This is one of an occasional series detailing Texas wineries. The complete list is here.
Jason Englert, the winemaker at Grape Creek Vineyards, has done an impressive job in his three years at the Hill Country winery. His wines have won a bunch of medals, the prestigious San Francisco International and Dallas Morning News competitions included.
In addition, he has used new owner Brian Heath’s resources to put together a professional and competent wine program, moving Grape Creek close to the first tier of Texas wineries. Heath, a financial services executive, has expanded the winery’s tasting room and upgraded its production facilities.
The catch, though, is that Englert has done this by making a lot of wine with grapes that aren’t from Texas. That Grape Creek uses non-Texas fruit is neither good nor bad, given the state’s grape shortage. Rather, it raises the question of what will happen when there is enough Texas fruit for Englert to use.
Case in point is Grape Creek’s 2005 merlot ($16). It’s a well-made, quality wine – fruit-forward but not overwhelming, with some nice spiciness. But one sip shows that the grapes are of better quality than most merlot grown in Texas, with fuller fruit flavors and less off-putting acidity. Will Englert be able to craft the same quality wine when he uses Texas grapes?
It’s a challenge that he is well aware of. In fact, Englert says with a sigh, he almost wishes that where the grapes came from was not an issue. But he understands that it’s a question that regional wine makers will always have to answer.
Still, don’t bet against Englert, who has been described as one of the state’s best young winemakers by several people whose opinions the Wine Curmudgeon respects. He has worked in Texas and California, including a stint at Llano Estacado, the state’s second-biggest winery.
Englert shows a sure hand with French-style varietals like merlot, and the Grape Creek Cab Trois ($19, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and Texas ruby cabernet) combines cabernet sauvignon’s fruit, cabernet franc’s desert-dry tannins, and a little ruby cabernet oomph.
It will be worth waiting to see what Englert can do with top-notch Texas grapes.