Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A bit of Good Taste: Girl's Night Out with Tanji Patton

As the Christmas season started, Texas' new favorite for the best of food and wine, Tanji Patton, hosted the last Girl's Night Out of 2012. This holiday themed event took place at the Westin La Cantera in San Antonio and spotlighted some great shopping and treats as the attendees geared up for the holiday season.

First a little about Girl's Night Out for those new to the concept. This event started as a way for Tanji and her friends to get together and enjoy themselves -- a difficult thing to do with the busy lives these women lead. Their first event was a huge success, with 100 attendees. Since then, Tanji and her friends have hosted these events throughout San Antonio -- and now Houston -- where women can gather to enjoy great drinks, wonderful food, and lots of good company. The event allows friends to gather and have fun, but it also allows for networking and the development of new friendships.

The most recent one was my first -- and I attended as a guest of Tanji's after meeting her at the San Antonio Cellar Classic. This event was hidden from the hotel's major traffic in one of the large meeting and conference spaces on the grounds. Wine, beer, and a signature holiday cocktail were available (all guests were given two drink tickets and could purchase more drinks after that); these were chosen by Tanji and her staff (as I was told by Westin sommelier Steven Krueger who made a quick appearance after his nightly wine tasting). A wonderful collection of hors d'oeuvre was available, topped off by a chocolate fountain. Live Christmas music provided our backdrop (though I felt it was often too loud for the space), and representative from local businesses and establishments came out to provide an array of shopping possibilities.

As this is primarily a wine blog, I will focus there, but I did want to share a little about the rest.

The food

The variety was great. Everyone could find something to please their pallet -- even unfortunately picky me. I had already eaten after a LONG day teaching, so I stuck to the desserts, which mainly meant the chocolate fountain. This went for the middle and provided milk chocolate with an array of expected and unexpected dipping items: strawberries and marshmallows, but also pretzel sticks and gingerbread men. For those more interested in savory, there were Mediterranean-like vegetables, breads with accouterments, and a number of dumplings and similar meat friendly appetizers. A guest could easily make a well rounded meal from the food.

The shopping

Honestly, I was a bit disappointed. I had hoped for neat gift ideas; most of the shopping, unfortunately, was more personal. Many of the businesses provided great indulgences like jewelry, handbags, shoes, clothes, and other quality accessories. The Westin did come out with great gift packages for the spa and the golf course -- too bad no one on my shopping list wanted either. My favorite for the night was a longtime favorite from the farmer's market scene: Ms. Chocolatier. She had many of her regular favorites -- I brought home the Mexican chocolate and chocolate pecan toffees. Her array of specially made truffles were a nice gesture for the holidays. I did find out she will be working through the holidays and her goodies will be available.

The guests

 At first, I found it difficult to meet new people. I am a bit shy -- though some people might not think so -- so just introducing myself was tough. And to be honest, at this event, most people were in defined groups and were focused on just associating with their friends. On a good note, Tanji was approachable and friendly -- we chatted several times (often by accident); she also introduced me to a few people. However, after awhile, I suddenly found myself meeting others. On the advice of Texas Wine Lover, Jeff Cope, I wore my new signature hat. It attracted people as the evening wore on. Groups and single ladies would come over to ask about it. It was a great starting point to meet a number of interesting people. I even spent some time with the social media contact and other organizers from the Westin -- these ladies were friendly and helpful. Once that began, the night improved greatly.

The wine

So, this is a wine blog, right? Of course, I was set for some great wine, especially knowing the menu at the Westin. Well, that was not the case. The night had a limited selection of wine, primarily wine from Hob Nob Wines (In the San Antonio area, these wines can be found at Costco, Green Fields, and WalMart). I realize this was likely a budget issue -- how do you provide wine for 200+ people without blowing your budget on it? I have since found that these are solid wines at a great price.

Luckily, I did find one nice choice from the group, and it was not a surprise: the Hob Nob Malbec. I recently went to their site to find out about it, but there is no mention of the strongest wine of the evening (Tanji and I both agreed that it was a nice wine, but she longed for the Malbecs from her recent trip to South America). I did some online searching and found out that if you can find it, the wine runs from $9-$14 (though I have yet to find a local retailer for this wine). This is a good price for a smooth, rich Malbec that was easy to drink. However, don't expect a wine to mull over and experience; this is a pleasant drinking wine that can be enjoyed right after opening.

Wicked Red: From HobNob Wine

I decided that since the Malbec was a solid wine, I would try the red blend, The Wicked Red. It is described as very aromatic with a hint of citrus. I found it to be a bit muddled, with no definitive taste coming out. The citrus made the wine seem like it should be sweet but was instead a light dry wine. It was easy on the pallet, but not as solid as the Malbec.

Unfortunately, I wasted my last ticket there instead of on the holiday cocktail. To be honest, the lines for drinks were LONG. They snaked through the crowds and tables; I try to not spend too long in them. With that said, the cocktail was a process that took a bit of time, holding up the line. My thoughts for others kicked in, and I avoided the cocktail so as to limit my time in the line.

In the end...

This bright and sparkly evening ended with a number of prizes that got the crowd anxious. Many of the guests ringed the stage hoping for their chance; it paid off for many. We all left with a nice goodie bag with a shirt, water bottle, nail files, and other great deals. In the end, even nervous-me had a good time. However, I wonder if this was the best one for me to come to. I have heard that some of the other events are less formal than this one; I wonder if I had attended one of those if it would have been easier to meet new people and network more. Well, I'll just have to wait till 2013.

For pictures and a quick look at this event, check out Tanji's site here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tasting at Westin La Cantera with Russ Kane

To celebrate Texas wine month, Sean and I attended the Texas wine tasting at San Antonio's Westin La Cantera. Held in the Steinheimer's Lounge, sommelier Steven Krueger shares four choice Texas wines. We were lucky to not only enjoy Steven's presentation, but the Texas Wineslinger Russ Kane  (writer of the Texas wine blog Vintage Texas) also shared his knowledge and experience of the Texas wine industry.

On the hill, the sun's
last rays settle around us,
dance, glint off the wines.

Each scent swirls, each flavor shines,
for a Texas wine society.

The Tasting

Held at 5p.m. till 6 most nights -- you can check the Westin's calendar to make sure that there is a scheduled tasting -- this tasting is a slow and relaxed tasting of four 2 ounce pours for $10. To make this even better, the wines change regularly, making this a great wine night out that can be repeated. Once the guests arrive, they gather in a more communal style to share the tasting together. This makes it easier for sommelier Steven Krueger to provide a more personable tasting as he serves each guest and shares his wine knowledge.

The four pours are presented on a "mat" that tells the guests the wine, the winery, and some insight on the wine. Most of the information is about the wine itself. Steven adds to this knowledge by leading the group through the full tasting (both encouraging the guests to share what they think as well as pointing out what he notes). In our case, Russ Kane added to discussing the wine.

