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The Story of “El Guapo” and our friend Anthony King

 El Guapo

We produced the first commercial Tempranillo in the State of Texas in 1999.  Knowing that Tempranillo had almost no name recognition, we considered early on that we might need to come up with a proprietary name for this new wine so that people would notice it. And along with that, we would certainly need a catchy label. But it was a visit from our friend Anthony King that actually started the ball rolling.

To back up a bit, we met Anthony because he was interested in attending the University of California at Davis, as Jim had a few years before.  Jim was one of the few people in Texas who had completed the degree in fermentation science at UC Davis, and it was recommended to Anthony that he visit with him. Anthony was editing physics text books at the time and writing the wine column for the Austin Chronicle…no slouch in the brains department and a clever writer with an excellent palate.  On his first visit he was easily pressed into service helping us plant the Tempranillo.  Later that year, 1998, we called him to help harvest and make the very first wines from our vineyard, the Viognier and Sangiovese.  That year we made our wines at Texas Hills Vineyards’ new facility in Johnson City so Anthony got to know Gary and Kathy Gilstrap, and helped them every chance he got.  After our winery was finished and we started making wine there the next year, Anthony was excited to help harvest and make the Tempranillo. And so it went, until Anthony made the decision and was ready to move to California and start his wine education.  Before he left, though, he called to ask if he could come try the Tempranillo, still in barrel at the time.  We were apprehensive about how it was going to taste because it had undergone several changes since fermentation and was, at times, very tannic and harsh. But knowing that Anthony had a special interest and would give us good feed back, we planned his visit.

In the barrel room, Jim used the long glass thief to draw the dark wine from the barrel, gave a portion to me, to Anthony and himself. We watched and waited while Anthony did the prolonged “swirl and sniff” thing. Knowing his penchant for precise and eloquent descriptors we waited…and waited. Finally Anthony smiled, looked at Jim and said “Oh, Jim, this is going to be a big handsome wine!”

Jim and I looked at each other and said, “El Guapo!”  Thanks, Anthony.


As a side note on Anthony, he did indeed go to UC Davis, following Jim’s advice to work at a winery for a year to not only gain experience that would help him at Davis, but to also establish residency so he could get  in-state tuition. His job was in the cellar at Acacia Winery in the Carneros area.   Jim was elated to write a recommendation letter for his admission to Davis.  He made us very proud with a stellar performance at Davis and as he became winemaker at Acacia. Later, he left California for Oregon where he now presides over Lemelson Winery as winemaker. for more on Anthony   http://bit.ly/YXtWJ

Anthony King, winemaker, pouring barrel sample, Lemelson, Willamette Valley.  Anthony King at Lemelson Winery