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Texas Viognier Is Tasted Against California and France – And Comes Out The Winner

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achalk Jun 18, 2013 01:44 PM

This weekend, sixteen Texas Viognier wines went head to head competing with each other, two California Viognier wines and a Viognier from the modern home of the grape, Condrieu, France in a blind taste test judged by seven professional sommeliers. The result, Texas wines took the top six spots.
The full results are here:
RANK (1 is highest)
WINE NAME
1
2012 Pedernales Cellars Reserve ($40)
2
2011 Brennan Vineyards ($17.50)
3
2012 Becker Vineyards ($15)
4
2012 McPherson Cellars ($14)
5
2012 Lost Oak Winery ($21)
6
2012 Pedernales Cellars ($18)
7
2011 Melville 'Verna's", Santa Barbara County, CA ($25)
8
2012 Flat Creek Estate
8
2012 Perissos Vineyard and Winery
10
2010 Calera, Mt. Harlan CA ($34)
10
2011 Cross Timbers Winery
12
2010 LightCatcher Winery
13
2012 Llano Estacado Winery, TX Raider
14
2011 Landon Winery
15
2011 Saint Cosme Condrieu, France ($65)
16
2012 Landon Winery
17
2010/11 Blue Ostrich Winery & Vineyard
18
2012 Kiepersol Estates Winery
19
2010 Llano Estacado Winery, 'Mont. Sec Vineyards'
Notes:
1) All the wines from Texas wineries are designated “Texas Viognier” on the label.

2) Texas wine prices are from the winery web site for a single bottle purchase. Case discounts usually apply. Prices for the other wines are single bottle prices that I paid at retail stores in Dallas.



Why The Tasting?
The organizer of the event, Andrew Chalk, an editor at CraveDFW, said “I put together this tasting because, after four years touring over 80 Texas wineries, I concluded that Viognier was the white grape that was most successful in the state. In fact, I felt it was reaching a level comparable with California Viognier (although maybe not that of France). I was baffled that the national media did not include Texas wines when they evaluated Viognier. Clearly, this was a matter that only the facts would settle: a blind tasting of French, California and Texas Viognier by expert palates to determine where the wines stood.”

Choosing The Wines
Chalk contacted every Texas winery and asked them to supply two bottles of each Viognier they made that was currently available for resale. The wineries came through with 13 wineries supplying 16 wines. As a result this was not just a sample, but every Viognier made in Texas (the only known absentee was Cap Rock Winery).
Next, he needed a strong California benchmark for comparison. He asked Sigel’s wine buyer, Jasper Russo, to pick three, and Chalk would buy the first two that he found at retail in Dallas. Russo suggested: Miner Family Vineyard, Calera, and Melville. Chalk found the 2010 Calera, Mt. Harlan, $34 (91 points, Wine Advocate) and the 2011 Melville Estate Viognier “Verna’s”, $25 (91 points, International Wine Cellar) and purchased them.
“Finally”, said Chalk,” I needed a wine from the modern home of the Viognier grape, and the place that is still regarded as the benchmark. I chose the 2011 Saint Cosme, Condrieu because this $65 wine scored over 94 points out of 100 in web reviews and is made by maybe the most decorated producer in the Rhône over the past two years. I expected this wine to win hands down, the compensation being that it was over twice the price of most of the Texas entrants.”

Choosing The Judges
Chalk said “I figured that if I did the judging the results would be about as credible as Paris Hilton challenging Newton’s Laws of Motion. So I emailed every professional sommelier in town and invited them to be a judge. On the day, seven sommeliers came to The WinePoste.com and spent two hours in silence comparing nineteen wines and passing written judgment. “
Chalk excluded himself from the scores reported above as he was involved in the packaging and preparation for the tasting. He also knew the identity of the non-Texas wines and any of this could be conceived as biasing the result.

The Results
The results are a stunning endorsement of Texas Viognier. Chalk had hoped Texas would be close behind the Californians and the Condrieu. In fact, no fewer than six Texas wines beat the first non-Texas wine (the Melville from California), and the expensive Condrieu was beaten by 12 Texas wines. The top three were all experienced Texas producers: Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall in the southern Hill Country, Brennan Vineyards in Comanche, a scant 90 minutes drive from Dallas, and Becker Vineyards, probably the best known of these three producers, also in Stonewall . Two relatively new producers: McPherson Cellars out of Lubbock in The High Plains, and Lost Oak Winery, in Burleson, just south of Fort Worth, placed fourth and fifth.

