Texas Fine Wine intends to pour its way into the hearts of Sommeliers at 10TH anniversary TEXSOM


It’s always hard to overcome negative perceptions. The Texas wine industry has that problem. Despite several years of massive quality improvements that have brought home trophies and medals in prestigious competitions, Texas wine is still roundly seen as sub-par. One bad experience years ago could cause a wine lover to turn their nose up at all Texas wine.

A group of Texas wine makers is out to change that perception with a united effort to let consumers and wine experts taste just how good Texas wines are. Texas Fine Wine will co-host with Texas Monthly a hospitality suite on Sunday, August 10, at TEXSOM, the world’s largest education conference for wine professionals. The group, whose members include Bending Branch WineryBrennan VineyardsDuchman Family Winery and Pedernales Cellars, hopes to let sommeliers taste the quality for themselves. Texas Fine Wine will also pour wines for guests attending the August 11 Grand Tasting.

Fredrik Österberg Perdenales Cellars“Our focus is to bring more attention to fine wines made in Texas that can be found on the wine lists of some of the best restaurants and wine stores in the state,” says Fredrik Osterberg, co-owner of Pedernales Cellars. “We are truly grateful for the outpouring of support from the sommelier community for our wines. Sponsoring TEXSOM is one way for us to recognize the support of that community.”

Texas Fine Wine is a privately funded marketing initiative led by group of Texas wineries dedicated to producing quality wines sourced from Texas appellation vineyards. This group has held special wine tasting events and for the second year will woo some of the world’s best sommeliers at TEXSOM. The backing of Texas Monthly magazine certainly helps raise the group’s profile.

“Texas Monthly is sponsoring a hospitality suite along with Texas Fine Wines as a continuation of the magazine’s involvement with TEXSOM last year,” says Jessica Dupuy, Texas Monthly wine columnist. “Each of the wineries showcased at the suite had wines selected in the 2013 list of Texas Monthly’s Best Texas Wines. There will also be a few other wineries spotlighted from this list at the conference’s Monday evening Grand Tasting including McPherson Cellars, Spicewood Vineyards, and William Chris Vineyards. We continue to see great strides in the quality of Texas wines and this is a perfect opportunity to share these wines with a national community of influential wine professionals.”

Jessica Dupuy Texas Monthly

Check out this fat list of awards amassed by Texas Fine Wine wineries in the past few years:

Brennan Vineyards

  • Gold, 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Newburg Vineyard, 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
  • Gold, 2011 Tempranillo, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
  • Gold, 2011 Tempranillo, 2014 Dallas Morning News/TEXSOM Competition
  • Gold, W Winemakers Choice NV, 2014 Riverside International Wine Competition

Bending Branch Winery

  • Gold, 2011 Texas Tannat, 2014 Dallas Morning News/TEXSOM Competition
  • Top Texas Wine (Class Champion and Double Gold), 2011 Tannat, Estate Grown, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
  • Double Gold,  2011 Tannat-CM, Estate Grown, Appellation America’s Best of Appellation Awards
  • Double Gold-, 2011 Tempranillo, Newsom Vineyards, Appellation America’s Best of Appellation Awards
  • Double Gold, 2012 Picpoul Blanc, Estate Grown, Appellation America’s Best of Appellation Awards
  • Gold, 2011 Mourvedre, Reddy Vineyards, Appellation America’s Best of Appellation Awards

 Duchman Family Winery

  • Gold, 2011 Aglianico, Oswald Vineyard, 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition
  • Gold, 2011 Sangiovese, Reddy Vineyard, 2014 Dallas Morning News/TEXSOM Competition
  • Gold, 2011 Sangiovese, Martin Vineyard, 2014 Dallas Morning News/TEXSOM Competition
  • Gold, 2011 Tempranillo, Bayer Vineyard, 2014 Lone Star International Wine Competition

 Pedernales Cellars

  • Double Gold, 2012 Tempranillo Reserve, 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition
  •  Gold, 2011 Texas Tempranillo, 2014 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition
  • Gold and Best in Class, 2010 High Plains Tempranillo, 2014 International East Meets West Wine Challenge
  • Gold, 2012 Texas GSM, 2014 International East Meets West Wine Challenge
  •  Gold, 2012 George Bush 25th Anniversary Reserve Texas Tempranillo, 2014 International East Meets West Wine Challenge


What are you drinking?

