COUNTDOWN TO A TEXAS THANKSGIVING: T - 5
by Andrew Chalk
We are just five days away from what, for many Americans, is the biggest family get-together of the year - Thanksgiving. Turkeys all over the country may be taking cover and using fake IDs so as not to get cooked but, regardless of how you prep. yours, one of the best things about the Thanksgiving meal is that it can go with so many types of wine.
With that excuse, over the next few days I will post some suggestions for Texas wines, based on wines that I have been sent by the wineries. Of course, all are 100% Texas grapes.
TEXAS HERITAGE VINEYARD 2019 MERLOT ‘NARRA VINEYARD’ TEXAS HIGH PLAINS ($36).
This wine is made from grapes from Narra Vineyards in the Brownsville area of the massive Texas High Plains AVA at an altitude of over 2,500 ft and climate deemed “cold semi-arid” on the Köppen system. This makes for the best grape growing conditions in the state because the low humidity means low disease pressure. The large diurnal swings in temperature during the growing season allow the grapes to cool at night and achieve physiological ripeness. Rainfall and the Ogallala Aquifer means the area does not have the drought pressures that characterize some other states. The soil is “primarily heavy clay above an impervious caliche layer with some sand found in the eastern panhandle”. Narra Vineyards was planted in 2014 by husband and wife Greg and Nikila Narra Davis, building on five generations, on Nikila’s side, farming in India. Despite the vines’ youth the vineyard it is already getting a reputation for quality fruit.
Texas Heritage Vineyards was established in 2015 by husband and wife team Billy and Susan Johnson with the first vines in what has become twelve and a half acres of Alicante Bouschet, Malbec, Tempranillo, Souzao, Tannat and Viognier. As ‘implants’ into the industry they sought out consultant John Rivenburgh to make their first vintages. He handed over to full-time winemaker Tyler Buddemeyer just in time for this vintage.
Appearance: Translucent ruby;
Nose: Very forward raspberry and red cherry fruit. Hints of thyme, forest floor, chocolate.
Palate: Very fruit-driven, medium acid, grippy tannins. Light-bodied mouthfeel for a merlot. Billows of fruit aromas burst out of this wine filling the mouth with raspberry and red cherry flavors. They also ensure a long-lived finish.
This wine is ready to drink and not intended for aging. Its lightness, modest tannins, and fruity character make it a good candidate to pair with the turkey, especially the dark meat.
TEXAS HERITAGE VINEYARD 2019 PETITE SIRAH, ‘PAKA VINEYARDS’, TEXAS HIGH PLAINS ($36)
Also from the Brownfield area of the High Plains. This vineyard, from the Paka family, is also garnering quite a reputation and sales to several top Texas wineries.
Petite Sirah is America’s synonym for the lowly Durif grape used for blending in the Rhône. Here, it has emerged as a first class varietal mainly due the quality of the wines being made with it in California. Texas has also taken it on and it would be interesting the see a broad blind tasting of the two appellations. I suspect there would be more difference of expression between wineries than between states.
Appearance: Opaque, blackcurrant hue. Little wonder wines made with this grape are often called ‘inky monsters’;
Nose: A dustiness (‘Brownfield dust’?) is prominent up front. The fruit is more restrained, in the fashion of a European wine, but when drawn out is dense in black cherry and blackcurrants. An undertone of wood is also prevalent but only as a supporting actor.
Palate: Substantial tannins suggest aging potential. Dark fruits dominate, as in the nose, and give this wine clout and staying power. Medium-plus acid should make this a rewarding wine with food. Given its full-bodied disposition and structured nature that could be the ham, turkey stuffing, and vegetables.
Texas Heritage Vineyard is a young winery but establishing itself quickly. A few medals at the national wine competitions (San Francisco International, San Francisco Chronicle, and New York) and it could join the top tier. Hopefully they can find time between the turkey and the ice cream to add winemaker’s notes to the wine descriptions on their web site.