by Andrew Chalk photos by Robert Bostick
We have reported that the Roussanne grape does well in Texas’s climate and soil and pondered whether it is the next breakthrough Texas grape. The answer will come when Texas Roussanne wines match the quality of Roussanne wines from California. In order to find out how they are doing, I organized a blind tasting open to all Texas Roussanne producers. Nearly all of them submitted two bottles of their current offering.
We knew that Roussanne is much less widely made than Viognier, the premier white grape in the state. Nonetheless, we got participation from a total of six wineries who provided nine different wines. Submissions had to comply with the Federal rule that at least 75% of the grapes in the bottle must be the variety that appears on the label. All of the wines had Texas, or an American Viticultural Area (AVA) within Texas, as their place of grape origin.
WinePoste.com, the event space and wine retailer in the Dallas Design District, offered us a private room and first class glassware. As with previous tastings of this kind, we chose professional sommeliers as the tasters in order to bring to bear the judgement of the most discriminating palates. Ten sommeliers participated, and over a three hour window they swirled and sniffed their way through the submitted wines and rendered their judgements in the form of a ranking. I tasted as well, but excluded my scores from the calculated results as I knew the names of the wines being tasted and had done the setup of the bottles in brown, numbered bags.
In order to give this exercise a point of comparison, I included wines from California and France that I purchased at retail in the Dallas area. These proved to be harder to source than I expected and I ended up with two California examples and one French one, despite trying every major fine wine seller in the Dallas area.
Below, are the results:
|1||2012 Arche, Oswald Vineyard, THP||$23.95||Oswald Vineyard|
|2||2012 McPherson Cellars, Reserve, THP||$18.00|
|3||2010 Brushy Creek, Oswald Vineyard, Texas||$24.99||Oswald Vineyard|
|4||2012 Arche, VR Oswald Vineyard, THP||$43.95||Oswald Vineyard|
|5||2012 McPherson Cellars, Texas||$14.00|
|6||2011 Dom. Lancyre, Vin de Pays de Monterrand||$19.74||Top non-Texan wine|
|7||2012 Barking Rocks, Oswald Vineyard, THP||$20.00||Oswald Vineyard|
|8||2013 Eden Hill Vineyard, Oswald Vineyard, THP||Oswald Vineyard|
|9||2012 Calais Winery, La Cuvee Principale, THP||$22.17|
|10||2012 Eden Hill Vineyard, Oswald Vineyard, Texas||Oswald Vineyard|
|11||2012 Sobon Estate, Amador Co., CA||$16.99||Second non-Texan|
|12||2011 Donkey & Goat, Stonecrusher, El Dorado||$32.99||Third non-Texan|
|THP = Texas High Plains|
Texas wines took the top five slots with the lone French entry coming sixth. The two California entries occupied the bottom two positions in the rankings. The top wine is Arche’s 2012 from the Texas High Plains. This was my personal favorite, and quite a find. It is complex, with excellent weight on the mouthfeel, tropical fruit, vanilla and ripe pear on the nose and reaffirmation of the tropical fruits in the palate. When Arche submitted it, I was quite eager to taste it as earlier that month it had won a platinum medal and scored 93 points at the San Diego International Wine Competition. It exceeded my expectations.The grapes came from the same Oswald Vineyard as most of the other Texas wines, so a lot of the credit must go to rising-star winemaker Grayson Davies, son of the founders.
Second place went to the consistently good McPherson Cellars, where Kim McPherson elevates the quality of Texas wine year after year. Matt Thompson said it had “integrated acid and fruit. Floral and pleasant aromatics. Nice Wine”. McPherson also came fourth with his non-reserve bottling, which is a bargain at just $14.
Brushy Creek, in third place, is a long-established Texas winery that appears to be a late bloomer. After an erratic record a few years ago, they have started to make good examples of varietally-correct wines. Their Klassen Vineyards Tempranillo placed fourth (out of 23) in our Tempranillo tasting last year. Brian Brill described their entry as “very well made wine”.
Barking Rocks, in seventh, is another improving winery. Simon Holguin found it “rounded, supple but muted”. Newcomer, Eden Hill Vineyard, just north of Dallas, is showing that it is very serious about its winemaking. While the winery establishes itself, winemaker Chris Hornbaker shuttles between a day-job as a web developer for a major Frisco corporation, oenology and viticulture classes at Grayson College, and making wine. He may wonder, but he is winning the battle. His 2013 beat out his 2012 and Daniel Kelada found it “a simple wine, ready to drink, that is on the fresher side”. Calais Winery produced a highly regarded Roussanne in 2011 but the 2012 we tasted was judged ‘unbalanced with acid out of whack’ by Matt Thompson although Simon Holguin found it “very different but in a great way”.
The takeaway from this tasting is that the future of Roussanne in Texas is bright and the state is already on a par with California. We need more rigorous blind tastings to confirm this. Within the state, Viognier may find itself displaced as the state’s premier white variety. More broadly, if Texas winemakers can successfully blend Roussanne with its blending counterparts in the Rhône Valley, Texas Roussanne blends could start to challenge French white wines from the Rhône. And that would be one avenue for Texas wine to enter the world stage.
The TastersKarla Barber. Instructor International Sommelier Guild. Brian Brill. Advanced Sommelier. Dilek Caner, Master of Wine Kasey Carpenter. Wine writer Simon Holguin. General Manager, Beverage Director, Kitchen LTO. Daniel Kaleda. Executive Wine Sommelier and Senior Wine Instructor,International Wine Guild. Jeremy King. Republic National Distributing Company Anthony Martinez. Sommelier, Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center. Steve Murphy. Advanced Sommelier. Matt Thompson. ISG Certified Sommelier.