Texas Wines Showcased at TEXSOM

TEXSOM,  an industry conference dedicated to the education of top beverage professionals in Texas and around the world, will feature an all Texas wine hospitality suite for the first time ever. What? A three day conference presented by the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas and the Texas Sommelier Association hasn’t always been about Texas wine? Well, not exactly. It has dozen’s of educational sessions about wine from all over the world. I’m thrilled to see our home state getting a showcase in front of this stellar audience.

Instead of doing a full blog post, I’m just going to paste the official press release for you to read (yeah I’m totally lazy):


 Sponsored by Texas Monthly, Suite to Feature Four Premier Wineries Pouring Award-Winning Wines and Consumer Favorites


Pedernales Cellars at TEXSOMAUSTIN, Texas (July 19, 2013) – For the first time ever, four of the Lone Star State’s most distinguished wineries have joined together to host a “Taste Texas Wines” hospitality suite at the 9th annual TEXSOM, a two-day educational and tasting conference for sommeliers and wine buyers, enthusiasts and educators.  Featuring only Texas appellation wines, the Taste Texas Wines hospitality suite is Sunday, August 11 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for registered TEXSOM conference attendees.

Sponsored by Texas Monthly, the Taste Texas Wines hospitality suite features wines that were recognized as “Best Texas Wines of 2012,” which included 10 red and 10 white wines from Texas appellations.

Brennan VineyardsDuchman Family WineryMcPherson Cellars and Pedernales Cellars will share some of their finest wines, all of which have received national and international acclaim at prestigious wine competitions, and represent some of the best wines produced in Texas.   The owners of these wineries will be available at the suite to discuss their wines and the growing Texas wine industry.

James Tidwell, Drew Hendricks, TEXSOM Founders“We are happy that these four wineries have banded together to promote not only the individual wineries, but also the dynamic Texas wine industry as a whole,” says James Tidwell, MS, TEXSOM co-founder.  “While TEXSOM is an international conference, Texas wineries have a significant presence at the various events and activities, including the Grand Tasting and Awards Reception and educational seminars. The Taste Texas Wines Hospitality Suite is a natural extension that allows even more wine professionals from around the world to experience Texas wines and winemakers.”

Tidwell notes that Brennan Vineyards 2011 Lily as well as the Pedernales Cellars 2012 Viognier and 2010 High Plains Tempranillo won gold medals at the 2013Dallas Morning News and TEXSOM Wine Competition.

In addition, at the 2013 Lyon France International Wine Competition, Pedernales Cellars received grand gold for its 2012 Viognier Reserve.  At the 2013 Pacific Rim Wine Competition, McPherson Cellars was awarded gold and best in class for its 2012 Dry Chenin and Brennan Vineyards received gold for its 2011 Tempranillo.  Brennan Vineyards also won the chairman’s award (unanimous gold) for its 2011 Dark Horse at the 2013 Riverside International Wine Competition.

At the 2013 San Francisco International Wine Competition, McPherson Cellars and Pedernales Cellars both earned gold medals for their 2011 La Herencia and 2011 Tempranillo Reserve, respectively.  Taking home silver at the competition was Pedernales for its 2011 GSM; Duchman Family Winery for its 2011 Trebbiano and 2011 Dolcetto, as well as bronze for its Tempranillo; and Brennan Vineyards earned silver for its 2012 Viognier, as well as bronze for its 2012 White Rhône Blend and 2011 Tempranillo.

At the 2013 Lone Star International Wine Competition, the Brennan Vineyards won gold and grand star award for its 2012 Lily; Pedernales Cellars won double gold for both its 2010 High Plains Tempranillo and 2010 Tempranillo Reserve and gold for its 2011 GSM ; and McPherson Cellars received gold for its 2012 Les Copains.

At the 2013 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition, Pedernales Cellars won double gold, Top Texas Wine, Class Champion and Texas Class Champion awards for its 2012 Texas Viognier, as well as gold for its 2010 Texas Tempranillo.

