Wine of the Week

Texas wines on steroids

Chalk it up to increased competition and a stunning number of new winemakers. Whatever the reason, Texas wines are getting better and better. Here are a few examples ready-made for your Thanksgiving meals.

White wine aficionados should look to two primary wines, Viognier, and Rhone blends. Brennan Vineyards in Comanche is a reliable producer of a number of wines, most especially their stellar Viognier ($17.50) and their Rhone-styled Lily ($17.50), a blend of Rousanne, Viognier, and Grenache. Both wines have gorgeous aromas and will taste great with turkey. Becker Vineyards also makes a consistently perfect Viognier ($15) and if you want to go for the biggest, most intense version, look no further than Pedernales Cellars’ Reserve Viognier ($40), a wine that has won competitions in France!

Photo courtesy of Pedernales Cellars

Another winery that knocks it out of the park with each new vintage is McPherson Cellars. Both their Viognier ($14) and their Rhone blend called Les Copains ($14) are well worth trying.

Photo courtesy of McPherson Cellars

In red wines, the big grape right now is Tempranillo. In Texas, this grape grows ripe and luscious, and the wines tend to be bigger than their Spanish counterparts. The version I reach for first is Fall Creek’s Salt Lick Vineyard ($25), the wine that gave me the idea for this article’s title.

Photo courtesy of Fall Creek VIneyards
It would match perfectly with turkey and dressing. Pedernales Cellars High Plains Tempranillo ($40) is one of the big award-winners from Texas, and though the price is a little stout, I think if you taste it, you’d be surprised at the quality for the price. All of these wines are available in stores, but you might have to do a little calling around to locate them.

Alternatively, it's worth noting that all of these wineries have tasting rooms close by. Brennan and McPherson joined with Lost Oak Winery (whose winemaker, Jim Evans, I count as one of Texas’ finest) to open Four Point Cellars outside Fredericksburg close to the turnoff for Luckenbach. Pedernales Cellars and Becker Vineyards are also on 290, while Fall Creek is just an hour from Austin in Tow, Texas. Bobby Cox, an éminence grise of the Texas wine industry, allows that over 90% of the state’s best wines are sold only in tasting rooms, so take the opportunity to go visit some during during the holidays.

Bobby Cox, thinking deeply about grapes (photo by Wes Marshall)

Last, a piece of breaking Texas wine news. Pheasant Ridge Winery was once the shining star of Texas Panhandle wineries. Its owner, the aforementioned Bobby Cox, lost it to the banks years ago and the people who bought it never figured out how to make a winery work. They, too, lost it to the banks, and the new owner of this lovely High Plains vineyard is Bingham Family Vineyards, whose winemaker is ... Bobby Cox. Look for the wines of Pheasant Ridge to take a huge step forward in the 2014 vintage, and welcome back, Bobby!

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