Think Texas and food and your mind almost inevitably goes to fajitas and barbecue. Think Texas and wine and you might assume it's just a place that just drinks California Chardonnay and Cabernet. Right? Wrong. To help put misconceptions to rest, Master Sommelier and Texas wine enthusiast James Tidwell shares five reasons why the Lone Star State is making wines worth paying attention to. — Maryse Chevriere
1. Dynamic. Texas wines have actually been around a long time; if you’ve read the Grape Man of Texas about the life of T.V. Munson, it explains that the state’s vines deserve credit for saving the French wine industry during the phylloxera epidemic. But while people are now starting to acknowledge that Texas wine has been around for a while, modern Texas wine is not that old. It hasn’t really been established outside of the borders. I equate it to Switzerland, which also makes some very good wines. You don’t ever see Texas wines outside of the state because they can sell almost everything within. And Texans are very patriotic, and buy a lot of Texas wines, so it doesn’t have a chance to go out of state. They’re dynamic and on the move in terms of profile.
2. Cohesion. Because the state is so large, wineries had so many different ideas about how to make wine, but we had to move forward as a state. Wineries have recognized that we don’t have to agree on everything because we do have a variety of grapes, but that we should have a general identity. The “Go Texan” program has been instrumental in creating a cohesive representation of Texas wines.
3. Geographically Diverse. You can get it in California, to some extent in Oregon and Washington, maybe New York, but certainly Texas is in the top five states for geographically and climactically diverse wine. We can grow Cabernet, Merlot, and Chardonnay in one area and Rhône varieties in another. Producers are finally realizing the varieties that should be planted in Texas; and the appropriate areas that those varieties should be grown in.
4. Proper Varieties. For a while Texas winemakers were just growing and producing certain wines because it's what they thought people wanted. But it turns out the Hill Country is great for Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Merlot. The High Plains and west Texas do well with Rhône varieties, and the warmer climate in the summers produces some nice Mediterranean varieties.
5. Wines that Reflect Texas. Grown in the right spot, wines are coming onto the market that really reflect Texas. Big, bold flavors – it fits. The wine may be a Sangiovese, but the wine won’t be like the Chianti you’re familiar with, it will be softer, richer, recognizable but not the same.
Texas Wine Recommendations
McPherson Cellars: Located in Lubbock, this vineyard is known for its Rhône varieties. They do a Syrah rosé that is spectacular.
Becker Vineyards: I recommend the Viognier — like Chardonnay's aromatic cousin.
Kiepersol Estates: This Tyler winery makes really good Merlot and Syrah.
Inwood Estates: They make a great Tempranillo and Cabernet blend — essentially what you would get with a Chianti but bigger, bolder, and richer.
Haak Vineyards and Winery: Excellent Madeira-style wine from Galveston. Hot, humid — a natural fit to produce fortified wine when you think about it.