Texas Sommeliers, Wine Experts Select Top Lone Star Wines

…In the honor of our Texas heritage, I’ll be so bold as to as to say, “Remember Tempranillo…Remember Blanc Du Bois!”

On Monday, January 17th, I drove nearly three hours to Austin to participate in the first-ever Texas Sommelier Tasting, In this event, nearly a dozen sommeliers and wine experts blind tasted more than 100 Texas wines to select their favorites that best represent Texas and its terroir (a French wine term that is best defined as “sense of place”).

From Blanc du Bois grown in Coastal sandy soils to Mediterranean varieties like Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Vermentino that are flourishing in the High Plains, Texas is producing high-quality wines that appeal to a wide range of wine consumers. The event was well worth the the three-hour car ride.

“While Texas makes some outstanding Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots and Chardonnays, winemakers across the Lone Star State are not afraid to introduce wine consumers to new wines well-suited for our climate and our Southwestern foods,” said Robert Champion, state coordinator of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Wine Marketing Program.

The first in what will be an ongoing Texas Sommelier Tasting program, the blind tasting was designed to provide a snapshot of wines consumers can look forward to tasting this year in winery tasting rooms or when purchased at retailers and restaurants.

The tasting process was one that I helped develop and I wanted to keep it simple, but still make it relevant. After tasting a wine blind, the tasters had three choices and had to choose which best fit the wine: Excellent statement of Texas wine, Good well made Texas wine (no flaws), or just pass. While I helped in the evaluation scheme, the wines were still all blinded from me. I was just another one of the tasters with the pouring and presentation of the wines all done from a separate room from where we sat swirling, sniffing, tasting and spitting. All we knew was the grape varietal (e.g. Chardonnay, Cabernet, Tempranillo, etc.) or wine style (e.g. Bordeaux or Rhone style blend), percent alcohol, and the residual sugar content of the wine. If you haven’t tried tasting wines this way, I suggest that you start. It strips away the bias we all have when we see a label or if know the origin of the wine.

“This tasting showed the strength of the Texas wine industry and how well Mediterranean varieties are doing,” said Drew Hendricks, MS, director of beverage education and wine for the Houston-based Pappas Restaurant Group and one of the sommelier tasters. “There are many new and exciting wineries as well.”

I was most impressed by one thing. From my blind tasting, the two strongest flights of wines might surprise some people not knowledgeable of Texas terroir. These flights were those composed of either Tempranillo and its red blends or that consisting of wines made from Blanc Du Bois, a white grape that is grown mainly in the the southern and eastern parts of the state. In the honor of our Texas heritage, I’ll be so bold as to as to say, “Remember Tempranillo…Remember Blanc Du Bois!”

It showed that Texas has a wine future that will likely not parallel that of the top four wine producing states of California, Washington, Oregon and New York that is heavily entrenched in what people in the wine trade often call the “California Set”: wines made from Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot. Texas, as fifth in US wine production, will likely makes its reputation on Mediterranean grape varietals like Tempranillo, Syrah, Sangiovese, Dolcetto and Mourvedre, and advanced hybrid grapes like Blanc Du Bois where harvest and winery parameters have now been developed to make it into a mighty fine wine, and in a variety of wine styles from dry to semi-sweet to dessert.

“The list of wines below provides a great start to finding the perfect Texas wine for any meal, cheese or dessert pairing. There are many Texas award-winning wines that you might enjoy,” Champion said. “Your best bet is to try Texas wines for yourself and see what you like.”

Here are the favorite Texas wines among the group of wine professionals:

Chardonnay

Llano Estacado, 2009 Unoaked Chardonnay

Fall Creek Vineyards, 2009 Chardonnay

Viognier

Lone Oak Winery, 2010 Viognier

Brennan Vineyards, 2009 Viognier

Blanc Du Bois

Haak Vineyards and Winery, 2010 Dry Blanc du Bois

Lone Oak Winery, 2010 Blanc du Bois

Enoch’s Stomp, 2009 Off-Dry Blanc du Bois

Haak Vineyards and Winery, 2010 Semi-Sweet Blanc du Bois

Pinot Grigio

Texas Hills Vineyard, 2008 Pinot Grigio

Riesling

Bell Mountain Vineyards, 2007 Late Harvest Riesling

Other White Wine and Blends

Duchman Family Winery, 2009 Vermentino

Llano Estacado, 2009 Viviana

Landon Winery, 2010 Gewurztraminer

Rosé

Driftwood Estate Winery, 2010 Dry Rosé

McPherson Cellars, 2009 Rosé of Syrah

Messina Hof Wine Cellars, 2010 Sophia Marie Rosé

Rhone and Bordeaux Blends

Becker Vineyards, 2009 Prairie Rotie

Inwood Estates Vineyards, 2006 Magellan

Messina Hof Wine Cellars, 2006 Paulo Bordeaux Blend

Merlot

Grape Creek Vineyards, 2008 Merlot

Pedernales Cellars, 2008 Merlot

Syrah

Brennan Vineyards, 2007 Syrah

Petite Sirah

Torre di Pietra Vineyards, 2008 Petite Syrah

Tempranillo/Tempranillo Blends

Inwood Estates Vineyards, 2008 Cornelius

Inwood Estates Vineyards, 2007 Tempranillo-Cabernet

Pedernales Cellars, 2008 Tempranillo

Red Caboose Winery and Vineyard, 2007 Tempranillo

La Buena Vida Vineyards-Springtown, 2005 Smith Estate Tempranillo

Cabernet Sauvignon

Crump Valley Vineyards, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

Brennan Vineyards, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Kiepersol Estates Winery, 2007 Texas Cabernet Sauvignon

Red Wines

Brushy Creek Vineyards, NV Trois Amis

Pedernales Cellars, 2008 Kuhlken Vineyards Reserve

Red Caboose Winery and Vineyard, 2008 Lenoir/Tempranillo

Sandstone Cellars, 2009 X

Llano Estacado, 2007 Viviano

Fall Creek Vineyards, 2006 Meritus

Other Red Blends

Duchman Family Winery, 2009 Dolcetto

Duchman Family Winery, 2009 Montepulciano

Messina Hof Wine Cellars, 2009 Private Reserve Cabernet Franc

Sandstone Cellars, 2009 VII

Dessert/Port-Style Wines

Enoch’s Stomp, 2009 Sweet Lenoir

Grape Creek Vineyards, NV Port

Pleasant Hill Winery, NV Tawny Rosso Forte

Texas Hills Vineyard, 2008 Moscato

Stone House Vineyard, NV Scheming Beagle Port

McPherson Cellars, NV Chansa Solera Reserva Sherry

Enoch’s Stomp, 2009 Ellen’s Sweet Song

With more than 215 wineries, Texas is the fifth-largest wine producing state and seventh-largest grape producer. For more information about Texas wine, go to www.gotexanwine.org.

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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.