Memorial Day has come and gone but road trips to wineries have continued. Hence, the lateness of this post. We arranged to spend Memorial Day weekend with our friends Dave & Kelli Potter and Laurie & Shelly Ware. We learned last minute that Shelly had to work that weekend so he unfortunately missed out on all the fun. We were a little late in deciding to make the trip, so our usual lodging did not have room for three couples, but fortunately we were informed about Hye Noon Cabins. We took the advice and booked three cabins for the weekend. We were going to meet Saturday morning and stay through Monday, but Gloria and I were able to take Friday off too, so we booked an extra night stay in the cabins.
Our first stop on Friday was the newly opened Lost Maples Winery in Vanderpool. Since they had recently become a member of Texas Hill Country Wineries, that was even more incentive to visit. We made the 4 ½ hour trek early from Houston to Vanderpool which is northwest of San Antonio and southwest of Comfort. When we got near the winery, we were greeted with the rolling hills of the area. Gloria was amazed and had to stop and take photos. Now that was Hill Country! The hills are beautiful, but they also blocked our cell phone coverage as we received No Signal for quite some time.
We arrived at Lost Maples Winery just as they were opening, but they were expecting us so all was good. Tip #1 never to be forgotten: if you are going to a distant winery that may be located in the country, always check ahead of time to confirm they will be open and what hours. Even following this tip over the years, I’ve been burned a couple times by a winery who said they would be open, but 98% of the time, it is a well proven tip.
Owner and winemaker Tom Slaughter provided our tasting and Glenda Slaughter soon arrived to meet with us too. Tom enjoyed talking about his winemaking and it was a very interesting visit tasting the wines and learning about the winery’s future plans. The winery has been doing great business which was excellent to hear. We had a nice visit, but had to say farewell because we were a little late already to our next appointment (remember tip #1?).
We made the fairly short trip to a winery that should be opening later this year, Scimitar Hill Vineyards, which is located in Camp Verde. I contacted owner Tom Hendrix who has been a Texas Wine Lover follower for quite some time to see if we could get a preview of the winery, especially since we would be in the area. We made it to the tasting room and met Tom and his wife Kristi Crosby.
The view from the winery was gorgeous with two vineyards below and the hills surrounding the area. This will definitely be a winery that people will go to and just relax while enjoying the view from the tasting room. I wasn’t expecting to taste any wine during our visit, but when offered, who are we to turn down wine? We had a nice visit at Scimitar Hill Vineyards and be sure to look for a more detailed post soon.
Now it was time to go to the Fredericksburg area and Torre di Pietra. Owner and winemaker Ken Maxwell had agreed to do the monthly Hill Country winemaker’s profile we started providing over a year and a half ago, and we offered to stop by to take photos. We met Ken Maxwell in the tasting room and walked outside to enjoy the nice day in the courtyard. We had a nice conversation with Ken and I had to eventually ask a question we have been wondering for years. Why is Torre di Pietra’s tasting room so dark? Ken’s answer made total sense He said the stone walls of the tasting room are supposed to simulate a cellar, and low light in a cellar is usually what you find.
We had hoped to visit more wineries, but the miles we had put on the car already had taken most of the time away to allow that. Instead we checked into our cabin, dropped off our luggage, and went back to Fredericksburg to Lost Draw Cellars where we always enjoy visiting. We surprised tasting guide Becky Bryson who was expecting our group on Sunday instead, and it was a pleasure to see co-owner Troy Ottmers again and we were introduced to his wife Karlene. Closing time came and we headed to House.Wine in Fredericksburg where five Tempranillos from Vega de Yuso in Spain were being tasted. After a wonderful tasting and some Tempranillos got packed to come home with us, we ended the night eating dinner at the Vaudeville Bistro.
Saturday morning we planned on meeting our friends at Hawk’s Shadow Winery at noon but hey, we’re not called the Texas Wine Lovers for nothing. We first stopped at William Chris Vineyards at 10 am when they opened and before the crowd got there. The best thing about visiting a winery semi-frequently is you can ask, “What’s new?” and try that instead of doing an entire tasting. Not that there’s anything wrong with a full tasting. We enjoyed tasting guide Mary (her last weekend at William Chris) telling the story of where the grapes came from for the wine Scrounge Dawg. We were impressed with the wine and it soon filled our budding case in the car. Tip #2: Always bring an empty case to bring the wines you buy so they’re not bouncing around in your car.
It was on to Fat Ass Ranch and Winery for a visit to see what was new since we were there last a year ago. Every piece of décor was still there but there were a couple new wines. We also got to see owner Gail McCulloch again whom is always a pleasure to talk to. He introduced us to a couple new wines and let’s just not say anything more as we may have a surprise or two coming up soon on the website.
