In October 2017, AndesWines.com organized the #TexasWineExploration, a tour that visited several wine areas of Texas to taste and know the different terroirs that are producing quality wines, most of which are sold in their own state due to the great boom of wine tourism and direct sales in the same winery, in addition to delivery through local wine clubs.
On the trip, I spoke with “winelovers”, winemakers and sommeliers from Texas who told me that this boom in Texan wine has grown exponentially and has a great challenge that is to produce wines with the state’s own grapes and find the best terroirs to each grape.
Our adventure began in Dripping Springs, traveling directly to Tow, where Sergio Cuadra, a renowned Chilean winemaker who is the Director of Winemaking at Fall Creek Vineyards, a prestigious Texas winery with more than 28 years of experience in the wine business, was waiting for us.
It was in the winter of 2013 that the international wine consultant, Paul Hobbs, contacted Sergio Cuadra – with whom he had previously worked as an advisor – to tell him that he was looking for a winemaker to take over the Texan Winery because the owners of Fall Creek Vineyards, Ed and Susan Auler, had asked for support in this challenge to find a professional interested in working in Texas.
Through Skype, Sergio and Paul started the conversations. He received in Chile samples of the wines they were making and agreed to try for a while with a visit during the 2013 harvest that started in August in Texas. Soon, they already knew that they could have a long-term relationship and decided to move forward with the move to the United States.
When Sergio Cuadra arrived at the winery, Fall Creek Vineyards had to make some changes in the irrigation, since there was a good notion of what is the general management of quality vineyards. Cuadra came with a production look for the international market after working in renowned Chilean wineries with exporting vocation.
To achieve excellent wines, Fall Creek Vineyards has been concerned to produce high quality grapes coming from different terroirs. The vineyards are located in strategic locations such as Fall Creek Vineyards, one of the first vineyards planted with Vitis Vinifera in Texas. This vineyard is located north-west of Lake Buchanan in alluvial soils from deposits of the Colorado River.
The other vineyards are “Oxbow”, which is the most recent established in Driftwood, Texas. A little over 2 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan, Salt Lick Vineyard (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo and Sangiovese. “Certenberg Vineyard” to the north-west of Texas Hill Country, where they established Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Escondido Valley vineyards is located west of Texas, north of Big Bend, where they obtain grapes of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Muscat
“The good thing is that we are in an area of hills called the “Texas Hill Country “with a palette of soils that vary from a granite of Precambrian origin to a very abundant calcareous rock, the famous “limestone”, so the expression of the wines are a reflection of this variety too.”, Cuadra emphasized.
While we tasted a wide variety of wines (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon), Sergio told us that among the great challenges he had to come, was the work in the winery and in winemaking.
A process of flexibilization and adaptation in the management of the barrels was started to obtain wines of excellence thanks to grapes from different vineyards of the winery. Sergio points out that by working in a small winery, he has had the opportunity to be present in all the processes, from touring the vineyards, making the wine blends and reviewing the labels (design and marketing).
On several occasions he has had to operate the fork lift, locate the barrels, install the pump, hoses and verify that everything goes perfectly, including the tastings in front of specialized press and special visits.
With the arrival of Cuadra to the team, it became important that the portfolio of the winery also needed a new organization. There were prices and labels that delivered a message that could be improved and in that, Fall Creek Vineyards has been working in recent years.
Cuadra tells us that when he worked at Caliterra in Chile, part of the Errázuriz group, he learned that, given the quality of the wines, there is a lot more talent and challenge when what you want is to install a high quality brand that when you go to the fight in the massive wines, in which, by the way, they have nothing to do here in Texas. They are definitely going after great quality wines from specific terroirs of Texas.
“One of the great strengths of Fall Creek Vineyards is that the winery enjoys the loyalty of the Texan consumer. There are more than 27 million people living in the second richest state in the Union. Its three most important cities are within the top 10 of the country and Austin, state capital is number 11, so as market is not bad. This implies that there is a huge but challenging potential since raids outside of Texas are still incipient. ”
“We are preparing a battery of wines that will surprise the wine critics and media to make as much noise as possible. The other thing is to advance in plantations since paradoxically there is still a kind of shortage of grapes that makes the projections have to be very gradual. We have made some shipments to Denmark and the United Kingdom but very timely.”, stated Cuadra.
HISTORY OF FALL CREEK VINEYARDS
Fall Creek Vineyards represents all the effort and determination of the Texans to produce high quality wines in a climate, terroir – that few knew and that after many years, is paying off. The first vineyard was established in 1975, full boom of Californian wine, and became the first Texas Hill Country winery that is the work of 5 generations of ranchers, led by Ed and Susan Auler.
Ed and Susan made a trip to France in 1973 to visit Cattle ranches to cross with their Angus Cattle in the Texas field. This traveled changed his whole life. Ed worked as a lawyer and had taken over the family operation at the Ranch. He wanted to generate changes to increase ranch profitability through scaling up the business.
For her part, Susan was interested in seeing the largest variety of wine regions in France because they had developed an interest in wine in recent years. They spent 19 days touring wine producing areas from Reims to Burgundy and Rhone, along the south of France to Bordeaux and Loire, leaving two days for the subject of Cattle. Both were steeped in the culture and education of wine and its gastronomy.
After two years of this trip, in 1975, Susan and Ed, started experimenting with grapes in their Fall Creek Ranch to experiment thanks to the support of Texas A & M and Texas Tech.
They started with ¼ acre to reach 7 ½ acres in 1979, and Ed decided to leave his career as a lawyer, establishing the necessary infrastructure so that in 1980 they would begin the operation of the winery. They started by buying 400 acres on the west side of Lake Buchanan, which would be home to Fall Creek Vineyards. In the mid-1980s, the Aulers family hired the consulting services of expert wine professors from UC Davis in California, in addition to the renowned winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff, who led the specialization of the Fall Creek Vineyards Winery.
Susan and Ed founded in 1986 the “Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival” to position Texas Hill Country “as a wine recognition area, whose application to the United States Government was granted in 1990 to achieve the Texas Hill Country appeal, that over the years, has become a respected wine region, a natural tourist attraction with hills lakes, famous chefs and world class wines.
Fall Creek Vineyards location: https://fcv.com/vineyards
Techincal Sheets of Fall Creek Vineyards Wines: https://fcv.com/wine-tech-sheets
Written by Maximiliano Morales, Agronomist, Founder of AndesWines.com and Wine Specialist National Geographic Expedition Ship.