April 09, 2006

Hill country wine

I’m just back from a week visiting in-laws outside of Austin in the Texas “hill country,” where I envied the white chalky limestone soils. The climate for grapes there is a bit extreme, with drought, heat, flooding rain, humity and high disease pressure.

But oh those fractured soils, limey and delicious.

Oregon’s soils are generally acidic, so we see pine trees and rhododendrens among other acid-loving things. Grapes obviously grow and thrive in our acidic soils. But we don’t share the higher ph limestone soils you find all over France and other key growing regions in the world.

Of course, the Texas hill country has tons of it. And vineyards too, as most of the wineries in Texas seem to be in this large area.

I only tried a few local things on this trip, all of which were surprisingly pleasant as I typically find Texas wines to be. That’s a compliment. And I’m sure there are some really bad wines out there. But whites from Fall Creek and reds from Becker that I tasted were all nicely varietal and drinkable, if not terribly interesting, just like they always seem.

Not sure what they cost, but I can’t say I’d seek any of the wines I’ve tried so who cares. Drink them if you’re there, you might be surprised. Otherwise pay no attention here, at least until my next visit.


WINEGUY said...

I actually worked for Fall Creek Vineyards back in the mid-80's. The wines were palatable and at times skillfully made but never above average. The chief problems lies in the volatility of the Hill Country Climate. The heat, humidity and rain/thunderstorms at inopportune times conspire to make fruit chemistry less than ideal. Some years the fruit is high in pH AND high in acid while low in sugar. At times, fruit splits due to heavy rainfall and molds and fungi abound. The better wines have always been the vinifera hybrids like Carnelian and Emerald Riesling which tolerate the heat better than the Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet the owners want to be known for. That square peg just doesn't fit the Hill Country's round hole. If FC were to grow more Carignane, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvédre and keep the crop levels down, they might home in on a reasonably good product.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Thanks for the information. I think you're right about the red vinifera you mention at the end - all tolerate or enjoy torrid weather more than cabernet, merlot, and the like. With the soil and the right location, I wouldn't be surprised if they couldn't produce something interesting. I sure as heck wouldn't want to deal with the Texas climate. Wish we could import some limestone up here in Oregon though.