Llano Estacado winery

Llano Estacado Mourvèdre

Llano Estacado Mourvèdre Mont Sec Vineyards, 2015 Texas

Texas has some plantings of Mourvèdre and the grape can do well here in this warm southern climate.  Llano Estacado, one of the largest wineries in Texas, produces some excellent wines.  This one, with an alcohol level of 13.7%, was not left to hang overly long and presents a Mourvèdre that is lighter than many. But it excels in the array of delicate flavors that waft from the swirled glass.  First, there are the deep dark flavors that set the base, like boysenberry, a hint of blackberry, and loads of black cherry.  Then lightly, some herbal notes emerge.  And  finally, the oak flavors of leather, smoke and a hint of the more exotic, very dark chocolate.

Llano Estacado Mourvèdre provides a synchronous journey

The wine is made so that the aroma, palate and finish are a synchronous journey of each, reinforcing the same complex makeup of the wine.

In comparison to Spain, Mourvèdre is grown in very small quantity in the US. It is called Monastrell in Spain and Mataro in Australia, so don’t look for Mourvedre in Spain.  You will find it in many blends, and especially in the blend critically called GSM.

This Texas Mourvèdre will delight you in a comparison to Spanish, French and Australian examples.  A great evening would be the educational comparison of the wine from all four countries.

Rating:  88-89

Emotional rating:  stirs the lighter senses and yet ventures into the deeper emotional memories of dark wines.

Availability wide and also available from the winery.

Alcohol 13,7%

Pleasure first! What a wine!

Becker’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Wilmeth Family Vineyard,14.5% AlcoholBecker Vineyards, 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Wilmeth Vineyard

Pleasure first!  The evaluator of this wine is forced to pause and appreciate the immediate sensory and resultant emotional pleasures it generously offers before plunging into a cerebral evaluation.  It’s a good wine that arrests you like this before you think further about it.  Wine is emotion in a glass, and our emotions are impressively stimulated from the start.

Richness of nose is a pleasure first

To date, this is the best Texas Cab I have tasted and I have tasted many.  The richness of nose and palate sets up high expectations.  Its deep, dark chocolate and coffee notes, combined with more obvious oak contributions of leather and spice, so loved by red wine lovers seeking a full and intense flavor, is here.  On the edge, there is a faint note of licorice. The 20 months lying in American and French Oak have not overpowered the more delicate flavors of fruit and minerals. A $40 price is not outrageous for what this wine will deliver.

I smell a little of its aromatics at the chest, a lot at the chin and encounter the expression of power (if you can smell power) when you plunge your nose in the glass.  The cold soaking has been effective, bringing out the color and the phenolics even more.  Aromatics? — medium to high.  The viscosity is not only due to alcohol content (14.5%) but to a nice impact from the glycerine and the dense extracts in this well-extracted wine.

Pleasure follows on the palate

Many Cabs from the high plains can offer a greenish backdrop to their blackberry and black currant base, but not this one.  It is ripe, and note, without losing the finer fruit notes in an undefined muddied depth.  In fact, its flavors are well defined yet married — elements that are individual, yet blended.   It’s complexity may well be,  in no small part, due to its wild and cultured yeast mix — a very well designed wine.

Watch the wine develop over an hour or two as the oxygen performs its magical maturation.  It is wine for the head and the heart, but first the heart. Take your time and savor it.  It simply must be tested with a little dark chocolate as well.

I recommend this wine.

Rating:  92

Emotional rating:  very high.

Availability: check wine searcher, wine.com or contact the winery.

Spicewood Vineyards event center

Sauvignon Blanc from TEXAS?

Spicewood 2016 Sauvignon Blanc

A Sauvignon Blanc of note, this one loves the minerals of these limestone-based vineyards.  Together with the typical verve and liveliness of this grape when made into a wine, minerality adds to its refreshing appeal.

Sauvignon Blanc Produced in the Texas Hill Country

This example from the Texas Hill Country is piercing in its aromatic attack — as is expected from this variety — but not overly so.  It stylishly combines stone fruit aromas with hints of guava and white peach, with lemon and grapefruit as a base.  It is one of the most impressive Sauvignon Blancs from Texas wineries that I have encountered.

