Recently, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in March, we decided to make the quick trip from Lubbock to catch up with one of the newer tasting rooms on the Texas High Plains – Yellow House Cellars. The vineyard and tasting room are owned and operated by CJ Kubacak. He has been growing grapes and selling wine since 2016, but the tasting room is a newer addition – opening in 2021.
As we approached CJ’s land, which is situated about 20 miles southwest of Lubbock, we were struck by the wide-open vista with undulating hills and depressions. You can see from horizon to horizon here! Then the vineyard comes into view. The vineyard was planted in 2016 in seven acres – now sprawling with healthy vines over 65 acres, and they were all just beginning to break bud. CJ is growing thirteen different varietals as he strives to find grapes that not only survive but thrive on this particular patch of the Texas High Plains. CJ believes that grapes grown even several miles down the road are exposed to a completely different microclimate and do not necessarily react the same way as they might on his land.
Nestled in the midst of the vineyard is the tasting room. CJ designed and built the structure modeling it after a cotton gin’s scale house. The tasting room is cozy and rustic. There are panoramic views of the vineyard and the land beyond stretching to the horizon. There is a patio out back perfect for live music and wine. There are plans to expand the venue with a larger structure that could host weddings and other larger events.
On this day, and most others, CJ was behind the counter proud to serve his wines. It is a great opportunity to talk to the grower himself as he is willing to share the ins and outs of his grape-growing experiences. CJ says his goal is to grow the “best damn wine grapes in Texas,” and takes great pride in perfecting the process from winter dormancy through to sharing a new release.
Yellow House Cellars currently offers four wines which include two whites, Grüner Veltliner and Picpoul Blanc, and two reds, Tempranillo and Sangiovese. The Grüner Veltliner is a crowd favorite. It is also near and dear to CJ’s heart. He was the first in Texas to plant this varietal and believes there is only one other grower in Texas today. Grüner Veltliner is the most grown white grape in the Czech Republic where CJ’s family originates. Yellow House Grüner Veltliner is a dry white wine, with a light, golden straw color. We got fresh acidity up front with notes of apple and minerality with a long finish. It is a refreshing white wine, and it is not lacking in flavor.
As for the reds, Tempranillo is a favorite here. This is a full-bodied Tempranillo, with notes of leather, pepper, and dark fruit. A bold representative of Texas Tempranillo.
We enjoyed our visit to Yellow House Cellars. The conversation was rich, and we met several other patrons who seemed just as content as we were to sit, surrounded by vines and sip some excellent wine. As we watched hawks hunting through the large windows, we tasted Yellow House’s other offerings and were pleased with each one. These wines are flavorful and well done. But what would you expect from the best damn wine grapes in Texas?!