Nocking Point Wines of Walla Walla, Washington regularly hosts parties that feature their wine while raising money for their charity, NP Gives. This may not seem much different than similar events hosted by other wineries, except for the hosts: Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen on the CW’s Arrow) and friend Andrew Harding. In addition to the mixer, as they call it, they sometimes film for their YouTube series Dudes Being Dudes in Wine Country. Recently, they came to Austin to film the show’s second episode and host a mixer.
Old School Bar and Grill on the iconic Sixth Street in Austin hosted the Texas mixer. Upon entry, we could bid in the silent auction, benefitting NP Gives, and buy Nocking Point merchandise (shirts, hats, and the party exclusive 2009 Merlot). Upstairs, guests tasted six current Nocking Point wines (in their own commemorative wine glass) and enjoyed light faire (pork sliders, fries, and hummus). In addition, everyone received two additional drinks of his/her choosing.
Throughout the night, Nocking Point Wines’ favorite performer, Brother Sal, provided an eclectic and bluesy soundtrack. Brother Sal has played many of the mixers, and the music is featured in Dudes Being Dudes. They dedicated their second set to a newly married couple; in fact, Andrew performed the wedding that very evening. Brother Sal invited the couple on stage for their first dance, and by the end of the dance, Stephen and the crowd sang along.
The crowd piled end to end at this point in the evening, and somehow Sean and I ended up in the front, left-corner of the stage. Right by us, the Nocking Point family and the newly married couple enjoyed the rest of the evening’s music. Towards the end, Brother Sal played two Beatles songs – “On the Road” and “Come Together.” Just like earlier, the crowd quickly joined in; it was hard not to get caught up in it all. The last song of the night was a Neapolitan ballad dedicated to the newlyweds.
Most people did not come for the wine or the music, they came for the hosts. As we waited in line, Stephen came out to greet all of us (and I took the chance to introduce myself). Throughout the night, he circulated through the crowd, pouring the Apex Rosé. Often I could hear him championing the wine, calling it “lovely” and saying that real men drink pink. I was lucky enough to snag one of those tastings (unfortunately, I wasn’t watching and caused Stephen to spill some wine). That was really my only chance to speak to him, as he always had a crowd. Despite all the crowding, Stephen remained amiable and approachable.
I found it easier, and so did most people, to talk to Andrew. I asked him about his take on Texas wine and why they chose to film their second show at The Austin Winery. He explained that they want to showcase regions not known for their wines; particularly, they want to visit small wineries making great wines. They seek out the wines that most people just do not know about and should, which is why Texas was on the list.
The upcoming episode of Dudes Being Dudes in Wine Country will focus entirely on The Austin Winery. The decision for a show’s location comes from Andrew and Stephen’s experience in Walla Walla. Their winery is part of a relatively small and connected community. Andrew saw Texas, especially Austin, in a similar way. Of course, the food, music, and culture of Austin also influenced their decision. I did ask why they only visited one winery and stayed in the city, rather than take the short drive into the Hill Country. Andrew admitted that they did not know a lot about the Texas wine industry and did not know about all the nearby wineries; also, due to Stephen currently shooting Arrow Season 4, they were limited on time. He did mention they may need to film here again.
When I got to ask Stephen about Texas wine, he did mention that he could not make a fair judgment on the wine, as he had very little 100% Texas wine (but hoped to in the future). He did mention that he liked how the folks at The Austin Winery made their wine, another reason for filming there. This situation may seem worrisome for Texas wine lovers, but luckily, two of our peers (and future industry members) brought Stephen and Andrew a half case of 100% Texas wine from Bending Branch Winery, William Chris Vineyards, and Singing Water Vineyard.
Unlike many, my main reason for going was to try the wine (and advocate for Texas wine). The selection of wines provided a thorough look at what Nocking Point is all about. The wines were all dry, yet approachable; the casual wine drinker could enjoy these wines. But beneath the surface, a few of the wines stood out; these wines were nuanced and complex beneath their easy drinking surface.
- KDH Sauvignon Blanc: This refreshing white is sharp and crisp with bright fruit flavors and a smooth ending.
- “Maja” White Blend: Stone fruits dominate this silky wine, moving from bold, rich fruits to more subtle and soft ones at the end. In fact, this is a Texas wine drinker’s white, with Viognier, Rousanne, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc.
- “Apex” Rosé: A Mourvèdre Rosé comparable to many currently found in Texas and the Hill Country; solid soft red fruits with a clean crisp finish from the acid.
- Year Two: New Bow: A number of the Nocking Point wines reference Stephen’s role on Arrow, and this is one. This red blend with balanced fruit for easy drinking sports label art done by comic book artist Jim Lee.
- 2009 Merlot: A mixer exclusive, the Merlot is simple and straightforward, offering soft red fruit flavors
- Verdant House Wine: The 100% Sangiovese is deceptive. It starts out full and smooth, but with closer observation, the nuances common to this grape (and good Chianti Classico) surface. This wine resembles Wedding Oak Winery’s Sangiovese, a start of mild but rich red fruit notes that move towards more dense dried red fruit. Nice earthy tones, as well as a hint of spice and oak, round out the wine.
Due to the limited quantity of the wines, the wines go mostly to the large wine club, which often has a waiting list. Recently, they had extra Apex Rosé for purchase. To get in on these rare occasions, it is best to follow Nocking Point Facebook page.
Everyone left having drank great wine and enjoyed great music. Some very happy people went home with their auction items (from posters to a signed Magnum and a barrel top). And before leaving, Stephen gave us a tease of Arrow Season four: episode one is good, episode two is not so good, three is “Oh No,” and four is “meh.” That is all he said, accompanied by facial expressions. We experienced some new wines, and our hosts experienced a little bit of why we love Texas wine.