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Sep 11, 2013 01:51 PM

Is Roussanne The Next Breakthrough Texas Grape?

(With the poster's permission, and in order to make this post comply with our blogger guidelines, we've added the text of the blog entry to this post. We're not able to reproduce the formatting/links so things may be a tad wonky -- that's our fault, not achalk's. -- The Chowhound Team)

I recently reported on a tasting of Texas wines made from the Rhône grape named Roussanne. Thirty four Dallas consumers blind-tasted 17 Roussanne wines (or blends) from major Roussanne growing regions (10 wines were from Texas) and when the results were in, Texas wines occupied four of the five top positions, including first.

That tasting, organized by a wine event group named Gusto, has been replicated closely by them in Houston and Austin. Here are the results for the top five wines out of 17 in each tasting. I have highlighted the Texas wines to draw attention to their rankings:

Location: Austin @ Malaga Tapas & Bar. Date: 7/30/2013 – 27 Tasters

1. Truchard, Carneros, Roussanne, 2011 $22.

2. Calais Winery, Texas High Plains, ‘La Cuvee Principale’ Roussanne, 2011. $21.

3. Bending Branch Winery, Paso Robles, ‘Comfortage’ Roussanne 2011. (no price available on web site)

4. McPherson Cellars, Texas, Roussanne, 2012. $14.

5. Spicewood Vineyards, Texas High Plains, Roussanne, 2010. $14.

Location: Houston @ Solaro Estate Winery. Date 8/8/2013 – 18 Tasters

1. McPherson Cellars, Texas, Roussanne, 2012

2. Truchard, Carneros, Roussanne, 2011

3. Château de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape, Blanc, 2010. $80.

4. Spicewood Vineyards, Texas High Plains, Roussanne, 2010

5. Brennan Vineyards, Texas, ‘Lily,’ Roussanne Blend, 2012. $17.50.

Location: Dallas @ Calais Winery. Date: 8/28/2013 – 34 Tasters
1. McPherson Cellars, Texas, Roussanne, 2012. $14.

2. Wedding Oak Winery, Texas Hill Country, High Valley Vineyard, ‘Terre Blanc,’ Roussanne Blend, 2012. $22.

3. Calais Winery, Texas High Plains, ‘La Cuvee Principale’ Roussanne, 2011. $21.

4. Bending Branch Winery, Paso Robles, ‘Comfortage’ Roussanne 2011. (no price available on web site)
5. Blue Ostrich, Texas, Roussanne, 2011. $19.

Note: See Gusto web site for full results.

Top Overall Statewide (based on an average of all results)

1. Truchard, Carneros, Roussanne, 2011

2. McPherson Cellars, Texas, Roussanne, 2012

3. Calais Winery, Texas High Plains, ‘La Cuvee Principale’ Roussanne, 2011

4. Bending Branch Winery, Paso Robles, ‘Comfortage’ Roussanne 2011
5. Château de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape, Blanc, 2010

Some Observations

First, Texas wines fared well in all individual tastings and, in Gusto’s aggregate ratings, came in second and third. Second, although there were around 10 Texas wines in most tastings, there was some consistency in which ones wines made the top five. The top names in Texas Roussanne are McPherson Cellars, Calais Winery and Spicewood Vineyards (the latter did not make the cut in one of the three tastings). Third, these positions were obtained against California and French examples that, in the California case, are comparably priced. And, in the French case, are priced at least three times as high as the most expensive Texas wine.

Of course methodological criticisms can be made: not all Texas Roussanne wines were included in these tastings, Truchard did not appear in Dallas (so its earlier results were, apparently, extrapolated to give it the first place), blends were included as well as 100% Roussanne wines, and the identity of the tasters varied across the tastings. However, I take these results as suggestive that Texas Roussanne has improved to the point that the best are now comparable in quality with California and aggressively price-competitive with France, albeit with style differences. It needs further tastings in the future for these suggestive results to be raised to the level where they can be considered indicative. However, early results are promising.

I applaud Gusto for their fun, informative tastings and the Texas winemakers who are working so hard to improve Texas wines.

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  1. Better than Beaucastel? Of course it is.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Robert: McPherson is on three occasions, and Calais and Bending Branch on two, according to the judges in these blind tastings.

      Of course, none of these wines has the reputation of Beaucastel Blanc, and that is what makes the results interesting.

      Let us know what your tasting of these same wines shows. I bet you are craving to taste the facts on the ground.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Look forward to the results of your tasting. Nothing like facts in a tasting debate!

          1. re: achalk

            As noted in that other topic, most of them aren't available outside of Texas.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Good news! The winners cited all are.

              1. re: achalk

                $18 + $17.40 shipping = $35.40, ouch. For that price I can drink Chave St.-Joseph.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Robert: I just discovered why.

