Rather than call my 2002 Texas wine selections, the ”Best Texas Wines of 2022”, I’ve opted to label them simply ”My Favorites.” My selections were based on two simple criteria: excellence of characteristics and pleasurability in the glass as a quaff or a companion with food. Well, here goes.
Bending Branch Winery, 2019 Malbec, Texas High Plains
This Malbec from Bending Branch Winery tops off my list for its overall drinkability and enjoyment. I’ve had the pleasure to keep my bottle unopened and sampling it five times using my Coravin, 3 or 4 ounces in each pour this year. I keep coming back to it expecting is not to be a good as my previous encounter, but it continues to please. It yields notes of red and black berries and plums combined with black olive and green herbs in a very class Malbec way embellished with medium tannins, micro-oxygenation and flavor/aroma integration from aging 30 months in neutral oak. It is a pleasure to sip and to drink beside a well-marbled steak.
Robert Clay Vineyards, 2015 Grande Reserva (76 months in French Oak)
In a close second in 2022, I’m most impressed with the growing and winemaking efforts of Dan McLaughlin at his Robert Clay Vineyards in Mason. He is truly a man of patience manifested in what he calls is “Grande Reserva” or alternatively ”Old Vine Field Blend” aged for a lingering 76 months in French Oak. With this wine, McLaughlin gives his nod to the famous Spanish winery known similarly for long barrel aging regimes – Vega Sicilia.
The Grand Reserva is an unconventional blend of Merlot, Touriga, Ruby Cabernet from his Mason County vineyard. It is opaque red-black in the glass and offers a nose of ripe black cherry, cassis, baking spice, and wet earth following on the palate with black cherry developing with truffle and caramel in the mid-palate. Tannins are medium-plus and nicely balanced with fruit and acidity offering richness, weight, structure and liveliness. Find your best cut of red meat (grilled, braised, etc.) and bring this wine to the table and enjoy! That is all you will need.
Augusta Vin Winery, 2019 Montepulciano, Texas Hill Country
An all-around fine fruit-forward wine exhibiting good extraction of black cherries and blackberry with a floral note, amplified by light oak aging to bring out moderate tannins and wood aromas and spice. It has become a go-to wine for me with my new pizza hobby and gas-fired Ooni pizza oven, serving with pizza, pasta or grilled meats, or for just for some friendly sipping.
Pedernales Cellars, 2017 Graciano, Texas High Plains
This 2017 Graciano was blended with a little Cinsault and Tannat and, in rough numbers, was about 85% Graciano. It brings red berry and crisp acidity and aromatic characteristics with a particular presence on the mid-palate of sweet pipe tobacco and berry flavors as this grape variety brings to many Tempranillo blends in Rioja. It is also starting to catch on here in Texas. Pair with pork meats, sausages, and hard cheeses.
Lewis Wines, 2021 Chenin Blanc, Texas High Plains, Phillips Vineyards
These Chenin grapevines were planted specifically for Lewis Vineyards in 2019 and this 2021 Chenin Blanc is the first wine made from these vines. The 2021 Lewis Wine Chenin Blanc is uncommonly good. It has an almost unique combination of aromas and flavors of honeyed ginger, earthiness and ripe apricot that compliment the traditional pear, quince and minerally characteristics found in Texas grown Chenin Blanc. It is also, slightly sweet (from partial-botrytis affected grapes) with super-refreshing and crisp acidity. It also has a pleasantly low level of alcohol at only 11 percent. For food pairing with this wine think charcuterie in all its many splendorful forms and a selection of hard and soft cheeses.
C.L. Butaud, 2020 Cinsault, Texas High Plains, Phillips Vineyards
This Cinsault like Grenache in Texas provides medium body and pretty varietal character with a delicate fruit profile of bright red fruits like cherry, strawberry, and currant complemented by a hint of black pepper and violets; in fact, very “Pinotesque.” It is at home accompanying medium-red meats like pork or even one of my favorite seafood dishes, Cioppino (an Italian-American fish stew).
McPherson Cellars, 2010 Roussanne Reserve, Texas High Plains, Bingham Vineyards
This wine illustrates Roussanne’s aging potential this grape shows in the best white blends of the French Rhone river region when combined with a truly great vintage here in Texas. I’ve also held and tasted McPherson Roussanne from the 2012 and 2014 vintages. The 2010 is followed by 2014 that was also excellent; 2012 while still very good did not have the pizzaz of the 2010 and 2014. The 2010 showed classic aged amber color with lemon drop and green tea notes that were a pleasure to sip and would also pair well with a Provençal-style roast chicken, or a rich-opulent fish like Chilean sea bass.
Messina Hof Winery, 2019 Sagrantino Reserva, Texas High Plains (Double Barrel Aged).
This wine has incredible structure that integrates tannin and deep-rich, dark-berry flavors, throwing in a helping of baking spice and vanilla, too. Taste now and enjoy, or cellar it to experience what I predict will be an expanding repertoire of tertiary nuances of leather, truffle and tobacco. If Sagrantino can survive the rugged climate and vagaries of Texas vineyard life, it will be a pleasant ”force” to be reconned with in your glass for some time to come.
Wedding Oak Winery, 2021 Castanet, Cinsault Rosé, Texas High Plains
This rosé immediately establishes a connection with its lovely salmon-pink color and aromas of baked strawberry pastries, grapefruit, candied peaches, and minerally flint on the nose. Its bright flavors make it a perfect warm weather drink (in Texas this could literally be in any season) and pairing for salads, grilled fish, paella with chorizo, asian chicken or chicken or fish tacos.
Texas Heritage Vineyard, 2019 Old 300, Texas Hill Country Estate Red Blend (50% Malbec – 50% Alicante Bouschet)
Alicante Bouschet provides deep purple hues and tannins to this red wine blend. This wine shows a perfect match between these qualities and the structure and acidity from the Malbec. It also melds together nuances of dark ripe plums, cocoa, and black olives with an added hint of black pepper. This wine is big, bold and juicy, but only carries a moderate 13% alcohol. For wine pairings think pot roast or braised short ribs.
OK, I’ve got ten wines here, but I need to include one more…
Kerrville Hills Winery, 2020 Teroldego, Texas High Plains, Pepper Jack Vineyards
The most amazing characteristics expressed by this Kerrville Hills Teroldego, other than it is made from a grape that nearly no one in America has heard of, were its combination of rich dark fruit qualities, earthiness and bright acidity, which offers lively fresh fruit notes rather than the ”jamminess” often found in many dark red wines. I also found an interesting minty-spiciness lingering from mid-palate to the finish. This grape that came here from its home turf of Trentino (northern Italy)
Another reason that I’ve included this wine in my 2023 list of notables is that winemaker and co-owner John Rivenburgh and I had perhaps the most provocative exchange that I’ve had in my long tenure as a wine writer. He said, ”If Petite Sirah, Tannat, and Barbara had a baby, it would be Teroldego.” Acknowledging his comment, I responded by saying, ”Interesting… It’s kind of like a Teroldego Ménage à Trois in a glass.”
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In closing out 2022, please remember that my favorite wine recommendation for you doesn’t involve any particular grape or wine. My recommendation for the new year is to simply, ”Enjoy!”