Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Making a Splash at Culinaria

In mid-May, San Antonio foodies and beverage connoisseurs come together to celebrate the best the city has to offer. Culinaria -- San Antonio's wine and culinary arts festival -- provides a number of opportunities to taste some of the finest food and drinks the city has to offer. From the best food trucks, to burgers and beer at the Pearl, to the famed Becker luncheon in the Lavender Haus, and everything in between, there is something for everyone. Sean and I finally got a chance to go this year, but we just couldn't do everything, so we chose wisely. We waited till the end of the week and attended the Grand Tasting in the Grotto at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center. With the Riverwalk floating by us, we sipped on great wines and nibbled on great food. Best of all, five Texas wineries came out with some great wines to showcase some of the best of Texas.

Texas Wineries

 Pedernales Cellars

When we got there, we scanned the room for friendly faces. It didn't take long to see three such people, all of them from Pedernales Cellars. Owners Fredrik Osterberg and Julie Kuhlken were there -- proving to be two of the best dressed of the evening -- with wine club and events manager Shannon Brown. In fact, Frederik sported one of the few tuxedos of the evening; the event is billed as black tie, but few made the effort. Of course, the attention was on the selection of wines. I started the evening with the most recent Viognier. This is a light and soft wines with hints at fruit; a subtler version compared to the Reserve that won Double Gold in the international competition in Lyon. This crisp wine prepared me for the many wines ahead, including one of the Tempranillos. I was glad that Pedernales brought two wines that are quickly becoming iconic Texas wines.

Flat Creek

Around the tables from Pedernales (They had two squares of tables, one on each side of the room) was another Texas Hill Country winery, Flat Creek. They brought one of the evening's showstoppers, their Bronze winning Viognier (also from the same competition that Pedernales won Double Gold). This Viognier emphasized the sweeter characteristics of the fruit -- without being sweet -- compared to Pedernales crisper one. It was a nice contrast. They also brought one of their top sellers, their Super Texan. This Sangiovese based blend was one of the richer Texas wines for the evening. They rounded out their tasting with a fine Muscat.

Llano Estacado

There were two sides to the wine room. While Flat Creek and Pedernales held court on one side, Culinaria backers, Becker Vineyards, along with Llano Estacado and McPherson Cellars held sway on the other. I was very happy to see that Llano brought two of their best, the 2010 Cellar Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2010 Cellar Reserve Tempranillo -- one of the June Texas Wine Twitter Tuesday wines. I couldn't say no to either of these great reds. The Llano Tempranillo is one of my favorites; it has the rustic, earthy nature of a Rioja but is tempered with the fruitiness common in New World Tempranillo. It is that balance of New and Old World that I love in Texas wines.

Becker Vineyards

Becker Vineyards plays host to two Culinaria events. During the main week, the luncheon provides a getaway into the hill country to taste great food and great Texas wine. In August, just before Restaurant Week, Ramblin' Rose (check out my post on last year's event) takes center stage, providing delightful, refreshing Rose's to beat back the summer heat. With such an investment in Culinaria, it was no surprise to see Becker at the Grand Tasting. Like Pedernales, they opted to not bring their Lyon winning Viognier -- their Reserve took home the silver -- but another. I have to say it was the weakest of the three but still a nice choice (UPDATE: This Texas Viognier just won silver at the Lone Star International Wine Competition). However, they also brought the Reserve Tempranillo -- they have the fruitier one, Pedernales' is earthier, while Llano's is nestled in-between. They also had the newest Canada Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes from this High Plains grower are a consistent favorite -- and a part of the May wine club shipment. Of course, they brought one of the crowd pleasers, Sean's favorite, the Claret. The reds were a big hit.

McPherson Cellars

Along with Llano was one of the wineries I have grown very fond of, McPherson Cellars. Since they joined forces with Brennan and Lost Oak to create 4.0 out on the 290 trail, I have ample opportunity to taste a large selection of their wines, and I am always pleased. And the selection of reds they brought -- can you tell what I was interested in -- including two of my all time favorites: Tre Colores and La Herencia. I was glad to see two incredible blends front and center.


 Other Great Finds

Yes, the evening had live music and a dance floor -- that filled up with dancers as the night wore on. Yes, there was plenty of great food from local restaurants. What was the funnest part of  night was one of the wine tables full of non-Texas. The table had the most interesting array of wines, not the typical ones. The one that caught my eye was a very familiar looking bottle of Montepulciano that is very popular at Vinously Speaking. This Italian import is one my favorites carried at the shop, and I was glad to see it next to La Pistola -- another top seller from the shop. It was great to see the shared appreciation for the wines, as they had both been apart of Vinously Speaking's Grand Tasting less than a month prior.

From Left: Steven Krueger, Fredrik Osterberg, Julie Kuhlken

Besides the wine and food, there was also the people. Among the mingling guests was Steven Krueger, the sommelier for Westin La Cantera. Steven is a strong supporter of Texas wine; he hosts a near daily Texas wine tasting at the resort (check out my post or Tanji Patton's Goodtaste.tv video). Besides running into Steven again, we also met two aspiring wine bloggers. It was nice chatting with Sally and Julie; I was happily surprised to find Julia was another wine lover and lover of  Japanese anime and manga. I do have to admit that they were hesitant about Texas wines. And I understand. They had last had Texas wine well over five years ago and had limited experience. They didn't get a chance to taste the wines that were changing the face of Texas wine. I happily encouraged them to taste the wines inside -- so did Julie Kulkhen -- and also to jump online and start writing with the rest of us.

The Grand Tasting at Culinaria was a great experience, one I will repeat next year. Every year, more Texas wineries get involved. Five was a good number (only out done by the San Antonio Wine and Food Festival sponsored by KLRN [San Antonio's PBS station]). I do hope to see more Texas wineries among the crowd next year, making it clear that Texas wines are just as good as any other.

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