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Jun 1, 2014 07:16 PM

Texas Roussanne Tasted Blind Against California and France - Comes Out Top


Texas Roussanne Tasted Blind Against California and France - Comes Out Top

by Andrew Chalk
See the full report on Monday 2nd June in Texas Wine & Trail

We have reported that the Roussanne grape does well in Texas’s climate and soil and pondered whether it is the next breakthrough Texas grape. The answer will come when Texas Roussanne wines match the quality of Roussanne wines from California. In order to find out how they are doing, I organized a blind tasting open to all Texas Roussanne producers. Nearly all of them submitted two bottles of their current offering. We knew that Roussanne is much less widely made than Viognier, the premier white grape in the state. Nonetheless, we got participation from a total of six wineries who provided nine different wines. Submissions had to comply with the Federal rule that at least 75% of the grapes in the bottle must be the variety that appears on the label. All of the wines had Texas, or an American Viticultural Area (AVA) within Texas, as their place of grape origin., the event space and wine retailer in the Dallas Design District, offered us a private room and first class glassware. As with previous tastings of this kind, we chose professional sommeliers as the tasters in order to bring to bear the judgement of the most discriminating palates. Ten sommeliers participated, and over a three hour window they swirled and sniffed their way through the submitted wines and rendered their judgements in the form of a ranking. I tasted as well, but excluded my scores from the calculated results as I knew the names of the wines being tasted and had done the setup of the bottles in brown, numbered bags.

In order to give this exercise a point of comparison, I included wines from California and France that I purchased at retail in the Dallas area. These proved to be harder to source than I expected and I ended up with two California examples and one French one, despite trying every major fine wine seller in the Dallas area.

Below, are the results:
2012 Arche, Oswald Vineyard, THP
Oswald Vineyard
2012 McPherson Cellars, Reserve, THP

2010 Brushy Creek, Oswald Vineyard, Texas
Oswald Vineyard
2012 Arche, VR Oswald Vineyard, THP
Oswald Vineyard
2012 McPherson Cellars, Texas

2011 Dom. Lancyre, Vin de Pays de Monterrand
Top non-Texan wine
2012 Barking Rocks, Oswald Vineyard, THP
Oswald Vineyard
2013 Eden Hill Vineyard, Oswald Vineyard, THP

Oswald Vineyard
2012 Calais Winery, La Cuvee Principale, THP

2012 Eden Hill Vineyard, Oswald Vineyard, Texas

Oswald Vineyard
2012 Sobon Estate, Amador Co., CA
Second non-Texan
2011 Donkey & Goat, Stonecrusher, El Dorado
Third non-Texan

THP = Texas High Plains

Texas wines took the top five slots with the lone French entry coming sixth. The two California entries occupied the bottom two positions in the rankings. The top wine is Arche’s 2012 from the Texas High Plains. This was my personal favorite, and quite a find. It is complex, with excellent weight on the mouthfeel, tropical fruit, vanilla and ripe pear on the nose and reaffirmation of the tropical fruits in the palate. When Arche submitted it, I was quite eager to taste it as earlier that month it had won a platinum medal and scored 93 points at the San Diego International Wine Competition. It exceeded my expectations.The grapes came from the same Oswald Vineyard as most of the other Texas wines, so a lot of the credit must go to rising-star winemaker Grayson Davies, son of the founders.

Second place went to the consistently good McPherson Cellars, where Kim McPherson elevates the quality of Texas wine year after year. Matt Thompson said it had “integrated acid and fruit. Floral and pleasant aromatics. Nice Wine”. McPherson also came fourth with his non-reserve bottling, which is a bargain at just $14.

Brushy Creek, in third place, is a long-established Texas winery that appears to be a late bloomer. After an erratic record a few years ago, they have started to make good examples of varietally-correct wines. Their Klassen Vineyards Tempranillo placed fourth (out of 23) in our Tempranillo tasting last year. Brian Brill described their entry as “very well made wine”.

Barking Rocks, in seventh, is another improving winery. Simon Holguin found it “rounded, supple but muted”. Newcomer, Eden Hill Vineyard, just north of Dallas, is showing that it is very serious about its winemaking. While the winery establishes itself, winemaker Chris Hornbaker shuttles between a day-job as a web developer for a major Frisco corporation, oenology and viticulture classes at Grayson College, and making wine. He may wonder, but he is winning the battle. His 2013 beat out his 2012 and Daniel Kelada found it “a simple wine, ready to drink, that is on the fresher side”. Calais Winery produced a highly regarded Roussanne in 2011 but the 2012 we tasted was judged ‘unbalanced with acid out of whack’ by Matt Thompson although Simon Holguin found it “very different but in a great way”.

