Roots Of Texas Wine
The first vineyard in North America, it is said, was established in Texas by Spanish missionaries in 1662. Today Texas has more than 500 wineries and the wine industry contributes more than $13 billion in economic value annually. It is the fifth-largest wine-producing state in the US, and boy are those wines good!
The state of Texas is actually bigger than France with plenty of geographic diversity to grow grapes. To explore more deeply the Lone Star State winemaking tradition, we created a food and wine experience. The Texas Wine Roundup featured a selection of fine Texas wines paired with artfully-prepared small dishes.
Texas Roundup Wineries
Here’s a capsule on the four Texas wineries showcased at our roundup:
Wedding Oak Winery has its main winery in San Saba. It specializes in Mediterranean-style wines with heavy influences from the Rhone Valley. The winemaker, Seth Urbanek has worked at wineries in Champagne, Australia, and New York’s Finger Lakes before moving back to his home state. His talent has elevated Wedding Oak to recognition as one of the top wineries in the country.
Texas Heritage Vineyard, located in Fredericksburg, just celebrated its fourth anniversary and is already racking up lofty awards. For two years in a row, their tasting room has been voted by the Fredericksburg Standard as the Reader’s Choice Best Winery Tasting Room. They are gaining national notoriety for impressive wines made with Portuguese varieties such as Souzao, and Italian grapes like Barbera and Sangiovese.
Kerrville Hills Winery is located just north of Kerrville. Texas wine industry icon John Rivenburgh purchased the winery in 2019 and has put in a significant effort into building a portfolio of top-notch Texas wines. He is well known for his impressive Semillon, Mourvèdre, and is widely-recognized as a leading evangelist of Tannat.
Fall Creek Vineyards is the closest winery to Austin. It is one of the oldest and most storied wineries in the state with incredible wines that have graced the table of presidential inaugurations. Winemaker Sergio Cuadra was recruited to move to Texas from a prestigious winery in his home country of Chile 10 years ago and has made a big imprint on the Texas wine industry.
Food And Wine Lone Star State Style
We invited four other couples to join us for the wine dinner and only one had tasted Texas wine before. Our guests created dishes to reflect Texas and match with a Texas bottle.The result – combining friendship, delicious food, and premium Texas wine – was a smashing success.
We opened with Cowboy Caviar bites and shrimp & avocado bites. This was paired with the Fall Creek 2021 Sauvignon Blanc and Wedding Oak 2021 Terre Blanc, a blend of Roussanne and Marsanne. The spritely Sauvignon Blanc carves its own path with lemon and white peach and a nice soft finish. The full-bodied Terre Blanc is golden yellow and is barrel-aged with plenty of green apple and pear flavor.
The Rivenburgh 2021 High Plains Vermentino by Kerrville Hills Winery was light and crisp with a kiss of fresh apple. This was paired with Southwestern Fish Tacos with Apple Fennell Slaw & chipotle dressing artfully prepared by Arthur (merlot2muscadine.com).
The amazing Texas Heritage Vineyard 2019 Merlot was a silky intro to the reds. Its cherry notes unified with the organic chicken thighs with porcini and cherries. This is a robust Merlot with beautifully extracted red fruit flavors.
A pinnacle for the evening was the limited 2021 "Alamo" Cabernet Sauvignon. Some of the grapes came from Fall Creek’s Oxbow Vineyard, which was land originally owned by Alamo hero William B. Travis. A portion of the sales of the wine will go to help operate and maintain the Alamo. This Cab has rich, deep, cherry and plum notes with a touch of light oak. It blended deliciously with Smoked Beef Brisket & BBQ Sauce with skillet-fried potatoes.
I had thought about having a palate cleanser at this point (five wines consumed) in the dinner. However, my wife, who had slaved for days to set everything up, protested. I decided that cornbread would be a great Texas-style “sorbet.” Our friends made tasty Borracha (drunken) Beans over cornbread, which accompanied the inky Texas Heritage 2019 Petite Sirah, which has blueberry and chocolate notes.
The grand finale was Wild Boar Ragù Pappardelle matched with the decanted Wedding Oak 2020 Tannat The wild boar was shipped in from Texas by D’Artagnian Gourment Meats. We also tasted the Kerrville Hills Winery Tannat as well. Texas Tannat is the most elegant expression of this grape I've tasted. Deep, powerful plum flavors and dark fruit tamed the raging bull (which had been simmering for 5 hours).
Although most were unfamiliar with Texas wines, everyone came away dazzled by the range and quality of these great wines. Thanks to the wineries for making this extravaganza possible. A tip of the Stetson to our posse of guests, who also helped prepare the meal: Phyllis The Filly and Bronco Bud, Ambush Arthur and Maverick Mary, Tombstone Tony and Alamo Amy, Lawless Laurie and Jedidiah Jeff. The hosts had to have outlaw names too – Wild Dave and Calamity Kathy.
Even if we all can’t be Texans, we can at least savor these brilliant Lone Star wines.
Full disclosure: The wines were received as marketing samples.