When you think about Texas, there are at least a dozen or so things that come to mind: barbecue, boots, broncos, and Bushes, for starters. But wine? It’s probably not even on your radar—or not yet, anyway.
Texans don’t do small. Holding true to that reputation, the state department recently pumped $4.5 million into the wine industry indicating they’re ready to expand production (and maybe even export more frequently outside state borders).
Their back story isn’t so unlike California’s and includes a veritable viticultural hero. The first vines were planted in the 16th century by Spanish missionaries near present day El Paso. By the late 1800s, Texas horticulturist T.V. Munson grafted phylloxera-inflicted vitis vinifera from Europe to the pest-resistant native Texan rootstock saving the world from one of the most devastating vineyard epidemics in history. It wasn’t until the early 70’s, though, that pioneering land-owners like Susan and Ed Auler of Fall Creek Vineyards (Hill Country) saw the potential of the land and helped bring Texas wine to the table.
Today, the state has eight AVA’s, but it’s the granitic soils of the Hill Country and sandy loam and limestone influences in the High Plains of the Central Region that are most conducive to high-quality wines. And while you’ll certainly find producers growing Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, its Rhone grapes like Viognier, Grenache, and Syrah, Italy’s Sangiovese and Vermentino and Spain’s workhouse Tempranillo that are showing what Texas terroir can produce. “The focus is not to try to make wines that taste like they’re from Napa or the Medoc or anywhere else for that matter,” says Ed Auler, “but to make our wine at its own best.”
Some Texan wineries and the varieties they’re known for
Becker Vineyards: Viognier and Rhone blends like “Prairie Rotie” (Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah and Carignan)
Duchmans Winery (Ed Note: Duchmans was heretofore known as Mandola): Vermentino, Moscato, Montepulciano
Pedernales Cellars: Tempranillo
Also see, three “peach perfect” recipes hailing from Fredericksburg, Texas.