Texas is better known for outsized steaks, beer, and BBQ, but not wine and grape growing. This is gradually changing. Now more and more Texans are switching to wine and authentic Mexican foods, rather than undistinguished Tex-Mex specialties.
Where else can you find steakhouses that promise to complement a 64 oz. steak if you can it all?
The hot dry climate across Texas’ seven AVA’s dictates the use of grape varieties suitable to hot climates i.e sangiovese, tempranillo, primitivo, syrah, petite syrah (durif), carignane, grenache, barbera, nero d’avola,, malbec, for red, and viognier, muscat canelli, chardonnay for whites. Cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, pinot and others do exist but were planted early on.
Several other experimental grape varieties are planted to study how they adapt to local terroir.
There are now seven AVA’s in Texas:
Texas High Plains – surrounding Lubbock with an altitude of one kilometer that renders the area cool enough for grapes to thrive.
Texoma – north of Forth Worth and Dallas.
Mesilla Valley – northwest of El Paso into New Mexico
Texas Hill Country – covering a large area west of Austin
Escondido Valley – east of Fort Stockton
Texas Davis Mountains – east of Fort Davis
Bell Mountain 21 km northeast of Fredericksburg of Highway 16
Texas now boasts 130 wineries producing mostly (60 per cent0, dark red, high-alcohol, entry level wines, but the situation is changing. There is now a notable switch to quality wines by small wineries.
At the beginning (1970’s), growers planted cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, chardonnay, pinot noir and even riesling, only to find out how unsuitable they were for local terroir. Now Rhone, Italian and Spanish varieties are planted yielding acceptable, occasionally fine wines pending on location, yields and prevailing temperatures. Here diurnal temperatures change is much more moderate than in Washington state much further north.
The best wineries are: Brennan Vineyards, Llano Estacado, Becker, Fall Creek Vineyards, Messina Hof, Flat Creek, McPherson Cellars, Mendola Est, Rising Sun Vineyards, Alamosa Wine Cellars.