The modern Texas wine industry has been evolving rapidly since the late 1970s. Hard work and vision from each of these wineries’ founders laid the groundwork for the thriving wine scene we enjoy today. Not only did these wineries have a hand in early growth, they remain industry leaders today. With unique blends, innovative winemaking, and a dedication to careful viticultural practices, these pioneering wineries have guided the Texas wine industry for decades.
Founders Dr. Richard Becker and the late Bunny Becker planted a vineyard in 1992, and harvested their first grapes in 1995. From planting the state’s first Viognier vines to creating vast gardens of wildflowers and lavender, the Beckers have helped define Texas wine and Texas hospitality.
Roussanne is a star white grape for Texas. The 2018 Becker Vineyard Reserve Roussanne from Farmhouse Vineyards (Texas High Plains) sings with ripe stone fruit and a mouth-coating texture. A sure bet for those preferring a rich white wine.
2017 was a stellar vintage for Texas wine. The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon from Canada Family Vineyards (Texas High Plains) shows how bright Texas Cabernet Sauvignon grown in an ideal vineyard site can shine. Classic dark red fruit, herbal notes, and fine tannins deliver a well-rounded wine.
Fall Creek Vineyards
Fall Creek Vineyards was founded by Ed and Susan Auler. While traveling in southern France in 1973, they recognized similarities to the terrain in central Texas. Upon returning home to the Hill Country, the Aulers planted a test vineyard on their cattle ranch. The rest, as they say, is history.
The 2020 Fall Creek Lescalo was created for those seeking wine with lower calories and carbohydrates. The dry white wine is predominantly Chenin Blanc with 10% Sauvignon Blanc. Showing bright citrus and floral flavors, it hits the spot with less than 10% alcohol.
The 2018 Fall Creek Syrah from Salt Lick Vineyards (Texas Hill Country) will satisfy wine drinkers who prefer a bold red wine. With deep color, a full body, and aromas of blueberry jam, mocha, and vanilla, the wine pairs best with meat hot off the grill.
Llano Estacado Winery
Doctors Clinton “Doc” McPherson and Robert Reed, professors at Texas Tech University, opened Llano Estacado Winery in Lubbock in 1976. The two started experimenting with winemaking in the late 1960s in the basement of the Chemistry building. Now, Llano is the largest premium winery in Texas and also the second-oldest winery in Texas. (The oldest is Val Verde Winery in Del Rio.) Doc McPherson’s son Kim owns Lubbock-based McPherson Cellars and has mentored many winemakers across Texas.
The Llano Estacado 2020 Rosé delivers what all good rosés should: clean, bright fruit flavors that are easy to drink and pair with food. The grapes for this juicy pink wine, including Mourvèdre, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo, were grown in west Texas at a high elevation.
The Llano Estacado 2019 Cellar Reserve Merlot from the Texas High Plains includes 15% Petit Verdot. As in the wines of Bordeaux, Petit Verdot plays a supporting role, adding more structure and deeper color. The two varieties combine to make a wine with ample blue-black fruit characteristics and smoky vanilla notes from oak aging.
Paul Vincent and Merrill Bonarrigo started with a one-acre vineyard plot at their home in Bryan in 1977, and the first wines were produced in 1981. Messina Hof, now under the direction of son Paul and daughter-in-law Karen, just released a book Family, Tradition, & Romance – The Messina Hof Story that details the history of the winery.
The 2019 Messina Hof Private Reserve Chardonnay is a full-bodied wine that is aged in oak. Rich stone fruit, baked apples, and buttery notes round out the palate. The addition of Viognier and Pinot blanc also provide a floral element.
The 2019 GSM brings Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre into perfect cohesion. Since the percentage of Grenache plays a supporting role, the bold and earthy Syrah and Mourvèdre take the lead. Texas High Plains fruit once again shines in this crowd-pleasing blend.