Texas wines for the upcoming holiday season come with good news. It’s been a wild ride with the crazy weather in Texas vineyards during the past few years, but there are some excellent Texas wines to be had.
Dr. Bob Young, owner of Bending Branch Winery in Comfort Texas says, “The extremes in Texas weather have tested the grit of Texas winegrowers, but they continue to produce good fruit when it seems impossible. The 2019 early Winter freeze and the deep freeze in February 2021 resulted in some winter damage. When you add this year’s extremely hot weather, drought and high winds, yields were reduced in some varieties, Luckily, Tannat, one of our favorite varieties at Bending Branch, held up well. The drought resulted in small berries that yielded deep concentration in color and flavor in this year’s wines."
Fritz Westover, a vineyard consultant at Virtual Viticulture Academy located in Houston, says, “Despite all the recent issues in vineyards across the state, there is a silver lining. It’s the generally good experience with a few established grape varieties and some new to Texas. Examples are white varieties like Picpoul Blanc and Roussanne, and reds like Petit Verdot, Dolcetto, and a new one, Teroldego.” Be looking for these varieties in Texas wines and blends in upcoming releases.
While many wine drinkers in Texas don’t give Texas wines the praise they deserve, the actual situation is that Texas wines are the “Real Deal." They continue to complete well on the international stage. The results from this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, one of the largest and most prestigious competitions, showed that Texas wines garnered 12 best of class awards, four double gold medals and 58 (Yes, 58!) gold medals versus literally thousands of wines from noted wine regions around the world.
Consumers just need to keep in mind that many Texas award winners are not necessarily from grapes with familiar names like Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The awards show that Texas is making its reputation with grapes that derive from the southern climes of Europe. These grapes include a host of reds like Tempranillo, Tannat, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Aglianico, with the whites being Viognier, Roussanne, Albariño, Vermentino, and Muscat. Texas is also proving to be “Dry Rosé Country” much like Provence in southern France.
If you think that fine wine experiences need to come from faraway places, my advice is to think again. You might not realize what is available literally just down the road. Within about an hour drive west of Houston is a historic wine region. In the mid-to-late-1800s winemaking Germans, Czechs and French settled there. In modern times, this area has seen a resurgence in vineyard plantings and now hosts over 15 wineries. In the 1980s The Bonarrigo family established Messina Hof Winery in Bryan. More recently, Kurt and Michelle Lyn, a Houston attorney and his wife, established an A-list venue at their new Chapelton Vineyards.
At Chapelton Vineyards, the Lyns offer an artisanal winery, modern tasting room and 14-acre vineyard on their Washington County ranch. They just had their inaugural harvest of estate-grown Blanc Du Bois grapes and are also featuring wines from other wine regions including the Texas High Plains. Chapelton Vineyards in Washington and Messina Hof in Bryan and Fulshear are perfect nearby wineries for day trips where you can relax, enjoy light bites, and toast the holidays with family, friends, and holiday visitors.
There are Texas wines readily available to take their place in your holiday receptions and dinner festivities. They will pair well with holiday fare like turkey, seafood, ham, beef or lamb. Three of my favorites available in your local markets are: Pedernales Cellars Viognier, an aromatic dry white wine, Bending Branch Tannat, a full-bodied red, and Messina Hof Winery, Father Son Heritage Riesling, a delicious, slightly-sweet white wine.
Did you know that you can order your holiday wines online and take shipment directly from Texas wineries? A couple of my favorites are Lewis Wines Mourvèdre Grenache, an easy-drinking, medium-bodied red (www.lewiswines.com), and William Chris Vineyards Dry Rosé, La Pradera Vineyard, a refreshingly dry and crisp pink wine (www.williamchriswines.com.)
Also, if you are still having trouble deciding on holiday wines, check out a special Texas wine bundle from Texas Fine Wine (www.texasfinewine.com). It’s a four-bottle set that ships to you, including Pedernales Cellars, Duchman Winery, Spicewood Vineyards, and Bending Branch Winery, that comes with a live Zoom “Talk and Taste” session with winery principals on December 8th.
(Dr. Russell D. Kane is the award-winning author of "The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine," and "Texas Hill Country Wineries." He writes regularly on his Vintage Texas blog and offers his Specialist of Texas Wine certification course through Houston’s Texas Wine School.)