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Mark Rashap, WFFT’s Director of Wine Education, gives you his best tips for making the most of this year’s Grand Tasting.

At WFFT, we are really gearing up for the Austin Wine Experience and couldn’t be more excited about the quality of sessions, speakers, and wines that will be featured this year. For those of you who attended last year, you know that each and every educational seminar offered the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding on a wide range of topics and taste some truly special wines. That will definitely be the case this year; we have added a couple seminars, and the food pairing sessions are shaping up to involve complex and strikingly delicious pairings (FYI: there is still some room in the Uchiko and Riesling seminars). However, I think it appropriate to also draw your attention to the caliber of wines being poured at the Grand Tasting.

Even if the seminars you wanted to attend are sold out, the Grand Tasting offers an incredible opportunity to cult and cutting-edge wines, classic regions, and off-the-beaten path gems. Please, take a minute to look over the list of over 70 wines blow. You will be better able to manage your time and not miss your favorites. I am incredibly impressed by the selections that our partner wineries will offer, and only wish I could spend the entire day in the Grand Tasting.

Here are some of the wines that are really catching my eye:

There’s a particularly strong showing from Italy with several Brunellos, some Super Tuscans, and the rock stars of Sicily and Sardinia (Agricola Punica and Pala). There are wonderful wines from the Rhone, including Chateauneuf de Pape, Gigondas, and a lovely “new to the market” Viognier from Chapoutier. From Spain there will be Gran Reserva Rioja and the high scoring Alto Moncayo Veratón.

If you’re a California and new world wine lover, you’ll be able to taste one of the most iconic vineyards in all of Napa, the To Kalon vineyard with the Mondavi Reserve, and on the cult side, Schrader’s Double Diamond Cab. Trefethen and Silverado will have a big cross section of their wines, showing their depth and diversity. From Washington, the delicious Northstar Merlot and Spring Valley Frederick continue to impress; and I will be gunning for the just-released and highly-allocated Resonance from Willamette Valley, which is the new Oregon project by Jacques Ladriere. Finally, we continue to keep our eye on the increasing quality of the Texas wine industry, and the Texas wines at this Grand Tasting will be worth tasting and comparing to the other regions. These producers are showcasing varietals that we’re finding are very well-suited to the Texas climate, such as Aglianico, Nero d’Avola, Tannat, Picpoul Blanc, Viognier, and Tempranillo.

There is truly something for everybody. I urge you to plan your route and visit the Grand Tasting between seminars. You should also tell your friends to come along! A non-member ticket price for 3 ½ hours in the Grand Tasting is only $75; add in all of the great food sponsors, and this is without a doubt the BEST DEAL IN TOWN!

Check Out Our Grand Tasting Wines

Banville Wine Merchants

2009 Copertino Rosso Riserva, Puglia | 2012 Tolani Valdisanti Toscana IGT | 2013 Colombini Brunello di Montalcino | 2015 Pala Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva | 2017 Terlan Winkl Sauvignon Blanc | NV Ridgeview Bloomsbury Brut

Crawford Malone FIne Wine

2013 Silverado Solo | 2013 Silverado Geo | 2014 Silverado Cabernet | 2014 Silverado Merlot | 2016 Silverado Chardonnay | 2017 Silverado Sauvignon Blanc

Fall Creek Vineyards

2015 Meritus | 2015 Terroir Reflection GSM | 2017 Headwaters Chenin Blanc | 2018 Vintners Selection Creekside Rose

Folio Wine Partners

2014 Palacios Remondo La Montesa | 2015 Andre Brunel Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Sabrine | 2015 Susana Balbo Malbec | 2016 Crios Torrontes |2016 Laurenz V Singing Gruner Veltliner | 2016 Palacios Remondo La Vendimia

Kobrand Wine & Spirits

2013 Agricola Punica Barrua | 2015 Chateau La Nerthe CDP | 2016 Resonance Willamette

McPherson Cellars

2016 La Herencia | 2016 Piquepoul Blanc | 2016 Tre Colore

Miguel Torres USA

2012 Torres Ibéricos Reserva | 2014 Celeste Ribera del Duero | 2015 Torres Salmos Priorat | 2016 Pazo das Bruxas

Palm Bay International

2005 Faustino 1 Grand Reserva Tempranillo Rioja Spain | 2012 Faustino V Reserva Tempranillo Rioja Spain | 2014 Faustino Crianza Rioja Spain | 2017 Faustino VII Rosado Rioja Spain | NV Pere Ventura Tresor Reserva Cava Spain | NV Pere Ventura Tresor Reserva Rose Cava Spain

Santa Margherita USA

2014 Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico | 2016 Sassoregale Sangiovese | 2017 Ca’ Maiol Lugana | 2017 Mesa Giunco | 2017 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio | NV Santa Margherita Sparkling Rose

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Ethos Cabernet Sauvignon | 2012 Northstar Merlot | 2014 Spring Valley Frederick | 2017 Eroica Riesling

Terlato Wines International

2012 Anthonij Rupert ‘Optima’ | 2013 Sanford Pinot Noir | 2015 Kracher Pinot Gris | 2016 M. Chapoutier ‘La Combe Pilate’ Viognier | 2016 Schieferkopf Silvaner | 2017 Feudi Ros’Aura

Texas Fine Wine

2014 Spicewood Vineyards Good Guy | 2015 Bending Branch Winery Texas Tannat | 2015 Duchman Family Winery Aglianico | 2016 Brennan Vineyards Super Nero | 2016 Pedernales Cellars Texas Viognier

The Winebow Group

2014 Benjamin Romeo Que Bonito | 2015 Alto Moncayo Veraton | 2015 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico DOCG | 2016 Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino | 2017 Castello di Bossi Rosato | NV Juve Y Camps Brut Rose

Trefethen Family Vineyards

2015 Trefethen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon | 2015 Trefethen Estate Merlot | 2016 Trefethen Estate Chardonnay | 2016 Trefethen Estate Dragon’s Tooth | 2017 Trefethen Estate Dry Riesling

TRU Estates & Vineyards

2013 Ruffino Alauda Super Tuscan | 2014 Robert Mondavi “The Reserve” To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon | 2015 Auros Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon | 2015 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Chardonnay | 2016 Double Diamond Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon by Schrader Cellars | NV Champagne Palmer & Co Brut Reserve

Vineyard Brands

2013 Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino | 2015 Famille Perrin Gigondas La Gille | 2017 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay