Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tasting at Westin La Cantera with Russ Kane

To celebrate Texas wine month, Sean and I attended the Texas wine tasting at San Antonio's Westin La Cantera. Held in the Steinheimer's Lounge, sommelier Steven Krueger shares four choice Texas wines. We were lucky to not only enjoy Steven's presentation, but the Texas Wineslinger Russ Kane  (writer of the Texas wine blog Vintage Texas) also shared his knowledge and experience of the Texas wine industry.

On the hill, the sun's
last rays settle around us,
dance, glint off the wines.

Each scent swirls, each flavor shines,
for a Texas wine society.

The Tasting

Held at 5p.m. till 6 most nights -- you can check the Westin's calendar to make sure that there is a scheduled tasting -- this tasting is a slow and relaxed tasting of four 2 ounce pours for $10. To make this even better, the wines change regularly, making this a great wine night out that can be repeated. Once the guests arrive, they gather in a more communal style to share the tasting together. This makes it easier for sommelier Steven Krueger to provide a more personable tasting as he serves each guest and shares his wine knowledge.

The four pours are presented on a "mat" that tells the guests the wine, the winery, and some insight on the wine. Most of the information is about the wine itself. Steven adds to this knowledge by leading the group through the full tasting (both encouraging the guests to share what they think as well as pointing out what he notes). In our case, Russ Kane added to discussing the wine.

The mat provides even more information, information that provides more insight to new drinkers (and a nice reference for the rest of us). There is a map that shows all the Texas wineries; it is easy to tell where the winery is located. This coincides well with the winery information Steven provides. And for our tasting, Russ again brought a lot of neat extras to the table.

During the tasting Sean and I attended, there were two whites and two reds. The stand-out, overall, was Pedernales' Tempranillo. This wine is always a great wine (one I always have around), full of fruit, earth, oak, and spice. It provided a strong, bold end to the tasting. The white of note was the Brennan Viognier. This award winning wine was a great counter point to the bold red that ended things. We also had a nice Blanc du Bois and a solid Cabernet.

Russ Kane

Russ Kane joined our tasting to promote his book, The Wineslinger Chronicles. During the tasting, Russ taught us about the wine industry in Texas (from its foundation and the longest running winery in Texas). Russ provided some nice comparisons to other wine industries, both domestic and international. One interesting note was when Russ shared a wine map of the world. Sean and I searched over the map to figure out the places where we had not yet had wine from -- they were very few.

What was most fun with Russ' appearance was all the insider knowledge he brought. He knows the wines we tasted -- the wineries, the wine makers, etc.. The material he presented shed the best of his book; he also connected it to the audience through additional wine education. Best were the stories and experiences he shared. By the end, I saw old facts (ones from the book) in a new light.

A tasting at the Westin La Cantera proved to be a great time. I spent some quality time with some quality wine; I often feel rushed at wineries, but that was not the case here (slow is expected during this tasting). Of course, the information shared by our wine specialist and sommelier Steven Krueger taught me a but more; Russ Kane's added Texas wine scholarship brought the wine and wineries to life. Best of all is the nature of the tasting. As the guests gather around the main table (and outlying tables if the number gets too large), a new Texas wine community forms, sharing their tasting and their own experiences. When you need Texas wine in San Antonio and can't get out to the Hill Country, this is a great escape.

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