By Jeremy Wilson and Jeff Cope
The Texas wine industry is growing by leaps and bounds which means more press coverage outside of the state. I remember just a few years ago it was rare to have someone visit from out of state for wine; it was typically a coincidence they even ended up in wine country. Fast forward to present time, and I regularly see people in the tasting room that reside in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, etc. The best part? They are visiting Texas to taste wine! Yes, you heard that correctly. It is no longer just coincidence, they want to visit Texas to taste wine first and foremost.
An estimated 1.5 million tourists visit Texas wineries a year and there are so many places to visit in Texas concerning wine. It comes to no surprise that Texas wine is making big headlines around the world as Texas wine is winning awards at top competitions such as the Lyon International Wine Competition in France, San Francisco International Wine Competition, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition, and the TEXSOM International Wine Awards.
This does beg the question for those of you who are out-of-town and out-of-state though; where in the state do you go during your first visit? With roughly 300 operating wineries in the state of Texas and more opening almost monthly, Texas is a large state which makes the question even harder to answer. We at Texas Wine Lover will try to help you.
Let’s discuss the first one which you most likely have heard of since it is the number two wine destination in the United States. That’s right, number two! The Texas Hill Country is the wine capital of Texas without a doubt and has the highest concentration of Texas wineries. Located in the heart of central Texas, just west of Austin, this is ground zero for Texas winemaking. In fact, Wine Enthusiast Magazine released their global list of “10 Best Wine Travel Destinations 2014” which included the Texas Hill Country as a wine location to visit.
The Texas Hill Country Wineries association has 46 member wineries and are always planning events and other fun things to do in the Hill Country. We think the wineries who are part of Texas Hill Country Wineries make up the best wineries in the Hill Country. You should definitely check out the Texas Hill Country Wineries website and plan on visiting their wineries first.
The next largest area in Texas with wineries has to be the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It is no coincidence that located in the center is Grapevine, Texas, and recently even more wineries have moved into Grapevine definitely improving its stature in the state. With big name wineries opening up in Grapevine, this is one of the top locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area you should visit. There are also wineries in Dallas and Fort Worth, but do not forget the surrounding area. You should definitely visit the wineries around McKinney and the area on the east side of Dallas, and even west and northwest of Fort Worth. As always, Texas Wine Lover is there to help with a winery map to show you every winery in the state to visit. This gives you great information as to what wineries are around the area of Texas you are visiting.
Another growing area of wineries in Texas is East Texas. At first known as a location to make primarily sweet wines and wine from non-vinifera grapes such as Muscadine grapes, times are changing. It was commonly believed that you cannot grow vinifera grapes east of I-35 which runs down the middle of the state, but somebody forgot to tell the people of East Texas. There are a couple estate wineries that are growing vinifera grapes and are making great wine such as Syrah and Merlot. There is a lot of driving in East Texas to get to the different wineries, much like the Hill Country, but it is worth it to visit these gems.
Just as every state in the United States has a winery, the same is true for other areas of Texas. Another area with a large population of wineries is the Houston area. There are some located in Houston, but within an hour or so drive outside of Houston, are award-winning wineries.
Don’t forget the High Plains of Texas though near Lubbock. Terry County, south of Lubbock, has been proclaimed the the Grape Capital of Texas, and the reason is that most of the vinifera grapes in Texas are grown there. Here you can find the grapes grown to make the wines you have commonly heard of such as Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.
While we’re talking about grapes, please realize that when you come to Texas to try Texas wine, try not to get accustomed to drinking the same wines that you may be used to such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Yes, Texas grows and makes some fine wines from those grapes, but Texas is a different climate than say California or Oregon and that means different types of grapes thrive better here. Look to Spanish, southern Rhône, and Italian varieties to grow well in the hot climate of Texas and those are the wines that really do well in Texas. Wines such as Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, Aglianico, Viognier, Roussanne, and Trebbiano are excellent wines that are making their name in Texas.
Back to Lubbock, there are a few wineries there, but those are some great wineries because that is where the first great commercial Texas wineries were built and they still do well today. If you are in the Lubbock area, definitely visit these pioneer wineries.
There are other areas in Texas that have wineries but this should give you a start. Come to Texas and enjoy what Texas has to offer you. You can expect high quality wine and cuisine with the typical Texas charm we are very well known for. You better buckle up though, because Texas Wine might blow you right out of your seat!