The past few years saw a rapid increase of wineries making sparkling wines. These wines do well, especially considering their refreshing nature. But, for the most part, the wineries make only one or two per vintage. That recently changed with Grape Creek’s newest endeavor: Heath Sparkling Wines.
The Heath family opened their new winery next door to Grape Creek Vineyards on Highway 290. Guests taste through the available sparkling wines and get to enjoy the clean, modern aesthetic. I visited twice, once during Industry Night in late July and recently for a normal visit.
The Industry Night event welcomed others in the Texas wine industry to taste the wines and get a feel for the tasting experience. For the most part, it was a social event. Those of us in attendance tasted their current four wines and got a glimpse of how a tasting would go.
Arriving to Heath is a different experience than going to Grape Creek. Though you come in the same entrance and head up the same winding road, the impression is different. The area is open and bright with a large courtyard entrance. The stairs and entrance are modern—sleek and crisp—much like the shining metal and glass tasting room they lead to.
The inside is bright and clean. Large windows let in sunlight, and the open floor plan and colors illuminate the space as well. The front space is open with some seating, along with a few large bookcases to break it up. After that are four tasting stations; they have a divider to set them off from one another—two large screens fill the guests’ view. Each has a wide-open bar that comfortably accommodates six people.
Upon entering, guests check in at reception. Walk-in tastings are available—I walked-in on a quiet Friday afternoon—but the winery recommends reservations. At my tasting, my server, Johana, took us back to her bar to begin our tasting.
Right now, the tasting includes four wines paired with a bite. Each wine is poured one at a time in separate glasses, set out in front of an information card. Guests are given time to savor the wine and ask questions. At the end, guests enjoy a half glass of their choosing to explore the location, sit inside, or sit outside with close, unobstructed views of the vineyard.
The current wines include two vintages of two different wines: Euphoria and Adoration. Two more wines will be available later this year.
- 2015 Euphoria is an equal blend of estate Chenin Blanc and Muscat Canelli. They paired it with an Imberico cheese (or sometimes Manchego) on a chip made fresh at the Stout’s Trattoria. The bright, crisp white ends very dry.
- 2016 Euphoria is 49% estate Chenin Blanc, 44% Viognier, and 7% Muscat Canelli. They paired it with blue cheese on a dried apricot. It was reminiscent of the 2015, but the Viognier created more roundness as well as imparted notes of stone fruit.
- 2016 Adoration is a rosé blend of 57% Pinot Noir, 26% Pinot Grigio, and 17% Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit forward rosé has notes of soft red fruit accentuated by a pairing with strawberries.
- 2015 Adoration is 100% Pinot Noir rosé. This dark, bold wine was richer and denser than most rosés. Instead of a food pairing, guests put in a bitter coated sugar cube to make a Champagne cocktail.
During the tasting, a video plays behind the server. It follows Heath Wines through the winemaking process: preparing the grapes and fermentation, triage, rack and riddling, and disgorgement.
- The first step occurs entirely in Texas. The grapes for the wines come from Texas, the Chenin Blanc comes from the vines at the front of the property as guests enter, and the rest currently come from respected vineyards in the High Plains. They go through crush and fermentation at Grape Creek where winemaker Jason Englert makes the still wines.
- The next three steps (and three videos) happen in California where winemaker Penny Gadd-Coster oversees the process. Here, the wines go through triage to begin their second fermentation, using the méthode champenoise. They age for 18-24 months.
- During the last 7-10 days, they go through rack and riddling. Bottles make two complete turns, turned every 2-3 hours.
- The last step, disgorgement, starts with the bottle upside down. The bottles are frozen to create a plug full of the lees and sediment. Then, when the bottle is opened, the plug easily comes out before being closed with a cork. After this, the wine returns to Texas.
Right now, guests can taste the wines and buy bottles from the tasting room. Wine by the bottle and glass is available at Grape Creek Vineyard tasting rooms for wine club members, mainly for members of both wineries. At first, only Grape Creek wine club members could join the wine club, but it is now open to everyone. The wine club includes shipments of 4-8 bottles a year, as well as an option to buy more twice a year.