Feedback From The Judges
Writing about the winning wine, 2012 Pedernales Cellars Reserve, Russell Burkett (wine director at Sēr at The Hilton Anatole) commented that it had “ripe stone fruits, long finish, notes of honeysuckle and white flowers and light minerality”. Aaron Benson, sommelier at the Dallas Country Club, described it as “classic Viognier…an underlying minerality balances the redolent ripe fruit” and gave it a commanding 92/100 point rating.
Regarding the second-placed 2011 Brennan Vineyards, Hunter Hammett, sommelier of The Fairmont Hotel, Dallas gave some advice to the winemaker that it was “a bit thin to be excellent but a great example of this classic Rhône varietal”. Simon Holguin, general manager at the forthcoming Kitchen LTO, said that it “finishes delicately”.
Benson and Hammett, two judges who work the floor each night trying to deliver the most suitable wine to their customers, when asked about selling Texas Viognier said that selling a Texas Viognier is no harder than selling any other Viognier. The problem is selling Viognier. It is a “hand sale”, meaning that it is up to the sommelier to make the case to the customer, who typically has over 100 choices on the wine list. Hammett suggested wineries provide more guidance as to what food was intended to go with the grape. He pointed out that the choice of compatible food is not as broad as with Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.

The Implications
Texas Viognier has come of age. Chalk said “For the customer, next time you shop for a white wine, consider purchasing one. Next time you are looking for a white wine on a restaurant wine list, ask for a Texas Viognier. Even if there isn’t one on the list at the time, sommeliers choose based on customer feedback. If you are a sommelier, check the results of this tasting for the quality and value most suitable for your list. If you are a publication that reviews wines, Texas Viognier has now shown that it deserves a place at the table for your next Viognier review”
To order these wines: Some wines are available at retail stores in Texas. Others are available direct from the winery (all can ship to consumers in Texas and more widely dependent on state and Federal wine shipping rules).

Appendix – The Judges
Karla Barber - International Sommelier Guild
Aaron Benson - Dallas Country Club
Russell Burkett - SER, Hilton Anatole Hotel, Dallas
Hunter Hammett - The Pyramid Restaurant and Bar
Simon Holguin – GM, Kitchen LTO
Jeremy King - Gaylord Texan Resort
Steve Murphey - Mid-West Wine

 
 
 
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  1. ChefJune Jun 19, 2013 12:23 PM

    not too surprised. I was impressed by several Texas Viogniers a few years back.

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    1. Robert Lauriston Jun 19, 2013 12:56 PM

      What kind of Viognier tasting doesn't include Château-Grillet?

      2 Replies
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      1. re: Robert Lauriston
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        collioure Jun 19, 2013 02:35 PM

        <g>

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        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          maria lorraine Jun 20, 2013 01:59 AM

          Or at least one from one of the top FR producers. Or several, actually.

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        2. sunshine842 Jun 19, 2013 05:41 PM

          Wow. TWELVE Texas viogniers beat out a Condrieu? I'm impressed.

          I'm headed to the wine shop this weekend.

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          1. maria lorraine Jun 20, 2013 01:10 AM

            Two California Viogniers only, and none from top producers. Only one French Viognier and none from any of the top ten Condrieu producers.

            We don't know if the CA, FR or TX Viogniers were varietally correct -- tropical fruit plus autumnal/Asian spices -- or if those components were even discussed before judging. Viognier has to have both components to be varietally correct.

            In national competitions, entries labeled Viognier are often passable white wines with a modicum of citrus or peach (no mango or papaya), and no spice whatsoever, so not true Viognier. This is especially true of Viognier from hot climates when sugar levels are way ahead of flavor ripeness.

            While TX Viogniers may indeed be developing nicely, there is no way of knowing how good, or not good, these TX Viogniers are from this particular exercise, given their climate, the wines they were judged against, and the heavy-handed promotion that went with the judging.

            This is obviously a PR post, and is lifted directly from the PR release sent out by the OP to promote his company/clients and sell wine.

            26 Replies
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            1. re: maria lorraine
              sunshine842 Jun 20, 2013 03:59 AM

              excellent comment, and very much the voice of reason.

              (as opposed to those of us who got swiped by the hype...blush)

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              1. re: sunshine842
                ChefJune Jun 21, 2013 02:13 PM

                not "swiped by hype..." I've had several Texas Viogniers, and they're quite good. I wouldn't say they're better than Condrieu, though -- certainly not in general. However, I've not had California Viognier that blew me away.

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              2. re: maria lorraine
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                achalk Jun 20, 2013 05:14 AM

                Read the article and you will see that the testing was carried out in the strictest of conditions and that it was the most comprehensive comparison of TX Viogniers with themselves and with Viogniers from elsewhere on record.

                There was no "heavy-handed promotion", and this is certainly not a PR post. I organised the tasting and wrote the press release that I reproduced here (and the article in the blog that I write for). I do not have any clients - nor am I remotely in PR. Someone has been having you on if they told you that. In fact, I am out of pocket by several hundred dollars as a result of organizing this! And I don't sell wine - I drink it!

