Sandstone Cellars Winery is located in Mason, north of Fredericksburg. The winery is owned by Scott Haupert and Manny Silerio with Don Pullum as the winemaker. Since Don was mentioned in the previous blog post about Junction Rivers Winery, it was only fitting Sandstone Cellars Winery is the next winery to spotlight.
In 1998 Don Pullum was looking for a place to grow grapes in Texas. He was a former venture capitalist and banker, and decided he wanted to grow grapes and make wine. He spent almost a year looking for property for the vineyard, and Mason had everything he wanted with the right soil, water, and being in a growth direction near Fredericksburg. He planted the first vineyard in Mason County called Akashic Vineyard. Now there are nine grape growers in Mason County with 150 acres of vines.
Don planted his first acre with Grenache, Primitivo, Sangiovese, and Mourvèdre which Don loves. A neighbor then planted at Don’s suggestion Touriga. Don said, “I have become enamored as a winemaker with Touriga.” As a result you will find Touriga used in many of Sandstone Cellars wines in some percentage.
Also in 1998, Scott Haupert and Manny Silerio being best friends while attending college in San Antonio opened Santos Taqueria (http://www.santostaqueria.com) in an old gas station building in Mason. This is not your typical Tex-Mex restaurant because the food is made the Old World way. The reason for this is because Manny’s mother, Santos Silerio, originally from Durango, Mexico, runs the restaurant using her recipes along with Manny’s sister.
Scott and Manny met Don and the rest you could say is history. With the restaurant needing parking space, they bought the building next door for parking space and then thought perhaps a winery might work to serve the needs of the community. So with winemaker Don Pullum they started the boutique winery of Sandstone Cellars Winery in 2004.
On our last visit I had pre-arranged to meet Don Pullum (@akashicvineyard) at the winery. He handled our tasting and gave us a very informative history of the winery and Mason County. We also got to meet Scott Haupert again and eventually met Manny Silerio.
There is a tasting fee for whatever wines are available which people want to taste. You stand at the tasting bar in the winery and the uncorked Texas wines are poured from the bottle. Crackers are available to cleanse your palate.
All of Sandstone Cellars Texas wine is made from 100% Texas fruit from Mason County. Most of their red wines are chilled because the proper temperature for serving most red wines is between 55 and 65 degrees. Even when they go to festivals they take ice to keep their wines in so the wine is served at the right temperature. Sandstone Cellars Winery only makes red wines so to complement their wines, they sell other Texas wines which they particularly like.
During our tasting, Don showed us the production facility, a room located in the back of the winery. The stainless steel tanks and oak barrels are kept there and with the 300 square feet of production space, Sandstone Cellars Winery produces 500 cases a year. This is obviously big enough to handle their award winning Texas wines.
Don explained how the first wine he did was oaked for nine months but then he changed the style. He is now keeping about 50 percent in oak for three or four months and 50 percent in stainless tanks. The stainless keeps the fruit character and the oak gives the oak flavors and adds complexity. He then swaps them out with another varietal before he starts blending.
Besides helping Junction Rivers Winery as mentioned earlier, Don Pullum also consults with Torre de Pietra Winery winemaker Ken Maxwell on his wines.
We discussed the labels for Sandstone Cellars Winery. The backdrop for the primary labels is the painting “Kindred Spirits” done by local artist Bill Worrell. Another Bill Worrell painting called “My Way” is used on their Port style dessert wine. Both paintings hang in the winery. Also on the labels are the grapes used and the percentages.
Instead of names, the wines are labeled with roman numerals. I asked Don about the naming of their wines. Don said, “Scott, Manny, and I were talking about how we may do different blends every year, so we’re going to have to come up with a bunch of proprietary names because every bottle is going to be different. We don’t want to call it something and it’s going to change every year. We came up with 10 or 11 names and checked them out on the computer and they were all taken. Manny got frustrated and said, ‘Why don’t we just number them?’ I thought, ‘That’s brilliant Manny. Let’s do that.’ So that’s what we’re doing because we’re changing the blend with every wine.”
A gift shop is present in the winery with art, pottery, and sculptures also by Bill Worrell. They are in the process of putting together a wine club.
Don brought us to the building next door to the winery which is the second oldest building in Mason and was Lucia Holmes house. It was a Sunday house for farmers. Lucia Holmes wrote a diary which was published which talks about the Indian fights, cowboy shootouts, and life in Mason, Texas when it was part of the Wild West in the 1870′s. The building is now a wonderful wine bar for the winery. The rooms in the house have tables where patrons can enjoy their wine. Customers often walk from the wine bar to the winery and then to Santos Taqueria on the other side of the winery. The wine bar sells wines by the glass and local foods like cheese plates.
We thank Don, Scott, and Manny for our excellent visit at Sandstone Cellars Winery. Next time you are in Fredericksburg, set some time aside to take the short drive north to Mason and visit the winery, wine bar, and Santos Taqueria.