A visit to Lubbock without visiting Llano Estacado is like eating Oreos without milk.
When you think Lubbock, do you think Llano?
When we told friends that we were traveling to Lubbock as part of Texas Wine Camp, everyone asked “are you going to Llano”? Well, of course we were! Llano Estacado is the largest, best-selling Premium Winery in Texas.
The term Llano Estacado is commonly referred to “stacked plains” and if you have ever been to Lubbock, you can see what the Spanish explorers meant. Llano started from very humble beginnings, with a Texas Tech horticulturist and chemist who were experimenting in the university basement during the ‘70s. They believed that the High Plains area had the potential to grow great grapes. However, they had to convince the cotton farmers that they weren’t crazy.
During the ‘80s, Llano expanded its production and facilities. But it really gained attention in 1986 when the Llano Estacado 1984 Chardonnay received the “Double Gold” award at the San Francisco Fair. This was the first national award given to a Texas Winery. From their website, “The simple mission of Llano Estacado, from its beginning in 1976, to its role as industry leader today, has been to embody the fabulous potential of Texas wine. This mission began with 1,300 cases of wine releases in 1977. Today, Llano Estacado is the largest, best-selling Premium Winery in Texas, producing wines of World Class Quality, and has been an ongoing pioneer in introducing not just Texans, but also the entire world to the great wines made in the Lone Star State.”
The building is nothing spectacular from the outside, but don’t let that fool you. As you enter, there is an outstanding gift shop and a beautiful bar to do your tasting. Be sure to take the time to take the tour. We had an entertaining tour of the production facilities with James, including a very unique historical look at the way oak barrels are created. As you start the tour, you will immediately notice the large stainless steel tanks. You might think “these are big barrels!” Oh no, when you go further into the facility, you realize those are just the “baby barrels”. We saw some of the largest fermentation/maturation tanks we had seen in our travels, and we have seen a lot.
On one of their largest tanks, we noticed a significant dented at the top which seems impossible to happen. We found out that it was due to improper release during the draining process. If they don’t release pressure as the wine drains from the tank, the tank will implode. In extreme cases, the tank will rupture.
Thankfully, however, Llano’s tank just suffered cosmetic damage. We have seen this before in another unlikely place, the Blue Bell Creamery. Look carefully at the top of their tank.
Llano has a rich history which you can see as you explore their facility. Currently, 170,000 cases are produced every year. They try to purchase their grapes from a 200 mile radius and are currently using 90% Texas grapes. The remaining grapes are supplemented by grapes from New Mexico.
Some of our favorites were:
2009 Viviana – Before we knew what grapes were included, this wine reminded Cindy of a Moscato with the tastes of exotic, tropical fruit with honeysuckle and melon combining together for a great smooth finish. We confirmed her initial impressions when she learned that this year’s blend contains Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat Canelli and Viognier for a great porch sitter.
Viva Rosso – This is a new wine made from grapes from Piedmonte, Italy. Cindy liked it so much because it is made in a style that is “slighty spritzy”, which makes it a great addition for a “Girls Night Out”. The Viva Rosso is a blend of two classic grapes, Brachetto and the Moscato d’Asti. This is the current best seller in the tasting room. Viva Rosso is bottled in Italy using special equipment to retain its spritz. After bottling, the cases are loaded on a refrigerated container and shipped to Texas. The Llano winemaker created this unique blend and made the trip to Italy to supervise the fermentation and bottling. We’re just glad they figured out how to keep the “spritz”. Texas Wine Camp recommends Viva Rosso, especially for a Girls Night Out!
2010 Malbec – This is the 35th Anniversary Malbec with grapes from our friends at Newsom Vineyards. The flavors are plum, blackberry and black pepper with earthy tones. It’s a full-bodied Malbec or as Gary said, “It’s a darn good Malbec”. This is a limited edition, so it’s not available for sale on their website. Texas Wine Camp recommends the 2010 Malbec.
2008 Viviano - Viviano has a 16-year history of winning Gold and Silver medals in National and International wine competitions. The 2008 version is a blend of 73.2% Cabernet Sauvignon from the vineyards of Rising Star Vineyard, 19.7% Sangiovese from our friends at Newsom Vineyard, with Syrah, Malbec, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc to round out the blend. The outstanding flavor is obtained from extended barrel aging. The layers of rich flavor include mocha, dried cherries and cedar.
If you would like to order any of these wines, follow this link: Llano Wines
So if you find your way out to Lubbock, we highly recommend you make time to visit Llano, and enjoy their fantastic wines. A visit to Lubbock without visiting Llano Estacado is like eating Oreos without milk. You just need both to be truly happy!