Texas and History, Texas and BBQ, those connections no one questions but Texas and Wine? Does that seem like an oxymoron? Well, it sure did to me. I had only tasted one Texas wine with mixed reviews so I wasn’t expecting much when we went wine tasting near Fredericksburg. Of course, I did a ton of research prior to and learned some interesting factoids about the Texas wine industry.
Did Ya Know…that Texas is the fifth largest wine producing region in the US?
Did Ya Know… Texas currently has over 350 bonded commercial wineries?
Did Ya Know… Wine production in Texas continues to grow each year with over 1.5 million gallons produced in 2014?
Did Ya Know… There are eight American Viticultural Areas in Texas?
Good grief, I could go on and on as there are some truly interesting things to read about Texas wine history. But I won’t, so check out the link to Wikipedia should you want to dive in further. Just a word of advice, this history goes particularly well with a glass of wine so get out your wine opener!!!
When I wrote earlier about Texas BBQ and history, I told ya’ll this would all tie together – right?? Well, Napa and Sonoma may be more famous for wine, but Texas Hill Country has one key thing they don’t… amazing smoked meats – BBQ to be precise. Couple that with all the historical happenings in Texas and wine and you have a winning trifecta.
With only a week to explore Texas Hill Country, we chose to hit our winning trifecta in and around Fredericksburg. We could have literally spent a week in Fredericksburg just visiting wineries but with only a day to explore we picked out three wineries to visit and taste.
Our first stop was at Becker Vineyards near Stonewall. Becker Vineyards farms 46 acres of estate fruit and owns two additional vineyards near San Angelo and Mason, Texas, totaling just over 87 acres of vines. The tasting room was huge and packed…since it was a holiday week, I think everyone was at the Fredericksburg wineries.
Becker Vineyards’ winery is a 10,000 square foot reproduction of a late 19th century German stone barn, a style prevalent in the Texas Hill Country. Since first opening in 1996, two winery expansions have taken place to accommodate 74 tanks and over 2000 barrels. They also boast state of the art Italian designed bottling equipment, processing 55 bottles per minute.
The tasting offering were extensive and expensive at $20 per person for 6 tastings but you do get to keep the Riedel wine glass. Many of the wines we tasted were single varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay but also included blends of grapes grown at their three different vineyards. One of my favorites was the 2015 Roussanne Reserve, with its deep rich flavors of pear and mild tropical fruit. The grapes for this wine come from the Bingham Vineyard in the Texas High Plains.
Pedernales Cellars was our next stop where we were warmly greeted by the tasting room crew. Seems this winery has won its share of ribbons, metals and saddles at tasting competitions. Yes, saddles…nice saddles too! I would have happily plunked my bottom in one of those pretty suede seats and ambled around the winery on a tall, lanky texas horse. Alas, that was not offered as part of the tasting experience but we still enjoyed ourselves anyway.
Pedernales specializes in Spanish and Rhone style wines and sources its grapes from vineyards in the Texas Hill Country and Texas High Plains – most importantly from the original estate vineyard started by the Kuhlken family in the 1990’s.
We are big fans of Rhone style wines and really enjoyed the 2015 Pedernales Texas GSM Melange. We bought a bottle to take to a blind wine tasting that we were attending back in Palm Springs. Rhone style and Texas are definitely not synonymous when I think of Texas wines so I knew it would be a fun entry.
Our last stop of the day was at Hilmy Cellars which turned out to be our favorite winery of the day. The tasting room was small, intimate and the staff were incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the wines.
The Hilmys purchased the winery property in 2006, and planted the first three-acre block of sangiovese clone vines in 2009, so this is a very young winery. The second planting of approximately two-and-a-half acres was put in the following year, and consisted of an experimental block of tempranillo, petit verdot and tannat. Ninety to ninety-five percent of the fruit for their current wines came from the Texas High Plains region, with the rest originating in the Hill Country.
Like most Texas Hill Country Winery’s, Hilmy is working with grapes that are best suited to the hot summer climate which in my humble opinion are also well suited to blending as that can often bring out the best characteristics of all the grapes.
Their white wines were my favorite and they have some more unusual varietals like albariño which is a white grape variety most prolific in Portugal & Spain. Albariño is known for it’s distinct bouquet, bright acidity, and its ability to thrive in high heat. As a result of those characteristics, it is gaining traction in Texas.
We tasted rose, white and red wines and left with a few bottles of the 2015 Persephone which is a blend of viognier and marsanne. The grapes are fermented separately in stainless steel, then married seven months prior to bottling, then aged in the bottle seven more months to further develop the bouquet. This full-bodied, well-structured yet supple wine exudes notes of fresh pineapple, melon and pear. A beautiful example of hot climate whites grown in Texas and definitely on the quality scale with similar wine from the Walla Walla wine region in Washington State.
At the end of the day, I was sure glad I had left my skepticism for Texas Wines behind and ventured out to try some Texas wine. We all really enjoyed our day tasting in Texas Hill Country and wished we had a few more days to see what else was out there!