Now it was time to head to Hawk’s Shadow and we arrived past noon, but fortunately so did the Potters and Laurie Ware too. We met up with owners Doug and Tom Reed in addition to co-owner Chip Concklin who was also there. We had hoped to see the finished tasting room overlooking the beautiful vineyard and hillside, but unfortunately the rains that never seemed to stop had slowed the progress of the completion. However, we could stand on the balcony of the new tasting room and envision what it would look like. This folks, is where you want to just hang out for the day.
Doug gave us a tour of the barrel room in the cellar (this is REALLY a cellar), which is dug out from the hillside and has gorgeous stone walls which will remain in place after they complete the construction. Tastings previously were held in the production room and we could see where a hole in the ceiling would lead into that room and allow barrels to be passed down to the barrel room. This is going to be fun seeing when done! Doug then started us on a tasting while other visitors to the winery arrived. Between barrel/tank tastings and finished wines, we were able to taste:
- Big O 2014. This was from the tanks and was fermented really cold and really slow. The same wine was then fermented in Hungarian oak. This showed two different versions of the wine and indeed we could tell the difference with everyone having their own preference.
- 2013 Lone Star Zin (Zinfandel)
- 2012 Wild Child (Syrah 80%, Tempranillo 20%)
- 2012 Barrel #9 (Syrah)
We could probably have tasted more and definitely enjoyed the view, but we were late to our first appointment for the day at Lewis Wines. Folks, it’s always good to try and keep your appointments on time at a winery. We arrived at Lewis Wines a little late (see, I told you to keep your appointments on time!), but co-owner Doug Lewis was willing and able to get us all eventually started on a tasting. These were the wines were we able to taste:
- NV Swim Spot (2013 Chenin Blanc and 2014 Muscat)
- Texas white wine
- High plains rosé
- 2014 Mourvèdre rose (handpicked by cluster at Mason’s Parr Vineyards)
- 2011 Texas Red Wine
- 2012 Texas Tempranillo (Four multiple vineyards aged in oak for 21 months)
- 2012 Newsom Reserve Tempranillo
- 2011 Round Mountain Vineyard Estate Blend
The next tour group was arriving so it was time to say our goodbyes and head on down the road to Hye Meadow Winery. Gloria and I had previously arranged with co-owner Mike Batek to pick up some Texas Hill Country Wineries brochures because they were one of our sponsors for the first Discover Wine Festival which will be held in Houston June 20th (shameless plug). Mike was able to fit us all in on the back tasting room bar along with newly arrived friends Bill Burns who we knew from Pedernales Cellars along with his wife Theresa, and writer Robin English-Bircher and Sean Bircher. Also arriving was Facebook friend Steve Housewright and his wife Karen.
Hye Meadow Winery has two different tastings available but fortunately it is also another one of those “What’s new?” questions we can ask. These were some of the wines we tasted:
- Trebbiano 2014
- 2014 Roussanne (Farmhouse Vineyards)
- Hye Jinx (98% Carignan, 2% Mourvèdre)
- Junkyard White
- Junkyard Red
- 2013 Dolcetto
- 2013 Sangiovese
- The Full Monte (Montepulciano)
- 2012 Tempranillo
- 2014 Not Quite Pink (Rosé that is as they say “not quite pink”)
- Hye-Albert Cuvée
The fun thing about this is we were able to taste some of these wines from the barrel last year and now we got to taste the finished product. It was also nice seeing tasting room manager Chris Black again, who we actually had run into the previous night at House.Wine. Of course it is always a pleasure seeing Donna Johnston in the tasting room too. As I was doing my tasting, I came to the conclusion that this is one of the nicest, most comfortable tasting rooms around.
Our group from Hye Meadow had dinner reservations at Compass Rose Cellars so we needed to leave to arrive in time for dinner, and we arrived in the middle of the pouring rain! Fortunately owner Mark Watson was scurrying around with others to help people get out of the rain and still have a comfortable evening on the patio even though it was starting to get cold. Blankets were provided for those who needed them, but fortunately I had a jacket in the car. Tip #3: Always store a jacket in your car because you never know when you might need it.
We had a great dinner at Compass Rose and chef Bryan Gillenwater eventually was able to join us at our table and have an evening of great conversation along with the pouring rain. The rain eventually slowed and when others started to leave, most of us decided it was also time to leave. We arrived back to our cabin fortunately without any flooding problems.
