Inwood Estates winemaker Dan Gatlin has incredible patience and persistence. He planted his first vineyard in Denton County in 1981 and didn’t release a wine commercially under the Inwood label until August 2006. What was he doing in those 20-some odd years? Research, first hand research by trial and error, by failed vineyards, by tiny steps towards perfection.
To find out a little more about Inwood wines and the winemaker, we made a Saturday afternoon visit to the winery, located in the most unlikely place, a strip of industrial warehouse-type buildings in the Design District. Inwood’s tasting room has just recently been open to the public for tastings (weekends 1:00-6:00pm only).
Glamorous? Not at all, no Tuscan villa architecture or scenic hilltop view here. In fact, Dan Gatlin was in the middle of rinsing out his barrels in the parking lot when we arrived.
Inside, the tasting bar is half wine bar half mad scientist’s laboratory.
Eccentric? Yes. Cool? Very.
A few minutes into our conversation and I’m already starting to grasp Dan’s philosophy behind winemaking. It’s all about the soil.
So many Texas winemakers (and drinkers) judge Texas wines by comparing them to the “standards,” California, France, Spain, etc. Particularly for those who love a fruity California Cab and wonder why Texas winemakers can’t recreate those same characteristics, Dan’s answer is soil. Texas soil, with its high mineral content (particularly high in calcium), greatly influences the characteristics of the grape crop. But the soil doesn’t have to be your enemy. Dan’s take? Forget masking the high minerality with more residual sugar, work with the high minerality to find what grapes can be at their best in this soil type.
And work he does. For a complete discussion about the process behind finding the varietals which worked well with Texas soils, refer to Inwood’s History and Research page. At the end of the long road of research, Dan chooses to work with the Tempranillo (grown in a vineyard in the High Plains outside of Lubbock), whose traits become more bright and complex with higher mineral content, and the Palomino (grown in a vineyard east of Dallas), a high yield crop used heavily in Spain for sherry production but Dan cuts back the crop density (from about 7500 pounds/acre to 1000 pounds/acre) for more intense flavors.
Is this post starting to sound like an agriculture lesson yet? Because my visit to Inwood was the most informative winery visit I’ve ever been on. In a short hour, I had been briefed all about the suitability of Texas climate and soil for grape growing. Different? Yes. Cool? Very.
So what wines are good? The answer is all of them because Inwood only makes three. Still, my favorite is the Tempranillo-Cabernet blend (all grapes grown in the High Plains outside of Lubbock) for its balance of berry and oak flavors. The Cabernet adds structure to the blend and extends its bottle life. Did I mention all red wines at Inwood are oaked at least 30 months? Dan Gatlin is a patient perfectionist. Inwood also produces a 100% Tempranillo called “The Cornelius” which is softer than the blend, fruity, and has hints of vanilla. Inwood’s Palomino-Chardonnay (70/30 blend) is a really unique wine. It’s different than anything I’ve ever tasted so it’s hard to compare. The wine picks up flavors of honey and melon from the dense Palomino and is thinned by the Chardonnay for complexity.
Dan’s wines are arguably the best in Texas, but they don’t come cheap. The reds retail $39.50/bottle and the 2006 Palomino-Chardonnay at $79.50/bottle. Is it worth it? I think so. The reds are wines you can save up for a special occasion because they’ll only get better with age (within 7-8 years, according to the winemaker) and the Palomino-Chardonnay is truly one of a kind. I’m not the only one who thinks so either, Inwood wines are served at over 50 fine dining restaurants in Texas.
This isn’t your typical Texas wine. Dan Gatlin is not your typical winemaker. And urban Dallas Inwood Estates is certainly not a typical winery.
Inwood Estates Vineyards & Winery
1350 Manufacturing St. #209
Dallas, TX 75207