Texas Wines Making a Statement
The best recommendations from recent tastings
F all Creek and Llano Estacado are the successful pioneering Texas wineries. Fall Creek was not only one of the first to experiment with the great varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, they took the major step of hiring Andre Tchelistcheff of B.V. Private Reserve fame to consult for them in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Although Andre died in the mid-’90s, his philosophy of making great reds lives on in Fall Creek’s Meritus today.
In another historic move, Fall Creek has recently hired Sergio Cuadra as winemaker. He arrived in time to tweak some of the 2012 reds prior to bottling, and is fully responsible for the wines of 2013. Sergio is an Agronomy Engineer and winemaker with 19 years of experience in the Chilean wine industry, including top positions at Concha y Toro and Viña Caliterra. He has been involved in every aspect of the wine industry. And as lagniappe, he has worked for two of the most famous names in the wine world — Paul Hobbs and Jacques Lurton! His 2013 Fall Creek Sauvignon Blanc is possibly the best white wine made to date in Texas.
Another interesting and successful effort is the “Texas Fine Wine” marketing initiative, which represents a group of four respected wineries marketing their wines together: Bending Branch Winery, Brennan Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery and Pedernales Cellars.
This is not a comprehensive review of Texas wines; however, of the best Texas wines tasted over the past four months, here are the best, and all are recommended:
Fall Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2013 — A profound effort — possibly the best white yet produced in Texas. It is a luscious Sauvignon Blanc totally unlike the grapefruity and hay/grassy offerings from some producers of this varietal, and is competitive with the best anywhere, even at two and three times the cost. Fabulous by itself, with goat cheese and beet salad recently, and with seafood and chicken dishes. Should be $19.99, but is $11.99.
Duchman Vermentino 2012 and Duchman Trebbiano 2011 — Although lesser-known than Viognier, Vermentino may have just as bright a future in Texas, if this is any indication. And the Trebbiano is not far behind. Try shellfish with the Vermentino and a light seafood salad with the Trebbiano. Each about $15
Brennan Viognier 2012 — Brennan Vineyards in Comanche was one of the first in Texas to make a world-class Viognier. This offering has 13% Chenin Blanc added to the mix, and the blend is exciting and successful. Early releases contained more residual sugar, and were fabulous. For 2012, the residual sugar has been reduced to .5% and the wine won a double gold medal at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Wine Competition!! $17.50
Pedernales Cellars Viognier 2012 — A double gold at the Lone Star Wine Competition, and extremely popular in the people-friendly Pedernales tasting room (possibly the best in the Fredericksburg area). This varietal is now the best-performing white in Texas. $20
Lewis Wines Viognier/Chenin Blanc 2012 — Combining my two favorite Texas white varietals has proven extremely noteworthy — 52% Viognier; 48% Chenin Blanc. No wood age, so as not to screw up the luscious fruit flavors. Honeydew and passion fruit flavors with memorable finish. A beautiful expression of both grapes! $26
Duchman Sangiovese 2011 — This import from Tuscany would show well in a blind tasting with a similarly-priced Chianti Classico. Balancing acidity, a little higher alcohol and delicious fruit augur well for this varietal in Texas. Try with tomato-based pastas. $16.99
Fall Creek Tempranillo Salt Lick Vineyard 2012 — Outstanding new winemaker Sergio Cuadra arrived on the scene only in time to tweak the 2012 reds prior to bottling. Hints of chocolate covered cherries with coffee notes. Hard to imagine how good his 2013s will be. Serve with grilled meats. $24.99
Brennan Tempranillo 2011 — Gold medal winner at the San Francisco Wine competition, and the best Texas Tempranillo I had tasted at release. The 2012 has just been released, tasted on August 3rd, and is just as good. $26
Bending Branch Mouvèdre 2011 — Aged two years in new and neutral American oak. Admired, minimalist approach in the winery. Surprising quality for this varietal —called Monastrell in Spain — as a stand-alone. Full-bodied with lovely aromatics. $28
Fall Creek GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) Salt Lick Vineyard “Terroir Reflections” 2012 — Prudent use of oak to encourage fruit flavors to come through. Good balance and solid tannic structure for aging. Serve with grilled meats, pizza or beef stew. Keep your eyes out for the 2013!!! $29
Pedernales GSM 2012 — 59% Syrah, 32% Mourvèdre, 14% Grenache — called Garnacha in Spain. Fifth year for this blend — think they are getting it right. “…aromas of blueberry and chocolate with subtle spicy pepper notes.” $30
Bending Branch Tannat 2011 — Recently won “Best Texas Wine” at the Houston Livestock Competition. Quite a statement, I would say, about this little-known varietal. High tannins and purple teeth-staining, this Tannat is prodigious and worthy. Unique. Try with venison with black currant sauce! $30
Fall Creek Meritus 2010 — When I first got Andre Tchelistcheff and Ed Auler of Fall Creek together, I never dreamed that Andre’s style of making the famous B.V. Private Reserve Georges de Latour — from 1938 until 1972 — would be alive in the Fall Creek Meritus some 30 years later. This wine won a double gold at the 2014 Houston Livestock Competition. I’m drooling over the first Meritus to be made by winemaker Sergio Cuadra at Fall Creek, which will be the 2013 or later (Meritus is only made in superior years). Try with your favorite steak. $39.99
Last but not least, if considering tours and tastings in the Texas Hill Country —one of the most popular wine tasting regions in the U.S. — visit texaswinetrail.com and visitfredericksburgtx.com. In a recent visit, one of the little cottage suites at Messina Hof’s Tasting Room — The Presidents Suite — was just about perfect. Huge TV in the bedroom and fabulous breakfast goodies: Best sweet rolls ever, cereals, milk, cream for the freshly ground coffee, yogurt and fresh fruit.
Texas Wines Making a Statement