                My motivation was purely educational. The national media omit Texas Viognier from comparative tastings because their knowledge is several years out of date.Now that this tasting has established a benchmark, the next step would be for those publications to organize a reprise where they can certainly alter the number and composition of non-TX wines. I look forward to seeing the evidence.

                My choices of non-TX wines were not random -- they were deliberately chosen as independently scored strong examples of wines that already do get national attention. So this result is a strong result indeed.

                What you need is some facts. Unsupported assertions about the motives of others just make your case look empty and your own motives look suspect. Who do you work for?

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                1. re: achalk
                  Robert Lauriston Jun 20, 2013 08:44 AM

                  Your selection of non-Texas Vigoniers may have been independent, but still you were not using the top Condrieus as a reference point and it sounds like there was no consideration of typicity. The judge's "ripe stone fruits" comment on the winning wine is a big red flag for me.

                  Online tasting notes for the Cosme 2011 don't make it sound like a very typical Condrieu at all.

                  http://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp...

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                  1. re: achalk
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                    budnball Jun 20, 2013 10:05 AM

                    The regular posters on this board tend to be rather Franco-centric and skeptical of other regions virtues. However it does seem that your tasting list stacked the deck quite a bit. 16 against one French bottle and two from California is no way to get a fair judgement. 5 or six from each region would have made a better test and gotten a more respected result. As it is, this does come across as promo writing.

                    I'm just sayin'

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                    1. re: budnball
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                      achalk Jun 20, 2013 10:27 AM

                      budnball, many thanks for your comments.

                      The California entries were not chosen randomly, so the Law of Large Numbers that implies statistics get closer to their population parameters as sample size increases, does not apply. The California entries were chosen as known value entries (in this case, proven examples of 'very good' California Viognier).

                      I would love to do more (send me a check for $500, I'll supply the same Texas wines, and you can be there to meet the professional sommeliers who do the judging!) but the results are not invalid because there were more Texas wines. Again, the CA wines are not a random sample. A few years ago, the two Californians would have come 1st and 2nd. Things have changed. What this tasting showed very strongly was that TX Viognier deserves a place at the table. Any review of domestic Viognier that excludes them is letting down its readers.

                      The relevance of the result is indicated by some of the posts in this thread. There are people who consider themselves knowledgeable about Viognier but who are totally oblivious of the improvement in TX wines. The results came as a complete surprise.

                      Finally, a major strength of this tasting, and a feature that I would not want to change, was the inclusion of the <<universe>> of TX examples, and not just a sample. I did not dwell on the wines in the lower reaches but there is a story there too.

                      Thanks again for your comments.

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                    2. re: achalk
                      maria lorraine Jun 20, 2013 11:39 AM

                      Certainly there has been a great deal of promotion and publication of this judging. Your name or company name is all over promotional pieces for Texas Viogniers.

                      That in and of itself nullifies the judging results, even before the imprecise selection of Viogniers against which to judge the TX offerings.

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                      1. re: maria lorraine
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                        achalk Jun 20, 2013 04:31 PM

                        I don't promote a single Texas Viognier. The (re)publication of the result reflects the significance of the result and the rigor of the test..

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                        1. re: achalk
                          kaleokahu Jun 20, 2013 09:45 PM

                          Hey, achalk:

                          There's no arguing with some people. They diss Washington and Oregon and NZ and S. Africa, too. They'd diss Kalifornia, too if they weren't cogs. Take it as a complement

                          Thanks for posting and hosting your tasting. I'll give some TX wines a try, rather than poking a sour thumb in your eye.

                          Aloha,
                          Kaleo

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                    3. re: maria lorraine
                      Robert Lauriston Jun 20, 2013 08:29 AM

                      Classic Viognier is profoundly aromatic, with a complex nose of roasted nuts, minerals, and spice.

                      I have yet to encounter anything like that in a California Viognier. The ones I've tried have been closer to a fruity Italian wine such as Pigato.

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                      1. re: maria lorraine
                        DallasDude Jun 20, 2013 10:05 AM

                        Seven professional sommeliers did the judging. They were apparently "too incompetent" to have caught any varietal inaccuracy. I think these statements are an insult and unprofessional.

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                        1. re: DallasDude
                          Robert Lauriston Jun 20, 2013 11:18 AM

                          The two quotes on the second-place wine were "a bit thin to be excellent but a great example of this classic Rhône varietal” and “finishes delicately." Those comments make it clear that the competition was not very stiff. Since the other 17 wines presumably weren't even that good, who cares how they rank?

                          It would be far more informative to see the full text of all the judges' comments.

