23 Texas Tempranillo Wines Tasted In Blind Mega Tasting by Professional Sommeliers

By on August 4, 2013 Texas Wine News

Once again Andrew Chalk, Editor at CraveDFW and Senior Writer for Texas Wine and Trail Magazine has organized an incredible blind mega-tasting for Texas wines, this time opting for what has become known as the signature red of Texas, the Tempranillo.  Most remember the last tasting Chalk hosted a few weeks ago for Texas Viognier, several of which had recently won at the Lyons International Competition in France.

Texas Tempranillo Tasting 2

Photos by Robert Bostik

In an ongoing effort to prove how far Texas has come in the quality of wine produced in the Lone Star State, this weekend, 23 Texas Tempranillo wines from 15 wineries went head-to-head competing with each other in a blind taste test judged by seven professional sommeliers.  The timing couldn’t be more perfect, considering next week begins the largest beverage event in Texas.  The 9th Annual TEXSOM conference will be held August 10th – 12th  at the Four Seasons Resort and Club at Las Colinas, and is a conference, competition, and more for beverage professionals from around the world.  For the first time, several Texas wines will be available for tasting in a hospitality suite hosted by Texas Monthly, sponsor of the 2013 Texas’ Best Sommelier Competition.

The Judges

Russell Burkett – SER, Hilton Anatole Hotel, Dallas

Jamie Glover – Lasco Enterprises

Jeremy King – Gaylord Texan Resort

Anthony Martinez – Gaylord Texan Resort

Chris Morgan – Oceanaire/Morton’s;

Steve Murphey – Mid-West Wine

Jeff Solomon – Max’s Wine Dive

Texas Tempranillo Tasting 8

Texas Tempranillo Tasting 10

The Texas Tempranillo tasting results are below (rank 1 is best, 23 is worst):





2011 Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo, Reserve, Texas



2011 Brennan Vineyards Tempranillo, Texas



2011 Llano Estacado ‘Cellar Reserve’ Tempranillo, Texas High Plains



2011 Brushy Creek Vineyards Tempranillo, Klassen Vineyards, Texas



2011 McPherson Cellars “La Herencia”, Red Table Wine, Texas



2011 Crosstimbers Winery Tempranillo, Texas



2010 Calais Winery “La Cuvee de Manoir” Tempranillo, Newsom Vineyard, Texas High Plains



2011 Calais Winery Tempranillo, Newsom Vineyard, Texas High Plains



2010 Texas Hills Vineyard ‘Toro de Tejas’ Tempranillo, Reddy Vineyard, Texas



2010 Brushy Creek Vineyards Tempranillo, Rush Creek Vineyard, Texas



2012 Lost Oak Winery Tempranillo, Texas



2011 Pedernales Cellars, Texas



2011/2012 Lost Oak Winery Tempranillo, Texas



2007 Red Caboose Winery and Vineyards Tempranillo, Texas



2010 Brushy Creek Vineyards, Texas



2010 Texas Hills Vineyards, ‘Toro de Tejas’ Tempanillo, Newsom Vineyard, Texas High Plains



2007 Bar Z Winery ‘Enigmatic’, Texas High Plains



2011 Perissos Vineyard and Winery Tempranillo, Texas Hill Country



NV Blue Ostrich Winery and Vineyard, Tempranillo, Texas



2010 Times Ten Cellars Tempranillo, Cathedral Mountain Vineyard, Texas



2010 Pedernales Cellars, Tempranillo, Texas High Plains



NV Tara Vineyard and Winery Tempranillo, Texas



2011 Pontotoc Vineyard Tempranillo, Estate Bottled, Mason County




1)      All the wines are 75%+ Texas Tempranillo;

2)      Texas wine prices are from the winery web site for a single bottle purchase. Case discounts usually apply;

Texas Tempranillo Tasting 3

 Why The Tasting?

The organizer of the event, Andrew Chalk, an editor at CraveDFW, said “There is general agreement that Tempranillo is the red grape that has done best in Texas thus far. I decided it was time to do a comparative tasting in order to get an idea of how good Texas Tempranillo has become, and who is doing the best job with the grape. I put out an APB to every winery in Texas for their currently available Texas Tempranillos and received no fewer than 23 different wines from fifteen wineries in response. As with our earlier comparison of Texas Viognier, the tasting would be blind and the tasters would be volunteers from the Dallas sommelier community. ”

Texas Tempranillo Tasting 1

Choosing The Judges

Chalk said “I figured that if I did the judging the results would be about as credible as Kim Kardashian challenging string theory, so I emailed every professional sommelier in town and invited them to judge. Seven sommeliers, plus myself, assembled at WinePoste.com in the Dallas Design District over several hours to sip and slurp our way through the wines. I excluded my scores from the results as I was involved in the packaging of the wines into their numbered brown bags”.

