When you have an open day between your granddaughter’s rides in the Texas Junior High Rodeo Association Barrel Racing Finals in Gonzales, you do what Texas wine lovers like Phyllis and I are; you find a Texas winery! In our case, the answer was San Ducerro Vineyards in Yoakum last visited by Texas Wine Lover right after it opened in 2015.
After an easy 30-minute drive from our lodging location in Gonzales, we enjoyed the informative hospitality of San Ducerro co-owners Keith and Joyce Foster, and their daughter Rachael. We learned that Hurricane Harvey changed San Ducerro from a vineyards to a winery on the Texas Independence Wine Trail.
“On the recommendation of the Texas A&M Agriculture Extension staff, we had planted 750 vines each of Blanc du Bois and Black Spanish grapes on our 18.4 acre property,” Keith said. “However, we soon discovered that we had only three feet of topsoil over impenetrable hard rock. That topsoil was blown away by Hurricane Harvey, and we learned that the salt in the soil can only be mitigated, not eliminated.”
As a result, the Foster’s transitioned from using purchased juice from a Texas custom winemaking facility to purchasing most of their grapes from the Lodi and Amador areas of California. In addition, they purchase Blanc du Bois and Black Spanish grapes from Texas vineyards on the Gulf Coast and in Chappell Hill.
San Ducerro also added the necessary equipment to crush and de-stem the frozen grapes they receive, as well as to blend, age, bottle, cork, and label the 600-700 cases of wine the Fosters produce each year.
“Even though many of our grapes are not from Texas, ALL of our wines are made in Texas,” said Keith of the winery that he called “the family existence.”
Located a significant distance from the travel routes of many wine drinkers, San Ducerro has developed a sustainable clientele by listening to the customers the Fosters meet at the winery, at festivals, and on market days.
“Joyce, Rachael, and I prefer dry red wines like Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet/Sangiovese blend we make,” Keith explained. “But I have been an entrepreneur longer than I have been a vintner. Thus, when about every third customer we met asked if we had a sweet red wine, we first had to say ‘No’, but we do now!”
That wine, which accounts for the majority of San Ducerro’s sales, is called “Twisted Sister Red.” It is a Merlot from California sweetened with blackberries.
Other less-dry wines we tasted included:
- “Farmer’s Daughter,” a Chardonnay sweetened with 9% peach juice
- 2017 Muscat Blanc from the Palacios Vineyards in Chappell Hill
- “Carrousel,” a 2017 Black Spanish from Victoria County reminiscent of a Port
We also tasted Keith’s favorite wine, a smoky and spicy Sangiovese with a long finish, as well as a Pinot Noir that had been aged in oak to soften its taste profile.
“I have lots of Blanc du Bois and Black Spanish from Texas in our barrels, but it is the sweet wines that our customers want,” Keith said.
Normally open only Wednesday afternoon through Saturday, San Ducerro does open on Sunday afternoons of wine club months to accommodate the preferred pick-up time of its “1836” wine club members.
The Fosters are also offering music and movie nights in the converted open space behind the tasting room bar. That space is adjacent to an added covered outdoor patio that is popular when they host their “Steak Night” during Daylight Savings Time months. That event has Keith grilling the meats provided by their customers to go with San Ducerro-provided sides, and San Ducerro-sold wines.
A small gift shop and “Keith’s Cigar Corner” also enhance the tasting room experience.
Joyce, as CFO – Chief Festival Officer, is also attempting to make San Ducerro wines better known through placements in “mom & pop” liquor stores in the Gulf Coast and Central Texas areas near and beyond Yoakum, in addition to appearances at festivals and market days.
The next time you are traveling between Houston and San Antonio or between Austin and the Corpus Christi coast, a visit to the San Ducerro Vineyards in Yoakum will be informative and enjoyable.