Tuesday, July 6, 2010

There's wine in Texas?

Life is inherently unfair, this I know.  This timeless wisdom offers little console when I get the short end of the stick, or make crappy wine easy to drink when the rest of the staff is drinking the crème de la crème, as was the case this last week.

This past weekend, our staff had the opportunity divide and conquer some of the best wine events the Pacific Northwest has to offer; Rick visited Cana’s Feast in Carlton for the Southern Mediterranean Celebration, Clive was on assignment on Red Mountain for the Post-WBC event, Micheal served on the judging panel for the East Valley Winery Association New Release Festival in Canby, and Jesse was enjoying California’s finest Three-Buck Chuck.  Reviews forthcoming on the aforementioned.  As Managing Editor of this humble blog, you may think it’s all truffles, champagne, monocles, and top hats for me.  While that’s often true, sometimes I slum it with the common folk as I did this weekend – in Austin, Texas – Texas of course being the Napa Valley of the Gulf Coast region.   They tell me that sarcasm is sometimes hard to infer from prose.  Rest assured, there is plenty in this post.

With the twitter machine humming from WBC, my pals Steve, Rich, and I decided to make the most of Texan hospitality and promptly located a liquor store to inquire on the vinological offerings of Texas.  Did you know Texas made wine?  Don’t worry, I didn’t either.  In the midst of a quite impressive wine collection, we found a rack of approximately 15 wines labeled as Texas creations, so we picked up 4 reds covering a few varietals and price points.  When in Rome, right?  What follows is chronology of two evenings of passion, love, and retching spent with the fine wines of Texas as transcribed from text message records.

Bottle 1:  Becker Vineyards 2005 Syrah (Tallent Vineyards, Texas, $13.99).   This wine had a shelf-talker denoted it as a “Twin Liquors Wine Committee Pick”, so we were feeling like it had the best shot of not sucking. There were immediate notes of coffee, cinnamon, and chocolate on the nose.  Upon taking a sip, Steve and I looked at each other with a glimmer of hope in our eyes. It wasn’t that bad!  According to Steve, “I’ve had much worse.  Starting to feel a bit of heartburn, but that could be because of all of the meat we just ate.”  Having just consumed a large BBQ dinner, I agreed with Steve.  The bottle didn’t last long, this was to be the best wine of the offerings.

Bottle 2:  Alamesa Wine Cellars 2001 Syrah (Tio Pancho Ranch, Texas, $16.99).  This was the oldest Texas wine we found, so old that there was a nice layer of dust on the bottle.  We soon found that the dust wasn’t due to fine aging practices, rather, was certainly because of the fact that not even a hobo would enjoy this wine.  Rich’s glass was poured first, and we noted an immediate grimace on his face as he swirled and smelled.  Upon taking a sip, the gag reflex was nearly immediate.  I soon repeated the swirl, smell, and sip; Steve reported that I mirrored Rich’s reaction with more intensity.  Steve grabbed the wine out of our hands, and down the drain it went.  “If I’m going to have a night cap, I’d like to know that I’m not going to vomit,” he said as he was dumping.

Bottle 3:  Becker Vineyards 2008 Reserve Merlot (Texas, $19).  We cracked this bottle open in an attempt to erase the taste of bottle 2 from our palates, hoping to end the evening on a good note.  This wine was fair to decent, but nothing special.  #1 was still in the lead.

Bottle 4:  Sister Creek Vineyard 2007 Red Blend (Texas; Cab Sauv, Merlot, Sangiovese; $14.99).  The next evening, bottle 4 emerged.  Out of three wines, we had experienced good, mediocre, and horrible.  This wine was very drinkable, however, not notable for any particular characteristic.  It took a place as number 2 in our unsophisticated rating system.

Now I’m told there is some really good wine in Texas, however, I can report that it isn’t available at Twin Liquors in Austin nor did we see any on wine lists in the area.  There was some great local beers and vodka, but wine lists were dominated by California Central Coast and Oregon offerings.  As they should be.  Three of the bottles we had were definitely drinkable, and if your palate isn’t programmed for Washington and Oregon stuff, I’m sure it’s fine.  I have a bias, and left Texas disappointed.  I’ll give Texas another shot when the opportunity arises, as Dallas Wine Chick wouldn’t do what she does if there wasn’t something to it.

Until then, Clive, Rick, Micheal, and Jesse will taunt me with tales of their awesome wine weekends.


  1. Give a call next time you in the area. I think that my posse and I can steer you to some good Texas juice. Nothing that bares the moniker - "For Sale in Texas Only".

    You want a good laugh...I have actually talked to people that think that FSITO means a special Texas product that is intended for and limited to Texans only. Really, its made with out of state fruit and is not even a wine made with enough Texas grapes to quality for Texas Appellation.

    This problem is mostly due to the extreme shortage of Texas grapes due to the unusual weather (freeze, hail, rain) the past couple years and the rapid growth in the number of wineries that is now topping 200 statewide.

    I agree that not all Texas wine is great wine, but there are some really good ones to be had. But, you often need to go to the winery and not depend on a glorified convenient store to supply it to you.


  2. I agree with Russ's comments above. There are good Texas wines, but there are a bunch of not as good ones too. Also second the comments regarding "For Sale in Texas Only".

    Let me and Russ know if you are ever in the state again, and we can probably point you at some quality Texas wines to try. I'll even meet up with you and bring a bottle if I can make it to where you are. :) Texas is obviously not at the same level of consistency that the Northwest states are, but there are some pretty decent wines out there. The biggest problem is that the best Texas wines tend to be a little more pricey, but even at the lower price points there are some good finds.

  3. This was very funny to read. Especially as I was reading it sipping on a Red Mountain Roussanne from Terra Blanca, muahahahahahaha