Bella Vista Ranch is located in Wimberley and is owned by Jack and Pat Dougherty. At the same location they also own First Texas Olive Oil Co.
It had been a few years since we were last at Bella Vista Ranch so it was definitely time for a return visit. I saw they provide a 1 1/2 hour tour of the olive orchard, olive mill, and winery on weekends, but I could never get the timing correct to visit at the right time. So at my first opportunity, I ended up visiting on a very cool wintery day and was ready for a nice tasting of wines and olive oils.
As I entered the warm tasting room, I was greeted by Greg who I informed I would like to do a wine tasting. We were ready to start when Jack Dougherty popped in to say something to Greg. Fortunately I was able to go on a little walk with Jack to the vineyard for a photo op and hear a little about Bella Vista Ranch.
They started an olive grove and a small vineyard in 1998. The vineyard today grows Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc. In 2001, Jack and Pat Dougherty harvested their first crop of olives. Today there are 1,200 producing olive trees. He had been making wine on his own but when the liquor laws for the county changed in 2004, Bella Vista Ranch became a production winery. Today besides the winery, there is the olive orchard, vineyard, frantoio (olive press), and many fruit and vegetables.
Jack wanted the photo near the vineyard and I made the comment that it was too bad it wasn’t summer with nice green growth, but Jack said he actually preferred the vineyard at this time of year. He also explained how they do three prunings a year.
I thanked Jack for his time and went back into the tasting room to start my wine tasting. I learned then that Jack is also known as “The Olive Guy.” Part of the reason is they were the first olive oil producer outside of California and of course the first in Texas, hence the name First Texas Olive Oil Co.
Wine tastings are done while standing at the small tasting bar. The wines labeled with Bella Vista Cellars are poured from the uncorked bottles. There are two tasting fees. The lower fee is for four wines and the higher fee is for two more wines which are for reserve wines.
The wines available during my tasting were:
- Viognier (Texas)
- Texas Sunset (80% Sangiovese / 20% Cabernet Franc) – estate grapes
- Cabernet Sauvignon (Hill Country Blend)
- Dos Cabs (2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and estate 2012 Cabernet Franc)
- 2012 Estate Cabernet Franc
- Raspberry Wine
All grapes used are from Texas and the raspberries used in the Raspberry Wine come from Washington. If they cannot use 100% Texas grapes, they use California grapes. Jack Dougherty, Greg, and Ross are the winemakers. They produce about 3,500 cases of wine a year. When oak is needed for a wine, they use French oak barrels.
While doing the wine tasting, I remember doing a tasting of olive oils on our last visit, so I was pleased to learn how to correctly taste olive oil in addition to the difference between fresh olive oil and the kind you find in supermarkets. Besides their fresh olive oil offered, they also offer Californian and Italian olive oils blended to their specifications.
The gift shop also has natural castile soap made from different oils including olive oil, olives, vinegars, jams and sauces, and clothing. The winery has harvest events every year.
Take a trip to Bella Vista Ranch and learn about how olive oil is really made and enjoy the Texas wines.