Texas Wine Beats New York 8-3 in Dallas Blind Tasting

Oct 28

As announced here a few days ago, a parallel competition took place Monday evening alongside the NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants. Eleven flights of wine, one from each state, went up against each other as the football game unfolded. The result was very different; perhaps because of a “home field advantage”; when the “dust” settled, Texas wines won judges’ preference over New York wines, 8-3.

The wine competition was the brainchild of Secretary Todd Staples ­­of the Texas Dept. of Agriculture and was organized by Drinklocalwine.com founder Jeff Siegel, the Dallas-based “Wine Curmudgeon”, and Russ Kane, author of the soon-to-be-published Vintage Texas, the Texas Dept. of Agriculture and the New York Wine and Grape Foundation with help from the Texas chapter of master sommeliers.

While New York has had a long-standing reputation as the “Giant” of the Eastern wine industry due to its many wineries, diverse climates and long winemaking tradition, the upset score proved that Texan winemakers aren’t just “Cowboys”, and the diversity of the Texas wines that bested those from New York (from chardonnay to dry rose) shows that there is plenty of quality and diversity in wines from the Lone Star State. This tasting proves that consumers and trade members both need to give Texas wines more tasting and consideration.

In fairness to New York, its wines were at a disadvantage. Siegel points out that state liquor regulations prevented him from featuring any New York wines not already carried by Texas distributors, severely limiting the selection. And although I was told that the Texas-based judges in the room “really don’t drink Texas wines often”, there probably was at least an unconscious group palate bias for wines with lower acid levels than you find in New York. A rigorous empiricist would say that for these results to have any meaning, the tasting needs to be replicated in New York with New York judges (Jim Trezise of the NY Wine and Grape Foundation, Fred LeBrun from the Albany Times-Union and myself were the only non-Texas judges at the event).

You might think a blind competition between wines from climates as different as Texas’ is from New York would be pretty easy to spot. In fact, Siegel and Kane collaborated carefully and came up with varietal and style classes that paired the wines very fairly and evenly; most judges admitted they couldn’t tell which states they thought the wines came from in each of the flights.

The eleven flights ran the style gamut from unoaked chardonnay and red and white natives and hybrids, through light, medium and full-bodied dry reds, to dessert wines. While I thought I could tell the New York wine in each flight, I was wrong at least twice, and in other cases it was pretty much a toss-up, showing how carefully the wines had been paired. While you’d think New York would excel in cool-climate classes with Texas doing the same in warm-climate classes, and while this was often true, there were some surprises.

Here are the results by flight, with the winning wine in bold:

Unoaked Chardonnay: Llano Estacado Chardonnay ‘09, Texas; Heron Hill Chardonnay, New York.

White Wine (dry/off-dry): Ravines Sauvignon Blanc Finger Lakes, New York ’08; Brennan Viognier ’09, Texas

Riesling (off-dry): Dr. Konstantin Frank semi-dry Riesling Finger Lakes, New York ’09; Messina Hof “Father and Son” Riesling, Texas, ‘09

Hybrid/native varietal white: Haak Blanc du Bois semi-sweet ’10 Texas; Bully Hill Traminette ‘07, New York.

Rose (dry): Ravines Pinot Noir rose ‘08, Finger Lakes, New York; McPherson Syrah rose ‘09, Texas

Cabernet Franc: Becker Cabernet Franc Reserve ’09, Texas High Plains; Wagner Cabernet Franc ’07, Finger Lakes, New York

Red Varietal or Blended Wine, light-bodied: Dutchman Family Winery Dolcetto ’08, Texas High Plains; Brotherhood Pinot Noir ’08, New York

Red Varietal or Blended Wine, med. Bodied: Dr. Konstantin Frank Merlot ’08, Finger Lakes, New York; Lone Oak Texas Tempranillo ’08 “Lost Draw”, Texas High Plains

Red Varietal or Blended Wine, Full-Bodied: Inwood “Magellan” Bordeaux Blend ’06, Texas; Heron Hill “Eclipse” ’06 New York.

Hybrid/Native varietal red Bully Hill Baco Noir, non-vintage “Bulldog”, New York; Dry Comal Creek ’08 Black Spanish, Texas Hill Country

Dessert-style wine: Wagner Vidal Ice Wine ‘08, Finger Lakes, New York; Flat Creek Muscat “Mistella” non-vintage, Texas

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