August in Texas, Part Six: Spicewood Vineyards

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 as it starts off pretty much hotter than Hades with oppressive humidity levels to match.

Yesterday, however, I did something that I believe I have not done since at least April and maybe even May: I wore a sweater. While that might not seem like a big deal to many reading this post, it certainly was for me as the temperatures yesterday morning were what many in Texas call “freezing.” It was below 60°F (16°C).

(On that note, as someone who grew up in Michigan, went to college in Maine, and lived in Philadelphia for close to two decades, you would have thought that blizzard conditions had been forecast as people in my neighborhood were sporting winter parkas, hats, and gloves as they walked their dogs.)

I did another novel thing yesterday: I watched a presidential debate. While not delving into what I think about what was said, I do think that the whole event was a travesty and an embarrassment. While I do not have much reason for the hope that the next “debate” is better, I do put faith in the American democratic experiment and that the people will make the right choice come November 3rd.

Today’s wines come from Spicewood Vineyards in Spicewood, Texas, about 45 miles northwest of Austin, in the Texas Hill Country AVA. First planted in 1992 by Edward and Madeleine Manigold, and purchased by Ron Yates in 2007. Ron, who studied in Spain, is committed to producing the finest estate wines, with 28 acres now planted in the Texas Hill Country AVA, largely to Spanish varieties  The Duchmans and Texas-native winemaker Dave Reilly, focus mainly on Italian varietals grown in Texas.

2019 Spicewood Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Texas Hill Country, TX:
Retail $20. 100% Sauvignon Blanc, aged sur lies in stainless steel for five months. Usually, when I see a Sauv Blanc this color (certainly golden), I get nervous, but no need for concern here. Fruity and rich on the nose, mostly on the citrus and tropical end of the spectrum (guava, ripe Meyer lemon) along with some ginger and white flower. The palate is quite ripe and rich with tons of fruit. Tons. Citrus (lemon and sweet Mandarin orange) dominate and while the acidity tries to keep up, it struggles a bit, particularly on the finish. There is just so much fruit! If you like your SB big and bold, look no further. Very Good. 88 Points.

2016 Spicewood Vineyards Syrah, Texas Hill Country, TX: Retail $33. 100% Syrah. Aged 12 months in 25% new French oak, 15% new American oak, and 60% neutral oak. After tasting the Tempranillo, which, like this Syrah, was also quite big and fruity, the oft-used phrase “Everything is big in Texas” came to mind. Alas, that only reveals my Yankee origins as I have yet to hear a Texan utter those words with a straight face. Nonetheless, it applies here (I am going to stick with that) as there is a ton of fruit on the nose and the palate (mostly bright red berry fruit) along with a healthy dose of spice and more than ample acidity. The tannins are quite shy, rendering this wine imminently quaffable and delightful. Very nice. Excellent. 90 Points.

2017 Spicewood Vineyards Tempranillo, Texas High Plains, TX: Retail $26. 100% Tempranillo. Aged in 20% new American, 18% new French, 62% neutral oak. If you are hoping for a taste of the Old World here in Texas, you should probably just skedaddle right along as there is little here to suggest even a distant relationship to Rioja or Ribera del Duoro. No, this wine is all about the fruit, and there is a ton of it. Ripe, jammy, and just short of “in-your-face,” this inky dark wine exudes ripe black fruit (blackberry, plum, cassis) from nose to finish. While there is little evidence of tannin, there is some depth and quite a bit of acidity which does its best to hold all that fruit together. No, it’s not a Rioja, but it never tries to be. It is a wonderfully fruity, pleasant quaff. Very Good. 89 Points.

2016 Spicewood Vineyards The Good Guy, Texas Hill Country, TX: Retail $42. 44% Tempranillo, 22% Graciano, 22% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. (But the website also says “42% Tempranillo, 17% Graciano, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot and 7% Syrah. Aged 20 months in 45% new French and 55% neutral oak.”) B.A.B. The first three wines I have tried from Spicewood have all been about the fruit, which was big. Really big. But that’s OK as big fruit needs love, too. This wine, however, is less about the fruit (mostly berries: cherry, blackberry, cassis) and more about the acidity. If I had tasted this blind, I likely could have been convinced that this was an Old World wine, perhaps a Rioja (particularly given the predominance of Tempranillo and Graciano). Of all the Texas wines I have tried, this is clearly the most “un-Texan” (which is neither an insult nor a compliment) as it is a wine that requires both contemplation and food (perhaps slightly more of the latter). All that lovely acidity needs a foil, needs some animal fat, in fact, which might actually make it more “Texan” in the end. Grab a ribeye, char it up, pop the cork, pour a glass, enjoy. Excellent. 91 Points.

About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Graciano, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Tempranillo, Texas, Wine and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to August in Texas, Part Six: Spicewood Vineyards

  1. lulu says:

    A lot of folks come to Houston thinking they are not going to like it, but then something happens and they realize what a wonderful place it is despite the summer heat. It’s good to hear you’ve adjusted and appreciate the city for what it is.


  2. Denise Clarke says:

    Thanks for sharing, Jeff!

    Quick note….for the Good Guy, the website seems to have the correct info on the breakdown of grapes:

    But maybe it is listed somewhere else incorrectly and I missed it? I’m pretty sure the website breakdown you include in your post is from the previous vintage of Good Guy.



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