Get a sip of the best of the Piney Woods: Local wineries featured on Piney Woods Wine Trail

by Cristin Parker cristin@thecherokeean.com

Looking for a crisp, hot, vinous time this summer? Just follow the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Piney Woods Wine Trail!

Sponsored under the umbrella of the Ag Department’s GO TEXAN program, the Piney Woods Wine Trail features several local wineries in and around Cherokee County.

“From country stars to down home bars and from rustic farms to elegant charm, you can visit them all without ever leaving the trail,” GO TEXAN’s website states.

Kick off your trip down the Trail at the ninth annual Piney Woods Wine Festival 5-7 p.m., Friday, June 21and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, June 22, at the Picker’s Pavilion, 205 East North St., in Lindale.

“Uncork the fun with us for musical entertainment, arts and crafts geared for the wine enthusiast, great food, and of course wine,” event organizers stated on the GO TEXAN website. “The event features wine tastings by the 20 wineries on the Piney Woods Wine Trail, many of them national award winners.”

The event is free to attend. Patrons interested in entering the wine garden will be required to purchase a $10 wrist band – the wrist band fee includes a wine glass and a six-bottle wine tote. Wine tasting will cost $1 and a glass of wine will range from $5- $8 per glass. Bottles of wine may be purchased from the individual wineries.

Tickets are available through Eventbrite’s website, eventbrite.com.

Featured wineries include Dixie Wine Company in Mt. Selman; M6 Winery in Bullard; Briar Creek Vineyards in Whitehouse; Kiepersol Vineyards, Winery & Distillery and Pella Legna, both in Tyler; Red 55 Winery/The Miranda Lambert Store in Lindale; Vineyard & Smokehaus in Palestine; Red House Winery and Naca Valley Vineyard, both in Nacogdoches; Tara Vineyard & Winery in Athens; White Fox Vineyards in Murchinson; Cannon Creek Vineyard in Canton; Bella Stella Winery in Winnsboro; Della Terra Farm in Brashear; Enoch’s Stomp Vineyard & Winery in Harleton; Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards in Pittsburg; O’Farrell Country Vineyards in Atlanta; Red Road Vineyards & Winery in Naples; Silver Lake Cellars in Silver Lake; and Texas Valle delle Pace Vineyard & Winery in Garden Valley.

Other wineries calling Cherokee County home, but aren’t necessarily a part of the Wine Trail, include Maydelle Country Wines, 175 CR 2108, Maydelle; and KE Bushman’s Celebration Center and Party Barn (a branch of Kiepersol), 51320 U.S. Highway 69 N, Bullard.

According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Texas is home to more than 520 wineries and more than 4,500 acres of vineyards — making it the fifth leading wine-producing state in the nation.

“Each year, the Texas wine and grape industry provides $13.1 billion in economic value to the state and adds more than 104,000 full-time jobs that account for $4.3 billion in wages,” the Service’s website states.

To help this vital industry thrive, the AgriLife Extension Service has implemented its new Viticulture and Enology Certificate program, to provide formal training to help students launch successful careers in the wine industry.

As part of the new program AgriLife Enologist Dr. Andreea Botezatu has created the Enology webinar series, to help support Texas’s wine industry with pertinent, up-to-date scientific information. Most of the presentations are recorded and posted to the Enology YouTube channel.

Another initiative aimed at supporting the Texas winemaking industry is the ‘Dr. B Talks Texas Wine’ video library. The library includes a series of short video clips that introduce the grape and wine varieties that grow well in Texas and that have the potential to produce exceptional wines.

The goal of the series is to encourage Texas wine consumers to learn more about lesser known grape and wine varietals and give them the confidence and desire to try them.

Texas Department of Agriculture’s GO TEXAN program is a comprehensive initiative from the Texas Department of Agriculture designed to promote the growth and prosperity of every rural Texas town, city and county. It is a program for qualifying communities and rural Texas supporters.

This program creates a single rallying call for rural Texas, educating the public about all rural Texas has to offer and encouraging rural communities to share and promote successful ideas.

Learning the lingo: Check out the official vocabulary for a truly tasty wine tasting.

Aftertaste - The flavor that lingers in your mouth after you swallow the wine. The length of the aftertaste is perhaps the single most reliable indicator of wine quality (see Finish).

Aroma - The primary smell of a young, unevolved wine, consisting of the odors of the grape juice itself, of the fermentation process, and, if relevant, of the oak barrels in which the wine was made or aged.

Astringent - Having mouth puckering tannins; such wines may merely need time to soften.

Austere - Tough, dry and unforthcoming, often due to a severe tannic structure or simply to the extreme youth of a wine.

