Good wine is being made right here in the Lone Star State — now there’s something all Texans can raise a glass to.
Regional wine, for years laughed at and looked down on by wine types, is suddenly hip. This winter, a national survey of chefs by the National Restaurant Association identified regional wine and beer as one of the top food trends in the country. Chefs said local wine ranked with locally grown produce, locally sourced meats and seafood, and sustainability at the top of the list of nearly 215 culinary items.
This is huge news, especially for those of us who have championed regional and Texas wine and felt — how shall we say? — ignored. This new respect for local has many reasons, not the least of which is that chefs and restaurants are discovering that local can give them a leg up in an increasingly competitive business environment. But also important is that the quality of regional wine has improved dramatically over the past decade.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Texas, where the improvement in quality has been impressive. Today, it’s no big deal to find a professional, competently made Texas wine; that wasn’t necessarily true at the turn of the century.
To that end, here are three Texas wines that show how far the business has come and that you almost certainly haven’t heard of.
All are available from the winery:
• Grape Creek Vineyards Viognier 2008 ($17): Some of the best viognier in the U.S. is made in Texas, and that includes California’s efforts. This is a sophisticated, complex white wine with peach pit and apricot flavors — people who only drink chardonnay should try it.
• Landon Winery Tempranillo 2008 ($25): Texas, especially in the high plains, has many similarities of climate and geography with Spain, where tempranillo is the pre-eminent red grape. The Landon, made from West Texas grapes in McKinney, shows the quality of tempranillo that the state can produce.
• Haak Winery Madeira Jacquez 2006 ($40): No less an authority than Jancis Robinson, perhaps the world’s second most influential wine critic, has pronounced Haak’s madeira-style dessert wines as world-class. This wine is made with the jacquez, or black Spanish grape, a hybrid popular in Texas and grown on the Gulf Coast for this wine.
Ask the Wine Guy
Q. How long has wine been made in Texas? br>
A. Texas had a thriving wine industry before Prohibition, but Val Verde Winery in Del Rio, founded in 1883, is the only pre-Prohibition winery remaining. The modern Texas wine business can be traced to the mid-1970s, when Springtown, Llano Estacado and Fall Creek wineries opened. Today, there are some 200 wineries in the state, including more than 40 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Amazingly simple quesadillas
You know those messy, sloppy stomach-pain-inducing quesadillas the chain joints serve? These aren’t it. They’re tasty, easy to make and require nothing more than what most of us have in the pantry or refrigerator. They’re a quick lunch or even an entree; just add some leftover chicken. Serve with your favorite Texas wine.
Serves four, takes about 12 minutes
1 to 1-1/2 c best quality green salsa
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
16 flour tortillas
1 c grated white cheese
1. Divide the ingredients into eight equal portions, and place between two tortillas.
2. Grill the tortillas in a skillet over medium heat for a couple of minutes on each side.