TEXSOM attendees will enjoy many of these award-winning wines and others at the Taste Texas Wines Hospitality Suite.  Here is a complete list of wines that will be poured:

  • Brennan Vineyards

–  2012 Viognier
–  2012 Lily
–  2011 Dark Horse
–  2011 Tempranillo
–  2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Duchman Family Winery

−        2011 Trebbiano
−        2011 Viognier
−        2011 Dolcetto
−        2011 Tempranillo

  •  McPherson Cellars

−        2012 Les Copains
−        2011 La Herencia
−        2012 Dry Rosé Vin Gris
−        2012 Dry Chenin
−        2010 Sangiovese

  •  Pedernales Cellars

−        2012 Viognier
−        2012 Viognier Reserve
−        2011 Texas Tempranillo
−        2010 Texas High Plains Tempranillo
−        2011 GSM


For more information about the Taste Texas Wines hospitality suite and the Texas wine industry go to www.TasteTexasWines.com

What are you drinking? 

Are Texas wines for real? A recap of the Austin Food & Wine Festival

We have a lot of pride in our state. Everything is not only bigger, but also better in Texas. Is that really true of everything? Sure we like to eat local and drink local, but come on, is Texas wine up to snuff?

A panel of celebrated wine experts convened at the Austin Food & Wine Festival to showcase a flight of Texas wines and answer the question, “Are TX wines for real?” Texas wine writer and author of The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine, Dr. Russell Kane, assembled master sommelier, Devon Broglie, master sommelier, Craig Collins, executive wine editor of Food & Wine, Ray Isle and advanced sommelier, June Rodil to review wines that have won gold medals in recent competitions. Kane selected these globally experienced sommeliers because they have the perspective to critically evaluate Texas wines in an unbiased way.

Kane selected these globally experienced sommeliers because they have the perspective to critically evaluate Texas wines in an unbiased way, and he was quick to point out that the wines selected for the tasting — the wines that do well in Texas – are not the standard West Coast line-up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.

“Texas just ain’t Bordeaux and it sure as hell ain’t Burgundy.” We have a terroir that is more akin to Europe than northern France or the West Coast of the U.S. Our variable continental climate is similar to southern European areas like Rioja and Rhone. Our soil is also similar. Texas is has limestone bedrock just as Spain and France do. The grapes that grow well in southern France, Portugal, Spain and Italy also grow well in Texas.

“If you look at what is being planted, Tempranillo is out stripping Cabernet two-to-one,” explains Kane.

The panelists took turns describing the wines made with lesser known grape varieties.

First up was 2010 Duchman Family Winery Vermentino made with grapes grown in the Bingham Vineyards in the Texas High Plains. Broglie started the discussion with an adroit observation: “What stands out is its frickin’ delicious.” It has bright lemon, and honeysuckle scent, and has good balance of acidity and fruit with white peach flavors and slight bitterness of lemon zest on the pleasant finish.

Vermentino grows well in coastal areas of Italy and is not a mainstay of U.S. wine. Kane says, “This is an indication of Texas wine future. We will be the location where interesting grapes will like Vermentino reside.” That’s not without challenges Broglie, acknowledges. “These producers have taken some risks by making wine out of non-standard grape varieties.”

Isle adds, “It’s a financial risk. Trying to get people to try varietals that they don’t know is risky.” This wine retails for about $14.

Next up was 2010 McPherson Cellars Roussanne Reserve, also made with grapes grown in the Bingham Vineyards. “McPherson is one of the founding fathers of Texas wine,” Kane says. “They have been in business for more than 40 years and have started making wines with grape varieties that grow well in the Mediterranean. ” The Roussanne grape, which grows in Southern Rhone, can handle the Texas heat and late spring frost.

“I look for wines to smell and taste like where they came from and that is what you see with this Roussanne,” Collins says. Isle comments: “I’m blown away by this Roussanne. It is a big, full-bodied white with great acidity that elevates the citrus flavors. It is outrageously refreshing on a Sunday morning.” Collins suggests pairing the McPherson with foods that go well with acidity. “I would immediately go with a heavier grilled fish or a lighter fowl dish like quail.”

Rodil adds, “Shellfish like Nantucket scallops, monkfish and lobster has natural sweetness that goes well with this wine.” This wine retails for about $18.

The third wine tasted was 2009 Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo. Isle, a Texas native who now resides in New York, mused about grape selection. “When I wander around Texas it feels like Spain to me, and I wonder why I there isn’t Tempranillo growing here. What I love about the grape is that it has great concentration of flavor, but doesn’t have the massive body of Cabernet. It has finesse and elegance. The Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo has leathery flavors with bright red fruit, great acid and lingering flavor. Serve this wine slightly chilled. While I wouldn’t mistake this for Rioja, I would recognize it as a typical Tempranillo. It has a different balance than a Spanish wine.”