The mat provides even more information, information that provides more insight to new drinkers (and a nice reference for the rest of us). There is a map that shows all the Texas wineries; it is easy to tell where the winery is located. This coincides well with the winery information Steven provides. And for our tasting, Russ again brought a lot of neat extras to the table.

During the tasting Sean and I attended, there were two whites and two reds. The stand-out, overall, was Pedernales' Tempranillo. This wine is always a great wine (one I always have around), full of fruit, earth, oak, and spice. It provided a strong, bold end to the tasting. The white of note was the Brennan Viognier. This award winning wine was a great counter point to the bold red that ended things. We also had a nice Blanc du Bois and a solid Cabernet.

Russ Kane

Russ Kane joined our tasting to promote his book, The Wineslinger Chronicles. During the tasting, Russ taught us about the wine industry in Texas (from its foundation and the longest running winery in Texas). Russ provided some nice comparisons to other wine industries, both domestic and international. One interesting note was when Russ shared a wine map of the world. Sean and I searched over the map to figure out the places where we had not yet had wine from -- they were very few.

What was most fun with Russ' appearance was all the insider knowledge he brought. He knows the wines we tasted -- the wineries, the wine makers, etc.. The material he presented shed the best of his book; he also connected it to the audience through additional wine education. Best were the stories and experiences he shared. By the end, I saw old facts (ones from the book) in a new light.

A tasting at the Westin La Cantera proved to be a great time. I spent some quality time with some quality wine; I often feel rushed at wineries, but that was not the case here (slow is expected during this tasting). Of course, the information shared by our wine specialist and sommelier Steven Krueger taught me a but more; Russ Kane's added Texas wine scholarship brought the wine and wineries to life. Best of all is the nature of the tasting. As the guests gather around the main table (and outlying tables if the number gets too large), a new Texas wine community forms, sharing their tasting and their own experiences. When you need Texas wine in San Antonio and can't get out to the Hill Country, this is a great escape.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

San Antonio Cellar Classic

Texas Wine Month was celebrated in San Antonio with the second annual San Antonio Cellar Classic hosted by Max's Wine Dive and their new establishment the Boiler House (official opening tomorrow). I enjoyed the chance to meet with other wine lovers and wine folks (the staff from Max's and the representatives for the wineries were very knowledgeable and affable). The chance to taste and experience such a variety of wines of all price ranges, types, and regions was also wonderful. The problem, though, was the event was way too short -- three hours was not enough time for someone with a VIP ticket. Another small issue was the limited selection of Texas wines; few were available with the main winery being one of my regular favorites, Bending Branch. In the end, the wines were all well chosen and interesting, the people were friendly and helpful, and it was an overall good time.

The Basics

First, let me explain the set-up. There were two options -- the general admission tickets and the VIP ticket. The general admission ticket offered a selection of about 40 wines that were all generally under $30. The VIP ticket included an additional 30 wines that ranged in price from the low $20s to Tanji Patton's choice champagne wine at just over $100. The VIP ticket also came with a special "coupon" that could be used towards a wine purchase. No matter the admission, all guests were able to purchase the wines after the event. There were additional discounts based off of case and ticket (there were better deals for those with a VIP pass, etc.). By the end, we kept our spending under control and bought our top six wines.

General Admission

The general admission wines offered the greatest selection and variety. Here, whites and reds went nearly hand-in-hand. The varietals were diverse but leaned toward the most popular ones, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The wineries were also diverse, but provided the largest amount of US wines. This also had the majority of the Texas wines -- three.

One of the Texas choices: El Sueno: Tinto de Tejas from McPherson Cellars

The general admission wines were solid options. Unfortunately, I didn't get to taste as many as I wanted, so Sean and I picked and chose carefully. For us, that means sticking with the reds. There were standouts and memorable wines in this bunch.

Beringer Cabernet
 The standouts in the reds included one of my go-to's, Terraza's Reserve Malbec. It is a commonly found wine and pairs well with a number of meats, especially those with a good hint of spice (which would include nice red sauces). Another was one I was eager to try, the Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon. They had recently followed my Twitter feed, so I was eager to give them a nod back. Well, this wine did not disappoint. It was one of the strongest when it came to complexity and balance. I was quickly taken in by the feel of the wine and was reminded why California is a place for good Cabernet. However, they weren't my favorite Cab. Go figure, it was the special release of the day, Bending Branch's new High Plains sourced Cab (it is to be officially released this Saturday -- Nov. 17 at the winery with the new Tempranillo). This wine shows the beauties of what the High Plains can do, ranking with many of the other strong wines made from grapes from the same region. It was also nice to see Texas wine go toe-to-toe with a longtime California producer. And of course, what made this extra special was that winemaker John Riverburgh came to share the new wine.

John and the new Cab

For us, one of the must have's to try was The Crusher. We didn't really care how it tasted, we just had to try it. Just before the event, Wil Wheaton had posted a picture on his blog with an added blurb on the label. We had to taste a wine that can both be a Star Trek Next Generation joke and a Big Bang Theory Joke. And a side note, Wil is a gracious and friendly guy. We meet him recently and shared our feelings about a role playing game we all play.
Our tastings of The Crusher


The VIP wines were heavy on the reds and provided a greater amount of less traditional wines and locales. The varieties included popular choices such as Cabernet and Pinot Noir, but lesser known options such as Tannat (the Silver Tannat from Bending Branch to be specific) and South African Shiraz. Here, the wines coated the palate and excited the taste buds; it was clear why this was the VIP selection.

There were a few wines we were VERY encouraged to drink. Well, they were right. At our first tasting, we started hearing about Chocolate Box. This was our favorite Shiraz of the day -- the Fairview Eenzamheld Shiraz being the other (which I will cover for a forthcoming Wine Wednesday). These two wines had such an earthiness to them. The earth sang in them, transporting the drinker to wide wind swept lands.

Fairview Shiraz from South Africa

Two other great reds included one of the most expensive (and well worth it) Urbina Gran Reserva and the Alessandro Pedro Ximeniz Sherry. The Urbina practically knocked me off my feet. This primarily Tempranillo blend from the Rioja area of Spain sparked notes of earth and spice, like many Texas Temps, but had the smooth balance that elevates many of the best Spanish Temps. I was so taken I had to buy a bottle. The Sherry, though, we almost missed tasting; we got in right at the wire. This Spanish Sherry was all caramel and nuts; the fruit provided a beautiful roundness and sweetness to the other flavors. I plan on opening my bottle at Christmas, but some days I just want to open it up and drink the whole thing.

I do have to mention the one white that caught my eye. Vicius Albarino was a great wine that was full of flavor. I have only had Texas Albarinos, and it was nice to have a Spanish one for once. And this was a treat. This wine is actually aged, in bottle, on the cool floor of the Atlantic Ocean. This is the passion that drives me to drink and write about wine.

