casa del vino

Where wine is on the table everyday


Day 198: Wine – Texas Style . . .

Becker Reserve Cab-SyrahWeekends do tend to fly by . . . especially weekends where travel from one place to another and back again is involved.  Driving eats up chunks of time and driving in Texas is about large chunks!  Being centrally-located in San Marcos really helps a lot.  We’re 3 1/2 – 4 hours from most places . . . the Coast, D/FW, Houston, etc.  As we mentioned last night, the wedding of our friends in Aransas Pass, meant a drive to the coast yesterday and a return trip today . . . with Daughter #1 in tow, and she needed to head back to school today after her spring break trip.  What’s it all mean?  Driving.  Lots of driving!  The last time we bought a car (used), the dealer–whom we’ve purchased from previously–commented that we drive a lot.  This comment was based on odometers of cars traded in over the years.  Yep . . . we drive a lot.

We like to be able to get in the Jeep and slide the top down to soak up some of that warm Texas sun and head north, south, east or west.  We’ve been driving a lot for the 30+ years we’ve been together.  From 4,200 mile round trips to spur of the moment road trips to visit family, there is something magical about putting some gas in the tank and hitting the road.  Unfortunately, as gas prices have risen, the number of trips and length of trips has diminished significantly.  However, the call of the open road is alive and well and this weekend was one of those “just gotta go” moments – kinda like the Southwest Airlines commercial – – – “Wanna Get Away?”.

It seems appropriate – since we’re talking about driving in Texas – that we zero in on a Texas wine that has gained some significant notoriety . . . tonight we enjoyed a 2011 Becker Vineyards Reserve Cabernet-Syrah.  The first thing about this wine is that it tastes really good!  Yep, we know it’s hard for us to even type that, but this wine has character, body, beautiful color and best of all a great taste . . . on the front palate and a terrific finish.  Made of 70% Cabernet and 30% Syrah, this wine really has rich, wonderful deep, dark fruit, with hints of tobacco and caramel and aged in French and American oak barrels.  Clearly, the Syrah grapes, gives the wine a nice berry flavor.  For the $22 price, we’d suggest some other wines from Australia and Washington that may be just as good, but priced less; however, as Texas wines go, this one is clearly a winner.   And, in fairness to Becker, at its’ existing price point, this wine outshines some higher priced wines we’ve tasted previously.  Like most wines, it comes down to taste and preference.

As for our experiences at Becker — another driving trip — we’ll save that for another day; however, when you visit this place, you’ll love the tasting room, the grounds are superb and who knows, you may end up getting your picture taken and published in a book about wineries without your permission!  The area where Becker is located has been populated by an ever growing number of wineries . . . some of these make wine from grapes grown on their property and some make their wine from grapes sourced in west Texas . . . many of them are opting for fruit purchased from California or other parts and still others are simply buying the juice and making wine without all of the “mess”!!  It’s still an amazing process for us to watch!

We hope that you’ve had a good weekend.  With temperatures in the upper 70’s and low 80’s, it’s been one of the nicer spring break weeks in recent memory.  For us, it ended with a nice wine with a good taste and our hope that you enjoy your favorite wines responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.


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Day 192: Spring Forward . . .

spanish quarterAh yes. . .Monday night.  The start of a new week; the start of Daylight Saving Time, and that means really dark in the  morning but lighter in the evening.  It’s a trade off, really.  Last fall we lamented about the time change because the evenings would be dark and it would be light in the morning.  There’s something welcoming about ‘springing forward’ each year. . .it’s a sign that Spring and Summer are just around the corner, a sign that Winter is all but gone.  Let’s face it–in this part of the world, we didn’t have much of a Winter.  In a few weeks when the wildflowers start blooming (some have already shown themselves), we’ll have a better idea of Winter’s impact.  Typically, a dry and warm winter doesn’t produce an overly abundant array of wildflowers compared to a cold, wet winter.

Last year, for example, (2011 into 2012) the rains in December, January and early February combined with the colder temperatures in mid-30’s resulted in some spectacular displays of wildflowers–especially bluebonnets–in the Texas Hill Country.  On a driving trip in the Jeep last spring, the fields of solid blue were awe inspiring; truly majestic especially as the winds blew them back and forth.  For those who’ve never seen wildflowers in the Texas Hill Country–we strongly recommend that you put it on your ‘bucket list’.  The drive north of Fredericksburg around an area called the Willow City Loop is THE drive to make to see nature’s wonderment.  On a Sunday afternoon with a convertible or a Jeep, and a picnic with a bottle of wine, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than that!

