadalupe Mountains.

Both the whites and reds are well made, and all the wines of this winery would rate good to excellent, as a previous blog featured what may be the winery’s best wine yet.

Canterris rose canned wine

Canterris’ Rosé Wine

Canterris Rosé Wine from Colterris in the Grand Valley AVA of Colorado

Serious Colorado Canned Rosé Wine

Colterris has made a canned rosé wine, as well as vintage wine, from some of the best vineyards in Colorado!  Recently Colterris bought the Canyon Wind vineyards in Palisade, Colorado to add to its already impressive vineyard portfolio.  It would be very hard to dispute that these are the best vineyards in Colorado.  There are other good vineyards, yes, but the positioning of these vineyards at the mouth of the DeBeque Canyon protects it from winter kill. The vines are now decades old and boast proven quality and thick sturdy trunks.  Just three years ago, I tasted vintages from these vineyards produced back into the early 90’s and Merlot produced then was showing great holding power.  The fruit was intact and still luscious.  Most of the vines of these vineyards are Cabernet Sauvignon at the present, and in the sunlight of a 4,600ft altitude, they produce a Cab from Colorado that is, well, rich and ultra deep in phenolics.  I have a relationship with these Cabs from the 90s and can testify to their potential.

Canned rosé wine?   Scandalous!

Put these wines in a can? Scandalous!  But wait.  Of course, not all of the crop goes into a can.  There are and will be special bottlings of this Cab for years to come that will further excite their fans with the skills of new and notable winemakers.  We can’t wait.

We notice in this can what I have observed is an increasing trend: namely, making Cab into a Rosé.  Rosé can be very good, and this rosé in a can is no exception.  It differs in flavors from the Rosés of Southern France — the grapes being different, of course.  But if you have read my previous blog, this is very good wine in a well engineered packaging that does not dilute or change the nature of the wine.  It’s a disappointment to be offered or sold a rosé wine in a can only to find it to be a fizzy drink.  Forget your assumptions and experience a rosé that is refreshing and wonderful, to put it simply and correctly.

This canned Rosé wine is made from Cabernet Sauvignon

A touch of color and delicate aromas flag you of the wine’s message.  It’s a wine that builds in excitement.  The mouthfeel is of a silky acid — a welcome refreshing marriage of acid and fine texture — while the flavors build.  Red berries and cherries rise to a crescendo on the finish.  And if you wonder where this came from, a slight gravel minerality and a hint of something darker — just a hint — may lead you to the sources: Cabernet Sauvignon from Colorado’s high altitude sunlight.

Rating:  86-87

Emotional rating:  A wine to be enjoyed on top a fourteener — or you could settle for you deck!  Take this wine anywhere and you will feel the trigger of happy emotions.

Colterris Tasting Room Palisade, CO

Canned Wine: Serious Colorado Wine

Canterris’ White Wine from Colterris in the Grand Valley AVA, Colorado

Wine comes in bottles, right?  Right.  But when you are picnicking or hiking, or when for some other reason the bottle is not the best container, why not a canned wine?

Well, no cans please.

  • A can may change the flavor of the wine.
  • All wines in cans are inferior products.
  • You can’t see the wine and appreciate it for its inspirational aesthetics — its color, for example.

Can you think of more reasons why a wine should not be in a can?

What if:  the wine is real, serious wine — in fact, great win?

What if: It’s not just a wine, but one that would rate an 86 on Wine Spectator’s scale?

What if: The can is lined to preserve the quality and taste of the wine? And what if it were tested and found to be more than adequate?

What if, in fact: The can presents wine with the same integrity that a bottle does?

What if: You can pour the can into a glass and magically see its beauty and reveal its “glorious robe,” as the French put it?

A can and a process for a wine lover to love

Yes, Canterris has engineered a can and a process that is all any wine lover (one whose bias does not prohibit anything that is not conventional) would love.  You just must have some of this for that occasion where packing a can with an ice pack is much more to the point than packing a bottle. Or choose this option when you just want a can and a glass beside you with some cheese and the wine’s best accompaniments for a new experience of wine in changing technical world.

This can is ingeniously engineered wine packaging. But pressure is needed to keep the can from collapsing, so what’s the additive Colterris has included in the Canterris product?  Carbonation?  No.  Other canned wines use carbonation, but Canterris uses a shot of nitrogen, which both excludes the air and maintains a still wine rather than producing a carbonated one.  Let’s say it again: this is a serious wine of significant appeal. It is made without carbonation. And all the grapes are from Colorado!

Wine in a can has come of age

A mellow display of lemon, pineapple and quince rise enthusiastically to greet you from the Canterris White Wine.  The blend of Pinot Gris at 56%, Chardonnay at 28%, with 16% of the higher acid Sauvignon Blanc makes for an acidity that is fresh but not over the top.  This is a sipping wine and a food wine.  You could serve it as an aperitif or with many light dishes for a serious complement.  The lively mouthfeel cuts through a dish’s excess fat and richness and leaves a clean, fruity experience that journeys all the way to a full and lingering finish.

Wine in a can has at last come of age. This is really serious wine, totally Colorado grown and packaged. Celebrate after you taste it — and you should.

Rating:  86

Emotional rating:  After backpacking into the Colorado high country — exuberant emotions!