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It is always fun to take a road trip to visit Texas wineries, especially when you know you are going to visit new ones and also revisit some other favorites in the area. I recently had a weekend free to take a long road trip and wanted to visit some wineries that were not easily accessible to me from Houston and were not in the popular U.S. 290 area. A couple of the wineries are in the Texas Hill Country AVA, but the other ones are north of the Texas Hill Country.
I started my drive early in the morning on a Saturday to begin my four-hour drive to Mason. I was heading first to a new winery for me, Murphy Creek Cellars. If you have not been to Mason before, it is starting to become a little destination with its small-town homey feel and currently two wineries in town and more coming.
Murphy Creek Cellars is a combination store with small shop gifts in the front and a very large selection of Texas wines in the rear of the store/winery. The tasting bar in the rear allows you to do a tasting from four different flights and even more bottles are open for a glass of wine. If you are in the area, this is definitely the place to go to find some Murphy Creek wines and other Texas wines.
I next had an appointment just down the street with Dan McLaughlin of Robert Clay Vineyards. Dan has been making his own wine and actually made Murphy Creek Cellars’ first two wines. I met Dan again and the production area of the winery has grown since my last visit. Soon, his winemaking partner Robb Parr of Parr Vineyards arrived. The two growers share winemaking equipment and plan on hopefully opening as a tasting room later this year. They would like to get a third grower from the Mason area involved who wants to make wine if possible, but they definitely want to keep Mason Wine Growers boutique.
Dan McLaughlin wants to make age-worthy wines and there is some wine still in the barrels after three years, so he is not rushing to release wine. He is also experimenting with organic and natural winemaking. After tasting a couple wines from a tank and barrel, we walked into a room that looked like a wine store with the bottles standing upright. Wondering why they were not lying on their side, Dan said he read that Amorim Cork’s R&D director stated that storing wines upright makes the cork last longer and there is no need to store bottles on their side. After a nice visit, I had to say goodbye to Dan and Robb in order to continue my planned schedule. Keep watching for their hopeful opening later this year.
My next visit was to recently relocated Wines of Dotson-Cervantes from Pontotoc to their Certenberg Vineyards in Voca. I had an enjoyable visit with co-owner/winemaker Alphonse Dotson tasting his new wines and getting the opportunity to taste a new wine that I fell in love with. I would have enjoyed sitting with Alphonse for a long time and just drinking his wines and listening to his stories, but I had friends waiting on me.
I headed up the road to Coleman and Rancho Loma Vineyards (RLV). I had previously told my friend and Texas Wine Lover (TWL) reader and occasional writer Laurinda Thomas that I would be in the area and she readily agreed to meet with me. She wasn’t sure if her mother Irene, and her usual winery traveling companion, would be able to make it though. I was a little late, so I texted Laurinda to let her know when I would be arriving. I arrived at RLV and there was Laurinda and Irene already enjoying a glass of wine. They recommended a wine and I joined them.
As we were talking, Michael Hellman came up and introduced himself to us. Michael is the assistant winemaker at RLV and he said his father knew me. It then clicked that his father was Dr. Ed Hellman, co-owner and Director of Viticulture. I have seen Ed many times throughout the years when he was the speaker for seminars at events such as Grape Day and TWGGA’s Annual Conference. Michael offered to take us on a tour of the production facility; I missed it last time I visited RLV. The production area at RLV is a lot larger than you would imagine from the front of the winery, but there is a lot of room for barrels and tanks. Michael gave a very educational tour, not to mention a barrel sample.
Laurinda and Irene planned to go with me to our next winery, so we had to say goodbye and head to Early, home of Spirit of Texas Winery. Somehow when we left RLV, I was definitely ahead of Laurinda who was driving separately, and I am sure I followed a direct path. But when I arrived at Spirit of Texas, they had pulled in ahead of me! And I know I followed the speed limit. 🙂
The last time I was at Spirit of Texas Winery was a day after it had poured! In fact, after my long drive there, I was told they mentioned on Facebook they would close for the day because the parking lot was too muddy because of the previous rain. Thankfully that day, owners Brian and Moira McCue, were at the winery and accepted me in for a tasting, in addition to other people who arrived later. This time though, the parking lot was dry, and a new parking lot had been built to prevent against any future problems.
We all greeted each other and sat down at the tasting bar. Some of us decided to have a glass of wine and others did a tasting. I opted for the latter. We had a great conversation and more customers arrived with eventually the night entertainment arriving to play live music for the attendees. The music was playing, the wine was flowing, but unfortunately it was getting dark too. Laurinda and Irene had to head home, and I needed to get something to eat for dinner and find the bed and breakfast I was staying at. We said goodbye to Brian and Moira, but I am definite we will all meet again soon.
I went into the nearby town of Brownwood to eat dinner at The Turtle Restaurant. I had heard good things about it, so it was time to try it. While trying to decide on the entrée to order, my server mentioned they had one piece of prime rib left. I LOVE prime rib so I told her I would take it. There was a nice wine menu and I asked for a recommendation to pair with the prime rib. She mentioned a Nebbiolo and I said okay. The wine came first, and it was drinkable, but I have had better Nebbiolos. The prime rib came via another server, and when my server came by, I had to ask her if it was prime rib because it was not like any prime rib I have had before. She said it was and it was called a Delmonico. I am no foodie, but I accepted it and ate the steak. Afterward, especially after seeing my bill for the price of the glass of wine and non-prime rib, I did a web search and discovered a Delmonico is usually a ribeye. I do not usually like posting negative blog posts, but I would never go to The Turtle Restaurant again. If you happen to go, do not take any recommendations and insist on ordering from the menu where you can see the prices ahead of time and confirm what you are getting.
