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Top Texas Wines: Fall 2017

The wines that made this list vary in style, body, and character—meaning there’s something here for every palate preference—but all represent a common thread of balance and quality.

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Photograph Courtesy of Messina Hof Winery & Resort

It’s a good time to grab a bottle, y’all—October is Texas Wine Month. To celebrate, we’ve picked our 23 favorite fall wines out of nearly 90 Texas appellations we tasted for this seasonal roundup.

Throughout the search for this edition of top Texas wines, we found the wide spectrum of styles and variety of grape expressions currently in the state striking. Unlike other regions of the world, such as Bordeaux, Tuscany, or Napa—where consumers have come to expect a certain style from a specific sets of grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc—Texas continues to offer a broad and unexpected palate. Much of this has to do with Texas’s expansive size and the varying soils and microclimates it offers. When you consider that France, which is slightly smaller than Texas, puts forth delicate, cool-climate sparkling wines from Champagne as well as fiercely robust reds from the Mediterranean-influenced Southern Rhône Valley, you get a better picture of why the different growing regions here offer such variance. Still, each of the wines—which we have blind taste-tested—reveal a distinctive flavor of Texas.

White

Becker Vineyards 2015 Prairie Cuvée, $25

This white Rhône blend of Marsanne and Roussanne is a nice alternative for those who love a full-bodied California Chardonnay. It’s smoky, with a hint of toast on the nose and characters of yellow apple and lemon, which are framed by a hint of vanilla. Though this wine offers a fuller body, it finishes with a nice, refreshing lift.

Duchman Family Winery Grape Grower’s White Blend, $17

Bright and delicate, this wine brings together the best three Italian white grapes: Vermentino, Trebianno, and Pinot Grigio. With aromas of white peach floral perfume and a touch of tropical fruit, it has a lovely red apple character on the palate along with a refreshing minerality that lingers on the finish.

Kuhlman Cellars 2016 Roussanne, $32

This recent Double Gold medalist from the San Francisco International Wine Competition is made with grapes grown in the High Plains. Fields of bright summer yellow flowers lead the nose with this wine, followed by a distinct lemon curd character. The palate is full, but balanced, with notes of apricot that make for a crisp finish. This would make for a beautiful food-pairing wine.

Lost Draw Cellars 2016 Gemütlichkeit, $19

This flagship wine for Lost Draw Cellars, its Fredericksburg producer, takes a German name that roughly translates to comfort and familiarity. For those who like the slightest hint of sweetness, this white blend will do the trick without being off-putting to dry wine lovers. Lovely notes of yellow daisy and lemon zest are backed by a spicy, herbaceous character and a refreshing vibrancy. It’d be a lovely wine for grilled seafood.

McPherson Cellars 2015 Vermentino, $12

This offering is bright with lemony characters, along with notes of flint and white flowers that lead to a medium body accented by a distinct minerality. The finish is vibrant and clean with a touch of residual sugar.

Pedernales Cellars 2015 Viognier Reserve, $40

The Pedernales Cellars Viognier Reserve is flush with summer peach and apricot, with aromas of yellow daffodils hiding behind a gossamer veil of oak. The palate is bright and energetic, with characteristic Viognier notes of honeyed stone fruit and a hint of bitter almond. It’s another great showing for a winery that excels with this grape.

Trilogy Cellars 2016 Roussanne, $29

This elegant Roussanne is a delicious find from a relative newcomer to the High Plains. Notes of yellow apple and fields of yellow flowers fill the glass with a touch of creaminess. Pear and melon flavors on the palate lead to a nice, silky finish that is both lush and crisp.

Westcave Cellars 2016 Spectrum White, $23

This is a new white blend of Vermentino, Malvasia Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Viognier from this Dripping Springs-based winery, Westcave Cellars. Leading with bright tropical notes followed by ripe peach and white flowers, this wine is beautiful on the palate with a touch of crisp green apple and a hint of salinity. Grab some Texas Gulf shrimp to enjoy with your bottle.

William Chris Vineyards 2016 Vermentino, $34

This Vermentino, made from fruit farmed in the Driftwood area, is fragrant with aromas of morning jasmine, honey, and ripe stone fruit. With a broad palate, this wine offers a different style than other examples of this Italian variety in Texas. On the palate, rich flavors of apple, peach, and apricot meet for a clean finish with a touch of lychee fruit.

 

Photograph Courtesy of C.L. Butaud

Rosé

C.L. Butaud 2016 Mourvèdre Rosé, $25

Made from High Plains fruit grown at Farmhouse Vineyards, this is a delicious, Provence-style rosé. Shy, with just a kiss of strawberry and chalk on the nose, this wine conjures up summer picnics. A bright minerality on the palate is framed by delicate berry flavors. It’s a perfect pairing for your Thanksgiving feast.

