Last year’s TX Wine Lover Awards was a fun hit with consumers and wineries alike, so we had to do another set of awards for this year. Hence, the 2012 TX Wine Lover Awards. We hope you enjoy our list of award categories from last year in addition to some new categories for this year.
Notes: These awards are just our opinion and as usual, everybody probably has a different opinion. There are MANY wineries which could have been chosen for each award, but we had the difficult task to try and select one. Please realize these awards include only the wineries we have visited.
Best Tasting Room
Cap*Rock Winery (http://www.caprockwinery.com). After visiting more wineries in the past year, we have a new winner this year for best tasting room. In our opinion, the tasting room should be large enough to handle a group of people without feeling crowded, have a nice décor, and especially if you stay longer to drink a glass of wine a nice comfortable place to do so. There certainly are a lot of nice tasting rooms, but our winner this year is Cap*Rock Winery. After tasting you can sit in some very comfy couches and chairs to enjoy a glass of wine. In the cold weather, there’s a fireplace to warm you and in the summer, there is outdoor patio seating.
Best Wine Tasting for the Price
Fredericksburg Winery (http://www.fbgwinery.com). We have decided this is a tough category to award. Complimentary tastings are always the best for the price but perhaps a large selection for a tasting fee is better. We decided to go for a combination of the two for this year’s award winner. Fredericksburg Winery’s tasting is complimentary for a large selection of wines and has a fee for a few reserve wines. They even have wine crackers to cleanse your palate between tastings. Start your day in Fredericksburg at the winery before you venture out to visit the other wineries in the area.
Best Palate Cleansing Food
Tie: Cross Timbers Winery (http://www.crosstimberswinery.com) and Texas Legato (http://www.texaslegato.com). When you’re doing a tasting, you’ll want to cleanse your palate between certain wines so you can get a truer taste of the next wine. Most wineries provide some kind of food to do so such as crackers and if they don’t, you should ask them why not. This year we are going to give a tie between two wineries. The first is last year’s winner Cross Timbers Winery in Grapevine which gives cheese and crackers during your tasting. If you’re tired of crackers, this year’s tied winner is Texas Legato who provides nuts and cheese.
Best Live Music
Torre Di Pietra Winery (http://www.texashillcountrywine.com). We had the same problem as last year. A lot of wineries have live music happening most weekends so it was tough trying to decide on the best since we haven’t been able to go to every music event at every winery. Most live music events occur any night from Friday to Sunday. The Sunday evening events are a little tough to get up for work the next day. The wineries which do have music do not seem to have it every weekend so it makes it difficult to determine what’s best between how many events, when it is held, etc. But we still like last year’s winner: Torre Di Pietra Winery. They have music every Saturday during the day leaving your evening free for other things (maybe catching another concert nearby) in addition to an occasional festival.
Messina Hof Winery & Resort (http://www.messinahof.com). Last year’s winner is this year’s winner as Messina Hof always seems to have something going on. They have a full calendar with festivals, dinners, wine bar events, wine classes, and more.
Bluff Dale Vineyards (http://bluffdalevineyards.com). Last year’s winner of this award was Driftwood Estate Winery (http://www.driftwoodwine.com) and there is no denying they have a fantastic view. But in the past year we visited Bluff Dale Vineyards and we believe they have a fantastic, but little different view, too. From the winery’s front porch, you overlook their vineyard and the hills surrounding the front view provide a beautiful more concise scenic view. Make a trip to Bluff Dale and see if you agree.
Best Vineyard Next to a Winery
Perissos Vineyard and Winery (http://www.perissosvineyards.com). It is not a coincidence that the first word following the name of the winery is Vineyard. 90% of the wines made at Perissos are estate grown and they are grown right outside the winery making for easier maintenance. Take a trip and visit Perissos and you’ll probably meet the owners Seth and Laura Martin as they live right above the winery.
