I might have mentioned before that my wife and I are planning a late summer trip to Branson, Missouri. In order to get there, we must travel east through New Mexico before arriving at El Paso. Starting at El Paso, what lies before us is approximately 800 miles of travel across the great state of Texas. The primary decision factor will be whether to race through in 2 days or go more leisurely in three or more days. My wife got two votes, I got one vote, and consequently, I lost the election. If we were going to take several days, I felt that some pit stops to investigate the Texas Wine Country were in order.
Texas is huge! It is a land mass of over 262 thousand acres that is over 800 miles north to south and 733 miles from east to west. Guadalupe Peak at 8,749 feet is the highest point and the Gulf coast sea level the lowest. You can travel any where in Texas because it has a nation leading 305,951 miles of road. The state divides into four wine growing areas: Northeast Texas, East Central Texas, Southeast Texas and Western Texas. Texas has a long history of wine production starting near El Paso in the 1650′s. If you drew a line from Corpus Christi west to San Antonio, north to Wichita Falls, and follow the Texas state boundary east and south back to Corpus Christi, you would have a polygon containing most of the wine production. There are important but scattered wine growing areas in west Texas near the key cities of El Paso, Fredericksburg and Lubbock.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are by far the key wines grown in Texas. Syrah, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Viognier and Pinot Gris are also leading grape varieties. A total of 3,200 acres is currently under production. Nearly 2 million gallons of wine were produced in Texas in 2005, making this state the fifth largest producer in the United States. The University of Texas System is the largest wine producer with nearly 1/3 of all acres currently under cultivation in the entire state. The advent of Prohibition (1920-1933) in the U. S. virtually eliminated the Texas wine industry until a modern time revival in the 1970′s. The wine industry in the state still feels the effects of Prohibition with a quarter of the counties still having “dry laws” on the books.
The Texas Hill Country has become a major wine tour destination that is only rivaled by California’s Napa Valley. The area is characterized by rolling hills, small quaint towns, rambling old farmhouses, and scattered vineyards with up-and-coming tasting rooms. A great location to start an adventure in this area is Fredericksburg. You could do a drive-yourself tour or gather a group and take a luxury bus tour. Letting someone else drive, which allows you to have fun and try mostly all wine you come across, makes a lot of sense. Many communities have their own wine festivals and people are attending them in ever-increasing numbers.
Many of us have danced the Texas Two-step. I found another Texas tradition, the Texas Two-sip. The Texas Two-sip is a challenging, blind taste test of a collection of in state and out of state wines. The goal is to use your taste buds to find the best. There are special rules and forms to fill out, but no specific rules on what food you can eat. Sounds like a party to me. The only caution I have is I did not find out the rule when you get to take your blindfold off. Be careful where you step.
When I was in the military traveling home on leave, I had car trouble in Fredericksburg. The people took me in, fed me and housed me, while the resident mechanic repaired my heap. When I was getting ready to leave, they gave me the gift of a thank you for my service and covered all my bills. Because of the wine growing there, I now have another reason to take a pause there. Look out Highway 290 here we come.
Author: Ronald Senn, Vice-president, Ideal Wine Coolers, June 2010
Go Texan wine. Texas Two-Sip Tele-tasting part 1 of 5. Award-winning sommeliers Devon Broglie and Craig Collins guide you through a Texas Two-Sip blind tasting. Theyve paired one Texas wine with a comparable non-Texas wine from regions around the world. Www. Gotexanwine. Org