Top Texas Wines: Fall 2016 Edition
The 22 best reds, whites, and rosés to emerge out of Texas this season.
Fall is finally upon us. Or, at least, it supposedly is—the weather can’t seem to make up its mind. In any case, just as brought you our lists of the best Texas wines for the spring and the summer, we’ve got a fresh new list for fall. You’ll find a few good whites and rosés this time of year, but the big players are the reds.
For this evaluation, we tasted through 93 wines submitted from wineries and vineyards with quite a few newcomers to the mix that were a pleasant surprise. While a little more than a third of these wines were just fine to enjoy at home for an evening meal, we felt this final list of 22 were particularly special.
Grape Creek Vineyards 2015 Cuvée Blanc
From one of the oldest Hill Country wineries, this pretty little white wine is a blend of Muscat Canelli, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier. A vibrant straw color in the glass, this wine has aromas of all things yellow: honeysuckle, daffodil, apple, and quince. A slight hint of fresh parsley leads to a broad and silky palate with excellent lilt and a beautifully balanced finish.
Pedernales Cellars 2015 Albariño
A shining star in Spain’s northwestern Rias Baixas region, Albariño is a white grape known for its enticing aromatics and racy acidity. With this wine, Pedernales’s winemaker, David Kuhlken, has highlighted the best characteristics of the grape. Aromas of lemon zest and wet, sun-baked limestone frame a bouquet of yellow flowers and tropical fruit. On the palate, vibrant lemon flavors pervades with a tart, yet smooth mid-palate and a refreshingly crisp finish. A perfect wine for grilled gulf seafood.
Eden Hill Winery and Vineyard 2015 Albariño-Viognier
Balancing the strengths of body and aromatics between these two classic Spanish and French grape varieties, Dallas-area Eden Hill Winery offers a uniquely striking white wine. Aromas of white peach, daisy, and lemon drops commingle with an undertone of lime leaf. A broad, lemony palate leads to a crisp, slightly perfumed finish.
Lost Draw Cellars 2015 Gemütlichkeit
A German term referring to a cheerful mood and peace of mind, this white wine is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier, and Roussanne. And as you may expect from such a mouthful of a name, this wine has a lot going on. Notes of fresh spring flowers and lush white peach funnel into a palate with elegant structure and a beautifully complete finish.
Brennan Vineyards 2015 Roussanne
Though brilliantly straw colored in the glass, this wine is a study in the color white. As in white daisy, white lemon pith, and white tea. With a kiss of yellow apple, this wine is crisp and nervy, and a perfect farewell to summer.
Infinite Monkey Theorem 2015 Chenin Blanc
Alive with elements of orange blossom, ripe peach, and fleshy lemon pulp, this pretty white wine shows just how versatile Chenin Blanc can be. Though a key performer in France’s cooler Loire Valley and in South Africa, this variety also has a lot of potential in Texas. With a medium-to-full body, this wine has a clean, lifted finish and beckons sip after sip.
Hilmy Cellars 2015 Muscat Canelli
Often misunderstood and under-appreciated for making primarily sweet wines, Muscat Canelli has more to offer than you may think. Particularly in the way of aromatics. This lovely example from Hilmy Cellars offers a beautiful floral nose with jasmine and orange blossom and a hint of white tea. Though a touch of sweetness teases the palate, a backbone of acidity completes this wine with balance and finesse.
2015 Dandy Rosé
The second release from noted wine consultant and sommelier Rae Wilson, this bubble-gum pink wine is aptly named for its ability to summon a smile with the very first sip. With just a whiff of the glass, you are greeted with notes of raspberries and strawberries dusted with confectioner’s sugar. While alluringly fruity on the palate, this wine is framed with a lean, tingly acidity that begs for a plate of grilled meats.
Becker Vineyards 2015 Provençal
With aromas of red berries, rose petals, and lavender, this beauty evokes images of rustic herb-laced soils of Provence. A blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Syrah primarily from Mason County, Becker winemaker Jon Leahy has produced a masterful representation of a French classic. It’s a steal for just under $10 at retailers across the state.
Yellow City Cellars 2015 Dead Flowers Dry Rosé
This pet project from Amarillo’s Yellow City Cellars has become a welcome attraction for rosé season in Texas. A hue of rich pink, this wine is bold with tart raspberry, sweet strawberry, and juicy watermelon. Offering a bolder palate than many other rosés but with a dialed-in finesse that pleases the palate and pairs well with a plate of charcuterie.
C.L. Butaud 2014 Tempranillo
An impressive find from these newcomers to Texas wine, Randy and Brooke Hester of Lightening Wines in Napa Valley have released their first Texas selection. This Tempranillo is set for official release in November, and with a great deal of meticulous care, this wine raises the bar another notch. Aromas of tart red raspberry, ripe blackberry, and dried fig veiled by mushroom and dark earth lead, followed by fresh tobacco and soft leather on the palate. Fruit and earth vie for centerstage but simmer into a well-structured medium body with hints of baking spice ad velvety tannins.
