HOME > Chowhound > Wine >


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.

WinePoste.com, 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. "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 cravedfw.com.

      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. re: achalk

            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

                1. Ay-yi-yi! Another bogus claim from Texas. Nuff said.

                  17 Replies
                  1. re: collioure

                    It's getting to be a regular report from the OP...

                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      According to the Wine Enthusiast the vineyard of reference for Roussanne in France is Eole, not Lancyre.

                      Roussanne is rarely a solo varietal in France. It is often blended with Marsanne to produce the most substantial and interesting whites here in Mediterranean France.

                      However, I am told that Marsanne does not seem to propsper nearly as well here in Roussillon. So they are blending Roussanne alone into the Grenache Gris/ Grenache Blanc/Malvoisie wines.

                      1. re: collioure

                        I believe 100% Roussannes are rare because it's a relatively unproductive and hard-to-grow variety, not because it's improved by blending.

                        The French 100% Roussannes with the best reputations are probably the Beaucastel I mentioned above (2012 $140 pre-release here in California) and Grand Veneur "la Fontaine" ($65). Both also make blends that are less expensive.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I consider it one of the noble Mediterranean white grapes, and just like Syrah and Mourvèdre a few years ago it's finding its way into better white blends as an amélioration cepage. I think that's the term.

                          My wife's son-in-law grows it and his contribution has made Ch les Pins Blanc a much better wine today. In fact Dom Brial (the trade name of the department’s leading cooperative at Baixas) continues to increase the percentage of Roussanne.

                          I always heard Roussanne was not easy to grow, but now I must ask. It seems to be making inroads here.

                          1. re: collioure

                            It's all the rage in Texas - apparently - lol

                            1. re: collioure

                              Not only Mediterranean. Chignin Bergeron from Savoie
                              is 100% Roussanne.

                                1. re: bclevy

                                  Not just good. Better than most from the Rhone.

                                  1. re: bclevy

                                    Right on!
                                    I look for those wines at the annual fall supermarket sales, but they never get down here. Often an Apremont, but they are very ordinary.

                                    1. re: collioure

                                      Apremont is made from Jacquere not roussanne. Chignin Bergeron is pure roussanne and very much different.

                          2. re: collioure

                            Try the wine and report back with facts.

                            1. re: achalk

                              Just out of curiosity, ***what facts***?

                              The tasting results show that a group of individuals each tasted a number and voiced their OPINION as to the wine(s). As you very well know -- or should -- that UC Davis (and other organizations) routinely taste the same wines with the same panel of individuals, but at different times of day, and obtain different, statistically significant results. The same wines, tasted by a different group of people, will also yield different and statistically significant results . . .

                              Me thinks thou doth proselytize too much.

                              1. re: zin1953

                                These are educated palates zin1953.

                                1. re: achalk

                                  That has nothing to do with it. No one has said they aren't. However, the results still represent their opinions, and I have little doubt that, as is nearly always the case, a second tasting of the exact same wines -- blind, and in a different order of service -- would yield different results.

                              2. re: achalk

                                Except in this case there are no "facts", only RESULTS from your skewed judgement of Texas. Nice "manufractured" marketing touch though.

                            2. I don't understand why the French Roussanne wines are under-represented.

                              The OP wrote that only one was available in wine stores in Dallas, but I've checked inventories of at least five stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and there are many Roussanne bottlings available.

                              But even if French Roussanne were unavailable to purchase in person at a DFW store, those wines could be ordered and shipped so that a legitimate tasting comparison of Texas and French Roussanne could be made.

                              Seems odd to say Texas Roussanne bested French Roussanne when only one bottle of the French was tasted.

                              So, I don't understand why French Roussanne wines were said to be unavailable when they clearly ARE available. And could be gathered easily.

                              41 Replies
                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                ML: Which Dallas stores did you go to and what did you find?

                                1. re: achalk

                                  I just checked Spec's (aka Mr G's) and they have at least half a dozen French Roussannes in stock.

                                  1. re: kagemusha49

                                    I shopped Specs. James McFadyen, a senior guy there (and WSET Advanced) assisted me. On Friday they had one. He confirmed that they have one today.

                                    Who did you speak with?

                                    What are the names of the "at least half a dozen" wines?

                                    1. re: kagemusha49

                                      Are you sure you asked about Roussanne, and not Chardonnay, thinking they were the same?

                                      1. re: kagemusha49

                                        Spec's web site lists only one French 100% Roussanne, the Lancyre. The others are blends dominated by other grapes.

                                        The only non-Texan 100% Roussanne I find on Total Wine's web site is the Sobon.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          I stand corrected - I included the blends

                                      2. re: achalk

                                        I just checked Total Wine in Park Land, and they have four (the fifth is marked out-of-stock).

                                        1. re: zin1953

                                          Never heard of Park Land. Is it in Texas?

                                          1. re: achalk

                                            My bad: Park Lane. Missed it by one letter . . .

                                            1. re: zin1953

                                              That would be on Central Expressway

                                              1. re: zin1953

                                                That is the one I went to. They had none. I also contacted an assistant manager (a WSET L3) today and he confirmed it.