Collins weighs in on balance: “You know how the pills we swallow are round and not triangular? They are round and smooth so they go down easily. We don’t take triangle pills that are jabbing us on the corners saying ‘ooh that’s too much.’ That’s what balance is. It’s having good integration of alcohol, acid and tannin to make it smooth and round. This Tempranillo is really balanced.” This wine retails for about $30.

Next up was the Kiepersol Estates 2010 Stainless Syrah from Tyler, Texas. Kiepersol ages its Syrah in stainless and not oak barrels. “The tannin you get from this is from the seeds and skin, not from oak,” says Kane. This wine is an inky-dark, teeth-staining, fruit forward style similar to Australian Shiraz. Collins described it as “definitely a great food wine. It pairs well with what we do well in Texas: grilling and BBQ. There is a pepper spice to the wine that goes well with grilled meat. I’d serve this a little bit cool.

“I’m a fan of ice cubes in wine. I make ice cubes from rosé wine and drop them in my glass. That kind of ice doesn’t water down the wine.” The Stainless Syrah is a limited production with only 500 cases made and retails for about $32.

The fifth wine was 2009 Sandstone Cellars VII, made with Touriga Nacional grapes grown in Mason County Texas. The grape is grown in Spain and Portugal and is a primary blending grape in Port. “I requested we taste this wine because it’s a great example of doing grape varieties that show the terroir of Texas. It has big complexity,” says Broglie.

“It’s a beefy, animally wine. And there is a lot going on here. It has dark purple color, dark berry flavors and is very tannic. It’s damn good wine.” Don Pullam, Sandstone Cellars winemaker, was in the room to soak up adulation for his wine that retails for about $20.

The last selection was 2008 Haak Vineyards Madeira made with Blanc du Bois grapes from the coastal Galveston area. The grape was genetically started in Florida to take the heat, but has become Texas’ own grape as it is one of the most planted in the state. Rodil encouraged the audience to embrace desert wines saying this one in particular pairs well with the breakfast sweet rolls served at the session. “The Haak Madeira has nutty floral and caramel flavors with a lift of bright acidity and citrus that balances out the sweetness. Once you taste it, you’ll want another drink.”

“It has a distinct character of bourbon barrels with vanilla flavors,” Isle adds. Rodil suggests that “[o]nce you open the wine, store it in a temperature controlled area and it will keep a long time. It has 18.5 percent alcohol, so you only have to drink an ounce of it — or six if you are me.”  Haak Vineyards Madeira retails for about $40.

Wines from a state not known as a premier wine producing state priced in the $30 and $40 range seem pretty steep. The panelists defended the pricing. “Some Texas wines are a steal,” Isle says. “I’d put this McPherson up against any Roussanne for $18 and it will blow them away.”

“Once people start buying more wines from Texas, the prices will balance out,” Rodil suggests.

The panel was a veritable love fest for Texas wines. If they are so good, why don’t they get broader recognition? Kane chalks it up to relative scarcity of Texas wines being exported. “About 97% percent of what we produce is consumed locally. Texas is fifth largest wine producing state, the fourth largest consuming and the seventh largest grape grower. Clearly we don’t have enough wine produced to serve the out of state market, so it is hard to get people in other states and countries to evaluate our wine. That’s why there are not a lot of reviews in national magazines and that will continue until production grows.”

With a vote of confidence from wine experts, will you give Texas wines a try?

This story previously ran on CultureMap.

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There will be meat! Cowboys + Gouchos carnivore fest coming March 4, 2012

Gaucho grilling at Cowboys + Gauchos

When you see a whole elk roasting over an open fire flanked by a lamb, a pig and a goat, you know you are at a carnivore-friendly fest. Chefs slice broad slabs of meat as the smell of roasted meat and barbeque swirl on the breeze while people twirl to Gary Knippa’s country tunes and watch dance performances by Nostalgia Tango. That’s exactly what you can expect to experience this Sunday, March 4, 2012 at the second annual Cowboys + Gauchos, a Wine & Food Foundation of Texas fundraising event. What better way to celebrate the 176th Texas Independence Day than by channeling your inner cowboy?

