Deep in the Heart of Texas’ Wine Country

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I recently was invited to attend an event in Fort Worth for the Texas Hill Country Wineries at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.  The session began with a panelist seminar of winemakers that included John Rivenbaugh from Bending Branch Winery, Gill Bledsoe from Pillar Bluff Vineyard and David Kuhlken from Pedernales Cellars who discussed a variety of subjects as related to producing wine in Texas.

I learned a few things:

  • The Texas wine and grape industry is fifth in the U.S. for wine production with over 2 million gallons produced annually.  The 2,700 acres of vineyard and 200 plus wineries contribute $1.35 billion to Texas’ economy.  Wow.
  • And, the proposed budget cuts at a state and federal level will absolutely level the gains made in Texas wine production.

I wanted to know more about where the winemakers thought the ‘sweet spot’ was for Texas wine.  Not surprisingly, they talked about the potential for growth in Texas as only six percent of Texas wines are consumed by Texans.  When I was on the efactor panel in February, I heard the same from Dan Gatlin from Inwood Estates.  I was glad to hear that they all acknowledged planting the right kind of varietals for the crazy Texas weather is the key to success.  As someone who has palate skid marks from trying Texas wines in the 1990’s, I was heartened to hear this.  Bledsoe had my favorite quote of the night, “I want to show that we can dance – I’ll throw our wines up against anyone.”  The fact that 15 of 21 Texas wines that were awarded medals in the San Francisco International Wine Competition were from the Texas Hill Country shows he may have a point.

Naturally I asked about the challenges they face.  Texas weather and funding seemed to top the list.  If you’ve spent any time in Texas or watched the Big Game this year, you know temperatures can drop 50 degrees overnight.  There is also some research that is making gains in improving Texas wine – collaborations between Texas A&M and the program at Grayson County College – that could be severely impacted by budget cuts.

If you’ve been reading Dallas Wine Chick for the past year, you know that I’ve had some past struggles with Texas wine.  I’m sure your big question is what I thought about the wines.  I tasted 29 wines.  Some took me back to my experience in the 1990’s.  However, I had four that made me take notice.

Duchman

  • Duchman Family Winery, 09 Montepulciano, ($15) this was a red wine full of stone fruit, slight oak and a bit of spice at the finish.  It was a Texas wine that is actually possible to drink in August Texas weather.
  • Duchman Family 09 Vermentino ($10), a Texas patio wine that is floral with hints of pear, but balanced with some minerality.  Lively and light for patio weather.
  • Perdernales Tempranillo ($29.99), a little high priced for my threshold for a Texas wine, but with soft tannins, an earthiness and cherry notes that make it well matched for Texas game.  The highlight of my tasting note was simple – “Nice” with an exclamation point.
  • Singing Water Vineyards Reserve Merlot/Cabernet Blend ($24.95), also priced on the high range, this was a deep red wine full of stone fruit, raspberry and vanilla.

Pedernales Cellars

 

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Coincidentally, a group of Texas sommeliers blind tasted more than 100 Texas wines and both Duchman and Perdernales wines were on the winners list.  The Singing Water Vineyards has also won a number of awards for their reserve blend.

My takeaways from this event – I found wines that I liked that give me hope for the future of Texas wines.  I would keep an eye on Perdenales Cellars, Singing Water Vineyards and Duchman Family.  I expect good things.