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tomorrow's texas tea Print
Written by Nikitas Magel   

Spicewood VineyardsNM: Yes, in general, that wider diurnal range is a major factor in producing good wines.  Regions that have it tend to produce fruit with a greater degree of ripening but that still retains a high enough level of acidity to make for naturally balanced wines.  Now, speaking of the wines themselves, what's your overall assessment of the Texas wines you've tasted, focusing specifically then on those from the region you've described as showing the best potential, the High Plains?  Also, can you make any comparisons between these wines with those made from the same varietals in regions elsewhere here in the States and also internationally?

RK: Let's talk about the High Plains first off.  If we rewind back about 20 years, a winery up in Lubbock called Llano Estacado won the San Francisco International Wine Competition with a Double Gold medal for their Chardonnay.  It was grown up in the Texas High Plains.  That says to me that grapes from that region — even the classic varietals — can be quite good.  Although that's probably the only place in the state Texas that I can say that for Chardonnay.  Some other people have had some success in different regions, even with Cabernet or Cabernet blends.  But I can't think of any place else in the state that I would want to search for a Chardonnay.  And again, I think it's because the fact is they get this great diurnal shift in temperatures.  When I do wine classes, the thing I try to explain to people is that most premium wine producing regions have a cool body of water to their west — it gives them added cooling, as with fog rolling in, or evening temperatures dropping — like with Calfornia, France, Chile, or New Zealand, you always have some kind of body of cool water.  In Texas, we don't have that.  But what we do have is this elevation and lack of humidity in the northwest quadrant of the state, which make for hot, dry days and cool-to-cold nights — all of which give us premium grapes.

Varietal-wise, what we're learning is that Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre are the ones that people are finding they can so much with here.  Also, Tempranillo and Sangiovese.  They all just tend to take the heat and keep on going.

NM: Yes, very much like their respective regions of origin — southern France, central Spain, and Italy — which all have very warm, often hot and dry climates.  Now, what about white varietals?  You mentioned the occasional Chardonnay — are there any others?

RK: Probably the one single varietal that has really come on strong in Texas, like it has in a few other areas, is Viognier — it just loves the weather, it loves the soil, it's been grown in a variety of different settings in the High Plains, and even the Hill Country.  It loves the heat, it ripens very nicely in those areas.  One that I just had last week was from McPherson Cellars in Lubbock, which makes a High Plains Viognier.  There's also a relatively new winery called Brennan Vineyards in the northern part of the Hill Country, which won the grand champion award for their Viognier last year at an international wine competition that's done around the Texas Rodeo & Livestock show.  So, to me, that's a great example of a grape that really does well in Texas.  It can handle a lot of different environments like we have — we're about the size of France, so we have a lot of different terroirs.

Another interesting thing is that there's been several experimental plots grown of Italian varietals, where even in areas that are not like the Texas High Plains that have the cool nights, they still retain a lot of acidity.  That's one of the things typical of varietals from Italy; they make good food-wines because they have this good acid bite going.  So, we're finding that some of these red and white grapes from Italy — either as single varietal wines or blends ('Rosso' or 'Bianco') — are doing very well.

"There's an elevation and lack of humidity in the northwest quadrant of the state, which make for hot, dry days and cool-to-cold nights — all of which give us premium grapes."

As a matter of fact, I had one very good experience.  One winery actually makes a Pinot Grigio with grapes grown up there [in the High Plains].  Now, that's pretty tricky.  Because, if you've ever seen Pinot Grigio, they're not totally yellow-green; the riper they get, the more they turn kind of a pinkish color.  And the sun is so strong at that elevation, that if they're not careful with their canopy management, then they can actually get a blush or a rosé Pinot Grigio.  But it's got an intense fruit and a good acidity that carries it.  One thing that I do a lot of time is that I give people blind tastings between Texas and some other region.  A few years ago I did a tasting for the Italian-American Chamber of Commerce.  And one of the wines that I picked was a Messina Hof Pinot Grigio and they had that blind with another Pinot Grigio from Italy.  And when I took off the wrappers, the wine they had actually picked was the Messina Hof!  It just blew everybody's mind that you can actually do Pinot Grigio in Texas.  And that's how I tend to break down a lot of barriers, with these side-by-side tastings.  I love to do comparative tastings.



 

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