                                                1. re: achalk

                                                  They're there, marked in stock on the website.

                                                  But what about all the other stores with French Roussanne in stock? Or ordering the wines?

                                                  There's no excuse for having only one French Roussanne and then saying Texas Roussanne beat the French Roussanne after tasting only one bottle.

                                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                                    The web site shows only the Beaucastel blend in stock at that store.

                                                    They could have ordered some.

                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                      No they are not. I just got confirmation from an assistant manager.

                                                      Given your failure to support your claim that there are half a dozen at Total Wine, despite repeated requests, we will assume the claim is wrong. Please produce a full list of the wines or nobody will believe your claim is credible.

                                                      The situation right now is that the store has flatly contradicted you.

                                                      1. re: achalk

                                                        My failure?

                                                        You're talking about *my failure*?

                                                        That's a laugh.

                                                        Don't blame me for your fuck-up.

                                                        Roussanne wines are all over DFW. I am only one of many writers on this thread saying that.

                                                        Besides, you're talking about one store now -- Total -- and maybe only one location of the five Total stores, and ignoring all the other DFW stores that have French and California Roussanne in stock.

                                                        Plus, you're completely ignoring the idea you could have ORDERED everything and had it on hand for the tasting. But didn't.

                                                        Finding French and California Roussanne wines was your job before the tasting. You didn't do your homework, and now you're asking me to list where everything is -- you want MY HOMEWORK.

                                                        When I don't give *my* homework to you, you blame me. So that's who you are?

                                                        Man up, and don't blame me for your not finding the wines.

                                                        Sounds like you don't even know what to look for, since the word Roussanne is NOT on the French wine labels.

                                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                                          "Finding French and California Roussanne wines was your job before the tasting."

                                                          Au contrare. For this tasting as well as the others he posts about his "job" is to rig the tasting so the Texas wines win.

                                                        2. re: achalk

                                                          Hmmm... credibility... achalk or maria lorraine...

                                                          1. re: JAB

                                                            It took longer for me to read that than it did to decide . . .

                                                            1. re: zin1953

                                                              She has form you know. Read this thread


                                                              and notice how she picks assertions out of nowhere and then refuses to reveal their source.

                                                              1. re: achalk

                                                                Actually Andy, I'd say that this link documents your prior "form".

                                                                1. re: achalk

                                                                  Ahhhhh, yes -- when you find the facts inconvenient, cast aspersions upon the individual who pointed out the facts in the first place.

                                                2. re: achalk

                                                  French Roussannes are all around Dallas-Fort Worth. Rarely is Roussanne bottled as a stand-alone varietal, though, like the Beaucastel. You have to know how to look for it.

                                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                                    We are looking for that list from you. Remember you said

                                                    " I've checked inventories of at least five stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and there are many Roussanne bottlings available."

                                                    Which ones?

                                                    1. re: achalk

                                                      Let me ask you, how did you go about searching?

                                                      And, have you taken the time now to confirm with stores that French Roussanne wines (and good American examples also, BTW) are found all over the Dallas-Fort worth area, as several of us have already found?

                                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                                        Blends with a modest percentage of Roussanne are available. The only non-Texan 100% Roussannes that have turned up in search results to date are the Sobon and Lancyre.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          The Beaucastel (100% Roussanne) is at several locations, and since it is a benchmark Roussanne, should have been included in the tasting. Roussanne is also found in varying blend percentages at DFW stores.

                                                          But, again, a plethora of Roussanne wines could have been ordered, even if not in stock at stores, and gathered, for the tasting to be a valid comparison.

                                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                                            We are looking for that specific list from you. Remember you said

                                                            " I've checked inventories of at least five stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and there are many Roussanne bottlings available."

                                                            Which ones?

                                                            1. re: achalk

                                                              You've asked that and I've responded by asking you to share with me how you went about searching. I'm waiting to hear about your search, since it didn't seem to be successful in locating wines that are available.

                                                              1. re: achalk

                                                                Well, I hate to do your homework for you (if parents do it, how will the children ever learn for themselves?), but . . .

                                                                -- Tablas Creek is distributed by Glazer's in Texas. See http://www.glazers.com/locations/texa...

                                                                -- Domaine de Terre Rouge is distributed in Texas by Favorite Brands. See http://www.favoritebrands.org

                                                                -- Qupé wines are represented by Pioneer Wine Co. in Dallas. See http://www.pioneerwine.com

                                                                -- Trouchard is handled by Republic National. See http://www.rndc-usa.com/about/map/tex...

                                                                -- Stolpman is handled by Prestige in Texas, but I think that's a part of Glazer's now . . .

                                                                -- DeLille Cellars (their Rhone-styled wines are under the "Doyenne" label) are also handled by Glazer's; see above.

                                                                -- Barnard Griffin's wines are handled by Mid-State Wine & Liquor in Houston. Don't know if they get up to Dallas. See http://www.mid-statewine.com

                                                                -- Novelty Hill's wines are represented by Serendipity Wines; as they are in Austin, however, the wines may not be available in Dallas.

