Texas Wine Country 2009, Part One

By John ~ May 6th, 2009.

Driftwood Estate Winery vineyardsRegular readers may remember that I visited several wineries in the Texas Panhandle about a year ago. Prior to last year, I had not been impressed at all with the Texas wineries I had visited. However, based on my limited sampling last year, I wanted to make a more comprehensive survey of Texas wines and wineries on this trip, revisiting several of the wineries from six or seven years ago as well as a number that I had not previously visited. Quite frankly, those wineries had not shown me much in 2002. So far, our experience this time has been much better.

You might be surprised to know that Texas is America’s #5 grape and wine producing state, according to a survey in 2007 by MKF in conjunction with the Texas Wine and Grape Growers and Texas Tech University, behind only California, Washington, Oregon, and New York. Texas now has over 120 wineries that produce over $1 billion in revenue annually.

So far on this visit to Texas, we have visited twelve wineries, one near College Station and eleven in the Texas Hill Country near Austin. Of the twelve, Becker Vineyards, Driftwood Estate Winery, and Texas Hills Vineyard have stood out above the rest both in quality and in value (QPR) as you will see in our tasting summary below.

Driftwood Estate Winery tasting roomAs you might expect in Texas, most of the tasting room personnel have been very hospitable, although most of the Texas wineries we have visited have tasting fees and they are rarely refundable with a purchase, which rubs me the wrong way.

One thing we learned last year is that Texas wineries do not necessarily produce all of their wines from Texas grapes. Some use New Mexico and/or California grapes in addition to Texas grapes. In the tasting summary, I will note the wines that are not made with Texas grapes.

Here’s a breakdown of the wines that we tasted. Under each Quality heading, the wine name will be listed along with price and QPR rating. Wines in bold type received a QPR rating of 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5).

Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
2006 Driftwood Estate Syrah, $18, QPR: 5
2007 Becker Vintage Port, $21.95, QPR: 5
2007 Texas Hills KICK BUTT Cab, $25, QPR: 5

Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
2005 Texas Hills KICK BUTT Cab, $17.50, QPR: 5
2006 Driftwood Estate Super Texan (88% Sangiovese, 12% Merlot), $18, QPR: 5
2006 Driftwood Estate Lone Star Cab, $18, QPR: 5
2006 Texas Hills Port Rubino, $19.95, QPR: 5
2006 Becker Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, $24.95, QPR: 5

2007 Becker Chenin Blanc, $12.95, QPR: 4
2007 Becker Claret, $16.95, QPR: 4
2007 Becker Prairie Rotie, $16.95, QPR: 4
2007 Texas Hills Syrah, $19.95, QPR: 4
2007 Woodrose Zinfandel, Willmuth Vineyards, $21.95, QPR: 4
2007 Mandola Estate Zinfandel, $24, QPR: 4
NV Grape Creek Port, $29.95, QPR: 4
2006 Woodrose Tawny Port (CA & TX grapes), $29.95, QPR: 4
2005 Texas Hills Orange Moscato, $17.50, QPR: 3
2007Grape Creek Cabernet/Syrah, $26.95, QPR: 3
2005 Torre di Pietra Claret, $27.95, QPR: 3
NV Torre di Pietra Tango Port (Primitivo), $49.95, QPR: 3
2007 Pedernales Stonewall Viognier, $18.00, QPR: 2
NV Torre di Pietra Rosa Flamenco, $18.95, QPR: 2
2007 Pedernales Cellars Family Reserve, $49.00, QPR: 1

Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
2004 Texas Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, $14.95, QPR: 5
2002 McReynolds Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, $15, QPR: 5

