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Snooth User: achalk

Texas Roussanne Tasted Blind Against California and France - Comes Out Top

Posted by achalk, Jun 1, 2014.

Texas Roussanne Tasted Blind Against California and France - Comes Out Top


by Andrew Chalk

We have reported that the Roussanne grape does well in Texas’s climate and soil and pondered whether it is the next breakthrough Texas grape. The answer will come when Texas Roussanne wines match the quality of Roussanne wines from California. In order to find out how they are doing, I organized a blind tasting open to all Texas Roussanne producers. Nearly all of them submitted two bottles of their current offering. We knew that Roussanne is much less widely made than Viognier, the premier white grape in the state. Nonetheless, we got participation from a total of six wineries who provided nine different wines. Submissions had to comply with the Federal rule that at least 75% of the grapes in the bottle must be the variety that appears on the label. All of the wines had Texas, or an American Viticultural Area (AVA) within Texas, as their place of grape origin., the event space and wine retailer in the Dallas Design District, offered us a private room and first class glassware. As with previous tastings of this kind, we chose professional sommeliers as the tasters in order to bring to bear the judgement of the most discriminating palates. Ten sommeliers participated, and over a three hour window they swirled and sniffed their way through the submitted wines and rendered their judgements in the form of a ranking. I tasted as well, but excluded my scores from the calculated results as I knew the names of the wines being tasted and had done the setup of the bottles in brown, numbered bags.


In order to give this exercise a point of comparison, I included wines from California and France that I purchased at retail in the Dallas area. These proved to be harder to source than I expected and I ended up with two California examples and one French one, despite trying every major fine wine seller in the Dallas area.


Below, are the results:






2012 Arche, Oswald Vineyard, THP


Oswald Vineyard


2012 McPherson Cellars, Reserve, THP




2010 Brushy Creek, Oswald Vineyard, Texas


Oswald Vineyard


2012 Arche, VR Oswald Vineyard, THP


Oswald Vineyard


2012 McPherson Cellars, Texas




2011 Dom. Lancyre, Vin de Pays de Monterrand


Top non-Texan wine


2012 Barking Rocks, Oswald Vineyard, THP


Oswald Vineyard


2013 Eden Hill Vineyard, Oswald Vineyard, THP


Oswald Vineyard


2012 Calais Winery, La Cuvee Principale, THP




2012 Eden Hill Vineyard, Oswald Vineyard, Texas


Oswald Vineyard


2012 Sobon Estate, Amador Co., CA


Second non-Texan


2011 Donkey & Goat, Stonecrusher, El Dorado


Third non-Texan


THP = Texas High Plains


Texas wines took the top five slots with the lone French entry coming sixth. The two California entries occupied the bottom two positions in the rankings. The top wine is Arche’s 2012 from the Texas High Plains. This was my personal favorite, and quite a find. It is complex, with excellent weight on the mouthfeel, tropical fruit, vanilla and ripe pear on the nose and reaffirmation of the tropical fruits in the palate. When Arche submitted it, I was quite eager to taste it as earlier that month it had won a platinum medal and scored 93 points at the San Diego International Wine Competition. It exceeded my expectations.The grapes came from the same Oswald Vineyard as most of the other Texas wines, so a lot of the credit must go to rising-star winemaker Grayson Davies, son of the founders.


Second place went to the consistently good McPherson Cellars, where Kim McPherson elevates the quality of Texas wine year after year. Matt Thompson said it had “integrated acid and fruit. Floral and pleasant aromatics. Nice Wine”. McPherson also came fourth with his non-reserve bottling, which is a bargain at just $14.


Brushy Creek, in third place, is a long-established Texas winery that appears to be a late bloomer. After an erratic record a few years ago, they have started to make good examples of varietally-correct wines. Their Klassen Vineyards Tempranillo placed fourth (out of 23) in our Tempranillo tasting last year. Brian Brill described their entry as “very well made wine”.


Barking Rocks, in seventh, is another improving winery. Simon Holguin found it “rounded, supple but muted”. Newcomer, Eden Hill Vineyard, just north of Dallas, is showing that it is very serious about its winemaking. While the winery establishes itself, winemaker Chris Hornbaker shuttles between a  day-job as a web developer for a major Frisco corporation, oenology and viticulture classes at Grayson College, and making wine. He may wonder, but he is winning the battle. His 2013 beat out his 2012 and Daniel Kelada found it “a simple wine, ready to drink, that is on the fresher side”. Calais Winery produced a highly regarded Roussanne in 2011 but the 2012 we tasted was judged ‘unbalanced with acid out of whack’ by Matt Thompson although Simon Holguin found it “very different but in a great way”.


