This guest blog post is by Matt Champion.
The Texas wine industry is rapidly expanding every year, and it’s not just the big operations that are making noise. A little place called Lewis Wines, just outside of Johnson City, is a prime example of quality over quantity. The winery opened earlier this year and has been creating buzz ever since.
Owners Doug Lewis and Duncan McNabb (both in their twenties) met in college. They got their start working at Pedernales Cellars and haven’t looked back.
Visiting Lewis Wines
The adventure starts with a phone call and a search for their entrance. Doug and Duncan decided against set hours because of the initial size of the facility. Whenever you get the itch to visit, you simply give one of them a call and set a personal appointment. They’re both extremely personable and can usually fit you in quickly. We called around 1 PM and were scheduled for 4 PM on the same day.
If you blink, you will literally miss the entrance. They are in the process of rebuilding their entry, so a few old wine barrels and a pine tree serve as their signage for the time being. We missed our turn twice, but were oddly happy about it. No one was in a hurry, which is how it should be in Texas wine country, and it seemed to add to the mystique of the winery. It almost felt as if you were entering one of the Hill Country’s best kept secrets.
Once on their newly-paved road, we noticed several acres to our left that appeared to be ready for planting. Doug would later tell us that the land will be filled with a variety of Spanish, French, and Portuguese grapes, all wonderfully suited to thrive with local climate and soil conditions.
Just as we passed the future vineyard, Duncan took notice of us from his forklift and waved us over to follow him to their facility. Once inside, he used a forklift to place a marble slab atop two perfectly-spaced wine barrels, thus creating our bar. Now that’s service!
The Wine Tasting Experience
Upon looking around, you realize you’re not in a generic tasting room, but among towering wine barrels and stainless steel fermentation tanks, in the midst of the action. They have a small tasting fee, which is refunded with any bottle purchase. There were five reds available to taste, all made with 100% Texas grapes (something that’s important to both Doug and Duncan).
Their list is made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Malbec, and two red blends. As we tasted through the wines, we slowly realized that these young winemakers were very serious about their passion. I had tasted a few of their wines before, but certainly didn’t expect every single one of them to be on that same level. Each wine amazed just as much, if not more, than the last. Beyond that, all of them made me want to drop my glass and break into song and dance.
The two wines that stood out most to me were their 2010 Texas Tempranillo (Bingham Family Vineyards, Kuhlken Vineyards) and their blend of Touriga Nacional (50%), Tempranillo (33%), and Tinto Cão (17%).
Their 2010 Tempranillo is a deep ruby color with beautiful aromas of plum and blackberry. Spice and dark chocolate notes consume the palate and are rounded out with perfectly balanced acidity.
Their 2010 Touriga Nacional blend is wonderfully floral on the nose and soft and velvety on the palate. Firm tannin and bright acidity are accompanied by notes of dark berry and a hint of chocolate.
While tasting the wines, Doug popped in and chatted for awhile. He grabbed barrel samples for us of two of their latest Syrah vintages and a recent Tempranillo. While none were fully mature, they were all still thoroughly impressive.
I left with a couple of bottles and a smile on my face. They have a wine club that is growing fast, and it’s not hard to see why. Their whites became available last week, and from what I’ve heard, they are just as remarkable as their reds. Of course, I am eager to try. When I taste Lewis Wines, I get excited because I taste the future of Texas wine. The future, my friends, is very bright.
Which wineries near Austin do you recommend?
Matt Champion has called Austin home for 8 years and is a local musician, writer, and educator.