The key to success for regional wine is not so much about quality or even pricing. It's about producing wine that reflects the place where it is made. Regional wine will never be successful if it's nothing more than a knockoff of what's being done elsewhere -- and where it's being done better, as well.
That's why the best regional wine has a sense of terroir, whether it's a New York riesling, a Missouri norton, or a Virginia viognier. The top producers in those states know they have to compete with California, but they have also realized they don't have to do it on California's terms. They can do it on their terms.
That's what we've finally figured out in Texas. There has been a revolution in the past five years, with growers and winemakers embracing warm climate grapes in a way I never thought possible. Today, we have quality wines made with tempranillo, roussanne, syrah, sangiovese, blanc du bois, black Spanish, and viognier -- grapes better suited for the Texas terroir than the traditional French varietals. Even the state's biggest producers, who can sell (and need to sell) chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon because they're in grocery stores, are using these new varietals to produce fascinating wines.
One of the best examples of the revolution is McPherson's La Herencia ($14, sample), a tempranillo blend that has the Spanish grape's varietal characteristics yet retains a Texas quality. It's richer and more full than a Rioja, the best-known tempranillo from Spain, with more red fruit. But it's not too fruity or too tannic or too alcoholic, like so many California wines.
Serve this with barbecue, almost any main course with rice (like jambalaya), and even some roast or grilled chicken dishes. Availability will be limited outside of Texas.