Winemakers in Texas take on challenges; they are innovators. Wedding Oak Winery’s Seth Urbanek embodies this ideal. Recently, he released two hopped wines—aptly named Hoppily Ever After. I was lucky enough to join him in a virtual tasting hosted by Big Thirst Marketing and Matt McGinnis.
The grapes used in both the wines was Marsanne from the Texas Hill Country. This variety worked well, so Seth plans to continue using it in future experiments.
These wines started as many test batches using hops from Beerburg Brewing in Austin, with who they do other collaborations. In fact, the hops came as a trade for wine barrels. The process of adding hops to the wine left hoppy aromatics everywhere: in the winery, in Seth’s car, in his home. He finally settled on two hops: Ahtanum and Simcoe.
Neither of the two wines is beery. The hops add complexity to the wine, emphasizing elements found in the Marsanne. Each wine is unique, offering very different experiences.
The Ahtanum hops wine is still very much a wine. These softer hops accentuated the aromatics in the wine, even after being left on the wine for three days. The nose is bright citrus with floral and grass notes. It is soft and alluring.
On the palate, the Ahtanum’s citrus notes are more pronounced, especially grapefruit, but I also noticed pineapple and a hint of lemon. The grassy notes become more of a vehicle for fruit. With light acid, the wine is plusher and more relaxed. This hopped wine is an excellent introduction to hops for a non-beer drinker.
Simcoe hops are the more traditional ones used for aromatics in IPAs. These are intense and so were left on the wine for only two days. From the start, the hops play a stronger role.
Herbal aromas predominate the nose on the Simcoe, making it more reminiscent of beer but still uniquely wine. While the Ahtanum embodied complexity, this wine is more straightforward; it is sure of itself. The herbal notes continue to stay front and center with a softer citrus blended in. The acid is more noticeable, as well as the sourness found in beers.
Both wines pair well with food. The Ahtanum does well with creamy and rich food; Wedding Oak suggests brie, but I found it did well with other rich cheeses, and strangely enough, hard pretzels (like any good beer). The Simcoe’s bitterness and acid makes it a good pairing the goat cheese (I found it did well with Manchego), but it also did well with fruit, both fresh and dried.
Best of all, these wines pair well with the summer heat in Texas. The Ahtanum is calming, as if napping away in the shade recalling past summers’ memories. The Simcoe is floating on the river, the sun-dappled water cool and refreshing.
These wines are limited; Wedding Oak only produced 75 cases of each. They can be found at all three Wedding Oak locations (San Saba, Fredericksburg, and Burnet), as well as for ordering online. And for those in Austin, they can also be found at Beerburg Brewing.
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