The more I read about Texas Hill Country winemaker and San Antonio endocrinologist Richard Becker, the more I am intrigued. Any doctor-cum-vintner who quotes readily from one of my favorite 20th-century American poets, Wallace Stevens, sounds like someone who puts more thought into the art and science of winemaking than just a desire to attain commercial glory and rich man's bragging rights.
Many have called Becker's wines "the best in Texas," and they were often served in the governor's mansion and White House by Bush redux. (Few remember that it was a Texan president, Lyndon B. Johnson, who banned foreign-raised wines from official functions in our country's capital, forcing his successor, Richard Nixon, to drink his beloved Bordeaux in secret.) And although governor Perry has not officially revealed his favorite wine, he is said to have served Becker's wines at his son's rehearsal dinner.
Becker's 2010 Provençal Tallent Vineyard Mourvèdre was one of the wines that impressed me when leading Texas wine expert Russ Kane poured a flight of his favorite Texas wines for Backstreet Café wine director Sean Beck and me a few weeks ago. As I've written here, the balanced vegetative cycle of the 2010 vintage in Texas is considered to be one of the best in recent memory, and it delivered clean wines like this one, notable for their fresh aromas and bright acidity.
When Russ first opened the Becker Provençal, it was a little bit stinky on the nose (think rotten eggs). A little funk is not necessarily a bad thing. It's often caused, as I believe it was in this case, by what we call reduction in wine parlance, i.e., the absence of oxygen in the bottle. As famed Californian winemaker Randall Grahm said to me a few weeks ago, "reduction is kind of like the male libido: It's ugly but it also tells us that everything is working correctly." (For a description of how reduction works, see this Wiki entry.) The aroma quickly blew off and gave way to fresh notes of red and stone fruit. And with judiciously low alcohol (12.39 percent, according to the zealously precise label) and bright acidity, this wine would have paired gloriously with chilled shellfish salads or classic guacamole.
I've never met Dr. Becker, but if the wine is a reflection of the man, I imagine that I'd enjoy discussing the finer points of winemaking and poetry with him. Now, if he can quote from Auden, he'll really impress me...
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