Cap*Rock Winery (http://www.caprockwinery.com). Last year’s winner of Best Entrance was Fall Creek Vineyards (http://www.fcv.com) and they still were very much in contention for this year. What we like about Cap*Rock Winery is you have a great entrance and looking down the road you can see the beautiful winery right at the end. If you make a trip to Lubbock, do not miss the great entrance and winery.
Duchman Family Winery (http://duchmanwinery.com). Duchman Family Winery has produced wines with very reasonable prices, some below $10, and most between $10-15. We consider their Texas wines to be a great example of a fine wine which Texas can produce.
Messina Hof Winery & Resort (http://www.messinahof.com). Not many wineries have a restaurant. One winery which was in contention for this award was Kiepersol Winery (http://kiepersol.com) which has a restaurant serving fine dining but we haven’t had the chance to eat there yet. Messina Hof also has a fine dining restaurant with a great atmosphere with the dining tables surrounded by wine barrels. If you want to really splurge, try the Chef’s Table where you will get a five course meal especially prepared for your likes and each course is paired with a different wine.
Best Gift Shop
Grape Creek Vineyards (http://www.grapecreek.com). This year Grape Creek takes the winning spot. We went back to some gift shops to re-verify but we believe Grape Creek has the largest gift shop with many different items to buy.
Grape Creek Vineyards (http://www.grapecreek.com). In the past year we finally took the trolley tour at Grape Creek. The tour takes you to their large production room and ends with a special barrel tasting where you can compare the difference with the same wine stored in a French Oak and American Oak barrel. The only thing which could be improved is the cost as it is $20 for the tour which we think is a little high, but you do get to keep your wine glass and the special barrel tasting comparison adds a little. Llano Estacado Winery (http://www.llanoestacadowine.com) has a very nice scripted tour which starts with a display describing barrel making which we have not seen before. But Grape Creek seems to give a little more in their tour.
Best Place for a Wedding
Messina Hof Winery & Resort (http://www.messinahof.com). One of the most popular wineries for weddings in Texas is Lost Oak Winery (formerly Lone Oak Winery) (http://www.lostoakwinery.com) with many weddings already planned for this year and being voted “Best Pick” by The Knot. However one of the key pieces in this category for us is one place which gives you everything. At Messina Hof in Bryan, you can get married, by owner/winemaker Paul Bonarrigo no less, have a reception in the fine dining Vintage House restaurant, and then stay overnight in the Villa Bed & Breakfast.
Duchman Family Winery (http://duchmanfamilywinery.com). There are quite a few wineries which have beautiful outside landscaping. At this point though we need to choose Duchman Family Winery as the most beautiful with a large fountain, benches, seating under big trees, etc. It is as beautiful during the day as it is at night with the lighting.
Best Fruit Wine
Sweet Dreams Winery (http://www.sweetdreamswinery.com). A number of wineries concentrate on making wine from fruit instead of just grapes. Our favorite winery for fruit wines is still Sweet Dreams Winery. 90 percent of the wines they make are from local fruit and they make wine from almost any fruit you can think of. An honorable mention goes to Maydelle Country Wines (http://www.maydellewines.com) because they have been able to get some of their wines in distribution.
Best Unique Wine
Tehuacana Creek Vineyards (http://www.wacowinery.com). Various wineries make unique wine but this year we’re going to give the award to best unique wine to Tehuacana Creek Vineyards (TCV) for their Mulsum. Mulsum is a wine ancient Romans used to drink before they sat down for their feasts. It is a white wine sweetened with honey and TCV has been making it exactly the same way as the Romans by using a 2,000 year old recipe.
Best Place for Multiple Wineries
Grapevine, Texas (http://www.grapevinewinetrail.com). If you want to visit multiple wineries within walking distance, then go to Grapevine. There you can walk between Homestead Winery, D’Vine Wine, and Farina’s Winery. If you feel like doing a little more walking, you can walk to Su Vino Winery and La Buena Vida Vineyards too.
