2010 Top Ten Texas Wines from VintageTexas: Installment #2

2010 Top Ten Texas Wines from VintageTexas: Installment #2

Llano Estacado, Viviana, 2009

I tasted this wine at a Texas wine dinner at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station and once more since then. This is the second year for this blended white wine that is the yin-yang counterpart to Llano Estacado’s Viviano red (Cabernet-Sangiovese) blend. Viviana is lively a blend of Texas-grown aromatic varietals: Viognier, Gewürztraminer and Riesling. It was on my list to round up for Oz Clarke’s Texas tasting with Wes Marshall and it made an impression. Viviana offers the fragrance of tropical fruits and florals (and a hint of ginger), mouth popping acidity and delectable flavors of a seemingly endless array of fruits such as peach, melon, lemon to name but a few. The first release was fine stuff, no doubt. However, no doubt this second release of Viviana is a charm.

Messina Hof Winery, Merrill’s Vineyard Riesling, Texas, 2009

Another road trip and another Texas wine find. I was doing the Bluebonnet Wine Trail northwest of Houston in early 2010. It featured wine and food pairings at each winery. It was a cold winter’s day, but clear and crisp just like this wine. When I arrived, I received a taste of this Riesling and it was paired with a Gewürztraminer-infused, panko-encrusted, raspberry chipotle cheese ball. Now, that’s a mouth full to say and the wine delivered similarly with citrus aromas followed by titillatingly off-dry lemon drop and green apple flavors ending with a clean minerally finish.

Becker Vineyards, Barbera, Peter’s Prairie Vineyard, Texas Hill Country, 2008
I unexpectedly experienced this luscious and well-colored red wine at the winery during a short stop there early in the year. Later after judging at the Lone Star International Wine Competition in June this year, I found out that “we” awarded it their Grand Star Award. It was well deserved, as this Barbera something special. The wine had great extraction of color and fruit essence with pleasant aromas of red berries and flavors of ripe red plums and chocolate, all comingled with refreshing acidity.

Calais Winery, La Cuvee Du Manoir, Tempranillo, Texas High Plains, 2009
I was heading up north to have a tasting of wines made from the Munson varietals in Denison. However, I made time to stop by the “storefront” Calais Winery in the Deep Ellum district of downtown Dallas. Ben Calais did a wonderful job getting the most from Neal Newsom’s widely acclaimed high plains grapes. Ben hand-sorted and field crushed and took it back to the winery for soaking, fermentation and a year in French oak. This wine was thick and dark, nearly opaque. Made in the style of the Spanish Rioja Alta but with a softness gained from the French oak. It offered the invigorating freshness of a red fruit and blueberry mélange with hints of dry earth and clove spice.  Hurrah for the first Texas Tempranillo release for Calais.

Sandstone Cellars, VII, Touriga Nacional, Mason County, Texas, 2009

I may run the risk of sounding like a broken record on this wine, but it’s worth it. I got a chance to do a pre-release taste of this wine a few months ago. It surprised me then because it was contrary to winemaker Don Pullum’s general philosophy of blending several varieties of red grapes to make a finished and complex wine. In this case, it was composed of only one grape: one hundred percent Touriga Nacional, a red grape originating from Portugal and common in its Dao region, but in this case grown in Mason County. The wine was red-black in color and had dominant blueberry and black cherry notes with minerally, steely and even herbal/minty aromatics. After aeration, it exploded with darker berry flavors with essence of tar and licorice. Wow, what a mouthful.

See Installment #1 with the first five wines at: https://vintagetexas.com/?p=2892

WHAT”S NEXT: Again, I’ll admit that the selection of the top ten was a hard job. There are really lots of [good – no strike that] fine to world class wines being made in Texas now. Because of this situation, in an upcoming blog I will post five more honorable mentions that I believe bring something special to the Texas wine experience.

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  1. I enjoyed the list but I was a little disappointed that a Black Spanish wine was not mentioned.

    Black Spanish can be grown in more areas of the state. It improves in the bottle once opened. Like Blanc du Bois, it is really only available here, unlike the other varietals you mentioned.

    I think Texas wines will inevitably become more fruit-forward. I believe California started out the same way.

    • I think that growers and winemakers have made more progress getting Blanc Du Bois into a world class wine (and lots of styles – dry, oak aged, offdry, semisweet, sweet and more) than they have had getting Black Spanish into a table wine. It is gaining ground, but Black Spanish still needs work.

      There is going to be a symposium in 2011in Texas on Black Spanish where the latest growing and winemaking techniques will be discussed.

      I think Black Spanish has potential. Let’s keep monitoring the situation and hope that we will find the sweet spot for Black Spanish.

      If we can bring both Blanc Du Bois and Black Spanish into the main stream market, it will be a noteworthy occasion. Keep your fingers crossed.


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