Have you ever been to a wine festival – a real wine festival? Well, Daniel Kelada and his crew at Vinovium hosted a great one called the Red Wine and Blue Festival on a bright and sunny Sunday, July 7, 2019. There was certainly excitement in the warm air as 19 Texas wineries were pouring wine for the attendees and a number of craft and food vendors were set and ready. I pulled into the entrance off U.S. 290, between Johnson City and Hye, about 12:30 p.m. and was greeted by the always-smiling Wes Brown, who directed me to the parking area. Once parked under the shade of some beautiful oak trees, I pulled my folding chair and YETI water jug from the back and headed for the check-in tent.
Tracey Chalman’s smiling face greeted me at check-in where I received my official wrist band, festival booklet, and tasting glass. I later was able to catch up with Tracey and her husband, Doug, for a short visit. After a few minutes looking at the event map in the booklet, I headed over to see my friends Laurie and Shelly Ware who were manning the tasting booth for Hye Meadow Winery. I spent more time looking over the layout and developing a tasting plan for the afternoon. The winery tasting booths were positioned in three clusters of shady oak trees, one right in front of the Vinovium building, the porch of which also served as the music stage, a second just to the south of that location, and a third to the west across the entry road in a lovely grove.
The first music group for the day, Trace of Gold, could easily be seen and heard from the Hye Meadow booth. It was pleasant to sit, listen, visit, and enjoy my first taste of wine for the day before setting off to explore the rest of the festival. The southern location offered tastings from 12 Fires Winery, a new addition to the 290 Wine Road, 290 Vinery (Johnson City), Ab Astris Winery (near Stonewall), and Arché (St. Jo, TX). My first stop was to say hello and visit with friends Grayson Davies and Presley Whitehead Davies of Arché who were pouring my favorite Texas Chardonnay (estate grown), along with a crisp rosé and their delicious estate grown Syrah. They had visited Vinovium not too long ago to pour their wines at a Sunday Takeover event, and it was certainly good to connect with them again.
Next was a fun stop at the Ab Astris Winery booth to visit with members of the Smith Family, Mike and Kristen Nelson, and Mitchell Sharrock. These folks have made a big splash on the 290-wine scene and have become good friends. It was great to taste their new rosé (Mourvèdre and Cinsault) and one of my favorites, Montepulciano from Texas High Plains (THP) Reddy Vineyards fruit. I was able to present this Montepulciano at a food and wine pairing during the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA) meeting last February in San Marcos. It was very well received and was still getting high marks from me on this toasty summer day.
At this point I decided to wander across the road to visit with the folks pouring wines in the western grove area. There were 10 wineries represented there, and I touched base with most of them. Lewis Wines and Lost Draw Cellars were pouring some very good wines, most of which I had tasted before. The Lewis Wines Tempranillo 2015 is always a treat, and I sure enjoyed the Lost Draw Marsanne 2018 and delicious Kindred red blend (Tempranillo and Grenache). Victoria Gimino waved at me from the Kuhlman Cellars booth, so that was my next stop. It was great to visit with Victoria while enjoying the very tasty Kuhlman Sauvignon Blanc. At the TWGGA food and wine pairing in February (noted above), I had presented the Kuhlman Roussanne Texas High Plains (THP). I may like this Sauvignon Blanc even better. It was in this area that I ran into fellow Texas Wine Lover contributing writer Robin English-Bircher from San Antonio, and we shared a few tastes of wine.
The next stop was to the lively and loud booth for Ron Yates Wines. There seemed be a real party going on here, hosted by Ron Yates, Dan Cook, and assistant winemaker Reagan Sivadon. I have enjoyed so many great times with these good friends, and today was certainly another. They were pouring a very special and delicious Sangiovese Pet Nat from Farmhouse Vineyards THP fruit. There was also a Viognier from Tio Pancho Ranch (Jim Johnson) Texas Hill Country (THC) fruit and a very tasty Cabernet Sauvignon produced from Friesen Vineyard THP fruit. I certainly lingered here for a while enjoying time spent with these good friends.
Visits to the booths for Siboney Cellars and Saint Tryphon Farm & Vineyards followed. It was great to see the lovely and talented Barbara Lecuona, Siboney proprietor and winemaker. I tasted her Coral Rosé from Lahey Vineyards THP fruit and the Travis red blend from THC fruit. This was my first time to meet Silouan Bradford of Saint Tryphon. We enjoyed a very pleasant visit while tasting the imPETous Pet Nat, Far Afield Mourvèdre, and Dosithea Dry Rosé, all from Farmhouse Vineyards THP fruit. While visiting and tasting, it became clear that a trip to Saint Tryphon’s location south of Fredericksburg needed to be planned for the near future.
The next stop at the Tatum Cellars booth was most interesting. Joshua Fritsche, the proprietor and winemaker, is very talented, but his limited-production wines are not widely available. Thus, the festival format provided a good opportunity to experience Tatum wines. There was a rosé from Salt Lick Vineyards THC fruit, a very nice Roussanne from La Pradera Vineyard THP fruit, and a delicious Mourvèdre from Salt Lick Vineyards THC fruit. This Mourvèdre was one of my favorites from the festival and I took a couple of bottles home for future enjoyment. It was definitely good to connect with Joshua again and listen to his stories and philosophy of winemaking in Texas.