Speaking of a bottle of wine, we uncovered a nice, little blend from Spain on a recent visit to Twin Liquors.  Now, if you haven’t tried Spanish wines, you’re going to need to add them to your lists of wines to experiment with over time.  There are some delicious Tempranillo wines that originate there and other varietals are becoming increasingly popular, and because the market is rebounding, there are some extreme values in Spanish wines, so you get a good bottle of wine without breaking the bank.  Tonight we sampled a 2010 The Spanish Quarter, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo.  The combination of these grapes is a deep purple-red color with a nose of dark cherry and blackberry, and hint of spice and chocolate. The full palate reveals layers of juicy ripe berry fruit, dark chocolate, and a touch of sweet oak on the finish.  This is a wine that was made for sitting on the deck as the sun goes down and the warmth of the day starts to give way to the cool of the evening.  It’s a trait of this time of the year when the days are warm and the nights cool off quickly, but this wine makes the transition easy.  Whether enjoying it with a full meal of beef or pasta or sipping it while snacking on cheese and crackers, it’s a wine with some real body, and at around $10 a bottle, you’re going to be surprised how good it tastes for the money.  In fact, according to ‘, “Recommendation:  Grab this if you see it.  A great introduction to Spanish wine, and one that is sure not to disappoint, and not last long in your wine cellar.”  Simply put–a great way to start the week.

A quick glance at the forecast indicates some seriously awesome Spring weather is on the horizon for the next 7-10 days.  It means a great chance to get out and do some driving–maybe even some wine tasting, and hopefully, Mother Nature puts on a show–it’s one of the BEST free things around.

As you enjoy your favorite wine, please remember to enjoy responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 170: Oh, Give Me A Home . . .

brennan rhomeAs beautiful Sunday’s in February go, today was tough to beat.  Skies as blue as you could see . . . a warming wind from the southwest . . . and the first ‘top down’ of the year for the Jeep.  Well, technically, we only partially opened the roof but it still counts!  There is something special about driving a winding Texas backroad with the top of your Jeep Wrangler off and the sun pouring in!  And, the best part?  It’s ONLY February!  Yeah, we’re looking forward to March and April for full-blown, trip-to-the-coast type of weather.  It’s coming . . . and it won’t be long!

The other part of this time of the year is — yeah, doing taxes.  Hey, the old saying is still true – and always will be true . . . . ‘there’s only two things in this life that are guaranteed, Death and Taxes!’  We’re not so sure that one doesn’t cause the other!  Now, you know that we’re no spring chickens, so the fact that we’ve been doing the ‘tax thing’ for a lot of years is no surprise.  But, it’s amazing how much MORE complicated it is to do a return today than even five years ago.  In fact, before 1996, we used to do taxes the ‘old fashioned’ way – we filled in the forms, BY HAND!  We know, we know – how archaic!  Computers and software have literally changed the way we do things, and filing taxes is one of those changes.  We can still remember waiting until April 15th . . . and driving our return to the Post Office where people were standing outside collecting returns to postmark them before the midnight deadline.  TurboTax and HR Block software have really changed the landscape.

Anyway, we digress – it was a Sunday to get some things done around the casa, and to relax and enjoy the beautiful sunshine.  It was also time to break out some wine . . .  and tonight, we’re staying home – where the buffaloes roamed . . . yep, tonight’s wine is from Texas.  Now, before you California, Australia, Chile, Argentina wine fans head for the exits, you need to know that there really are some good wines being made in the Lone Star State.  And, while tonight’s wine is a new variety for this wine maker, he is quickly carving a name for itself in  the state and in the country.  We first visited Brennan Vineyards when driving through Comanche, Texas back in 2009 on our way to Stephenville to visit family for nephew Ryan’s graduation.  They had two wines that stood out in our minds . . . a blend called, “Austin Red” and a Syrah.  Both of these wines weren’t your normal Texas wines that had all the taste of a chemistry lab and the color of Oklahoma clay.  Yeah . . . these wines had something, so when Jean brought home Brennan’s newest wine, a 2010 Buffalo Rhome from her sister weekend in Fredericksburg – they are part of a great little stop on 290 called 4.0 Wine, we knew that it was going to be something special.

Vinted in the Rhone-style of wine making, this wine opened beautifully.  It’s nose was fruity with just a hint of spiciness.  The first pour was lighter than we’d expected, but still a beautiful red color – not copper!!  This wine had a soft, elegant feel with a solid finish that seemed to last forever.  We enjoyed this wine after a good old fashioned burger and tater tots meal . . . it was the perfect ending to the day.  For a wine like this to catch our fancy, it has to have some muscle, and the flavor, structure, color and finish . . . all combine to make this a good purchase.  Available for less than $20 a bottle, you’ll find it to be a better value than other Texas wines with “better” names.  We’d suggest that you blow past the labels in the grocery store and find this wine either online or go to Comanche and sample in person – either way, you’ll walk away with a better Texas wine.  If you go to Comanche – make sure you meet Dr. Brennan – a super guy and he does hang out at 4.0 on a regular basis.

Now, for those who read this on a regular basis, you’ll note that we are still HUGE fans of Saddlehorn Winery outside Burton, Texas.  So, don’t think we’re only singling out one winery in the State.  We think that there are other wines that are worthy of review in the blog and we’ll strive to try them–in the meantime, if you think that there’s a Texas wine worthy of notation in our dwindling days of wine reviews . . . let us know.

Otherwise, continue to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.