        This is from the President of Calais Winery on Facebook:

        "Benjamin Calais I ll just say it is humbling to be named in the same category as Chateau Beaucastel (they are the reason why I wanted to make Roussanne) let alone score higher than them. Through their Tablas Creek venture they provided us with true high quality Roussanne vines from Beaucastel estate and those are what we use in our CALAIS Winery "Cuvée Principale"
        about an hour ago via mobile · 2"

        Here is the best as I can do for a link:

      2. (I know I'm going to regret getting involved in this discussion, but . . . . )

        I'm just curious as to why you would use the 2010 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc in the tasting. The 2010 vintage is Roussane-dominant to be sure (Grenache Blanc accounts for 15%; Picardan, clairette, Bourboulenc combine for 5%; and Roussanne is 80%), but the other grapes certainly add their proverbial 2¢ as well.

        In contrast, the 2010 Spicewood is 100% Roussanne. I cannot tell from their website the composition of the 2012 McPherson, and I cannot even find the 2011 Calais Roussanne -- or Rousanne from any vintage -- on their website.

        It would have better, would it not, to have had *all* 2010s -- or perhaps, at least, use the Beaucastel Vielles Vignes CdP Blanc (which, like the Spicewood, is 100% Roussanne -- though still in its youth, as the V.V. ages beautifully).

        10 Replies
        1. re: zin1953

          Those are fair points. I think the criteria were "currently shipping" but don't know why they did not use the V.V. Maybe because it is $180. Gusto is at if you want to follow up with them.

          I think the uniformity of the results across three tastings is suggestive that Texas Roussanne is on a par with similarly priced wines from California. More hard research is needed and i would like to see the test recast in California.

          1. re: achalk

            Andrew, such tastings are fun. Period. But they don't prove $#|+. And before you misunderstand, I'm not being defensive, just factual. All that it means is that a particular groups of consumers preferred this particular wine on that particular day.

            It's like winning one Gold medal, which is somewhat akin to the sound of one hand clapping. What's important about medals is the number of ***different*** competitions in which "Chateau Cache Phloe" won medals, not that it won a Gold at __________ Fair or Competition. Multiple awards from multiple events signify broad appeal.

            The same can be said for (e.g.) Parker. OK, he (or one of his minions) liked _________. What did other reviewers/critics have to say. Five writers all raving about the same wine is far more impressing (and far more significant) than one guy says, "Good juice, Maynard."

            What you're demonstrating is that people had fun, and that Texas is making some interesting wines -- but don't confuse wine tasting (which, after all, is highly subjective) with "hard research" (which, by definition, would be objective, would it not?).

            1. re: zin1953

              Not conclusive at all. Agreed. But more than $#|+. These results are just three 'facts on the ground'. And, as you say, its when these kind of results are consistently replicated in other tastings and elsewhere that the preponderance of the evidence starts to shift.

              One other thing that these tastings do is induce readers to try the wines and form their own conclusions. Many people may have never tried McPherson Roussanne before results like these and now they want to.

              1. re: achalk

                Some of the Texas Viogniers from the earlier tasting are now distributed in California, so it appears to be working as a promotional tool.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Wow! Do you know who is handling them?


                  1. re: achalk

                    Oops, I was not reading carefully. A search for Texas Viognier in California turns up several, but they're actually online middlemen, so it's really a direct purchase from the winery.

                2. re: achalk

                  >>> Many people may have never tried McPherson Roussanne before results like these and now they want to. <<<
                  Which is EXACTLY what you want from a promotional tool! ;^)

            2. re: zin1953

              Our Roussanne (CALAIS Winery) is 100% Roussanne, we are a very small winery (600 cases a year) and our 2011 vintage has been sold out for a while. This is the reason why it doesn't appear on our website. All grapes in that wine are Texas High Plains AVA grown from "Tablas Creek clones", as I have said before without Beaucastel/Tablas there wouldn't be a CALAIS Roussanne.

              Also we will be releasing our 2012 Roussanne whenever harvest is over (One man winery here)

              1. re: bcalais

                Nice of you to chime in. Thank you. Seriously, I mean that. I would suggest that you leave the Roussanne description up and merely label it as "SOLD OUT" -- people who *have* already purchased the wine may wish to check the website for production information/details . . . just a thought.

                I just returned from several days DFW (104 degrees!), and unfortunately, not one sommelier suggested (nor did a restaurant pour BTG) a wine from Texas. But the Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, William Fevre Chablis, and Méo-Camuzet Burgundy were all excellent.

                1. re: zin1953

                  It is worse than that. At Sustenio, an allegedly 'cutting edge' restaurant in San Antonio, the wine list labels California jug wine (Becker, Merlot) as "Texas".

                  We have an educational task to accomplish.

            3. Pardon my ignorance

              But what was the first breakthrough Texas grape?

              4 Replies
              1. re: collioure

                ROFLMAO!!! (And a very good question.)

                1. re: collioure

                  collioure: There are at least two earlier "breakthrough" varieties, Viognier and Tempranillo. These links refer to tastings that I organized but are not the exhaustive evidence:



                  - A

                  1. re: achalk

                    Sounds to me that the "breakthrough" is that Texas is now beginning, repeat beginning, to make wines that may or may not be worthy of consideration outside of Texas.

                    1. re: achalk

                      Well, I am going to salute your enthusiasm and hope Texas wines continue to develop.