Getting Judgmental at Rodeo Uncorked!

A few weekends ago, I once again served as a judge for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s International Wine Competition, otherwise known as “Rodeo Uncorked!” (I am not a huge fan of the name or more precisely the exclamation point at the end–I feel that punctuation is overused, but that might just be me).

Before you laugh (which is the response I often get from coastal types when I use the words “rodeo” and “wine” in the same sentence), the wine competition for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR) is serious business. This year there were over 3500 wines entered, I was one of 120 judges, and there are close to 200 other volunteers working hard to stage the wine so that people like me can drink it (actually, we don’t “drink” any of the wine–we taste and spit).

The Rodeo is quite an event, lasting almost the entire month of March, with a rodeo and concert every night in NRG Stadium (home of the Houston Texans). Outside the stadium, there is more going on with carnival rides and just about every food you can think of, most of them deep-fried (you might not have lived until you have had a deep-fried turkey leg with some deep-fried Twinkies), and my favorite, the Wine Garden where you can purchase most of the top wines from the Competition.

A bit of sparkling wine to ready the palate before getting to work.

An almost entirely volunteer-run organization, since its start in 1932, the Rodeo has raised over $500 million dollars to support Texas youth and education.

There is never a doubt you are indeed in Texas.

For me, I lucked out a bit this year. The last time I judged, I tasted 50 New World Pinot Noirs with retail prices from $5 to $11. Ouch. That was not fun. At all. This year was much better. On Day One, my panel tasted a total of 96 wines: 17 Old World Pinot Grigios ($15-30); 9 “Other Semi-Dry Whites” ($16 and up); 57 New World Pinot Noirs ($30-40); 13 Dessert Wines, Fortified or Oxidized ($20 and up).

The wines on Day Two were also pretty darned good and fairly straight forward as we had 56 wines from a single category: “Other Red Blends” ($21-35). Not too shabby.

A couple of weeks ago, the medal winners were announced and can be found HERE.

Panel 17. A prime number. Ugh. I don’t like prime numbers.

Looks like my spot.

Round one of the Pinots.

The dessert wines added some color.

My panel—they were great! (Yes, it requires an exclamation point.)


About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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