Tanji Patton's Selection

One of the best additions to the VIP ticket was having Tanji Patton from Good Taste with Tanji sharing three wines of her choosing. She provided a rose' champagne, the Ruinart Rose'. After my education during Rambling Rose at Becker vineyards, I was prepared for this treat. It was dry with soft berry fruits. I rarely drink champagne, but this wine was a whole different story.

The Overall Experience

Sean and I enjoying the last of the event
The San Antonio Cellar Classic was a great introduction to many unique and interesting wines. I would recommend San Antonio area folk to attend, especially if you want the chance to explore wine in a relaxed and fun setting. For more on all the wines, check out this year's list.

There are also nice additions. The music was upbeat and created a great mood, though it made talking and learning about the wines difficult -- I enjoyed learning about the wines and the wineries. The food, from great establishments from around San Antonio provided a nice break from all the wine.  Be here again, time caused its share of problems; it was hard to actually enjoy any of the food and really get to enjoy a good selection of wine. Honestly, I am eager for next year and a whole new round of wines. Until then, I will enjoy my bottles and head to Max's for my fix.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fredericksburg Food and Wine Fest

Fredericksburg Food & Wine Fest logo

Texas wine month has come to a close. But during its thirty-one days, I found myself swept up in the excitement and activity (that, Sean's and my birthdays, and midterm grading). This weekend I have some time to catch-up and finally sit down to write, so I thought I would start with the grande finale, the Fredericksburg Food and Wine Festival.

This twenty-two year old tradition took over the last weekend of Texas wine month. Held in the Marktplatz, this festival brought together twenty-nine wineries and other great Texas specialties (craft beer, food, and crafts). The event covers the entire weekend with a multitude of different events, but the main focus is the Saturday afternoon festival. Sean and I went to taste some wines from wineries we have not visited and meet up with a large group of wine bloggers and wine enthusiasts. The day had nothing but promise, and it delivered.

The Wine

Our first stop was the pavilion where the wineries set up. This area was a good fit for it all. The wineries had decent size tables with a bit of room between one another, and there was a large space in the center for people to congregate and enjoy their wine and all the great company (something I appreciated after the cramped space at Dripping with Taste). The weather also proved to be on our side. The grey morning had a nice chill in the air, making the stuffy places more comfortable; the mid-day sun evened things out to a mild and pleasant day.

The Winery Pavilion

The wineries present were also an interesting array: large, established wineries -- such as Becker, Llano Estacado, Messina Hof, Fall Creek, and the three wineries of 4.0 Cellars -- the hill country locales -- a list that goes on forever -- and wineries from hither and yon across the state. I avoided my regular haunts, except a visit with Jen from Bending Branch, so I could try the wineries I never get a chance to go out to. Unfortunately, the tasting price (between $2-$4) stopped me from having any selection at the wineries and even missing some. But Sean and I bought a great collection of tickets and made our way through the wineries.

Haak Winery

And just as the tasting price was a bit of a shock -- Dripping with Taste does a fine job here with the one ticket ($1 cost) per taste -- so were the wines. We found most of the wines we tried mediocre. There were a few worth mentioning, though. The port-style Blanc do Bois from Haak was as everyone has said; this rich, honeyed wine was smooth and sweet. The Crump Valley Merlot was a knock-out red that was complex and flavorful; a perfect Texas Merlot. And the most wondrous surprise was the mead from Rohan Meadery. Though we had very wished it was a Lord of the Rings reference, we were still happy with the mead they brought. Sean enjoyed a more traditional mead and I indulged in their raspberry blend. After that tasting, we had an itch to go to a Ren Fest and hunt down the other Texas meaderies.

Vintner's Experience

Sean and I also decided to take in the brand new Vintner's Experience. It was advertised as a special event with the winemakers from Fredericksburg Winery, Becker, and Grape Creek. The wineries would present either a white, red, or rose. Well, the chance to speak with winemakers was one I didn't want to pass up, especially for only $15.

Dr. Richard Becker and Bunny Becker

Though the idea was a great one, it fizzled out. The company was good: we had a great group of bloggers and friends to enjoy the time with, and we also met a group of people who live near us. But, the event was not as we expected. First, there was only one official winemaker (Fredericksburg Winery). Three generations of Becker came -- Dr. Becker and Bunny, as well as their son Joe and his wife and son. They all had great stories to tell, but I had hoped to learn more about the wineries wine making process. The upside was that the guests were readily available afterwards. It was nice to get a chance to do have a bit of one-on-one time, and the Becker's were the most gracious of all.

Esor Ed Ehcnarg

The wine available to us, the Esor Ed Ehcnarg (Rose de Granche) from Fredericksburg Winery, the Prairie Rotie from Becker, and the Cuvee Blanc from Grape Creek, were all good wines, but these wineries could have really wowed us if they wanted to. In fact, the Esor (as they call it) had a caramel hue -- rather than a pink one -- which put me off a bit. The current Prairie Rotie is a solid wine, but there are much better options in the red category from Becker. The best of the day was Grape Creek's Cuvee Blanc. This is one of their strongest whites and a fine example of the drier flavors found at the winery.

Empty Cuvee Blanc with a untouched tasting in the background

The "After" Party

Sean and I headed out pretty early and found ourselves making a few stops at our favorites. We had a quiet tasting at 4.0. We ended our evening with a group of fellow Texas wine lovers at Pedernales Cellars. Jeff Cope made arrangements with winery owner Julie Kulhken to allow our group to stay a bit late. We all enjoyed their wonderful hospitality -- Julie and Whitney spent a large amount of the time chatting with the group -- and wine. Honestly, it was the highlight of my day. It was so nice to just sit and talk to so many people; the ability to share our passion for Texas wine and our experiences was great. By the time we left, Sean and I were happy knowing that many of our experiences were ones shared by many of our new friends -- good and bad experiences.

Me after my first stop: Bending Branch
In the end, I was so glad Sean and I finally had the chance to go to the Fredericksburg Food and Wine Festival. I had the chance to debut my new wine hat, but best of all was all the people we met. The sad part, though, was that we didn't get to do as much with everyone; we didn't stay in town and were only there Saturday. It seems the entire weekend, at least from Friday forward, was a non-stop party with good wine and good friends. My one day will be enough until next time.

A Festival
The glass fills, recedes. 
Voices ebb and flow, a mate
to the wine: a song.

Memories -- the best souvenirs --
expressions in garnet, gold.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

WW: Politics and Religion @ Hilmy Cellars

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to try a brand new release at Hilmy Cellars. The 2010 Politics and Religion red blend has been a mystery since the winery opened. From the very beginning, release dates were sketchy, but everyone knew something was coming. Early estimations had been July, but that month went and passed with no word. But as the Fall wine shipment appeared on the horizon, teasers came out. And before we all knew it, the new blend was about to see the light of day.

