By Amie Nemec
We arrived at Covington Hill Country this morning a few minutes after 11:00, because you can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning! But I goofed and they don’t open until noon, except on Sundays, which is 11:00. Well, but, the wine server, Cheylan, who was opening up the tasting room, was very gracious and asked us to come on in and have wine. Good start to the day!
The tasting room is newly constructed, and in fact, they have only been open a few weeks. The interior is nicely appointed and quite comfortable, with fantastic Hill Country views. Cheylan shared the winery’s story and we learned that Covington was started in Washington in 2002 by a native Texan and her husband, a Seattle native. After Cindy and David Lawson spent their first years of marriage visiting wine regions, they enrolled in Enology classes and began making wine in their garage as a hobby. As with many wine hobbyists, this led to opening their own winery.
The first Washington vintage was 2003 and their day jobs finally brought them back to Texas. Living in San Antonio, the couple realized the great potential in our Texas Hill Country and the newly opened tasting room is the result of six years of careful planning for the future of their label. The winemaker, Morgan Lee, joined the team in 2007 and makes wines for Covington Cellars, for their Texas Covington Hill Country, and also for the label Two Vintners, which they own together.
Our tasting started with the 2019 Chardonnay from Yakima Valley, Washington. This is a bright, fresh Chardonnay, different from what many expect from the West Coast. With only 80% of the fruit going through malolactic conversion, the remaining 20% brings a bit of freshness to the wine and keeps it from becoming too heavy on the palate. The wine was aged 10 months in French oak, with only 15% in new barrels. I found this wine to be full-bodied but not too heavy, with all the right apple and lemon notes we expect in a good Chardonnay. This is my style, and I took home a bottle.
Next, we tried the 2020 Josie Rose of Sangiovese from Red Mountain, Washington. There is a tiny bit of 0.5 grams of residual sugar, made off-dry with the intent of a slightly sweet wine to pair well with spicy foods, like barbecue with pepper or our typical TexMex fare. This sweetness comes across very fruity and not like a weighty sugar on the palate. I liked that the rosé is smooth with no tart finish.
From the rosé, we moved to a chilled red wine, the 2020 Field Blend. These grapes are grown in the Wahluke Slope AVA of Washington and the grapes were harvested together by machine, pressed, fermented, and aged together. The blend is 68% Zinfandel, 17% Primitivo, and 15% Petite Sirah. The juice was left in contact with the skins for only a few days, with the purpose of giving a lighter-bodied, less tannic red wine to be easy drinking for our hot summer days. The wine expresses a lot of cherry notes and is smooth.
The 2019 Tempranillo is their first Texas wine. These grapes were harvested from a small grower in the Texas High Plains, Tad Daniel. The fruit was transported in refrigerated trucks to the winemaking facility in Washington. The finished wine has notes of cedar and vanilla. In the 2019 Rio Ronde, the same Texas Tempranillo was blended with Washington-grown Syrah. The name is a nod to the Texas Rio Grande River and the Washington Grande Ronde River. The blend is a marriage of the two projects. I got notes of coffee on the wine, and there is good acidity to balance the bold tannins. I’d try this with barbecue brisket!
Cheylan not only served us before opening, but she went off-menu and poured us a couple of extra wines. We learned that she actually moved from Washington to Hye, Texas to help the Lawsons open this tasting room. In fact, two other employees also came south from Covington. This is great company loyalty and I’d love to learn more about how we can better develop this loyalty for our Texas wineries too! As we chatted about the weather differences in the two regions, she poured the 2018 Zinfandel. This is fruit from the Wahluke Slope and at first, there was no intent to make this wine, but when the winemaker was told there aren’t any good Zins, he accepted the challenge and the grapes. This is one of their most sought-after wines.
Finally, we finished with the 2018 Cabernet Franc. These grapes were grown in six different Washington vineyards with each fermented separately, then blended together for a perfect balance. The wine is drinking well, with notes of blackberry, plum, and vanilla. There is also a slight bell pepper note, which I think will mellow out a bit with a little more time in the bottle. We took some home since Cab Franc is one of our faves and this is a nice example.
Covington Hill Country offers a lovely setting with very nice wines. The staff is friendly and helpful, and excited to be a part of our Texas wine family. Expect to see some action in the spring, as they begin to plant their own Hill Country vineyard. Their winemaking will continue to be done in the facility in Washington, although, with time, there could be a facility here as well. The next time you have time for a tasting, make a stop to visit our new neighbors here on Highway 290 – you won’t be disappointed!
About the Author
Amie Nemec is a longtime wine lover, Sommelier, and founder of Perspective Cellars tasting room in Fredericksburg, Texas. She is now venturing down the path to learn winemaking, so, along with wine writing and food pairing posts, be on the lookout for Amie’s wines in coming years!