C.L Butaud Wines
“The stars at night, are big and bright….”
Deep in the heart of Texas, there’s a winery born of the dream of husband and wife Randy and Brooke Hester to produce wines solely from Texas-grown grapes. Realizing that they needed to learn about the process of winemaking, the couple moved to Napa Valley, California, in 2006. After working with some star-studded industry names, they launched their first vintage, consisting of Grenache and other Rhone varietals, in 2011 under the moniker Lightning Wines.
Once they built their wine chops, it was time to re-embark on their true dream of creating high-quality Texas wines. They started C.L. Butaud Wines, named after Randy’s great-grandfather, Clet Louis Butaud, releasing their inaugural harvest in 2014. Officially returning to Texas in 2017, Butaud’s wines have received rave reviews, including making Forbes’ “Twelve Best Wines of 2022” list for their 2019 Tempranillo.
Randy, who is also the winemaker, “utilizes a minimalist and sometimes experimental approach to winemaking,” in the words of Butaud’s website, “paying respects to centuries of evolution in winemaking, while backing up his artistic instinct with the empirical data of fermentation science.” But I believe that the real test is how it tastes in my glass. I sat down with a select sampling of their wines to find out. And, because the right wine can enhance the right food (and vice versa), I tasted the wines in pairings with choice edibles.
100% Texas Tempranillo 2020
(Paired with steak)
This is one of the most fruit forward wines it’s been my pleasure to drink. A rich aroma wafted forth when the bottle was opened, and when I finally took a sip after some decanting, it was positively juicy; like biting into a lush, delicious piece of fruit. It was almost like a meal in itself. It proved to be the perfect accompaniment to a meal of filet mignon (medium rare) and mashed potatoes, a sweet and savory combination that was irresistible.
Cease & Desist 2020
(Paired with pasta in cheese sauce)
This is a red wine blend of 37% Cinsault, 25% Tempranillo, 25% Grenache, and 13% Counoise. When first made as a part of the Hester’s Lightning Wines venture, it also featured Mourvedres and Syrah, but weather conditions during the 2020 season meant fewer of those grapes were available for this batch. As a result, this wine “prioritizes the lighter varietals,” giving a subtle crispness to its notes of fruit and spice. A good choice to balance rich foods with cheese or cream sauces.
100% Texas Mourvedre 2021
(Paired with chocolate)
This had an earthy aroma on opening, which immediately made me think how tasty chocolate would be as an accompaniment. There are few better flavor combinations than red wine and chocolate, after all. The Mourvedre’s touch of smokiness proved to be a good match with the complexities of dark chocolate (and it’s not bad with milk chocolate either). Of the four wines, this was the one with the greatest depth, with taste sensations ranging from tangy fruit to the bite of pepper. And it still had a lovely mellowness the day after opening.
Blanc de Noir 2021
(Paired with melon)
This is a 50/50 Granache Noir/Mourvedre blend. It’s a dry wine, with a clean, crisp taste that goes well with lighter fare. It was nice to experience notes of apple and melon, as I’d already chosen the latter as an accompaniment. I shared this with a friend who likes to make wine spritzers, but we jointly decided this was too good to dilute in any way. A refreshing choice for a hot day.
Don’t take my word for it. If you’re passing through Austin, Texas, you can sample the wines yourself at Butaud’s tasting room. Their website tells you where else you can find the wines in the state, and online ordering is available too. If you’ve never tasted Texas wine before, C.L. Butaud’s offerings are a great place to start. With a variety of reds, whites, and a rosé to choose from (I’ll have to try that one next), these are wines that do the Lone Star State proud.