    • What: Second Annual Cowboys + Gauchos
    • When: Sunday, March 4, 2012,12:00 – 4:00 p.m.
    • Where: Salt Lick Pavilion, 18300 FM 1826  Driftwood, TX 78619 (not the BBQ restaurant)
    • How much: Foundation members: $40, non-members $50, children ages 13-20: $10 per person (non-refundable), children ages 12 and under are free
    • When you go: Purchase tickets online before you go. While the Foundation expects a great turn-out by members, you don’t need to be a member to attend. Check your pretense at the door and come for a good time. The attire is cowboy casual and you’ll want a hat to keep that gorgeous sun out of your eyes. Little cowboys are welcome to run wild on the sprawling property and play yard games. And don’t forget a package of toothpicks.

This unique event was dreamt up by Foundation board member Howard Kells, former owner of Doña Emilia’s South American Bar & Grill (now closed). He watched renowned Argentine chef Francis Mallmann wow Anthony Bourdain with his grilled meat in No Reservations, Season 4, in Uruguay and was enthralled. The France-trained Mallmann left the fussy world of fine dining behind with a keen interest to return to simplistic gaucho cooking (the word ‘gaucho’ being the call-name for Argentine cowboys).

As grilling is central to South American cuisine, it also serves as the inspiration for Cowboys + Gauchos. Kells wanted to emulate the massive scale grilling that Mallmann practices. He designed and custom built an immense grilling rack based on the one used on No Reservations by watching a recording of the show over-and-over and painstakingly recreating it. The one-of-a-kind rig is stout enough to roast a whole steer and even has the ability to adjust the cooking height and angles. The meat is grilled over a main fire, which is continually fed with coals drawn from a smaller side fire.

Wine and Food Foundation Executive Director, Marshall Jones, makes it all happen. He is the guy that landed a donation of all of the grilling wood from Butler Wood in South Texas. He is the guy that sources the whole 240 pound elk, pig, boar, goat and lamb. He is the guy who will stay up all night to roast the elk, starting at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday night, tending to it until it’s ready to eat around 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. He’s the guy that will ring the cow bell throughout the event to signal when another new meat is ready to serve. That’s a pretty cool assignment for a guy who runs a foundation.

Don’t be confused, this isn’t just a meat orgy or Paleo Diet convention. There will be other delightful dishes serve by Austin-based restaurants. Chef Charles Mayes will celebrate the 15th anniversary of Cafe Josie with a seafood dish at Cowboys + Gauchos. Other dishes include antelope chili and smoked quail from Wild Bubbas Wild Game Grill, cabrito and sweet potato tacos from Mansion at Judges Hill Restaurant & Bar, chocolate BBQ pork ribs from Zocalo Cafe and a selection of sweet and savory empanadas from MMMpanadas. There will be other delectable treats from Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, El Alma Restaurante Bar and Live Oak Barbecue. Delysia Chocolatier will provide a selection of truffles and the whole feast will be finished with s’mores roasted over the fire. There might be some vegetables, but you don’t have to eat them.

While Mallmann’s gaucho grilling influence initiated the concept for the event, the similarities between the gaucho and the cowboy, coupled with the Wine and Food Foundation’s bent on promoting local fare led to the prominent inclusion of Texas wines. Eight Texas wineries will be pouring on Sunday with an additional four South American vineyards.

Ed Auler, founder of Fall Creek Vineyards, will be pouring the limited production Fall Creek Vineyards Tempranillo, Salt Lick Vineyard, Texas Hill Country, 2009. This is a stellar wine that is hard to find and shouldn’t be missed. McPherson Cellars will pour its 2009 Sangiovese, 2010 Tre Colore and 2010 Rose of Grenache-Syrah. There will be a wide selection of meat-friendly reds and thirst-quenching whites from Alamosa Wine Cellars, Becker Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, E.&J. Gallo Winery, Gauchezco Vineyard & Winery, Casa Lapostolle, Llano Estacado, Spicewood Vineyards, Terrazas de los Andes and Vineyard Brands.

If beer is your thing, Thirsty Planet will have barrels of Thirsty Goat Amber Ale and Yellow Armadillo. Sweat Leaf Tea will provide tea to keep us hydrated.

Organizers are expecting a crowd of about 350 hungry revelers and hope to raise upwards of $5,000 to support the Foundation’s work. Proceeds from the event will support up-and-coming chefs and sommeliers through scholarships and the underwriting of the TexSom beverage conference.

