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The Winner of the Houston Rodeo Wine Competition Is…

After two days of blind tasting wines at the Houston Rodeo Wine Competition, the Grand Champion has been announced.

I was invited to be one of about a hundred judges (including fellow sommelier friends Bill Elsey and June Rodil from Austin) tasked with judging assigned flights of wine served blind. This was my first year, but there are some judges who have been coming to this thing from the first year of the wine competition. The overall Rodeo has been going on every year since the 1930’s raising money for education, however, the wine competition didn’t come online until 2004. My tasting panel tasted through 40+ Pinot Gris’ and Pinot Grigio’s over $11 from all over the world followed by red wine blends under $15 and Asti Spumante. Day 2 we tasted through over 40 Cabernet Sauvignons $15-$20 — a rather important segment of the market.

According to founder Bear Dalton, “When we put this together we wanted to create a win for the Rodeo, a win for Houston and a win for the wine industry. For the consumer in Houston we’re able to raise money and give back to local schools and youth as well as the local palate.”

Considering there’s 27,000 people on the waiting list to volunteer for this thing, saying it’s a big event is an understatement. Last year over $18 million dollars were raised and dispersed to local schools.

In the Texas market, wineries and winemakers anxiously await the results of this competition to see which wines will start a buying frenzy. All winners from all categories will be announced in a few weeks, but the top winners are announced right away.

After tasting through 2,848 entries the medal counts were:

125 Double Gold Medals

331 Gold Medals

1,118 Silver Medals

719 Bronze Medals

So without further adieu…


The Houston Rodeo Wine Competition Grand Champion is 2008 Alexander Valley Cyrus


Reserve Grand Champion is 2010 William Selyem Westside Neighbors Pinot Noir


The complete list of wines will be published in the coming weeks including winners from other categories. Here is a sneak peek of some of the other winners:

Top Italian – 2007 Bolla Amarone (I voted this as one of my top 5 overall)
Top Red – Silkwood Alicante Boucher, NV
Top White – 2011 Consilience Viognier
Top Sparkling – Gossett Excellence Brut, NV
Top Dessert Wine – Yalumba Museum Reserve Antique Tawny
Top Value – 2011 Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir
Top Texas Wine – 2011 Pedernales Cellars Viognier

This was a fun event to be part of! Thanks to the rodeo for inviting me to be part of the festivities.

  5 comments for “The Winner of the Houston Rodeo Wine Competition Is…

  1. November 12, 2012 at 5:58 AM

    I’m glad you were able to come in and join us in the judging this weekend. It was fantastic to meet you! I hope you’ll consider coming back for Rodeo Uncorked and Best Bites in February to get another taste of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.

  2. November 12, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    Actually Pedernales Cellars is spelled with one “l” not two. Was this Viognier 2012 or 2011?

    • November 12, 2012 at 12:19 PM

      Thanks for clarifying, Betty.

  3. November 12, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    Thanks for doing all of the hard work to pick the winners for us Rick! Did any of the wines surprise you? Looking forward to tasting through the category winners. Cheers!

  4. November 12, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    Hey Matt…there were all sorts of different memorable wines out of the 200+ I tasted. On Day 1 our tasting panel tasted Pinot Gris/Grigio over $11 and some misc. red blends under $20. On Day 2 our panel tasted 40+ Cabernet Sauvignon’s $15-$20. The featured country this year was Italy. We had some interesting wines like a Cabernet that was made with Ripasso (raisinated grapes). 2 of my top 5 overall ended up winning so it’s kinda cool to see how they made it through the gauntlet to the medal stand.

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