Soul of the Land: A visit with Robb and Dilek Parr, December 26, 2019
A few years ago, I attended a comparison Tempranillo tasting at Lewis Wines on Wine Road 290 just west of Johnson City. We tasted 2012 Tempranillos supplied from Parr Vineyards in the Hill Country around Mason, Newsom Vineyards in the High Plains, Lost Draw Vineyards also in the High Plains, and a blend of the three vineyards. It was a great lesson of how the same grape grown in different places but made into wine by the same winemaker can have different nuances. Tempranillo wine is definitely one of my favorites and I remember specifically enjoying the one Duncan McNabb made from the Parr Vineyards’ grapes. This is one of the first events I remember that made me pay attention to where the grapes were grown.
Fast forward a handful of years and I’ve enjoyed Parr Vineyards’ grapes enough to take notice. During this time span, more and more vineyards are growing grapes for use in their own wineries. Robert and Dilek Parr are one of those vineyards. They planted their vineyard in 2006, had their first harvest in 2009, started making small batches of wine in 2015, and began their wine production in 2018. This year they opened their winery in their little town of Mason about 10 miles from their vineyard. I eagerly watched for their opening date and we were able to visit the day after Christmas. We headed north on Hwy 87 about 45 minutes north of Fredericksburg and found their tasting room just off the square.
We stepped inside and found Dilek and Robb in their very cozy and comfortably decorated tasting room that used to be a wool and mohair sales warehouse, and then it was the Mason Feed Store for a while. Lots of photographs from their vineyard adorn most of the walls as well as a grapevine that had come out of one of the rows. We asked about it and Robb told the story of how it and many of its cohorts had contracted a fungal disease and was unable to recover. As these vines were being removed to be replaced, Dilek wanted it for the tasting room. It makes a great show and tell discussion item.
While we settled ourselves in a seating cluster of a couch and chairs, Robb mentioned how he had spent the morning in the vineyard working on a wind machine trying to figure out why it wasn’t working. Farming isn’t only about the plants; it’s also troubleshooting and fixing things.
Dilek busily set out wine glasses and introduced the first wine: 2018 Semillon. Semillon is a white wine grape that originated in Bordeaux, France. This wine reminded me of a mild Sauvignon Blanc.
As we enjoyed the Semillon, Dilek set out a beautiful charcuterie plate with a great variety of meats, cheeses, spreads, olives, and crackers. She also told us about a set of scales that they’d found while they were cleaning out the warehouse that she would like to clean up and put on display in the tasting room. As we continued to enjoy the wines Dilek poured, Robb explained his prior work life was in engineering. This undeniably comes in handy when things need to be done around the vineyard, now the winery, while troubleshooting and fixing things as it seems something is always needing to be done.
One of my favorite things about visiting wineries “off the beaten path” is they normally aren’t crowded, and we usually get to sit and visit with the owners during the tasting and hear about their story and their plans. That was absolutely the case on this day with the Parrs. We got to hear about their grapes and their winemaking program. We talked about how things were going in the vineyard and how Dilek wanted to highlight the vineyard through photographs on their wine labels. We totally wine geeked out as we discussed vine spacing, bud break, and pH numbers at harvest. We talked about weather in the vineyard and also how the soil plays a part in the health, growth, and flavor of the grapes.
As Dilek poured wines, she would also bring another snack pairing item to the table. One thing she was very proud of was her herb infused olive oils. She kept them in decorative jars on a shelf behind the tasting bar. She served this with a lovely French bread in between the 2016 Touriga and the 2015 Mourvèdre.
The wines available at the time we were there:
- 2018 Semillon
- 2018 Mourvèdre Rosé
- Wild Child, a luscious red blend of Touriga, Tempranillo, Cabernet, Graciano, Mourvèdre, and Viognier
- 2018 Tempranillo Joven
- 2016 Touriga
- 2015 Mourvèdre
- 2015 Touriga
Rob Nida is their winemaker and he has taken the estate grapes on an amazing journey from the vineyard to the glass.
We had a great time visiting with Robb and Dilek, and we look forward to coming back and spending another day in Mason when we can visit these amazing people, a couple more places, maybe shop the square, and find a cute place for dinner. I’d also love to take the short drive out to the vineyard and witness where some of the Hill Country magic happens.
Don’t be afraid to wander out of your way in order to add to your wine adventure.