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A Texas Wine Worthy of Old Friends — and an Impressive California Tasting Winner From a Woman Who Knows Grapes

Drinking In the Knowledge

BY // 07.28.23

The bottle had been staring me down for several days, waiting its turn in my tasting queue, which had, for various reasons, including several trips and an enthralling read on the history of Assisi, developed a backlog. It was patient, that bottle.

It was the 2019 Old Friends from Adelphos Cellars, a winery located in the High Plains region of Texas. The Old Friends, a blend of chenin blanc (24 percent), sauvignon blanc (45 percent), gewürztraminer (26 percent) and chardonnay (5 percent), has won a number of awards, including Best in Show Texas White Wine at the San Antonio Stock Show Wine Competition in 2020 and a silver medal (for the 2021 vintage) at the 2023 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. You can purchase the 2021 vintage for $28 at the winery’s website here. Before I write more about this wine, I will urge you to buy a bottle or two (I trust that the winery will ship to Texas when suitable, keeping the weather in mind. . . and include chilling materials as needed).

The fruit in the 2019 Old Friends was grown in the Texas High Plains AVA, either at Adelphos’ Cerro Santo Vineyard or nearby vineyards. Judging by the way the wine tasted, this producer is selecting grapes with art and skill. I chilled the bottle to about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and poured and tasted immediately. Wonderful richness, but nothing that told me “overdone.” Crispness was sublime, and a touch of oak was not unwelcome.

I had a few other wines to taste, so the bottle of Old Friends went into the cave (it would reappear at dinner that evening). Which brings food pairings to mind, of course.

Here’s what I did. It was a salad night, with goat cheese and pear. I sliced the pear, made a batter of egg and flour and Panko, crisped slices of chilled goat cheese in hot oil, and made a dressing of olive oil and balsamic. Greens were a mesclun mix. This salad seemed made for the Old Friends; the green apple in the wine was made more prominent on the palate by the pear, and my dining companions and I were happy.

Adelphos Cellars is a family affair, overseen by Kathy and David Conklin and Barbara and Jim Irwin. The winery’s first vintage was 2019, and I am eager to taste more of what winemaker Manuel Lechuga (veteran of Pheasant Ridge Winery) is doing with syrah, tempranillo and primitivo.

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A number of other Texas wines are on my tasting agenda, including some bottles from C.L. Butaud that are exciting me. Stay tuned for a look at  them.

Another wine I tasted recently was the 2022 La Pressa Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from Fiddlehead Cellars, from the Los Olivos District. It’s a beauty, made by one of my favorite makers of wine Kathy Joseph. She founded Fiddlehead Cellars in 1989, and nothing of hers that I’ve tasted has displeased me.

To the contrary, Joseph has been making wonderful wines for decades, and the 2022 La Pressa is among them.

The 2022 La Pressa Sauvignon Blanc from Fiddlehead Cellars is a worthy wine selection.
The 2022 La Pressa Sauvignon Blanc from Fiddlehead Cellars is a worthy wine selection.

Sauvignon blanc can be difficult to pin down, and many casual drinkers of wine I know tell me they don’t much like it. They talk about green bell peppers, and I empathize with them. I’ll forgo the chemistry lesson here, and go right to this. If you turn your nose up at sauvignon blanc, try the Fiddlehead La Pressa Vineyard. The vineyard was first planted with grapes in 1974. It overlooks the Santa Ynez River and produces, in addition to sauvignon blanc, riesling, chardonnay and grenache noir, among others.

Joseph doesn’t stem her fruit, and she presses whole-cluster. This sauvignon blanc possesses a remarkable structure, and has a delicious herbaceousness that is well worth the $36 retail price. (I tasted the La Pressa on the same day that I sampled the Old Friends, and liked it some much that I purchased another bottle to take to an outdoor concert, where I paired it with a selection of cheeses and poached shrimp. Perfection it was.) Bright apple and a delectable citrus note, along with the mouthwatering herbal quality I mentioned, are all here.

Kathy Joseph knows her place among vines.
Kathy Joseph knows her place among vines.

If you come across any wines made by Joseph, grab them.

For more wine, travel and other stories from James Brock, check out his complete Mise en Place site.

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