Politics and Religion at the tasting release party

A Little Back Story

This is one of the early wines made by the winery, but it was been left aging for quite awhile. This is a 2010 vintage that was bottled only days before the unveiling -- Tuesday and Wednesday before the Saturday release. As of right now, this wine has had time to develop in the barrel, and the early taste shows that this aging added a lot of earthiness and oak to the flavor. However, this wine is still very new to the bottle; the flavors are not yet melded and balanced, still struggling in their new container. It is still drinkable at this time, but it will be best left to rest in the bottle for a bit. I would easily estimate a few more months, so maybe a Christmas pairing is in order.

This blend is comprised of a popular Texas grape, Mourvedre, and the always blendable Merlot. The grapes make a nice pairing, bringing two different approaches to a wine. Without any other major grapes added, both are able to sing out. And that is perfect considering the quality of the grapes. The grapes come from Andy Timmons' Lost Draw Vineyards in the High Plains. The heritage of the grapes adds to the developing success of the blend.


Right now, the dark fruit flavors are the powerhouse here, a dominating force throughout the entire tasting experience. They stride forth with the just the aroma. Dark fruit, especially the deeper berries (and to a lesser degree, plum) are strong from first smell to final taste. In fact, upon first tasting, the fruit is bold and heavy; it is a weight that settles in and fills everything. It is a sense of decadence with such powerful fruit.

The fruit starts to soften around mid-palate as the earth and oak begin to emerge. There is a strange dustiness to the final essence, like the ground beneath the summer sun. The earth and minerals tend toward this drier sense, playing with the hint of oak that seems just out of reach.

At this point, the fruit and earth are not well balanced. The fruit seems to rest on top of the earth, almost like a thick blanket on a cool day. This isn't unpleasant; the great flavors are clear and tasty,  drawing the taster back. But the wine is still young in the bottle. The earth has not collected and strengthened to match the fruit, and so they have not quite come together to create a more unified experience. However, towards the end, as both slowly fade, the earth is stronger, almost a match for the fruit. Here the flavors begin to weave. This was the sign I was looking for (a trait I noticed in the Vintage Texas Tannat from Bending Branch). This lush and desirable flavors are just starting to get to know one another in the bottle. Until they do, the one that comes first will remain dominate; however, with time, the other will grow stronger and join with its partner. In time, this wine will have a rich and luxurious complexity that will be a delight (just as I suspect from the Vintage Tannat).

Visual Tasting

This wine, right now, is an early summer, one that has already seen the force of the sun and the heat. The ground is dry, the loose grains rustling in a heat driven breeze. A few inches down is just more loosening dirt, lightening in color. Here it is not soil; it is not unified. However, just a little further, the ground darkens, softens, and knits together in the tightest of weaves. It is hidden and waiting for just the right moment to reach toward the sky.

And along this ground creeps dark green weeds. Clover and similar hearty plants dance along the surface of the loose dirt. The dirt can only be seen in patches, a hint visible through the skeletal lace of the tendrils and vines that reach out from the root. These tangled vines creep and crawl along the dirt, lacing their way along the surface, touching only lightly; the contact is limited. But at that root, those same vines turn into a great vein that suddenly dives deep and reaches for what hides beneath. It desires the comfort and strength of the soil; it reaches out to join with it. The two are almost one here, invisible to the sun's gaze. They hide and wait until the rains come, until the sun dims, and a new season allows them to fully be what they are meant to be.

Like the weeds that struggle through the harshest Texas summers, the wine waits until the right moment is upon it. At that time, the flavors will come together into something all its own. The weeds will wait, keeping their light dominance over the dust and soil (just as the fruit stays on top). When Fall rains arrive to soak the surface, the vein and soil below will reach up, gathering the tendrils to them, and a blanket will spread and fill the land, a carpet of green and lush scents only possible when the earth and plants are one. If we can just wait, the dust in the wine will clear, grow into a lush earthiness that will mingle and weave into the fruit to make a wine that will be one that all will agree on, unlike the two topics the name evokes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

WW: William Chris Wines' Enchante

William Chris Wines is one of the friendliest wineries along the Texas 290 wine trail. The staff is quick to welcome every visitor and work to make the newcomer feel like a part of the William Chris family. And once someone joins Hye Society, the wine club, a new family member is inducted. This spirit of friendship is expressed well in the winery's signature blend, Enchante. This wine is a wonderful introduction; it is a friendly and relaxed greeting that makes the drinker feel right at home.


This Texas Hill Country red blend is mainly Merlot with a good proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. It is evened out with Cab Franc and Ruby Cabernet. This unfiltered wine spends twelve months in new French and American oak.

The current 2010 blend is a strong red with rich fruit scents on the nose. These ripe, dark berries dominate the palate during tasting. Despite this fruit forward nature, the wine is not sweet; it is a lush dry red. This is made possible by the hint of the Texas terroir, the mineral nature so common in much of the Texas soil, coming out, at first, at the end of the taste.  With continual tasting, the essence of minerals and soil comes through a bit more, starting at the middle of the palate. This flavor sits just underneath the fruit and intermingles with the fruit as one continues to sample the wine. At this point, a deeper complexity starts to take shape as the two flavors intertwine and mingle to make a wine that is not so easy to pinpoint. The aftertaste becomes increasingly harmonized between the two, making a pronounced last flavor. This flavor then melts away inviting the drinker to take another sip.

Visual Tasting

My first thought leaned towards the serene and a concept of two seemingly different parts going together. This made me think of a smooth, fluid brook that is taking its time as it makes its way through a wooded area.

The brook is at a state of ease while also moving. It flows naturally, unhindered, as it makes its way on its own time. There are no obstructions, no rocks or debris, littering and disrupting its path. This stream is idyllic, much like the taste of berries that predominates the wine.

The banks are the most interesting part. The stream has no defined edges. Instead, it melds with the grasses and soil that edge it. In some places the brook laps at the soil, and at others, the grass grows out into the water. The two seem intertwined; they fit together and cannot be taken apart. This is like the tannins and mineral quality of the wine that settles into the fruit but doesn't overpower it.

And of course, this stream is dotted with berry bushes. Blackberries and deep red raspberries pop up now and again. The berries are ripe; some are beginning to ooze and attract the occasional bee. The scent takes flight on the movement of the stream and fills the landscape. This is a place to rest against a tree and take a moment to drink it all in. Enchante asks for the same.

Secondary Tasting: A Real-Life Connection

The large oak behind the tasting rooms at William Chris, June 2012
 After I saw the stream, I thought back to the winery itself. The lands behind the current tasting room (and the new one that is nearly ready and looking great) include a large, beautiful oak and a great growth of natural Texas. This of course links well with my image. But this is not what I think about when I think of William Chris. I think about the people. And then it hit me: this wine is William Chris.

