Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Journey

Cliff Bingham in the Tempranillo Vineyard

The Monday after the Blood Moon, I drove up to the High Plains. It is a beautiful drive, I love Texas; the Hill Country is so scenic with the rolling hills and winding roads. As you travel west you go up a series of plateaus, rising in elevation and the terrain evens out to become very flat with the enormous dome of the sky above.  I was amazed by the number of electricity generating windmills along the way. Well over a thousand of them by my estimation.

There are several very interesting cities along the way; San Angelo and Big Springs just to mention two. My cell phone GPS did an excellent job navigating my route. I was able to drive right to the Bingham Family Vineyards.  The appearance is of the brick farm homes in the area because this was the family home up until a few years ago. There are large vineyard plantings in the fields around the house, barn and winery.  The open space in this part of the country makes gauging distance and size difficult.

Puppy sez "They're ripe!"
Greeted by winemaker, Daniel Bingham and then I meet Cliff Bingham, Grape Grower and so much more. I was guided on a tour vineyards looking at Tempranillo, Vermintino and Dolcetto. Meet the neighbor's puppy, cutest ever, and he loved eating the grapes!

My tour of the winery was with Manuel Lechuga, he has been growing grapes and making wine in the Texas High Plains for twenty-eight years!  Manuel worked with Bobby Cox at Pheasant Ridge Winery until a few years ago. Tasting from a wealth of barrels, Manuel showed me a delicious array of wines; Merlot, Tempranillo, Dolcetto, Petite Verdot and wine in OLD barrels; 2009, 2006 and 2004!  Eleven years in barrel! Does anybody outside of Spain do this?  The wines are profound and amazing! (The Dugout, Cab Blend, is a wonderful result of this extreme barrel aging program.)

After this we went to the Bingham Family home for dinner tasting the wines in bottle. There were numerous family members and several wines to taste. I of course, kept up with it all. (No pop quizzes, please.) It was a wonderful evening and as dinner ended and I was heading back to the winery to stay the night. It seemed like the wonders were about to cease. I was in my car following Cliff in his truck, as we turned on to the FM road he stopped got out and came to my car asking; "Do you want to see harvest?" My answer; "YES!!!"

We pulled to the side of the Tempranillo vineyard we had visited in daylight. It was now after 10:00 pm, a cool night, dark; country dark, the only light the flood lights on the tractors working. One pulling the harvester and two tractors each pulling a bin the size of a modest Winnebago, to receive the grapes from each pass of the harvester.  The tractors with bins then rush over to the winery to pour their load into smaller bins, that are still pretty big. This pour was into a series of three bins with Daniel Binghanm standing in front of them. It looked like a Niagara Falls of grapes.  It is hear that I wished I had my cell phone camera, only all the GPS guidance had zapped my battery to 0%.  (I will be taking pictures next harvest.)  At the winery there is a forklift zipping back and forth, giant bins of grapes being pushed, pulled, lifted and hauled. Destemmer crusher whirling, semi-trucks idling while being filled with bins of Tempranillo right off the vines, and a large team of people working in full court press.  This was more exhilarating that watching the Spurs in the playoffs! This scene was a whirlwind, as was the day. As the semi-trucks headed out to the Hill Country where a great winemaker will take over them and make beautiful wines, I went to bed; exhausted from the long day. The Bingham family kept working through the night.

I stayed the next day we discussed our business plans and agreements. I went to check out "the competition" or wineries I should have visited long, long ago. The Binghams and I easily and cordially came together on our Brokerage Agreement. The next morning we loaded samples into my car with an absolutely breathtaking sunrise for this NEW day!

It was a journey to come up here, one that began many years ago. It feels great, right and very promising. Like anyone on a journey; somehow I am surprised that it has not ended but grown into an odyssey better that I could have asked for...

"Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth!" Psalm 98:4

Monday, October 5, 2015

Blind Tasted and Tested...

