The Best (Most Unusual and Worst) Of Texas Wines
I have traveled the great state of Texas from east to west and north to south, all in search of what I have deemed in wine lingo as my personal search for “Texas terroir”, that true “sense of place” that is the essence of the Texas wine experience.
Thinking back, this search actually started about 25 years ago when I bought my first bottle of Texas wine. It was a wine that I found at my local supermarket and if my memory serves me correctly, it was a Chardonnay. The experience proved to me a couple things; that either Texas, or perhaps more correctly where these grapes were grown, was just not Chardonnay country, or some serious improvements in on the part of the winemaker’s skills were needed, perhaps both. However, being a naturalized Texan [a moniker that I now proudly claim since nearly two-thirds of my natural born days have been right here in Texas] and knowing the determination of my fellow Texans to do what some may consider the undoable [or outright crazy], I did not stop with this first bottle of Texas wine.
I’m glad that I did not stop there. From that point on, I made it my passion to learn all I could about Texas’s agricultural roots leading up to its entry into what some in Texas referred to as “winegrowing”. Furthermore, I made an effort to visit this state’s growing number of wineries that now total over 170, and taste their wines.
Texas now offers the complete range of experiences. It has its value-oriented mega-winery, St. Genevieve, the Texas equivalent of Gallo in California. St. Gen specializing in those big 1.5 liter bottles that you see on supermarket shelves. It also has a number of large premium wineries such as Llano Estacado, Becker Vineyards, Fall Creek, Messina Hof and Pheasant Ridge. The best kept secret is that some of these wineries sell on par in Texas with some very well known wineries that we often refer to as the “heavy hitters”, including Mondavi, Beringer and Sterling.
The most rapidly growing sector is smaller Texas wineries. Many of these are family owned and they range from true ma-and-pa operations to true artisanal and quality boutique wineries. This latter group includes up-and-coming names like Brennan Vineyards, Texas Hills Vineyard, McPherson Cellars, San Martino Winery, Alamosa Wine Cellars, Haak Vineyards.
Traveling, tasting and talking my way around Texas has given me the chance to developed a list of the good, the bad and the unusual aspects of the evolving Texas wine experience. Enjoy my list below. Feel free to start your own list, and let me know if I missed anything important to you.
I have listed a few of my selections here. But, for my list of the Best of Texas, grab a copy of this month’s My Table Magazine (http://www.my-table.com/section/issue/93.html; October-November 2009) from your local Texas newsstand.
BEST TX RED GRAPE VARIETIES – So far, Tempranillo tops the list, but Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre (and on the High Plains Cabernet Sauvignon) follow. Biggest surprises: San Martino Winery 2005 Tempranillo (Newsom Vineyard), and Becker Vineyards 2007 Prairie Rotie (Martin’s Vineyard), Rhone-style red blend.
WORST TX RESTAURANTS – Those that don’t offer any Texas wines. Ask them to carry your favorite Texas wine. A good restaurant always listens to their patrons.
MOST UNUSUAL TX WINE DRINK– Llano Estacado Sweet Red Wine and with Squirt grapefruit soda. A Tejas version of what the Spanish call, “Tinto Verano” or red summer drink.
MOST UNUSUAL TX WINE DRINK (#2) – Dry Comal Creek French Colombard & Jalapeno Shooter. Caliente y frio, in the same glass. Wine – Texas style.
BEST TX WINE LYRIC – “Sweet West Texas Wine” by Dave Insley.
THE WORST TX VINYARD WEATHER – During my March trip to the Texas High Plains to watch the planting of new vineyards, the temperature dipped to 21 degrees, blowing snow and red sand, but with the tenacity and hard work of the growers, a crop was salvaged. The tough and hearty Tempranillo vine was a noteworthy bright spot. Texas maybe a warm weather growing region, but finding grape varietals that can handle the late spring weather sent from Canada needs to be strongly factored into our Texas wine future.
BEST EVOLVING TX WINE STORY – The growers and winemakers who are working hard and braving the elements to find just the right mix of locale, grapes and weather to make the best wines that can be made in Texas.
BEST COMMENT ON TX WINE – Said when sampling my Texas Pick Six wines at this year’s Grand Wine and Food Affair “These are all impressively well made wines. Californians have spent so much time in recent years pumping up the fruit ripeness and alcohol that it is impossible to taste the terroir anymore. These Texas wines are not overblown like many that I taste. Enjoy them, as you can still taste the interplay of local and varietal flavors,” by a Sonoma California winemaker wishing to remain anonymous.
To find a copy of My Table Magazine, go to: http://www.my-table.com/section/issue/93.html