                          You set up a very interesting tasting but it was unfortunately heavily stacked in favor of the home team.

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                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
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                            achalk Jun 20, 2013 11:28 AM

                            The names and corporate affiliations of all the judges are at the bottom of the press release. So you can contact them and ask them for their notes. It is hard to imagine more transparency.

                            You have to prove that it was "stacked". I have shown that enormous lengths were gone to in order to ensure that it was not. And I've addressed objections that have been raised. So far you haven't shown that it was stacked but I'd love to hear you do more than just assert it.

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                            1. re: achalk
                              maria lorraine Jun 20, 2013 11:33 AM

                              The wine selections alone show the judging was "stacked," as has been explained several times now.

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                              1. re: achalk
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                                Julian Teoh Jun 20, 2013 06:50 PM

                                Andrew,

                                A very interesting result, and congratulations on putting it together.

                                Putting aside all qualitative issues for a minute, a lot of the objection here is based on perception. As budnball said, only three ringers against 17 Texas viogniers makes it look stacked.

                                I don't agree with your assertion that Robert Lauriston or other readers "have to prove that it was stacked". There are so many tastings of these ilk being staged nowadays that the reader determines whether he wishes to pay attention to that particular result. The organiser therefore needs to set parameters which immediately reassure the reader of the tasting's credibility. The first blush perception, 17 v 3, is enough in the minds of many lay readers to impact the credibility of the tasting.

                                And if you take qualitative issues into account, then readers' perception about which "foreign" wines you chose does matter a lot. Most of the headline grabber tastings compare "new regions" against Old World marques such as Margaux, Rousseau Chambertin, Romanee-Conti, perceived as being amongst the very best of their region. From the comments here, the Cosme (and perhaps also the Calis) are not quite batting in the same league.

                                I would love to sample some of these Texas viogniers, but where I am, it is unlikely I will get the opportunity anytime soon.

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                                1. re: Julian Teoh
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                                  achalk Jun 20, 2013 07:34 PM

                                  Many thanks for your interest Julian. In choosing the 'ringers' I tried to set the TX wines the hardest test possible, subject to not comparing them with wines way out of the TX price range. With the California wines, I think that allowing a knowledgeable third-party to choose them, plus the 91 scores in two of the leading publications, achieved that. I don't think that the number of TX wines vs. the Californians misrepresented California. Both CA wines were sound. As I said in a previous answer, they were not random data points contributing to a sample but known, very non-random, parameters for the TX wines to beat.

                                  There are different issues with Condrieu wines generally. The main one is that they are so much more expensive than the TX wines (three times the price of the average TX wine and 50% more than the most expensive) that I think they are not direct competitors. I included the one Condrieu (at enormous personal expense for the two bottles!) more for completeness and curiosity.

                                  The real competitive battle is between California and TX. In that respect I think I proved my claim that TX wines deserve a place at the table in reviews and any publication that reviews (shall we say domestic Viognier?) does a disservice to its reader if it omits them.

                                  At this point I might say that I did not include other states (e.g. Virginia) where I hear good things because of my own lack of knowledge of those producers. In the case of TX, I had the luxury of including EVERYTHING because the producers have seen my articles and/or met me so would readily send samples. And in saying that, I am not referring to an incestuous relationship. I know of nobody in print who has been more vehement about Texas wines when necessary -- and a Google search will find that stuff (mainly in D Magazine). This tasting was a revelation in showing real excellence - and that I applaud.

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                                  1. re: achalk
                                    j
                                    Julian Teoh Jun 20, 2013 08:13 PM

                                    Hi Andrew,

                                    Thanks for your response. A couple of points, if I may.

                                    On the Condrieu price comparison, yes they are way more expensive but it is par for the course if you want to play the "new region" v "old grande marque" game. A few recent tastings here in Asia included Huber Spatburgunder v Rousseau Chambertin, and Markowitsch PN Reserve v DRC. The price multiples there reach into 10x or more, and the result is seen as all the more amazing because the wines seem to offer superior quality in the glass at a tenth or less of the price. If the Texans had gone up against more, and bigger name Condrieus and won, a lot of the criticism levelled here would not have been made.

                                    If the real battle was between CA and TX, I would have had more of the CAs represented to give an illustration of the breadth of style etc., and demonstrating that the Texans could match them across the board. Yes, tasting is not a random process, but having 17 v 2 colours public perception whether we like it or not. As it is, the sample size is not large enough to be definitive, or even to discount for matters such as bottle variation.

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                                    1. re: achalk
                                      sunshine842 Jun 21, 2013 03:57 AM

                                      but if you're going to hold it up as "as good as French viogniers", then you're holding it up, by definition, to "as good as Condrieu."

