This is one of an occasional series detailing Texas wineries. The complete list is here.
Look at the wine list at Alamosa Wine Cellars, and one thing stands out. Winemaker Jim Johnson doesn’t make cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or chardonnay. In fact, he is one of the first in Texas to use grapes more suited to the state’s unique climate than those three.
Hence wines made with tempranillo, chenin blanc, sangiovese, viognier, and a host of other warm weather varietals that many Texas winemakers don’t understand and that grape growers are reluctant to try. His goal, says Johnson, is not to force the grapes on the Texas climate, but to use the Texas climate to get the best out of his grapes.
Alamosa’s El Guapo was one of the first tempranillos in Texas, and its Jacques Lapin was one of the first chenin blancs that wasn’t made tasting room sweet. (Why Texas winemakers don’t jump all over dry chenin blanc remains a mystery to the Wine Curmudgeon.)
Johnson and wife Karen own Alamosa; he handles the winemaking while she runs the front of the house. He trained at the University of California-Davis, one of the country’s leading winemaking programs, and worked in Texas before opening Alamosa in 1999 in Bend at the far northern tip of the Hill Country.
Two wines stood out in a recent tasting: The 2007 Scissortail ($26) and the 2007 viognier ($18). The former is a blend of the Rhone varietals marsanne, rousanne, and viognier. It has a Texas fruitness (think California, but more restrained) as well as a an almost French-style character. The viognier, which Johnson does in a bit of oak, doesn’t have quite the apricot flavor as other Texas viogners, but it’s still a welcome addition to a grape that the state has had great success with.