As I mentioned earlier, the winery is one of the friendliest. Every time I arrive, I am quickly welcomed. Someone sights me and calls out a greeting. Before long, I find myself hugged. I love this. I love the friendships I have formed at this winery. This matches the comfort and naturalness of the mingling flavors in this wine.

Bill Blackmon
But, this wine is also the two men at the helm: Bill Blackmon and Chris Brundrett. The two men in charge project very different personalities, but they are ones that blend well together. Chris is the fruit flavor of the wine. He is the obvious face of the winery, much like Enchante's fruit forward nature. I can't leave the premises without a hug from him. He welcomes everyone in his natural down home way. On the other hand, Bill is a quieter. He, like the tannins and minerals, tends to hide behind the larger personality. But also like those flavors, he shows to be a very important figure that is crucial to the overall success.This is evident in his dedication to the vineyards that supply the winery with some of the most incredible grapes.

Chris Brundrett
In the end, Enchante is a wine to sit back and enjoy. It is easy to grab a bottle, find a comfortable shady spot, and let the day pass at the winery in Hye. Even at home, the tension slips away, and I feel transported and comforted by this wine. It is a good friend from a winery that wants to make every visitor a friend. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Quick Look: San Antonio Home and Garden Show

During the last weekend of September, San Antonio hosted the Home and Garden Show at the Alamodome. GoTexan was there to encourage support for Texas owned businesses. Right next to them, five Texas wineries stopped by to share their liquid gold with visitors to the event. I stopped in to check out one of my favorites -- Pedernales Cellars -- and had the chance to taste four new wineries. I took some pictures and learned a bit about three nearby wineries and one a bit farther afield.

FawnCrest Vineyard
Winemaker Patty McNeil came down from her scenic vineyard and winery on Canyon Lake. This winery has limited hours -- Patty still holds down a normal job in addition to making wine and running the winery -- so I was glad they were in attendance. Sean and I tasted their bronze medal Meritage and the gold medal Cabernet Franc. These reds were brilliant with strong fruit and earthy flavors. I was impressed and can't wait for a visit.

Kerrville Hills Winery
Kerrville Hills paired up with ARC Tours to bring a selection of whites and reds. I tried their dry and fruit forward Blanc du Bois and the deep, rich Cabernet Sauvignon; these wines were strong and balanced. I was also encouraged to come out and see their beautiful tasting room.

Vineyard at Gruene
Operations Manager Wendy Wolf was at the show to introduce the crowd to one of the newest area wineries (in Gruene near New Braunfels). They brought two stand out reds, the Guadalupe Valley Red and 1190 Gruene Road. The more traditional 1190 blend was solid and strong; the Guadalupe blend that uses more Texas friendly grapes was interesting and complex. I am eager to seek out this exciting new winery very soon.

Fairheaven Vineyards
This more northern and eastern vineyard came a long way to showcase some of the most interesting options at the show. Winemaker R. L. Winters walked me through his wines and discussed a bit of his research, especially his work on the Black Spanish Grape. This winery showcased a number of US hybrid grapes and wine, such as Blanc du Bois and Chambourcin. The Chambourcin was the most interesting, providing some fascinating variations and wines. This wine had a wonderful strawberry nose that was accentuated in one wine by the addition of strawberry extract (bringing out a natural undertone of strawberry). Winters' love for the wines was infectious, making a vineyard visit a must (when I finally get out of my little area).

Pedernales Cellars
Shannon brought a few Pedernales label wines (the 2010 Tempranillo was soft and rich) and a number of the fun Armadillo's Leap wines. I love the fact that Pedernales has been making a concerted effort to encourage Texas wine drinking in San Antonio. Bringing the accessible Armadillo's Leap and the newer Tempranillo did get many new fans. The best thing for most of us is that these wines can be found a local retailers at good prices; Specs carries them, and in San Antonio, Vinously Speaking has them as well. Unfortunately, these are not available at the winery.

I spent much of my visit just visiting these five spots, and it was well worth it. The increasing appearance of Texas wines in San Antonio is a good sign, one I hope to see more of in the future.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

WW: Duchman 2010 Aglianico

Right now, it seems Duchman Family Winery is the talk to Texas, at least those interested in Hill Country wine. This Italian styled winery boasts an incredible line-up of interesting and unique single varietal wines. These wines, mainly Italian based, are crowd pleasers. In fact, these wines can be found throughout Texas, including fine restaurants and at Whole Foods (often on tap). At the moment, it seems most are focusing on the strong whites, especially the always crisp and refreshing Vermentino and the interesting Trebbiano. The reds are just as exciting. Recently, I opened up a bottle of 2010 Aglianico. These red is not the typical sort of red; its unique flavors and their combination create another facet to the strong line-up at Duchman.

Beneath me, a stone
no moisture, just a hard stone
smooth, slick against me.

I don't move. The stone supports 
me, feels good against my feet.


This wine is strong, especially when it comes to the more dry and natural flavors like oak and earth. These flavors are strong from the onset and soften as the wine progresses. This odd approach makes me think of grit. What I mean by that is the flavors remind me of the dryness and rough nature of grit; the wine is not gritty. When I taste such strong earth and oak, I can only think of dry soil. In a wine, this can make the taste problematic; however, with this wine, it softens as it goes along, accentuating the dryness. This dryness works well with the other flavors.

Towards the middle of the palate and to the end, other flavors weave into the earth and oak that is so pronounced up front. Dark flavors -- like those of very dark, bitter chocolate and dark, minimally sweet fruit (I can envision an aging plum or a raisin) -- mingle with the other flavors. The sweetness so often brought to a wine through the fruit flavors is lessened, allowing the other aspects of the fruit flavors to come forward. The bitter chocolate flavor seems to help with the blending; this makes it hard to clearly distinguish the other flavors from the developing taste. I was amazed by this progression.
At the end, there is only the faintest taste and feel of earth (it's dryness) that lingers. Before long,
even that calms and drifts away.


Visual Tasting

From Balcones Canyonland National Wildlife Refuge (near Marble Falls, TX and Lago Vista, TX)
No matter what I did, I kept envisioning a dry stretch of ground. The ground is dark brown, but it is dry and brittle. Interspersed in this spot are clumps of caliche; however, they are not white, exactly, but are blending into the dirt to keep a more even color. What is most notable is the clumping; the dirt gathers in large, strong clumps and pack together. And hidden in this are small, dirty rocks. These rocks are barely noticeable, but they are there if you look closely. All of this is the dryness I get from the wine, but there is a unity in the flavors -- the caliche -- and hidden gems -- the rocks -- that combine to make a strong collection.

