This past July marked the fourth (!) anniversary of our great migration south; we had spent sixteen years in Philadelphia but packed it all up and moved to Beverly, er Houston. Prior to 2016, I can honestly say that I never once considered moving to the south, much less to Texas. Four years in? I have to say that I am legitimately disappointed: disappointed that I don’t hate it.
There are numerous reasons to like/love Houston, many of which I have iterated previously in this space. Namely, it is relatively inexpensive to live here, my wife job affords her a much nicer salary than she had in Philadelphia (although my meager “earnings” remain largely unchanged), the food scene is at least on a par with Philly, the wine scene is far superior to our previous situation, and the people here are really nice (yes, many of them have guns, but…).
There is one aspect about life in Houston that I do not like even remotely, however.
Yes, I know it is now September, but in my limited experience (this is my fifth September in Texas), the ninth month is eerily similar to the eighth with the notable addition of possible hurricanes. As I write this, there are several potential storms lined up in the Atlantic Ocean, each seemingly pondering what section of the world it will ravage.
Of course, this September is quite unlike any of the previous four with the pandemic that continues to affect just about every person in the state one way or another. For us, there has been a touch of “normalcy” as both of our boys are back at school, at least for now.
As the number of new infections continues to drop across the state, I also have a bit of confidence that the people in Houston are listening to the health experts. My extremely limited anecdotal evidence seems to support this contention as I rarely see people in public without masks and maintaining some sort of physical distance from one another.
[It should be noted that I should be in no way taken as an expert. I rarely get out other than to serve as a taxi service to my sons or visit my beloved local grocery store, the H-E-B. Yeah, pretty darned boring, and very far from authoritative.]
Today’s wines come from Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood, Texas, about 20 miles southwest of Austin, in the Texas Hill Country AVA. Duchman Family Vineyards was founded in 2004 by Houston Doctors Lisa and Stan Duchman and, like most wineries in the state, gets the majority of its fruit from the Texas High Plains AVA. The Duchmans and Texas-native winemaker Dave Reilly, focus mainly on Italian varietals grown in Texas.
2018 Duchman Family Winery Vermentino Bingham Family Vineyard, Texas High Plains, TX: Retail $26. I continue my foray into Texas wines with this Vermentino from the Bingham Family Vineyard in the Texas High Plains. I have had my fair share of Vermentino (known as Rolle in France) over the years and this wine holds up quite nicely. Although information about the winemaking is scant, its relatively light color and tart, racy acidity suggests that this was fermented and aged in steel. Aromas of lemon and guava dominate the nose and that tartness is first and foremost on the palate. There is also plenty of fruit and a bit of spicy minerality, particularly on the finish. As I said, this holds up nicely to its European brethren. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2018 Duchman Family Winery Viognier Bingham Family Vineyard, Texas High Plains, TX: Retail $25. I have mixed feelings about Viognier. When it is made right (in my opinion), it is delightful with (mostly) tropical and citrus fruit notes, a decided floral aspect, and just enough acidity to keep it all in balance. Unfortunately, many Viogniers, particularly American iterations, typically have one of these elements either lacking or, as is often the case, in abundance, rendering the wine out of balance. While I have barely dipped my big toe into Texan wine, this Viognier presents a dilemma. It is incredibly fruity. It is also incredibly floral. either one of these aspects I would usually consider as sufficient to disregard the Viognier. But. On the palate? It is one of the more tart, acidic Viogniers that I believe I have ever tried. For me, balance is the key–if one element is too prominent (or lacking), the result is invariably a “lesser” wine. But. What happens when all of the elements are “dialed up to eleven”? This is a fruity, floral, and yes, tart, Viognier that is certainly in your face, but it also works. And I like it. Go figure. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2019 Duchman Family Winery Sangiovese, Reddy Vineyards, Texas High Plains, TX: Retail $25. Another wine for which I had a bit of difficulty tracking down information. Like about 80% of the wine produced in Texas, the fruit for this wine came from the Texas High Plains even though the winery is in the Texas Hill Country, a good five-hour drive away. Quite light in the glass, translucent and closer to a rosé, or certainly a claret. Red berry fruit, with some plum thrown in along with a shot of vanilla and a slight smoky/oaky aspect on the nose. The palate is acid-driven, with lovely fruit accents. Certainly, a lighter-style Sangio, which could benefit from a slight chill and a grilled chicken. Nice. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2016 Duchman Family Winery Montepulciano Oswald Vineyard, Texas High Plains, TX: Retail $40. 100% Montepulciano. Quite dark in the glass, with dark fruit (blackberry, cassis, blueberry), anise, and cedar–quite a lot going on in the glass. The palate? Yowza. Tons of fruit (tart black cherry) with a decided herbal note (sage?), plenty of acidity, and just a hint of tannin on the fairly lengthy finish. While I guess this is technically a “lighter-bodied” wine with an ABV under 13%, it still packs a pretty powerful punch when it comes to flavors and depth. Excellent. 91-93 Points.