The first supper where Bingham Family Vineyards wines are served in San Antonio was for my dear friends, the taste makers for San Antonio or as they like to be called; The Varsity Squad. In attendance; Dr. Gary Penny, Dr. Deborah Strus, Lisa Elliott, Tony Cherone, Veronique Cecilia Barretto (full time Sommelier for Pedernales Cellars, Wine Consultant for Folc Restaurant and 'part time' Wine Snob), Gloria Baretto and Ramon Baretto. All experienced wine enthusiasts and foodies.

I gathered them to blind taste the wines from Bingham Family Vineyards against counterpart wines from famous and popular producers from other regions of the world. Not a uncommon practice for wineries and wine professionals to engage in to asses the quality and perceived value of their wines in the glass. And, I will admit more than a little nerve racking when it is your wines being judged.  I did my best to be fearless and put in very serious competition from the 'counterpart wines.'

There were five pairs of wines tasted blind. We tasted each pair and discussed and voted on a preference as we went. The reveal was at the end after all the wines were tasted. Below are my tasting notes for each wine and then a summery of how the group felt.
The group picked Caymus blind and once revealed some recanted their choice, there seems to be love/hate reputation for the Conundrum wines. Blind the Short Rows was thought to be a Riesling or Gewurztraminer. Revealed the group could see the potential for sweet white drinkers, the target audience, all in attendance being dry wine lovers. Short Rows provides an excellent value and held it's own against a popular wine that is more expensive.
The group tied these two up in votes, they are very comparable. I expected the wines to be wildly different with one being a single variety and the other a blend, but I was wrong and very pleasantly surprised. The Cloudbust shows that Bingham Family Vineyards is not only delivering quality but value too! The challenge Texas wineries need to overcome, and we have done it!
The group picked the Orin Swift unanimously. It is the best rose I have tasted this year; it is amazing!  I was tasting blind also and I was SURE it was the Sunset Rose. The two roses are very similar and both are excellent.  Orin Swift is the hottest brand going; the same team who make the Locations wines, the "TX" blend that partnered with Kim McPherson and the bottles FLEW off the shelf! 
The group picked the Turnrow by one vote, everyone loved the floral aromas and found the wine complex and delicious. The Spanish wine was very good and had that old oak note that some liked and some not so much.
The group picked the Dugout by two votes, they loved the complexity and oak notes. The Beringer Knights Valley was the most different; some thought it was a Malbec. Curiously Beringer seems to have change it's style to be less Napa Cab like. Why?  The Dugout taste like the Knights Valley did ten years ago; it is berry nice.

Overall assessment; three winners out of five selections were made for the Bingham wines. In one instance the wine was out of place in flavor profile or price point, and that was the Beringer Knights Valley. I am very encouraged to witness the value (quality and price) that we are offering. The tasters were very excited on the reveal of the Bingham wines and to be the first in San Antonio to try the wines. It was a very warm and enthusiastic reception. I need you to start spreading the word that the Bingham wines are coming to San Antonio, Austin, the Hill Country and surrounding areas! And look for your opportunity to taste them yourself...

My next posts will cover my journey in more detail...
Watch this blog for notice of consumer events and tasting opportunities we will have for you!
Please click the "Join This Site" button over to the right in the "Followers" box to stay in the know.

In the Dallas/Ft. Worth area we have a Tasting Room you can visit:
620 S Main St., Grapevine, Texas  |   phone (682) 651-8668

Or, Join the Wine Club here.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

My New Job!!!

I an very proud and excited to announce I am Representing Bingham Family Vineyards' wines in South and Central Texas!!!  I will be distributing these amazing wines in San Antonio, Austin, the Hill Country and the surrounding areas.  The Binghams are one of the largest growers in the High Plains of Texas. They sell grapes to over twenty Texas wineries; so Texas wine drinkers are likely to have tasted the fruits of their labor before. Some of Texas' most prestigious awards are won by the grapes grown in their vineyards. When I saw that the Binghams were starting to make wine, I was very excited by the prospect, and now, to get to share them with you is a dream come true.

