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Carl Hudson
April 13, 2022 | Carl Hudson

Texas vs. California, Rhône-style Grape Varieties

Texas Wine Collective – Carl’s Corner

Texas Tasting Series

Texas vs. California, Rhône-style Grape Varieties

Sunday, 24-April-2022      12:30 pm and 2:30 pm

This special wine pairing event provides a fun opportunity to appreciate similarities and differences between wines produced in Texas and California from grapes that thrive in the hot, arid climate of southern France. Six wines served at each session - a white, a red blend, and a second red based on Syrah - grown and produced in Texas will be paired versus similar wines from California. To make this event even more special, Chef Amber, TWC tasting room/events manager, will prepare several delicious food bites to accompany the wines. We hope you will join us for this event to enjoy tasting these delicious wines and share in the fun discussions.

To register, please see the website – www.texaswinecollective.com.

Grapes that thrive in the arid, hot Mediterranean climate of southern France have become key varieties for Texas grape growers in many parts of the Lone Star State. Viognier is the grape variety chosen for this TX vs CA pairing.


Lost Oak Winery Viognier 2019 TX High Plains is a 100% Viognier varietal bottling sourced from Bingham Family Vineyards near Meadow, TX, in the Texas High Plains AVA. Winemaker Jim Evans and his assistant, Angela Chapman, fermented these grapes cool in SS tank and then aged the wine for 12 months in SS tank, capturing bright fruit and honeysuckle characteristics. The wine has aromas of white flower blossoms, golden apples, and ripe citrus. As is typical of Viognier in hot weather Texas, sugar levels can rise quite high by the time the grapes fully ripen, leading in this case to 15.0% ABV at bottling. The wine has a lively mouthfeel with tropical fruit and clover notes. The finish is tingly on the palate with repeating hints of tropical fruit, citrus, honeysuckle, and honey. Enjoy with seared scallops in lemon butter sauce, grilled prosciutto wrapped asparagus, cheesy artichoke dip, shrimp scampi, grilled chicken with basil cream sauce, or lemon custard pie.


Sobon Estate Viognier 2020 Amador County CA is also a 100% Viognier varietal bottling sourced from well-drained vineyards planted at higher elevations of the Sierra Foothills in Amador County, CA. Shenandoah Vineyards in Plymouth, CA, was founded in 1977 by Shirley and Leon Sobon, a former scientist with Lockheed Research Lab. Sobon Estate began in 1989 when a second winery, the historic D’Agostini Winery, was acquired for their 30th wedding anniversary present. The vines are not irrigated, resulting in lower yields but better grapes. Paul Sobon is the second generation to lead the winemaking team, bringing experience from time spent in Australia and Bordeaux, France. Low intervention winemaking is practiced and the goal is to create wines that express flavors and aromas of each grape variety and characteristics of place in which they are grown. The wine was aged in French oak barrels and offers many of the same aromas and flavors as the Lost Oak Viognier, but at a milder 13.8% ABV.

Almost all wines produced in the Rhône Valley region of southern France are blends, especially red blends of two or more grape varieties. That tradition is carried on in both Texas and California with many red blends using grapes like Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan, Cinsault – all of which produce quality fruit in hot, arid climates like much of Texas and parts of California.


McPherson Cellars EVS Windblown 2019 TX High Plains is a classic Rhone-styled blend of Syrah 24%, Grenache 22%, Carignan 20%, Petite Sirah 20% (Durif in France), and Mourvèdre 12%, all sourced from Texas High Plains vineyards. Following harvest, the grapes were given a three-day cold soak and seven-day fermentation in SS tanks at 78oF with 24-day total skin contact. The various cuvees were blended and aged 10 months in French oak barrels (15% new). The wine was bottled @ 13.8% ABV, 0.4% RS (essentially DRY). These varieties all grow well in Texas climates similar to the hot, dry, rocky-sandy soil, low rainfall, and windy conditions of the Rhône Valley. This wine offers an enticing aroma of cherry, vanilla bean, and woodsmoke; flavors of dark berry fruit with peppery notes, hints of fresh porcini mushrooms, and delicate oak nuances all leading to a rich, long finish with silky tannins.  Pair with summer grilled favorites and richly flavored casseroles (bacon or brisket mac and cheese!). Kim McPherson and his talented assistant, Spenser Igo, are well-known for producing blends, both red and white, from many of these grape varieties that are widely grown in the sun-drenched vineyards of the Texas High Plains AVA.


