DMN Best of Texas

By TINA DANZE, The Dallas Morning News

With Texas Wine Month fast approaching, the panel got a jump on saluting true Texas wines.

Although supplies aren’t enough to penetrate the national market, many Texas wines have been winning over critics and bringing home bling from competitions, coast to coast. Some of the state’s top wineries are repeat gold- and silver-medal winners, proving that they can go toe-to-toe with top wineries from more established regions, year after year.–all-made-from-texas-grapes.ece

We tasted 21 wines from across the state, all sold in stores in the Dallas area.

Many excellent wines are sold only at the wineries, online or through wine clubs; we did not include those.

Nor did we sample wines that are produced by Texas wineries using predominantly non-Texas grapes. You have to read labels carefully to determine official Texas pedigree.

For example, “Texas” won’t be printed on the label if the percentage of Texas-grown grapes used to make the wine is less than 75 percent. In this case, the wines are sometimes labeled “American wine.” Another telltale sign that they aren’t true Texans is teeny-tiny print that says “not for sale outside of Texas.”

We gathered a variety of wine styles, varietals and blends for this tasting. Of the 21 wines sampled, we designated the eight most noteworthy. Texas versions of top-selling American varietals such as cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay didn’t make the final cut. They were eclipsed by Mediterranean regional varietals and blends that have translated well to Texas — even if their names don’t quite roll off the tongue (viognier is pronounced vee-ohn-yay, y’all).

The Mediterranean-grape dominance in this tasting isn’t a coincidence.

“In several of the state’s major wine-growing areas, the climate leans towards that of Mediterranean wine regions,” says panelist and master sommelier James Tidwell. He notes that several wineries are making good wines from varieties such as viognier, roussanne and tempranillo.

It’s worth noting that half of our eight picks came from two wineries: Pedernales Cellars, for two of the reds, and Duchman Family Winery, for two of the whites. These wineries also earned panel-pick designations for the top red and top white. We’re betting that you can count on consistent quality in reds from Pedernales and whites from Duchman.

Read on for details of our Texas wine roundup. Then take October, Texas Wine Month, to explore more Texas wines. Find a style that suits your palate and make it your house wine or your go-to wine for entertaining out-of-state guests.

Now drink Texan — and be proud!

Tina Danze is a Dallas freelance writer.


Duchman Family Winery Vermentino 2010

$13.67 to $14.25. Select Whole Foods Markets, Spec’s, select Centennial Fine Wine and Spirits, select Sigel’s, Goody Goody locations and Total Wine & More

This crisp, bright white wine, made from an Italian white grape variety, shows pear, grapefruit and lime zest flavors. Hunter Hammett thought the wine would be a great match for sushi. He liked the wine’s brisk acidity and clean fruit. James Tidwell noted that although the wine has more fruit than European-style vermentinos, it’s still a good example of the Old World style. Jennifer Uygur recommends this wine to people who don’t like oaked wines or prefer “light, bright, clean-tasting wines.”

This wine won a gold medal at the 2012 Dallas Morning News & TexSom Wine Competition and a silver medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

Duchman Family Winery Viognier, Bingham Family Vineyard, 2010

$13.67; select Whole Foods Markets, Spec’s, select Sigel’s, Goody Goody locations and Total Wine & More

Viognier is a white Rhone Valley grape that has taken well to the Texas High Plains. “Texas viognier has a good balance of fruit, acidity and minerality,” Tidwell said. He assessed this wine as having a good balance of Old World and new world viognier characteristics, too. “It’s awesome,” Uygur said. “It’s got really crisp acidity; it’s surprising — with viognier you usually think voluptuous and more rounded. If you love sauvignon blanc, this is the viognier you want.” Blythe Beck pronounced it “bright, shiny and easy to drink,” and Hammett liked the wine’s clean flavors.

This wine won a gold medal at the 2012 Dallas Morning News & TexSom Wine Competition and a silver medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

Brennan Vineyards Viognier 2010

$17.50 to $19.99; Spec’s, Central Market (Southlake and Plano), select Sigel’s, McKinney Wine Merchant, True Spirits in Hebron and Schrick’s in Fort Worth

This un-oaked viognier is a different style from the other viognier we selected. It’s made mostly with grapes grown in the winery’s Comanche County vineyards, supplemented with grapes from the Texas High Plains. It shows peach and citrus flavors and has a nice roundness on the palate. “It’s rich and balanced, with ripe peach and apricot fruit,” Hammett said. “It’s a drier style, which makes it more food-friendly.” Uygur noted that as an un-oaked style, it highlights the “pretty,” ripe fruit flavors.

