When I was asked to be a judge at the latest Lone Star International Wine Competition, that meant a drive to Grapevine for the Monday and Tuesday competition. If I was going to drive that far from Houston, I decided to take advantage of the weekend to visit wineries in that area which I have not been to yet and also return to some favorites. It turned out I had the Friday before off too, so that gave me almost three full days of a road trip visiting wineries and friends. Those three days eventually meant over 1,000 miles on my new car from one part of the Lone Star State to another.
Friday came and my furthest goal was Abilene so I planned the route to there. My first stop was Wedding Oak Winery in San Saba. I hoped to finally meet Leanne Holley of the Texas Wine and Trail blog since she lives in San Saba and her husband Marcus is the tasting room manager at Wedding Oak Winery. I had contributed some posts to her blog when she first got started and was looking forward to meeting her.
I arrived at Wedding Oak Winery when they opened and heard, “Hello Mr. Cope.” It was Marcus Holley who was tending to the outside of the winery. We walked into the winery and unfortunately I learned Leanne was unable to get a babysitter to allow her to meet me at the winery.
Marcus got me started on a tasting of new wines and soon managing partner Mike McHenry arrived. I had timed it perfectly when three new wines were going to be unveiled for their second anniversary, so I had the pleasure of tasting those wines too.
These are some of the wines which was available to taste:
- 2012 Terre Blanc (55% Roussanne and 45% Marsanne)
- 2012 Viognier (Bingham Family Vineyards)
- 2012 Tioja (80% Tempranillo, 10% Mourvèdre, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon)
- 2012 Terre Rouge (field blend of 48% Grenache, 21% Syrah, 21% Cinsaut, 10% Mourvèdre)
- Harmony Ridge (Grenache, Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon)
- 2012 Bridal Bliss (Muscat Canelli)
- New 2013 Terre Blanc (44% Viognier, 34% Marsanne, 22% Roussanne)
- New 2012 Sangiovese
- New 2012 Tempranillo (Blended from Twin T Vineyard and Bingham Family Vineyards. 45 barrels were tasted by staff and wine club members to determine the correct blend.)
During the tasting, Penny Adams, the winemaker for Wedding Oak Winery, arrived and joined in the fun. All wines were great, just as they have been from the very first time Gloria and I had a preview of the winery. Mike showed me around the production area which was now complete since my last visit.
It had been a great start to an eventful weekend and it was nice seeing everybody again and meeting Marcus. Next up on the way to Abilene was a stop at Brennan Vineyards.
Winemaker Todd Webster of Brennan Vineyards was expecting me when I arrived and after seeing Hospitality Director Tina Marken again, Todd soon arrived followed by Pat Brennan who stopped by to briefly say hello. Todd and I started a tasting of what was new. It is always a pleasure to do a tasting with the winemaker who can provide their own insight on the wines they made.
Todd said they had just been out in the vineyards and because of the freeze in April, they are not looking as good as usual. In fact this year they might need to hand harvest. Fortunately the Viognier is looking good which is one of the signature Brennan Vineyards wines.
There are six to seven wines available during a tasting at Brennan Vineyards. These are some of the wines I tasted:
- 2013 Malbec Rosé
- 2012 Chardonnay
- 2012 Lily (Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache)
- 2012 Viognier
- 2011 Buffalo Roam (Mourvèdre, Syrah)
- 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
- “W” The Winemaker’s Choice (non-vintage blend of their best wines)
During our tasting, I asked about their wines which are available at 4.0 Cellars as we can usually buy Brennan wines there when in Fredericksburg. Todd said most of their wines are available at 4.0 Cellars but at a limited quantity, so if you want to ensure the wine is available, it is best to make the trip to Comanche and visit Brennan Vineyards. Fortunately, Brennan Vineyards offers a discount to TWGGA members so you can stock up on some good wine while there.
It had been another fun time seeing Todd Webster (@TXViognier) and visiting Brennan Vineyards, but now it was time to make the trip to Abilene.
I found the Winery at Willow Creek and had a nice visit which I wrote about with Brian & Kimberly Scalf. They are very fortunate to have a great location to enjoy wine on a patio alongside a creek, and I am sure many wineries would be envious. After my visit, it was time to return to another previously visited winery, Bluff Dale Vineyards.
Coming in from the north off Interstate 20, I had forgotten to set my GPS to not take me on any unpaved roads and I soon found one long stretch of one. That was not really a problem as I introduced my new SUV into unpaved driving and I am sure it won’t be the last time.
I had arranged to meet Christopher Hayes at the winery but told him earlier in the week it might be fairly close to closing time. I arrived at Bluff Dale Vineyards and discovered he had just bailed on me early (just kidding Chris!), but his mother Theresa Hayes was more than happy to lead me through a tasting of what was new.
We met Theresa when we first visited Bluff Dale, but only for a moment. It was a pleasure spending time talking with her and tasting their wines. All of Bluff Dale Vineyards bottles have a whooping crane on the label and she explained in China where she is from that whooping cranes are a symbol of good luck.
Some of the wines available were:
- Paragon (blend with light tannins)
- Nexus (sweet red)
- Reserve Cabernet
It had been a nice conversation with Theresa Hayes at Bluff Dale Vineyards, but I had to leave for my next winery and concert. That was a return to Barking Rocks Vineyard and Winery in Granbury to see owner/winemaker Tiberia. He holds a monthly first Friday of the month concert but this was the week before, and I was pleased to learn he was also having a concert then. I arrived before the concert started with Gigi Love doing an acoustic concert in the winery. It was a nice evening and the winery doors were able to be kept open.
