5 Sommelier-Approved Texas Wines to Drink During the Holidays

We asked Pappas Bros. master sommelier Steven McDonald for recommendations

November 18, 2022 6:15 am
Sommelier Steven McDonald
Sommelier Steven McDonald
Steven McDonald

There are only 273 master sommeliers in the world. The designation is famously difficult to obtain, taking years of training and still sporting an anemic pass rate of less than 10 percent. Steven McDonald is one of this select group, earning his MS in 2018. He moved to Houston from New York in 2011 to work at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, and he currently serves as the executive wine director, overseeing the group’s three locations and the massive Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning wine list that tops 5,000 bottles. 

Naturally, he’s sampled a lot of wines during his tenure and is a great resource for choosing which bottles to drink at home during the holidays.

“As the weather gets cooler, I tend to put some more red wines into rotation,” McDonald tells InsideHook. “During Thanksgiving time, I truly love filling the table with all sorts of red and white Burgundy. I also start putting Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Brunello and Barolo on the table.” He notes that truffle season corresponds with the colder weather, and aged Barolo paired with truffles is one of his favorite food and wine pairings. 

McDonald says that Texas has its challenges as a wine region, simply because it’s so damn hot here. But there are good wines coming out of the Panhandle and the Texas High Plains AVA, as well as the Texas Hill Country. There’s a lot to choose from, with producers making and selling all manner of whites and reds in sweet and dry styles. “Producers are finding certain Spanish and Italian varieties are doing especially well, and those tend to be the styles that I am seeking out when I am exploring Texas wine.”

Below, McDonald shares some of his favorite Texas wineries and specific bottles to pick up this season, whether you’re pairing wine with a holiday meal or sipping a glass around the fireplace.

Duchman Family Wines

Open since 2004, Duchman is located on a picturesque HIll Country estate, making wines with fruit sourced primarily from the Texas High Plains. 

“The Duchman’s love of Italian wine is front and center in these world-class Texas wines,” says McDonald. “The Aglianico is a consistent favorite of mine because its dark fruit, herbs and spices are lifted up by remarkable freshness. This makes it especially good with food.”

Fall Creek Vineyards

Fall Creek is one of the Texas Hill Country’s earliest pioneers and worked with the government to establish the area’s AVA. Today they make a wide range of 100 percent Texas wines, and McDonald gives high praise to their Vintner’s Selection Chardonnay, which features grapes from the winery’s Certenberg Vineyard. Located in the northwest Texas Hill Country, the land’s pink granite soils impact the wine’s structure and flavors.

“It’s truly one of Texas’s best white wines,” he says. “If you like California Chardonnay and haven’t had it, you need to get a hold of a bottle.”

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Hye Meadow Winery

McDonald recommends Hye Meadow for its freshness and purity of fruit, noting that most of its wines stay at or below 14% ABV.

“Depending on the vintage, my favorites rotate between the Tempranillo, Aglianico and the Sangiovese,” he says. “They very much taste like the grapes that they are, and they pair amazingly with food.” 

McPherson Cellars

Kim McPherson launched his eponymous label in 2000 in Lubbock, but the family’s wine-making roots date back to the 1960s, when his father planted some of the Panhandle’s first vines.  

“Kim McPherson’s mastery of certain grapes and styles is consistent year in and year out,” says McDonald. “For crisp whites, try their Albarino or Picpoul. For a richer style white, their Roussanne and Roussanne Reserve are not to be missed. For easy going, refreshing styles of red, try their Cinasult and Les Copains red.”

Southold Farm + Cellar

Southhold operates under a few core tenets of what it calls thoughtful winemaking. They utilize native yeast fermentation and believe that transparency is key, so all processes and additives are publicly available. They also aim for maximum effort in taking care of the vineyard soil but minimal intervention in the cellar.

McDonald describes Southold as creating “beautiful and carefully farmed natural wine that pairs amazingly with food and has a great story.” He particularly likes Everything Is Under Control, a structured and floral Sangiovese.


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