Sunset on South Padre Island
What came to me as the night wore on, though, was the idea that this wine was like the last rays of sun at dusk. In these moments, the sky is mostly this darkening purple and navy, blending seamlessly as it turns to black. The strong, upfront sensations of the wine resemble this primary essence. But, at this point, there are those dying embers of orange and red that streak through those few clouds resting on the western horizon. These colors are that last stand of the day, but they are also not as apparent as everything else; this is the other flavors in the wine. And like the other flavors, despite their difference in color, they do blend and combine with the other colors, softening a bit to pink that turns purple and enfolds into the navy. As I drink the wine, I sense that blending of the less noticed into the dominate.

Physical sensation

What I found most interesting in this wine was the dryness. We all talk about wines being dry, but it doesn't often seem to really come through. I rarely find myself noticing that my mouth feels dry, in a sense. I had that with this wine, which I found intriguing. For me, that dryness was pleasant, like running along a bunch of smooth rocks. The rocks are most definitely dry under my feet. They are also dominating the sensations I get as I run along them. However, there is something more to the dryness. The feel is smooth. This is not rough with rock edges poking into my feet; this is smoothness that slides gently underneath my foot. The dryness in the wine creates a smooth movement like running along smooth rocks.

The Duchman Aglianico (which is just so hard to pronounce sometimes) was a puzzler, but that is the reason that it is a Wine Wednesday wine. There is something oddly pleasant about a wine that challenges one's taste buds and mind. As I spent time swishing the dark red liquid, I pondered over it. I spent sip after sip probing and exploring this unique experience. In the end,  I was left feeling all smoothed out, relaxed and comfortable. This is a great wine to spend time with, and I know it will be a great pairing wine.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On Things to Come

This Saturday, I was lucky enough to get a bit of insight on what it is coming down the track. At Bending Branch, I was given a full tour, and at Pedernales Cellars, I was given a glimpse.

Bending Branch

As I already mentioned in a quiet little post on Saturday, Bending Branch has a lot of great wine just about to see release. These 2010s will be great pleasers.

The Favorites

Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo will be available quite soon. These two wines, that weren't available to sample just yet, will make their first appearances at the Pearl Farmers Market in San Antonio. Jen heads out every other week to the great spot at the historic Pearl Brewery to sample Texas appellation Bending Branch wines. Right now, they have the Rose (only available at the market) and the new Texas Tannat. And soon, two more will join the assembly (probably just in time for the Rose to disappear).

Some of those barrels say Tempranillo (July 2012).

As for these two, I can conjecture that the Tempranillo is made from grapes grown by respected high plains growers  -- my barrel room visit in July suggests that. With that in mind, there is every indication that we have some great wine coming up. Also, the Cab will likely make its debut at San Antonio Cellar Classic events on Friday, Oct. 12 and Saturday, Oct. 13. That I am very much looking forward to. In fact, Bending Branch will be a featured Texas winery: great news!

Special Tannats

Vintage Texas Tannat
 First, the Texas Tannat will see two versions this year. The second run of this great wine is coming into its own right now, developing great body and balance; the fruit and oak are beginning to harmonize well. But, that is only the beginning. A Vintage Texas Tannat is on its way. This wine still needs some time in the bottle -- the oak dominates the palate -- but it shows a dark fruit flavor that will be robust and hearty, a good match for the American oak that it was aged in.

From left: Vintage Texas Tannat, Tannat Port (labels are coming), and Chloe Cuvee

The wine that has made a select appearance is the new Tannat port (it was served at the Wine and Tennis Charity dinner). This port is a home run for drinkers like me, and even port lovers like Sean. I get bogged down by the sweetness of so many ports. This port has that, but there is an even tone as the other flavors come through. The fruit has an almost earthy quality -- fresh and dried under the sun -- that takes the sweet edge off. And the sugar that comes through is a rich, deep flavor, one that I would associate with dark desserts like gingerbread or Mexican chocolate. It finishes in a way that makes Sean very happy; there is a deep caramel and pecan hint that lingers at the finish. Sean informed me that good ports should end more like this, a richer sweetness. For me, this richer sweetness made the port more approachable.


At the Pedernales wine club party, winemaker David Kuhlken again treated members to a barrel tasting. This time, we tasted an estate Tempranillo. This wine was still in need of aging (I was told at least six more months), but already, the signature earth and bite of Pedernales' Tempranillo are shining through (like the Bending Branch Tannat, it was still heavy on the oak). David explained that this wine will likely find its way into the reserve blends. These blends are a culmination of what is best about Pedernales wines, and so they are made from some of the best materials. The newer blends will have a strong connection to the earth with the addition of this wine. But what I found interesting was that it had a stronger fruit character than some of their previous Tempranillo's -- something that is evident in the wine club Hill Country Tempranillo released last week. This will likely accentuate the other red grapes likely to find their way into the blends.

Ah, Fall is here and the reds are coming out in force. I am a happy camper. I am more thrilled about what I will be able to take delight in as the year keeps going (or maybe early next year). Honestly, I really excited.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Quick Visit to Bending Branch

Sean and I decided to stop in at Bending Branch to see how the Wine & Tennis charity event went. We got more than we bargained for.

First, the charity news: the amateur players brought in $25,000 and the sold out dinner added another $10,000. We left before the auction, but that looked promising. So, Bending Branch will add quite a bit to the coffers of the Boys & Girls Club of Comfort. Congrats!

We also learned about new and upcoming releases. The Texas Tannat is a second release and is coming along well in the bottle. A Vintage Texas Tannat is on its way -- more to come later. A Tannat port made its debut last night at the dinner and is just so smooth and drinkable, even on a day like today. I tasted these two today, and I  just had to sit and savor each.

On the way are a Texas Temparnillo and Cabernet Sauvignon that will find their place among the selection at San Antonio's Pearl Farmer's Market. The cab may see a special release at the San Antonio Cellar Classic in October.

So many goodies today. More details will come.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An Ode to TX Wine Club Members

An Ode to Wine Club Members

They deliver in rain,
sleet, snow; an intrepid bunch
that braves the elements

to gather,

to sip and savor
each sample poured
and each nibble provided.

They gather
to listen to each melody
harmonize with the beat
of the rain.

This group comes together
to share a word
and a gesture, their common bond
in a fraternity like no other.

For every winery,  there are
who put aside the world
to share their love.

It has been busy. This week saw the start of my gauntlet of fall wine club events, one that will last into October but mainly covers three key weekends in September. Sean and I will make the trek to Fredericksburg at least four times to fetch our most recent shipments. On the way, we will enjoy the great hopsitality of each winery, as well as the wine, some food, great music, and great company.

The Ode encapsulates weekend one. We put off our first foray until Sunday. We awoke to clouds and rain. The weather forecast said it would lighten by noon and would move off shortly after. We dawdled that morning, not heading out till after eleven, all in hopes that the rain would slow during the trip. The rain was our constant companion all day. Despite that, we, and many others, came to celebrate each of the wineries.

