The Taste Texas event last week was not only a lot of fun, but it was also informative. There were several lessons that I learned during the tasting, and a few things that I was reminded of. Here are ten observations:
1. Different folks, different strokes – This was really an old lesson that was reinforced during the tasting. There are some wines that I don't enjoy that other do (and vice versa), and there is nothing wrong with that.
2. There is a lot of interest in Texas wine, both inside the state and outside – When I first announced that we were doing this tasting, I received questions from all over the country about how people could participate. People are curious about Texas wine.
3. Once these young vines that we have in the High Plains mature a little, watch out! The wines that Mandola Estate is producing from grapes grown in the Texas High Plains show a lot of promise, but you can tell that the full potential has not been reached yet. These vines are very young, and the wines made from this fruit should only get better with every passing vintage.
4. There is a lot of potential for quality Texas wines produced from Mediterranean varieties. In addition to the age of the vines, another key factor in quality wines produced in this state is the selection of appropriate varieties for our climate and soil. The Mediterranean varietals being produced by Mandola seem like great choices for our state.
5. The future of the Texas wine industry is closely tied to grape production in the High Plains. Although the Texas Hill Country is the most well known wine region in the state, a good portion of the best fruit is being produced here in the High Plains, where the higher altitude and lower temperatures of West Texas seem to make for a more ideal growing environment.
6. Texas has the potential to become a great wine and food region. Many of the varieties that do well here are also great food wines. It seems like an Italian philosophy of connecting food and wine could create a really interesting gastronomical identity for Texas.
7. Not all sweet reds are created equal. For some time I have seen the sweet red wine as being the bane of the Texas wine industry. I am still not a fan of this style of wine, but I do have to say that the Mandola Canto Felice was a much more interesting take than you typically find on this Texas staple.
8. Some varietal names can be misleading. The name Dolcetto can be translated as "Little sweet one", but I did not find the Mandola Dolcetto to be an especially small wine, not an overly sweet one. This wine was easily my favorite of the evening.
9. Price is still an issue for Texas wines. One of the common comments that went around during the tasting was that the wines seemed a little pricey. This is a common complaint about Texas wines, and the fact is that Texas grape prices keep the price of Texas wines elevated. I will say, however, that the Rosé seemed like a bargain at $10, and I will probably buy more of the Dolcetto at $26 as well.
10. Twitter tastings are better when shared with friends. I really enjoyed conducting this tasting with some great friends being physically present at my local tweetup, and I also enjoyed having some wonderful online friends participate with me. This was a great reminder of what my friend Josh Wade always says, "Wine is meant to be enjoyed with friends."
2008 Mandola Estate Dry Rose
The first thing that most will notice on this wine is it's beautiful color. My wife described it as tourmaline. The color is definitely like a gem stone. The nose hits you with strawberries and citrus, like a nice moro orange. The strawberries carry over to the palate, along with some steely minerality. The fruit is somewhat restrained, but a very pleasant wine. At $10 this wine is a great value, and is a perfect compliment to a hot Texas Summer. Nice and dry, with zero residual sugar.
2008 Mandola Estate Sangiovese
Sangiovese is a variety that I am seeing more and more of here in Texas. The nose is mostly red fruits and a touch of cherry, along with a bit of earthiness. The palate is a touch thin on fruit, but I'm getting cherries and some smokiness, along with a touch of earth. This is definitely a food friendly wine, with a bid of acidity. I felt like this one was a little on the thin side, but certainly still an enjoyable wine. Would go great with some pasta! I did find the $24 price tag to be a bit more than I would like to pay for this wine.
2008 Mandola Estate Dolcetto
Dolcetto is a variety that a lot of people are not very familiar with.The name translates as "Little sweet one", which I found to be interesting. While not a full bodied wine, I certainly wouldn't describe it as "little" either. I also catch a hint of sweet overtone, but make no mistake about it, this is not a sweet wine. The nose on this Mandola Dolcetto is dark fruit and notes of tobacco. I get a little bit of a cigar box thing here, but more cigar and less box. The palate gives some Sweet-Tart action, with some nice acidity and more dark fruit. I really enjoyed this wine a lot, but the $26 price is a little high for a wine that I would probably find ideal for eating with a weekday pizza. That being said, if I were at the tasting room, I would be bringing home a few bottles of this wine. I think this is a wine that is going to just get better in future vintages, and could turn into a real star.
NV Mandola Estate Canto Felice
Every winery in the state of Texas seems to have that wine that they always say, "We have to make this" about. Sometimes it's a blush, sometimes a sweet red, but it is nearly always their best selling wine. For Mandola, the Canto Felice is the wine that is made for the market. I am not a fan of sweet reds, but I understand that there are a lot of people who like them, so I don't blame the wineries for producing them.
The nose on this wine is like spicy red fruits, with cinnamon and strawberries playing a major role. On the palate, the holiday action seems to continue, with more cinnamon and spices and jammy red fruits. The 3.5% residual sugar is definitely evident here. While this is just not my style of wine, I have to say that I find this wine more enjoyable than previous sweet reds that I've had. It was well received by the crowd at the tasting, and I think that a lot of people will probably enjoy it. $18 is the price on the Canto Felice, and there were people at my tweetup who said that they would pay that for it.
Mandola Estate Winery is one of the Texas wineries that is really heading in the right direction. They have chosen to make wines from varieties that have the potential to flourish in Texas. They are making enjoyable wines now, and I think that they will continue to get better as the vines that are producing the grapes for their wines mature. I enjoyed each of the wines that I tasted last week, and would probably purchase the Rosé and the Dolcetto again.