Texas wine can be confusing, given the hundreds of different wines and their reliance on grapes many wine drinkers have never heard of. Blanc du bois, after all, is not something that comes trippingly to the tongue, even for wine experts. There is also, as with so many regional wines, the quality question. Yes, quality has improved markedly, but as Dave McIntyre, my partner in locapour, always warns: There is still too much wine out there made by people who aren't quite sure what they're doing.
Given that, here are my suggestions about what's worth drinking. This is far from a complete list; there are 219 Texas wineries, and hard as I try, I can't hit all of them. Many smaller and newer producers make fine wine, but I haven't gotten to them or tasted them often enough to include them (like Red Caboose, Sunset, Lone Oak, and Inwood Estates).
Know, too, that the state's biggest producers -- Llano Estacado, Fall Creek, Messina Hof and Becker -- make professional wine that compares favorably to anything made in California at similar prices. If you want to try something and are overwhelmed by the selection, they will be fine.
The wines I drink -- and buy -- after the jump:
• Haak dry blanc du bois, $15. I had serious doubts whether anyone in Texas could consistently make quality dry blanc du bois, but Haak has pretty much managed to do it every vintage. Think of this blanc du bois as somewhere between sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio.
• Flat Creek Super Texan, $20. This red blend, made with sangiovese, jump-started the switch to more terroir-friendly grapes in Texas when it won a double gold in San Francisco in 2003. Consistency has been a problem, but it remains one of the state's signature wines.
• Becker Prairie Roti, $17. A red, Rhone-style blend that I first tasted, with Richard Becker sitting next to me and politely waiting for a reply, at the old Texas Hill Country festival. This is the kind of wine that Texas can do well, and should do more of. Would that it were a couple of dollars less expensive.
• Dry Comal Creek black Spanish, $28. Yes, it's overpriced. But I can't help myself -- this is inky and interesting and different. And no matter how often I ask the winery to make more so they can cut the price, they always do what they want to do.
• McPherson rose, $10. I drink this wine year-round, pair it with almost anything, and am never, ever disappointed.
• Messina Hof cabernet franc, $22. This is one of those grapes that isn't supposed to do well in Texas, but the Messina Hof is stunning. Holiday gift wine for the red drinker on your list.
• Llano Estacado Viviano, $35. Llano's Greg Bruni always gets annoyed with me when I question the need for Texas cabernet, but this cabernet-sangiovese blend is lively and earthy and usually shuts me up.