What comes to mind when you think of Texas? Cowboys. Oil. Longhorn cattle. Sports teams. Texas barbeque.
What about wine?
It may not be “top of mind” but, in fact, Texas ranks fifth in the nation in wine production, behind California, Washington, Oregon and New York. In some ways, Texas wine is a well-kept secret.
Since most of the wine produced isn’t exported beyond its borders, unless you live in or have visited the Lone Star State, you may have never tasted Texas vintages.
Even more surprising is nearly 80 percent of grapes used to produce its wines come from the High Plains, near Lubbock, second largest of the state’s eight AVAs (American Viticultural Areas).
The majority of the rest of Texas vineyards are in the Hill Country (largest AVA in Texas and third largest in the U.S.), and Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country. Other smaller areas designated as AVAs include Texas Davis Mountains, Mesilla Valley, Texoma, Bell Mountain and Escondido.
I visited several Texas wineries in April 2019 while visiting Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country. Besides admiring the fields of bluebonnets and other wildflowers that attract visitors to the area every spring, wine lovers also follow wine trails along the way.
You can read about my Hill Country trip, with stops at four of the 19 wineries along Wine Road 290, including Becker Vineyards, Pedernales Cellars, Signor Vineyards, and Narrow Path Winery, at this link.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic kept many of us quarantined for most of 2020, Texas wineries, like other businesses, have had to get creative. Tasting rooms have been closed and special wine events have been cancelled. Despite the challenges, wine-lovers, both in and out of Texas, have found ways to keep the wine flowing. Wineries have stayed in contact with customers through virtual tasting experiences, shipping wines, or making them available for pick-up at the winery or their tasting rooms.
If you live in Texas or are planning a road trip later this spring or summer, check with the wineries you plan to visit before planning your day (or weekend). In early 2021, some wineries were reopening at limited capacity and/or requiring reservations for tastings. Hopefully, as the year goes one, things will be operating more normally.
Texas Fine Wine hosts a Zoom wine webinar
I recently took part in a Zoom wine webinar for members of the International Food, Wine, Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), hosted by Texas Fine Wine, a group of five wineries—Bending Branch Winery, Brennan Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, Pedernales Cellars, and Spicewood Vineyards—all dedicated to producing benchmark wines from Texas grapes.
Other than Pedernales Cellars, which I visited during my April 2018 trip to the Texas Hill Country, all of the wineries were new to me. Although I would much rather have been able to visit each one personally, being able to virtually meet the winemakers and learn more about the grape varieties, the history of their wineries, and which vintages they specialize in, was the next best thing.
Several of the most promising white grape varieties used in Texas wines include Viognier, Trebbiano, Roussanne, Marsanne, Vermentino, Albariño, and Picpoul Blanc. Red wine grape varieties include (but are not limited to) Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Graciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga Nacional, Tannat, Sangiovese, Mourvèdre and Aglianico.
I visited each of their websites prior to the webinar to get a feel for the location and setting of each winery, and then researched the wine trails that each belongs to. There are approximately 400 wineries in the state of Texas and 18 wine trails. You can find out which wineries are included in each wine trail at this link: Texas Wine Trails
As a part of the webinar, several of the participants shared their impressions of wines the wineries sent in advance. Some had prepared meals to accompany one of the Texas wines; others tasted with cheese and hors d’oeuvres during the educational portion of the evening.
One of the wines I was able to taste was the 2019 Ella’s Pine from Brennan Vineyards, 100 percent Semilllon (pronounced “Sem-ee-yon”). It is on the Cross Timbers Wine Trail. I love dry white wines so it was a hit with my garlic/herb goat cheese appetizers.
“They say that wine is made in the vineyard and that’s absolutely true. You can make a bad wine out of good grapes but you can never make a good wine out of bad grapes. So the most important thing is to have good quality fruit coming into your winery.” —Pat Brennan, winemaker and co-owner of Brennan Vineyards
The other wine I received to taste was Duchman Family Winery’s 2018 Viognier (pronounced “Vee-own-yay”). Another winner—very bold and fruit forward. It paired nicely with a dinner of grilled scallops and mushroom risotto.
Duchman’s winemaker since 2008 is Dave Reilly. His one goal is “to make wines that are true to their varietal character using the highest quality grapes grown only in Texas.”
The winery, located in Driftwood, about 30 minutes outside of Austin, is described on its website as “a slice of Tuscan heaven in the Texas Hill Country.” HGTV listed it among the 20 most-picturesque wineries in the country.
I lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for five years (2006-2011). While I am glad, in many ways, to be back in my home state of Indiana, I welcome opportunities to revisit the Lone Star State. Now that I’ve been introduced to the wineries virtually, I look forward to visiting them in person. Here’s to the future of Texas wine!
Disclosure: Brennan Vineyards and Duchman Family Winery provided me with wines to taste. Other Texas Fine Wine member wineries sent wine to other participants, which provided us a unique way to share our love of wine and to increase our knowledge of Texas vintages.