Balance - The ratio of a wine’s key components, including fruitiness, sweetness, acidity, tannin and alcoholic strength. A balanced wine shows a harmony of components, with no single element dominating.

Body - The weight of a wine on the palate, determined by its alcoholic strength and level of extract (see Extract). Wines are typically described as ranging from light-bodied to full-bodied.

Bouquet - The richer, more complex fragrances that develop as a wine ages.

Closed - Not especially aromatic, likely due to recent bottling or to the particular stage of the wine’s development. Dumb is a synonym.

Corked, Corky - Contaminated by a tainted cork, which gives the wine a musty, wet cardboard smell. Bad corks are a major problem, as they can ruin otherwise sound bottles. By most accounts two to five bottles out of 100 are affected by bad corks.

Crisp - Refreshing, thanks to sound acidity.

Earthy - Can be a component of complexity deriving from the wine’s distinctive soil character or a pejorative description for a rustic wine.

Extract - Essentially the minerals and other trace elements in a wine; sugar-free dry extract is everything in a wine except water, sugar, acids and alcohol. High extract often gives wine a dusty, tactile impression of density. It frequently serves to buffer high alcohol or strong acidity.

Fat - Rich to the point of being unctuous, with modest balancing acidity.

Finish - The final taste left by a sip of wine after you swallow. Wines can be said to have long or short finishes.

Firm - Perceptibly tannic and/or acidic, in a positive way.

Flabby - Lacking acidity and therefore lacking shape.

Fruity - Aromas and flavors derived from the grape, as opposed to the winemaking process or the barrels in which the wine was aged.

Green - Too acid, raw or herbal; due to under ripe grapes or stems but may simply mean the wine needs time to develop.

Grip - An emphatically firm, tactile finish.

Hard - Too tannic or acidic; often a characteristic of a wine that needs more time in bottle.

Hot - Noticeably alcoholic.

Jammy - Slightly cooked flavors of jam rather than fresh fruit, often a characteristic of red wines from hot climates.

Lean - Lacking flesh and body. Not necessarily pejorative, as some types of wines are lean by nature.

Middle Palate - Literally, the part of the tasting experience between the nose of the wine and its finish. The impact of a wine in the mouth.

Mouth Feel - The physical impression of a wine in the mouth; its texture.

Nose - The aroma or bouquet.

Oaky - Smell or taste of the oak cask in which the wine was vinified and/or aged; oak notes can include such element as vanilla, clove, cinnamon, cedar, smoke toast, bourbon and coffee.

Oxidized - Possessing a tired or stale taste due to excessive exposure to air. An oxidized white wine may have a darker than normal or even brown color.

Powerful - High in alcohol and/or extract.

Sharp - Unpleasantly bitter or hard-edged.

Soft - Low in tannin and/or acidity.

Spritz - The faint prickle on the tongue of carbon dioxide (petillance in French), generally found in young, light white wines.

Steely - An almost metallic taste often noted in wines high in acidity and/or made from mineral-rich soil-especially Riesling.

Supple - Round and smooth, as opposed to noticeably tannic or acidic.

Sweet - A term applied not just to wines with significant residue sugar but also to those that show outstanding richness or ripeness.

Tart - Noticeably acidic.

Tough - A red wine showing excessive tannin.

Vinous - Literally wine-like, in terms of liveliness and acidity; often used to describe the overall impression conveyed by a wine beyond simple fruitiness. This can include subtle flavors that come from the soil that produced the grapes, as well as from the winemaking and aging process.

Volatile - Slightly vinegary due to a high level of acetic acid, referred to as volatile acidity (VA). A minimum level of VA often helps protect a wine’s aromas without resulting in an unstable bottle. “High-toned” is jargon for faintly volatile, and is not necessarily pejorative.

Everything you need to know: You wanted the facts and we have a Texas-sized amount of facts about Texas Red Varietals, Texas White Varietals, How to Taste Wine, How to Buy Texas Wines, Decoding the Wine Label, How Wine is Made, Vintage Terms, Wine Tasting Terms and The Wine Growing Regions of Texas.

Texas Red Varietals

Malbec - Complex, tannin-laden red with lush flavors of plums, berries and spice. Pair with beef dishes, turkey and hearty stews.

Tempranillo - Lush, smoky red with a hint of vanilla and rich, dark fruits. Pair with pizza, cabrito and tamales.

Syrah - Smokey red with soft tannins, toasted oak, berries and plums. Pair with beef stew, grilled meats, pizza and wild game.

Sangiovese - Smooth-textured red varietal spiced with wild raspberries and licorice. Pair with beef, pork, pasta dishes and cheese.

