A scenic drive down 290 just outside of Johnson City brought us to the secluded 12 Fires Winery on Durango Road, just between Carter Creek Winery Resort and Spa and 290 Wine Castle. Owned and operated by three A&M Corp of Cadets alumni, you might miss it if you weren’t looking for the sign. And you might even think you missed it entirely, tucked in as it is at the end of a caliche road.
But find it we did, and we enjoyed the back story and the hospitality of co-owner Duke Meadows, “Thinker,” and his partners. Co-owner Mike Nance is the “Winemaker and Worker,” while co-owner Zach Huyge is the “Motivator” responsible for marketing and a strong fire logo that has meaning for A&M Alumni and a reference to lives lost in the Aggie bonfire collapse of 1999.
Duke walked us through a thorough tasting of 100% Texas wines from the current tasting menu:
- 2017 Albariño (Texas High Plains, blended with Orange Muscat)
- 2018 Blanc du Bois (Tara Vineyard, Athens)
- 2019 Blanc du Bois (Cat Spring Vineyards)
- 2018 Besito (Tara Vineyard, sweetened and delicate Blanc du Bois
- 2019 Besito (Cat Spring Vineyards)
- 2019 Soledad (Mourvèdre rosé from Buena Suerte Vineyards, Plains)
- 2019 Rosè of Black Spanish (Kiepersol Vineyard, Tyler)
- 2017 Malbec (Sprayberry Vineyards, Midland)
- 2019 Mourvèdre (Bingham Family Vineyards, Plains)
- 2017 Tempranillo (High Plains Vineyard, 25% Tannat blend)
A tasting is six wines, but the two of us experienced a total of eight different wines at a table under shady oaks. There is also a small tasting bar located in a colorful refashioned shipping container.
We enjoyed all of the wines (both Rosé wines were amazing) but left with a 2018 Besito and the 2017 Tempranillo—both popular choices at the winery as well. According to Duke, the reds sold out the first year they were open, in 2018. Mike’s Special Blend, a 2017 mulled red wine, was also available by the glass. 12 Fires also has a Winter Whites Special, six-pack or case of 2018 Blanc du Bois and Besito, and a discounted price on a case of 2017 Malbec.
12 Fires is still growing—plans for winery expansion include a Grand tasting Room, a Tasting Cave, a terrace, event venue, a Barrel Tunnel, and Bungalows. Currently they are storing wine at Adega Vinho in Stonewall, Ron Yates is selling their 2018 Besito, and you can find them at a couple of businesses in College Station near the university.
Currently there are two acres which were planted in 2018 with a 2/3 Mourvèdre and 1/3 Albariño split. Duke says they will harvest their own grapes to use by the fifth year mark. They have three standard levels of wine club with discounts on wine, merchandise, free glasses or tastings, and access to new releases. But their Legacy Club Levels go much further with the chance for members to help them from the ground up, becoming an integral part of the winery’s growth, and enjoying years of wine club benefits. (Full details can be found on their website)
There is no food listed on the tasting menu but check with 12 Fires before you bring outside food. Reservations are not required, and they can also ship wines. Their website has a gift shop with gear ranging from shirts and hats to yoga pants and fleece blankets. Take the detour just off the beaten path and say howdy to Duke, Mike, and Zach while you sip 100% Texas wine from a winery with big plans!