As a state with extreme weather variation including hail, freezes, and severe drought, Texas has become known as one the most difficult winemaking regions of the world. The Lone Star State is not at all new to winemaking, but until recent years had unfortunately been known for less than stellar wines. That is simply not the case any longer. Hardship, varietal experimentation, winemaking style changes, and perseverance have led our local industry to the top of the heap in regard to world class wine.
As we have excelled to new heights in quality never before achieved in Texas winemaking, Tempranillo, Tannat, Touriga Nacional, Sangiovese, Syrah, Vermentino, Viognier, and many other grape varieties have carried us there. Why am I babbling on about Texas wine history you ask? Well, it is relative to the story of my mission to find a “mind blowing” Cabernet Sauvignon made from 100% Texas fruit. That’s right, 100% fruit grown in this hot, dry state with unrelenting sweltering heat and a growing season so short that the grapes are begging for another few months on the vine with cooler temperatures. Heck even in Spain, home of our beloved Tempranillo grape, harvest is still well into mid-September through mid-October.
As a budding sommelier in the industry, I find myself asking…what about Cabernet Sauvignon? We know this confident and hardy Bordeaux varietal thrives in climates with warm days, cool nights, and a fast draining warm soil type like the pebbles of Margaux, Bordeaux. But what about Texas?
The top growers in our state know that Cabernet fears nothing, it CAN handle the heat, it WILL ripen properly, and it CAN be coaxed into something massive yet friendly. Is it natural or easy to do? Not necessarily. Can it be done? Well, I am now truly convinced! The proof is in the pudding my friends and my palate is the judge.
What was I looking for in a “mind blowing” Texas Cabernet? Let me explain. I was looking for a structure that fully represents what this varietal is known for in its prime. In my opinion a Cabernet should be massive, yet palatable. Big gruffy tannins and a gentle acidity. Big black fruits and a hint of spice and toast from the barreling. A wine with a long finish and a flavor profile so pleasing, it leaves you wanting more and more. My mission led me to this particular wine and it has made me question everything I have ever spouted about Texas Cabernet. The Meritus is a game changer in my mind. Now, my friends, on to the wine itself!
This bottle is a superb Fall Creek release. The heavy bottle and elegant label attest to the quality of what is inside the thick glass tomb. When I initially read the label, I honestly expected a wine with a lack of acids and a tannic, yet flabby structure being strictly Hill Country sourced Cabernet. Boy, was I completely wrong and please don’t judge me as I judged the label; like I said I was looking for a real “game changer.”
What I did get was a wine that reminded me of Napa, a wine with such driving force that I was sort of taken aback. In a tilted glass, this wine is inky and nearly black. Once awoken via circular dances, she pitches aromatics of black fruits, spices, and nuances of oak. The palate completely confirms the nose with near identical tasting notes for me. The huge phenolic tannins on the front of the palate beg for a juicy steak and a loaded baked potato, but to a robust red wine aficionado like myself, the gum sucking astringency is a welcome sensation from a Texas Cab and I could drink this wine all day, any day, on its own. The flavors are so rich and intense that I mentally transport myself back to Napa standing in Odette Estate Winery sipping on 15% alcohol Cabs and Merlot from PlumpJack and CADE wineries. I am not kidding guys and gals, this bottle is the real deal and it wholly represents what can be done in Texas with a Cabernet Sauvignon with a splash of its lovely significant other, Merlot. Now to the nitty-gritty.
2010 Meritus by Fall Creek Vineyards
- Alcohol 13.7% by volume
- Appellation: Texas Hill Country
- 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot
- 20 months in French and American oak barrels
- Clarity/Brightness: Clear/bright with no detectable flaws
- Tannins: High
- Acidity: Medium
- Alcohol: Medium plus
- Finish: Medium plus to long
To those of you that have been searching for a “mind blowing” Texas Cab, I bring you the Meritus!
Sip, savor, and enjoy my fellow aficionados.