 

Red

Bending Branch 2014 Mourvèdre Reddy Vineyards, $30

This makes for a delicious offering of Texas Mourvèdre, a grape commonly grown throughout the Southern Rhône Valley of France. It’s powerful, boasting aromas of ripe dark fruit, fresh eucalyptus, and Christmas spices. Offering rich complexity and elegant structure, the palate has notes of tart cherry, sautéed mushrooms, and hard candy with velvety tannin and a lingering finish. 

Bending Branch Winery 2014 Texas Tannat, $30

Big and robust, this wine is a stunner. Leading with sun-dried herbes de Provence and a rich mélange of blackberry, cassis, and ripe raspberry, this is a wine that evolves beautifully in the glass. As bold on the palate as it is an aroma, this Tannat offers notes of lavender, fennel, plum, and fig preserves. The tannins are grippy, yet forgiving, and the finish is long and hypnotic. Beautiful wine.

C.L. Butaud 2015 Texas Tempranillo, $45

Making it’s second appearance on this list, this new Tempranillo release from winemaker Randy Hester is a gem. Initial notes of blueberries and salted caramel evolve in the glass to reveal tart black cherry, raspberry, rosemary, and fennel seed. The palate is full with dried figs and tart cherry, and leads to a lingering dusty finish of dried Kalamata olive and velvety tannin.

Duchman Family Winery 2014 Aglianico, $30

The latest release of this bullish Italian varietal looks to be as impressive as its predecessors. Aromas of tart cranberry and campfire ash erupt from the glass, followed by dark, brambly fruit and dried tobacco leaf. The palate is rich with tart blackberry and sage, and dusted with dry red earth. The tannins are pronounced, but have the promise to soften with age. This wine is big, yet beautifully finessed.

Duchman Family Winery 2016 Sangiovese Reddy Vineyard, $25

Though it doesn’t quite get the same concentration as its counterparts in Tuscany, Duchman winemaker Dave Reilly has captured the authenticity of the Sangiovese grape with this wine. Aromas rich with strawberry and spicy cinnamon are backed by black pepper on the palate, along with tart cherry and tobacco. Although light in color, this wine has complexity and structure that packs quite a punch.

Kuhlman Cellars 2015 Merlot, $32

This newer vintage of the Kuhlman Merlot is just as lovely as the first, which landed on the last iteration of this list. Soft red forest berries and fragrant violets blend with a distinct lavender herb character. Flavors of tart red fruit and sautéed mushrooms are prevalent on this beautifully structured wine, which finishes with persistent, but softened, tannin.

Lewis Wines 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon-Tempranillo Newsom Vineyards, $75

This wine has a lot going on, which should come as no surprise considering its two leading characters: Rich with notes of tart cherry and cranberry intermingle with aromas of Kalamata olives, black licorice, and cocoa. Those transfer to a broad palate with tart blackberry and cassis along with eucalyptus and tobacco. The finish lingers with a hint of savoriness. This beautiful wine is drinking well now, but could hold on for another few years.

Lewis Wines Parr 2013 Tempranillo, $30

The dark, rich color of this wine offers the first clue that there’s nothing bashful about it. Although aromas of blackberry and plum are pervasive, the true leader is a rustic, earthy character that suggests an “Old World” style. On the palate, tart black cherry leads, framed by dried herbs, red dust, and a long, evolving finish. This is the kind of wine you serve with braised short ribs or slow-cooked spaghetti Bolognese.

Lost Draw Cellars 2015 Carignan La Pradera Vineyards, $38

A swirling beauty in the glass, this offers red and black fruit, tobacco, and an alluring smokiness. Though grippy tannins are present, the finish is soft and finessed, and would sit well with grilled or braised meats.

Photograph Courtesy of Messina Hof Winery & Resort

Messina Hof Winery Fortieth Anniversary 2015 Heritage Blend, $40

This celebratory proprietary blend of eight grape varieties has a broad appeal. Lush and opulent, this easy-drinker offers notes of rich, dark blackberry, ground coffee, stewed plum, and savory tomato. A distinct earthiness leads the palate, followed by ripe blackberry, tart cherry, and velvety tannin.

McPherson Cellars 2015 La Herencia, $12

A bright, approachable Tempranillo, this wine offers characteristic elements of blackberry, tar, tobacco leaf, and black olive. The palate is clean and easy, with a slight candied fruit character. Excellent wine for smoked brisket.

Pedernales Cellars 2015 Hill Country Tempranillo, $40

A consistent charmer for Pedernales Cellars, this expression of Tempranillo grown entirely in the Hill Country is a perhaps the benchmark for the region’s terroir. With notes of black cherry, vanilla, savory herbs, and leather saddle, this wine is balanced with structure and complexity that is rustic, but still finessed in the glass.

William Chris Vineyards 2015 Artist Blend, $38

If smoked meats have a match made in heaven, this Rhône-style wine might be it. With elements of dried cherry and fig, dried tobacco leaf, and dusty earth, this wine leads with aromas of smoke and offers a rustic, persistent dried-fruit palate that begs for a big juicy rib.

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