Dale Robertson , Correspondent Oct. 22, 2019
With October being Texas Wine Month, Dr. Russell Kane offered to provide both an update on the ever-more-vibrant Texas wine scene, which he follows closely, and give his 2 cents’ worth on four Texas wines that he has consumed with great gusto of late.
A retired engineer with a longstanding passion for sipping the local juice, Kane is the author of “The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine” (Texas Tech University Press) and “Texas Hill Country Wineries” (Arcadia Publishing). He teaches a “Specialist of Texas Wine” class through the Texas Wine School and elsewhere across the state.
Regarding the state’s recent bountiful harvest, Kane consulted Paul Bonarrigo, owner and winemaker at Messina Hof Winery, who told him, “It’s the largest grape crop in Texas history,” adding that Messina Hof’s own fruit yields are up more than 30 percent from 2018.
Even better, it’s a trend because growers are planting more and more Texas-terroir-friendly grapes that use the entire ripening season. Luck comes into play, too, of course. Hailstorms have been scattered — a couple of hundred acres were damaged, Kane noted, but that’s a tiny percentage these days — and there haven’t been any catastrophic late-spring freezes.
“The growers are getting with the program, doing the right things, hitting all their bases,” he said.
Also, Kane pointed out, Texas wineries have continued their medal-winning hot streak, which makes for great publicity. Of this year’s San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition, arguably the country’s most prestigious, he said, “They brought home 12 double golds with best-in-class awards being claimed by Haak Vineyards, Messina Hof, Bending Branch, Brennan Vineyards and Grape Creek. These were on top of another 22 gold medals for Texas wines with an increasing emphasis on sun-loving Mediterranean grape varieties originating from Spain, Italy and southern France and an increasing Texas favorite, blanc du bois.
“Our state has started to attract established winemakers from high-quality wine regions around the U.S. to make wines in Texas, and local restaurant sommeliers are starting to feature Texas wines.”
Case in point: Paco Calza, of critically acclaimed restaurant BCN, told me recently that he’s now proudly serving Fall Creek’s Salt Lick Vineyard Tempranillo, saying it absolutely belongs on the same page with his excellent lineup of Riojas. Calza even took his team to the Hill Country to see first hand what Fall Creek owners Ed and Susan Auler and their gifted winemaker, Chilean transplant Sergio Cuadra, have going on.
2018 William Chris Vineyards Pétillant Naturel Sparkling Rosé
“This multivarietal, pink Pet-Nat cuvee of High Plains- and Hill Country-grown grapes gets its sparkle using méthode ancestral, a process much older than that utilized in Champagne. With it, the original fermentation finishes with yeast in the bottle without dosage to produce an effervescent wine. This one’s soft-hazy sparkle builds with its temperature after pouring and harbors notes of ripe raspberry and wet minerally earth. Store upright to a deep chill, then gently open. Serve with charcuterie, flavorful cheeses, baked oysters, lobster rolls and Thai cuisine.”
Price: $29.99 at Houston Wine Merchant
2017 Southold Farm and Cellar “Don’t Forget to Soar” White Blend
“This white blend of Texas High Plains roussanne with a touch of albariño is made by New York-turned-Texas Hill Country winemaker Regan Meador. It comes with a thumbs-up rating from Brennan’s of Houston’s sommelier Marcus Gausepohl, who is excited to have it on his extensive wine list. Made without filtering or fining but with complete malolactic fermentation, it gives a weighty yet silky feel on the palate punctuated with a yeasty, lemony-melon notes. Perfect with Brennan’s jumbo lump crab cakes or Gulf fish Pontchartrain.”
Price: $24 at southoldfarmandcellar.com
2015 Duchman Family Winery Aglianico, Oswald Vineyard
“Featured on the Pappas Bros. Steakhouse wine lists downtown and near the Galleria, it comes highly recommended by resident Master Sommelier Jack Mason. Aglianico (pronounced ah-lee-an-nee-ko) is a popular grape in central-southern Italy that has found a welcoming home in Texas. This version, from winemaker Dave Reilly, offers dark berry essence, medium-full body and nicely structured tannins with generous acidity. Serve with braised or grilled meats and game.”
Price: $30 at duchmanwinery.com
2017 C.L. Butaud Tempranillo
“A limited-production Texas High Plains tempranillo from Randy Hester that’s featured on Matthew Pridgen’s wine list at Georgia James, it shows a deep, nearly black color and offers both a rich mouthfeel and an aromatic character gained from hand-harvested/sorted grapes, soaking and initial fermentation with indigenous yeast and sur-lie aging that’s punctuated with time in new French oak barrels. This wine balances ripe fruit and savory influences of ripe black cherry and plum, mocha and pipe tobacco. Serve with well-marbled dry-aged beef, leg of lamb or pork belly.”
Price: $48 at Central Market