Sunday arrived and it wasn’t raining! It turned out to be a beautiful day. First up was a noon appointment at Kuhlman Cellars where we would finally get a chance to do a tasting with Texas Wine Lover member Jeremy Wilson. We arrived at Kuhlman Cellars and learned we would have a large group at our table. Gloria’s brother Lucho and sister-in-law Patricia happened to drive into Fredericksburg for the day from San Antonio, so they joined us at the tasting. This was their first time to visit wineries in Fredericksburg, so we tried to direct them to popular places for the day. Also joining us would be Facebook friend and Texas Wine Drinkers extraordinaire Brian Legrand, his wife Christina, and their friends Felix and Jillian.
Jeremy had his work cut out for him to cover us all, but of course he did a fantastic job. Everybody was impressed with the wines and the food pairings during the tasting. We would have loved to stay longer and hang out with everybody, but our group had to leave to visit the soon-to-be opening Calais Winery, now located in Hye.
We arrived at Calais Winery not knowing what to expect because of the previous evening’s rain and flooding, but thankfully we did not have to don the old shoes and boots we brought preparing for some mud. We had a great time with Benjamin Calais and you can read more about that visit in our previous post.
The group was next heading into Fredericksburg, but since we were driving by William Chris Vineyards, we all had to stop. It didn’t bother Gloria and me to make a second visit. Since we had done a longer tasting previously though, Gloria and I had a glass of wine and then headed for our next group’s visit while the others stayed to finish their tasting. Next up was Lost Draw Cellars, which the others had not had the chance to visit yet.
We enjoyed a glass of wine while we waited for the others to arrive, and soon they did. Becky again made sure she took care of everyone since she had been expecting everybody for days. The winery was about to close so we all got some wine and went to sit on the outside patio area. After closing, Becky joined us and we all had fun talking about everything. Oh yeah, KK Taylor of the Lazy T Bed and Breakfast joined us too. Fortunately, Laurie came prepared with some snacks and we enjoyed those with the wine until it was time for dinner. Dinner was at Cabernet Grill and all had a great time.
Monday morning was our last day and Dave had arranged with Chris Brundrett of William Chris Vineyards who had offered to meet our group to give some barrel tastings. We eagerly arrived at the winery and Chris arrived to walk us to the winery. There we tasted through quite a few samples of wine and we all agreed that there are going to be some great wines coming out of William Chris in the future:
- Blanc du Bois from the tank and this one is close to bottling
- Vermentino from Mandola Vineyard
- Cinsault Rosé
- Mourvèdre (La Pradera Vineyard. They are stirring it weekly and it is 8 months old)
- Mourvèdre (La Pradera Vineyard. They are not stirring this one.)
- Mourvèdre (Lost Draw Vineyard. Even though the vineyards are close in location, this tasted different.)
- Enchante without Malbec or Petite Verdot
- Tempranillo (Parr Vineyards. This will still be another year in oak.)
- Petite Verdot (Hye Estates vineyard)
- Tannat (Hye Estates vineyard)
Everyone had a great time with Chris as usual and we are looking forward to the finished wines.
An appointment at 4.0 Cellars was next where we did the Texas Cheese and Wine Experience. There is an extra fee for this cheese and wine pairing with five wines and five cheeses, but it is definitely worth it. Carl Hudson led our group through the pairings that included Veldhuizen Cheese from Texas along with wines from the 4.0 Cellars wineries McPherson Cellars, Brennan Vineyards, and Lost Oak Winery. We were having a fabulous time with Carl explaining the pairings when suddenly the power went out. The group then learned that the power was out around the area and a tornado had touched down near Lyndon B. Johnson State Park in Stonewall down the road. We all agreed though, that if it came near, the large table we were seated at would work fine and we would survive with plenty of wine.
It was time to start going home for some of us, so we said our goodbyes and parted ways. Gloria and I started heading back to Houston with Gloria driving, but when we got to Johnson City, she suggested stopping at Perissos Vineyard and Winery. I let her know it wasn’t just up the road but she twisted my arm (yeah, right) and we started toward Perissos. She admitted when we were almost there that it was a little farther than she anticipated, but when we arrived at the winery, all thoughts of distance were gone because we were soon tasting great wine with owners Seth and Laura Martin. We always have a great time when we visit Perissos and wish the winery was a little bit closer to home.
On the way back to Houston again, we were getting hungry as we drove through Marble Falls so we decided to stop at Flat Creek Enoteca. We had one of their fantastic pizzas from their wood-fired pizza oven, and of course some excellent wine to pair with the meal. It was just perfect to start the final push for driving home. And then the thunderstorms and pouring rain started during the dark drive home, but that is a story for another day after our four day weekend in the Hill Country.