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Tasting Texas

Getting a barrel sample at Wedding Oak Winery.
 This was originally published in the April 2019 issue of Galveston Monthly magazine. 


As the cold days of winter recede into the renewed warmth of spring, signs of new growth are everywhere. This is also true in vineyards across Texas. The dry sticks have woken up from their winter nap, the buds are breaking, and the 2019 growing season has begun. While its too soon to know what this year will hold, it is a great time to look back to see what to expect from the upcoming wines of the Lone Star State.


  After an exceptionally cold spring followed by an excessively hot summer with drought conditions, there was initially concern for the quality of the 2018 vintage. Winemakers across the state were delighted to have these worries lifted as harvest began. Fall Creek Vineyards Director of Winemaking, Sergio Cuadro, shared his thoughts on the 2018 vintage. “We have amazing quality, albeit smaller yields, with the exception of Mourvèdre which is clearly a heat-loving variety well suited for this part of Texas. The quality of the grapes this vintage makes it easy on the winemaker because everything we want is naturally present in the grapes. The 2018 vintage is all about the viticulture and less about the winemaking.” 


  Penny S. Adams, Wedding Oak Winery’s Director of Viticulture, stated “The 2018 vintage in the Texas Hill Country is light in yield, meaning less wine than in the 2017 vintage. The good news is the wines will have highly concentrated flavors. Most importantly, grape varietal response to the heat and drought will help our region better define varieties best suited to our unique growing conditions in the Texas Hill Country. Our Albariño from our Wildseed Farms Vineyard, harvested very early this year on July 23, was very high quality.” 


  The majority of the 2018 whites and rosés are available before many of the reds due to the time that some reds need to age in barrel before bottling. Expect to find more reds with the 2016 and 2017 years on the label. Both of these vintages were very similar producing wines of great quality though 2016 had a much lower produced volume as an early freeze led to lower than typical yields that year.

 

  Even with the lower yield years, the Texas wine industry continues to grow and thrive. The Lone Star State is America’s 5th largest producer of wine contributing $13.1 billion of economic value to Texas. With almost 400 wineries, the demand for Texas grown grapes continues to rise. In an effort to increase consumer confidence, there is a new label that is starting to show up on Texas wines this year. The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA) has officially launched the 100% Texas Grown Emblem program guaranteeing that 100% of the grapes used in the wine were grown in the state. Expect to see it more often as growers increase plantings throughout the state to keep up with wine maker’s demands.


  This spring, open a bottle of refreshing white or rosé Texas wine to serve with Gulf Coast seafood and other lights meals, there is no better time to taste Texas.


 Recommended wines are available on-line on each winery’s website. It is best to order early to avoid shipping damage during the hot summer months.


Spicewood Estate Vineyard Texas Hill Country Sauvignon Blanc 2018 - Sourced from 25 year old vines, this wine has been made every year since the Yates family has owned the property. This refreshing white has aromas and flavors of melon and grapefruit with a light mineral-laced finish. 

Wedding Oak Winery Texas Hill Country Albariño 2018 - From the Wildseed Vineyard, this white reflects how well Texas does with Spanish grapes. Bright, crisp, and refreshing with ripe pear, pineapple, and a light herbaceous note in the lingering finish. 

Wedding Oak Winery Rosato from Sangiovese 2018 - While winemaker, Seth , jokes about making more wines from Italian grape varieties for his New York Italian wife, he adds more seriously, “I believe that several southern Italian varieties will become more important in Texas, they just do well here.’ Fresh and fruity with cherry, grapefruit, and a hint of boxwood, this pink wine works with any spring fare. Wedding Oak also makes another exceptional rosé from Dolcetto grapes.

Fall Creek Texas Hill Country Certenberg Vineyard Chardonnay 2017 - Certenberg is a 29 acre vineyard located in Voca, TX. It is owned and managed by former NFL player, Alphonse Dotson. In the early days of Texas wine, growers had struggled with Chardonnay so it is now a very small percentage of the grapes that are grown in the state. Fall Creek owner, Ed Auler made the point that it has taken time to figure out which variety should go where. "What if people had showed up and drilled a hundred holes in Texas looking for oil and come up empty? They could have easily believed there was no oil here and what a wrong assumption that would have been. I think that is a great comparison to early grape plantings. It has taken a lot of trial and error but Texas can do it and can be competitive with the world's important wine regions.” This white is round and full with apple, lemon and grilled peach in the lingering mineral-laced finish.

Haak Estate Vineyard Blanc du Bois Dry 2018 - Go hyper local with this dry, crisp white from the only commercial vineyard in Galveston County. Fresh and citrusy, owner Raymond Haak asserts, “It is the perfect wine for the local oysters.” The winery also makes an off dry version of Blanc du Bois for those that prefer a touch of sweetness.

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