This article was published as coverage from a session at the Les Dames D’Escoffier Annual Conference, and was published in the LDEI Winter 2021/22 Quarterly (p. 22).
Vying leapfrog with New York State, Texas is fourth—or fifth—in wine production nationally, yet most consumers are more familiar wines from New York’s popular Finger Lakes region. Why? Demand within Texas generally exceeds supply.
It was no surprise that a majority of hands shot up in the room at the question opening the session, “how many of you are new to Texas wines?” asked by moderator Dame Jessica Dupuy. The panel comprised seven women including five dames with discussion covering the history of Texas wine, their personal histories, the state of the industry, and more.
With 46 years of winegrowing experience at Fall Creek Vineyards in Texas Hill Country, Dame Susan Auler confronted the common misconception that it’s too hot to grow grapes in Texas. “The heat’s not a problem, but we have to contend with rain at the wrong time, or hail at the wrong time,” she said.
The Texas High Plains range in elevation from approximately 3,000 to 4,000 feet — altitude sufficient to supply moderate temperatures key to balancing ripe fruit flavors with acidity and lending nuance to the wines. One of the bigger challenges over heat is spring frost and hail which can cause damage to emerging buds, ultimately diminishing — or in some cases completely obliterating — the season’s crop.
Viognier is a varietal more widely known to be at home in France’s cool Northern Rhône. It quickly became recognized as a grape to watch in Texas when Becker Vineyards first planted it — and a lot of it — according to Dame Nichole Bendele who joined the panel from Becker Vineyards.
Dame Julie Kuhlken, owner at Pedernales Cellars, presented Viognier grown in the Texas High Plains, a stunning wine which demonstrated powerful and fresh aromatics, complex flavors and vibrant acidity.
Bringing Texas wine to downtown San Antonio, Dame Jennifer Beckman is the owner of Re:Rooted 210 Urban Winery which operates using innovative sustainable practices. Their unique wine keg and growler program reduces waste from spoilage and packaging. Even the kegs are made from recycled materials and are recycled after use.
Winemaker Dame Rae Wilson of Wine for the People based in Austin brought broad wine industry experience from Portugal to Napa her own labels which first debuted in 2016. Simultaneously vibrant and brooding, her 2019 La Valentia is primarily a blend of Rhône varietals dominated by Syrah and Carignan grown in the Texas High Plains.
Katy Jane Seaton and Traci Ferguson, co-owners at Farmhouse Vineyards also in the Texas High Plains also joined the panel. Primarily a grower, their farmhouse turned tasting room now offers a selection of wines. Lady Bird, an aromatic white blend, was beautiful and rich in complexity with dynamic energy; a fine tribute to the former First Lady.
While Texas wine might not be available at a retailer near you, many offer options direct shipping. Or, it may just be that Texas wines are the wines you should just go to Texas for — the session left me with a pleased palate and an enthusiasm for Texas wine country!