Is there still Texas wine that doesn't taste like it is supposed to? Yes. But, increasingly, wine makers are doing the right things and producing products that are varietally correct. This means cabernet sauvignon tastes like cabernet sauvignon, and not a poor imitation.
I tasted a couple of dozen wines at this week's event, and these were among the most impressive:
• Flat Creek Estate Pinot Grigio 2007 ($18): Texas' disastrous 2007 harvest meant that the winery had to buy grapes from Oregon for one of its signature wines. Winemaker Tish Cooper didn't miss a beat. This is a bright, friendly wine with more fruit and less mineral than usual, but still worth drinking.
• Brennan Vineyards Viognier 2007 ($16): Physician Pat Brennan may make the best viognier in the state, and that's saying something. Viognier has taken off in Texas over the past three or our years, and a half-dozen wineries make very respectable versions.
• McPherson Cellars Sangiovese 2005 ($16): Kim McPherson has been arguing for years, often to an uninterested audience, that Texas can make great sangiovese. He's right -- this is more than the equal of any California sangiovese, and I have used it often in blind tastings to make that point.
• Mandola Estate Sangiovese 2006: Texas' first celebrity winery, co-owned by Damian Mandola of Carrabba's restaurant fame. This sangiovese is more Italian in style than the McPherson, which means less fruity and more earthy.
• Fall Creek Chenin Blanc 2005 ($9): This is quality inexpensive wine, a commodity sadly lacking in Texas. Drink it chilled, which shows off a touch of sweetness.
• Inwood Estates Tempranillo-Cabernet 2004 ($40): Yes, it's pricey, but it's damn interesting. Winery owner Dan Gatlin was one of the first in Texas to grow tempranillo, the national grape of Spain. I've had two vintages, which were well-made yet quite different from each other.
• Maydelle Country Wines Lemon Wine NV ($9): Stop laughing. Fruit wines are legitimate, and this a wonderful example of how it should be done. The wine has just the right amount of lemony flavor (it's made with organic Texas fruit, squeezed at the winery) and it's not especially sweet.