Tablas Creek Vineyard Patelin de Tablas 2017 Paso Robles CA is patterned on a classic village (patelin) style Rhône blend: 47% Syrah, 31% Grenache, 16% Mourvedre, 4% Counoise, and 2% Tannat. Syrah brings dark fruit, mineral notes, and spice; Grenache offers bright red fruit aromas and flavors along with fresh acidity; Mourvèdre contributes structure and meatiness; Tannat delivers depth of color and body with smoky notes; and Counoise adds bright red fruit character for greater complexity. The grapes were fermented separately in upright oak fermenters and SS tanks, aged 8-10 months in wooden oak uprights, and blended for bottling at 13.0% ABV. The wine offers aromas of blackberry, baking spices, and peppery notes. Flavors are rich with elderberry and black cherry fruit plus hints of teriyaki and dark chocolate, The long, firmly tannic finish lingers with crunchy black fruit and evergreen spice. Delicious now, but with the substance and balance to age for up to a decade.


Syrah is the key grape grown in the northern Rhône Valley of France and produces some amazing wines. Growers and winemakers around the world have adapted Syrah to their climates, soils, and styles. Australia is well-known for Shiraz wines, just a different name for Syrah, and delicious Syrahs are now produced in South Africa, South America, and many parts of the U.S., including Texas, California, and Washington.


Brennan Vineyards Buffalo Roam 2018 Texas – This wine by Todd Webster is a smooth and delicious blend based on Syrah 79% blended with Cabernet Sauvignon 7%, Montepulciano 7%, and Ruby Cabernet 7%. The grapes were machine harvested, fermented in SS tanks (3-4 weeks), aged 18 months in American and French oak barrels, blended and bottled @ 14.4% ABV, 0.0% RS (dry). Characteristics include deep ruby color; aromas of cherries and black plums, rhubarb, pipe tobacco, and smoke with delicate floral notes of violets; flavors of sour cherries, blackberries, and currants with notes of caramel, brioche and baking spices; and a fine balance between fruit and acidity with sturdy tannins on a long savory finish. This pairs perfectly with grilled and smoked meats.


Line Shack Winery Syrah 2018 San Antonio Valley Monterey CA is a blend of Syrah 90%, Petite Sirah 7%, Viognier 3%. Line Shack Winery was founded in 2003 by Daphne and Bob Balentine with the goal to produce affordable, world-class wines from California’s Central Coast with fruit sourced from premier vineyards in the Monterey AVA.


In the Old West, before the days of ATVs and helicopters, when Cowboys still worked cattle on horseback, the term “Line Shack” referred to a small cabin built on the open range where cowboys could rest themselves and their horse when needed and take shelter from storms while working away from their home ranch. The winery name refers to a rundown cabin discovered in 1989 when the Balentine family acquired a small ranch in Monterey County, CA. After remodel, the Line Shack became the family hangout, winery, tasting room, part-time barrel storage room, and provided a name for the new winery.

Syrah was co-fermented with Viognier, in the tradition of Côte-Rôtie in the northern Rhône Valley of France. This was barrel aged for 9 months in French oak (20% new) and blended with Petite Sirah to give a rich, dark wine with aromas of violets, spice, tobacco and leather, flavors of blueberry, plum, and black cherry, and notes of toasty oak on a lingering, medium tannin finish. 


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