Another April came and it was time to make my annual pilgrimage to the Texas High Plains for the events happening in the Texas wine and vineyard industry. It turned out to be a fun and informative four days.
After Gloria discovered it was going to be a nine hour drive for our first visit to the High Plains in 2012, we have always flown instead. Even though I went to the High Plains by myself this year, I still continued the tradition of flying. After picking up my rental car (nicely upgraded for free!), I headed straight to my other tradition from the airport, McPherson Cellars.
I started a tasting at the bar and after the first wine, assistant winemaker Spenser Igo came from the production area to say hello. He took me back to the bottling area since they were in the process of bottling the latest Federalist Texas Red Blend. The Federalist wines are similar to the Locations wine that McPherson Cellars also makes in that they cover different wine regions. After the tasting of the Federalist Texas Red Blend from the tank, I knew this was another winner that would represent Texas well. I headed back to the tasting room to finish my wine tasting and owner/winemaker Kim McPherson joined me during the rest of the tasting. It is always informative and entertaining when I get the chance to talk to Kim. I mentioned how I was planning on visiting Llano Estacado Winery on Saturday and Kim informed me that winemaker Jason Centanni would be golfing with him then. That let me know where I was going next!
I soon arrived at Llano Estacado Winery and started a tasting of their latest wines. I was then surprised by a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while—Susan Roberts. We first met at a winery on Wine Road 290 when Gloria and I happened to be there, and we have been trying to get together again with no success. By coincidence, she stopped by the winery to pick up some wine and I happened to be there too. We had a fun time talking and soon winemakers Jason Centanni and Greg Bruni joined us to enjoy the conversation. President and CEO Mark Hyman of Llano also came by to say hello to the group. Overall, it was a great time at Llano Estacado Winery tasting their new wines and meeting old friends.
It was time to head south to Meadow and meet my friends Bill and Gail Day of Buena Suerte Vineyards. Bill and Gail Day live (or I should say lived) about 10 minutes from us in Houston and we have enjoyed getting together throughout the years. They once again offered their hospitality in letting me stay with them during my days in the High Plains.
After dinner, Bill and I went to the Triple D winery and restaurant to attend a meeting of the Texas Artisan Vineyards Cooperative. This is a group of smaller vineyards in the Texas High Plains which I wrote about previously. The group started in 2018 and are growing fast. It turned out to be a productive meeting.
Friday came and it was time for the staple conference of the year in the Texas High Plains, Newsom Grape Day hosted by Newsom Vineyards’ Neal and Janice Newsom. The day’s seminars were very educational ranging from frost protection in the vineyard to cluster thinning and to the new app I added to my phone, TTU Vineyard Advisor. One of the highlights during each Newsom Grape Day is networking with growers and wineries who attend. Part of that networking also involves tasting new wines that wineries bring with them.
Since wineries come to the Texas High Plains to attend the events, one other major reason is to visit the vineyards in the area. The winery representatives visit vineyards where they may already have contracts to see how the vineyards are doing, or they may be looking at potential vineyard contracts. Bill and Gail had a winery who was visiting their vineyard so we left Grape Day a little early so they could meet with them.
The evening’s entertainment was the High Plains Winegrowers Association Soirée. This is a formal affair with a five-course wine paired dinner along with an auction and live music. The meal was excellent with the paired wines. I enjoyed watching the bid callers during the live auction, Nicholas Seaton and Anthony Furgeson, of Farmhouse Vineyards. They were really enjoying themselves when finding the bidders for the auctioneer.
On Saturday, my last full day in the High Plains, I, of course, planned on visiting some wineries. Bill joined me on my first visit of the day to CapRock Winery. The winery was in the stages of setting up for the evening’s big event. During the event that night, Marshall Allen, the Texas Scribe, would be showcasing his craft. Marshall engraves wine bottles with the sayings people desire. I had been wanting to meet Marshall and get a bottle engraved, and this was my chance since he came to the winery early to set up for the evening. I quickly bought a bottle of English Newsom Cellars wine and Marshall engraved it for me.
While the bottle was being engraved, Bill and I enjoyed a tasting of English Newsom Cellars wine. The estate wines were especially enticing and did not disappoint. The tasting was excellent, and you should look for these wines coming from the winery. At the end of the tasting, Bill and I were able to get a quick peak at the production area because we heard they had recently put epoxy on the floors. It had been a little over a year since the new partnership was announced at CapRock, and you can see things are progressing nicely.
It had been a great start to the day, but I had to head north, and Bill had to head home. We said goodbye and I was on my way to the next winery, Pheasant Ridge Winery. At Pheasant Ridge, I did a tasting with the other people who had ventured out to the winery. Owner/winemaker Bobby Cox arrived, and we talked about the winery’s wines and vineyard. At the end of my visit, I bought a bottle of the Pinot Noir made from the oldest Pinot Noir vines in the state.
Heading north again on I-27, I made it to Canyon and home of Bar Z Winery. I had decided to just get a glass of wine to enjoy and I found owner/winemaker Monty Dixon sitting on the couch and enjoying a hockey game along with one of his Irish wolfhounds. That is a humongous dog! We watched the end of the hockey game and I had to say goodbye. Monty warned me that I would be driving into a thunderstorm with hail and gave me some advice to try and avoid it.
My final destination was Dalhart where Vingo Vineyards was located. I was able to avoid most of the storm and thankfully did not see the hail. After checking into my hotel, I visited Vingo Vineyards and had a wonderful evening with owners Steven and Pamela Yoder. The people who live near the winery have a convenient place to enjoy Texas wines as a lot of the wines come from further away. Unfortunately being the northernmost Texas winery, it may be awhile before I get to visit again, but I will try my best in the future.
I flew out of Amarillo on Sunday headed for home. It had been another fantastic trip to the Texas High Plains and I already am looking forward to next year’s trip!