Where is the Big Bang of understanding that sparks a collective “aha!” moment in wine and creates a lasting cultural footprint among the Millennial generation much as that experienced by the Boomers? That “I kissed a wine and I liked it” feeling? That magic carpet ride?

Wine writer Andrew Jeffords describes the existential moment this way, “…we suddenly relish the wine we’re tasting in a more comprehensive manner than we’ve ever been able to do before. We suddenly ‘get it’, often with overwhelming force. We suddenly grasp, in other words, the radical principle of beauty common to all good and great wine, and gasp for a moment at the extent of its appeal. We understand how wine creation might mesh with other cultural activities.”

Entering DEFCON 3

Warning sirens began sounding throughout the U.S. wine industry and (because the U.S. is the world’s largest wine market) throughout the wine-producing world earlier this year with the release of the Silicon Valley Bank State of the Wine Industry Report 2019. The Millennials, now average age 30, are fast developing the cultural habits that will follow them for the rest of their lives, but enjoying a healthful glass of wine isn’t one of them. The Millennial generation is passing up an amazing universe of wine options to chase bro brews, spirits and cocktails with sexy, sensual name references and the new cannabis options.

If we throw around the buzzword “sustainability” will that help? Sustainability is such a marketing ploy these days that one would wonder why it hasn’t been applied to health and wellness choices that the under 40 generation is making in addition to the shoes on their feet or the cricket flour in their snack foods. Fermented grape juice offers a more sustainable healthy lifestyle than beer, spirits and cannabis. Would an angle with more seduction attract new consumers to the wine side? Anthony Bourdain, you left us too soon! We need those who can engage the senses and the imagination as opposed to the ritual recitations of the high priests of vino communicating only with those who have studied the wine world’s equivalent of Ancient Sanskrit.

Season Openers

Line up of rosés we tasted along with the staff at the Elk Store in Fredericksburg, TX, as they prepare for the spring tourist season.

Several trade tastings in March gave us the opportunity and inspiration to think of wines in terms of something more familiar. Tasting our way through a Bordeaux exhibition, we came upon a wine that immediately made us think, “Wow, a strong hitter and first one up to bat!” That lead us to think of describing wines in terms of the batting order in baseball. Just as a coach wouldn’t slot a power hitter batting first, you wouldn’t want to overwhelm your palate by beginning your dining experience with a powerful red wine. That’s why most meals begin with a white, rosé or sparkling wine.

A restaurant wine list that moves from less power to more power (as we do below) is known as a progressive wine list. Some wine specialists dismiss the usefulness of organizing lists in this manner by claiming it’s too rudimentary and their guests are more sophisticated, but with the tsunami wave of new wine producing regions around the world, it’s a great way to compare wines that consumers may not have had the opportunity to experience. The familiar Bordeaux and Burgundy varietals of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon aren’t the only star players these days.

So, we’ll give a few players in our fantasy league this month by working through the batting order. Where we list things such as oak aging, aging on the lees, or number of cases produced, these metrics in the wine world can be likened to the type of bat a hitter prefers or the number of RBIs in a player’s season. Just as in following your favorite teams or players, finding your favorite varietals, producing regions, winemakers or winestyles is unique to every individual. Does vintage (year of harvest) matter? Well, yes, it can. Growers may have a Cinderella season or a season plagued with injuries. Winemakers may try new strategies or make technical adjustments depending on the fruit. We’re not including pricing as some of the following are on-premise (restaurant) only wines.

If you want a…

SPARKLING & CHAMPAGNE to go with any dish at any point in the meal, then try these...

Château Berthenon | Crémant de Bordeaux NV
Sauvignon Gris 100%
What an elegant swing! Beautiful integration of racy acid, fruit and creamy bread dough notes. At just 500 cases of production, if you get a chance to see this player in action, it’s well worth the cost of a ticket. This sparkler keeps the momentum going with handcrafted méthode traditionelle fermentation.

CRISP, LIGHT-BODIED WHITE & ROSÉ to go with fish, shellfish, pork, veal, cured meats, Asian dishes or game birds, then try these...