Before leaving this western group of tasting booths, a stop to visit with Margaret Fetty from Westcave Cellars was in order. Margaret is always enthusiastic and informative, and it was good to taste the three wines she offered: Celebrate white blend (Moscato Giallo, Muscat Canelli, and Viognier), Sangiovese Rosé from Bella Vista Ranch THC fruit, and Cabernet Sauvignon from Thomas Acres Vineyards THP fruit. Allan Fetty makes a number of very good wines and visiting the secluded Westcave location near the popular Hamilton Pool area west of Austin is highly recommended.
Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to visit the booths for Texas Hills Vineyards or William Chris Vineyards before heading back to the central area in front of the Vinovium building where the next music group, The Champions, had begun playing. This group is led by Brian Anders who, I believe, serves as the music/band director for the Johnson City schools. He has a good voice and is a virtuoso on the guitar, especially when playing serious blues and rock ‘n’ roll music. Brian had played solo at another winery during a wine club pickup party where I not only enjoyed his performance but purchased a CD of his music which plays often in my vehicle.
It should be noted that by this time in the early afternoon the temperature was up, but the shade from numerous oak trees under which the festival had been arranged was most helpful. In addition, there was a very pleasant breeze blowing across the grounds that enhanced the surprisingly comfortable conditions. I kept thinking that the Vinovium location was a near perfect place to host a wine festival here in the Texas Hill Country. Thank you, Daniel Kelada, for making these arrangements and hosting this wonderful event.
Upon approaching the central cluster of booths, one could hear a bit of commotion as Henry Crowson was entertaining the crowds and basically holding court. Henry is enthusiastic in the base case, but given the circumstances and interested audience, he was in rare form. It was fun to taste the Crowson Wines, including a Rosé of Sangiovese from Hossfly Vineyard THP fruit and a Malvasia Bianca from Narra Vineyards THP fruit. Henry had also brought the makings for a Sangiovese Rosé cocktail that, based on the folks gathered around his area, was quite popular. After I had one, I certainly agreed. Call for an appointment to enjoy Henry, his wines, and his stories at Crowson Wines and tasting room in Johnson City.
Other booths in this central area included Farmhouse Vineyards, Hawk’s Shadow Winery, and Hye Cider Company I made sure to visit the folks pouring for Farmhouse to support the owners and my friends, Katy Jane and Nicholas Seaton and Traci and Anthony Furgeson. These talented and dedicated folks contribute greatly to the Texas wine industry, including growing some really good grapes. They were pouring Revolution Counoise Sparkling Rosé, Rambling Red blend (Merlot, Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc), and West Texas Sweet White (Orange Muscat, Malvasia Bianca). Before leaving this area, I made sure to stop by and visit with Kourtney Collins, assistant winemaker at Hawk’s Shadow. I guess I was distracted somewhere along the way and never made it back to taste at the Hye Cider booth.
At this point in the day it was time for food, so Bien Mai sandwiches being served at Bryan’s on 290 catering trailer became the focus. They had pork and shrimp options. Since my friend Laurie does not eat seafood, it was pork for her and shrimp for Shelly and myself. We settled in at the Hye Meadow booth to eat our sandwiches and share with a number of folks that stopped by for wine or just a visit. Several people told us about two other food booths, one serving flavored popcorn and another offering macaroon cookies. I took the opportunity to try both, visited with the presenters, and came away with two excellent ideas for an eclectic food and wine pairing that I have been tasked to organize for the February 2020 TWGGA meeting in Irving. My goal is to present truffle-infused Mac & Cheese popcorn and raspberry-bacon macaroons paired with Texas wines to illustrate some interesting ideas for Texas tasting rooms to consider.
Return visits to the booths for Arché and Ab Astris were most enjoyable. I was able to broker a good trade between the two – Ab Astris Montepulciano for Arché Syrah. And, while there, I purchased several bottles of the Syrah, another of my favorites from the festival offerings.
At 5:00 p.m., the third music group of the day, Flamenco Symphony, tuned up. Flamenco Symphony is a very popular local group with a unique style of music. Lots of folks gathered around the Vinovium building porch which served as the stage to listen and enjoy another taste of wine or two. After listening for a bit and sharing another visit with Laurie and Shelly at the Hye Meadow booth, it seemed like a good time for me to call it a day and head back to Fredericksburg. So, I packed up my stuff, along with the several bottles of purchased wine, and walked to my vehicle, which, by the way, was still sitting in shade from the oak trees lining the entry road parking area. Again, it struck me that the grounds at Vinovium seemed a near perfect location for a moderately-sized wine festival.
This Red Wine and Blue Festival was very well organized. Daniel Kelada, Sally Nelson, Zachary Thomas Newman, Jessica Glidden, and the rest of the regular and volunteer crew efficiently arranged and managed every aspect of the event. It should be noted that Nacho, the Vinovium wine dog, was present and pretty much let everyone know that he was the one in charge (LOL). The other very positive part of Red Wine and Blue was the contribution to the scholarship fund of the Texas Hill Country Wineries, a non-profit trade association. The festival raised over $3,000 to support academic scholarships to Texas residents enrolled in a school or college program related to and benefiting the Texas wine industry.