                                      Someone who loves viognier will be more than aware of the differences....and how ethereal a Condrieu can be, while how insipid a badly-handled viognier can be.

                                      It *is* your competition....because those who know, know. Those who are shopping by price tag don't know or don't care.

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                                  2. re: achalk
                                    ChefJune Jun 21, 2013 02:17 PM

                                    Might I also hazard a guess that none of the complainants have ever tasted a Texas Viognier?

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                                    1. re: ChefJune
                                      maria lorraine Jun 21, 2013 02:25 PM

                                      Not true, for me. I've tasted quite a few. In my opinion, they did not taste like Viognier, but like a varietal-less white wine with faint citrus and a bit of peach.

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                                2. re: DallasDude
                                  maria lorraine Jun 20, 2013 11:37 AM

                                  Were the testing rigorous and took care to find Viogniers that were varietally correct (or at least the criteria were discussed for judging Viogniers), the judging would mean something.

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                                3. re: maria lorraine
                                  Bill Hunt Jun 23, 2013 09:41 PM

                                  ML,

                                  I had not picked up the various ties to that article. Your pointing those out tend to skew things, at least a little.

                                  From CA, I would have included both Jos. Phelps Viognier, and Gregory Graham's Napa offering.

                                  Interesting,

                                  Hunt

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                                  1. re: maria lorraine
                                    b
                                    btbx Jun 24, 2013 01:25 PM

                                    "Varietally correct" - "Not true viogniers" ? LMAO! There is no such thing as varietally correct, only varietal and regional typicity. Would you like to describe to me a "varietally correct" chardonnay? That said, any taste-off type event is worthless, every wine needs to be evaluated on it's own merits and not in some head to head competition.

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                                    1. re: btbx
                                      maria lorraine Jun 24, 2013 02:40 PM

                                      In competitions, judges often vote to disquality wines and remove them from competition for lack of varietal correctness. Regional typicity is subsumed under varietal correctness.

                                      This isn't to say that a particular disqualified wine isn't enjoyable, only that it is not what it claims to be.

                                      Syrah still has to taste like Syrah, and not Cab or Merlot or some other varietal, no matter where it's grown: the Rhone, Australia, Chile or the US.

                                      The same goes for Viognier, no matter where it's grown. A wine labeled Viognier can't simply be white wine, even a well-made white wine: It has to smell and taste like Viognier. Varietal correctness sets that minimum standard.

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                                      1. re: maria lorraine
                                        Bill Hunt Jun 24, 2013 06:47 PM

                                        One some competition grading schemes, "Varietal Correctness" can be from 4-5 points, on a 10 pt. scale. That can be pretty large.

                                        Hunt

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                                      2. re: btbx
                                        z
                                        zin1953 Jun 24, 2013 08:54 PM

                                        Don't do much wine judging, do you? ML is correct.

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                                    2. PhillyBestBYOB Jun 21, 2013 03:20 AM

                                      A fun and interesting tasting, and I complement you for your accomplishment.

                                      However, no one should expect such tastings to be scientifically rigorous, and we should all remember in the back of our heads that they are not. There is a whole science to comparative tasting that takes into account variables such as the order of tasting, and yes, the number of comparisons. Such scientific rigor is very difficult to achieve in the real world. For this reason, if you held exactly the same tasting again, you might get completely different results.

                                      Which is why professional wine reviewers don't do repeat tastings. They don't want us to know how fallible they are.

                                      But it was cool to read about the results, and if I can find any TX Viognier up here in PA (unlikely?), I will give them a shot.

                                      8 Replies
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                                      1. re: PhillyBestBYOB
                                        maria lorraine Jun 21, 2013 04:50 AM

                                        Not "scientifically rigorous," but rigorous.

                                        Plus, no agenda or bias by the planner.
                                        No point they're trying to make.

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                                        1. re: maria lorraine
                                          ChefJune Jun 21, 2013 02:18 PM

                                          ML: Are you inferring that in the Judgement of Paris there was no agenda? I know for sure there was!

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                                          1. re: ChefJune
                                            Robert Lauriston Jun 21, 2013 04:29 PM

                                            How do you know what for sure? Stephen Spurrier didn't expect the California wines to win. Putting the reds up against Mouton, Montrose, Haut-Brion, and Leoville Las Cases certainly wasn't rigging the competition in favor of California. The judges were all French and pretty much the country's A team of the day.

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                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              ChefJune Jun 22, 2013 01:53 AM

                                              Stephen Spurrier didn't pick the Cali wines.

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                                              1. re: ChefJune
                                                Robert Lauriston Jun 22, 2013 09:17 AM

                                                I've started another topic on the 1976 tasting.

