With a focus on Texas-grown grapes and embracing varietals more suited for the often extreme weather, Texas wineries have been racking up accolades and awards, as well as earning a more prominent place on local wine lists.
As we head into Texas Wine Month, five Austin sommeliers fill you in on their Lone Star favorites.
Joelle Cousins, General Manager and Sommelier at Red Room Lounge
The 2014 winner of Texas’ Best Sommelier Competition at TEXSOM, Joelle Cousins serves a number of Texas labels at the downtown wine bar including the Spicewood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc and the Inwood Estates Vineyard Tempranillo.
“Some of my favorite Texas wines are from Duchman Family Winery [in Dripping Springs], particularly the Montepulciano,” says Cousins. “The wines are very balanced and I like the Italian varietals they are focusing on.”
Chris Howell, Sommelier and Wine Director at Fork & Vine
As he prepares for the opening of Fork & Vine in October, Sommelier Chris Howell has been busy tasting wine from around the state. He was especially impressed with one of the newer Texas wineries, Lewis Wines, located near Johnson City.
“I think they have one of the best Chenin Blancs in the state,” says Howell. “I was blown away by the quality of the wine and the purity of the fruit. I’m interested to see how the Portugese varietals they are focusing on develop because no one else is doing that right now in Texas.”
Melissa Lamb, Wine Director at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse Downtown
Sommelier Melissa Lamb has found that Fleming’s customers are increasingly curious about Texas wine and she’s happy to recommend a highly acclaimed, refreshing white as a pairing for one of their popular appetizers.
“The Duchman Family Vermentino is perfect with the tuna sashimi tower,” says Lamb. “The dish has some cilantro and mild jalapenos and it’s a great match with the bright acidity of the wine.”
Edward Morgan, Sommelier at Travaasa Austin
As an experiential resort, Travaasa works to reflect the local culture, from horseback riding in the Hill Country to featuring Texas ingredients on the restaurant’s menu. Sommelier Edward Morgan wanted a wine list that mirrored that Texas terrain.
Among his Lone Star favorites is the award-winning Tannat from Bending Branch Winery in Comfort. “It is a killer wine and not many people are familiar with the grape,” says Morgan. “Tannat can be gripping and tannic, but the Texas heat tones it down a bit. It’s great with our meatier dishes.”
Brian Phillips, Sommelier and Manager at Eddie V's Prime Seafood
Brian Phillips is so enthusiastic about Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall that he has worked at the winery. “They have high quality standards, and their Tempranillo and Viognier pair well with our dishes.”
The 2012 Viognier is an internationally recognized wine, earning the prestigious Grand Gold award at the 2013 Lyon International Wine Competition — the only American winery to earn the honor that year.