If you are looking to experience some California wine – in Texas – then a trip to the Hill Country may well be in order. California wines that are “to die for” are the specialty of Graveyard Vineyards‘ new tasting room on Bell Springs Road, just off Hwy. 290 in Dripping Springs.
Manager Adam Campbell-Taylor was sent to Texas on a mission from his parents, owners Rob and Paula Campbell-Taylor, to introduce their family’s California wines from their ranch in the Pleasant Valley area of Paso Robles (central coast of California) to Central Texas. The tasting room in Dripping Springs inhabits a metal building that has had many past lives, but its current situation is light-filled and cozy with plenty of leather couches, cowhide rugs, and wine barrels that make for a sweet window table for two.
We were given a friendly welcome by Adam and his newly-hired wine steward who let us share a free-pour tasting of eight award-winning wines, including:
- NV The Ascender – a sparkling French Colombard and Chenin Blanc blend, their most popular wine, with notes of honey and orange zest
- NV Paso Tombstone White – an everyday white with Italian Falanghina, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Muscat. Crisp with delicious notes of stone fruit, it’s the perfect summer porch wine.
- 2017 Reserve Chardonnay – a dry white with notes of vanilla featuring a smooth smokey finish
- NV Paso Tombstone Red – a blend of estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Petite Sirah. Think pie crust and jam – a popular all-around big red.
- 2017 Estate Syrah – notes of plum, earthy and smooth
- 2017 Malbec – spicy and velvety, with cherry and white pepper
- 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon – a dark scarlet gem with pomegranate and red current notes
- NV Deliverance – a port style dessert wine, this one is served with a tootsie roll, and tasted like a chocolate cherry Dr. Pepper – amazing and delicious!
Among the many awards racked up by the wines on the tasting menu were several from the Texas International Wine Competition, including silver for The Ascender, Paso Tombstone White, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Gold medals were awarded to the Reserve Chardonnay and Paso Tombstone Red, with a double gold for Deliverance. The winemaker for Graveyard Vineyards is Jason Bushong, who has been with the family since 2005 and has also created a Bushong Brand offering varietals not found in the family vineyard, but featured on the website. Adam Campbell-Taylor has plans to create a Texas wine, but is still mulling over the direction to take. Many of the estate wines not listed on the tasting menu are available for sale in the tasting room.
The estate winery name comes from a small cemetery on the property in Paso Robles comprised of an acre of land donated by the original landowner in the 1860s to The First Presbyterian Church. Originally part of a small town called Estrella, the now-named Pleasant Valley Cemetery is still cared for by volunteer members of the community. The Campbell-Taylors purchased the property in 2003 in Paso Robles and have five acres, planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, all harvested by hand and processed on site.
Graveyard Vineyards’ new tasting room is dog friendly and there are picnic tables outside should you bring your own snacks. There is a small gift section featuring wall signs, hats, T-shirts, and coffin shaped wine boxes. There are some games located just inside the front door if you decide to grab a bottle and stay awhile. A wine club is available which includes 6 or 12 bottles twice a year, complimentary tastings, limited release wines, and discounts on wine and merchandise.
Though the tasting room has only been open for eight weeks as of this writing, the Skeleton Key Wine Club is available for new members. (Currently there is a wait list at the California estate with 2500 members.) With the purchase of two bottles of wine, a tasting fee was waived so we took home two of our favorites. And according to Adam, in the next two weeks the tasting menu will have new wines to try including 2017 Psycho Petite Sirah, 2017 Mortal Zin, and 2017 Scream. All of the wines we sampled were fantastic and we are looking forward to visiting again soon!