Texas Wine Country 2010

By John ~ May 14th, 2010.

According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas is the 5th largest wine producing state in the U.S. (behind only California, Washington, Oregon, and New York), with more than 180 wineries contributing $1.35 billion annually to the Texas economy. Nearly 1 million travelers a year visit Texas wineries. I would bet that most of our readers would not have thought the wine business in Texas was nearly this large.

This is the third spring in a row that LaGayle and I have visited Texas wine country and Texas wineries. In 2008, we started out with a couple of Texas high plains wineries near Lubbock. Last year, we concentrated on the Texas hill country near Austin/San Antonio. This year, we visited wineries in the north Texas region around Dallas/Fort Worth.

The past two years I have shared with you my impressions of Texas wines and how much better they are today than in 2002 when I first tasted them. As a native Texan I wish I could be more optimistic; however, nothing I found this year has changed my opinion that, while progress is evident, Texas may never leapfrog any of the big four states into the elite class of wine producing areas. And here’s why:

  • Pierce’s Disease has been wreaking havoc in many Texas vineyards.
  • Erratic weather in the form of late freezes, hail, and even floods are causing producers to have smaller than normal crops in too many years for Texas to be able to produce the string of good vintages that is necessary to establish coveted terroir.
  • Because of the weather issues mentioned above, too many Texas producers are selling wines made from California, Washington, New Mexico, and even Australia grapes. They may have no other choice, but it gets old visiting Texas wineries that aren’t pouring wines made from Texas grapes.

After three years of visiting Texas wineries, it appears to me that what Texas does best is some of the Rhone and Spanish varieties such as Syrah and Tempranillo. So, in typical Wine Peeps fashion, we did a blind tasting that included moderately priced Syrah from three of our favorite Texas wineries (Becker, Driftwood Estate, and Texas Hills) and one Washington Syrah, the 2007 Charles Smith Boom Boom! Syrah. LaGayle and I purchased all four wines between $14 and $16 at Spec’s in Austin. None of the four garnered an excellent Quality rating of 4 stars (out of 5) or higher, but there were some good wines in the group with the Boom Boom! from Washington State as our clear favorite:

2007 Charles Smith Boom Boom! Syrah (Washington State)
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Spec’s (Austin, Texas), $15; Available elsewhere, $14 to $20

2008 Becker Vineyards Syrah (Texas)
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Spec’s (Austin, Texas), $15

2006 Driftwood Estate Syrah (Texas)
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Spec’s (Austin, Texas), $16

2005 Texas Hills Syrah (Texas)
Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: NR (not recommended)
Where to buy: Spec’s (Austin, Texas), $14

With the help of Lee Fuqua of Fuqua Winery in Dallas, we were able to locate and purchase a couple of bottles of Tempranillo made with Texas grapes, one from Times Ten Winery and the other from Lone Oak Winery to bring home to Seattle and put in one of our family’s private blind tastings. If they measure up, we’ll report on them in a subsequent post.

Filed under: American Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Red Wine, Shiraz/Syrah, Texas Wine, Washington State Wine, Wine Travel, Wines NOT To Buy (1 & 2 Star), Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. @nectarwine | May 14th, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Cool! I just participated in an online Texas Tasting last night. The wine was drinkable but left me feeling thin and sour. My average score would have been 3 for the ones we tasted as well.

    Love seeing you explore other regions!


  2. VintageTexas | August 8th, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Interesting blog. I must have missed this when it was first posted.

    See my comments below:

    Pierce’s Disease is here, but many vineyards are now learning to life with it with nurtient packages, finally a systemic spray program for GW-Sharpshooters that spread the disease, and buffer or sacrafical zones that put them farther from the vineyard which reduces their numbers.

    Erratic weather: No freezes or significant hail this year. The year started wet then got dry and hot. But more vineyards are working with grape varieties that bud later. It is interesting that everyone thinks of Texas’ big limitation is the hot weather when really it is the late spring freeze that causes by far most of the issues here.

    Too many Texas producers are selling wines made from out of state grapes: I agree, this has been a problem (The Dark Side). Hopefully, this years massive harvest and another one next year will help out this situation and bring wineries back from the Dark Side). I do everything I can to boycott wines from Texas wineries that say on the label “For Sale in Texas Only”.

    Regarding NectarWine’s comments about thin wine, there are two things to say. One is that many vineyard are still producing from young vines, some in only 2-4 leaf which explains some of the thin aspect of the wine. Also, some are still trying to ripen classic red varietals in the hot Texas sun. These grapes actually shut down the riping when the temperatures get to mid-summer norms here. Better approaches are proving to be the Mediterranean grapes (Tempanillo, Mourvedre, Grenache, others) that keep ripening no matter what happens temperature-wise. More wineries are moving this direction for their reds either signle varietal wines, or even better, blends with Classic and Mediterranean varietals.

    I hope this wasn’t too long and drawn out.


    Russ Kane

  3. John | August 8th, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Russ, Good to hear from you and your thoughts about the future of Texas wine in light of the conditions I’ve observed.

  4. VintageTexas | August 9th, 2010 at 5:44 am

    One question, I have with your tasting of “Texas wines” is….

    Were all the wines Texas Appellation or FSITO wines?


  5. John | August 9th, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Russ, We were trying to avoid FSITO “For sale in Texas only” wines, and drink only Texas AVA wines.