I’ll be there with a big, grease-smeared grin on my face. This article also appears on CultureMap.

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Duchman Family Winery Releases 2010 Vermentino

Good things come to those who wait. I’ve always thought that was an inane cliché. An excuse to procrastinate. And procrastinate I do. Hell, I didn’t even get a birthmark until I was 12.

Sometimes good things do come in time. I recently visited the tasting room at Duchman Family Winery and its stand-out white wine, Vermentino, was sold out. I couldn’t buy any to take home and taste at my leisure and had to go to Bar Lamar in Whole Foods to get a glass to review. Oh the trials and tribulations of being a wine blogger. Fortunately Duchman has just released the 2010 vintage to end the horrible dry spell.

It turns out it’s not just me who has been waiting for the release. I spent a lovely evening at TRIO in the Austin Four Seasons tasting the new vintage of Duchman Vermentino with wine aficionados Jeremy Parzen (@DoBianchi), Nicole Carbon (@FabulousDrinks) and Master Sommelier, Devon Broglie (@dbrogues). We were doted upon by the brilliant Four Seasons sommelier, Mark Devin Sayre (@MarkDevinSayre).  Apparently it’s true that good things come to those who wait. The 2010 Vermentino was worth the wait.

Duchman Family Winery Vermentino 2010

Duchman Vermentino  is a well-received Texas wine, receiving accolades from national wine reviewers and getting the stamp of approval from local taste-makers Devon Broglie and Mark Sayre who both serve it by the glass at Whole Foods and TRIO respectively. The 2010 is true to its reputation. Duchman winemaker, Dave Riley, says 2010 is a great vintage for Texas wines. The relatively lower summer heat and lack of spring frost lead to a great harvest in the Bingham Family Vineyard with quality yields. Quality fruit leads to quality wine.

Look Very light yellow with shimmering clarity.
Smell Duchman Vermentino has bright lemon, sea breeze and honeysuckle scent.
Taste Crisp acidity, peach, and a hint of vanilla with a lingering bitterness of lemon zest on the pleasant finish. It has good balance of acidity and fruit.  This is a phone call from your college roommate. A spirited conversation peppered with jokes, making the minutes melt into boisterous laughter. It’s light, enjoyable and worth another.
Price $15


The new vintage of Duchman Vermentino was officially released on November 16th, 2011 and can be found around Texas at the following locations:

  • Duchman Family Winery (Driftwood)
  • Backstreet Café (Houston)
  • Sigel’s #1, #4, #5, and #9 (Dallas)
  • Fairmont Hotel (Dallas)
  • Trevisio (Houston)
  • Brenner’s on the Bayou (Houston)
  • Central Market Westheimer (Houston)
  • Plonk Bistro (Houston)
  • Whole Foods Gateway (Austin)
  • Whole Foods Lamar (Austin)
  • East End Wines (Austin)
  • Central Market Westgate (Austin)

 What are you drinking?

Texas Wine with Italian Flair, Duchman Family Winery

Before I moved to Texas I grew glorious vegetable gardens in Oregon and in the mid-west before that. My corn stalks and tomato plants reached the sky. My first few attempts to grow vegetables in Texas with my mid-western approach failed miserably. I was lucky to get one ripe tomato before the vines shriveled and died. What I learned first-hand is that I need to cultivate plants that grow well in Texas during Texan growing seasons.

This is something that isn’t lost on the folks at Duchman Family Winery. In 2004 Drs. Lisa and Stan Duchman planted six Italian grape varietals in Driftwood, Texas. The Vermentino, Muscato, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Aglianico and Nero d‘Avolo are all warm weather grapes that do incredibly well in the Texas climate. They are Italian varietal pioneers in the state as the first to plant Montepulciano and the first to start making Vermentino wine.  Like the Texas Longhorn, these grapes have a bent for survival in a sometimes unforgiving setting. With these Italian varietals, Duchman is making truly Texas wine.

Back in aught-four, the winery was named Mandola Estate Winery. This Tuscan-styled winery in the Hill Country southwest of Austin was co-founded by restaurateur Damian Mandola, who also has a deep passion for things Italian. The estate changed primary ownership and names to Duchman Family Winery in July 2010 to circumvent TABC concerns with Mr. Mandola holding liquor licenses for Trattoria Lisina, the restaurant next door to the winery. Never fear, winemakers Dave Reilly and Mark Penna stayed through the transition.