Texas Tempranillo Tasting 6

The Results

Chalk: “My first impression from the tasting was how huge the variation was between the wines. Some reasons for this are clear:

  • Among the bottles tasted were several vintages (from 2007 to 2012) and some multi-vintage and non-vintage (NV) wines.

  • The grapes came from all over the state. Texas is so huge that weather conditions in one area may be no guide to weather conditions in another in any given vintage;

  • Some wineries have more than a decade of experience making Tempranillo and others are brand new;

  • Some grape sources were young vines and others more established;

Texas Tempranillo Tasting 4

All the wines could be described with Texas on the front label but several used more specific locations. For example, six wines used the Texas High Plains American Viticultural Area (AVA), and one the Texas Hill Country AVA. One even adopted the legitimate practise of using the name of the Texas county as the designated area of origin.

My second impression was how Texas Tempranillo as a category has improved over the long term. The best are now very good, something we will measure more precisely in a future tasting of Texas versus the wines of Tempranillo’s native country of Spain. While the best are better, it should also be said that the bottom of the scale is as bad as ever. However, placement in the rankings can be changed quickly. For example, I tasted the 2005 Crosstimbers Winery Tempranillo at the ‘Big Red’ wine tasting at The Joule in Dallas in 2010. I reported “Nose: Alcoholic. Taste: Thin fruit and battery acid volatility.” How times change. Crosstimbers came sixth in this tasting.

My third impression was that experience counts. The top five wineries are all ‘old hands’ who have learned good winemaking and are now moving on to specialize and develop their own styles. McPherson Cellars (5th) even has the courage to call their Tempranillo just ‘Red Table Wine’ in the belief that its quality will speak for itself.

My best newcomer award goes to Calais Winery (7th) just six years old. Benjamin Calais is establishing himself now that he is finally on the list to get grapes from a quality vineyard. The winery is in Deep Ellum and worth a visit.”

The judges did not hold back on their opinions. On the number one ranked wine, 2011 Pedernales Reserve, Jeff Solomon, of Max’s Wine Dive also rated it first and noted an aroma that was “bright red fruit, earthy, dirty, dusty with dried fig” and a taste that was “well balanced”. He summarized it as a “great representation of what Tempranillo can be in Texas”.

On the second-placed wine, 2011 Brennan Vineyards, Jeremy King with The Gaylord Texan Resort rated it a personal second and noted its ”rich dark fruit” on the nose and that in the mouth it had “great balance and a long finish”.

The third-placed 2011 Llano Estacado was Advanced Sommelier Steve Murphey’s second favorite and he listed notes of ‘tea leaves, dried red fruit, herbal, chicory..”.Russell Burkett with SER Steak+Spirits at the Hilton Anatole ranked it fifth and described it as “bright ruby color leading with earth notes of turned soil, wet leaves, stewed fruits of blackberry, chery, raspberry. Moderate-plus acidity. Long finish”.

Brushy Creek Vineyards entered several wines and their 2011 Klassen Vineyards (the vineyard name is spelled that way on the label, but differently on the web site) placed fourth. It was the favorite of Chris Morgan, Divisional Beverage Sales Manager of Oceanaire/Morton’s. He said that it had a “dark, cherry, integrated oak. Not Rioja but good Tempranillo”. Anthony Martinez of The Gaylord Texan Resort placed it fifth in his ranking noting that it was “showing nice fruit and low to medium tannin”.

The fifth-placed 2011 McPherson was “young, green” with “fresh strawberry” and was “clean” according to Jamie Glover of Lesko Enterprises


Chalk summarized the implications thus:

To consumers: Consider a Texas Tempranillo with your next steak, lamb or barbecue. Also, on day trips, consider visiting some of these producers and tasting thses wines on their premises.

To sommeliers: Use the results here as a guide for the best choice for your list;

To the wineries and grape growers in Texas: Stay the course. Tempranillo was one of the ‘right choices’.Quality continues to improve and this is the path to greater consumer acceptance.

To the wine media: Consider adding the best of these to Tempranillo tastings featured in your pages. The quality improvement has been ongoing.

Overall, a very instructive tasting and a compelling snapshot of the state of Texas Tempranillo. The grape has come a long way in the state but still has a way to go. Future Crave tastings will assess it against Spain and Tempranillo from California, Arizona and other promising areas.


These wineries are all small. Order direct from the winery web site or, in the case of some, from the Amazon.com wine site. If you are out of state, and experience problems with either of the above, call the winery to see if they have a legal way to deliver to you.

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