Driftwood Estate Winery Award Winning Wine
Nestled in the heart of Texas Hill Country is the beautiful Driftwood Estate Winery, an embodiment of Texas terroir encapsulated in wine bottles since 1998. Sara and I were honored to accept the invitation to explore the Driftwood Estate Winery’s 18-acre property and taste some of their award-winning wines.
The story of Driftwood Estate Winery is incomplete without mentioning Gary Elliott, a former pilot who traded his wings for vines in the late ’90s to pursue his vinous dream. As an early pioneer in the Texas wine industry, Gary has been instrumental in working with the Texas state government to refine the laws governing alcohol consumption and wine production. Even in his early 80s, Gary’s zest for life is evident as he moonlights as a ski instructor at Mammoth Mountain, a nod to his professional skiing days in the 1970s.
We also had the opportunity to meet Jackie VanSant Downes, the talented winemaker whose journey led her from Texas Tech to Sonoma’s Wattle Creek Winery, and then back to Texas with her two children and husband—who also contributes to the Driftwood Estate Winery’s operations. Jackie also has her own wine label, Jaclynn Renée Wines.
The team at Driftwood Estate Winery crafts about 10,000 cases of wine annually, and holds a strong commitment to quality, as reflected by their recent accolades. All the wine produced by Driftwood Estate Winery is crafted from Texas grapes, with the majority of their grapes being sourced from the High-Plains of Texas, a region gaining prominence for its viticulture.
The guided tasting unfolded a palate of flavors, each narrating tales of the Texas soil, sun, and skilled hands behind them. My favorite was the 2019 Sangiovese from Newsom Vineyards, aged for 36 months in both French and American oak barrels. Having recently returned from a month in Italy, I can attest that this wine held its own when compared to Italian Chiantis. Sara was particularly enamored with the Alamo Red, a nuanced Bordeaux-esque blend of 40% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Petit Verdot, aged for 30 months in French and American oak—all fruit hailing from Newsom Vineyards. This blend also clinched the Best in Class accolade at the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle wine competition.
The accolades didn’t stop there. Driftwood Estate Winery made a significant mark at the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition in January 2023, where their wines, including the 2019 Alamo Red, 2019 Syrah, and 2022 Dry Rose, emerged as Double Gold/Best of Class winners, amidst a lineup largely dominated by Californian labels. The winery also won the “Best in Show” saddle for their 2012 Longhorn Red from the 2015 Houston Livestock Show International Wine Competition, and the title of Best Texas Wine by Prime Living, the Luxury Lifestyle Magazine of Texas.
Our expedition through the winery’s facilities and the scenic estate was picturesque, with rows of resilient vines stretching across steep embankments, juxtaposed against the backdrop of rolling hills—a testament to the promise of future award-winning wines despite the scars left by the 2021 freeze, which killed a significant portion of the estate vineyard.
Our narrative is but a sip from the extensive and enriching wine culture burgeoning in the heart of Texas, a tale that beckons every wine aficionado to explore the vine-lined horizons of Driftwood, Texas. The essence of Driftwood Estate Winery is not just in the wine, but in the stories of perseverance, collaboration, and the unyielding promise of Texas terroir that echo through the gentle rustle of vine leaves in the Texan breeze.