When I was first invited to a trade tasting of Texas wines in NYC, I asked myself if it was worth wasting a day. Boy, was I surprised!
Several of our Texas wine tour alumni have called my attention to the rise of winemaking in the Lone Star state, but I just nodded in acquiescence to keep them quiet. I came away from this tasting a believer.
Let’s be realistic: there are about 400 wineries in Texas, and there were 14 represented at the wine tasting. There was only one dog amongst them so this represents the top tier of Texas wineries. Just how good are the other 386 wineries? Hard to say since I’m way up here in the Northeast. But based on my experience, things are looking pretty darn good for Texas wines.
First a little geography. Wineries in Texas are essentially located in 2 areas: the upper Northwest corner and the Texas Hill country near Austin, by far the predominant wine region. For my money, the best winery showing at this event was Fall Creek Vineyards. Owners Ed and Susan Auler have worked over 40
years to build a viable Texas wine industry. They have been called “the first family of Texas Wine.” Susan was recognized by Wines & Vines magazine as one of the top 50 people in the wine world.
Their first consultant was none other than André Tchelistcheff and the current staff has produced some superb wines. My first taste was their Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Escondido Valley, a lush wine with great structure, reminiscent of a very good Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé, but their strong hand are the red wines. I had a wonderful Tempranillo Salt Lake Vineyard 2015 with good fruit and acidity; it would give a Rioja a run for the money.
The Meritus 2015 was their top wine and priced accordingly at $50. A blend of Merlot (53%), Cab. Sauvignon (47%), it’s a juicy, well-structured wine that any California winery would be happy to present in their portfolio.
There were other highlights from other wineries but with Fall Creek aside, the main thrust in the rise in quality in Texas has come from the young ‘Turks.’Typical of this momentum is Lewis Wines, led by Doug Lewis and Duncan McNabb. Working with just 8 acres in the Texas Hill Country, and focusing on Iberian and French varieties, they have produced some remarkable wines.
I particularly liked their Round Mountain Vineyard 2013 Estate Blend (75% Touriga Nacional, 24% Tinto Cåo, 1% Tempranillo), a juicy, well-balanced wine with aging potential.
The sad thing about Texas wines is that you will be hard=pressed to find them outside Texas. But that may change soon. If they continue this upward thrust in quality and quantity, you too may become a believer.