To think "Texas" is to conjure cowboys drinking whiskey and beer and eating BBQ. But the state is also the fifth largest wine producer in the United States, and Texas wineries- more than 500 of them- are drawing tourists and crowds. In fact, wine has been part of Texas for more than a century-and in fact, it arguably saved European wine. These days, the state is producing outstanding wines in some of the most beautiful country in America.
Texas is enormous, and you could spend months visiting all its great vineyards, so we whittled down to 10 we love. (Read on!)
Texas Vines Saved Euro Wines
In the mid-1800s, Europe was facing a vineyard crisis. France alone lost almost 80 percent of its vines during the 1840s to a fungus called oidium. To fight the fungus, they imported a rootstock from the U.S. that worked-except that it also introduced phylloxera, a plant louse, into the vineyards, damaging the recovering plants even more.
A man named Thomas Volney Munson was developing a phylloxera-resistant rootstock in a vineyard in Denison, Texas. French grape growers requested that Munson send them some of the rootstocks, and he did, collecting 15 wagons full of stem cuttings to ship to Europe. The resulting grafted vines saved the European wine industry.
The French did not take this gift lightly. The Legion of Honor bestowed upon Munson-an Illinois-born, University of Kentucky-educated horticulturist-a Chevalier du Mérite Agricole (a knighted order of agricultural merit). There are even statues of Munson in France today. (The Southern Foodways Alliance featured the story in an episode of their podcast, Gravy, and it's definitely worth a listen.)
The Texas wine industry is a powerhouse. According to the Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association, the Lone Star State has more than 4,000 acres of producing vineyards, and the industry contributes more than $13.1 billion to the Texas economy.
What's The Most Popular Wine in Texas?
Texas has four big wine regions, each hosting wine trails and quality bottles for oenophiles to enjoy. Texas High Plains, which sprawls 8 million acres, boasts 75 different varieties of grapes, making up over 80% of the state's wine grapes according to Wine Mag. One of the most popular grapes is Viognier, a white grape that originated in Southern France. Fruity, with hints of honeysuckle and mango, this medium-bodied wine pairs well with salads, cheese, and roast chicken.
Central Texas is also home to countless wineries, making it the perfect getaway for wine lovers. When in Central Texas, grab a glass of albariño, which is bright and floral. (Its best pairings include fish and fruit.)
No matter your grape of choice, and whether you're coming from Austin or Houston, these are 10 of the best wineries in Texas to visit.
1. McPherson Cellars
With its focus on all-Texas grapes-in fact, they all hail from Lubbock or Terry County- and its 450 medals, which they won over 40 years of making Texas wine, McPherson Cellars is definitely a place you want to visit.
In a nod to early Spanish settlers-Texas was where Franciscan priests established the first North American vineyard around 1662-one of their current wines is called La Herencia or "the heritage." It's a Spanish-style red wine blend made up of Tempranillo, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Carignan.
McPherson's tasting room is located in downtown Lubbock in an old Coca-Cola bottling plant. Wine tastings and tours are available between 12pm and 7pm, Tuesday-Saturday. (Thursdays, the tasting room closes at 6pm to accommodate a weekly music event on the outdoor patio.)
2. Homestead Winery
Until recently, Homestead Winery was the oldest continually operating winery in the Red River Valley of North Texas. Homestead has two locations, which fittingly includes one in Denison (T.V. Munson's home). Their Desert Rose is an award-winning Muscat wine, and they have a 100 percent Zinfandel on offer. Their two tasting rooms are in Denison and Plano.
3. Lost Oak Winery
Lost Oak Winery is an award-winning winery on the banks of Village Creek in Burleson, Texas, just outside of Fort Worth. Gene Estes, Lost Oak's president, was a microbiologist before he became a vintner. Their rosé is particularly marvelous. And if you're getting married in the near future, the vignettes at the vineyard scenery are just stunning. The tasting room is open from 2pm to 8pm, Tuesday and Wednesday, 1pm to 9pm Thursday and Friday, noon to 9pm Saturday, and noon to 7pm Sunday.
