Texas might be a state where you expect to see cowboys drinking whiskey and beer, but it's also the fifth largest wine producer in the United States. With 436 licensed wineries in the state, wine is a growing part of Texas culture, but did you know that wine has been around in Texas for a long time? That's right; over a hundred years ago, Texas saved wine and these days, the state is producing outstanding wines in some of the most beautiful country around.
With so many wineries in Texas, you could spend weeks trying to visit all of them. We've put together a list to help you out with your planning, though we should note that this list could be longer than a top 10. However, right now, these are 10 of the best wineries in Texas you need to visit, along with a background of wine in the Lone Star State.
Texas Vines Saved the World
Well, it saved the European wine industry, and that might as well be the same thing. In the mid-1800s, Europe was facing a crisis in their vineyards. France 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. which 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 rootstock, and he did, collecting 15 wagons full of stem cuttings to ship to Europe, and the resulting grafted vines saved the European wine industry.
You can understand what this effort truly meant by the recognition the French bestowed on Munson. They awarded him -- an Illinois-born, University of Kentucky-educated, Texas horticulturist -- with the Chevalier du Merite Agricole of the French Legion of Honor. There are statues of T.V. Munson in France even today. 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 in the Lone Star State. According to the Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association, Texas has over 4,000 acres of producing vineyards and the industry contributes more than $13.1 billion to the Texas economy. And whether you're coming from Austin, Fort Worth, or Houston, right now, we think these are 10 of the best wineries in Texas to visit.
The McPherson family has been growing grapes and making wine in Texas for over 40 years, and with their wines having won over 450 medals in state, national and international wine competitions, McPherson Cellars is definitely a place you want to visit. They believe in using Texas grapes and source all their fruit from Lubbock County or Terry County.
In a nod to early Spanish settlers (fun fact: Texas was where the first North American vineyard was established by Franciscan priests around 1662), one of their current wines is the La Herencia or "the heritage." It's a Spanish-style red wine blend made up of Tempranillo, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Carignan.
Their tasting room is located in downtown Lubbock in an old Coca-Cola bottling plant. Wine tastings and tours are available between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday-Saturday.
Trilogy Cellars is made up of three families, each with their own vineyard. In 2016, they opened a tasting room in a historic building in downtown Levelland to show off their shared vision and their award winning wines.
You'll want to try the Malbec; Rowdy Bolen, Chace Hill, and Steve Newsom started out with the idea to "put in a ton of Malbec grapes and have it bottled" which grew into the plan to build the tasting room in Hockley County featuring the best the Texas High Plains have to offer. The tasting room opens at noon Tuesday through Saturday and at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Homestead Winery is the oldest continually operating winery in the Red River Valley of North Texas. Homestead has three locations, which fittingly includes one in Denison (T.V. Munson's home).
Their Desert Rose is an award winning muscat wine and they also have a 100 percent Zinfandel on offer. Their three tasting rooms are located in Ivanhoe, Denison, and Grapevine.
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 turned vintner.
Coming up on summer, you're going to want to try their rosé. And if you're getting married in the near future, the scenery at the winery is stunning. The tasting room is open Wednesday and Sunday from noon until 8 p.m. and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from noon until 9 p.m.
Brennan Vineyards started in 2002 with vines of Viognier, Syrah, and Cabernet, but the location is steeped in Texas history. The winery is located on one of the oldest homesteads in Texas and the tasting room is the historic McCrary House in Comanche.
Try the Viognier, one of their award-winning white wines (and a grape that grows well in Texas), and make sure you ask about life on the Texas frontier while you're trying their modern Texas wines.
The tasting room is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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, which has led them to an award-winning Viognier and an outstanding Tempranillo.
Their tasting room at the winery in Stonewall is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday noon to 6 p.m. They also have a tasting room in Fredericksburg which is open every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Becker Vineyards has been making wines for 20 years now 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 made the Texas Monthly top 30 Texas wines for spring.
They have two tasting rooms, one at the winery in Stonewall and the other in downtown Fredericksburg. Both are open seven days a week.
Duchman Family Winery prides themselves on using 100 percent Texas grapes in their wines. Founded in 2004, the winery focuses on Italian grape varietals like Vermentino, Sangiovese, and Dolcetto.
Definitely go for the wine, but also plan time to simply enjoy the outdoors. Bring a picnic and enjoy the beautiful Texas Hill Country view that HGTV listed as one of the 20 most picturesque wineries in the country.
The tasting room at the winery in Monday from noon to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
William Chris Vineyards comes 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 come from 100 percent Texas grapes. Try their red blend and their Sangiovese, and make sure you plan plenty of time to hang out in the tasting room on a historic property in Hye, Texas. Their wine club without a doubt has the best name: if you're a wine club member, you're officially Hye Society.
They're open every day of the week, but require reservations on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
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 cryomaceration and thermoflash fermentation methods. And no, you don't have to know what those things mean to know that their wine tastes great.
Located in Comfort, Texas, which a cool town on its own, the tasting room is open Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
Technically, this is number 11 on the list, but since it's a collaboration between three of the wineries already mentioned, we're including it as a postscript. 4.0 Cellars in Fredericksburg is a collaboration between three Texas wineries, Brennan Vineyards at Comanche, Lost Oak Winery in Burleson, and McPherson Cellars in the Texas Panhandle. With that much talent and experience behind these wines, you know this place is another one to add to the must-visit list.