Tasting Wine: Some Texas wine is worth sampling

Before prohibition, or so I was told, more wine was made in Texas than in California. I’ve been on a mission of sorts to find the best wines made in states other than California. The first leg of this journey took me to the Texas Hill Country of Fredericksburg, where I visited several wineries and tasting bars.

Fredericksburg is about an hour’s drive from Austin and San Antonio. German settlers arrived there in the 1840s, and their presence is still seen in the number of German restaurants and beer pubs. Peaches and lavender are other locally grown specialties, but the big excitement in the region seems to be the up-and-coming wine industry.

I’m going to be honest; Napa does not have anything to worry about — yet. There is potential in the Hill Country. The problem is that many grapes inappropriate for the climate are grown because it’s hot there, even at night. I found it ironic that I was actually more impressed, overall, by the whites rather than the reds.

It’s not that easy finding wines from Texas in California. But for geeks out there who want to try a few of the best that Lone Star State has to offer, here are three I really enjoyed.

Becker Vineyards Viognier, 2007: Becker Vineyards was founded in 1992 and is considered by the locals as one of the best in Texas. I was especially impressed with the viognier, though the reserve chardonnay and reserve merlot were also notable. Fragrant with apricot, mango, orange zest aromas and lengthy fruit flavors, this is actually one of the better viogniers I’ve tasted of late from any locale. Suggested retail: $15

Alamosa Wine Cellars “Jacques Lapin” Chenin Blanc, 2004: The drive to Alamosa from the town of Fredericksburg was long, over an hour, but worth it. I’m cheating a bit with this suggestion; the fruit in this wine comes from the high Texas Plains where the nights are cooler than in the Hill Country. But “Jacques Lapin” may have been my personal favorite so I feel I should include it. With an Anjou-like almondy nose and floral, melon character, it was a surprising delight. Suggested retail: $14

Llano Estacado Gewurztraminer “Vintner’s Selection,” NV: This gewurztraminer is a great accompaniment to Tex-Mex. Spicy and sweet, with lychee nut, apricot and pear fruit, it has good acid balance and is, above all, very pleasant on the palate. Suggested retail: $11

Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.

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