Most Fun at a Winery
CrossRoads Winery (http://www.crwinery.com). We have had a lot of fun at different wineries but the most fun is when you can interact with the owners. Fortunately we have met owners and have always had a great time talking to them and learning about their wineries. The one that we always seem to have a fun time at though is CrossRoads Winery especially on a Friday night when there is live music. Listening to live music and having a blast with Bob and Darlene Leiker makes this the most fun at a winery.
Best New Winery (since the last Awards)
Hilmy Cellars (http://www.hilmywine.com). A lot of new wineries have opened in Texas in the past year so it was tough trying to determine the best new winery. We looked at possible potential to be there in the future, making Texas wine with Texas grapes, having a good selection of wines already, etc. With a location on US Highway 290 near Fredericksburg, we think Hilmy Cellars has that potential. The last time we were there a week ago a vineyard was being planted in the front of the winery adding even more to the winery. The only thing we could see this new winery could do on our last visit is improve the handwritten signs from both directions indicating the location of the winery.
Best Secondary Tasting Room
4.0 Cellars (http://www.fourpointwine.com). We could not think of the correct term for this type of tasting room, but it is basically a tasting room that is not located at the primary winery adding another location where you can get the wines from the primary winery. A few secondary tasting rooms have opened but we need to give the award to 4.0 Cellars primarily because it consists of three wineries providing fine Texas wine. The plan is to eventually make their own wine but at the point of our visit, it was still wines from the three different wineries: Brennan Vineyards, Lost Oak Winery, and McPherson Cellars. Three great wineries in one excellent location of Fredericksburg makes a great secondary tasting room.
Best Entertaining Owner
Sue Gibson from The Weimary (http://weimary.com). A lot of owners are present at the smaller wineries and a lot are fun and energetic. However the most entertaining owner we have visited recently is Sue Gibson from the newly opened The Weimary. She is very bubbly and made our tasting a lot of fun. Hopefully if you stop by The Weimary, Sue will be around and you will see what we mean.
Best Urban Winery
McPherson Cellars (http://www.mcphersoncellars.com). Urban wineries are a fairly new phenomenon where a winery chooses to locate their winemaking facility in an urban setting within a city rather than in the traditional rural setting near the vineyards. We have visited some urban wineries in Texas but the one that is consistently putting out quality Texas wine is McPherson Cellars located in Lubbock. A tour is given showing their crushing and winemaking facilities at their location in Lubbock.
Best Event Center
KE Bushman’s Winery and Celebration Center (http://www.kiepersol.com/bushmans/index.shtml). A lot of wineries have a large room for events which they call their event center. However, Kiepersol Enterprises goes a step further and has an entire building and location for their events. The building is magnificent with one side being the winery part where you can do tastings and the other side is a large room necessary to hold the biggest event. It is an impressive location and definitely a great place to hold a large event.
Best Food to Buy While Tasting
Junction Rivers Winery (http://junctionriverswinery.com). This award was a little tough to give as some wineries have really nice food that you can eat while enjoying a glass of wine. Two wineries which have magnificent cheese, cracker, and fruit trays are 4.0 Cellars (http://www.fourpointwine.com) and The Weimary (http://weimary.com). However we are kind of partial to Margherita flatbread pizza and the best we have had is at Junction Rivers Winery. I just wish we could find or make something similar.
Best Place for Texas Wine
KE Cellars (http://www.kiepersol.com). Kiepersol Enterprises again comes through with another great place to get Texas wine. Some wineries sell other winery’s wines such as Lost Oak Winery offering Haak Vineyards and Winery (http://www.haakwine.com) wine. However KE Cellars offers Texas wines from many Texas wineries. They are more than a wine store but a boutique winery offering a tasting room, live music events, and gift shop, not to mention all the Texas wines offered. We now see they have three locations in addition to the original in Tyler so that makes it even easier to get Texas wine.
There is our second annual TX Wine Lover awards list. What are your comments or suggestions on our choices? Are there any other categories we may have forgotten?