`Venturing Deep Into The Heart of — Texas Wine!
By John R. Dunham
Generally, when one thinks of American wine, they look for wines from California, Oregon, Washington, or maybe New York and Virginia. Texas wine doesn’t come to mind, at least not at first.
In reality, the Lone Star state ranks 6th in both the number of wineries and the number of acres producing wine grapes. In terms of employment in wineries, the state also ranks 6th, meaning that it produces a lot of wine. Grape producing acreage is growing at about 10 percent a year.
Texas wines were once predominately dominated by hot weather sweet white varietals. This makes sense as the climate is extremely hot and dry, particularly in the larger vineyard regions in the Texas High Plains AVA near Lubbock.
Over the years, as more winemakers have come to Texas, they have shifted toward Italian varietals, which tend to do extremely well in the climate. Interestingly, the growing season tends more toward the winter and spring, with a harvest in July.
At a recent walk around tasting in New York, 14 different Texas wineries were represented. Many of the wines don’t make it far from the vineyard, with the vast majority of Texas wine being sold locally.
On the plus side, it’s one of the reasons why Texas wineries receive more than 1.7 million visitors a year who are eager to discover these exclusive wines.
Most of the tasting rooms and actual wineries are located in the lovely Hill Country region located between the cities of Austin and San Antonio and centered on the picturesque town of Fredericksburg.
These wineries are small and many offer activities outside of producing and selling wine such as concert events, food festivals, and artist events in the wineries.
Tasting Texas Wine:
Eden Hill Vineyard, located in Celina Texas just north of Dallas. The winery focuses on Mediterranean varietals grown in the Texas High Plains AVA, and produces a very ripe and fruity Montepulciano (2015: $34) and a spicy Agliancio (a black colored grape predominant in southern Italy) (2015: $31) that is perfect to pair with red sauce Italian foods.
Lewis Wines, located in Johnson City, Texas, between Austin and Fredricksburg. This Texas winery also uses grapes from the High Plains AVA, with a focus on southern French, and Spanish varietals. Its Mourvedre rose (2016: $30) was salmon in color with a red fruit nose. The wine was fresh with nice minerality and some cherry notes. I would love this with duck.
Messina Hof Winery
Messina Hof Winery, located in Bryan Texas near College Station, is one of the older wineries in the state. The winery features a large restaurant, an inn and is a major venue for weddings. It is known for its Tannat, but we really liked the Pinot Grigio (2017 $12).
This wine has a super fruity nose with a palate that was both citrusy and floral. There was a nice bit of spice on the finish as well, making this a great wine for lighter Italian dishes.
Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall, which is in the heart of the Hill Country right outside of Fredericksburg specializes in Spanish and Rhone varietals using grapes from all of Texas’ eight AVAs. The Tempranillo (2015: $19) was very good. Light red in color with lots of berry on the nose, the wine had good fruit and a solid but not tight structure.
This is a nice food wine and can work well with grilled meats and pasta dishes. The Hill country Tempranillo (2015: $39) was similar but with nose nice floral notes on the finish.
Wedding Oak Winery is located in the northern part of the Hill Country in San Saba, Texas. We really enjoyed the Hill Country Viognier (2016: $28) which was yellow gold in color with a fruity peach nose. On the palate, the wine featured distinct citrus and melon notes.
Turkey, chicken and fish would all go very well with this wine. As the Roussane from the High Plains AVA (2016: $28) with its citrus nose an light mineral structure, is a great choice for lighter dishes and seafood.
While these wines may not be generally featured at your local package store, the eight AVAs of Texas are really worth looking at, and if the opportunity arises, Texas wine country is a wonderful area to visit.
For more information please visit the Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association at:https://www.txwines.org/