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Fall Creek Vineyards Chardonnay 1997
Maintained by a long history of knowledgeable grape growers and a current generation of persevering winemakers, modern Texas wine production continues to flourish. Today Texas ranks fifth in production volume and boasts a number of variations in climatic conditions and terrain suitable for viticulture.
The Spanish planted the first vineyards in the state in the 1660s in Ysleta Mission near what is now El Paso. Texas is also home of the famous taxonomist, Thomas Munson, who led extensive research in the 1880s on vine breeding and is credited with saving Europe from complete phylloxera devastation. His results led to the French importation of huge amounts of American species phylloxera-resistant rootstocks, which when grafted onto their non-resistant Vitis vinifera species, prevented the spread of the disease.
Today Texas boasts over 275 bonded wineries and eight official American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). Some of the main AVAs include Texas High Plains, Texas Hill Country, Bell Mountain, Escondido Valley and Fredericksburg.
After experimentation with popular California varieties yielded mixed results, many growers have turned their focus to heat and drought-resistant Mediterranean varieties. Grapes such as Syrah, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Viognier and Vermentino are well-suited to the Texas environment, especially the Texas High Plains AVA in the northwestern Panhandle of Texas where vineyards are planted at 3,000-4,000 feet. This AVA receives of plenty of sunshine and cool nighttime temperatures support acid retention.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it’s grown and how it’s made. In Burgundy, Chardonnay produces some of the finest white wines in the world, typically tending towards minimal intervention in the winery and at its best resulting in remarkable longevity. This grape is popular throughout the world, but perhaps its second most important home is in California, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia, South America, South Africa, and New Zealand are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay’s flavors tend towards grapefruit, green apple, minerals, and white stone fruit, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of fig, melon, and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut, and spice (as well as texture), while malolactic fermentation can impart soft, buttery acidity.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with simple seafood, light chicken dishes, and salads. Richer Chardonnays marry well with cream or oil-based sauces.
Since the 1990s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. These Old-World style wines have been dubbed the “New California Chardonnays,” and anyone who claims they do not like Chardonnay should give them a try.