Tuesday, November 13, 2012

San Antonio Cellar Classic

Texas Wine Month was celebrated in San Antonio with the second annual San Antonio Cellar Classic hosted by Max's Wine Dive and their new establishment the Boiler House (official opening tomorrow). I enjoyed the chance to meet with other wine lovers and wine folks (the staff from Max's and the representatives for the wineries were very knowledgeable and affable). The chance to taste and experience such a variety of wines of all price ranges, types, and regions was also wonderful. The problem, though, was the event was way too short -- three hours was not enough time for someone with a VIP ticket. Another small issue was the limited selection of Texas wines; few were available with the main winery being one of my regular favorites, Bending Branch. In the end, the wines were all well chosen and interesting, the people were friendly and helpful, and it was an overall good time.

The Basics

First, let me explain the set-up. There were two options -- the general admission tickets and the VIP ticket. The general admission ticket offered a selection of about 40 wines that were all generally under $30. The VIP ticket included an additional 30 wines that ranged in price from the low $20s to Tanji Patton's choice champagne wine at just over $100. The VIP ticket also came with a special "coupon" that could be used towards a wine purchase. No matter the admission, all guests were able to purchase the wines after the event. There were additional discounts based off of case and ticket (there were better deals for those with a VIP pass, etc.). By the end, we kept our spending under control and bought our top six wines.

General Admission

The general admission wines offered the greatest selection and variety. Here, whites and reds went nearly hand-in-hand. The varietals were diverse but leaned toward the most popular ones, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The wineries were also diverse, but provided the largest amount of US wines. This also had the majority of the Texas wines -- three.

One of the Texas choices: El Sueno: Tinto de Tejas from McPherson Cellars

The general admission wines were solid options. Unfortunately, I didn't get to taste as many as I wanted, so Sean and I picked and chose carefully. For us, that means sticking with the reds. There were standouts and memorable wines in this bunch.

Beringer Cabernet
 The standouts in the reds included one of my go-to's, Terraza's Reserve Malbec. It is a commonly found wine and pairs well with a number of meats, especially those with a good hint of spice (which would include nice red sauces). Another was one I was eager to try, the Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon. They had recently followed my Twitter feed, so I was eager to give them a nod back. Well, this wine did not disappoint. It was one of the strongest when it came to complexity and balance. I was quickly taken in by the feel of the wine and was reminded why California is a place for good Cabernet. However, they weren't my favorite Cab. Go figure, it was the special release of the day, Bending Branch's new High Plains sourced Cab (it is to be officially released this Saturday -- Nov. 17 at the winery with the new Tempranillo). This wine shows the beauties of what the High Plains can do, ranking with many of the other strong wines made from grapes from the same region. It was also nice to see Texas wine go toe-to-toe with a longtime California producer. And of course, what made this extra special was that winemaker John Riverburgh came to share the new wine.

John and the new Cab

For us, one of the must have's to try was The Crusher. We didn't really care how it tasted, we just had to try it. Just before the event, Wil Wheaton had posted a picture on his blog with an added blurb on the label. We had to taste a wine that can both be a Star Trek Next Generation joke and a Big Bang Theory Joke. And a side note, Wil is a gracious and friendly guy. We meet him recently and shared our feelings about a role playing game we all play.
Our tastings of The Crusher


The VIP wines were heavy on the reds and provided a greater amount of less traditional wines and locales. The varieties included popular choices such as Cabernet and Pinot Noir, but lesser known options such as Tannat (the Silver Tannat from Bending Branch to be specific) and South African Shiraz. Here, the wines coated the palate and excited the taste buds; it was clear why this was the VIP selection.

There were a few wines we were VERY encouraged to drink. Well, they were right. At our first tasting, we started hearing about Chocolate Box. This was our favorite Shiraz of the day -- the Fairview Eenzamheld Shiraz being the other (which I will cover for a forthcoming Wine Wednesday). These two wines had such an earthiness to them. The earth sang in them, transporting the drinker to wide wind swept lands.

Fairview Shiraz from South Africa

Two other great reds included one of the most expensive (and well worth it) Urbina Gran Reserva and the Alessandro Pedro Ximeniz Sherry. The Urbina practically knocked me off my feet. This primarily Tempranillo blend from the Rioja area of Spain sparked notes of earth and spice, like many Texas Temps, but had the smooth balance that elevates many of the best Spanish Temps. I was so taken I had to buy a bottle. The Sherry, though, we almost missed tasting; we got in right at the wire. This Spanish Sherry was all caramel and nuts; the fruit provided a beautiful roundness and sweetness to the other flavors. I plan on opening my bottle at Christmas, but some days I just want to open it up and drink the whole thing.

I do have to mention the one white that caught my eye. Vicius Albarino was a great wine that was full of flavor. I have only had Texas Albarinos, and it was nice to have a Spanish one for once. And this was a treat. This wine is actually aged, in bottle, on the cool floor of the Atlantic Ocean. This is the passion that drives me to drink and write about wine.

Tanji Patton's Selection

One of the best additions to the VIP ticket was having Tanji Patton from Good Taste with Tanji sharing three wines of her choosing. She provided a rose' champagne, the Ruinart Rose'. After my education during Rambling Rose at Becker vineyards, I was prepared for this treat. It was dry with soft berry fruits. I rarely drink champagne, but this wine was a whole different story.

The Overall Experience

Sean and I enjoying the last of the event
The San Antonio Cellar Classic was a great introduction to many unique and interesting wines. I would recommend San Antonio area folk to attend, especially if you want the chance to explore wine in a relaxed and fun setting. For more on all the wines, check out this year's list.

There are also nice additions. The music was upbeat and created a great mood, though it made talking and learning about the wines difficult -- I enjoyed learning about the wines and the wineries. The food, from great establishments from around San Antonio provided a nice break from all the wine.  Be here again, time caused its share of problems; it was hard to actually enjoy any of the food and really get to enjoy a good selection of wine. Honestly, I am eager for next year and a whole new round of wines. Until then, I will enjoy my bottles and head to Max's for my fix.

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