I was staying at the Star of Texas Bed and Breakfast in Brownwood, so I set my GPS to find it in the dark. I found the turn off the main road, but I thought I was still on a road even though it was like a dirt road. I couldn’t tell in the dark, but the GPS eventually brought me right to the bed and breakfast and I found my cottage with no problem. It had gotten cold outside, but thankfully the cabin was nice and warm. After some work on the computer and watching some DISH TV, I settled in for the night.
The first winery I was visiting on Sunday did not open until 1 p.m., so I had a lot of time to complete some work items and investigate the rest of the bed and breakfast in the daylight. There are three private cottages at the bed and breakfast including a common area. The common area was pretty cool because it had a ping-pong table and other games and included a self-serve gift shop for any food or other items you may want to purchase. It was nice to see that there still is trust in this world. The stay at the Star of Texas Bed and Breakfast was definitely peaceful and quiet, just like their website states. Owners Don and Deb Morelock have a nice bed and breakfast waiting for you in Brownwood.
I left the bed and breakfast a little before noon, and after grabbing a quick lunch, headed north to Dublin. The first winery I would be visiting was Lucky Vines Vineyard & Winery. The weather had started getting warmer as I arrived and after driving past their vineyard, I reached the tasting room. I had a very nice visit at Lucky Vines with co-owner Kimberly Hutchins and others, and marked down another winery I would need to return to with friends.
I set my GPS for the next winery, Bull Lion Ranch and Vineyard. As I started down the road, I saw one of those blue signs that point to businesses and saw it mentioned Veldhuizen Cheese. We have had experience with Veldhuizen before because 4.0 Cellars serves their cheese along with TWL writer Carl Hudson providing a wine and cheese experience. I have wanted to visit the farm and cheese shop since then, and even though I knew I had a schedule to keep, I made a hard-right turn to go find Veldhuizen. I found the entrance but unfortunately for me, they are closed on Sundays. So, back to our regularly scheduled program.
I arrived at Bull Lion Ranch and Vineyard via the GPS. Be sure to read my post about my visit because you will want to do a little planning ahead of time instead of relying on the GPS like I did. I was amazed at the large selection of wines that Bull Lion had to offer. Even more amazing is 90% of their wines are estate wines. I had a great visit with Chuck and Cyndi Tordiglione and marked another winery down to revisit.
The last winery I had to visit was Silver Spur Winery in the heart of downtown Hico. We have been to the wine festival in Hico a number of years ago, but that was before Silver Spur opened. When I found the winery, I was pretty sure that was the street the festival is held on every year. It was nearing the end of the day and close to closing time, but thankfully they were still open, and I met owner Phil Lopez who poured my tasting.
My memory was refreshed with what TWL had written about previously in that Phil owns a vineyard in California. He is a vineyard guy and besides having a Texas vineyard, he manages the Blue Vineyard in Comanche County too. Phil also is making his own wine, so he keeps busy with both the winery and vineyards. If that wasn’t enough, he also attends the Dallas Farmer’s Market every month. I enjoyed both the California sourced and Texas wines on Silver Spur’s tasting menu while munching on some popcorn between tastings to cleanse my palate.
It was time for Phil to close and me to go to my hotel for the night, so I said goodbye and started my drive. It had been a very busy weekend visiting wineries that some people have never heard of, but it is also an area of Texas that you should consider visiting. There are a lot of wineries to visit on U.S. 290, but there are also some very good wineries outside of that area too.
North of the Texas Hill Country Road Trip Bullets
I recently had a weekend free to take a long road trip and wanted to visit some wineries that were not in the popular U.S. 290 area. A couple of the wineries are in the Texas Hill Country AVA, but the other ones are north of the Texas Hill Country.
- On Saturday, I first went to Murphy Creek Cellars which is a combination store with small shop gifts in the front and a very large selection of Texas wines in the rear of the store/winery, along with their own wines.
- I next went down the street to visit with Dan McLaughlin of Robert Clay Vineyards and Robb Parr of Parr Vineyards to see their future Mason Wine Growers winery.
- My next visit was to recently relocated Wines of Dotson-Cervantes from Pontotoc to their Certenberg Vineyards in Voca.
- I went to Coleman and Rancho Loma Vineyards (RLV) and met my friend and Texas Wine Lover (TWL) reader and occasional writer Laurinda Thomas and her mother.
- We went to Spirit of Texas Winery and had a great time with owners Brian and Moira McCue.
- I stayed at the Star of Texas Bed and Breakfast in Brownwood which was a nice bed and breakfast.
- On Sunday, I visited Lucky Vines Vineyard & Winery in Dublin.
- The next winery to visit was Bull Lion Ranch and Vineyard where I enjoyed their wines which are 90% estate.
- The last winery I visited was Silver Spur Winery in the heart of downtown Hico and enjoyed talking with owner Phil Lopez.
Question: If you had a choice to read only one of the versions of this article from now on, the top version or the alternate version with bullets, which one would you always want to read?