Covington Hill Country is one of the newest tasting rooms in the Texas Hill Country. Proprietors Cindy and David Lawson hosted an industry night open house on Thursday, May 27 at the new tasting room on Highway 290 between Hye and Johnson City. A full house of friends, neighbors, and peers gathered to toast Covington Hill Country, Covington Cellars’ expansion into Texas. Covington Cellars was founded in 2002 in Washington and operates two tasting rooms there (in Woodinville and Snohomish).
Cindy and David started as home winemakers and now have 20 years of experience in the Washington wine industry. Cindy, a Houston native, is coming back home to Texas. She worked for many years in the petroleum field in Seattle, and that’s where she and David met. After a job transfer to Texas in 2014, Cindy and David decided a Texas tasting room was in the cards.
The Lawsons felt it was important that the Hill Country tasting room feature a wine using Texas grapes from the start. Two wines in the current Covington Hill Country portfolio include Texas-grown fruit. The first is the 2019 Tempranillo from the Texas High Plains. Recently awarded 89 points from Wine Enthusiast, the wine includes 25% whole cluster and stem inclusion. It spent 18 months in French oak barrels (35% new). A young wine with fresh aromatics, bright fruit, and a pleasant texture. It should continue to develop for years to come. Don’t be confused by the label. Covington Hill Country is the name of the producer, but 100% of the grapes are from the Texas High Plains. The American appellation on the label is required since the wine is made in Washington. $39 and 140 cases were produced.
The second wine that uses Texas grapes is the 2019 Rio Rondo, a unique blend of 50% Washington Syrah and 50% Texas High Plains Tempranillo. The name Rio Rondo refers to both Texas’ Rio Grande river and Washington’s Grande Rondo river. David told me that the wine represents the Covington story in a bottle – a blend of both Washington and Texas. This big wine with ripe fruit and approachable tannins is an upcoming Wine Enthusiast Editor’s Choice (92 points). $49 and 460 cases were produced.
The tasting included several Washington wines as well. Chardonnay, Rosé (Cinsault and Grenache), Cabernet Franc, a red field blend (primarily Zinfandel and meant to be served chilled), and a varietal Zinfandel rounded out the tasting.
How will the Lawsons manage production in two states? After harvest, the Texas fruit will be trucked to a new state-of-the-art production facility in Washington. Long-time Covington winemaker Morgan Lee will handle winemaking duties for both Texas and Washington wines, a total annual production of around 2,500 cases. Lee, who will be visiting Texas frequently to check on the vines, often utilizes native yeast fermentation and also ages certain wines in large clay amphora.
The tasting room itself is comfortable, modern, and warm. A large outdoor space with picnic tables provides amazing Hill Country views (~1,400’ elevation) and a nice breeze. Charcuterie is available now and more food offerings may be coming in the future. Three Covington staff members from Washington have relocated to Texas to manage the Covington Hill Country operations.
Next year, the Lawsons will be planting a four-acre estate vineyard. William Chris Vineyards co-founder and viticulture consultant extraordinaire Bill Blackmon is working with the Lawsons on planning the vineyard site and selecting varieties to plant.
Cindy and David also have a home on the site. A private guest suite was included, a perfect spot for welcoming visiting wine club members and friends.
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