Originally named Hoover Valley Vineyard, this 78-acre estate is about 40 minutes north of Fredericksburg near Burnet. In 2021, the property was purchased by William Chris Wine Company (WCWC), and more than one Texas winemaker is disappointed that their previous grape contracts will not be renewed! The vineyard name has been changed to Uplift Vineyard, which is a nod to the geological phenomenon called the Llano Uplift. This is a geologic dome stretching approximately 90 miles in diameter and is comprised of large granite formations and the only known deposit of a blue quartz stone known as llanite. But why is this important?
The Texas Hill Country is one of eight American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, in the state and is the third largest in our country. The Texas Hill Country AVA encompasses 9 million acres and has only two sub-appellations or sub-regions. By comparison, Napa Valley is 122,735 acres and has 16 appellations. Efforts are being made to define sub-regions within the already outlined Hill Country region.
Chris Brundrett is a co-founder of WCWC and is a big proponent of creating more sub-appellations within the Texas Hill Country. Often a sub-region is named for the geology that makes the area different from its surroundings, which makes it easier to identify the boundaries for the new appellation. And that’s why the proposed appellation in the area near Burnet is called Llano Uplift. Thus, Uplift Vineyard is born of this hope for the future of the wine regions of Texas.
With 55 acres under vine, WCWC decided earlier this year to grow Uplift Vineyard into having its own wine label. So far 800 cases have been produced solely from this vineyard, while some fruit was used for other WCWC wines. The goal is to grow the label to about 1,500 cases produced annually.
A selection of WCWC members and industry professionals have been invited to preview what is coming for this label. The current plan is for the property to offer member-only tastings and vineyard experiences with a maximum of 1,000 members. This initial preview experience is offered in the unassuming warehouse space located just a couple of miles north of Highway 290 near LBJ Park. Here WCWC has barrels of aging wines and case goods stored in the temperature-controlled space.
Six of us were greeted by Francisco when we each arrived, and he promptly offered us glasses of the 2021 Lost Draw Uplift Blanc. This white wine has a different label than the others because, when it was bottled, it had not yet been decided that Uplift would become its own label. The Uplift Blanc is nicely balanced and drinks easily on its own but would also pair nicely with a Christmas turkey and cranberry sauce.
As we enjoyed this wine, we were led toward the back of the dark warehouse past stacks and stacks of wine barrels. Behind one row of barrels, string lights twinkled above a nicely set dining table. We took our seats while Francisco shared the story, the plans, and the wines.
The Uplift wines are made by Claire Richardson. She first started with WCWC as an intern when she was completing her viticulture studies at Texas A&M. She worked in the laboratory but soon dashed across the ocean to work harvest in New Zealand. She returned to the WCWC lab and then again to New Zealand to gain even more experience. Back in Texas to stay, she was offered the opportunity to grow as the winemaker of the new Uplift label.
While comfortable with blankets in the chilly warehouse, the Uplift Vineyards 2020 Montepulciano was our second wine, bottled and soon to be released. The wine is balanced with stewed dark fruit notes, bold tannins, and a smooth finish. We compared this to the 2021 Montepulciano which was pulled from the barrel for us to taste, and it was fun to see the differences. Next came the 2020 Aglianico. This bold varietal can have grippy tannins that benefit from fatty food to balance it out. This bottling has a nice amount of acid that helps the wine without requiring food.
The 2020 Whitlock blend is Malbec and we shared it from a decanter. The Whitlock family was the first to settle in the Hoover Valley region, so the name is a nod to the area’s history. The grape or blend may change from one year to the next, but it will consistently offer a bold wine each vintage. It is indeed dense with a hint of greenness, which makes me inclined to age a bottle a bit longer.
And finally, we tasted the 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon from the barrel. The wine has the typical note of bell pepper making me instantly think of beef fajitas as an excellent pairing.
The Uplift wine club will have allocations twice a year. The membership is different from the other clubs offered by WCWC. There is no discount on purchases but instead provides access to these limited-production wines and events at the vineyard. A six-bottle membership is $450 and $900 for a full case. Tastings are soon to be offered in one of the existing barn-type buildings at the vineyard. Designs are underway for a new tasting room for the property. Each release will include the invitation to the exclusive pick-up party which I suspect will be in grand style. Big things are expected for this prominent Hill Country vineyard, and I am excited to follow Claire as her future unfolds as a Texas winemaker.