"An adventure of music, children, grapes, and organic crops on the High Plains of Texas." Is how they describe themselves to the world. Cliff Bingham, a fourth generation farmer in Terry County, began full time farming in 1982. Since 1992, Cliff and his wife, Betty have served as pioneers in the Texas organic cotton and peanut markets. They diversified their farming operations in 2003 by planting grape vines. Today the Binghams currently own or manage over 200 acres of wine grapes in the Texas High Plains AVA. They are very pleased to be starting a winery. They plan to continue selling grapes to their winery friends across the state who are producing award winning wines. 

I can tell you they are NO ordinary family; they have eleven children, Betty homeschools them, they are very talented; all play music, some are artist, they all display a love for life, they are taking care of God’s earth, and have a deep and abiding love for the Lord.  All are involved and committed to the winery and vineyards; they work very hard and the Lord has blessed them in abundance. They are an amazing family!

dugout.jpgThe wines I will be selling:

DUGOUT (Cab red blend)
A full bodied blend that combines the scent of aged leather with the bold flavor of cranberry and a buttery finish. It is an oak aged blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.
The first of six generations of the family settled in the High Plains in the early 1900's and lived in a dugout.
Multi Vintage Blend | SRP 25

TURNROW (TX red blend)
This blend of Mourvèdre and Tempranillo has the fruity taste of strawberries.
Turnrows are single lane dirt roads that divide farms in the flat High Plains where farmers often stop their trucks to visit with the neighbors.
Vintage 2014 | SRP 25

This dry rosé made from Mourvèdre grapes grown on the High Plains of Texas has a distinct flavor of strawberry and a pleasant dark cherry and chocolate aroma.
The flat terrain and clear skies on the High Plains produce some of the most gorgeous sunsets.
Vintage 2014 | SRP 18

CLOUDBURST (dry white)
Trebbiano, Vermentino, Roussanne, Viognier, and Chardonnay with a medium body ending with a hint of apple.
The High Plains has a very dry climate, but when rain comes it very often comes quickly and yet in a very refreshing way.
Vintage 2014 | SRP 18

SHORT ROWS (sweet white)
This wine has a sweet pear aroma that mimics the taste of this wine, ending with a light, bright finish.
Short rows are the shortest rows in a field that signal the end of the workday for a weary farmer.
Vintage 2014 | SRP 15

With more to come in the future! If you know of any retailer, restaurant, bar or wine seller who would like to offer the best wines in Texas; please share my contact information with them: Steven Krueger | (210) 724-9390 |  krueger.wine@gmail.com

My next posts will cover the wines and my journey in more detail...
Watch this blog for notice of consumer events and tasting opportunities we will have for you!
Please click the "Join This Site" button over to the right in the "Followers" box to stay in the know.

In the Dallas/Ft. Worth area we have a Tasting Room you can visit:
620 S Main St., Grapevine, Texas  |   phone (682) 651-8668

Or, Join the Wine Club here.

Friday, October 2, 2015

California's Loss is Texas' Gain!!!

Northwest of Austin, just off Highway 71, down some winding farm roads, across a couple of cattle guards, nestled under a grove of old oak tree is a cool Texas winery that you need to visit...Spicewood Vineyards. This is one of the OG Texas Wineries; founded in 1992 by Edward and Madeleine Manigold with a goal of making the finest wines possible and their very first Chardonnay won a silver medal in a national competition. The Manigolds gave their baby tender loving care for many years until 2007 when the Yates family purchased the property and now joyfully continue the tradition of making fine wines that continue to win State, Regional, National and International competitions.

On Sunday September 27th I had the great pleasure to attended a very special evening that celebrating Todd Crowells, winemaking in his 'new' home at Spicewood Vineyards and his old home Christopher Creek in Sonoma California. Spicewood owner Ron Yates, and Christopher Creek owner Dominic Foppoli co-hosted the event.  They commented on the talents and benefits of Todd's winemaking while regaling the attendees with the fun, funny and entertaining moments of owning and working at a winery. Dominic lamented not having Todd as winemaker on more than one occasion.

