New Chapters in the Works in Texas Hill Country and Denton
Women for WineSense is a national non-profit organization that was created in 1990 for networking and wine education purposes for both wine industry professionals and wine aficionados. Last month, almost 60 members and guests spent the weekend in Fredericksburg for the first in-person national event since before the pandemic.
Attendees represented most of the 10 chapters that are located across the country, plus others in the “national chapter” who live in areas without a local presence. The new national president of Women for WineSense, Amy Gross of Houston, is one such national chapter member. She says, “As a Texan, I absolutely loved sharing wines from so many outstanding Texas wineries and learning along with Women For WineSense members who traveled from California, Oregon, Washington, Florida, New York, and, of course, our chapters here in Texas, to explore the Texas Hill Country, its wines, people, and stories over the three-day event.
I think everyone left learning something new while at the event that they will take back home to share–whether it was experiencing (and enjoying!) new varieties and blends, understanding more about the complexities of viticulture in Texas, or seeing how women winemakers in Texas really do reach out to mentor and learn from each other.”
Fredericksburg Inn & Suites was the location for the reception as well as Saturday’s sessions. Many attendees stayed there as well. Eleven wineries poured at the opening reception. Thank you to Becker Vineyards, Bending Branch Winery, Bingham Family Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, Grape Creek Vineyards, Hidden Hangar, Hilmy Cellars, Messina Hof Winery, Pedernales Cellars, Siboney Cellars, and Spicewood Vineyards. It was a treat to have several winery owners and a winemaker present. Thanks for coming Betty Bingham, Stormy Cansler, Julie Kuhlken, and Barbara Lecuona!
Attendees split into two groups for the morning and afternoon winery visits. Half visited Hilmy Cellars and half visted William Chris Vineyards, and then the groups flipped for the afternoon. Both wineries brought “all hands on deck” to welcome the groups. Hilmy’s winemaker Michael Barton and COO Casey Felton did the primary touring and tasting duties. At William Chris Vineyards, attendees heard from owner Chris Brundrett, winemaker Claire Richardson, and hospitality pros Roxey Sowell and Francisco Abarca.
Becker Vineyards hosted a gorgeous wine-paired lunch as well as a tour. Nichole Bendele assembled an all-star Becker team who rolled out the red carpet for a beautiful luncheon. Among the friendly faces, I spotted GM Patrick Connelly, Wine Club Manager Kaylyn Hall, Event Manager Carrie Anders, and Chef Michael Lockhart.
The wines tasted were too numerous to list!
The following day, attendees went to seminars at the hotel, and it was quite a lineup of speakers and tastings.
First, Ed Hellman, retired viticulture professor at Texas Tech, talked about the AVAs of Texas and led a comparison tasting of three Syrahs from three different AVAs and then two Tannats from different AVAs. The Syrahs were from Rancho Loma Vineyards (Texas High Plains AVA), Torr Na Lochs (Texas Hill Country AVA), and Hidden Hangar Winery (Texoma AVA). Both Tannats were from Bending Branch Winery. One was from Newsom Vineyard in the Texas High Plains; another was from Lost Pirogue Vineyard in Texas Hill Country.
Next, Maureen Qualia, enology professor at Texas Tech shared more about the growth of Texas wine industry and how it has progressed since Prohibition. She talked about various points in Texas wine history that have propelled the industry and why Texas wines can be a little “spendy.” Her wine selections included two white wines from Texas Heritage Vineyard, a rosé from Eden Hill Winery, Adelphos Cellars Primitivo, and Spicewood Vineyards The Good Guy, a Tempranillo-based blend.
At lunch, former Women for WineSense president Karla Barber moderated a panel of Texas women in wine. Bénédicte Rhyne, Marissa Bingham Dotson, and Rachel Fanning shared their experiences as women in the wine industry.
Following lunch, Susan Auler talked about how she and her husband Ed founded Fall Creek Vineyards in the 1970s. One of the memorable points in Fall Creek’s history was when Paul Hobbs recommended Sergio Cuadra to be Fall Creek’s new winemaker. Susan shared how three major Texas universities are working together on research to help the Texas wine industry. Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and the University of Texas are working on “heat shock gene” research that will benefit the state’s wine industry. Susan poured five of Sergio’s wines from the Fall Creek portfolio including Lescalo Chenin Blanc, Vintners Selection Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, and Terrior Reflection GSM and Tempranillo.
I was the final speaker of the day. My presentation was titled “Lone Star State of Mind: Texas Wines and Stories That Inspire.” In this final session I wanted to talk about the people behind the wines and the passion that drives this industry. I shared some photos and stories that related to the wines I selected for the seminar.
The wines included the Pedernales Cellars Vermentino, French Connection Wines Vin Gris Rosé, Farmhouse Vineyards Jack Knifed Reserve GSM, Driftwood Estate Winery Lone Star Cab, and Haak Vineyards Blanc du Bois Madeira.
We enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Feast and Merriment to wrap up a great conference. It was a memorable, 100% Texas wine night!
The wineries made this event such a success. Thank you for making your wines available, hosting us at your venues, and showing up to pour for us. Additionally, January Weise of the Texas Hill Country Wineries association and the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau provided major assistance. Three cheers to outgoing president Donna Schlosser-Long, incoming president Houston’s Amy Gross, and everyone that planned this event.
Great news! Two new chapters of Women for WineSense have just kicked off. Texas Hill Country and Denton chapters will join established chapters in Dallas and Grapevine. The Hill Country chapter will host their first event on July 14th and if you are in the area, you should register here and check it out. For more details on the organization or to find a local chapter, visit www.womenforwinesense.org.