This year, transitioning into the holiday season doesn’t feel quite the same. As the global pandemic continues to rage on, we find ourselves planning for significantly smaller gatherings, if any at all. But that doesn’t mean we can’t muster up a little holiday spirit, even in unseemly times. And if you’re still setting your sights on a few celebratory feasts this year, however small they may be, don’t forget the wine. Instead of fussing over the perfect pairing, try to focus on the whole reason we gather together in the first place—to share with family and friends. Most of our traditional plans may be altered this year, but if you find yourself in need of a good selection, opt for an all-Texas lineup that will distract us from our “new normal,” spark some new conversations, and encourage others to step out of their comfort zones.
If you’re looking for someone to handle the decisions for you, as well as ship it all to your front door in one convenient, contact-free pack, look into the Holiday Celebration Pack from the five Texas producers who comprise the collective Texas Fine Wine. The handy kit includes one wine each from Bending Branch Winery, Brennan Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, Pedernales Cellars, and Spicewood Vineyards.
We’ve also got a few favorites of our own, and there’s still time to get them ordered before the holidays are upon us! And don’t worry, we’ve chosen a variety of bottles to suit all palates.
It’s rare to find a sparkling wine like this made in Texas. Crafted with the traditional method used for Champagne and aged on the lees (the spent yeasts that give Champagne its signature brioche character) for 48 months, this blend of pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot gris from the Cox family vineyards in the High Plains is a bit of a unicorn. As its blushing pink color suggests, this sparkler offers bright raspberry and pomegranate notes framed by toasty notes of buttermilk biscuits and a rich complexity that lingers on the palate. Only a fraction is left of the 85 cases produced, so you’re lucky if you can snag a bottle, but the effort is certainly worth the reward. Enjoy this is on its own as an aperitif, or with a savory charcuterie and cheese board.
From longtime Texas wine producer Messina Hof Winery, Bonarrigo Family Wines is the founding family’s eponymous label. Leaning into their Italian roots, Bonarrigo offers both red and white Italian blends. This selection marries pinot grigio (87 percent) with a little bit of trebbiano (11 percent) for an easy-drinking wine. With aromas of white flowers, lime zest, and bay leaf, this wine offers a bone-dry palate with notes of young mango on the finish—a perfect match for those who like to serve leafy green side dishes or grilled shrimp appetizers.
This debut from newcomer Cheramie Wine is special for a few reasons. For one, it’s made by the first Black female Texas wine producer. It’s also brimming with delightful aromas of summer honeysuckle, ripe summer peach, juicy lychee, and ginger. The palate is broad and mouth-coating, with just the tiniest perception of sweetness but a finish that is dry and vibrant. It’s ideal for those who love a white wine with a silky texture and a flourish of aromatics. Though Riesling hails from Germany’s cooler climes and shines bright in the warmer regions of Alsace in France and Clare Valley in Australia, it can hold its own in the arid, cool nights of the Texas High Plains. This wine is fresh, elegant, and, most important, its versatility makes it a complement to virtually everything on the holiday table.
This lovely white wine offers a bit of zip from start to finish. Chenin blanc does surprisingly well in Texas considering it’s more commonly associated with cooler wine-growing regions, and this wine exemplifies its potential. With aromas of ripe pear and honeysuckle, it delivers delightful fruitiness with a silky texture and a bright, mineral-driven, bone-dry finish. It’s excellent for those who like to see a little Gulf Coast seafood on their holiday table.
This wine is the Texas answer to chardonnay. Coincidence that the name Charolais sounds strikingly similar? I don’t think so. Witty play on words aside, this wine is the one you want sitting next to your roasted turkey and cornbread dressing. Grown and produced by a family of farmers in the High Plains who like to approach life with a snappy sense of humor, this is a wine built for the holiday season. The 100 percent roussanne (a leading grape of France’s Rhône Valley) leads with aromas of yellow apple, fleshy lemon pulp, baby chamomile flowers, and a whisper of buttermilk biscuits.
This unique style of rosé is made with an old-world Italian method in which the skins of pinot grigio grapes remain in contact with the juice for an extended period of time in early production. Though pinot grigio is often associated with light-colored white wine, the skins of this grape have a natural pinkish-gray hue. The ramato method, as it is commonly called, allows the wine to take on a copper tone from the skins, which is how this wine manages to fall into the category of rosé. Because of this extended skin contact, this wine takes on the added dimension of texture and complexity, as well as a touch of savoriness that makes it perfect for food pairing. Serve this at the holiday table to liven up the conversation.
No holiday feast is complete without a rosé—the perfect style to bridge the gap for red and white wine lovers—and this may be one of my favorites. Made from 100 percent Sangiovese grown in the Texas High Plains, this wine is a bashful shade of pink but offers a lot of promise in the glass. With fruit aromas of lush strawberry, juicy lemon, and summery apricot, this wine offers a lovely textural palate with a refreshingly crisp finish. Serve this as an aperitif with a charcuterie and cheese board.
This easy-drinking crowd pleaser comes from Hill Country newcomer Carter Creek Winery, which also happens to be a cozy hotel. A blend of Rhône Valley varieties including syrah, mourvèdre, counoise, cinsault, and a touch of viognier, you’ll find alluring floral aromas along with bright red fruit and warm spices. The palate is supple, smooth, and as elegant as it is approachable.
A festive wine for all palate preferences, this selection checks all the boxes. Fresh. Juicy. Fruity. Dry. Playful structure. Easy drinking. Thought provoking. Made from 100 percent counoise, a Rhône Valley native typically used as a blending grape, this wine was grown in the High Plains by Farmhouse Vineyards, which is rumored to have more counoise planted in Texas than is growing in all of France. (Not that it’s a competition, but it certainly shows the promise the grape has in the Lone Star State.)
Winemaker Rae Wilson created the La Valentía label in homage to her grandmother and strong, courageous women, and this bottle is an exceptional addition to the Texas wine lineup. A blend of 70 percent carignan, with equal parts mourvèdre, grenache, and counoise for structure and added complexity, this wine balances a lithe, elegant body with bold red fruit and a juicy, savory structure. While excellent for traditional turkey, this wine also will play well with red meats from the grill. This blend was released just in time for the holidays, and it’s not likely to last long. La Valentía is selling it through its wine club or via pickup from its Austin tasting room.
Another Rhône Valley blend that makes a statement. This blend of 60 percent syrah and 40 percent carignan is a happy marriage of rich red fruit, pepper and spice, and a touch of earthiness. Those who prefer some heft in their red wine will love the structure and body, but those who prefer lighter reds will appreciate its finesse and vibrancy, which is perhaps why the name Tandem is an apt description. If you’re smoking your turkey (or any other meat) for the holiday, this is the wine for you.
We’re starting to see more examples of single-variety cinsault in Texas, particularly from William Chris Vineyards, Lost Draw Cellars, and McPherson Cellars, and it seems to be a sign of very good things to come. This recent release from William Chris delivers a beautifully fresh presentation of red raspberry and cranberry fruits, herbs de Provence, and baking spice. The palate is full and rich with a lasting finish—a perfect pairing for heftier fare.