The Tasting Panel magazine

January 2016

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Page 54 of 148

54  /  the tasting panel  /  january-february 2016 I f you're like me, when a product is released is not nearly as important as when it's enjoyed. And with so many made-in-Texas wines, beers and spirits being created every year, it can be challenging to name a few favorites. This quartet of Texas bev- erages—some new, some already turning into "classics"—represents the standouts from my deliciously busy year of evaluation. Spicewood Vineyards 2012 Tempranillo, Texas High Plains ($24) Made with grapes harvested during winemaker Todd Crowell's first year at Spicewood, this High Plains Tempranillo is deep and complex, yet structured for broad appeal. It's front- loaded with dark red fruit, smoke and earth; the addition of some Cabernet Sauvignon provides a bit of backbone to a still-youthful wine that continues to gain opulence with each passing year in the cellar. Haak Vineyards & Winery 2005 Jacquez Madeira, Texas ($76) Owner Raymond Haak is known as a pioneer for taking the non-vinifera hybrid Blanc du Bois grape and making it into several exquisite products, including a Madeira. This year, he released a limited edition Madeira from Jacquez (known also as Black Spanish and Lenoir). Here, Haak refines another working-horse hybrid grape into a lean, racy and elegant Madeira with milk chocolate, caramel, sweet red fruit and nutty flavors. Aged ten years in oak, this is dark, lovely and still clearly not limited in its aging potential. Treaty Oak Barrel Reserve Rum ($29) With so many new whiskeys (and other spirits) being produced in Texas, at times it's difficult to keep up. However, high-quality sipping rums are in short supply, making Treaty Oak Barrel Reserve a true standout. Made with Texas molasses and aged two years in medium-charred new American oak, this 80-proof rum shows off brown sugar and vanilla aromas. It's lush, lingering and woodsy on the palate when sipped alone, and it enhances cocktails with a tremendous depth charge of flavor. Big Bend Hefeweizen ($9 per six- pack) Around the time I was finishing this column, Big Bend's Brewmaster, Steve Anderson, died from cancer. It's a meaningful loss for the craft-beer community here because Anderson had been integral to Texas brewing for a long time: He was one of the pioneers of The Waterloo Brewing Company, which opened in Austin in 1993 as the state's first brewpub, and later he gained national acclaim at Live Oak Brewing Company. His Big Bend Hefeweizen is medium-bodied, with light citrus aromas and flavors that beg to be enhanced with an additional squeeze of lemon for a refreshing, crisp finish. It's a perfect style for Texas—where it still hits 80 degrees in winter. Anderson will be missed. Stars of Texas THE BEST I DRANK IN 2015 A LONE STAR LIFE The 2015 superstars of Texas. by Anthony Head / photo by Kirk Weddle

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