Tiberia got me started with a glass of Roussanne which is always good at Barking Rocks. Since it was an event, tastings are not done, but I had no problem selecting glasses of wine to try. Tiberia said the crowd who attended was smaller than his usual Friday night concerts, so if you’re in the area, be sure to check out those Friday night concerts as they sound fun!
It was a nice concert with Gigi Love and some good Barking Rocks wine, but I had to leave early since I needed to make the trip to Frisco north of Dallas to visit and stay with friends Dave and Kelli Potter and their lovely daughter Annali. It wasn’t too late when I arrived at their house and it gave just enough time to join them in a glass of wine to relax from my travels of the day.
Saturday came and Dave and I had previously planned on making it a guy’s day out. It had been a long time since I had done that and was looking forward to a fun day.
First up was an appointment at Marker Cellars in Alvord. Dave had been there before and owner Mark Rogers said that was good because the address for the winery usually sends people half a mile down the road. Fortunately I had previously prepared and set GPS coordinates to the winery and it performed flawlessly. I really should consider selling my GPS data which is loaded with Texas wineries!
Dave and I had a great time visiting with Mark Rogers and I wrote about our visit. It was another great start to the day and our trip.
Heading north were stops at Weinhof Winery in Forestburg and the tasting room in Muenster. We could only do one tasting so we decided to do it in Muenster. It was a nice visit to the Weinhof Winery I wrote about with the German décor and gifts, and of course Texas wine.
After a quick lunch, we were on our way again to visit BarnHaus Vineyard and learn about their upcoming winery. Both Walt Roper and David Straley gave an interesting tour of the gorgeous location with vineyard, house, and even windmills because some are located on Walt’s ranch. If you have not had a chance to read my post about our visit, you will definitely want to.
A repeat visit was next to Arché. We arrived, soon after Grayson Davies, winemaker and son of Howard and Amy Davies, had started a tour of the vineyard. Amy suggested we catch up to the tour which Dave and I did. This year Arché will be getting a crop of Chardonnay. They planted seven feet between the rows and five feet between the vines. Also planted in the vineyard is Syrah, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Roussanne, and Muscat Giallo. Part of the vineyard is currently being replanted and Grayson said they stimulate growth with water, not nitrogen. They start slowing the watering during the second year.
While the tour was taking place, Howard Davies came out to talk to Dave and me. He explained how he is training some of the vines with a new method which allows every other bud to be prominent every year. He then led us to the winery to catch up to the tour which was just about ready to do a tasting as part of the tour. Grayson led the tour group on a tasting of some of their wines.
Since the last time I had visited Arché, their wines have been winning major medals at wine competitions around the country including a Platinum award at the San Diego International Wine Competition for their 2012 Roussanne. It had been another educational and fun visit at Arché.
Nearby was our last visit for the day which was Blue Ostrich Winery & Vineyard. There were a lot of cars in the parking lot and entering the winery confirmed there were a lot of people in the winery and outside on the patio. We said hello to Patrick and Julie Whitehead who were working behind the tasting bar. Patrick found a space for us at the end of the bar and got us started on a tasting of what was new.
These are some of the wines we tried:
- Blanc du Bois (82% Blanc du Bois and 18% Riesling)
- 2013 Viognier. This is the first from their vineyard.
- 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2010 Cuvee Rouge (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec)
During our tasting, Patrick suggested he give us a tour. We started first in the production area and Patrick showed us a new stainless tank he had received. The production is increasing and there is certainly a reason. In less than three years of being open, they already have 600 wine club members. On Memorial Day, they had 500 people at the winery for a wine club party complete with food trucks. It had been a little overwhelming and busy, but everything was worth the effort.
We then walked to the vineyard to see the progress of the growing season and looked at the Tempranillo and Viognier vines. When we returned to the winery, Dave and I sat on the outside patio to enjoy a glass of wine before we had to call it a day. Oh, the other great part about Blue Ostrich Winery is they too offer a discount to TWGGA members.
On Sunday, I planned to first visit Landon Winery in McKinney. Dave had to pick up a wine club shipment so he joined me for the first visit. We arrived when Landon Winery opened and met owner Bob Landon who had gotten there early for a 2:00 pm wine club pick-up party. They have 2,000 wine club members so preparation was definitely needed.
Bob spent some time with us to do a tasting of certain wines. These are some of the wines we tasted:
- 2011 Cabernet Franc (Bingham Family Vineyards)
- 2012 Cabernet Franc (Bingham Family Vineyards)
- 2012 Dolcetto (Bingham Family Vineyards)
- 2012 Dry Rosé Dolcetto
- 2012 Meritage (Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier)
- 2012 Tempranillo (Bingham Family Vineyards)
- 2012 Merlot (Bingham Family Vineyards)
- Cab3 (three different years of Cabernet Sauvignon)
Bob said they are planning on producing 15,000 cases of wine this year. It was nice being able to talk to Bob and learn a little about the winery’s past and current plans. Bob suggested we should attend his Saturday barrel tastings and tour at the Greenville location as it is a lot of fun. Gloria and I plan on doing that soon. We had a great time tasting Landon Winery’s excellent Texas wines with Bob Landon and appreciated the time he took with us.
Dave had to head back home, so we parted ways but promised to get together again soon. I then went to visit Rick and Connie Magers of Grayson Hills Winery. The last time I had a chance to visit their winery was before this blog started so it was definitely time to return, not only to see them again, but to get information and photos for a post about Grayson Hills. You can read that post here.
My whirlwind three day trip of the Lone Star State was over, and even though I had done a lot of driving, it had been a lot of fun visiting new wineries and returning to other ones.
More photos of my trip can be seen on the Facebook page.