Deep In the Heart of Texas

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texaswine.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Texas has long been known for many things - BBQ, the Alamo, Dynasty, a fantastic music festival called South By Southwest (to name just a few) - but until recently something the Lone Star State most certainly was not known for was its wine.  On the heels of this year's well-attended Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival (, however, that's all changing.
In its 23rd year this year, the festival drew over 8,000 attendees and featured some 60 wineries and more than 70 chef participants over four days in April.  The nation's second largest food and wine festival, this year's event was the first to draw significant critical attention where its wines were concerned, a phenomenon that's catalyzed a buzz about Texas wine that's quickly gaining momentum among curious oenophiles all over the country.

Under the Texan Sun
The Texas Hill Country AVA (American Viticultural Area) is the second largest in the US and encompasses some 15,000 acres spread over 22 counties.  In part thanks to its affiliation with the festival that bears its name, the Hill Country AVA is the state's best known wine growing region, though the proof can be tough to muster outside state lines since 95% of Texas wine is consumed locally.  Considering that Texas is the nation's fifth-largest wine-producing state (after California, New York, Washington and Oregon), this is no small quantity!

The region's wines fared favorably among critics present at this year's festival, where a sold-out seminar called "Under the Texan Sun" compared the climate and landscape of Texas Hill Country with that of the Mediterranean.  The seminar revealed that varieties like Viognier, Sangiovese and Tempranillo - traditionally grown in France, Italy and Spain, respectively - are leading the charge in terms of quality wines made in the region and are often outshining bottlings made from trendier Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.  

These findings are in keeping with a hunch shared by critics and enthusiasts alike that as the Texas wine industry matures its winemakers are making strides in matching up the unique terroirs of the state with grape varieties best suited to its sub-regions. And though viticulture has been slow to catch on in a state far better known for its oil dynasties and sports teams than for its nascent fine food and wine culture, Texas winemakers appear to be heading down the right path.  

Wither Texas Wine?
As enthusiasm for the US's emerging wine regions grows, Texas will in all likelihood be at the head of the pack in terms of regions netting more than just a cursory interest.  Besides the Hill Country AVA, other spots to watch in the Lone Star State include Texas High Plains AVA, where high elevation and fertile red soils produce noteworthy Cabernet and Chardonnay, and Bell Mountain AVA, a sub-region of Texas Hill Country AVA also well known for its Cabernet Sauvignon.

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I would like to contact the Author of the recipe book called Under the Texas Sun. Her name is Rhonda Cloos. I would like to speak with her about co-marketing an item. Do you know how I can find her?


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