2005 Texas Hills Syrah, $13.95, QPR: 4
2006 Driftwood Estate Longhorn Red, $18, QPR: 4
NV Fredericksburg Bach Burgundy, $18.95, QPR: 4
2007 Pedernales Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, $25.00, QPR: 4
2007 Driftwood Estate Dry Rose (CA grapes), $12, QPR: 3
2008 Becker Viognier, $14.95, QPR: 3
NV Torre di Pietra Texas Dirty Girl, $18.95, QPR: 3
2007 Grape Creek Merlot, $19.95, QPR: 3
2006 McReynolds Wines Merlot, $20, QPR: 3
2005 Messina Hof Private Reserve Cabernet Franc, $22, QPR: 3
2006 Messina Hof Private Reserve Tex-Zin, $22, QPR: 3
2006 Grape Creek Bellissimo (NM grapes), $24.95, QPR: 3
2007 Mandola Estate SPINO’-Montepulciano, $26, QPR: 3
2008 Grape Creek, Pinot Grigio (CA grapes), $16.95, QPR: 2
2007 Mandola Estate Canto Felice, $18, QPR: 2
2005 Fredericksburg Merlot, $24.95, QPR: 2
2006 Woodrose Merlot, Hendericks Vineyards, $24.95, QPR: 2
NV Torre di Pietra Porto Blanco, $49.95, QPR: 2
NV Torre di Pietra Red Flirt (Cab/Syrah), $18.95, QPR: 1
2008 Driftwood Estate Cuve Blanc, $20, QPR: 1
2007 Torre di Pietra Texas Chenin Blanc, $21.95, QPR: 1
2008 Torre di Pietra Blanc du Bois, $21.95, QPR: 1
2008 Woodrose Texas Rain (Rose), Tanglewood Vineyards, $21.95, QPR: 1
2007 Woodrose Three Dog White (TX & CA grapes), $21.95, QPR: 1
2006 Torre di Pietra Mataro (Mourvedre), $24.95, QPR: 1
2007 TORO di Tejas (Tempranillo), $25, QPR: 1
2003 Fredericksburg Texitage, $34.50, QPR: 1
2006 Grape Creek Mosaic (CA grapes), $36.95, QPR: 1

Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
2006 Driftwood Estate Merlot (CA grapes), $12, QPR: NR
2007 Texas Hills Pinot Grigio, $14.95, QPR: NR
2005 McReynolds Wines Chardonnay, $15, QPR: NR
2002 McReynolds Wines Merlot, $15, QPR: NR
2008 Pedernales Cellars Garnacha Rose, $15.00, QPR: NR
2008 Grape Creek Cuvee Blanc, $16.95, QPR: NR
2006 Mandola Estate Viognier, $18, QPR: NR
2006 Grape Creek Cabernet Trois (CA grapes), $18.95, QPR: NR
NV Torre di Pietra Classico, $18.95, QPR: NR
2004 Fredericksburg Rose of Cab, $19.95, QPR: NR
2008 Pedernales Cellars Vino Blanco, $20.00, QPR: NR
2007 Woodrose Seven (66% Cab, 34% Sangiovese, CA grapes), $21.95, QPR: NR
2005 Messina Hof Private Reflections (60% Cab Franc), $22, QPR: NR
2008 Woodrose Blanc du Bois, Tanglewood Vineyards, $23.95, QPR: NR
2007 Mandola Estate Dolcetto, $26, QPR: NR
2007 Woodrose Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah, $26.95, QPR: NR
2007 Woodrose Sauvignon Blanc Reserve (CA grapes), $28.95, QPR: NR
2007 Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo, $29.00, QPR: NR
2005 Torre di Pietra Sangiovese, $29.95, QPR: NR
2005 Torre di Pietra Touriga Nacional, $39.95, QPR: NR

Quality: 2 stars (out of 5)
2004 McReynolds Wines Merlot (76% Merlot, 24% Sangiovese), $10, QPR: NR
2004 Cinque Vino Rosso, $12.95, QPR: NR
NV Fredericksburg Corderillas, $15.95, QPR: NR
2007 Grape Creek Viognier, $16.95, QPR: NR
2005 Torre di Pietra Carignane, $18.95, QPR: NR
NV Fredericksburg F & N, $18.95, QPR: NR
2007 Texas Hills Rousanne, $19.95, QPR: NR
2005 Messina Hof Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, $22, QPR: NR
2007 Mandola Estate Sangiovese, $24, QPR: NR
2007 Woodrose Wicked Red (TX & CA grapes), $27.95, QPR: NR

Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Lesser Known Varietals, Merlot, Port, Roussanne, Sangiovese, Shiraz/Syrah, Tempranillo, Texas Wine, Viognier, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Brian White | May 6th, 2009 at 7:26 am

    Nice to see a few words about TX wineries. It is tough to grow good grapes out this way (Washington it is certainly not). I had one of my best ever Cabs from Chisholm Trail winery…..but alas that vineyard died in a drought some years back! I hope you guys enjoy your time down here!

    Brian White
    Manvel, TX

  2. John | May 6th, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Nice to hear from you again. We are having a good visit and will report on more Texas winery visits next week.

  3. Jared | May 6th, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Wow, you guys took Texas by storm. Thanks for the report about an area of the country that doesn’t get much wine play. Always nice to hear about people that are passionate! Keep up the good work!

  4. Major | May 6th, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    I just decided to surprise Mike with an anniversary trip to wine country around Fredericksburg in 2 weeks so this is quite timely! (yay for grandparents watching the baby)

  5. John | May 6th, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Jared and Major,
    Thanks for your nice comments. As you can see, we’re trying to find the best bang for the buck in wine, anywhere in the world we can find it. As a side benefit, we see beautiful country and meet great people!