Sauvignon Blanc really became recognized worldwide when New Zealand’s wine industry began with their outstanding expression of the grape.  As a fan of the Kiwi’s style, I tend to be a bit biased when it comes to the wine, but this one caught my attention.

A Venue Worth a Visit

Spicewood Vineyards Event CenterSpicewood is known for well made wines and it’s is a winery to watch.

Visit the winery and be treated to some Texas hospitality!  It’s a beautiful setting, day or night.



Rating:  88

Emotional rating: very high for a medium weight, refreshing white.

Availability:  Winery

Archery Summit Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2014

90+ Pinot Noir – Wine Raters Disagreed

Archery Summit’s 2014 Arcus Estate, Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 

It happens all the time:  Experts disagree on a wine’s rating.  Wine Spectator gave the Archery Summit Arcus Estate Pinot Noir 94 points; Wine Enthusiast, 92 points and Wine Advocate, 90 points.  Are we being fooled, and by whom, when a four-point spread in the hotly contested 90-94 range is claimed by tasters with reputations?

Archery Summit’s Evaluation:

“Lavish, dramatic, classic” is the winery’s claim for a wine from its famous vineyard.  The winery’s writeup features flavors of “…raspberry, wild strawberry and fresh red cherries supported by savory nori and cocoa powder.  The palate displays raspberry, blackberry and Oregon blackcap, spice box and lavender incense.”

My Evaluation of this Pinot Noir:

To me, raspberry, red cherry and blackberry feature on the nose with bright spice notes — very inviting and refreshing.  The depth of flavor, complexity and life in the wine gives it an immediate character.  Second thoughts emphasize the vibrant but balanced nose.  The acid and fruit mingle to provide a memorable finish that again stands out different from typical expectations, while being highly rewarding and cleansing.  It is long on fruit flavors.

Here’s another opinion: “Rich, fruity, plenty of acid, well balanced; some minerality, but it is not up front; red fruit, cherry, red plum; the finish is long and bright.  Taste this wine and think your way through its character and its components.  So, what about the rating?

Other Factors Affect Ratings

Ratings have a lot to do with companions as well as quality evaluations.  The quality of winemaking and the balance of its full flavors, acid and alcohol is excellent in this Pinot Noir.  In comparison to other great wines, it shines among them.

Rating:  Its character elevates it to 94.  90 seems, to me, not to recognize its uniqueness.

Emotional rating:  Absolutely great!

Availability: From the winery.

Ritual Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir – Great Flavor Variations

Ritual Pinot Noir 2014 

Pinot Noir clones actually offer distinct and different flavors.  It is not altogether the terroir that is the distinctive variable in the wine.  So, when you taste a Pinot Noir it would be handy to know the clones and their characteristics, but good luck.  It will be next to impossible to get the information on which clones ended up in the Pinot Noir you are drinking.  Therefore, we must  taste and evaluate the wine on its quality and judge personally on its style and flavor as it appeals to our preferences — not necessarily a chore when it comes to wine, in my opinion at least.

This wine is harvested in the early morning, cool temperatures and fog.  Natural fermentation and careful handling preserve, as best they possibly can, the expression of the vineyard.

Taste this Pinot Noir

We can’t wait.  Pour yourself a glass and sit back as we concentrate.  It starts with great promise, showing a wonderful aroma that offers a perfect blend of fruit and oak.  Cranberry, raspberry, clove, cinnamon, and vanilla are noticeable.  On the palate, the fruit hits first, followed by a dominant acid.  The flavors are not as weighty and full as expected and a little disappointing.  We have gone from a great beginning to a potential letdown.  Given that Pinot Noirs differ greatly in taste, style will determine the value of this wine for many.  The finish is thin but lasting.  Some prefer a fuller Pinot Noir, but this one is refreshing.

All in all, I was impressed to begin with and unimpressed with the wine’s final appeal.

Rating:  89.

Emotional rating:  90

Availability:  Widely available