I do not say this with any apparent machismo (or at least none intended), but at this stage in life, there are not a ton of situations where I feel all that intimidated. I actually like public speaking (I was a high school teacher for a decade: if you can get up and speak before a group of teenagers everyday, you can talk to anyone), I am a wine judge for the Houston Rodeo and even though I do not have any letters after my name (e.g., WSET, CSW, MW, MS) I am confident that I will hold my own, and my years as a bike racer and basketball player/coach taught me how to deal with pressure.
But Texas Barbecue intimidates the bejesus out of me.
So far, I found the people of Texas to be extremely nice, but once they find out that you patron a purveyor of smoked meats that is not quite up to snuff, they become judgmental in a heartbeat. There are countless people in the Houston metropolitan area that will rise well before dawn, drive several hours, and wait in line for many more all in hopes of buying some barbecue from some guy named Hank that cooks and sells barbecue from his backyard on the weekends.
That is what I am up against.
While I research this further, I am also getting ready by tasting wines to pair with the food (if I ever get up enough courage to buy any). While some might suggest that I just drink beer—I refuse to be intimidated, at least on this aspect.
2012 Achaval Ferrer Quimera Vino Tinto Mendoza: Retail $50. 50% Malbec, 24% Cabernet Franc, 16% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot. I have iterated on many occasions that I am at best a novice when it comes to South American wines, so I claim no expertise, but this is fantastic. I see this as perhaps one of the happier marriages between the old and new worlds. There is fruit, and it is juicy, but it is by no means overwhelming, and there is an intriguing depth that is not clouded in overbearing tannins. This is so good right now, there really is no need to wait, but there might be some slight improvement over the short-term. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2013 Beran Zinfandel Sonoma County: Retail $36. Another wine from fifth generation winemaker Joe Wagner (his dad, Chuck, founded Camus. Inky dark in the glass with juicy aromas of dark berries (both blue and black), some mocha, and a bit of heat (15.2% abv), from the get-go, this is unabashedly a Zin lover’s wine. Rich, viscous, and opulent on the palate with blackberry, black pepper, and nutmeg flavors running wild. Not much tannin to speak of, but a lengthy finish, nonetheless. I only know a few Texans at this point, but I have little doubt that this would be their kind of wine: big, bold, and ready to stand up to their barbecue (in a respectable manner, of course). Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2013 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Hallberg Vineyards: Retail: $55. When the kind people at Gary Farrell suggested that this might be a good wine for my piece on wines to pair with Texas BBQ. Well, my first instinct was “Huh?!? Pinot with BBQ?” But with deeper contact, I noticed a much deeper wine. Holy cow. Bright cherry fruit on the nose with just a hint of earth and tobacco. On the palate, though, this wine is incredible: fruity and rich, but with more than its fair share of depth, body, and substance. OK. Wow. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2014 Gary Farrell Zinfandel Russian River Valley Maffei Vineyard: Retail $50. I believe this is the fourth vintage of this wine and having tried the previous three, this might indeed be the best. It is still a bit closed initially, but after just a bit of time in the glass, this really takes off. The wine is full of wonderful fruit of mostly blue and black berries (with a few red ones thrown in) then wave after wave of complexity. Plenty of spice, accented with shades of eucalyptus and clove. I really could go on for a while listing off descriptors for this wine as there are so many aspects to it. But I won’t. Instead, I am going to poor another glass, and then another. And then I will rue the last drop that dribbles out of the neck. This is easily my favorite Zinfandel, and there are many other wines of any variety or style that I would chose over it. Outstanding+. 94-96 Points.