Michael Wangbickler on August 22nd, 2009

Texas WineAs mentioned in my last post, I spent last weekend in Dallas, Texas at the Drink Local Wine Conference and TEXSOM. While the general goal of the DLW Conference was to discuss the topic of local wine, the overall focus was on Texas wine specifically. Afterall, that was where we were.

I have to say that I have tried a few Texas wines in the past and have never been impressed. They were either too tannic and lacking in fruit, or just plain weird. So, while I came to the conference with an open mind, I didn’t have very high expectations for the quality of the wines. During the conference, we had the opportunity to taste about 50 or so Texas wines. I think my Tweet during the conference sums it up: “Holy Shit! They can make wine in Texas!”

I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of the wines overall. Sure, there were a few dogs in the bunch, but that could be said of any wine tasting from California to Bordeaux, etc. A few producers really stood out as producing really great wine, but there were many who were producing solid wines.

In recent years, Texas wines have not only improved in quality, but also in popularity. Most every restaurant in Texas worth its salt carries at least a few Texas wines. This is due in large part to the support of the Texas Department of Agriculture and an influx of investment. Though, there is still a lot of work to do on the part of Texas wineries to educate wine consumers that not only does Texas make wine, but that they make good wine. Perceptions persist that the wines can’t be as good as those from California.

So, what is a Texas wine? What makes it different? One of the points I tried to make during a panel discussion at the conference was that Texas wineries needed to find their own identity. They are doing themselves and their customers a disservice if they try to imitate California wines for instance. In fact, California fell into this trap in the early 70s and 80s when they tried to make their wines like France. The thing is, California isn’t France. The climates and soils and completely different. It took California producers years to find their own identities and establish a style. Texas is now in that same boat.

The most widely planted vinifera variety in Texas is Cabernet Sauvignon. It seems to do reasonably well, and exhibit a unique style. It also lends itself to being blended with other varieties to produce impressive wines. From the small sample size of wines that I tried, I believe that the most promising varieties for Texas are: Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Viognier, and Muscat. These wines, whether blended or 100% seemed to me to show the most character and potential. There is also promise with hybrids such as Blanc du Bois which is pretty unique.

The biggest challenge facing the Texas wine industry is the lack of raw materials. Though Texas is the 5th largest wine producing state, the 4th largest consumer, with over 170 wineries, there are less than 3500-4000 acres of grapes in the whole State. The largest winery in Texas is Ste. Genevieve with the majority of the market share, which leaves a LOT of smaller wineries fighting over a limited amount of grapes.

I believe that the future health of the Texas wine industry is going to depend on two things: increased grape supply and expanded marketing.

It seems obvious that in order to produce more wine, wineries need more grapes. But the industry needs an infusion of capital from inside or outside the state to help purchase land and plant grapes. Based on what some of the panelists said, Texas really needs about 10,000 acres of vines to reach critical mass. It seems like a GREAT opportunity for investment.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Texas wineries need to start building their street cred. They need to get the word out to people who write about the wines and get them to taste the wines. By building their credibility and spurring demand, wineries will lay the foundation for a robust and thriving business.

The only thing wrong, is that now that I have discovered good Texas wine, I can’t get any since most don’t distribute outside of the state. Damn it!

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8 Responses to “Holy Sh*t! They can make wine in Texas!”

  1. I agree with you 100%. Texas wines seem to be in the proverbial chicken and egg scenario. As you noted the equation involving production, consumption, # of wineries and acres of grapes just does not add-up in Texas currently. It is hard to be taken seriously nationwide while we are still struggling to get enough grapes to make Texas wine and have to resort to making cases of wine that use out of state fruit (i.e. “wines that state on the back label – “For Sale in Texas Only”. It will be interesting to see what leads us out of the doldrums. In my opinion – more TX grapes is the key and this takes investment. Now that we are learning the best grapes for TX and how to grow them, the risk is lessened. Anybody interested follow the signs that read – “Texas Grapes – Pioneers and Investors Wanted”.

    What surprized me (a nat-Tex of 30 years) most that weekend in Dallas was that despite the fact that I taste a lot of Texas wines, I found some excellent Texas wines from wineries with which I had no previous encounter. Two that come to mind are Tara Vineyards (Athens, TX – http://www.tarawinery.com) and Times Ten Cellars (Dallas, TX – http://www.timestencellars.com). Tara Vineyard poured flavor-filled sweet and dry versions of wine made from a Texas French-American hybrid grape called Blanc du Bois. Times Ten Cellars is a new winery that has struggled to get Texas grapes, but they hit a home run in my eyes with their two inky dry red wines: Vino de Tierra Alta, Cathedral Mountain Vineyard and Vino de Piedra, Cathedral Mountain Vineyard (both from the Davis Mountains AVA in Texas. Equally surprising was the sweep of the dry red wine awards (Gold and Silver Awards) in the Texas Twitter Taste-Off by Inwood Estate Vineyards (www.inwoodwines.com) for their Magellan (Bordeaux blend w/Tempranillo) and Tempranillo Cabernet blend.

    We should have given an award for the Best Little Winery in Texas.

    Good to see you there and hope to cross paths again.

    Happy Trails,

    Russ

  2. Thanks for the post. We can make wine in Texas. We very much do need more grapes but we have a problem. Folks try to grow wine where they are rather than where the grapes will do well. The three most important factors are location, location, LOCATION.

    BOBBY COX winegrower, High Plains AVA

  3. You want some really good Texas wine. Landon Winery in McKinney, Texas is the place to go. Also down south near Austin where the wine is really good. Becker Vineyard. Just to name a few.

  4. Don’t know if you tried our wines — a goodly number of people didn’t get to our end of the room, but if you liked our Pink Rainbows [Rosé de Chenin Blanc con Amigos]or our “Twilight Tango” Malbec, I have good news: We can ship them to you in California, and will gladly do so when the weather cools.

  5. I can vouch for the Anderson wines. We celebrated a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner and tasting at their winery and brought home three cases!!!
    Many of our Texas wineries can ship cases to you. Contact TWGGA ( Texas Wine and Grape Growers Assoc) for more info.

    Kelly
    (Mrs. GonnaBe Graper Grower)

  6. I’ve been selling all-Texas wines at Salado Wine Seller since 2005. We sell wine by the taste, glass, bottle, case or truckload. I’m glad to see the TX wine industry get the attention it deserves!

    June Ritterbusch
    http://www.saladowine.com

  7. I had the pleasure of participating the DLW09 Taste-off and can only say to my fellow winemakers that all participants did a fine job and made our lone star state proud. I planted my first grapevines 40 years ago (1969) and have pursued a passion over the same period. We are all pioneers but are on the verge of establishing an entity (The Texas Wine Industry), that will make us all proud, natural and naturalized Texans alike! I am already looking forward to the next event, DLW10.
    Raymond

  8. Ha, being a native 48 plus Texan and running a wine and food catering company for years in Dallas, this gives me a few laughs, well the thought of Texas Wine does. Sorry, fellow Texas Wine lovers, but with inconsistent weather beginning to reign down, I cannot believe that it will ever be… Oh, and I said I would never leave a negative comment on someones blog, an honest one though… We are a proud bunch down there…

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