Zinfandel - Full-bodied, bold and fruity red bursting with berries and spice. Pair with BBQ, red pasta sauce and pizza.

Merlot - Medium-to-full bodied red with a subtle, herbaceous flavor and soft tannins. Pair with meatloaf, grilled tuna and eggplant Parmesan.

Cabernet Sauvignon - Complex, hearty red with bold flavors of cherry, cedar and chocolate. Pair with rack of lamb, T-bone steak and wild game.

Pinot Noir - Rich, smooth red with delicate notes of black cherries and cloves. Pair with duck, salmon and turkey.

Lenoir - Deep, dark red with notes of raspberry, cinnamon, cherry-chocolate, clove and brown sugar. Pair with raspberries and chocolate, as well as duck, venison and brisket.

Texas White Varietals

Chardonnay - Clean, crisp, well-balanced white with big flavors of citrus and oak. Pair oak-aged with light beef with cream sauces or smoked chicken; unoaked with lobster and veal.

Blanc du Bois - Light, fresh-finished white with notes of grapefruit and apples. Pair with fish with lemon butter sauce, pasta Alfredo and pineapple chicken.

Pinot Grigio - Creamy, slightly perfumed white with rich color and a fresh palate. Pair with TexMex, gulf fried shrimp and oysters.

Viognier - Intense, slightly spicy white with notes of floral, peach and apricot. Pair with lettuce wraps (Chinese), white fish with mango salsa and paella.

Riesling - Crisp, unobtrusive white accented by rich, fruit flavors and a floral bouquet. Pair with Indian cuisine, Greek salad and Jamaican pork.

Sauvignon Blanc - Silky smooth white with floral, grassy and delicate herbal properties. Pair with fish, shrimp, cream soups and veggies.

Chenin Blanc - Delicate, floral white with a dry, well-balanced finish. Pair with cheese crepes, quiche and Waldorf swalad.

Orange Muscat - Fruity, sweet white with notes of gooseberry and orange peel. Pair with ice cream, dark chocolate and smoked salmon.

Muscat Blanc - Light, fragrant white accented by coriander, peach and citrus flavors. Pair with fish, pasta, raw vegetables and soups.

Muscat Canelli - Fresh, fruity white retaining the zesty flavors of the grape. Pair with chocolate, fresh fruit, fish and pasta.

Gewurztraminer - Full-bodied, pungent white characterized by fruity, nutty flavors. Pair with BBQ, sushi and blackened fish.

Semillon - Bold and oaky, this sweet white carries hints of honey and figs. Pair with fried catfish, olive tapenade and fried chicken, as well as blue cheese or crème brûlèe.

-- gotexan.org

How to taste wines

Wine tasting is a time-honored art anyone can enjoy. Enrich your satisfaction with these easy and entertaining steps.

Seeing the Wine - Look at the wine in a glass. Pay attention to clarity and color (Is it red? Or more maroon?). Tilt the glass and swirl. Is it clear or cloudy? Any sediment or bits of floating cork? Remember, an older red is more translucent, a younger red is opaque.

Smelling the Wine - Smell the wine. Gently swirl the glass to release the bouquet. Stick your nose into the glass and inhale. Notice the complex aromas. Is it floral? Fruity? Oaky? A pleasing bouquet is a wonderful indication of a good wine.

Tasting the Wine - Take a small sip and roll it around on your tongue, then take a quick breath and mix the wine with air. Did the flavors open up? Reds often have an oaky or berry flavor. Whites are more likely fruity or floral.

Swallow - How does the wine finish? Does the flavor linger or pass quickly? Consider the texture -- is it light-bodied like water, or full-bodied like milk.?Your evaluation depends on your personal taste, but this technique gives you the best overall reflection of the wine’s elements.

How to buy wines

Buying a Texas wine is as easy as following the “Three Ps.”

Price - Quality Texas wines are available in every price range, so choose a bottle that is as pleasing to your pocketbook as it is to your palate.

Preference - Taste is a personal thing and you’ll establish your own preferences as you become familiar with a variety of wines. But for a party or dinner, there are guests preferences to consider.

For experienced wine enthusiasts, a full-bodied cabernet or syrah might be a wonderful selection. But for those new to wine, the safer choice is a good merlot, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc or muscat.

Pairing - The selection process might be easier if you’re looking for something to pair with dinner.

The general rule is whites with poultry, fish and highly-flavored foods. Choose reds for beef, game dishes and heavier meals. And for dessert, choose a wine that’s sweeter than the dish to be served (Port or Riesling are excellent choices.)

Remember, rules were made to be broken. The only important rule is that you choose a Texas wine that you enjoy.