July 9, 2020

12 Bottles That Moved the Needle on Texas Wine

12 Bottles That Moved the Needle on Texas Wine

Episode Summary: On today’s episode, I’ll review the latest news about winery tasting room closures, a Texas Senator who’s hosting wine tasting fundraisers with a California winery, and a cruise for Texas wine lovers. Then, I'll share my list of 12 of the most important wines ever made in Texas. Ambitious? You bet! Finally, have you wondered how a winemaker decides when to harvest grapes? We’ll take a closer look at Brix.

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Mentioned in this Episode

Texas Wine In the News

  1. Decanter: "Fourth of July Wines: Beyond California"
  2. Politico reports on Senator Ted Cruz wine tasting events
  3. Texas on the Rhône Ama Waterways Cruise - November 2021

The 12 Bottles That Moved the Needle on the Texas Wine Industry

These 12 bottles of Texas wine moved the Texas wine industry forward and were revolutionary for their time. They brought attention to Texas in ways that no previous wine had.

One caveat: most of the primary research on these wines has been done by others, not by me. Since there’s no one definitive guide to Texas wine history, I’ve pulled bits and pieces of stories and accounts from a several different sources. I’ve done my best to be true to the history and to get clarification where necessary.

Many thanks to Jim Johnson from Alamosa Cellars, Bill Fore and Dr. Bob Young at Bending Branch, Kassandra McPherson from McPherson Cellars, and Jeff Cope from Texas Wine Lover for helping me with tracking down details on these bottles.

And hats off to the wine writers that have been covering the Texas wine scene since before I was paying attention. Rebecca Murphy, Jessica Dupuy, Russ Kane, Tina Danze, Terry Thompson-Anderson, Kim Pierce, and others. Cheers to you.

Please listen to the podcast for my rationale for including these wines and for additional details on each selection. The list begins in 1986 and continues in chronological order.

In 1986 at the San Francisco Fair Exposition & Wine Competition, two Texas wines won big.

1 - 1983 Pheasant Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon was awarded the first Gold medal for a Texas red wine in a California wine competition.

2 - 1984 Llano Estacado Chardonnay won a rare Double Gold Medal for the 1984 Chardonnay. The winemaker was Kim McPherson who had been winemaker there since 1979.

Background from Texas Wine Lover

Wine historian Leon Adams said, “There’s no question the high South Plains is a viticulture miracle. No one realized this area could produce world-class wines. It is an amazing story.” No more “Chateau Bubba” or “Cactus Blanc.”

Forked Tendrils: Llano Estacado Winery and the Rise of the Modern Texas Wine Industry by Eric Sanchez (Texas Tech University, A Thesis in History, 1996)

3 - In 1992, the 1990 Messina Hoff Johannisberg Riesling Texas Late Harvest Angel was the first Texas wine to earn a 90 in Wine Spectator. It is still the highest rated Texas wine on Wine Spectator.

4- 1997 Fall Creek Sauvignon Blanc was the first Texas wine to be named a Best Buy by Wine Spectator.

5 - 1998 McPherson Sangiovese Sagmore Vineyard was made from the first Sangiovese planted in the state.

Dallas Morning News "Texas sangiovese lands on list of James Beard semifinalists."

6 – 1999 Alamosa Cellars “El Guapo” Tempranillo. Jim and Karen Johnson planted the Hill Country’s first Tempranillo vines in 1998, and the El Guapo bottling was the first commercially available Tempranillo in the state.

7 – 2003 Haak Jacquez Madeira (released 2006). Haak Madeira is the first and only commercial Madeira made and bottled in the state of Texas. The Haak label was approved mere days before the 2006 agreement went into effect between the U.S. government and the European Union that banned the use of the titles Port, Sherry, Madeira and similar European-styled wine monikers on U.S. labels.

Edible Austin "Haak Vineyards and Winery"

8 – Duchman Vermentino & Montepulciano in KegIn 2010, Duchman became the first Texas winery to keg wines for serving on tap.

Vintage Texas "Whole Foods launches Duchman wines on tap! A new first in Texas wine history!"

Austin Culture Map Duchman Family Winery produces Texas wine with Italian flair

9 – The 2010 Bending Branch Cabernet from Newsom Vineyards was the first Texas Cabernet Sauvignon to win Double Gold at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. It was Bending Branch’s first wine to utilize cryo-maceration and set a trajectory for innovative technology.

Texas Wine Lover "Bending Branch Cabernet Sauvignon Wins Double Gold"

10 – The 2015 launch of Locations Brand TX by Napa Valley winemaker Dave Phinney and Kim McPherson, one of the first nationally distributed Texas wines.

Texas Monthly "McPherson Cellars Launches One of the First Nationally-Distributed Texas Wines"

11 – The 2017 Nectar Nero Texas Rosé by 4R Ranch Vineyards & Winery earned one of only nine sweepstakes medals awarded at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, a first sweepstakes medal for a Texas wine.

Dallas Morning News "4R Ranch is first Texas winery to win top honors in San Francisco wine competition"

12 - Sway Rosé by Yes We Can Wine became the first 100% Texas-grown canned rosé. It was first released in 2017 by Chris Brundrett of William Chris Vineyards and Andrew Sides of Lost Draw Cellars. It later won the first ever Gold medal awarded to a canned wine at the Houston rodeo wine competition.

First Ever Gold Medal Awarded to Yes We Can Wine's Sway Rosé, at Houston’s Rodeo Uncorked International Wine Competition"


VIDEO: Discussion of the 2017 Harvest and picking decisions with Fall Creek Vineyards' Director of Winemaking Sergio Cuadra

What is Brix?

What I'm Drinking

Sway Rosé

"Is the Future of Wine in the Can?"