Duchman Family Winery Review
Address: 13308 FM 150 W Driftwood,Texas 78619.
Phone Number: 512-894-3111
Tasting Hours: Mon 12:00-6:00, Tues-Sun 11:00-8:00
Region: Texas Hill Country AVA, Texas
Reviewer: Becky Parr
Review Date: 7/13/2014
Reviewer: Becky Parr
If it hadn’t been for the heat, I might have thought I was in Tuscany.
Of course, since it was more than 95 degrees, I knew I was still in Texas, and I hadn’t dropped through a wormhole to the countryside near Florence. (Darn it!) The facilities at Duchman Family Winery are reminiscent of an Italian villa but the wine is all Texas.
The Place:  Duchman Family Winery is tucked away off F.M. 150 in the Driftwood area, southwest of Austin, and it’s as if they picked up a little slice of Italy and set it down in the middle of the Hill Country. When you drive up, the vineyard is on the left, and on the right are two Italian villa-style buildings; one is the restaurant Trattoria Lisina, the other is the winery’s tasting room. Outside is a large picnic area with plenty of tables to sit and enjoy a bottle of wine and whatever goodies find their way into your picnic basket. Inside, you’ll find lots of stone, high ceilings, cavernous rooms and hallways, artwork, and an exceptionally nice bathroom (ladies, you know this is important!). The facility gives the impression of luxury accompanied by a certain hominess.
The People:  If you visit on a weekend, be prepared for a bit of a crowd and perhaps a bit of a wait. I’ve actually been to Duchman twice, once on a Saturday (before I started writing for American Winery Guide) and once on a Sunday, and it was popular both times. During the Saturday visit, two tasting bars were open, and we quickly got a spot at the smaller bar. During the Sunday visit, only the larger tasting bar was open, and we had a short wait, but a space opened up fairly quickly. Because my husband had been with me on the previous visit, he graciously offered to drive so my best friend could experience the yumminess that is Duchman wine along with me.
Our server was Ashlynn. Fortunately, the Duchman staff seems aware of how popular they are on the weekends, so they had an ample number of people behind the bar. It wasn’t quite a one-to-one ratio between tasting groups (mostly pairs) and servers, but it was close. We pretty much had Ashlynn’s full attention. From my previous visit, I remembered that the people pouring really seemed to enjoy the wine, their jobs, and conversing with the customers, and Ashlynn was the same way so were the other servers behind the bar with her. We really enjoyed talking with her. She was knowledgeable about the wine, described it well, and put up with all our curious questions!
The Wine:  Duchman provides six tastes for $10. There are twelve wines on the menu, and conveniently there were two of us tasting, so of course we each tasted six wines and passed glasses back and forth. There were five whites and seven reds. One thing I found odd was that Duchman charges tax on top of the tasting fee, so it came out to an odd amount like $10.83 per tasting. I don’t know if other wineries don’t charge tax or fold it into the tasting fee, but I’m not used to the tax being on top of the fee.
All Duchman’s wine comes from grapes grown in Texas. Duchman is very proud of this, and they should be! Many Texas wineries use some grapes grown in-state and others from elsewhere, and some wineries import all their grapes from elsewhere. This is a great example of a winery that takes advantage of the numerous climates in the state to grow a wide variety of grapes suited to the Texas climate.
The first two whites weren’t my favorites. The 2011 Trebbiano was my preference of the two; it’s light, with tropical notes and a bit of acid, but there’s an odd tweak at the finish. The 2011 Pinot Grigio had an odd nose, but tasted like a typical Pinot Grigio.
My favorite white was the 2012 Vermentino. This is Duchman’s signature white wine. It’s citrusy and really well balanced. Ashlynn described it as a good palate cleanser, but frankly I just wanted to drink it all by itself. And in fact I did, since I brought some home with me. My second favorite among the whites was the 2012 Viognier. I found it more acidic than the Vermentino, with more hints of grapefruit, and a really nice nose. We finished the whites with the Bianco, a blend of four varietals; it’s very lightly sweet, but comes across as dry on the finish.
All the wines are aged in stainless steel, so there wasn’t a lot of oak in the flavor. I didn’t miss it at all.
Now, the reds! Rosso is a half-and-half blend of Dolcetto and Sangiovese, both of which followed the Rosso on the tasting menu. All three are on the lighter side. Both Rosso and the 2012 Dolcetto are easy drinkers, not tannic at all. The 2011 Sangiovese has more tannins on the finish but is otherwise smooth. Of the three, I preferred the Dolcetto.
The 2011 Montepulciano and Tempranillo begin the deeper reds. All three of us even my designated driver husband had sips of this one, trying to identify the spicy taste. We never determined what spice it was, but we knew we liked it! The star of the reds, though, is the 2010 Aglianico. The wine is dedicated to Duchman’s original winemaker, who passed away in 2011, and who apparently really loved this wine. Having tasted it, I get it. I brought some of this home, too. It’s still in my wine rack because I can’t decide whether to have it with red meat or with a robust pasta dish. And okay, I’m waiting for cooler weather.
Last was the Canto Felice, a plummy and jammy wine that is lightly sweet.
We made an extra discovery, outside of the tasting. My friend purchased a bottle of raspberry sparkling wine to bring home. We had it by the pool (okay, IN the pool) on a 100-degree day a few weeks later. It was so good! It’s a bit on the sweet side, but not too much. It was perfect for a really hot day.
If you visit Duchman, make sure you take the time to read the tasting notes. Whoever wrote them has quite a sense of humor! I don’t think I’ve ever seen references to Michael Phelps, Rolls-Royce, and a little black dress on the same tasting sheet before!
The Experience:  I enjoyed Duchman Family Winery both times I visited. It’s a beautiful facility, the people are knowledgeable and friendly, and the wines are great. If you prefer air travel to the road, there’s even a field across from the tasting room where you can park your helicopter we saw one! It would also be a great place for a wedding or a classy party.
If there was a winery cat or dog, it might be perfect!