By Nan McCreary

Ron Yates Tempranillo, Friesen Vineyard, Texas High Plains, 2017, was named Top Texas Wine at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ 2021 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition held Nov. 13-15 at NRG Center in Houston.

A total of 2,601 entries from 18 countries were featured in this year’s event, including wines from Argentina, England, France, Italy, Japan, New Zealand and Spain. Texas wines represented 346 entries and this year’s featured region, Sonoma County, California, entered 351 wines.

The Top Texas Wine is a 100% Tempranillo, with grapes sourced from John W. Friesen’s vineyards in Seminole, Texas. The Friesen Vineyard also provided grapes for the Ron Yates 2017 Friesen Red Blend, which was awarded a prestigious Double Gold Medal this year at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

“Winning the Top Texas Wine at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a goal that all Texas winemakers set for themselves, and it’s a great way to have friendly competition amongst our peers,” Ron Yates said. “There are so many great wines being produced in our state. Now that it’s getting harder and harder to actually win, I could not be more proud of our team and all of the accomplishments their hard work has earned us.”

Yates is no stranger to the Texas wine scene. He grew up in Kingsland, Texas, near Fall Creek Vineyards, which is owned by his Texas wine industry pioneer cousins Ed and Susan Auler. In college, after spending a semester abroad in Spain, he developed a love for Tempranillo. Knowing that premium wines could be made in Texas, in 2007 he purchased Spicewood Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country. Spicewood has been producing distinguished Texas Hill Country since it was founded in 1992 by Edward and Madeleine Manigold. Yates oversees production of over 12 varieties of wine at Spicewood, including Tempranillo, Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.

In 2016, Yates built on the award-winning experience of Spicewood Vineyards and opened a winery in Hye, Texas, in the center of the Texas Hill Country. The winery is situated on 15.8 acres, with a four-acre Tempranillo estate vineyard and potential for 9 to 10 additional acres of vineyards. Besides wines from the estate vineyard, the winery uses Texas grapes from growers around the state to ensure they have a steady supply of high-quality grapes and a wide selection of varieties.

The Ron Yates winery is a 6,000-square foot contemporary facility that includes a 20,000 case-production facility, and an adjacent 1,000 square-foot crush pad. The winery, designed by its winemaker Todd Crowell, features state-of-the-art equipment such as a programmable ‘smart’ press, a two-inch diaphragm pump for gentle juice and wine transfers, and fully jacketed stainless-steel tanks accessible via aluminum catwalk. The winery recently opened their Tasting Pavilion, open to the public seven days a week. Plans for the future include an elegant 5,000 square foot tasting room, complete with a club room for library wines and private tastings and an underground cellar.

Ron Yates Winery Tempranillo is just one of many Texas Tempranillos that are making a mark in the state, and nationwide. The grape, whose ancestral home is Spain, translates to “little early one,” because it ripens several weeks earlier than other Spanish red wines. One of the earliest producers of Texas Tempranillo was Inwood Estates winemaker Dan Gatlin, who partnered with grape grower Neal Newsom of Newsome Vineyards in the Texas High Plains to commercially plant the grape in the 2000s. With the Texas climate and soil similar to the northern Spain climate, the wine initially performed exceptionally well. Today, it is the third most planted grape in the Texas High Plains and is thought by many to be the “signature grape” in Texas. Tempranillo wines are ruby red in color, aromas and flavors can include berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather and herb. The wines are food-friendly, and are a great match for Texas cuisine, including brisket, steaks and Tex-Mex dishes. For more information, visit ronyates.wines.com


The 2021 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition, now in its 18th year, is one of the largest and most prestigious wine competitions in the country. For more information on this year’s winners, click here or join our Facebook group.