                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/906530

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                                            2. re: ChefJune
                                              maria lorraine Jun 21, 2013 06:03 PM

                                              There is an agenda regarding this particular tasting. I came to this conclusion for these reasons:

                                              In 2012, the OP wrote an article promoting Texas Viogniers, in which he said that, "An opinion that I have had for a couple of years that major national wine publications like the Wine Advocate and The Wine Spectator are guilty of a criminal idleness in not reporting on certain wines from Texas that have passed the threshold of replicable quality."

                                              That language is telling. It reveals a passionate interest in rectifying a wrong ["criminal idleness"].

                                              The entire article is here:
                                              http://sidedish.dmagazine.com/2012/03/23/the-state-of-viognier-wine-in-texas/

                                              Any judging of wine should not be designed by any person with a keen interest in the outcome, or, in this case, by a person who wants to prove that TX Viogniers "deserve recognition" or are "better than" Viogniers produced elsewhere.

                                              This interest in the outcome makes the selection of the non-Texas Viogniers suspect. It's been discussed that the California Viogniers were not from any top producers, and that the single Condrieu was not from any of the top ten Condrieu producers. There seems to be little effort taken to include Viogniers from these top producers.

                                              Moreover, the non-Texas Viogniers were weak examples of their category, making it appear that they were chosen so that so that the Texas Viogniers would show better against them.

                                              Also not included were any of the Virginia Viogniers, another omission.
                                              A comparison of VA and TX Viogniers is most apt, as Virginia is a recognized region for Viognier, outside of the France/California axis of recognition, like Texas.

                                              The hyperbole used to promote the results of the judging also reveals an agenda, especially so in light of the 2012 article.

                                              The OP wrote, "Texas Viognier soundly trounced California and French wines made from the Viognier grape."

                                              Link:
                                              http://cravedfw.com/2013/06/16/texas-viognier-is-tested-against-california-and-france-and-comes-out-the-winner/

                                              A Google search has revealed that the same words that began this thread were also repeated in numerous Texas media outlets. In the opening post of this thread, the language is that of a PR release; the OP refers to himself in third person.

                                              Link:
                                              http://www.google.com/search?q=this+w...

                                              These factors show distinct bias:

                                              ● the obvious interest in the outcome by the person coordinating the tasting
                                              ● the prior article on the lack of recognition of Texas Viognier
                                              ● the few number of non-Texas Viogniers
                                              ● the selection of the non-Texas Viogniers
                                              ● the hyperbole used to describe the outcome: "Texas Viognier soundly trounced California and French wines"
                                              ● the promotion of the outcome in Texas media outlets, with the exact "press release" wording used to open this thread
                                              ● the person who designed the judging and the person who promoted the results (and what they mean) are the same.

                                              My interest here is in following three basics of wine judging: impartiality; adequate representation of the varietal; and a respect for varietal correctness so that the judging results mean something.

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                                          2. re: PhillyBestBYOB
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                                            achalk Jun 21, 2013 02:25 PM

                                            PhillyBestBYOB: Thanks for your comments. I expect that their is zero distribution in PA! Best to order from the winery's web site. Or does PA make that illegal?

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                                            1. re: achalk
                                              PhillyBestBYOB Jun 23, 2013 11:47 PM

                                              No, we can't bring wine into PA. We're pretty much screwed over here!

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                                          3. Robert Lauriston Jun 21, 2013 08:52 AM

                                            All criticisms of the tasting aside, I think it was pretty solid as a comparison of almost every Viognier made in Texas.

                                            But since all we have is rankings, a few judges' comments on two wines, and one judge's rating of the #1 wine, the published results are not very informative. We don't know how they were scored (Parker 51-point system?) or have a clue what the judges thought about most of them. Did any of the judges comment that any of the wines were closer to the old-school Condrieu model? That would be far more interesting to me than anything in the press release.

                                            The main conclusion I can draw is that only the #1 $40 Pedernales Cellars Reserve was very impressive, since the comments on the #2 wine were so lacking in enthusiasm.

                                            I ordered a bottle of the Pedernales Cellars Reserve so I can see for myself.

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                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
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                                              achalk Jun 21, 2013 09:54 AM

                                              Robert: I let each judge use their preferred scale. But they had to do a "ranking" in the right-hand column. I used the ranking to compare ratings. There was in fact an enormous amount of very lively discussion about the typicity issue, and much else. It is a legitimate criticism that I simply did not reproduce enough of it in the article at CraveDFW.com (a press release can't go into that detail).

                                              Personally, I recommend you compare the Pedernales Reserve with the Brennan. I have opinions - but will hold them until you have tasted them. Suggest you post your review in this forum.

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                                              1. re: achalk
                                                Robert Lauriston Jun 21, 2013 11:24 AM

                                                So the final ranking is the aggregate of all rankings? Lowest total was #1, highest total was #19?

