Now in its 10th year, the annual International Wine Competition at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo has grown from a small wine judging contest that flew relatively under the radar to a well-respected competition that saw a record number of entries: 2,884 wines from 943 wineries in Texas, across the United States and 21 countries around the world.
Compare that number with the 1,800 bottles that were entered only three short years ago, and you'll see how dramatically the competition has grown in size and stature. This, despite a recession that has seen fewer wineries entering their products into any competitions at all.
"At only $50 an entry, it provides an attractive value and and an attractive competition," said Stephanie Earthman Baird, then-chairman of the HLSR Wine Competition Committee, by way of explanation last year. At the 2011 Rodeo, the Grand Champion Best In Show winner -- a 2006 Alexander Valley Vineyards CYRUS -- went for a record-breaking $210,000 ($23,000 a liter) at the Champion Wine Auction.
And this year, CYRUS has pushed its way to the top of the pack once again.
This year's Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo International Wine Competition champions are:
- Grand Champion Best of Show: Alexander Valley Vineyards CYRUS, Alexander Valley, 2008
- Reserve Grand Champion Best of Show: Williams Selyem Westside Road Neighbors Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 2010
- Top Texas Wine: Pedernales Cellars Viognier, Texas, 2012
- Top Country Wine (Italy): Bolla Amarone, Veneto, 2007
- Top All-Around Winery: E & J Gallo Winery, Modesto, California>
- Top Wine Company: Messina Hof Winery, Bryan, Texas
- Top Sparkling Wine: Gosset Excellence Brut, Champagne, Non-Vintage
- Top White Wine: Consilience Wines Viognier, Santa Barbara County, 2011
- Top Red Wine: Silkwood Wines Alicante Bouchet, California, Non-Vintage
- Top Sweet Wine: Yalumba Museum Reserve Antique Tawny, Barossa Valley, Non-Vintage
- Top Value Wine: Cycles Gladiator Winery Pinot Noir, California, 2011
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Champions will be awarded buckles, chaps and saddles at the Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup and Best Bites Competition on Sunday, February 17, 2013. In addition to the champion wines, the Best Bites competition features offerings from select Houston-area restaurants and caterers vying to earn attendees' votes in the Best Bites Competition. Restaurant awards will be presented that evening, along with three new special titles: the Roundup and Best Bites Tasty Tradition, Rookie and Outstanding Showmanship awards.
All champion wines will be auctioned at the Rodeo Uncorked! Champion Wine Auction and Dinner on Saturday, March 2, 2013 -- if you can afford them.