C.L. Butaud | 2017 Rosé
Texas, High Plains
Mourvedre 100%
Whole cluster pressed and aged for eight months in stainless steel neutral French oak barrels.

Wedding Oak Winery | 2018 Rosato di Sangiovese
Texas, Hill Country
Mesmerizing salmon pink glow from fruit picked at perfect ripeness and given a long, cold soak of 48 hours with skin contact. Intense aromas of grapefruit and boxwood lead to the sweet cherry of a Jolly Rancher hard candy dancing on the palate to the finish.

Wine for the People | 2018 Dandy Rosé
Texas, High Plains
Classic blend of Mourvedre, Cunoise, Picpoul, Grenache in a southern France style with a delicate floral nose, blush color, nice easy flow of fruit and crispness.

Boya | Rosé 2018
Chile, Ledya Valley
Like so many great rosés from Champagne, Boya Rosé is predominately Pinot Noir( 93%) the noble grape of Burgundy. With 7% Grenache to round out, you have supreme balance of aromas of raspberry and tangerine, crisp acidity with a mineral finish. You will never let your glass get empty with this one.

Château Tertre de Launay | 2016 Entre-Deux-Mer
Sémillon 45%, Sauvignon Blanc 35%, Muscadet 20%.
Setting the tone with a strong hitter right off the top of the batting order! This one had us impressed with the perfect balance of white flower aroma, beautiful fruit and acidy. A memorable player from a lesser-known region.

Spicewood Vineyards | 2018 Sauvignon Blanc
Texas, Hill Country, Estate Vyds
Rollout with your posse of guys and gals to Spicewood Vineyards located between Austin and Marble Falls. No gold gilding or frou frou ornamentation here. Instead, you’ll find Willie Nelson playing in the background of this super-boutique, award winning winery. Everything we love in an SB — floral nose, white stone fruit, citrus, crisp racy acids with a nice finish.

RICH, MEDIUM to FULL-BODIED WHITE WINE to go with fish, shellfish, poultry, pork, veal, cream sauces, egg dishes, spicy sausage, cured meats or vegetarian dishes, then try these...

Wedding Oak Winery | 2018 Albarino
Texas, Hill Country
Ahh, Albarino … Hola y bienvenida! A recent arrival from Spain to the Texas wine game. Exotic and refreshing with enticing aromas of ripe nectarine, passion fruit and a bright citrus fruit. Fruit-driven flavors of pears, pineapple and white stone fruit. The best version of this varietal that we’ve tasted.

Fall Creek Vineyards | 2017 Terroir Reflections Chardonnay
Texas, Hill Country, Certenberg Vyd
Enchanté, mademoiselle Chardonnay! The spell of your Old World style of barrel aging on fine lees … the evocative aromas of peaches and sweet grilled pineapple … the enticing flavors of peach, Meyer lemon and a hint of brioche … and a crisp, stony minerality finish.

pureCru | 2016 Purety White Meritage
California, Napa Valley
Semillon 64%, Sauvignon Blanc 36%. French oak 16 months barrel fermented.
Beautiful exotic floral nose followed by layers of honey herbed tea, mangoes, melon, notes of fig. Perfect balance of acid and cream due to 16 months on the lees and stirred. This wine is rich, delicious and lingers on the finish. You could drink this all day.

CRISP, LIGHT-BODIED RED WINE to with light meat dishes, grilled or roasted chicken, hamburgers, pasta, pizza, salmon, turkey, sausage, cured meats or casseroles, then try these...

Wine for the People | Grower Project 2017 ‘The Source’ Sangiovese
Texas High Plains, Letkeman Vyd
A Sangiovese traditionalist showing a stylish new side. In this second vintage of this wine for Austin-based winemaker Rae Wilson, she creates a truly transformer red that can mix it up with all the thirsty masses. Sangiovese that is vinified like a Pinot Noir or Gamay displaying a beautiful balance of light forward fruit, acids and light tannin notes. This is a versatile, year round player for all day, anywhere and with foods of every culture in Texas. 8 months neutral French oak.

