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 winery west of Austin that makes the majority of its terroir-driven wine using estate grapes. Rich, stewed blackberries and plums with minty herbaceousness and rustic earthiness, this is a great steak wine.
Wedding Oak Winery Sangiovese 2010
This relatively new winery in San Saba debuted with a solid portfolio of wines including this rich and luscious style of Sangiovese—the primary grape used in Chianti, Super Tuscans and Brunello di Montalcino. With cherry and strawberry notes, this wine is bright and fruity with a hint of savory herbs on the palate.
Inwood Estates Vineyards ‘Mericana 2010
Alamosa Wine Cellars Graciano 2010
Brennan Vineyards Tempranillo 2011
La Cruz de Comal Troubadour 2011
Calais Winery La Cuvée Du Manoir 2011
Brennan Vineyards Lily 2012
A true beauty, this blend of white Rhone varietals Roussanne (59 percent), Viognier (23 percent), and Grenache Blanc (18 percent) finds itself on this list a second time. Though a newer vintage, Brennan Vineyards consistently makes this wine with a beautiful fragrant nose of honeysuckle and ripe apricot that leads to a well rounded wine that balances crisp acidity with the slightest hint of sweetness.
Calais Winery Roussanne – La Cuvée Principale 2012
Originally based in the Dallas area and soon to open in the Hill Country, Calais Winery is the culmination of what happens when a Frenchman moves to Texas—he makes wine. And he’s certainly putting his best foot forward with French Rhone varietal Roussanne. Lush citrus, pear, white flowers and subtle herbaceousness, this wine has a nice round body with bright acidity and a beautifully clean finish.
Duchman Family Winery Vermentino 2012
Another repeat from last year’s list, Duchman Family Winery has made the Vermentino grape its workhorse. It’s possible that this year’s 2012 vintage is the winery’s best one yet. With a restrained citrus and mineral-driven nose, this wine comes alive on the palate with a touch of lemon zest and crisp acidity. An excellent food pairing wine that could easily be sipped all through the long Texas summer.
Duchman Family Winery Salt Lick Cellars BBQ White NV
A white wine blend with smoky BBQ in mind, this easy drinking white wine has a perfect balance of depth and brightness. Made by Duchman Family Winery, this wine has a crisp blend of Vermentino, Trebbiano, Pinot Grigio and a tough of Muscat offering a fragrant grapefruit and floral nose with a nice dry finish. Perfect for spicy foods.
Hilmy Cellars Viognier Naked (Unoaked) 2012
An experiment in curiosity from winemaker Erik Hilmy, this is a unique style of Viognier for Texas. It is produced in stainless steel with no exposure to oak. The result is a beautiful, balanced wine fragrant with orange blossom, ripe peach and a kiss of grapefruit offering a crisp, clean finish.
La Cruz de Comal Petard Blanc 2012
A very unique wine, the Petard Blanc is an all natural production of estate-grown Blanc Du Bois from this idyllic little winery near Canyon Lake. The term “natural” refers to the process of making the wine completely sulphide and additive-free—the only way winemaker Lewis Dickson cares to make wine. The result is a very rustic style of wine with honeysuckle and fresh yellow flowers on the nose and a bright, citrusy palate with a savory finish that leaves you wanting more.
McPherson Cellars Albarino 2012
Fruity and floral, this crisp white wine made with a classic Spanish varietal is fragrant with honeysuckle, ripe peach and lychee fruit, but zippy and dry on the palate. It has a nice medium weight that makes it perfect for sipping in the hot summer, or pairing with fresh seafood.
McPherson Cellars Roussanne Reserve 2012
While Viognier has fast claimed the spotlight as the white grape of Texas, it will likely become second fiddle to this Rhone varietal in coming years. With examples like this Reserve Roussanne from McPherson Cellars, it’s easy to see why. White tea, lemon curd, and summery yellow flowers fill the nose ushering in a taste of ripe white peach on the palate. A definite standby to convert the novice Texas wine drinker.
McPherson Cellars Les Copains 2012
White tea, ripe white peach and fleshy lemon pulp describe the nose on this pretty dry white wine from McPherson Cellars. A blend of Viognier (45 percent), Roussanne (35 percent), Grenache Blanc (16 percent), and Marsanne (4 percent), this is a classic example of a French white Rhone blend that not only entices the nose, but allures the palate. Though crisp and dry, this wine also has a nice, full body with bright acidity—a perfect wine for grilled poultry or fish.
Pedernales Cellars Viognier Reserve 2012
Rich with ripe peaches, honey, and jasmine on the nose, this wine is a classic example of what a French Viognier should taste like. So much so that the French even gave it a Grand Gold Medal in the Lyon International Wine Competition this year. (The only U.S. winery to receive such an honor.) Full bodied with a slight butteriness and a touch of sweetness, this golden beauty is a perfect substitute for the staunchest Chardonnay lover.
William Chris Vineyards Blanc Du Bois 2012
Increasingly popular in Texas, Blanc du Bois is a hybrid grape that not only grows well here, but has the potential to make beautiful wine. (Though not all Texas Blanc du Bois wines are created equal.) This selection from William Chris is a stunner with a fragrant nose of lilies and lemon zest that gives a bright, citrusy palate. A beautiful substitute for Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
Flat CreeK Estate Pinot Grigio 2012
Inwood Estates Vineyards Chardonnay 2012
Hye Meadow Winery Viognier 2012
Spicewood Vineyards Viognier 2012
Because many of these wines were released in 2013, it’s possible that some of them are out of stock or have limited availability.