Is Dallas County The Next Burgundy?

By on September 25, 2013 Behind the Label

by Andrew Chalk for CraveDFW

Inwood Estates Vineyards is one of the best wineries in Texas, and its owner/winemaker, Dan Gatlin, one of the most influential winemakers in the state. As a result, the wines and stylistic nuances revealed at their release parties are something of a bellwether for the direction that other serious wine makers in the state will take down the road. For example, Inwood ‘proved’ the suitability of the Tempranillo grape and the Texas High Plains as its site a decade ago. That conclusion was the result of over a decade of research during which Inwood did not release a single wine (while producing hundreds of experiments). That conclusion is also accepted as one of the known facts or truisms among vignerons and wine makers statewide.

Another state truism is that the most popular grape among American consumers, Chardonnay, does not do well in Texas. Last week’s release party at the winery’s Dallas location may be about to make a bonfire of that truism.

I was a media guest at the release party where an enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd had arrived at the dot of noon to catch the opening of the afternoon’s festivities, before the small facility became totally packed.

Gatlin started the tasting with the 2012 Inwood Estate Vineyards Chardonnay, William Fears Vineyard, Dallas County ($39.50). You read that right. The grapes were sourced from Dallas County, grown in a small vineyard on Bear Creek Road. Gatlin ferments the wine in stainless steel. An essential technique is the use of full-cluster pressing. Under this procedure, the grape cluster cut from the vine is put into the fermentation vessel without the grapes being first stripped from the stems. The process of fermentation (conversion of sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide) makes the grapes swell inside their skins and eventually burst. Part of the fermentation has actually occurred inside the grape skin. Gatlin prefers the technique because “it reduces the opportunity for stems to be sliced or grazed thereby releasing grassy flavors into the wine. The resulting wines are fresh and clean with fruit driven character and unobstructed florals”.

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