It was a great setting in the limestone walled cellar filled with barrels of aging wine and bins of recently picked grapes fermenting, on their way to becoming wine.  In the midst of this wine 'river;' corks were sprung from bottles from California and Texas, the wine bubbled and poured into the many glasses of the eager and enthusiastic tasters. Who savored and enjoyed every drop of wine and every turn of phrase from the storytellers.

Wines Tasted:
Albarino,  Spicewood, Texas High Plains, 2014
Expressive aromas, very fruity almost tooty fruity, quite floral. On the palette the tangy fruity quality abound, with citrus and melon flavors making this wine very enjoyable to drink with it's light crisp finish.

Sauvingnon Blanc,  Spicewood, Estate, Texas Hill Country, 2014 
Nicely and slightly effervescent with aromas of tropical fruit and dried hay. The flavors of grapefruit come through quite enjoyably with a hint of kiwi and a refreshing finish. Made from mature vines planted by the Manigolds in the early '90's; excellent!

Chardonnay, Foppoli, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, 2011
Mysterious aromas; alluring and beguiling. The flavors are very revealing with pronounced apple, caramel and fruitiness that is just shy of being sweet. Supple feeling on the palette with just a hint of minerals in the finish. A very pretty California Chardonnay that is well made and fun.

Pinot Noir, Christopher Creek, Eastside Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sanoma, California, 2014
Very smoky on the nose with raspberry aromas. In your mouth the fruity raspberry flavors explode with blackberry fruit following through where the smoky and oak touches come through too the finish.

Pinot Noir, Christopher Creek, "Wine Family" Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sanoma, California, 2014
Begins with a funky nose showing the raspberry fruit too. The flavors are very delicious with the raspberry fruit and balanced oak and that earthy complexity.  Shows great promise, just needs a little more time in the bottle.

Red Blend, "The Good Guy" Spicewood, Estate, Texas Hill Country, 2013 
(This was a preview of the 2013, made with 31% Tempranillo, 31% Merlot, and Graciano, Cab, Syrah.) Effusive vanilla aromas with smoky and toasty notes with cedar, pepper and a handsome floral flourish. The flavors were a tad more reserved with raspberry, pepper and pleasing coco notes.  Showing the early signs of a great wine that will reward the drinker who has the self control to age it.

Red Blend, Benevolo, Reserve, Napa Valley, California, 2011
Classic single vineyard red Bordeaux varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Malbec. Napa Valley grapes in the hands of Sonoma winemakers! The aromatic qualities of pine and pepper are mouthwatering with nice round plum fruit.  The delicious red and black cherry fruit come through up front and proud with some tangy tannins following.  Secondary flavors of coco, spice and leather add complexity and enjoyment of this pleasurable wine.
A little wine that Todd Crowell missed making and Ron Yates made happen for his winemaker, winery and all of us wine drinkers! California Zinfandel is one of the worlds most unique wines and I love them. This wine has a great rhubarb aroma with boysenberry and cracked black pepper.  The flavors are big and rich with red cherry, ripe raspberry, white pepper and soft vanilla. Pure pleasure.

From here the group of Spicewood supporters, newly initiated, and curious passer bys all adjourned to the elegant Event Center where we further indulged in wine and perfectly paired small plate foods! My favorite was the Good Guy wine with the duck.  All were excellent! And, even better was the conversation with the Yates family and friends. Events like this are hedonistic without a doubt and designed to please all of your senses, but the real je ne sais quoi comes from the interaction of the attendees.  And, the Yates at Spicewood have it going on!

implore you to go to Spicewood Vineyards the next chance you get. With October being Texas Wine Month; you should be going to Texas wineries every weekend! I hope to see you in wine country!