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ON TEXAS WINE: TEXAS CHARDONNAY vs. GRAND CRU WHITE BURGUNDY


by Andrew Chalk


Grand Cru Burgundy and Texas chardonnay are both chardonnay, but could not be more different in their heritage, recognition, and terroir. Grand Cru Burgundy is acknowledged as the epitome of chardonnay, traded the world over, the subject of numerous books, and served to rockstars and royalty. Texas chardonnay is sold in-state, the most copious writing about it was likely on a sales receipt, and elicits a review of “What?”.


Lazy writers will say “Chardonnay doesn’t grow in Texas” in the erroneous belief that, to grow in Texas, a grape has to have a forbear from a mediterranean climate. If they did the work, they would discover chardonnay examples from Arché, Fall Creek Vineyards, Inwood Estate Vineyards, Llano Estacado Winery, and others. And they would find that, rather than this being because of an errant patch of the grape growing in an idiosyncratic mesoclimate, these wineries source from The Texas High Plains, The Texas Hill Country, North Texas (St. Jo), West Texas (Dell City), and even Dallas. 


There are local differences of course. The Grand Cru Burgundy tasted below has the Côte d’Or (Golden Slope). Inwood Estates City of Dallas has D.D. Cleaners and Smoothie King. Carefully grown, chardonnay thrives regardless.


I happened to have two ten-year old Texas chardonnays in my cellar, so I did what anybody in that position would have done, I went to my local fine wine vendor and asked to buy a ten-year old white Grand Cru Burgundy. I took the first one they found, to make the choice essentially  random. Obviously, it would have been more scientific to choose a selection of them (anyone with the budget, please contact me). 


Here is how it went down.


Inwood Estates Vineyards 2014 Chardonnay, Dallas County.

This wine is from a vineyard on Bear Creek Road in south Dallas County that is, alas, no more. Grubbed up for new housing in Dallas’ fervent expansion to the Rio Grande. Dan Gatlin, the veteran Texas winemaker who founded Inwood Estates Vineyards, was the only winemaker mad enough to buy the grapes for years and think that chardonnay of any consequence could be made from them. The wine was a sell-out every year. One category of buyers being wealthy businessmen who would buy a case to send bottles to their colleagues in France and induce early heart attacks (a French paradox). 


NAME:

Inwood Estates 2014 Chardonnay, Dallas County, TX

APPEARANCE

COMMENTS

Clarity

clear

Intensity

deep

Color

amber

Other observations




NOSE


Condition

clean

Intensity

high

Aroma characteristics

Distinct oxidized notes and almonds. Like a sherry, but other aromas are not overwhelmed. Honey, oranges, cooked yellow apples, ripe apricots, orange marmalade.



PALATE


Sweetness

dry

Acidity

medium plus

Tannin


Alcohol

medium plus

Body

medium plus

Flavor intensity

high

Flavor characteristics

Confirmed fruit from the nose. Texture has a prominent phenolic backbone. Fruits are very ripe.

Other observations

Richness of the fruit makes the wine seem sweeter than it is.

Finish

Long, nutty,



CONCLUSION


Quality assessment

Very Good. This wine is over the hill but its remaining fruit intensity and variety are testament to its quality.

Bottle aging

Not suitable.


Camille Giroud 2014 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, France.

With the impeccable credentials of Corton-Charlemagne, and a house dating back to 1865 this is a recognized world-class wine. Grand cru vineyard land here rarely appears for public sale, but when it does prices are well over $1m/acre.


NAME:

Camille Giroud 2014 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, France

APPEARANCE

COMMENTS

Clarity

clear

Intensity

medium

Color

lemon

Other observations




NOSE


Condition

clean

Intensity

medium

Aroma characteristics

Lemon, red apple, white peach, bread, ripe character. Notes of vanilla,



PALATE


Sweetness

dry

Acidity

medium plus

Tannin


Alcohol

medium

Body

medium

Flavor intensity

medium plus

Flavor characteristics

Lemon, white peach, red apples, bread.

Other observations

A younger character then the age would suggest.

Finish

medium



CONCLUSION


Quality assessment

Very Good. Reserved fruit and a lack of secondary or tertiary notes prevent this wine scoring higher.

Bottle aging

Suitable.


Inwood Estates Vineyards 2014 Chardonnay, City of Dallas.

Chardonnay growing in Dallas? Yes, in a vineyard Gatlin planted in his old back yard near Inwood Road and Lovers Lane. He and his son continue to harvest it today under a covenant with the current owner. Output is miniscule (only about 15 cases a year) from the Dijon 76, 95, and 96 clones, and yields are tiny so it is almost impossible to buy, but it must be the neatest appellation to produce at a dinner of Texas quail with your French friends. All sales are direct-to-consumer except for some loyal restaurants that bought from Gatlin when he started out. 


NAME:

Inwood Estates 2014 Chardonnay, City of Dallas, TX

APPEARANCE

COMMENTS

Clarity

clear

Intensity

deep

Color

amber

Other observations




NOSE


Condition

clean

Intensity

high

Aroma characteristics

Ripe apricot, ripe yellow apples, ripe oranges, orange marmalade, cling peaches. Almonds. Well baked bread crust. Almonds.



PALATE


Sweetness

dry

Acidity

medium plus

Tannin


Alcohol

medium plus

Body

full

Flavor intensity

high

Flavor characteristics

Ripe apple, apricot, and orange. Tropical fruit of mango, guava and pineapple. Nutty note of almond.

Other observations

Rich, vibrant fruit character.

Finish

long.



CONCLUSION


Quality assessment

Outstanding. The fruit is both massive and complex. Despite the wine's age it is still very alive. At its peak.

Bottle aging

Not suitable.

SUMMARY

Astonishing how these Texas wines did, especially the City of Dallas, given that they are on nobody's radar. The Burgundy is a refined master, the Inwood wines are a discovery.


Sample.

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