                                                Brennan doesn't ship to California.

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                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
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                                                  achalk Jun 21, 2013 11:29 AM

                                                  Correct on the interpretation of the rankings.

                                                  Surprised that Brennan does not ship to a final consumer in CA. I thought CA law was very wine friendly.

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                                                2. re: achalk
                                                  b
                                                  budnball Jun 21, 2013 04:00 PM

                                                  It does not appear that Texas wines can be shipped to California.

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                                                  1. re: budnball
                                                    Robert Lauriston Jun 21, 2013 04:18 PM

                                                    Pedernales Cellars ships to California.

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                                                      b
                                                      budnball Jun 22, 2013 06:41 AM

                                                      thanx

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                                                        achalk Jun 23, 2013 03:46 PM

                                                        Becker is another winery that can ship to CA.

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                                                        1. re: budnball
                                                          a
                                                          achalk Jun 24, 2013 09:58 AM

                                                          McPherson also does.

                                                          - A

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                                                      2. re: budnball
                                                        a
                                                        achalk Jun 21, 2013 06:14 PM

                                                        I checked and:

                                                        1) Some wineries are on Amazon.com;

                                                        2) According to one respondent "Texas wineries can fill out Type 82 form and pay $10. Send the State a copy of your Winery Permits. That’s it, and you are shipping direct to CA consumers"

                                                        I have sent this information to all the wineries in the tasting. This may make it easier.

                                                        - A

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                                                    INDIANRIVERFL Jun 21, 2013 01:46 PM

                                                    achalk, many thanks for bringing this wine back on to my radar.

                                                    Am hoping that I can find an example in my local stores. Otherwise I will have to wait until the next visit to Dear Daughter in Houston. Will post again after I have sampled.

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                                                    1. Bill Hunt Jun 23, 2013 09:36 PM

                                                      Interesting.

                                                      In the past, I have had some interesting Chardonnays from Texas, and was impressed.

                                                      We love Viognier, and did some interesting wines, at a "Rhône Dinner," where the wines only had to be Rhône varietals, and not FROM FR.

                                                      We started our evening with an AZ Viognier from Dos Cabezas, and followed up with two Condieus, at more than 4x the price. With Viognier, the Dos Cabazas was the winner, against two "heavy-hitters."

                                                      Much of the wine region in TX is not totally unlike that in Southern AZ, so that does not surprise me.

                                                      Unfortunately, we do not see TX wines that often - heck, we do not see AZ wines, as much as we should. I will, however, keep my eyes open for TX Viognier. Maybe at IAH (George Bush International Airport)?

                                                      Thanks for that info.

                                                      Hunt

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                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt
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                                                        INDIANRIVERFL Jun 24, 2013 05:51 AM

                                                        While searching for a voignier this weekend, (Petty's, Downtown Produce, ABC) I met a gentleman who was well acquainted with voigniers. He stated that northern Virginia had a climate most like the Rhone, and that voigniers were widely planted.

                                                        Unfortunately, nobody had it, and a search of the computer at ABC came up with nothing. Not even a special order.

                                                        It is moments like this when I get an overwhelming desire to leave Mayberry, RFD and resume a cosmopolitan existence.

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                                                          maria lorraine Jun 24, 2013 03:37 PM

                                                          Virginia, like Texas, is attempting to do great things with Viognier, and to not include Virginia Viogniers in this tasting is another big omission, just like not including great French and great California Viogniers.

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                                                          1. re: maria lorraine
                                                            z
                                                            zin1953 Jun 24, 2013 08:53 PM

                                                            Well, ML, *clearly* the object of the exercise was to promote Texas wines . . . so why include Virginia? ;^)

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                                                        zin1953 Jun 25, 2013 08:43 AM

                                                        I'm sorry to chime in late here with my own little take on the b***s***, but the more I look at this, the more transparent it seems to me . . .

                                                        Permit me to ignore the results, and focus on the premise, if I may.

                                                        1) >>> The organizer of the event, Andrew Chalk, an editor at CraveDFW, said “I was baffled that the national media did not include Texas wines when they evaluated Viognier." <<<

                                                        REALLY?!?!?! Texas is ignored by the national media for EVERY wine they make. So is (for all intents and purposes) every other state in the Union, save Oregon and Washington. Local media covers local wineries, and there may be an article or two every year in a national publication that covers, say, New York, or that talks about, say, Riesling and in so doing mentions New York, Michigan, Idaho, etc., etc. But why Mr. Chalk is "baffled" is something I'm baffled about.

