Fall Creek Vineyards 2017 Release Tasting: Texas IS Big… And, Can Grow Lots of Grape Varieties!
Most people know it is a not an understatement when they say, “Texas is a BIG place.” In fact, in wine terms, Texas is actually larger than the whole country of France. However, many of these same people when talking about wines produced in Texas ask, “What’s the best grape for Texas wine?” Would they dare say the same thing about France”? Chances are that the answers to the best Texas grape question would be either Viognier and Tempranillo. But, the results of this tasting might make you think again.
In Houston this week, I had a tasting of new Fall Creek Vineyards 2017 releases with owners Susan and Ed Auler and Fall Creek Vineyards Director of Winemaking Sergio Cuadra. For those people referenced at the top of this post, the two grape varieties in the tasting (Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay) would likely be a surprise. Texas does seem to have made a shift toward Southern European grapes like Viognier and Tempranillo. However, please remember Texas IS a big place and there are places within our boundaries, in particular vintages, and with growing/winemaking techniques applied under the watchful eye of a seasoned world class winemaker like Cuadra that can even bring Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay into the limelight. This actual was the case in the results of the Houston Rodeo International Wine Competition nearly a year ago when a Fall Creek Chardonnay (like one is this tasting) won the bragging rights to the Best White Wine in the whole dang competition of more than 3000 worldwide entries.
This week we met at Houston’s Café Annie for the tasting. The 2016 Sauvignon Blanc (Escondido Valley sourced) and the 2014 Chardonnay (Alfonso and Martha Dotson’s Certenberg Vineyards sourced) were both splendid examples of crisp refreshing wines, offered in both stainless steel (no oak) and sensibly and deliciously oaked versions.
2016 Fall Creek Sauvignon Blanc (Texas) – Made without oak, light and bright with notes of lemon-lime and dry limestone minerals.
2016 Fall Creek Sauvignon Blanc (Escondido Valley) – Made with a light mix of American and French oak, deeper in color, texture and pineapple/vanilla flavors.
2015 Fall Creek Chardonnay, Vintner’s Selection Series, (Texas Hill Country) – Aged sur lie (with remaining yeast after fermentation), offers lemon zest and toasty brioche.
2015 Fall Creek Chardonnay, Terroir Reflections Series, Chardonnay, Certenberg Vineyards (Texas Hill Country) – Aged 16 months in French oaks, big on lemon, baked yellow apples, brioche, palate texture and a minerally finish.
I recommend both of these oaked-whites especially to those that say, “I don’t like oaked white wines”. With Sergio Cuadra’s experience and knowledge of age old Burgundian techniques, these wines offer finesse, flavor and light aromatics, characteristics usually only seen in fine French white burgundies.
This foray into white wines was followed by two red wines of superior quality and characteristics.
2015 Fall Creek Tempranillo, Terroir Reflections Series, Salt Lick Vineyard (Texas Hill County) – Yep, this wine began “life” in Scott Roberts vineyard a stone’s throw away from his Salt Lick BBQ proving Tempranillo has earned its place in Texas. After 14 months in American oak, it offers red ripe cherry, chocolate and smoke that define this wine.
2015 Fall Creek, Terroir Reflections Series, Merlot-Sauvignon Blanc, Certenberg Vineyards (Texas Hill Country) – It sings with fruit red/black fruit flavor with aromas of wet earth, yet dry and steely on the finish.
The “closer” of the tasting was Ed Auler’s pride and joy.
2013 Meritus (Texas Hill Country) – It’s a slightly Merlot-dominant blend with Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 20 months in French and American oak. Meritus is not made every year, only when the vintage offers something special in the fruit. Long contact with oak and extended time in bottle before release have produced an integration of red plum, cassis, Texas hill county cedar, a pleasant yet brisk tannic structure into a wine that is built to gain even more nuance in future years.
There was a lot to unpack from this tasting:
• Don’t underestimate the possibility excellent Texas wines can be made from grape varieties from cooler regions. They may got come from all vineyards or vintages, but it can happen.
• The Certenberg Vineyard is a special place where vinee, earth and climate combine to produce unique wines.
• Tempranillo is a grape worthy of it’s “National Grape of Texas” moniker.
• We have the great winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff (Fall Creek’s initial consultant) and Ed Auler’s dedication to thank today for Meritus. It was Tchelistcheff’s advice to Ed Auler in the mid-1980s that he followed to make this wine.
Check out Fall Creek Vineyards online (click here). They have a winery location is Tow, Texas, and a beautiful tasting room facility in Driftwood, Texas just outside Austin. Their wines are available in many finer restaurants, wine shops and markets in Texas.