Grand Opening – December 7, 2019
More and more Texas grape growers are becoming winemakers and opening their own tasting rooms these days. The most recent and anticipated is Bolen Vineyards located in Smyer. And “where is Smyer” you ask? Smyer is a small hamlet 17.6 miles due west of Lubbock on Texas 114. You’ll find lots of cotton fields in Smyer – and a vineyard.
Rowdy Bolen and his beautiful wife Tameisha and their three children Alyssa, Reese, and Gatlin, live, farm, raise show critters, play sports, and now serve great Texas wine right there in Smyer.
I’ve been a fan of the Bolen’s grapes in my glass for several years and when I saw they were opening their own tasting room, I was excited and knew I’d have to add it to my growing list of places to visit on our not frequent enough visits to the High Plains. I eagerly followed their progress on Facebook as the tasting room began to take shape. When it came time to announce the opening day, it turned out I would actually be in Lubbock and the surrounding areas already visiting industry friends. So, I had no choice but to add this event to my detailed itinerary.
I arrived at the winery after a quick stop in Meadow and my GPS had a hard time initially locating their position. After a quick check of the address, I found it was on FM 168 about 100 yards or so north of 114. It wasn’t hard to find at that point. There were already a double handful of cars in the parking lot and a tour bus! Already on the circuit and it was just their first day!!
As I exited my vehicle and was looking around, I noticed another truck had pulled in, and darn if it wasn’t Steve and Cindy Newsom of English-Newsom Cellars located in the old Caprock Winery in Lubbock. Turns out Bolen’s wines were being made there, and Steve and Cindy were coming to support their friends. After a quick hug, Steve made a beeline inside. I finished greeting Cindy and by the time she and I made our way inside, Steve was already behind the bar with a bottle of wine in his hand, pouring for a couple in front of him. Now that is full service! I walked up to the bar and Steve set me up a glass and told me he would start me with the Dry Muscat.
This is a lovely dry white wine with many aromas and flavors dancing around. The nose was definitely fruity with some background florals indicative of Muscat. This wine could make a roomful of mixed style drinkers very happy. About that time, Tameisha looked up from where she was pouring and welcomed me in. I shook her hand and introduced myself, and the handshake was quickly replaced with a big hug.
(Facebook to the rescue as we’ve been Facebook friends for a while.) Rowdy made his way over and greeted me. We ran into each other the day before at English-Newsom while I was doing a tasting and I told him I’d see him in his tasting room. Steve excused himself and Rowdy poured the next wine – a Merlot. Now I love Merlot. I really love a good Texas Merlot. I’m now a huge fan of Bolen Vineyards Merlot! As I had my nose buried deep in the glass, Rowdy gave me a few informative tidbits about the winery. The horned frog (aka horny toad) label was designed and drawn by Tameisha’s cousin, Susan Billy. The inspiration for the horny toad was all the little guys Rowdy and his team have encountered throughout the vineyards. It’s good to see them making such a comeback.
While I was still enjoying the Merlot, he was asked about the brand that was against the wall behind him. That brought a big smile to his face. He reached over and picked it up showing those of us along the bar the design. It looked to me to be a slightly elongated O with tabs at the top and the bottom. He said it was the Greasewood Brand and was registered in 1910 in Upton County and has been used in his family for four generations on all the farm stock – horses, cows, sheep, and goats – and now it’s been incorporated into the wine label keeping the heritage strong and alive.
As I had finished the Merlot, I was ready for Rowdy to pour the next wine, a semi-sweet blush that he said had a touch of Malbec in it to provide the light pink color. He then had to step away to greet more arriving guests. Reese, their middle daughter and an aspiring grape grower, stepped behind the bar to restock the supply of glasses. Since I follow Rowdy on Facebook, I have seen him proudly post about Reese and her FFA project – starting a vineyard. She grows Mourvèdre and Cinsault. He has also mentioned with frustration her experience with Dicamba drift, so I mentioned that to her and asked how the vines had ended up fairing. She sighed and said they’d been troopers and were able to recover almost completely. She explained it probably came from a nearby neighboring cotton farmer that is new to the area and didn’t know all the ramifications of his spray program. I think this would be a great opportunity for Reese to offer him a little education!
With numerous family and friends helping out, Rowdy and Tameisha were doing a great job working the room and making sure everyone felt welcomed and had wine to enjoy. Reese had excused herself and by the time my glass was empty, Rowdy showed back up. He poured the final wine, a sweet Muscat. Have you noticed a pattern? Three of the four wines currently available are Muscat Canelli all from the same harvest, but presented three different ways – dry, semi-sweet, and semi-sweet blush. All were harvested from the same vineyard at the same time. Just proves the versatility of this grape.
Rowdy has been growing grapes since 2010, always there in Smyer. They began with an acre of Merlot adding another the following year. The next year they added two acres of Malbec. They took a short break from planting and allowed these grapes to grow and settle in while Tameisha took the Viticulture Certificate Class at Texas Tech in Lubbock. Mourvèdre was their next grape planted in 2018 and Cinsault and Tannat were added earlier this year. That makes them five acres strong with plans to add more acres and varieties in the future. Their farming adventure is a true family affair as they all come together to work in the vineyards.
The Bolen Vineyards wines are being made at English-Newsom Cellars with David Mueller as their talented winemaker. What an amazing team all working together to bring more great Texas wines to our glasses!
When Steve came back by, he asked if I knew the story of the ceiling yet. I’d noticed it was pieces of old corrugated tin pieced together. He told me it was reclaimed from Rowdy’s grandfather’s old barn that was falling down. So, they rescued it and brought it to be a reminder of the family farming heritage. If you look close, you can still see pieces of bailing wire in places.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with the Bolens and my other grape growing friends, but as I had an evening event planned with more friends back down the road, I had to give my thank yous, big hugs, and good byes. This just adds to my growing list of places to visit when we come back to the High Plains as often as we can.
Should you find yourself in the High Plains I highly recommend a visit!