Top

dining

Stories

 

Texas Wines: Behind the Cellar Door

Not all the Texas wine you buy is made from grapes grown in our state. In fact, most of it isn’t.

Kim McPherson, one of the state's most beloved and respected winemakers and a son of one of the industry's founders, painfully concedes: "In 2011, only about 20 percent of my [flagship] viognier was sourced from Texas vineyards," with the balance from California. "When your wine is sold in supermarkets and your distributors expect you to deliver the wine every year, there's no other way."

And in the case of our state's largest winemaker, Ste. Genevieve, producer of under-$10, "supermarket-friendly" wines, only a "drop in the bucket" comes from Texas farms, says French-born wine expert Benedict Rhyne.

But in a twist, says Rhyne, not all of it comes from California — some of it comes from as far away as Spain and Chile, equally arid growing regions that Texas should be looking to in order to learn how to grow and make better wine, not purchase grapes on the cheap to blend here into bad table wine.

"We're handicapped pretty severely if we don't choose the varietals that work with the terroir," says Haak, who makes wines with a grape that's well-suited to Texas's climate: the Blanc du Bois.
Katharine Shilcutt
"We're handicapped pretty severely if we don't choose the varietals that work with the terroir," says Haak, who makes wines with a grape that's well-suited to Texas's climate: the Blanc du Bois.
Clint "Doc" McPherson helped establish some of Texas' first commercially successful wineries. His son, Kim, is now one of the state's most beloved and respected winemakers.
Jeremy Parzen
Clint "Doc" McPherson helped establish some of Texas' first commercially successful wineries. His son, Kim, is now one of the state's most beloved and respected winemakers.

Location Info

Map

Haak Vineyard and Winery

6310 Ave. T.
Santa Fe, TX 77510

Category: Breweries and Wineries

Region: Outside Houston

Details

Although Mark Hyman, vice president of sales and marketing for Llano Estacado — producer of two under-$20 Chardonnays — declined on two occasions to reveal the percentage of out-of-state fruit bottled by the company, a leading industry insider (who spoke on condition of anonymity) estimates that up to 90 percent of the winery's overall production is sourced beyond the Texas border.

Llano Estacado also produces a superb "reserve" Tempranillo made from 100 percent High Plains fruit. At around $20 retail, the label represents one of the state's best efforts in terms of its drinkability, varietal typicity and price-quality ratio. But when you must consistently deliver "approximately 168,000 cases a year at present, making us the largest premium winery in the state," as Hyman wrote in an e-mail, you simply have to look beyond Texas when it comes to the bottom line.

Although the Extension Service's Westover would disagree — saying diplomatically that "each region has its own unique aspects" — Bobby Cox, recently installed president of the Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association, puts it succinctly: "Ninety-nine percent of Texas is unsuited to [fine wine] grape growing."

The challenge lies not only in identifying the right spots (Westover estimates that only 25 percent of the sites he inspects for potential winegrowers are suitable), but also in identifying the right varietals to grow here. In places like Chile and Spain, those grapes are Tempranillo and Mourvèdre — grapes that will grow well here if only big wineries would stop focusing on better-known but far less suitable Chardonnays and Cabernets. This kind of whittling down of varietals is something that other countries (and even U.S. states) have done for years.

"The French planted every kind of variety that they could find hundreds of years ago," says Raymond Haak. "The answer to the question, 'How do you sculpt an elephant out of a one-ton block of granite?' is very easy: You just chip away everything that's not elephant. That's what you do with wine.

"You take away everything that's not producing great wines — and that's what the French did, and they look like geniuses now. It just took 'em a couple hundred years to get there."
_____________________

Texas doesn't have a couple hundred years to get there, though, with wine consumption becoming increasingly popular both in the U.S. and around the world. If we want to compete on an international level, Texas needs to grow different varietals and better grapes. Better grapes means less chemical correction in the cellars after the fact — adding tartaric acid, for example, to reduce the flabbiness in wines that comes from the heat burning off grapes' acidity on the vine — and more terroir, that ineffable and highly desired sense of tasting the very soil in which a grape was grown.

