F&W’s Ray Isle has become a convert to wines from once-unpromising states like Arizona. He pits the top bottles from “the new America” against Europe’s best in a sommelier taste test.
Around eight years ago, I took a trip with my father through Texas wine country. I was going to be down in Texas to research an article about Austin restaurants, and that seemed like a good enough excuse to both of us. We spent three days visiting wineries in Hill Country, taking it easy, talking and driving and tasting wine. We had a great time. But the wines we tasted just weren’t very good. The worst were stinky and strange, the best were…OK. Not flawed, but definitely not all that exciting.
Flash forward to the annual Austin Food & Wine Festival in April 2013. I’d agreed to be on a panel about Texas wine, despite some misgivings because of that earlier trip. But as I tasted through the wines, what I felt instead was relief and, to be honest, a frisson of pride for my home state. The wines weren’t just good; they were very good. My favorite, a Tannat from Bending Branch Winery in Comfort, Texas—a little town of about 2,300 people that’s about as non-Napa-fancy as a town can get—was spicy, powerful and polished, and as good a red wine as I’d tasted in the past several months.