When we arrived at Becker for our first gathering -- they do a regular small scale party with cheese and crackers, live music, and private tastings -- we found a growing number in the "party room." The tasting tables were lined, not several people deep as it is sometimes, and the tables were full with guests. The room bustled with life as the rain poured down around us. The crowd still came, despite the weather. This contrasted greatly with the normal tasting room. On the weekends the Becker tasting room is packed. There are groups huddled around every spot tasting is occuring. Well, on this dreary Sunday, spots and wine stewards were plentiful, a testament to the wine club members that visited despite the weather (and despite the fact that this was the second day).

We moved down the road to the always vibrant William Chris. The Sunday Hye Society release parties bring out the members in droves; they seem to grow every season. Today was no different, despite the mud and the rain. When we arrived, we were told that they didn't have parking space. We were directed to park near the feed store and a bus would drive us back over. The bus was just about to depart when we arrived, and Mary Beth kindly shuttled the slightly soggy group back to the winery. And once there, it was evident it was crowded.

Generally, the folks at William Chris tried to make it possible for the guests to stay dry (plenty of tents, additional seating in with the tanks and barrels, etc.). To do that, these dedicated people were often the casualities of the weather: Carol spent most of her time running about taking care of everyone and getting wet, and Bill, as he lead us through our tasting, stood just on the edges of the rain (looking a bit drippy himself). This level of service -- Chris later described the winery as feeling like a large family that was always happy to have their guests -- proves why their wine club keeps growing and their members will come even in horrid weather. The tank and barrel tasting of the new Merlot and the Blanc du Bois/Vermentino (which was amazing) also helped.

The good cheer of the event was never drowned or washed away by the rain. Many members sat out under the trees in the rain, and others were willing to spend some time getting a bit wet as they waited in the continually long line for Chef Jesse Lemos' delectable barbeque. Of course, the dogs and the kids in attendance played in the rain, the perfect symbol for the day.

Now, I don't have pictures; I opted for keeping the camera at home and storing my phone (to keep it dry and not have issues in the crowds), but I do have memories. Sometimes I think, I want to join that wine club or that one. Of course, I do really want to join more (I have a list), but I just can't afford it. With that in mind, I ask myself, which one should I drop (for now? for good?) so I can accommodate another. I always end up not being able to decide. I enjoy all that these wineries offer to us -- besides the wine -- and would hate to give it up. I, and many, take pride in our memberships and do whatever it takes to be active within the club. So, I find  myself waiting till a bit more extra income shows up, and I pledge it some place else.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wine Wednesday: Dripping with Taste 2012

This past Saturday, Sean and I joined wine lovers from across Central Texas (and all of Texas for that matter) to enjoy 22 area wineries, as well as 5 microbreweries, cider, and sake at Dripping with Taste in Dripping Springs. To whet our palate, there was some great food -- even gluten free for Sean. It was a delight for the taste buds and an overall good time (especially all the great company).

Red, gold, translucent 
drops fill my glass, delight me
with each unique taste.

A few notes:

  1. I didn't really have much in the way of pictures. Sean and I got so caught up in things and in places that taking pictures wouldn't have been easy that we didn't take many pictures. 
  2. I am combining this this Wine Wednesday. I want to do a quick tasting for the cider and sake (and yes, sake is rice WINE).  I am also doing this for Wine Wednesday because I have been busy grading -- just graded 100 papers with 50 more coming on Thursday. 

The Festival

Upon arrival we faced the one troubling issue at this wonderful event: size. I love the Texas Hill Country Olive Oil Company, but it was too small. Getting in was a terrible hassle -- it took over 30 minutes. They couldn't manage the lines with the space they had. This same problem presented itself in the main tasting room. There was so much in there and so many people that it was hard to navigate.

The worst part in the tasting room was the lack of space. I felt as if I needed to keep moving to be kind to others (and many seemed to have the same idea). Because of that I couldn't take time to taste; it also made speaking with the wineries and others difficult (though, somehow, Jeff Cope at Texas Wine Lover found a space where we got a chance to catch up with him). It also posed another problem for the those serving the wine; Sabrina Houser at Dry Comal Creek had to get a second door open to aid in the air flow (it was just too hot in the crowded space).

Tastings: Cider, Sake, and Wine

Outside, a cool breeze and cooler Texas temperatures greeted us. And outside we had the most intersting expereince: Texas cider and sake. First, we had the cider.


Sean is celiac so beer is out; he has turned to wine and cider to replace it. We drink Crispin and Wood Chuck most often, but were very pleased that Texas made a cider. What was better was that it didn't taste like the other two -- offering another flavor. Argus Cidery brought with them a mild and subtle drink; I think this was due to the sparkling wine base. I found it light and pleasing on the palate. It was refreshing after the hot tasting room, but it was also subtle and soothing on my palate (especially after all the reds I had drank and the wonderful sweet Gotas de Oro (from Dotson-Cervantes).

I would relate it to the cool front that had just come through. This wine is like a late summer, early fall cool front (much like the one that made Saturday a delight). Though the weather isn't greatly changed by the front, it is a release. One can notice the difference, as much due to the deviation from the extreme as from the change. These fronts are always appreciated, but they do not wash the best parts of summer away, as the sun still kept things warm. The cider has the same subtle affect that smoothed out the weather. The cider was a cler blue sky -- much like the one overhead on Saturday. It spread out smooth and clear before us.


We moved on to the sake. We have a LONG history of sake. Anyone following the blog has noticed my preference for Japanese poetic forms. In graduate school, I studied the various forms of Japanese poetry, as well as poetic themes and language, religion, culture, etc. In the end, Sean and I dug so deep in Japanese culture that we found ourselves looking for more (as I write this, Sean is writing a blog post on Lupin the Third while watching the first series, especially the Miyazaki -- that Miyazaki -- episodes). One thing we looked into was sake. Honestly, I had problems drinking it, cold or warm. But that wasn't the case on Saturday. Both sakes brought by Texas Sake Company were more to my taste. In fact, they were more like a good dry white wine -- my favorite kind. This Texas approach warmed me to sake.

They brought two with them Saturday, the clear Whooping Crane (what most people see as sake) and Rising Star (a cloudy sake done in the Nigori style). The one I most got a chacne to drink was the Whooping Crane. First I was glad it was called Whooping Crane -- I have actually seen, from a distance, Whooping Cranes at San Antonio Bay in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. This refined sake at first seemed like the first hints of many of the sakes I have tried in the past. There was that earthiness of the rice -- an earthiness that tastes comfortable dry and solid. However, instead of turning sweet, it mellowed into the earthiness found in most dry Texas whites. I knew I could drink this sake.