As it stands now, almost all Texas winemakers chemically correct their wines. "When people ask me whether or not I acidify my wines," said one of the state's leading winemakers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, "I answer by saying, 'This is Texas.'"

Even in the Texas High Plains in the Panhandle, where cooler temperatures make the AVA the top growing area in the state, the grueling summer heat generally makes acidification of wine a foregone conclusion. Except where Lewis Dickson is concerned.

Dickson — an expat Houstonian — runs the La Cruz de Comal winery, where the criminal defense attorney-turned-"natural" winemaker produces "courageous" bottlings, as writer and natural-wine authority Alice Feiring once told a reporter. It's an entirely different world from the days he spent defending such colorful subjects as cross-dressing "millionaire murderer" Robert Durst (accused of killing and dismembering his Galveston neighbor), Texas politician Tom DeLay (now a convicted felon) and some of Houston's leading drug traffickers while at the notorious Houston law firm of DeGuerin & Dickson.

But in 2001, Dickson turned his back on a jet-set lifestyle that included a full-time suite at the Four Seasons hotel in downtown Houston and began growing grapes and making wine in Starzville — an improbable, however beautiful, backdrop for the production of fine wine. Under the tutelage of legendary Sonoma grower and bottler Tony Coturri, a pioneer in natural winemaking in California, Dickson grows grapes without the use of herbicides or pesticides, and he bottles his wines without the application of pharmaceutical yeasts, acidification or sulfuring — an approach virtually unthinkable for the vast majority of Texas winemakers who employ these techniques liberally.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
17 comments
Burris Travis
Burris Travis

A buddy's mother makes $65 every hour on the computer. She has been without a job for seven months but last month her payment was $14505 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this web site lazycash42.c()m

Burris Travis
Burris Travis

as Frances said I am dazzled that anyone able to get paid doller5846 in four weeks on the internet. have you read website lazycash42.c()m lazycash42.c()m lazycash42.c()m

Bobbygrape
Bobbygrape

I would like to clarify my quote. I said that 99 % of Texas is unsuitable for COMMERCIAL winegrowing. That means a winegrowing venture that I would smile at if you invested your 401-K in because you would receive a nice return . That's 1.7 million acres guys, over three times the size of CA winegrowing. Lewis Dixon is a swell guy but he will never "make the market" with those wines at that price point but Dave, Paul and Richard are developing a true market for Texas grown wines. Drink up we'll grow more! Bobby Cox

Billy
Billy

as Crystal implied I'm alarmed that some people can profit $9347 in 1 month on the computer. have you seen this website lazycash42.c()m lazycash42.c()m lazycash42.c()m

Stevemorgan
Stevemorgan

When are we going to hear back from our authors about all the mis-information in this article? For example, wrong information on the Hill Country AVA, wrong information about the acreage in all the AVA's mentioned, and leaving out the information that other areas and countries use "tartaric acid" and other additives to their wine. Are the wines of France and Germany leading the life of a "dirty little secret" because they sometimes add sugar?

Gilbert
Gilbert

what Christopher replied I didn't even know that a stay at home mom able to profit $5611 in four weeks on the internet. did you look at this web site lazycash42.c()m

Gilbert
Gilbert

as Crystal implied I'm alarmed that some people can profit $9347 in 1 month on the computer. have you seen this website lazycash42.c()m lazycash42.c()m lazycash42.c()m

Circle S Vineyards
Circle S Vineyards

We've been growing Mediterranean varietals in our Centerville, Texas vineyards and producing the wines in our Sugar Land, Texas location for over a dozen years now. As most growers have discovered they do very well here in Texas. We just this week released our 2009 Nebbiolo. Lots of Texas wineries fight the same battle; customers only know "Cab" or "Merlot" so then the education process begins.