This wine won silver medals at the 2012 Dallas Morning News & TexSom Wine Competition and the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

McPherson Vineyards, Bingham Vineyards Roussanne Reserve, 2010

$18.50 to $19.99; Applejack on Oak Lawn, Total Wine & More

Roussanne is another white Rhone varietal that takes well to Texas. This polished wine holds its own with the best — it won a gold medal at the 2012 Dallas Morning News & TexSom Wine Competition. It’s a dry, fruity wine with tangy-sweet lemon-drop flavor, nice acidity and good body. “I love it. The texture of the wine is round, smooth and really supple,” Tidwell said. “While there’s a lot of fruit, it’s not overdone.” Hammett thought the wine would pair well with chicken or quail. “Considering it’s a single-vineyard wine from one of Texas’ most famous wine-growing regions, it’s surprisingly affordable,” he said. Uygur added that it goes well with mild cheeses and seafood. “It appeals to a broad variety of palates,” she said.

This was a limited production release and Dallas supplies are dwindling.

Pedernales Texas GSM, 2010

$29.95; Whole Foods Market (Highland Park, Plano and Fairview), Scardello Artisan Cheese, Veritas, Las Colinas Beverages and Schrick’s in Fort Worth

GSM stands for grenache, syrah and mourvèdre — the trio of Rhone grape varieties used to make a classic Southern Rhone blend. “This is a different style compared to warmer-climate Southern Rhone blends; there’s more refreshing acidity, which is a pleasant surprise,” Tidwell said. “It’s a well-made, balanced wine with fruit, acidity and tannins, but it’s smooth on the end.” Beck noted that the wine “tastes delicious by itself or with food” — we tried it with mild salami. Hammett thought the slightly sweet fruit would make it a good match for barbecue. Uygur attributed the wine’s food-friendly character to its “good acidity.”

Tranquilo Cellars “Tranquilo” Texas Red Table Wine, 2010

$14.99 to $16.95; Scardello Artisan Cheese, select Sigel’s, Central Market (Southlake, Plano and Fort Worth locations), Legacy Liquor in The Colony, Spirits of Granbury and Vino 100 in McKinney

Tempranillo — a Spanish grape variety — plays a big role in this blend, along with some Rhone grape varieties. Panelists agreed that this is a well-made wine and a crowd-pleaser, well-suited for backyard parties. Hammett said the wine would make a good house wine and a good match for barbecue. Although it wasn’t Uygur’s favorite, she felt it was better than many Texas wines in this price range. The screw-top cap is a plus.


Pedernales Cellars Texas Tempranillo, 2009

$18.69 to $19.99; Whole Foods Market (Plano, Arlington and Fairview), Pogo’s, select Goody Goody stores, Las Colinas Beverages, Vino 100, Sigel’s Fine Wines and Great Spirits, select Spec’s, Cork it Fine Wines in Grapevine and Schrick’s in Fort Worth

This wine proves how well Spain’s native tempranillo translates to Texas soil, in this case the Texas Hill Country. “It’s delicious,” Hammett said. He liked the wine’s ripe blackberry fruit and good acidity. Tidwell found this wine to be very typical of warmer-climate tempranillos. “It reminds me of being in the Ribera del Duero,” he said, referring to one of the varietal’s most famous wine regions. “It’s got a leather note, fruit, structure and supple texture — and the finish is very refreshing,” he said. “It makes you want to take another bite of food and another sip,” Uygur added. Beck hailed this as “an entertaining wine that you’d be proud to serve,” and panelists agreed, making it their top pick. “People will enjoy it alone or with food,” she said.

This wine won a gold medal at the 2012 Dallas Morning News & TexSom Wine Competition.

Inwood Estates Vineyards “Cornelious” Tempranillo, 2009

$34.99 to $39.99; at the winery on Manufacturing Street in Dallas, Spec’s, select Whole Foods Market locations and select Central Market stores

Inwood Estates winery is in Dallas, and uses grapes grown in Yoakum County to make this 100 percent tempranillo. It shows more of fruit compote than fresh-fruit flavor profile. “It’s a big, muscly, rich, hedonistic wine,” Hammett said. Beck noted that the wine showed too much alcohol, and panelists agreed that it was a bit out of balance. Still, some panelists argued that this is a style of red that some wine drinkers look for. Although the panel was divided on the wine, they agreed that the price is an obstacle; at $35, it’s not a great value. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a big, rich, over-the-top Texas red — and money is no object — this fits the bill.

The mission

Find the best Texas wines (made from Texas grapes) available in local retail markets

The tasters

Blythe Beck, chef

Hunter Hammett, certified sommelier, Pyramid Restaurant at the Fairmont Hotel Dallas

James Tidwell, certified wine educator; master sommelier, Cafe on the Green, Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas

Jennifer Uygur, co-owner and wine director, Lucia restaurant

Cathy Barber, Taste editor

Tina Danze, freelance writer


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