We live in California, which makes more wine than any other state in the USA. Thus, it is not surprising that we taste and write a lot about wine from the Golden State.
Even when we venture outside of California, our US wines tend to be from the West Coast. This is because most states don’t have nationwide distribution. They sell their wines locally, so they aren’t easy to explore or find. As a result, an offer to try a range of Texas wine was one we were eager to accept, especially as October is Texas Wine Month. Texas is the fifth largest state for wine production. Granted its production is less than 1% of California. A more useful comparison might be with Oregon, which sits in fourth place. Texas makes about 40% of the amount of wine produced in California’s Northern neighbor. The Texas wine business is growing , but Napa alone has twice as many wineries.
Amber wrote a post back in 2016 that highlighted a flight of Texas wine at Austin airport. One of the wineries she sampled provided wine for this article
Texas Hill Country
Our samples of Texas wines came from three different wineries. All but one sample originated in Texas Hill Country, which is one of the eight AVA’s in Texas. Texas Hill Country lies East of Austin and to the South San Antonio. I have never visited this part of the State, although it feels familiar to me from reading Robert Caro’s LBJ biography.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo are the most planted grapes in Texas, with Merlot coming in third. Viognier is the most common white grape planted, with nearly double the acreage of Chardonnay produced. Texas is a red wine region; having less than 20% of production being white wine grapes. I think that is a reflection of consumer demand rather than it not being a great place to grow white wines.
We started our Texas wine tasting experience with a 2019 Fall Creek Chardonnay. The fruit was grown in Certenberg Vineyards, about 100 miles North West of Austin. It spent fourteen months in French oak barrels. The nose offered vanilla and apricot. Those aromas and the oak program led me to expect a heavily oaked wine. Whilst it is not austere, neither is this wine over oaked. There is a creamy texture but balanced with good acidity. Flavours of vanilla, pineapple, lemon, and sweet spice provide complexity.
Next up was a rosé of Grenache. The colour was almost golden with but a hint of salmon. Delicate floral aromas delighted me. The wine was crisp and refreshing. Melon notes emerged in the finish. Easy to drink but better to savour. This was my favourite of the Texan wines I tasted. Given the quality of the wines, that is not damning with faint praise.
The third of the Fall Creek wines was an example of one of the state’s most planted grapes: Tempranillo. The fruit hails from the delightfully named Salt Lick Vineyards. Its nose was of plum and damp wood. The first sip led with a brightness, but overall the wine was tight. Tart cherry was overshadowed by the tannins. The finish had subtle pepper notes and a few drops of fruit. The wine needs time but showed potential.
Texas Heritage Vineyard
Our two sample bottles had labels reflecting the winery’s name; proudly showing the Lone Star Flag. Texas Heritage Vineyard planted their first vines in 2015. Their first harvest followed three years later in 2018.
We started with the 2019 Time Traveler: a blend of equal parts Viognier and Roussanne. The straw colour wine offered a rich nose of honey, tangerine, and floral notes. The mouthfeel was light and relaxed. It had subtle flavours of pear and pineapple. In the finish there was a minerality that was more textural than a taste. An easy to drink wine but with nuances that make it interesting.
Our next bottle was a Sousão, a Portuguese variety, from that first vintage. Texas Heritage uses an alternative spelling: Souzao. The nose is of cherry and loam. In the mouth the wine is soft but with a spine of acidity running through it. Flavours of ripe plum faded to dust and refined tannins in a delightful finish. It is an approachable wine that is drinking well.
Amber comments: We really enjoyed both of these wines. The 2019 Time Traveler (don’t you just love the name) paired beautifully with fish tacos. The Souzao on the other hand was paired with Albodangas (Spanish meatballs) which are made with half ground beef and half ground pork. The tangy tomato sauce, savory meat, and spices were the perfect complement to the richness of this beautiful wine.
Both wines from Wedding Oak were examples of Amber’s favourite grape: Sangiovese. You can read more about her love for this grape here.
We started with the 2019 from Buena Suerte Vineyards. in the High Plains. That made this the only wine made from fruit grown outside Texas Hill Country. The wine was translucent with a brown tinge. The nose was of warm earth and light fruit. It was rustic, with good acidity and cherry notes. This reminded me of Chianti, the classic Sangiovese wine from Tuscany. Two years in bottle is too young for this wine. I look forward to revisiting this one in 2-3 years.
The other Sangiovese was from the same year and from fruit grown in the Hye Top Vineyards. The nose was of spicy plum backed with earthy notes. The taste was not as bold on the palate as the aromas led us to believe. Instead, the palate was filled with notes of Redcurrant, forest floor, and baking spices. It was not flabby, but lacked the strong acidity that we expect from the variety and that was on show in the other example.
Amber comments: Both of these examples of Sangiovese were very drinkable although I would agree with David about the 2019 from Buena Suerte Vineyards as being the favorite out of the two. I paired them exactly the same with a rustic pasta dish. I made a fresh five-ingredient sauce which included: tomatoes, onions, olive oil, basil, and garlic. The tomatoes and basil came from our garden, and the olive oil was from our local olive oil place Il Fiorello . This makes a healthy, flavorful, and aromatic sauce that set the wines off perfectly.
Texas Wine Summary
The wines were all good, apart from the Fall Creek Rose that was excellent. The red wines need time in the cellar to gain maturity to be at their peak. I’d say the Sangiovese, in particular, need another 3-5 years in the cellar before drinking. The whites and rosé are ready to drink right now.
You can buy the wines from the websites below.