Europe has a few in common with Texas than meets the eye. Europe is all about oil and cured meats, and so is Texas–though its oil is the kind you put in your car and its meat is the kind that stands on four legs: cattle. Also, both regions also produce wine. Texas? Yes. Really! It’s true. While images of cowboys and harsh landscapes may pop into your head when you think of the Lone Star state, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that wine has been growing in this part of the world since the 17th century.
The first colonizers of Texas were the Spanish conquistadors. Historians have noted that around 1660, Franciscan priests planted vineyards in what is now West Texas in order to have wine served for the Mass. From that time until only recently, grapes and vines were grown there, only to succumb to the harsh climate and disease. In the 1970s two Texas wine vintners changed all that. They planted hybrid French-American vines that were able to withstand harsh climate, and thus, modern Texas winemaking was born. These two trailblazers were Fall Creek Vineyards and Ste Genevieve, which is still the largest winery in the state.
Today, Texas wine is not an oxymoron. The state is producing quality wines from three grape-growing regions: Hill Country, where limestone and granite ooze from the soil; the High Plains, blanketed by wild grasses about 3600 feet about sea level; and the Trans-Pecos, an area of mammoth red mesas, barren canyons and sometimes lush river valleys. The geologic complexity of the state’s soil, as well as its hot days and cool nights, are what give Texas the ability to harvest wines of great character. Not to mention good old-fashioned Texan gumption.
Present-day Texan wine is so good, in fact, the state took home an unprecedented 158 medals from the prestigious 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Clearly, there is something in the swagger of these wines, like their creators, that deserve respect. The next time you’re in your local wine shop, keep you eyes peeled for a viognier, chenin blanc, cabernet sauvignon, or sauvignon blanc made in Texas. You’ll be extremely pleased with the result. For top quality purchases, you can’t go wrong with the wines listed below; each was awarded a medal at the aforementioned SF Chronicle Wine Competition.
Wedding Oak Winery 2015 Sweet Alyssum, Texas High Plains, Wildseed Farms Vineyard
Brennan Vineyards 2015 Reserve Viognier, Comanche County, Newburg Vineyard
Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards non-vintage Texas Sweet Blush
Grape Creek Vineyards 2015, Viognier
Perissos Vineyards and Winery 2015 Dolcetto, Texas High Plains, Diamante Doble Vineyards
Messina Hof Winery & Resort, 2015 Merlot, Texas
Haak Vineyards & Winery 2015 Tempranillo, Texas High Plains, Reddy Vineyards
Trilogy Cellars 2015 Malbec, Texas High Plains, Amanecer Vineyards, Bolen Vineyards, Krick Hill Vineyards
Llano Estacado Winery Cellar Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Fall Creek Vineyards, 2013 Meritus (not an SF Chronicle winner, but so damn good)
Also, if you’re ever in Texas, or find yourself on a road trip driving through its vast countryside, there are many wineries that welcome visitors. Nothing is quite so coolly romantic as a winemaker working the fields in cowboy boots.
Texas Wineries Worth A Visit:
Duchman Family Winery (Hill Country)
Fall Creek Vineyards (Hill Country)
Llano Estacado Winery (High Plains)
Ste. Genevieve Wines (Trans-Pecos)
Becker Vineyards (Hill Country)