Burklee Hill Vineyards: Both Winery and Wine Director are Evolving Quickly…

… and producing some excellent wines.

Burklee Hill Vineyards with its bistro-tasting room located in downtown Lubbock is not far from other well-known Lubbock-based wineries like McPherson Cellars and just a bit farther away, Llano Estacado Winery. If you haven’t yet heard of Burklee Hill Vineyards, you might recognize the name Trilogy Cellars that was acquired by Burklee Hill’s owners in 2018.

Burklee Hill is the family-owned operation of Chace and Elizabeth Hill. The name Burklee Hill is a shout out to Chace’s great-grandfather, Burk “Burnett” Roberts and grandfathers, “Burk” Roberts and Eddie “Lee” Courtney. Owners Chase and Elizabeth are proud grads of Texas Tech University, Chace with a degree in Horticulture and Elizabeth, a practicing attorney with a specialty in winery and vineyard law.

Burklee Hill’s wines are 100% Texas, locally grown and made mostly from Texas High Plains grapes, with an emphasis on their family vineyard about 40 miles west near Levelland, established in 2002 under the Krick-Hill name. Some of their grapes are sold to hill country wineries, but they are saving some to fill their own winery’s needs, while working with other vineyards and wineries to make up the balance for their growing needs.

Burklee Hill VIneyards Bistro & Tasting Room

Benjamin Hernández is Director of Wine at Burklee Hill Vineyards, WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Level IV diploma holder, and bachelor’s degree recipient in ChemE and plant biology from Cornell University. We first met (in a virtual sense) when he attended my Specialist of Texas Wine certification class back in February of this year. Later, I tasted through a selection of Burklee Hill’s wines with Benjamin via Zoom. Our tasting consisted of the following:

Courtney (white blend) 2019, Texas (Bottled & Produced in Lubbock) – This vintage was an opportunity Chardonnay but is likely to be heading more toward white Rhone blends in the future.

Montepulciano Non-Vintage, Texas High Plains (Bottled & Produced in Lubbock)

Malbec 2017, Texas High Plains (Bottled & Produced in Canyon)

Cabernet Sauvignon NV, Texas High Plains (Bottled in Meadow)

Reserve Tempranillo 2019, Texas (Produced and Bottled in Lubbock)

Zinfandel 2018, Texas High Plains (Bottled in Canyon)

After hearing the story behind each wine from Benjamin, it was impressive how he was able to quickly assemble a portfolio of high-quality wines with the goal of keep it all 100% Texas. Some were made from Burklee Hill vineyard fruit and/or procured elsewhere from mostly Texas high plains vineyards. To accomplish his task, he also utilized winemakers, and winery and custom crush facilities in various places in and around Lubbock including Meadow about an hour to the south and Canyon a bit more to the north. It certainly took a special amalgamation of wine and business acumen in tune with a good palate to oversee and bring these wines to market for his winery owners. These are apparently talents that Benjamin brought to his job at Burklee Hill. Vineyards

From this tasting, I decided to focus this blog on three Burklee Hill wines that I felt represent its wine portfolio and the winery direction that Benjamin has set into play. They include the 2017 Malbec that represents the winery’s heritage and likely best-known wine, the Montepulciano NV that pays homage to Benjamin’s recent efforts to expand the wineries offerings while establishing Burklee Hill’s winemaking facilities in Lubbock, and the Reserve Tempranillo that, by virtual of its quality and characteristics, has the ability to impress both wine judges and consumers and will possibly become the Burklee Hill flagship wine going forward.

Malbec 2017, Texas High Plains (Bottled & Produced in Canyon)

This wine after two years in barrel has a mouthwatering and full-bodied presence in the glass and on the palate with lush ripe blackberries and boysenberries and vanilla bean that comingle with aromatic forest juniper and portobello mushrooms. It definitely held my interest through to the finish. This wine pays homage to both its early Krick-Hill origin and the similarities in high plateau winegrowing both on the Texas High Plains and in the Mendoza region of Argentina, well known for wines made from this grape.

Montepulciano Non-Vintage, Texas High Plains (Bottled & Produced in Lubbock)            

This medium-bodied wine is a blend of 2018 and 2019 vintages where he felt like he was getting the best of the two – the 2018 that was lighter and exhibited crisp acidity, and the 2019 was more robust and fruit forward. The blending also helped up total production to meet the demand for this well-selling wine. It is dominant in red berries and, when combined with its medium-body, has a well-defined easy drinking “Pinotesque” character. Again, this wine shows how a nimble wine director can optimize both wine quality and quantity, as need be.

Reserve Tempranillo 2019, Texas (Produced and Bottled in Lubbock)

As I said previously, to me, this wine shows the future of what Burklee Hill is striving to become with the combination: 100% Texas and high quality to optimize the Texas wine tasting experience for the consumer.  This wine won both Best of Class and Double Gold honors at the recent 2021 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – no small accomplishment in this category against stiff international competition. This wine is a “Big Boy” at 15% alcohol, but it’s covered very well with rich ripe black cherry-laced fruit with vanilla and minty notes that extend through a long finish. While a varietal Tempranillo, the wine is blended with about Tannat that plays well with 10 months of oak aging (30% new) to fortify the wine’s structure on the palate – definitely double gold worthy. Benjamin also gives a shout-out to Llano Estacado winemaker Jason Centanni for his assistance in finishing this wine.

With a vision of ramping up Burklee Hill Vineyards wine to higher production for a wider consumer audience, Benjamin Hernandez has a big role yet to play. Both Benjamin and the winery are evolving quickly to fill their collective winemaking vision or Benjamin and the winery owners.

I hope that you have the opportunity to taste some of the Burklee Hill wines. For their tasting room and bistro location in Lubbock’s historic Kress Building (with dine in, curbside, and delivery services), current wine portfolio and online shopping, check out their website (click here).

Burklee Hill Bistro & Tasting Room in Lubbock’s historic Kress Building
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Love to taste, talk and tweet about Texas wines and where they are in the global scheme for wines. After all that's the only way they will reach the full potential.

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