As for my review, this sake is like a field of tall, light grass. The grass is fine and thin, only noticeable because of the quantity. It is light in color, primarily green but seems to be made solid by a light brown -- as if the grass was so fine that what sun touched it started to cook it. And of course, this field is swaying as a gentle breeze ruffles the grass in ripples. This fine and light sense spreads out in the land, much like the earthiness and dryness of the sake smoothes out over the palate.


As for the wine, well, I won't give that away. But the people and I do agree. Three participants -- Pedernales Cellars, Spicewood Vineyards, and Dotson-Cervantes -- took the prize. I am long time Pedernales fan -- as the blog can attest to -- and I enjoy Gotas de Oro. As for Spicewood, I was relaly impressed with what they brought with them (on my first and only visit I didn't think too much of them, but it looks like things have changed). Though the awards don't show, there was another favorite, Becker's Claret (Sean's absolute favorite wine). When we nabbed a bottle to enjoy around 3, there were only 2 bottles left. My favorite for the day was Duchman (where we made a quick stop before heading home). I was also glad to try Wedding Oak; their Tempranillo was smooth and strong.


And then there was the food. For me, I indulged in the sweets (thanks to better bites bakery for the GF treats!). I knew what I was getting into with Ms. Choclatier (a San Antonio favorite from the Pearl Farmer's Market). I hadn't tried the truffles yet, and so took the chance to really enjoy the truly (but not overpowering) Amaretto truffle. We also visited my Comfort favorite place, High Street Chocolate. I finally tried the Aztec and was wowed. I am a big fan of their 80% dark (found only at Bending Branch), and that is saying something because, normally, I don't go much above 70; the hint of vanilla they add balances the bitter in the chocolate. With the Aztec, the complex flavors found in Mexican chocolate are more rounded and even, a subtle flavor rather than an overpowering one (making it a good pairing chocolate). And as good as the chocolate was so was the chocolate lesson. I leared that most chocolate makers (for the base chcolate) use more cocoa butter than cacao; this can make the chocolate a bit bland. At High Street, they reverse the numbers, putting cacao first. Well, the choice in ingredients and quality says it all.
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Sean, my glass, and Becker Claret hanging out.

Sean and I made sure to make the most of our time. We just spent time outside sipping wine, eating delictable chocolates, and listening to good music. We also made sure to catch up with those we know -- it was so awesome to see Russ Kane (Vintage Texas) and Jeff Cope. We met some other great winery folks -- Matt at Duchman, Sabrina Houser at Dry Comal Creek, and Gary Gilstrap from Texas Hills. We also met wonderful people who, like us, just were out for a good time. How could this not be a good day. I am so glad they are looking for a larger location for next year (Sept. 21, 2013 by the way). With a little tweaking, this will be an annual favorite on my festival list.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Grape Stomp Day Two: Chisholm Trail and Becker

Sean and I ventured out on the first of September to hunt down the last remaining grape stomps in the area. The road was clear: trekking out to Chisholm Trail and back to where everything started for us, Becker.

Chisholm Trail Winery

We started at Chisholm Trail, west of Fredericksburg. To be fair, we haven't been there in ages. On top of that, it usually hasn't been busy, or even sunny for that matter. Today was a change, as the sun was brilliant and the tasting room was hopping. And the sunshine followed us in; our greeting was friendly and welcoming. We quickly got an idea of how things were working -- $5 for a bandana to stomp and $7 to $9 for a tasting (9 is with logo glass). We got one bandana and proceeded out to the stomp.

When we found our way to the stomping, a few others were already ankle deep. We drew in to get a look at the set-up. As we did, we were rudely whistled at to alert us to what was obvious -- someone was already stomping. I am not sure who whistled, the younger man that works for Chisholm or the guest he was lounging with, but I was rather disappointed by the lack of help. For the time, we blew it off and waited. Once the pair stomping were done, we expected a bit of guidance or help. There was nothing. We were left to navigate it ourselves. This was awkward and uncomfortable, so we quickly finished and went back inside. We altered the folks inside to the dilemma -- we actually thought that no one outside worked for the winery as we were generally ignored. We were informed that one of the people did, and I made it cleared that we were never greeted or helped. Unfortunately, there was no follow-up. I can say, though, that it was better for other. When we left, we walked by the stomp, and things were more active. I also didn't see the guy from earlier, but it did seem like the group of stompers was getting help.

Stomping mainly store bought grapes @ Chisholm Trail

Inside, our friendly stewardess guided us through our tasting. She told us what she liked and her thoughts of the wine, and she engaged us, asking for ours. The tasting setting at the bar was pleasant enough, but I did remember why I don't come often. I'm a dry wine drinker, and the dry wines at Chisholm accentuate flavors and sensations I am nor particularly fond off -- there were tangy and tart or overly herbaceous. The better flavors appeared in the more Texas driven wines (some of the grapes were not Texas grown, but I couldn't find out which). The Lone Wolf -- a Black Spanish based wine -- and the Belle Star -- made from Blanc du Bois -- are both solid, clean wines. These were my favorites. I'll admit, I avoided the sweets, but they may be worth a second look. Sean had the port, which was a nicely balanced sweetness and depth. This may be a sign that the sweet wines, which are not my favorite -- may be a strength here. To each his own.

Becker  Vineyards

After our less than great experience, we headed off to Becker. The stomp was buzzing, and they just couldn't keep enough people around to deal with the crowd. We did get some direction, but were left to much of it on our own; I guess we seemed experienced (and we are as this was our third Becker stomp). We got help getting our shirt up to dry, which was very helpful with all the shirts blowing in the wind. Sean did have a bad experience after (it ended up an unusually troubled day). As we tried to clean up, people kept dashing in and stealing the hose before we could get a chance. This happened twice. Once we spoke up though, those that did it apologized and were kind enough to let us our turn.

Stomping in a half barrel at Becker Vineyards

Inside, we decide to do yet another Becker tasting. Due to the state of things -- it was really busy -- they had set-up two additional bars in the tank room. We found a friendly and familiar face in Chris who tends to do our tastings at wine club events. We caught up with her and shared some great stories -- she missed out on the roses at Rambling Rose, so we filled her in. I also got to meet Katie Jane. She oversees much of the social media and similar media and promotion. It was nice to finally meet her, but it was also gratifying when she asked me if I was the same person that did the write-ups on Bending Branch (I couldn't help but  beam when she asked). The tasting was leisurely and comfortable, just what we wanted. After a rough start, our end was just what we were hoping for.

The end result at Becker: Sean's (foot & sandal pictured) and my feet

We would have delayed and visited more, but we had plans. Vinously Speaking was doing a wonderful cheese and wine pairing tasting, and we just had to go. So, after our short visit, we rushed backed to San Antonio for a bite to eat and more wine with new and old friends. We enjoyed some great cheeses from Costco and some great wine from all over the world. It capped our day. Now, we'll just wait till next year, when I hope to see some familiar faces joining us in the cool gunk.