SUPPLE, MEDIUM-BODIED RED WINE to go with hard cheeses, simple roasts, grilled meats, spicy meat dishes, cured meats, lamb, game birds or venison, then try these...

Château Berthenon2012 Cuvée Chloé
Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux
Merlot 80%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20%.
A great all-around hitter bringing an inside the park homerun! Big rich layers of deep dark fruit with delicious silky tannins that keep rolling and keep the fans cheering.

Bending Branch Winery | 2015 Tempranillo
Texas, High Plains, Newsom Vyds
⅓ Cryo-maceration and ⅔ whole berry fermentation. 33 months in 25% new French and American oak.
Wow! this wine delivers. Beautiful toasty French oak vanilla nose, Medium bodied, silky tannins deep dark fruit that keeps going like the Energizer bunny.

C.L. Butaud | 2015 Tempranillo
100% Texas
Super boutique production at only 10 barrels of this Tempranillo. Masculine in style with a touch of oak and subtle notes of silky Belgian chocolate due to the extended lees contact.

M de Monségur | Réserve 2014 Bordeaux AOC
Cabernet Franc 100%
For those who love a finesse player, this Cab Franc packs nice rich fruit, silky tannins, and a long finish. Cab Franc isn’t known as a power hitter, but much like a batter in the number 5 spot, this strong player has a good record of RBIs as a very food-friendly wine with its ability to hit to all sides of the food field.

BOLD, FULL-BODIED RED WINE to go with rich meat dishes, spicy pastas, roast turkey, cured meats, game birds, venison or dark chocolate, then try these...

Bending Branch Winery | 2016 Tannat
Texas, Hill Country and High Plains
Nose of limestone and berries. Medium body with dark bramble berry fruit, expresso-tinged with medium tannins. 24 months French and American oak for extra layers of flavor.

Fall Creek Vineyards | 2016 ExTerra Mourvedre
Texas, Hill Country, Salt Lick Vyds
The star quality of the masculine Mourvedre touting a 91 point score was a dream in the glass. Elegant deep dark fruit and earth on the nose. Perfectly integrated fruit flavors, earthy mushrooms and acid levels lingering long with silky tannins.

Fall Creek Vineyards | 2018 Mourvedre (barrel sample)
Texas, Hill Country, Salt Lick Vyds
A dreamy younger brother yet to join his siblings — and he might just steal the show. We were quite taken with our peak at the 2018 Mourvedre. Still maturing in the barrel, look for this stellar red in release around 2020.

pureCru | 2012 CFM
California, Napa Valley
Cabernet Franc 67%, Merlot 33% blend. 39 months French and American oak.
A front line hitter. Wow, you don’t come across many wines that drink like a magic carpet ride. Cedar-cigar box, deep rose on the nose. On the palate, cedar integrates perfectly with black fruits, a touch of black pepper, black plum. The complex integration of aromatics, layers of dark fruit with long silky tannins can make your eyes roll. So good that you might not want to share.

Spicewood Vineyards | The Good Guy (multiple vintages)
Texas, Hill Country, Estate Vyds
Blend of Tempranillo, Graciano, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, varies by vintage.
Can Texas men have an open relationship with wine? Is there Texas wine that can compete with a man’s favorite bro beer? The older brothers to the red wine blend “The Good Guy” lineup are more full on muscular like mustangs that need a little breaking. Think of the defense chant in a big game, but with application to wine: “De-cant, de-cant, de-cant!” This should help dial the power down a bit if your drinking this alone, but not like George Thorogood and the Destroyers “alone”. On the other hand if you are cutting into a beautiful grilled steak and mushroom sauce, it would be a perfect foil. The tannins will cut right through the richness releasing all those umami, savory flavors that we look forward to experiencing. We also tasted the soon-to-be-released 2017 “The Good Guy” showing a perfect harmony of fruit, earthiness, leather and tannins with nice long finish.

~ Dale Blankenship and Cat Sansing