Where can you find Duchman Wines?

Duchman is a boutique winery, producing about 20,000 cases annually. While it isn’t the biggest winery, it is one of the largest that uses 100% Texas-grown grapes – sourced both from the estate and from vineyards in the Texas High Plains AVA (American Viticultural Area). It currently doesn’t have distribution out of Texas, but it’s relatively easy to find in wine shops and restaurants in Austin, Dallas and Houston. I’ve picked up bottles at Specs and have had a glass of Vermentino at happy hour at TRIO in the Four Seasons in Austin.

A great place to have a glass of Duchman wine is at Bar Lamar at the Whole Foods located at 525 N. Lamar Blvd., where they serve Vermentino and Montepulciano on tap. Duchman is the only Texas winery to offer wine on tap. To keep each glass as fresh as a newly opened bottled, they use stainless steel connections on the keg and pump food-grade Argon gas into the keg to keep oxygen out and to push the wine out. Whole Foods goes through the 24-bottle capacity kegs fast enough that they haven’t tested the longevity, but it should stay fresh for months.  It’s also environmentally friendly.  Kegged wine means there is very little waste on packaging – no bottles, no labels, no cork – and the kegs are recycled. It weighs half as much as the equivalent amount of bottled wine which saves fossil fuels in shipping.

The winery is also an excellent place to appreciate the wines. The estate is located just down the road from the Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood. The limestone buildings topped with terra cotta tile roofs set a romantic, Tuscan mood.  It has a gracious tasting room with plenty of space for you and your friends to spread out your wine glasses on the bar. You could spend all day there with a tour, a meal at the Trattoria or even a romp on the play scape. While the facilities are stylish, the real star is the wine. Here is what you can expect from three of their top selling wines.

2009 Duchman Family Vineyard Bianco

If you like slightly sweet white wine, this one is for you. The Bianco is 100 percent Vermentino made with arrested fermentation to retain a little bit of residual sugar and slight effervescence. The grapes are grown by renowned viticulturist, Cliff Bingham in the High Plains on six year old vines.

Look The Bianco shines light blonde and sunny as a Texas afternoon.
Smell It has fruity scents of delicate pear and lively green apple.
Taste This is a fruit forward wine with ample pear and honeyed apple. The sweetness is balanced with crisp acidity. It’s a light, easy drinking wine without any fussiness.
Price $9


2009 Duchman Family Vineyard Vermentino

This is a light, crisp wine that you can drink throughout the hot summer and right on into the holidays. It’s versatile and food friendly, at home on a picnic or paired with grilled seafood.

Look It shimmers with great clarity piercing the soft golden hues.
Smell The Vermentino has a nose of perfumed citrus and pear.
Taste This wine is lively with fruity pear and ruby red grapefruit flavors, with jasmine and herbaceous tones and pert acidity in the finish.
Price Sold out at the winery, but still available at retail locations.


2009 Duchman Family Winery Dolcetto

The Dolcetto is one of the first wines produced by Duchman. It carries a single vineyard designation from the Bingham Family Vineyard in the High Plains AVA. Outside of Texas, Dolcetto grows in Piedmont in North West Italy and thrives in a slightly cooler climate. Planting this vigorous varietal in the High Plains was an experiment that worked well. The Dolcetto is a light bodied, fruit forward wine with low acidity that sees no oak aging to let its true flavors shine through. I like it served slightly chilled with pasta or pizza.

Look The Dolcetto is light brick red, without a lot of concentration and good clarity. It looks like hearty cranberry juice.
Smell It has bright aromas of cedar and ripe raspberries hanging in the sun.
Taste Perky tastes of black cherry, blueberry and cola play on the tongue it eases into a brief finish. It lacks the heft and tannins of bolder varietals, making it a pleasant wine for easy drinking.
Price $14


If you are interested in enjoying a quality Texas wine, try one made from grapes that thrive in our climate. The Mediterranean, Spanish and Italian varietals seem to do as well as the native Bluebonnet. The Duchman Family has a knack for producing well-made Texas wines at appealing prices. Give them a try when you’re out on the town, in the mood for a winery visit or on your back porch.

Duchman Family Winery provided samples for this review. In addition, Duchman was a sponsor of my 2011 Mellow Yellow Benefit with proceeds supporting the Lance Armstrong Foundation to continue its fight against cancer.

This article also appears on CultureMap Austin.

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