A Look at This Year’s Winning Wines at the 2023 Houston Rodeo

A selection of the top awarded wines at the 2023 Rodeo Uncorked!

The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo has a long history of taking wine seriously. The Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition started in the fall of 2003 thanks to a group of wine enthusiasts who convinced the rodeo executives to host the wine competition. They even guaranteed to cover any losses from wine not sold. This is now the 20th year of the competition, and it’s grown from the original group of judges to five distinct committees with 2,000 volunteers. The Houston Rodeo Wine Garden was later established to provide attendees with an opportunity to try some of the award-winners for themselves in a relaxing, outdoor space. This year, 3,071 wines from 18 countries were entered, including 531 from the Lone Star State. Australia was this year’s featured wine region and had 160 entries. 

It always seems a little suspect when a big-time celebrity wins a top award for one of their products. Those big names, after all, carry a lot of weight. A celebrity-owned Champagne was the big winner in the 2023 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition. After attending a guided tasting of six of the top performers from the competition and learning about the rigorous blind judging process, I can assure you that big names had nothing to do with the big win.

The presenter on behalf of the Houston Rodeo.
The Rodeo Uncorked! presenter at a special media tasting. Photo by Ryan Baker.

Due to being owned celebrity and supporter of the competition, Curtis ”50 Cent” Jackson, Chemin du Roi Brut, this year’s big winner, drew immediate questions from the members of the media attending the guided tasting. However, a judge in attendance verified that the competition utilized over 100 wine experts as judges and a double-blind method to ensure fairness. Most judges are professionals in the wine industry, such as sommeliers, wine representatives and wine writers. 

From the first sip, the selection of Chemin du Roi Brut as the Grand Champion: Best in Show made sense. It has minimal sweetness, and the yeasty-savory aspects are present but light, making it a Champagne that everybody can enjoy.

Wine Tasting set up at the Houston Rodeo.
Wine Tasting set up at the Houston Rodeo. Photo by Ryan Baker.

The top red wine was Bernardus Winery – Marinus Estate Blend (2015) from Carmel Valley, California. It was a personal favorite and one of the most interesting. The current release is 2015, as the producer held onto the wine, allowing it to age in the barrel and bottle. This, combined with smoke from nearby wildfires seeping into the vines during growth, created a combination of smoke and wood flavors, as well as a thick texture. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea (well, wine), but it is bold and unique.

Becker Vineyards from Texas was this year’s winner for “Top All-Around Winery,” with the Cabernet Sauvignon (2019) representing it on the wine garden menu. Other featured wines include the “Top Value Wine,” Risata Wine’s Moscato d’Asti from Italy (2021), as well as Barossa Valley Estate’s Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre, Barossa Valley (2020) and Pewsey Vale Dry Riesling (2021) from Eden Valley South Australia.

To raise money for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, auction lots were assembled from nearly 500 wines, with the largest selling for a record $325K. If you hurry, you can still try several of the award-winners for yourself at the Houston Rodeo Wine Garden, but note that it closes on March 19. Afterward,  you can find most of the award-winners at wine.com or Total Wine.

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