                                                        2) >>> "Clearly, this was a matter that only the facts would settle: a blind tasting of French, California and Texas Viognier by expert palates to determine where the wines stood.” <<<

                                                        Since blind tastings a) prove very little (save that these particular judges preferred these particular wines on this particular day), and b) are *very* easy to rig/influence/shape, I think this speaks more to Mr. Chalk and his lack of understanding, than it does to proof of anything specific. (Please note I've had several Texas Viogniers, and I liked them overall very much; this isn't about the quality of the wine.)

                                                        3) >>> “Finally”, said Chalk,” I needed a wine from the modern home of the Viognier grape, and the place that is still regarded as the benchmark. I chose the 2011 Saint Cosme, Condrieu because this $65 wine scored over 94 points out of 100 in web reviews and is made by maybe the most decorated producer in the Rhône over the past two years. I expected this wine to win hands down, the compensation being that it was over twice the price of most of the Texas entrants.” <<<

                                                        "Modern home"? What was its ancestral home? (OK, sorry.) Saint Cosme is not a leading producer of Condrieu, and hence one can suggest that by choosing it, one may be influencing the result of the "test" before it ever begins. But even more telling is the last sentence. He expected the Saint Cosme to win because it was the most expensive?!?!?! Please: if this is an honest and truthful statement, it is the most complete and total expression of naïveté I've read in a long time, or -- well, let's just say I find this sentiment difficult to believe, and leave it at that.

                                                        My issues with trying to pretend this is even remotely close to any sort of objective exercise continues, but why belabor the point?

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                                                        1. re: zin1953
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                                                          achalk Jun 25, 2013 11:22 AM

                                                          >> "Modern home"? What was its ancestral home?

                                                          "Original origin is uncertain. Unconfirmed origin is Vugava grape from the island of Vis off the Dalmatian Coast.
                                                          Legend says that Viognier was brought to Rhône Valley from Dalmatia by Emperor Probus in CE 281."

                                                          source James Tidwell, MS presentation to Texas Viognier symposium 2012.

                                                          You weren't naive enough to think it think it originated in the Rhône, were you?

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                                                          1. re: achalk
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                                                            zin1953 Jun 25, 2013 12:04 PM

                                                            Of course not, but it's been in the Rhône a damned sight longer than it's been in Texas . . . or California, Virginia, Australia, South Africa, or any place else in the New World.

                                                            Let's take Tidwell at his word for a moment . . . you think that being in the same location for over 1,700 years still makes it a "modern" home?

                                                            Now, according to "Wine Grapes," (Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, and José Vouillamoz, © 2012):

                                                            "Viognier was supposedly introduced from the Dalmatian coast to France by the emperor Probus, who came from Smirnium in Croatia, and Calò et.al (2006) suggest that Viongier is still cultivated on the island of Vis under the name Vugava or Bugava. However, there is no histroical evidence in support of this hypothesis, and hte DNA profile of Vugana Bijela that was available in the Croatian Vitis Datatbase does not match Viognier (Vouillamoz)."

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                                                        2. kaleokahu Jun 25, 2013 02:43 PM

                                                          Hi, achalk:

                                                          I think that, with all the unlove your tasting and reportage have engendered, the only thing to do is to repeat your test. Use a few of the wines suggested by the priestly skeptics here, and let the chips fall where they may.

                                                          You may *still* find that folks are unhappy with your methodology (and/or the results, which if they don't confirm the skeptics' bias, *will* drive the criticism of the methodology). But there's no sweeter result than giving a skeptic everything they want and still coming out ahead.

                                                          Good luck with your efforts.

                                                          Aloha,
                                                          Kaleo

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                                                          1. Midlife Jun 25, 2013 04:22 PM

                                                            I can't help but think that a part of what's going on here has to do with a concern that there's more to this topic than a submission of information about Texas Viognier. A new poster, who is a writer for a website, suddenly appears posting an article that a number of knowledgeable oenophiles have suggested has a number of issues regarding (for openers) the specific wines that were selected for comparison. The poster wrote the article, but doesn't tell us that in the initial post. Not too surprising, then, that there may be some blurring of lines regarding exactly what fault is being found.

                                                            The internet presents a pretty much open freedom to post whatever you like, but individual sites have rules....... and frequent posters develop a pretty good sense of possible motive issues, I don't know a lot about Old World Viognier, but I DO know a lot about California wine (and some specific CA Viogniers). I have no issue with an article that seeks to promote wine from a specific area, but I DO think (when that article is put out there nationally, and internationally actually) it is fair to judge it for correctness, fairness, balance, and perspective...... to name just a

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                                                            1. The Chowhound Team Jun 26, 2013 11:09 AM

                                                              We're going to close this thread now, because it keeps getting sidetracked by discussion about the thread iself and not about the topic at hand. We've also had to remove a number of personal attacks from multiple posters and we think it's best to put this topic to bed.

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