4. Brennan Vineyards
Brennan Vineyards started in 2002 with vines of Viognier, Syrah, and Cabernet, and the location is steeped in Texas history. The winery is located on one of the oldest homesteads in Texas; the tasting room is the historic McCrary House in Comanche. Try the Viognier, one of their award-winning white wines.The tasting room is open Wednesday and Thursday, noon-7pm, Friday and Saturday, Noon to 8pm, and Sunday, noon to 5pm.
5. Pedernales Cellars
Texas Hill Country wineries have some of the best winery scenery around, and it doesn't get much prettier than the view at Pedernales Cellars, which calls their wines "world-class with a Texas accent." They source all their grapes from either Texas Hill Country or the Texas High Plains. They have an award-winning Viognier and an outstanding Tempranillo.
Their Stonewall tasting room is open Monday - Thursday 10am - 5pm, Friday & Saturday 10 am - 6pm, and Sunday 12pm - 5pm.
6. Becker Vineyards
Becker Vineyards has been making wines for 20 years with a focus on Texas grapes. They claim to crush more Texas fruit to make their wine than any other winery in the state. If you're a red wine fan, you definitely want to try their Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah, both of which have made Texas Monthly "top 30 Texas wines" cameos.
They have two tasting rooms, one rural and one downtown. There's an estate vineyard and a Main Street tasting room 20 minutes away. Main Street hours: Sun -Thu 11am-6pm, Fri-Sat 11-7pm. Estate: Mon-Thurs 10-5, Fri and Sat 10-6, Sun noon-6.
7. Duchman Family Winery
Duchman Family Winery prides itself on using 100 percent Texas grapes in their wines. Founded in 2004, the winery focuses on Italian grape varietals such as Vermentino, Sangiovese, and Dolcetto. Definitely go for the wine, but also plan time to simply be outside. Bring a picnic and enjoy the beautiful Texas Hill Country; HGTV listed this spot as one of the 20 most picturesque wineries in the country.
The tasting room's hours are 12-6pm Mon, 12-7pm Tues-Th)u, 12-8pm Friday and Saturday, and 12-7pm Sunday. (Tastings are reservation-only Fri-Sun.)
8. William Chris Vineyards
William Chris Vineyards comes from two veteran winemakers. In 2008, partners Bill Blackmon and Chris Brundrett created six barrels of their flagship wine, Enchanté (which is why their sign says, in a perfect Texas touch, "Enchanté, y'all"), and the rest is wine history.
All their wines comprise 100-percent Texan grapes. Try their red blend and their Sangiovese, and plan plenty of time to hang out in the tasting room on their historic Hye property. (Their wine club has the best name; if you're a wine club member, you're officially "Hye Society.")
They're open Sunday to Wednesday, 11am-5pm, and Thursday through Saturday, 10am to 6pm. Though they can accommodate some walk-ins on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, they require reservations the rest of the week-and you can always sample glasses and bottles on their patio.
9. Bending Branch Winery
Bending Branch Winery has been named "Top Texas Winery" by multiple organizations. Their signature wine is a Tannat, an old-world grape that does well in Texas ground.
The winery combines Old World grapes with New World techniques like cryo-maceration and thermoflash fermentation methods. (And no, you don't have to know what those things mean to know that their wine tastes great.)
They're open noon to 6pm seven days a week. Reservations are recommended, but not required.
10. Texas Wine Collective
The winery formerly known as 4.0 Cellars is a collaboration between three of the excellent vineyards already mentioned here: Brennan Vineyards; Lost Oak Winery; McPherson Cellars. With that much talent at play, you know these wines are worth investigating. Pro tip: They've got a solid live music lineup, from blues to bluegrass, so plan accordingly! Visit from Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5:30pm, or Sunday, 11am-5pm.
This article was originally published November 5, 2021.