Austin Winery Work Horse
Relative newcomer to the Texas wine scene, Austin Winery is located just south of downtown and while it produces wine from many wine regions in the country, it has a few Texas selections including this red blend of 75 percent Merlot and 25 percent Malbec sourced from the High Plains. With notes of lush brambly fruit, violets, and wet earth on the nose, this wine is voluptuous and elegant with flavors of black cherry and savory herbs. Beautifully balanced, this wine is worth enjoying all day long.
Brennan Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
With a mélange of ripe black and red cherries, stewed plums, mushroom, and savory herbs wafting from the glass, the hints of eucalyptus on this big red wine are reminiscent of classic Australian Coonawarra Cabernet. A firm structure framed by bright acidity and well integrated tannins suggest this wine will age well in the cellar for a while, though it’s perfectly good to enjoy now.
Hye Meadow Winery 2014 Tempranillo
As barbecue-pairing wines go, you can’t do much better than this little number. Tart black cherry laced with campfire smoke and a little gaminess, this medium-bodied Tempranillo isn’t overpowered by tannin, but offers excellent structure and enough complexity to sit well with a plate of ribs or charcuterie.
Los Pinos Ranch Texican
Before the sultry summer days depart for cooler weather—wishful thinking—this lighter red wine made from Montepulciano and Sangiovese is a great suggestion for patio sipping. Aromas of bright cherries and raspberries dusted with red earth lead to a refreshing fruity palate with a lovely finish. Enjoy with light appetizers or grilled fajitas.
Pedernales Cellars 2013 Bingham Tempranillo Reserve
A stunning wine in the glass, Pedernales Cellars has showcased the hard work of the Bingham Family Vineyards in the High Plains where this Tempranillo was grown. Redolent with dark black berries, licorice, and eucalyptus and coffee, this wine is big with leather, cocoa dust and assertive tannins. A young wine for its varietal, this could easily age a few more years and rival a Reserva Tempranillo of Rioja.
McPherson Cellars 2015 Cinsault
Another option for a lighter red wine, this little jewel is a perfect solution for Thanksgiving Day pairing. Bright aromas of cherry and strawberry pervade with a sprinkling of herbes de Provence alongside. Flavors of red fruit and cola fill the palate with a nice light body and pleasant finish. Serve slightly chilled.
Messina Hof 2014 Merlot Private Reserve
You can say all you want about the ripe red and black fruit aromas leaping from the glass with this wine. There’s eucalyptus, violets and leather, too. But in short, this wine is tall, dark and handsome with a luscious body and smooth tannins. Not overly complex, but a definite crowd pleaser at any dinner table.
William Chris Vineyards Mourvèdre
A favorite grape variety for the team of winemakers over at William Chris, Mourvèdre is steadily becoming a grape that reveals the most about native Texas soils. Medium in body with a broad range of tart red cherry and cranberry, tobacco, savory herbs, red licorice, and a touch of brown sugar, this wine is as versatile as it is alluring. It evolves beautifully with more time in the glass.
Fall Creek Vineyards 2013 GSM
Elegant, structured, and deeply complex, this wine is indicative of Northern Rhône greatness. A happy blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, this wine reveals everything from dark black, brambly fruit and sautéed mushroom to sarsaparilla and rosemary. Meaty, yet seductive, the palate has a beautiful earthen grip backed by opulent fruit. Claiming the highest marks in this evaluation, this wine is worth saving for a special occasion.
Lewis Wines 2013 Lost Draw Vineyards Mourvèdre
From the High Plains’ Lost Draw Vineyards, this wine was another favorite in the evaluation. Vibrant and toothsome with rich flavors of raspberry, cranberry, and a kiss of cola, this wine is framed with a touch of grip that fades to a finish of soft leather and herbes de Provence. Fresh and ready to enjoy now, this Mourvèdre should find a way to your table.
Llano Estacado 2015 Harvest Reserve Tempranillo
Opulent and luscious, this Tempranillo expresses a more “new world” style of wine with baked ripe cherry and raspberry mingling with aromas of brown sugar and cocoa powder. While tannin is present, this wine finishes smooth and velvety. A definite crowd pleaser for a broad audience.
Evaluation notes: As with every wine evaluation we conduct, the sampled wines were tasted blind, with each bottle wrapped to hide the labels and poured by volunteers. Each wine was evaluated based on standard tasting criteria with five possible points per category of nose, palate, structure, balance, and finish for a potential total score of 25. (Volunteer scores were not used when determining my final selections.)