                                                                The list goes on and on, and this only covers a tiny handful of domestic producers. Obviously wines like Paul Jaboulet Aîné, M. Chapoutier, and E. Guigal can be found in Texas, but so, too, can white Rhônes such as Château du Beaucastel, Domaine Grand Veneur, Château du Trignon, and others which are nationally handled by Frederick Wildman, Kermit Lynch, North Berkeley, Kysela Pere et Fils, Wilson-Daniels, Martin-Scott, Kobrand, and many others . . .

                                                      2. re: maria lorraine

                                                        I have tried to stay away from this post since I lived in Dallas for many more years than I want to admit to. And, I have always admired the people who are growing grapes and making wine in Texas. But........I think the fact that achalk is refusing to say why the deck was stacked really tells it all. Marie Lorraine is correct, French roussanne is available in Dallas. Do you realize how many people there are in the Dallas/Ft.Worth/Denton triangle? It probably exceeds three million. Just about any wine is available in that market. Sigel's is, IMHO, the best source in the area. They either have what you want, or they will get it for you. The very idea that French roussanne isn't available is a joke. Draw your own conclusions as to why they stacked the deck in this "tasting".

                                                        1. re: pinotho

                                                          I shopped there, pinotho, and it isn't. Sigel's had none (French or Californian). Jasper Russell, wine director, told me that. Maybe you know more than he does but I take his word on this.

                                                          1. re: achalk

                                                            I'll assume you are referring to Jasper Russo. I don't want to hurt your feelings, I don't want to be rude to you, but I believe you are missing the point by trying to counter everything but the main argument: which is that your tasting was flawed, and there was no legitimate reason for it to be flawed. Allow me to add one more thought, achalk, which is that there are a lot of hard working people trying to create a wine industry in Texas, and I think many of them would concede that this is not the type of tasting that is in their long term interest. Truly best wishes to all of you who are engaged with growing wine in Texas.

                                                            1. re: pinotho

                                                              Jasper Russo, yes (that is what comes of typing on a phone).

                                                              Well, what did he say? Did he agree with me that he has no inventory? Did he mention that I asked him in person on Friday?

                                                              1. re: achalk

                                                                again, missing the point.

                                                                1. re: pinotho

                                                                  Well, to paraphase a standard line in the Jewish liturgy, "Why is this point different than all other points?"

                                                                  1. re: pinotho

                                                                    Yes, missing the point entirely about this not being a valid tasting comparison.

                                                                    The search for French and US Roussanne was not informed -- sounds like the OP did not even know how to find FR Roussanne or what to ask for. Even if the wines weren't in stock, they weren't ordered, as they should have been, to create a valid comparison tasting.

                                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                      Perhaps the tasting was an emergency and there was no time to order wine?

                                                                      1. re: kagemusha49

                                                                        Must be, and all the judges were rounded up at gunpoint.

                                                      3. re: maria lorraine

                                                        Hi, ML: "I don't understand why the French Roussanne wines are under-represented."

                                                        I don't think you have to look much farther than the fact that this is a cheerleading exercise for Texas wines.

                                                        The pattern sometimes goes: University ag people decide viniculture is viable in a non-traditional state; someone picks a grape or two they think will do well and have cache/niche potential; some farmers inevitably bite; growers/ag people form trade groups to promote; fans/trade groups stage questionable tastings to spotlight local wines; local niche grape wines (in this case unblended Roussane) doing well is "proof" of world-class achievement.

                                                        Making the Jamaican Olympic team doesn't make you Usain Bolt. These Texas wines should rise or fall on their individual merits in national and international judgings, not these local set-pieces. JMO.


                                                        1. re: kaleokahu

                                                          I have to agree. There is nothing wrong with promoting the local product. I believe in supporting my community and for me that means spending 75% of my wine money in my county and 80% in my country. And I am sure the Texas wines are fine, but to put them over in a national way is going to take at lot of work and this wont do it. Virginia has a much longer history of wine making and they are barely noticed. Instead of comparing to France and California, I would think just being themselves would work better, first convince Texans that the wine is good. they will sell the rest of us.

                                                      4. This is a discussion that was debated same time last year and there were many skeptics then who suggested that the number of French and and California bottles were not sufficient to have a legitimate tasting result and there does not seem to be any change in the approach this year. When you are able to pour equal numbers of respectible labels from each area, which to my mind means at least 5 from each area, then there may be something for non Texas vinters to notice. This is not a knock on your wines since I have to tasted a one. This is just me saying what I think and hear in many responses. It feels like a rigged game. This is not the way to sell Texas wine.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: budnball

                                                          To quote Yogi Berra: "It's like deja-vu, all over again."

                                                            1. re: wineguy7

                                                              I've marked my calendar for next year. We should have a pool for which grape/clone in TX "comes out on top".

                                                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                I got five on Tempranillo . . .

                                                          1. This discussion seems to be getting increasingly unfriendly on all sides of the issue, so we think it's best to close this thread now.