I’m always interested when new wineries open that don’t require a drive to the Hill Country from Texas. Blue Mule Winery had a soft opening on March 30th of this year and celebrated their grand opening, attended by over 300 people on May 26, 2018. The winery is located in Fayetteville and is a pretty easy drive from well north of Houston. Simply take your best route to Hwy 290, go past Burton, and get on 237 towards Round Top. FM 1291 will just be a short country drive past Warrenton on your left. Coming from west or south of Houston would be an easy trip also out I-10 and Hwy 71. It’s an even shorter trip from the central Austin area.
Owned by owner/winemaker Mike Gamble with his step-daughter Ashley Dalhart as the resident sommelier/winemaker/sales manager running the tasting room, Blue Mule Winery has been several years in the making. If you’ve been to Rohan Meadery, you will probably recognize them both. Ashley was a tasting room associate there, and Mike was winemaker for the last few years.
Ashley has several years in the industry. After finishing her level 2 degree in Hospitality at the University of Houston, she became a sommelier. She was able to use both those skills as wine buyer for three restaurants in the Austin area before landing at Rohan and now Blue Mule.
Mike started his winemaking adventure in 2012 like a lot of winemakers, making wine with kits and grapes (Mustang) that grew wild on his property. After some formal training and honing his craft he began making wine at Rohan to add to their portfolio mead.
Mike and Ashley didn’t have to hunt for property to start a vineyard or open the winery as their location in Fayetteville is the family homestead. They’ve got a few acres of already mature Blanc du Bios and Black Spanish on the property as well as contracts for grapes from some small area vineyards. Their award winning 2015 Blanc (2016 Lone Star International Wine Competition under the Rohan Winery/Blue Mule Wine label) and dry Black Spanish are estate grown and produced wines.
The well-appointed tasting room features a walk up bar top where you can get a quick tasting of two wines or a full flight of their current portfolio, currently six wines. Both tastings have a nominal fee. The pours are from corked bottles and free hand. One or two of the wines may be on tap and poured from growlers. Bar stools are available if you’re like me and can’t stand for long periods of time. The tasting room is clean and comfortable, and we were greeted by Ashley immediately as we entered. There is also a space on the property if you and your group want to purchase a bottle or two to enjoy responsibly during your visit. All the colorful bottle labels feature well-loved family members and come with a good story if you ask.
Of the six wines in their current portfolio, three are made from Texas sourced fruit. Ashley and Mike both told me the desire and intent to make more Texas wine from Texas grapes, and will be seeking suppliers right away. Seeing and tasting what they did with Estate Blanc du Bois and Black Spanish, I’m looking forward to tasting those bottles when available.
On our visit, my wife Carole and I got to taste:
- Fair Lady – Estate grown and award winning dry Blanc du Bois
- Cigar Box Jack – Estate grown dry Black Spanish
- Annie & Albert – A dry Malbec and Zinfandel blend
- Pretty in Peach – Slightly sweet Peach Chardonnay
- Paint the Town Red – A sweet Black Cherry Pinot Noir
- William’s Reserve – A port style Black Spanish. Off dry without being too sweet.
If you know me, you know that I’ll always taste Blanc du Bois and Black Spanish when it’s offered. When you get east of I-35 and in the southeast corner of the state, that’s about the only type of grape that can be grown. Therefore, I want these grapes to make good wine. All that is to say Mike did a great job with those grapes. If you’re in the Round Top area antiquing or on your way between Houston and San Antonio or Austin, take an hour and swing by for a visit and a taste.