Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Preview of Spring: New Wine in the Texas Hill Country.

Spring hides behind the winter clouds, waiting for just the right moment to emerge and breath new life into bare trees and, for the Texas wine industry, the dormant vines. This bright new year is already upon us, at least for the wineries of the Texas Hill Country. Even though the vines sleep, new wines signal a new year. And this year has already started out exceptionally well.

Lost Draw Celllars

The first major beginning unfolded on a cool, sunny Saturday in January. Many of us gathered in a small courtyard not far from Main Street in Fredericksburg. That afternoon, the ribbon was cut, welcoming Lost Draw Cellars to the Hill Country. Many who had gathered already knew the winery's portfolio, as they opened for tastings in November 2014; however, now the winery's opening was official.
The Lost Draw Family with the representatives for the City of Fredericksburg
Lost Draw Cellars started in the High Plains. Andy Timmons, owner of Lost Draw Vineyards in the Texas High Plains, his nephew Andrew Sides, and Andrew's father-in-law Troy Ottmers came together to offer Texas another great winery. The winery boasts wines made from Lost Draw Vineyards fruit, as well as grapes from other Texas vineyards. At the moment, out of state fruit is used to bring depth and variety to the Lost Draw portfolio; that is until they can make 100% Texas wine.

The two Texas standouts are the Reserve Sangiovese and the Tempranillo. These rich, complex reds do not just join the growing lists of Texas Sangioveses and Tempranillo but take their well deserved place. The Sangiovese has rich fruit flavors and earthiness, much like its Italian counterpart. The Tempranillo is round, accentuated by rich fruit and notes of the High Plains' terroir. The diverse collection of whites and the three blends provide striking contrast to the dusty Texas High Plains reds.

Bending Branch

Just down the highway from Lost Draw, Bending Branch Winery offers some new Texas reds. After a year of firsts, including the use of the first flash detante' in Texas, a new Tempranillo and Tannat have finally seen light. Three Texas whites, Picpoul Blanc, Vermintino, and a Roussane and Viognier blend will deepen Bending Branch's Texas roots.

For now, the 2012 Tempranillo, from Newsom Vineyards on the High Plains, offers a taste of Rioja. The subtle red drinks smooth, a velvety wine with dark red berry notes. After closer inspection, the dusty soil of the High Plains takes over, resembling the dusty flavors of a Spanish Rioja. But Texas predominates, as hints of limestone and more nuanced darker fruit flavors seep in. This wine is a hot day, the sun the only object in the sky; and of course, it could be Spain or Texas. The careful aging produces soft oak flavors that build with the tannins.

William Chris

And as usual, new experiments at William Chris Wines bring new delights to Texas wine. Looking for other ways to produce sparkling wine, they turned to traditional sparkling methods. Instead of using méthode traditionnelle, they decided upon Pétillant naturel.

Also called Pet-nat, a term bandy about at the winery these days, this method completes primary fermentation in the bottle. The bottle fermentation creates natural CO2 as the yeast eats away at the grapes' sugars. This is not any wine drinkers wine. This opaque wine is not filtered, which leaves the lees behind. William Chris's recent Cinsualt Rosé Pet-nat is a creamy dark pink with a lightly frothy head, punctuated by the normal rose fruits and a beer-like flavor from the yeast. However, do not expect a lot of wines like this because this method needs lots of attention as the wine ferments in the bottle; do expect other experiments with this unique French method.

The view of 2015's horizon stretches out into a multi-hued Texas sunset. Old favorites will draw us in, and the new ones will surprise and inspire us. It won't be long, Spring will arrive and the wildflowers will flood the Texas Hill Country. Now is the time dare to try something new.