With 100-plus volunteers turning out twice a year to prune vines and harvest grapes, it is obvious that many Texas wine lovers in the Houston area knew a secret that my wife Phyllis and I didn’t discover until Saturday, August 28. That secret is the nearness of good Texas wines and an enjoyable tasting room experience at Wild Stallion Vineyards just off of the Hwy. 99 toll road in Spring.
When we wanted to enjoy a Texas tasting room experience but our schedule did not permit a multi-hour, 500-plus mile roundtrip to the Texas Hill Country, a search of the wineries map on the Texas Wine Lover website located Wild Stallion Vineyards just a 45-minute toll road drive north and west from our Atascocita home.
Upon finding the secluded 14-acre Wild Stallion Vineyards site amidst the new homes, apartments, and commercial buildings on W. Rayford Road, we were greeted by sites of wild horse statuary, an eight-acre lake, spacious outdoor seating, and a covered stage as we drove the concrete-paved road to a parking spot in front of the tasting room. Owner Larry Cress warmly greeted us as the day’s first visitors before we made our way into the spacious tasting room and headed through tables and chairs to the small tasting bar highlighted by awards earned by Wild Stallion Vineyards wines.
Gracious Wine Club manager Sue Meder led us through a sample tasting of six of the seven rosé and white wines offered and all six of the reds. Due to bubbles not reacting well with our older esophagi, we skipped the Sparkling Blue Eyes Blanc du Bois.
The wines we sampled were
- Pink Horses – a blush blend of Texas High Plains (THP) Cabernet Sauvignon and Blanc du Bois
- Laren’s Wild Rosé – a THP Sangiovese rosé
- Summer Harvest – a slightly sweet Blanc du Bois
- Texas White – a floral Blanc du Bois
- Rose’s Reserve – a slightly heavier Blanc du Bois
- BJ’s Reserve – an oaked Blanc du Bois
- Dolce Norra – a slightly sweet THP Dolcetto
- Red Silk – a smooth blend of THP Sangiovese, Merlot, and Dolcetto
- Texas Two Step – a blend of THP Sangiovese and Montepulciano
- Texas Tuscan – a slightly tannic blend of THP Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot
- Annie’s Hope – a 2020 THP Sangiovese from which part of the proceeds go to two charities important to owners Larry and Karen Cress
- Drifter – a 2020 THP Merlot
When the sampler tasting was over, Tasting Room Ambassador Joel Meder, a long-time friend of the Cress family, took us on a golf cart tour of the 14-acre site. We were joined midway through the tour by owner Larry who explained that the travels he and wife Karen had through Italy caused them to build an Italianate home when the property was purchased in 2008. While excavating for the lake in front of the home, they discovered that the property sat on about 20-foot-deep sandy soil due to its location between two creeks.
After visiting with Texas A&M Agriculture Extension agents in 2009, the Cresses planted 65 Blanc du Bois vines. Overcoming the challenges of hungry deer, possum, and birds, they decided to become a commercial venture on the property that they named Wild Stallion Vineyards in recognition of Karen’s love for horses. They took oenology courses and continued to plant new Blanc du Bois tracts (each named after a grandchild) and now have 3.5 acres of Blanc du Bois grapes. In 2020, they planted a small plot of Chardonel, a late ripening white wine hybrid grape, to provide a future source for a different tasting profile.
Larry said he recognizes that many Texas wine lovers prefer red wines, especially blends, and not just the Blanc du Bois and Black Spanish that grow best in southeast Texas like at Wild Stallion Vineyards and at Carrabbas Vineyards in Crockett from which that grape is also sourced. Thus, Wild Stallion Vineyards has contracted with Jett Vineyards, Y Not Vineyards, and Way Out West in the Texas High Plains, and Hill Country in the Texas Hill Country for red wine fruit. That fruit, along with the Blanc du Bois grapes pruned by 100-plus volunteers in February and harvested by volunteers in June or July, is shipped to Texas Custom Wine Works in Brownfield to produce the bottled wine sold at the tasting room.
In addition to the 13 current wines being poured, Wild Stallion Vineyards offers guests food prepared by on-staff chefs, a multi-choice wine club, special events, private meetings rooms, and a wedding venue complete with a well-appointed Bridal Suite. Among the special events are Wined Up Wednesdays and Sangria Saturdays. Upcoming is a “Wine, Music & Food” series of six events on October 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, and November 5 featuring tribute bands.
“We want visitors to Wild Stallion Vineyards to have a little of the Napa experience but at much less the cost of tasting fees, time, and travel,” Larry said. “It has been so gratifying to especially have visitors from California tell us that they did not expect to find such drinkable wines in Texas!”
And as Phyllis sipped a glass of Red Silk and I enjoyed the Signature Flight of Texas White, Annie’s Hope, and Drifter along with a delicious Onion Confit Flatbread, we had to agree that a little of the Napa experience and enjoyable Texas wines were close enough for us to plan to come back many times in the future.