Sarah Fleming and Brice Garrett first met in college at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, which is a small campus near the Cumberland Plateau. In 2014, the couple spent their last summer of academia in Paso Robles, California, working in the vineyard and winery of Sarah’s mom and stepfather. The hard work did not scare them. Before they knew it, they caught the “wine bug.” After graduation, the winery drew them back to continue learning, working hard, and developing their own small label.
As they began their professional lives as winemakers, it was time to choose a name and plan their journey into the future. They first looked to their past. Their college was dubbed “The Mountain” by the students and faculty. And when Brice proposed to Sarah, they were atop a mountain in Beaver Creek, Colorado. As they thought about their plans for the years to come, they knew there would be personal and professional mountains to overcome. Serrano, from the dictionary, means “one of/from the mountains; highlander.” To climb their mountains and stand at the top resonated with them – in their past and future. And so, Serrano Wine was born in 2015.
Their brand began with a strong social media presence and eventually a tasting room in downtown Paso Robles. Serrano Wine had grown to an average of 1,750 cases produced annually while still working in the family business. By the time the pandemic shut down their tasting room, they already felt a need to strike out on their own, together. They read and researched wine regions across the U.S. and felt the pull to settle in an area where they could grow together and within a strong wine community. They first visited the Texas Hill Country in 2020 and were lucky to meet some champions of Texas wine. With quick connections to winemakers and quality growers, they bought Texas High Plains Montepulciano to be sent back to California for aging.
In the meantime, they looked for just the right piece of land. Soon they found 10 acres on Rocky Road, just east of Hye and only a quarter of a mile off Highway 290. It took a few months to remove the old mobile home and clean up the mesquite and cactus on the property. And as they made plans to move themselves and their entire brand to Texas, the harvest of 2021 was quickly closing in.
With the help of Texas winemaker Michael Barton, Sarah and Brice were able to purchase nearly three tons of Farmhouse Vineyards Roussanne. Sarah even helped hand-harvest the grapes in Brownfield before they were hauled to the Hill Country where she met them for processing. You can see some of the experience in episode six of the YouTube.com docuseries Texas Winemakers.
But why Texas? Sarah says, “I love breaking boundaries. I love being a female winemaker in a traditionally male-dominated industry. I was terrified but found joy in moving from a well-defined Paso Robles wine region to a growing Texas wine industry. It was a risky decision, and I hate risk, but I need it. I need it to keep growing as a person and as a winemaker. To keep from getting comfortable, to push boundaries. I wanted to find a region I could grow with as it was still growing. I’m excited to break barriers with the rising stars of this Texas industry.”
By this time, they were able to move a tiny home onto the property. Just six months after becoming property owners, they were living in the Texas Hill Country and vibrated with the excitement of what would come!
With about 2,000 cases of wines made in Paso transferred here to Texas, they had some great California wines to sell, but there was paperwork and red tape to get through before they could be a permitted winery in our state. And, just as important, they wanted to finish the aging of their Texas wines. Finally, in October, Serrano Wine was thrilled to start offering tasting on their property!
Through my two years of knowing this dynamic young couple, I have shared many a bottle of wine with them. We wax poetic about the meaning of life and the role wine plays in it. Brice has told me, “Wine is a comfort. It is meant to be consumed and shared with others – from New Year to birthdays, promotions to bad days, remembrances to ‘just because.’ Wine brings a bit of comfort with each sip. Every bottle is the result of the winemaker’s intangible desire to gain a physical destiny.”
The couple has big plans for their property including a tasting room and vineyard. Both are projects they plan to complete themselves (which may or may not include an entertaining YouTube.com channel to follow their progress). For now, tastings are hosted in their comfortable barn at a spacious dining table with music and conversations about wine, life, and the future. Tastings are by appointment, and they welcome your kiddos or doggos to enjoy the land.
It was a real treat for me to visit their property and enjoy an official tasting with them both. I brought along my dog and a couple of friends from Austin. We enjoyed the tasting, and everyone left for bottles to share with friends later.
When you make a reservation for a visit, you can expect a tasting of two Texas wines and four from California. There is a cost for the tasting, and generously, the tasting fee is waived with the purchase of two bottles. Expect to see a sparkling Texas white wine on the menu soon. For now, here’s the lineup:
- 2021 Roussanne – Farmhouse Vineyard, Texas High Plains
- 2020 Viognier – Russell Family Vineyard, Willow Creek AVA, Paso Robles, California
- 2019 Montepulciano – Texas High Plains
- 2019 Vigneron – 97% Syrah, 3% Viognier – Russell Family Vineyard, Willow Creek AVA, Paso Robles, California
- 2019 Bones – 90% Petit Verdot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, Russell Family Vineyard, Willow Creek AVA, Paso Robles, California
- 2018 Mamba – 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 25% Petit Verdot – Russell Family Vineyard, Willow Creek AVA, Paso Robles, California
The wines are all dry and full-bodied. Soon to be released are the 2021 sparkling white wine from Texas and a blend of 2019 Texas and Paso reds. Remember you need a reservation. And your tasting will be with Sarah or Brice, or both of them. It’s a very personal experience as you hear the progress of this young couple from their childhoods in Florida and Georgia to college in Tennessee to starting their careers in California and ultimately beginning their authentic lives in Texas. Expect great things at Serrano Wine as they climb their mountain!