Patrick Davies
Patrick Davies

This story is misleading. Texas is not alone in using "chemicals" like Tartaric Acid. Which, by the way, is not some inorganically derived petroleum or otherwise based nasty thing. Tartaric acid is the acid that makes up over 90% of a grapes total organic acid content. And,as decreed by federal law, it must be derived from grapes and not produced through chemical reactions of non-grape material. Most, if not all, is produced in the US or Europe. Also, From Walla-walla all the way down to Temecula and everywhere in-between, Tartaric Acid is used in ABUNDANCE. California, Washington, Oregon and yes Texas. In addition, Naturally occurring yeast is seldom the case. One will find that in brand new vineyards, with a brand new winery... there is nothing natural that will properly convert grape juice to drinkable wine. Usually what happens is after a few years of standard winemaking, the wine cellar starts building up cultures of cross-bred wine yeasts, derived from the multitude of "pharmaceutical" grade yeasts used in prior years.

Mann Rita
Mann Rita

what George replied I'm amazed that anyone able to earn $5349 in one month on the internet. did you see this site lazycash42.c()m

SueB
SueB

Shoddy "journalism"at it's finest. Since 2009, the TX Hill Country AVA has been the third largest, not the second largest AVA in the U.S. Try some research!

Gentry June
Gentry June

as Hazel answered I am inspired that a student can profit $8394 in four weeks on the computer. did you look at this link lazycash42.c()m

Dustin Kalman
Dustin Kalman

This is something I've known for a while. We need more grapes grown in Texas and they have to be the RIGHT grapes. The only problem I have with this article is that it makes it sound like Haak doesn't buy any grapes from outside of Texas. They have and I believe they still do but since they properly label & market their wines, I have no problem with this practice.

Joe Pat Clayton
Joe Pat Clayton

I've been telling Texas winemakers for years, grow the right grapes for the terroir. Wine should be about passion, unfortunately a good portion of the people that decide to start a winery project in Texas underestimate the business side of the wine industry and follow the Pied Piper of the same ol' varietals that grow everywhere else. It takes people that believe in what they are doing, like Mr. Dixon and Dr. Duchman, to go tie on a flour sack cape and jump off the barn. Sometimes you land in soft hay, sometimes you land in horse

Jeff Cope
Jeff Cope

Russ made some very good points with the need for accepting grapes other than the norm. This article was interesting as we just got back from our first trip to the High Plains. It concerns me as apparently the wineries are deceiving the consumers. For example, on our visit to Llano Estacado when asked what percentage of TX grapes they use, replied 90%. Reading this article, it's just the opposite where it said 90% are out of state. We met up with quite a few grape growers in the High Plains. For a long time I have heard that Texas just doesn't grow enough grapes requiring the wineries to go out of state for fruit. I asked more than one grape grower why that was the case when there is plenty of unplanted land owned by the vineyards in the High Plains. The answer by all was pointing the finger back at the wineries with answers such as they are not able to accept more grapes or are not able to handle the capacity for production. If the need was there, they would gladly plant more. But if there isn't anybody ready to accept the extra grapes, it is a loss on the grape grower's part. I look forward to the day when we have no problem in finding a 100% grown Texas wine. Jeff Cope

Russ Kane
Russ Kane

Just read this, but it fits with this story: "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." - T.S. Elliot

Russ Kane
Russ Kane

Good pentrating view of the Texas wine industry and its challenges. You've highlighted an important aspect that needs to be handled before a major ramp up in production of Texas grapes can possibly fulfill demand. The grapes for Texas have to want to grow here. This is actually a very simple concept, but with a complicated path as it will likely not include the most commonly known grapes in the American wine lexicon. Texas winegrowers are still in the hunt for their wine grapes with some good successes with Blanc Du Bois, Vermentino, Tempranillo, Aglianico, Viognier and Roussanne. They have started producing award winning wines at the International level. However, effort now needs focus on making these wines dependably, economically and sustainably year in and year out. And, of course, working to get the word out that great wines can be made from grapes other than Cab, Merlot, Chard and Pinot. Once this happens, investment will follow and expansion in vineyards will eventually meet the demand as it has in all of the other wine producting regions. However, it may take 10, 30 or over 100 years just as it has in other wine producing regions around the world. However, 10-20 fits my timeline and lifetime and I'm enjoying the variety as the experiments continue. Cheers, Russ Kane

 
Loading...