The takeaway from this tasting is that the future of Roussanne in Texas is bright and the state is already on a par with California. We need more rigorous blind tastings to confirm this. Within the state, Viognier may find itself displaced as the state’s premier white variety. More broadly, if Texas winemakers can successfully blend Roussanne with its blending counterparts in the Rhône Valley, Texas Roussanne blends could start to challenge French white wines from the Rhône. And that would be one avenue for Texas wine to enter the world stage.


The Tasters

Karla Barber. Instructor International Sommelier Guild.

Brian Brill. Advanced Sommelier.

Dilek Caner, Master of Wine

Kasey Carpenter. Wine writer

Simon Holguin. General Manager, Beverage Director, Kitchen LTO.

Daniel Kaleda. Executive Wine Sommelier and Senior Wine Instructor,International Wine Guild.

Jeremy King. Republic National Distributing Company

Anthony Martinez. Sommelier, Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center.

Steve Murphy. Advanced Sommelier.

Matt Thompson. ISG Certified Sommelier.




Reply by EMark, Jun 1, 2014.

Very interesting.  Thanks for the update.  I don't think I have ever seen a Texas wine on the shelf of any local retail store, but maybe that will change.

Reply by GregT, Jun 2, 2014.

I don't know where the grapes are grown, but I know that part of Texas is a lot more humid than anywhere in France and it's also a lot farther south in terms of latitude. In fact, most of it is even south of Spain. So why not look at grapes from southern Spain, Italy and Sicily? Who is growing Nero d'Avola for example? Here in Temecula there is one guy doing it and it's actually pretty good!

Reply by napagirl68, Jun 2, 2014.

The Hill Country of Texas actually gets a lot of rain, and is gorgeous.  I visited a friend in Austin and was surprised to find everything green.  We ventured out to Fredricksburg, TX, through green, rolling hills in October.  This was back in 2003, and Fredricksburg did have some tasting rooms then.  I only remember tasting Syrah... no whites.   It was ok, but I am now curious as to what is going on in Texas after reading this article.  Thanks for posting.

Reply by GregT, Jun 2, 2014.


The antithesis of wine country!

NG - are you going to OT's Syrah event? Please say yes.

Reply by achalk, Jun 2, 2014.

 GREGT: The Texas High Plains AVA are where the grapes for most of these wines came from (Oswald Vineyard). The humidity is just above zero. Interestingly enough, the brother of a Temecula winemaker made two of the best Roussanne's  - Kim McPherson.

Since the High Plains has 70%+ of the state's grapes, it is common to find Texas Hill Country AVA wineries making wine but from High Plains fruit.


Reply by zufrieden, Jun 2, 2014.

Roussanne just might be the ticket for the Lone Star State.  This post is nice to see - not only for lovers of the hill country but for lovers of the white wines of the Rhone Valley and points south.  It may need a bit of altitude to counter the humidity and heat, but it seems that those tasting the local product are impressed... that's something. Roussanne is a lovely grape that produces wines of great Epicurean interest - hence my reply to this post.

It would also be of interest to know if Roussanne is a serious possibility in the south of Spain; pretty hot there for 4-6 months of the year (as I know - and will experience for the joy it this July).  Any producers of note yet in that European locale?



Reply by napagirl68, Jun 2, 2014.

Since the High Plains has 70%+ of the state's grapes, it is common to find Texas Hill Country AVA wineries making wine but from High Plains fruit.

Ahh.   Thanks for the clarification, Achalk.  I've only been to Texas once, but had a great time.

GregT- No, I will not be at the Syrah event.  I was not invited.  JUST KIDDING!!  

Seriously, I don't really drink much syrah, and summers are crazy for me with kiddie, work and all.   Have a fantastic time, and post pictures!!!


Reply by GregT, Jun 6, 2014.

Most disappointing. Both that you don't drink much Syrah and that you're not coming. And both so easily rectified!

As to the OP - any idea how much TX wine gets sold out of the state? I can't remember seeing any on retail shelves nor in anyone's portfolio, whereas if you look hard, you can find Mexican wine as well as stuff from Arizona and New Mexico, Colorado and even Idaho, all of which I've tried in the interest of science.

Reply by napagirl68, Jun 6, 2014.

I've never seen TX wine here in CA, FWIW.

GregT, have a great time at the Syrah Fest!  Glad to hear you are making your way up north.  Take some time to check out the area.... you might end up staying!  I love the area... if I could, I would move there in a second. 

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