The calendar tells us that October is Texas Wine Month, but many of us “loca-pours” — the wine-loving equivalent of a locavore — have been enjoying the state’s rich bounty all year long. The following is a list of 10 Lone Star wines worth seeking out. Many are at fine wine shops in the area. Others are available only at the winery or online.
The list could stretch on an on to include selections from many of the state’s other fine wineries, such as Fall Creek, Brennan, Pedernales Cellars, LightCatcher and Inwood Estates. These are just to get you started.
1. Haak Winery Blanc du Bois (Dry) 2009 — The winery from Santa Fe, Texas, is gaining international recognition for its Madeira, which is standing up quite well alongside those from Portugal. But it is also doing some wonderful things with Blanc du Bois, a grape that resists fungus and disease while thriving in Texas. The grape’s flavors and aromas conjure images of tropical fruit blend, which means it’s at home in both sweet and dry versions. Haak attempts to please all palates, even using it in his Port of Call dessert wine. My favorite is the dry version, clean and delightful in the heat. (HaakWine.com)
2. Perissos Vineyard and Winery Texas Hill Country Viognier 2007 — Breathe in the aroma of honeysuckle, with perhaps an extra dose of honey. Then taste the peach and stone fruit with a touch of citrus that swirl across your palate in a medium-bodied treat that leads to a clean finish. Refreshing. (PerissosVineyards.com)
3. Stone House Vineyards Claros Norton 2008 — Norton is a grape that seems resistant to freezing, hail and flooding. Sounds almost too good to be true, right? Yet this varietal has done well in Virginia, where the results are rustic and rugged. This Texas version is much lighter and cleaner, both of which are welcome in the Texas heat. Not overly complex, just enjoyable. (StoneHouseVineyard.com)
4. Calais Winery Tempranillo 2009 — “The French winery of Texas,” as this newcomer bills itself, is soaring beyond expectations with its first bottling of that great Spanish grape, Tempranillo. Lush, rich, red fruit (from Neal Newsom’s much sought-after High Plains vineyards) fills your mouth with each pleasant sip. (CalaisWinery.com)
5. Texas Hills Vineyards Toro de Tejas Newsom Vineyards Tempranillo 2009 — For a persuasive argument that Tempranillo could be the state’s big red grape to rival California’s Cabs, pour the Calais side-by-side with this satisfying wine (again, lush and full of red fruit flavors). Both are made from Newsom’s grapes, so you’ll be able to experience how winemakers affect the wine making process. Get the grill ready, because a big ol’ hunk of steak should be part of the equation. And that’s no bull. (TexasHillsVineyard.com)
6. Sandstone Cellars Winery VI 2008 — This wine is a blend of European grapes made in a style that isn’t trying to emulate California, Washington or even its Texas neighbors. It’s more Old World in its earthy tones, which mingle elegantly with dark, dry fruit (think blackberry, not sweet cherry). It’s also sublime. (SandstoneCellarsWinery.com)
7. Becker Vineyards Raven 2008 — Raven is something of a departure for the Stonewall winery. The label is different. The feeling of the bottle in your hand is different. The weight and taste that fills your mouth are definitely different. This is a big, juicy blend of Malbec (75 percent) and Petit Verdot (25 percent) that packs a Texas-sized wallop. Ever bit into an overripe plum and had the juices explode in your mouth? Now, add plenty of sun-baked earth and sweet spices to fill out the inky palate. (BeckerVineyards.com)
8. Flat Creek Estate Syrah 2008 — Fruit-forward flavors of plum and currant mix with leather and a touch of coffee on the palate of this wine, which initially seems to be a powerhouse but actually has some pleasant undercurrents of smoke and cocoa to give it complexity. (FlatCreekEstate.com)
9. Llano Estacado Superiore Rosso Viviano 2007 — This is perhaps the granddaddy of Texas high-end blends, and each vintage places consistently among the best Texas has to offer. It’s not about tasting the mineral or fruit flavors individually. Sipping this wine is about enjoying the balance that exists among the various grapes, a richness that is neither too subtle or too overwhelming. It’s the liquid equivalent of the contentment Goldilocks had when she discovered something that was “just right.” (LlanoWine.com)
10. McPherson Cellars Grenache-Mourvedre 2007 — Some areas of Texas are ideal for growing southern Rhone varietals like Grenache and Mourvedre. Trouble is, not too many people want to take a chance at pronouncing them. What they’re missing, especially in Kim McPherson’s version, is a light-bodied yet lovely expression of raspberry and smoky spices that just loves food, whether you’re eating chicken wings, baked ham or chili. Definitely one to remember for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. (McPhersonCellars.com)
If you are seeking out these wines online, just be aware that not all of the websites have been updated. If you have a question, you may want to e-mail the winery before ordering.
What are your favorite Texas wines? Post them below. Drink Texas the next time you open a bottle, but drink responsibly.