Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wine Country Texas - Llano Estacado Winery



The Texas wine industry got an early start.  Missionaries in the 1600s planted grapes for sacramental wine.  Horticulturist Thomas Munson used rootstock from wild Mustang grapes in Texas to give European grape growers a way to recover from the Phylloxera epidemic which devastated the wine industry in the 19th century.  For that, the French government honored him.

As is the case state by state in the US, Prohibition killed off the wine business in Texas.  It didn’t begin its recovery until the 1970s.  Even today, many Texas counties are still saddled with Prohibition-era laws restricting the sale of alcohol.

Llano Estacado Winery is one of the first modern day Texas wineries.  It’s located in the Texas High Plains AVA, one of eight American Viticultural Areas under the Lone Star.

Texas has already made a few appearances in this small section of the Internet - here, and here, f'rinstance - but it's a big state and deserves another.  Anyway, since I made a trip to the Lone Star state recently, you'll get a eyeful of Texas wines in the coming weeks.


My trip was to southeast Texas, but this wine - Viviano Superiore Rosso Texas - came to me from a clear across the state.  It was kindly provided for review by the aforementioned Llano Estacado Winery in Lubbock, Texas.

Llano Estacado was founded in 1976, a few years after Texas Tech University began experimenting with planting grapes under the hot, west Texas sun.  They had some good luck with that grape thing.  In the eighties, President Reagan served their wine at the White House.  In the nineties, they shipped to Europe and Russia and were served to Queen Elizabeth when she visited Texas.  In 2005, Llano Estacado was served at President Bush's Inaugural Ball.  They must be doing something right.

Viviano has sixteen vintages behind it, and quite a lengthy list of medals and awards earned along the way.  The blend is 73% Cabernet Sauvignon from Rising Star Vineyard and 20% Sangiovese from Newsom Vineyard.  Syrah, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc finish off the blend.  The wine retails for $35.

Medium dark ruby in the glass, Viviano's nose is powerfully aromatic, largely due to the oak treatment, two and a half years in French and American oak.  I would have guessed at least three years in oak, judging by the black cherry aromas that mingle with mocha, cedar, chocolate and tobacco.

On the palate it's absolutely delicious, with the same sort of complexity promised by the bouquet.  Blackberry and cherry lead the way in the fruit department, with anise, cola and black tea shadings getting into the action.  The tannins have a bit of bite in this wine, which could easily pass for a real Tuscan blend.

The tannic structure makes me expect an alcohol content higher than the 12.7% detailed in the winemaker notes.  Despite the restraint of the alcohol, this wine is dry as a bone and ready for a big slab of beef, anytime.



Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter