Weekend Wine

Two Texas reds well worth your money

For almost a quarter of a century, CEO Mark Hyman and VP/Executive Winemaker Greg Bruni have been hard at work producing some of Texas’ best wines. But unlike many of their more cash-strapped cohorts, they have also been able to keep a lid on their pricing.

The strategy has paid off, making Llano Estacado Texas’s second-largest winery.

Photo Courtesy of the Winery

If you have visited many Texas wineries, you know how brutally expensive the wines can be. It’s not a matter of greed or hubris, it’s strictly economics. They have to charge that much to keep the doors open and to keep producing product. Yet, somehow, a few wineries in Texas understand that you have to make great inexpensive wine before you can sell people a lot of expensive wines. Of the older wineries in Texas, you can thank a few forward-looking owners who have found a way to get well-priced wines into your house. The fact that Ste. Genevieve, Llano Estacado, Becker, Fall Creek, and Messina Hof have found ways to get good-quality inexpensive Texas wines into the marketplace has been a big driver of the Texas wine industry’s explosion in size.

Llano’s Signature Red ($11) has been a long-term winner for the winery. It is lighter in style than a lot of the California heavyweights, but it is also a wine that shows the best combination of French style with Texas grapes. They label it a Meritage (rhymes with heritage) which is basically a marketing term, but it means they use Bordeaux varietals. The first time I tried it was in the late Nineties, harmonizing with a steak at a restaurant in Lubbock, and that is still how I like to imbibe the Sig Red. Just grill a rib eye, add your starch of choice, and you've got an ideal way to enjoy Texas wines.

Their 1836 wine ($30) is made from Syrah and Cabernet grapes from all over Texas, hence the appellation. This is wine that can stand up to most international competition. It is dense, viscous, and wonderfully aromatic. With just the tiniest touch of cinnamon in the aromas, it makes a delightful combo with barbecued brisket. These are totally different wines, yet the distinctive stamp of Bruni and his crew cuts across the entire line.

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