Left: Winemaker Greg Stokes; Center: Laura & Drew Tallent, Dr. Bob Young, Kathryn Cook, Tallent Vineyard Manager; Right: Tannat from Tallent Vineyards, Mason TX
The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo and Botanical Research Institute of Texas recently announced the winners from the 2020 FWSSR / BRIT™ Texas Sustainable Winegrowing Competition. Top honors were awarded to Bending Branch Winery in Comfort, Texas, in combination with Tallent Vineyards of Mason, Texas. Nice Winery in Houston, Texas won the Grand Reserve Champion award in combination with Alta Mira Vineyards of Anderson, Texas.
The top winning wineries were awarded for their sustainable practices in the vineyard and other areas of operation in addition to the wines they submitted to a blind tasting. - Bending Branch 2018 Tannat Rosé, Texas Hill Country
The inaugural wine competition of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo established a unique approach to a Texas wine competition by recognizing both the winery/winemaker and grape grower. Working with BRIT, wineries entered the competition by submitting written applications highlighting their sustainable practices, alongside their Texas wines for evaluation.
Subscribing to sustainable practices in a Texas vineyard presents many challenges. Nonetheless, Texas wineries embrace the quality results of sustainable practices and continue improving their programs. Applicants outlined their efforts boosting sustainability across five areas: vineyard management, winemaking, employee practices, customer service and social responsibility.
Texas wines submitted by applicants were judged by a panel of experienced wine professionals. The entries represented 12 different grape varieties plus wines blended from multiple grapes. The wide range of grape varieties demonstrates the diversity of Texas vineyards.
“Recognizing the collaborative efforts of grape growers and winemakers spurs innovation,” said Stock Show President and General Manager Brad Barnes. “The sustainability effort benefits our environment and consumers get to enjoy award-winning Texas wines. We’re excited to play a role in the future of this growing industry.”
BRITS’s President and Executive Director Dr. Ed Schneider echoed the excitement. “This is a first for Texas wine competitions and we are most pleased with the results,” said Dr. Schneider. “Texas wine organizations are as passionate about their sustainable practices as they are about making great bottles of Texas wine.”
The 2020 FWSSR / BRIT™ Texas Sustainable Winegrowing Competition winners included:
• Grand Champion – Bending Branch Winery / Tallent Vineyards
• Reserve Grand Champion – Nice Winery / Alta Mira Vineyards
• Gold Medal – Lost Draw Cellars / Moonlight Vineyards, Roussanne 2018
• Gold Medal – Kiepersol Winery/Estate Vineyards, Texas Syrah 2015
• Silver Medal – Bingham Family Vineyards/Estate Vineyards, Dugout 2017
• Bronze Medal – Chateau Wright/Estate Vineyards, Heraldic Red 2017
• Bronze Medal – Bull Lion Ranch & Vineyard/Estate Vineyards, Montepulciano 2015
During BRIT’s Vine to Table awards dinner and fundraising event on January 15, 2020, Bending Branch Winery and Nice winery will be presented their champion awards. Tickets can be purchased to the Dickies Arena event here.
Visitors to the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo can enjoy a selection of Bending Branch wines at Vine-2-Wine’s Sip & Shop event on January 29, 4-8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.
Ursa Vineyards was founded in 2001 by husband-and-wife team, Greg Stokes and Deborah Elissagaray. Greg and Deborah both started their winemaking careers in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and first met in 1992 while working at David Bruce Winery, where Greg headed up Grower Relations. Greg is a highly respected viticulturist and a consultant to numerous vineyards in California and other states. Deborah grew up spending her summers visiting family in the Pyrenees Mountain village of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, where she gained an appreciation for her Basque heritage. The region inspired her work on the Basque Blend that bears her name and makes predominant use of the Tannat grape. The couple fell in love with Tannat, and they were the first to produce Tannat wines in California. They’ve been making Tannat from a variety of vineyard sources each year since establishing Ursa in the unique terroir of the Sierra Foothills in 2001.
A mutual interest in Tannat is also what brought together Ursa and Bending Branch Winery, when Bending Branch Owner Dr. Bob Young hired Greg as a consultant in 2007. Their professional relationship flourished and when Bending Branch was founded in 2009, its first wines were made by Bob and Greg at Ursa. Dr. Young purchased Ursa Vineyards in 2014, making Greg and Deborah a permanent part of the team.
Greg and Deborah were awarded Best Winemakers of El Dorado County in 2017. Their passion and dedication for producing limited quantities of the highest quality wines is unmatched. We are proud to showcase these beautiful wines at Branch on High in downtown Comfort, Texas. Ursa wines are also available in our online store.
Greg and Deborah will be in Texas for special events at Branch on High July 12-13, 2019. Meet the Winemakers at a free reception on Friday, July 12th from 5 to 6:30 p.m. A Guided Tasting with the Winemakers will be offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 13th. Tickets available here for $45 per person. Seating is limited.
When your travels take you to Northern California, visit Ursa Vineyards in Placerville. Tour and tastings are available by appointment by calling 530-644-3443.