Exploring Texas Wine at the Austin Wine & Music Festival

Do you remember the TV commercial where the two boys are reluctant to eat a bowl of Life cereal because they are certain it’s going to taste like crap? They pass it on to their little brother who happily eats it and they exclaim, “Hey Mikey! He likes it!” That’s my experience with Texas wine. I was certain I’d hate it because of a bad experience in the past, but when I gave it a try, I found some I like.

Outa state haters can keep your derision in check until you’ve done the same and given Texas wine a try. 

I started my education in Texas wines at the Austin Wine and Music Festival, held annually over the Memorial Day weekend. Not only was I able to taste fine wines from boutique Texas wineries, but I could get Sangria slushies and habanero honey all within earshot of live music. Now that’s a party. With a stemless wine glass in hand; I set out among the sea of tents housing 30 local wineries in search of a few wines that I would be proud to serve to any guests, any time.   

My quest for the goods began with Inwood Estate Vineyards & Winery. Every time I ask a Texas wine aficionado what their favorites are, they list Inwood among the tops. This is a boutique winery producing fewer than 5,000 cases a year. They were pouring three wines under the Segundo label, leaving the higher priced estate wines at home. I really liked all three.

Inwood Segundo Palomino-Chardonnay

This is an interesting white wine made of 75% Palomino and 25% Chardonnay grapes. Have you had a Palomino wine before? It’s the primary grape used to make Sherry in Spain. It’s a bold white wine, aged in French Oak and it stood up well in the near 100 degree heat at the festival.

Look Segundo shows soft yellow with bright clarity. It could pass for a Sauvignon Blanc in appearance.
Smell A burst of honeysuckle, honeycomb and pear announced that this is no meek wine. It’s as big as Texas.
Taste Lush, full bodied white with green apple, pear, vanilla and honey flavors and a clean, crisp finish that has a tiny hint of minerality.
Price $22


Next I ambled over to Dry Comal Creek Vineyards because I had met the owner, Bonnie Houser, during a preview of the festival and liked her vivacious style. They make wine with grapes grown in Texas, New Mexico, California and Arizona with an emphasis on fruit forward wines.

Dry Comal Creek Vineyards 2010 “Bone Dry” French Colombard   

This wine is a limited production wine, with less than 500 cases produced. It’s made with grapes grown in California and fermented and aged at the winery outside New Braunfels, Texas. While it’s labeled “Bone Dry” because it has 0% residual sugar, the fruitiness of the wine makes it seem a bit sweet. It would be a good wine to throw in a bucket of ice and drink during a mid-summer picnic.

Look Like a Texas ranch with aged straw in the sun, light and relaxed.
Smell A floral and almost herbaceous nose with citrus and lemon zest.
Taste This wine came straight out of the orchard with pear, green apple and lime. While the mouth feel was full, it had a crisp mineral finish.
Price $18


My next stop was at the Spicewood Vineyards tent. Owner, Ron Yates, talked about his passion for wine and how happy he is to be making it, instead of being a lawyer like he was before. Ron and winemaker, Jeff Ivy, produce a little more than 5,000 cases of wine annually at the facilities in the Hill Country near Marble Falls. Much of the wine is made from grapes grown on or near the property. Spicewood Vineyards is known for its award winning Sauvignon Blanc.

Spicewood Vineyards Touriga Nacional 2009  

You might recognize Touriga Nacional as one of the primary grapes used to make Port. Unlike Port, this wine is not fortified and does not have high residual sugar. The vines grow well in the heat of Portugal as well as the Texas Hill Country. Spicewood ages its Touriga in a mix of new and aged Hungarian and American oak for about 8 months; just enough time to round out the wine without giving it woody qualities. This is a big wine that would go well with a huge hunk of meat.

Look Deep amethyst and garnet like a rich Cabernet.
Smell This Touriga had a full nose of vanilla, blackberry and anise. Rich, spicy, fruity and powerful.
Taste The first taste is like the first bite into a rare steak right off the ranch, bloody and fleshy. The saline eased quickly into plumb, currant, black cherry and cola. This is a relatively young wine and had enough tannins to make me pucker a bit.
Price $24


I also tried delicious wines from Driftwood Estate Winery and Flat Creek Estate, but after sampling eight wines before getting to them, I didn’t trust the accuracy of my palate (even though I was spitting much of what I sampled). Therefore I chose not to take notes on these wines. In particular, I want to try the Flat Creek Super Texan blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah again. I had a great talk with Rick Naber, the owner Flat Creek, and appreciated his enthusiasm for the wine industry in the state. I’ll make a point of visiting his winery. 

I’ve just scratched the surface with Texas wine, but I’m happy to buy them, serve them and recommend them. Give these a try and let me know what you think. I’m going to keep trying Texas wine and really appreciate your recommendations for what to drink next. What should I try?

What are you drinking?