By Salah Izzedin
When you think of wine country, Texas is probably not the first place that comes to mind. California, Washington, Oregon, and perhaps even Colorado tend to take the spotlight when we talk about American wines.
You may be surprised, then, to learn that Texas is home to over 500 wineries and is one of the oldest wine-growing states. The first vines can be traced back to the 1650s, when Father Garcia de San Francisco y Zǘñiga founded the city of El Paso and grew grapes for sacramental wine. This predates the first California grapes by more than one hundred years.
Texas wine-growing flourished until the 1920s when Prohibition severely crippled the industry. Fortunately, the 1970s saw renewed interest in the vineyards and, as of 2019, Texas is the fifth largest wine-producing state in the country.
The highest concentration of growers in the state can be found in the Texas High Plains American Viticultural Area. Ample sunshine, cool nights, dry soil, and access to the Ogallalla Aquaphor provide excellent conditions for grape-growing. The resulting wines are often compared to the dry wines of Portugal, Spain, and Italy.
That being said, Texas is a large state with vastly differing climates. It is divided into three distinct growing regions, each producing wines of different taste and quality. Dallas is located in the North-Central growing region of the state, about five hours east of the Texas High Plains wine country.
While a trip to the High Plains is well worth it, you don’t need to travel that far to sample great wine. You’ll find plenty of vineyards less than an hour outside the city, each with its own personality and charm.
Carmela’s is located in Celina, about 45 minutes north of Dallas. This unassuming winery focuses on making wine-tasting fun and accessible. The menu features a great selection of wines to suit every taste, including Carmela’s Sangiovese, which is a must-try. The staff is warm, friendly, and more than willing to teach you about wine. If you’re new to the wine-tasting game, this is a wonderful place to get started.
Landon is located in McKinney, only about half an hour north of Dallas. They offer an extensive menu of house wines, along with delicious small plates to accompany your beverage. I highly recommend a glass of the “Texan”, a dry red blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. It pairs well with a signature meat and cheese board or, even better, the delectable grilled cheese served on focaccia with prosciutto and roasted tomatoes.
Sugar Ridge Winery
Located in Ennis about thirty minutes away, Sugar Ridge is ideal for those who prefer sweet wines. You’ll find plenty of options in both white and red, with refreshing flavor combinations like Chianti with cranberry (the “Cranberry Cowboy”) and a white varietal with lime and coconut (the “Lime”).
The labels are just as creative as the flavor combinations, and the venue prides itself on being fun and family-friendly. Check the website for live events, like visiting bands and karaoke nights.
Ennis itself is a beautiful little spot. If you happen to be in the area during bluebonnet season (March-April), make time for a stroll on the Bluebonnet Trail to take in the gorgeous blooms and their subtle, sweet scent.
Gainesville is slightly farther than the other wineries on my list, but it is well worth the hour drive. Your first stop should be Deschain’s, a winery whose architecture is as bold and surprising as its wines.
The original building was constructed out of ten decommissioned storage containers, but it is far from crude. In fact, it bears more resemblance to a museum of modern art. The containers have been artfully staggered on top of one another and are offset by a matching roof at a steep angle. A terrace strewn with fairy lights lets guests enjoy the surrounding natural beauty while sipping one of Deschain’s signature wines.
About Salah Izzedin
Salah Izzedin has lived in Dallas for over twenty years. He is a successful entrepreneur and enjoys exploring all the city has to offer.