I know. They make wine in Texas? Well, yes they do. And many wineries are doing a pretty good job at making very nice drinkable wines. Believe it or not, one of the fastest growing wine trails in the USA is in the Texas Hill Country located in the area just west of Austin and stretching to the Central Texas town of Fredericksburg along Highway 290. There are upwards of 50 wineries located along or near this area. Now, in full disclosure, most of their grapes are not being grown in this area. The vast majority of grapes are grown in the High Plains area south and west of Lubbock near the Texas Panhandle. The Texas High Plains AVA is the second largest American Viticulture Area in Texas. There are a total of 8 AVA’s in Texas.
We set out from Houston on a Saturday morning with our oldest son and his wife. They had given us a trip to the hill country for Christmas (they said we were tough to buy gifts for, but this was a real treat for Lisa and me). Our first destination was Grape Creek Winery, located just east of Fredericksburg on Highway 290. Grape Creek sets the standard, in my opinion, for all other wineries in the area to strive for with a beautiful Tuscan-like tasting room, a beautiful indoor/outdoor tasting patio for wine club members, and a state of the art wine making facility.
We arrived in time to enjoy a late lunch at Stout’s Trattoria, located at the winery. Stout’s sits in an area surrounded by a number of Grape Creek’s vineyards. They actually grow some of their grapes here, including Tannat, Anglianico, Petite Sirah, Albarino, Montepulciano, and Chenin Blanc. They do buy grapes from other areas in Texas and make a wide variety of wines. We tasted a number of whites, a rose’ and a number of red wines, with each one of them being very good. I think our favorites were the 2015 Petite Sirah, the 2015 Bellissimo (a Super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon), and the 2015 Rendezvous, a Rhone-style GSM. We had a great time at Grape Creek.
Our next stop was just a few miles east at Becker Vineyards. Becker was founded in 1996 and produces over 100,000 cases of wine per year from Texas grown grapes. They own 84 acres of vineyards across the state and grow 20 varietals in those vineyards, as well as buy and crush more Texas grapes than any other winery in the state. Being large has not prevented them from making some excellent wines. We have visited Becker many times and always find their wines to be outstanding. We each tasted 7 different wines while we were there, including their Prarie Rotie (a Rhone-style GSM blend), a reserve Cabernet Franc, a reserve Petite Sirah, a reserve Malbec, a vineyard specific Cabernet Sauvignon, a reserve Merlot, and a Malbec-Petite Sirah blend. Each of these wines was outstanding. The tasting room is as active and vibrant as any I have been to and the outdoor area around the tasting room is a great place to enjoy a picnic while trying the great wines. The sunsets here can be spectacular as well.
Our last stop was at a winery we had never been to called Ron Yates Wines. It is located a few miles west of Johnson City near the small town of Hye, Texas. They have recently built a winery and tasting room at this location. Ron Yates has been making wines for quite some time at another winery he owns called Spicewood Vineyards. He caught the wine bug while he was in college at the University of Texas (being an Aggie it was hard to not write “tu”) when he lived in Spain for a semester. The family he lived with had a son who was a grape grower. During his stay there he spent a lot of time in the vineyards and decided he wanted to be involved in the wine business when he returned to Texas. His stay in Spain reminded him of the Texas Hill Country and he also fell in love with Tempranillo. By serendipity, it was a match made in heaven since the Texas Hill Country climate is perfect for growing Tempranillo.
Fast forward to 2018 and he has established himself as a real player in the Texas wine scene. We tasted virtually every wine he makes which for the most part are all made from grapes coming from either the Texas High Plains or from areas slightly north and west of his winery. His white wine lineup includes a Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino, and Viognier. He makes some very interesting Rose’ wines also, including ones made from Cinsault, Mourvedre, Sangiovese and Zinfandel. We liked all of them! His red wines are really interesting. We tasted his Tempranillo, which was out of this world, along with a Mourvedre and a Sangiovese that were very tasty. He makes all of these wines from grapes he sources from some of the best vineyards in Texas. Interestingly, though, he is also a Pinot Noir lover and buys grapes from a very high-end vineyard in the Russian River area of Sonoma and makes a very good Pinot Noir. He also buys grapes from Sonoma to make a Zinfandel, which we also enjoyed. Probably the highlight of the tasting however was the fact that Ron Yates conducted our tasting. His passion for wine making came out loud and clear. Literally, the fruits of his efforts are gaining him a reputation as one of the premier wineries in this area. I strongly encourage you to visit if you are in the area.
Each of the wineries we visited have won awards for their wines at such notable tasting competitions as the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Wine Competition. Texas wines are gaining in reputation through the efforts of each of these wineries as well as many more spread out across the state. You should try one soon.