The takeaway from this tasting is that the future of Roussanne in Texas is bright and the state is already on a par with California. We need more rigorous blind tastings to confirm this. Within the state, Viognier may find itself displaced as the state’s premier white variety. More broadly, if Texas winemakers can successfully blend Roussanne with its blending counterparts in the Rhône Valley, Texas Roussanne blends could start to challenge French white wines from the Rhône. And that would be one avenue for Texas wine to enter the world stage.

The Tasters
Karla Barber. Instructor International Sommelier Guild.
Brian Brill. Advanced Sommelier.
Dilek Caner, Master of Wine
Kasey Carpenter. Wine writer
Simon Holguin. General Manager, Beverage Director, Kitchen LTO.
Daniel Kaleda. Executive Wine Sommelier and Senior Wine Instructor,International Wine Guild.
Jeremy King. Republic National Distributing Company
Anthony Martinez. Sommelier, Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center.
Steve Murphy. Advanced Sommelier.
Matt Thompson. ISG Certified Sommelier.

  1. The original comment has been removed
      1. "if Texas winemakers can successfully blend Roussanne with its blending counterparts in the Rhône Valley, Texas Roussanne blends could start to challenge French white wines from the Rhône."

        With the exception of some J. L. Chave Hermitage Blancs, the unblended Rhône Roussanes I've had were better than the Roussane-Marsanne blends. Same goes for California, the best was Alban's 100% Roussanne. The best white I've ever tasted that was not Riesling or Chardonnay was Beaucastel CdP Roussane Vielles Vignes.

        "the state is already on a par with California"

        Nonsense. As with the Texas Viognier tastings, there are no top French or California wines in the lineup. The Lancyre VdP Monterrand is so obscure that the only mentions of it Google finds are this page and the original of the story pasted above on

        1 Reply
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          It's Lancyre Montferrand, a misspelling. I've had it in the past. Not bad, actually.

        2. I've had the Sobon in that vintage. Never had Stonecrusher. Never tried the Texas wines and never had the Domaine Lancyre but I'm familiar with other vintages.

          The Sobon, based on my recollection, was fairly insipid. The Lancyre is often quite nice, as well.

          The tasting seems a bit unstructured and the inclusion of the Sobon, and its high finish, makes me question any results here. Definitely using this thrown together affair as reason to say definitively "the state is already on a par with California" is more than premature. The author even backpedals in his very next sentence!

          That said, I'm always excited for new wine regions to do well. This just rings of the "Tasting of Princeton" where a bunch of NJ wines did really well in blind tastings against France. I've had a lot of wines from those wineries (being formerly from NJ) in that tasting and they were...well, not pleasant overall.

          9 Replies
          1. re: QuakerInBoston

            The Sobon ranked next to last. Makes sense to me, I'm not sure I've ever liked one of their wines.

            I like the Stone Crusher but it's wildly atypical, a very tannic "orange" wine that shouldn't really be in a tasting of conventional whites.


            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              That's a reading comprehension issue on my part, whoops! Still, I'd never contain it. It's like being the prettiest girl at the ugly school.

            2. Texas Roussannes are about as hard to come by in California as French and California Roussanes are in Texas.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Correct and I even looked into buying a Texas Viognier.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Some of these can be direct-shipped to CA. Arche does for sure. That is the I suspect you would be most interested in.

                  1. re: achalk

                    Perhaps you could explain why Arche's 2010 Roussanne "Vintner's Reserve" is $19.95 through Amazon (?), while the 2012 "Vintner's Reserve" is $43.95 . . . quite an increase! Also, there is no way on their website to buy anything direct . . . nor is there anything labeled as being from the "Oswald Vineyard" (however, by price, I presume it's their regular bottling; it just isn't vineyard identified on their label).

                    FWIW, Andrew, neither 2012 Roussanne is available from Amazon; only the 2010 . . . except when you click on their link to Amazon, it has their name on an Amazon page, but ZERO wine available . . . .

                    1. re: zin1953

                      Yes, the supply chain isn't E.J. Gallo smooth yet. I would call them. As the front page of their site says, they do ship to CA. The prices reported in my article are correct at press time.

                      1. re: achalk

                        a) I believe you mean E.&J. Gallo. I have never heard of "E.J. Gallo." I don't think Ernest Gallo had a middle name; if he did, I never knew it.

                        b) NOTHING is as smooth and seamless as the Gallo supply chain; I wouldn't expect *any* winery to operate like Gallo.

                2. re: QuakerInBoston

                  I've had some Texas Viogniers that I enjoyed, and that might hold their own against some from France, but certainly not Condrieu!

                  And as for that New Jersey tasting you mentioned? Well, I just laughed when I first read about it. There are some NJ wines that are drinkable, but nothing to compare with any notable French wines of similar grapes.

                  My biggest quibble with the "better" NJ wines is that they're too expensive for their quality. (As in they taste like a $12 wine but are priced closer to $25 and up.)

                3. Andy - remind me not to put these on my shopping list