Top Ten Texas Wines of 2011 from VintageTexas: Installment #1 – Five Wines

Top Ten Texas Wines of 2011 from VintageTexas: Installment #1 – Five Wines

As with most top ten lists, they need to be prefaced by a disclaimer: “In the eyes of the beholder”. I have not tasted every Texas wine, but I have tasted quite a few. Therefore, this list is based on wines that I have tasted throughout this year gained through my travels around the state, as a judge in statewide and international wine competitions, and those that I have cellars on my own.

In reflection, I would say that 2011 was the year of Texas Roussanne as you will find more than one on this year’s Top Ten list with another new grape variety, Tempranillo, following on its heels into the spotlight.

Secondly, it was a year of surprises with Texas wines (even some that were non-vinifera) featured at some exclusive venues, and with admittedly surprising results.

Unfortunately, some of the wines mentioned are not widely distributed, as is a typical situation/problem in many new and emerging wine production states and regions. Therefore, it makes it imperative that wine lovers who want to experience wine from the frontier’s edge of the modern wine world, get out and visit the regions of Texas, go to Texas wineries, find the best grape varieties and quality producers. But most of all, meet and talk the people that are growing the grapes and making the wine.

Basically, these are my favorite wines from the lone star state that I tasted in 2011. Enjoy!

Duchman Family Winery 2010 Vermentino

With all the notoriety received by the Duchman Vermentino from the 2009 vintage (even acclaim by Oz Clarke and placement on my 2010 top ten list), I did not expect to find it on the VintageTexas 2011 Top Ten List. Well, earlier this month, I tasted the 2010 just after release and proclaimed “from my first taste of the 2010 Duchman Vermentino, I can say that it’s not a mere home run. No, it’s the wine equivalent of a grand slam. It simply had more to give than the 2009: more aroma and flavor, richer on the palate and longer finish.” This Vermentino is loaded with citrus, stone fruit and hints of aromatic herbs carried by its crisp acidity. This is a wine for Gulf Coast seafood: flounder, oysters are my pairing choice.

Pedernales Cellars 2009 Reserve Tempranillo

During this year’s Tempranillo Day celebration, the Pedernales Cellars Reserve Tempranillo went head-to-head with a large cast of Tempranillos from California and even a representative from Spain and faired exceptionally well. My noted showed “crisp, red fruit domination”. Of all the new world Tempranillos tasted that evening, this Texas Tempranillo showed an alcohol content that most closely matched the Spanish Tempranillo and a body (considering its young vine situation) that was close, and that is destine to improve year upon year.  Watch this and other Tempranillo from Texas in the coming years.

McPherson Cellars 2010 Roussanne

I had originally tasted with wine early in the year, but I was refocused on it by a Spec’s advertisement in the Houston Chronicle that said, ““Grown in deep sandy loam (north Texas near Lubbock) and fermented…with no malolactic (secondary) fermentation and sees no oak.” This wine had a light gold-straw in color with exciting citrusy with notes of lemon and even a hint of tangerine. It works well for both Viognier lovers and for those than just can’t seem to approach wines from the Viognier grape. I believe that Roussanne has a destiny in Texas like no other region yet explored. If you like this wine, try to find it’s brother, McPherson Cellars Reserve Roussanne 2010 (available from the winery) that has more of the same and with a strong essence of lemon and herbs.

Becker Vineyards Prairie Rotie 2010

Many people received their first glance of what in the world Prairie Rotie is on the Daily Grape (Episode 47) where Gary Vaynerchuk tasted the Becker Vineyards 2009 Prairie Rotie (a southern Rhone-style red blend). Well, the 2010 vintage of this wine was released around mid-2011 after only about 9 months oak aging. It delivers an acknowledged fruit-forward presence in the glance, but with just enough punch delivered from new American oak to provide structure, aromatics of vanilla, spice and roasted coffee over wet earth. It is value at $13-15 depending on the source. However, the best acknowledgement of this wine came from my neighbor who moved here for a two year assignment in Houston from the south of France. The 2010 Becker Prairie Rotie quickly became his favorite wine.

Pilot Knob Vineyard 2010 Viognier

My trek to Pilot Knob Vineyard near Bertram, Texas (northwest of Georgetown, TX) was not for studying geology (formation of the knob), but to gather a more leisurely taste of a wine that I found earlier t the Lone Star International Wine Competition and to find the people the made it happen. After the competition when the wines were revealed, I was drawn to this particular wine for one main reason: the Pilot Knob Vineyards 2010 Viognier was the only Texas Viognier to garner a gold medal in this year’s competition. No oak here…stainless steel all the way on this wine. It offers peach highlights with citrus blossom notes.  Pair this wine with creamy cheese, or full flavored preparations of fish or fowl.

Follow this link for the second set of five top Texas wines of 2011:

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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.


  1. Really enjoyed reading this, Russ. Thanks for including us and we hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

    Matt Champion
    Duchman Family Winery

  2. Russ… I think you really nailed it with Duchman and especially the Pedernales Cellars Temp. Give the Salt Lick Cellars Sangiovese a try.

    All the best,
    Roger Beery
    Bacchus and Beery Wine Blog

  3. Thank for the recognition on the 2010 Vermentino. That was a fun one to introduce to the market but up here it has one major flaw. It won’t keep, it ages well but every time I fill up the wine rack, it goes empty very quickly!

    This is not one of those mythical Texas wines with only a few cases in the market. A great many Texans can discover this one. Don’t worry, drink up, we will grow more!

    Bobby Cox, winegrower, High Plains AVA

  4. Bobby,

    Make sure your growers keep it coming our way.

    Does it all go to Duchman or are any other Texas wineries starting to make a Vermentino wine?


    • So far its all gone to Duchman but there are four wineries lined up for Vermentino in 2012, Three from the Bingham group and seven acres from Andy Timmons to Jeff Sneed at Los Pinos. That winery has gone whole hog on our Italian stuff and will have mass quanities of Dolcetto, Montepulciano, and Andy’s Vermentino soon.

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