An unplanned stop on a nearly last-minute trip: these are the hidden gems that surprise and delight us. We got to Sanger for our weekend escape and were looking for someplace to eat that would be gluten friendly. We had a list of suggested stops and Firelight Vineyards was close, so I looked at their menu on their website and it fit the bill. We got to Valley View in about ten minutes and saw several cars parked in front of the building.
We had never been to Firelight Vineyards before, so we didn’t realize that this building has been significantly expanded since it opened in 2015. Once inside the door, we saw a bar to our left – the original winery – and a barrel-room-furnished dining area on our right, and most of the patrons had these really interesting “trees” on their tables that held glasses of wine. Breanne greeted us and led us to a table in the back corner: perfect for us. She gave us the menu which had both the wines and bistro entrees, explained how the wine tasting works and gave us some time to look the wine list and menu over.
We ordered the Spinach Artichoke Dip and the Tuscan and Venice flatbreads, all gluten-friendly, and Julie ordered a glass of Roussanne while I ordered a tasting of five wines, the 2019 Viognier, Roussanne, Tempranillo, Saturn Missile (Cab Franc, Malbec, and Syrah), and M80 (Malbec and Cab Franc). Breanne offered to talk me through each wine as I tasted, but I declined because I knew that I would be taking my time to analyze them and take notes. A little later, she also offered to let me taste the wine club-only Tempranillo Whiskey Barrel Reserve (WBR).
Each of the wines we tasted was solid showings of the varieties, all enjoyable and very drinkable, but the standout was undoubtedly the Tempranillo WBR. That’s the one that prompted me to pull out the tablet and get the flavors/colors on a digital canvas. The words that came to mind while I tried it were “party in a glass.” It’s not like a good Tempranillo doesn’t already have character, but this has sparklers and party horns. Here’s the Visual Tasting:
It’s a bit more fanciful than I normally draw, but the flavors justify it. Bright cherries and blackberries, a mild tannin bite from both the grapes and the whiskey barrel. I can’t remember ever calling a wine “fun,” but this is. I even posted that phrase on Facebook, but then got concerned that the winemaker might not care for the “party in a glass” description.
Meredith Eaton, the winemaker and owner (with her husband, George), was not at the winery the evening we showed up – after all, it was not a “planned” visit – but we were able to get some of her time on Sunday before we headed home.
As I stated before, the building has been expanded since Firelight opened and a dining room added. The upstairs section of the addition is still under construction and is planned to be a Prohibition-Era-style speakeasy. Oh yeah. There will even be a place for cigar smoking on the outside balcony (to go with their port).
The story behind Firelight could be described as a love story in steps. Meredith and George, at his suggestion, started making their own wine from kits they purchased from the Wine Maker’s Toy Store in Carrollton from George Cornelius and fell in love with the process. Their next step was learning blending of the different wines they were making.
About the same time, Meredith and George discovered there were local hobby grape growers that were willing to sell their fruit to them, so they fell in love with crushing their purchased fruit – now they were involved in the whole winemaking process.
Meredith said, “We knew we loved making wine – now we had learned we can crush – that’s a big difference from that kit, the crushing, and stabilizing, and understanding that. A huge learning curve, but we still loved it.
“George started thinking about growing (our own) grapes. We were having conversations about that and learned very fast how difficult it is. So, as I’m googling online and learning what to grow and how to grow, I stumbled across Grayson College. About that time, I stumbled across the acronym ‘AVA’.”
Meredith learned about American Viticultural Area and that their property was at the very southern border of the Texoma American Viticulture Area (AVA). With that knowledge and their shared passion, she enrolled at Grayson. Even with her degree, Meredith claims to be “a forever student.”
What we (Julie and I) really enjoy about Meredith is her passion. A love of wine that grew to a love of growing, making, and serving wine.
The location is perfect, just off the highway, but not ON the highway. It’s a small town on the square, and their building is perfect for the setting. It’s a fun place with food, good wine, a great Port-style, and a crazy “party in a glass.”