From earthy Tempranillo to fruity Mourvèdre and bright, lemony Roussanne, Texas wines are hitting some highs. To help you choose which ones are worth drinking, I’ve compiled a list of twenty of the finer Texas Wines of 2013.
For this year’s evaluation, more than 106 Texas wines were sampled from 34 wineries all over the state. (NOTE: While there are 275 bonded wineries of record, not all of them are operating as full scale wineries. This list was also narrowed down following extensive tasting throughout the state to reflect those wineries that are currently producing competive wines. Wineries were also selected based on their availability to the general public via retail or restaurant. In short, Texas still has a long way to go. See a full list of wineries here.) All wines were required to be Texas Appellation, meaning more than 75 percent of the wine had to be produced with grapes grown in Texas. To date, many Texas wineries produce wines with grapes from other states, which are not representative of Texas terroir.
The entire collection of wine was wrapped in tissue paper to hide each wine’s label and stored at appropriate temperatures for tasting. After each round of wine was poured, I evaluated them based on standard tasting criteria modeled from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Each wine could receive a maximum of 5 points per category of nose, palate, structure, balance, and finish for a potential total score of 25. (Some tasting volunteers helped, but their scores were not considered as part of this list.)
All red wines were evaluated first followed by the white wines. Once all wines had been tasted, scores were tallied and wines were revealed. To solidify the results, the top 25 red and white wines were culled and blind tasted again on the following day to narrow down the top ten red and white wines.
It was an arduous process, but one that was meticulously executed in an effort to objectively evaluate which wines really stood out as some of the best in Texas.
The best part of doing a blind tasting like this is you really never know which wines will rise to the top until it’s all done. I wasn’t surprised that some producers have more than one wine on this list, since they are producers who consistently put out quality wines in Texas and set the stage for other wineries to raise their bar. But I was pleasantly surprised that a few of the smaller, lesser known wineries produced wines showing great strength, including Spicewood Vineyards, Calais Winery, Fly Gap Winery, and La Cruz de Comal.
And without further delay, here’s the list of the best Texas wines of 2013:
Bending Branch Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Already a standout in its own right, this wine has already won Double Gold in the 2013 San Francisco International Wine Competition and is proof that you really can make great Cabernet Sauvignon in Texas—especially if it comes from Newsom Vineyards in Lubbock. Black cherry, blackberry, mocha, and dusty leather saddle dominate the nose and palate offering a bold depth of complexity and tannic grip. This is a true Texas Cab.
Duchman Family Winery Tempranillo 2011
A fruit-forward approach to Tempranillo, this rich and full-bodied wine reveals brown-sugar-baked blueberries, tart raspberry, and a hint of vanilla on the nose, and balanced with a dusty earthiness and mushroom on the palate. This is a unique style of Texas Tempranillo.
Duchman Family Winery Salt Lick Cellars GSM 2011
Another stellar GSM, this wine shows a lighter style of GSM layered with tart red fruit and a nice complexity that finishes clean and bright. Produced for Salt Lick Cellars by Duchman Family Winery winemaker Dave Reilly, this food-friendly red is a perfect match for smoked brisket or roasted lamb.
Fly Gap Winery “Dank” Tempranillo/Touriga Nacionale 2010
Though not overly impressed with the arguably lewd label artwork, this wine is a clearcut reason why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Concentrated dark fruit pervades among rustic notes of mushroom, tobacco and leather. This is a big, grippy wine that shows just as much backbone as it does finesse. A real standout and a pleasant surprise in the blind tasting.
Llano Estacado Winery Sangiovese 2011
A refreshing nose of cherry, red flowers and hint of eucalyptus ushers in a bright and zippy palate of tart red fruit and restrained balance of oak. A light, yet complex expression of Sangiovese and an excellent pairing for grilled meats.
Llano Estacado Winery 1836 2010
A repeat on the “Best Texas Wine” list, the newer vintage of this red blend of High Plains Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah was just as compelling as the last. With a nice presence of red and black fruits offset with rich saddle leather and a touch of florality, this wine is a beautiful example of balance and finesse. Good structure, nice fruit, alluring earthiness—all this wine needs is a good steak.
McPherson Cellars Tre Colore 2012
A vibrant blend of strawberry, raspberry and cherry defines this light and refreshing red wine. A standard in the McPherson Cellars stable of wines, the blend varies slightly from year to year, but this vintage made with Carignan (27 percent), Mourvedre (62 percent), and Viognier (11 percent), is a perfect food pairing wine and a great alternative for Pinot Noir fans.
Pedernales Cellars GSM 2011
With a beautiful fruit-forward nose with notes of cherry, strawberry, raspberry, mocha, and a kiss of fragrant red orchid, this wine had us at “hello.” Leveraging the strength of the classic French Rhone style blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, Pedernales Cellars offers a red wine that stands up to any of its kind.
Spicewood Vineyards Tempranillo 2011
A beautiful expression of how great Tempranillo can be in Texas. This wine comes from a small