On a chilly Saturday, I made my way down a busy Main Street in Fredericksburg. I was running late to meet Julie Kuhlken of Pedernales Cellars and Armadillo’s Leap Winery. I arrived at a bright tasting room. Inside, they celebrated both their one year anniversary and the release of the 2017 Glögg. Julie waved me to one of the seats in the back where we tasted through the wines and caught up.
I had not tried any of the Armadillo’s Leap wines in quite a while—I visited the 290 location and this new one right after each opened. My nearly one year absence meant I had a lot of new wines to catch up on.
These days, the Armadillo’s Leap label uses Texas grapes. Most of the grapes come from the High Plains, rather than the Hill Country. Though many see Armadillo’s Leap as a bargain label, throughout the tasting, I found these wines compare well to their Pedernales counterparts. There are two tasting options: taste through the Armadillo’s Leap wines (which currently includes Glögg), or enjoy the premium tasting that includes three Pedernales wines as well. Both tastings come with an Armadillo’s Leap glass.
- 2015 Texas Pinot Grigio: After judging Pinot Grigios for the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo’s wine competition, I was a bit skeptical. The wine greeted me a bright nose. And even though it was a chilly day, my sprint down Main Street left me a bit warm; this wine refreshed me.
- 2015 Texas Viognier: This wine took home Double Gold at the San Antonio Rodeo in 2016, and I was not surprised. This Viognier came from the same fruit as the Pedernales 2015; however, this wine saw a bit of barrel aging. That extra step made the wine fuller and smoother.
- 2015 Texas Muscat: Yet another wine that I braced for after judging that past Monday, and again, I was pleasantly surprised. A little sweetness was needed to take the edge off this wine, bringing the vibrant flavors and acid into a beautiful balance.
- 2014 Texas Mourvèdre: Julie remarked about how William Chris Vineyards made this grape a new Texas favorite. Though a little late to the party, this wine matched well with any other. The light-bodied wine slowly lured me in and let me luxuriate for a while.
- 2012 Texas BFF Blend: This bold wine caught my attention right way. A blend of 57% Montepulciano, 25% Tempranillo, and 18% Aglianico, stole the show. Of course it did: it won a Double Gold at the 2017 San Francisco International Wine Competition. The blend offered chocolate and dark fruits with a hint of pepper and spice.
- 2016 Texas Yaaas: The top seller is a sparkling Moscato, and normally the end of the tasting. Though sweeter than the Muscat. It did not overpower, thanks to the bubbles. The wine has a nice clean finish.
Anyone who knows about Pedernales Cellars and Armadillo’s Leap knows about Glögg, a traditional Swedish fortified wine. Even with a nice hefty supply, this wine sells out before the worst of a Texas winter’s cold sets in. I was fortunate to visit on one of the first days it was served.
The Glögg is primarily made with Tempranillo and fortified with brandy. This year, while the wine barrel-aged, the drink’s traditional spices soaked in the brandy. This approach can lead to a variety of results; like most wines, each year is a little different. Before the brandy and wine meet, the species are removed, their essence lingering in the brandy. Some years, all I can taste is cinnamon or clove. This year’s wine is a satisfying fruitiness with nutmeg and baking spices.
Visiting the tasting room during Glögg season is a must. They warm the wine, allowing the rich aromas to drift about. When served they also add shaved almonds and raisins. These additions accentuated the baking spices. To top it off, they offered a pairing of pumpkin spice popcorn from Just Pop In. No need for dessert.
Armadillo’s Leap offers a bevy of tasty Texas wines at great prices. These wines pair well with the charm of the Main Street location. The open space with high ceilings floods with sunlight. It offers an escape from the bustle of Main Street on the weekend, ether tasting at the bar or one of the intimate tables in the back. Somehow, I tend to forget about the downtown tasting rooms. Some are small and end up packed, so I tend to avoid them. I am glad I was reminded of one of the few that is comfortable and serves impeccable Texas wines.