Thursday, March 29, 2012

4. Vineyard Residents

4. Vineyard Residents
Spring showers’ weeds swell,
screeches drift through swaying stalks,
Guinea Fowl bug hunting.

This past weekend I was lucky enough to visit the newest winery on Highway 290 between Fredericksburg and Johnson City, Hilmy Wine. I have been waiting for them to open and was rewarded for my patience. This newest installment along the busiest wine road in Texas is a good addition to the neighborhood.

The first quality to look at, when judging a winery’s potential, is the wine. Hilmy’s wines are engaging and tasty. Most often, when I visit new wineries, their wines seem to be weak. This is natural, as the winemaker is still experimenting with the grapes to craft a quality product. The best wineries show potential from the start – like William+Chris – and some take awhile. Hilmy is already past potential and is on track. And as I found out,thanks to the folks at William+Chris and PedernalesCellars (two of my favorite wineries). So what do they have going for them? Muscat Canelli. This white can easily go wrong. Sometimes it doesn’t have the required “bubbly feel” fond in Muscats. Some are way too sweet and are hard to drink. Others are too dry and lose the sweet quality. Hilmy’s Muscat is not plagues by these issues. The sparkle is there, the sweetness is present, and it has a nice balancing dryness. In fact, for a red drinker like me, it is nice. I am easily overpowered by sweet wines; a family member of mine seems to like wines that I find to be almost syrupy sweet. This wine is crisp and refreshing. The dryness that the sweetness seems to rest upon allows the sweetness to be mild. When I drink it I am reminded by lighter fruits, especially dry, cool apples or even cucumbers. I cannot wait till summer, when I feel this wine may be my sipping wine.

Now that isn’t to say the other wines are worth writing about. Their Tempranillo belongs with the other great Texas Temps – Pedernales Cellars is the leader here (and they were even mentioned on the Today Show). It is bold and flavor. It also harkens to Spanish Temps with its spicy, robust flavor. When I was at Hilmy, I shared a glass of the Muscat and Temp with my husband. These two very different wines proved to be a tasty match. In addition, two unreleased wines show promise. The blend that makes up Persephone stands to be quite a treat; I’ll just have to go back and see.

As the poem suggests, the environment was wonderful. As we sat in the shade on Hilmy’s back porch, we looked out past a field of weeds –right now they are generally inescapable due to the mild, wet winter and regular spring rains we’ve had – into the vineyard. So few wineries have the vineyard so close and a direct part of the view – Grape Creek is one that comes to mind. At the far end of the vineyard, we saw an  interesting group of whitish specks milling about. I later found out that these were goats; they are used to keep the weeds around the vineyard under control. That is my type of herbicide. In fact, that is a part of their greater philosophy; they use animals to decrease the use of harsh methods. The Guinea Fowl of the poem are the pesticide; they roam the grounds munching on bugs. On my visit, they kept wandering past the porch, so we got a great look at them. And their crazy calls called over the music and spurred conversation.The winery also keeps two dogs for deer control and a cat to curb rodent infestation. Honestly, I am a huge animal lover, so this won me over. It also gave me something to watch and enjoy while sipping wine.
I’ll end on the tasting room itself. The tasting rooms in Texas strive for their own personality – at least the best ones do. Hilmy is striving for a relaxed sophistication. Their large wooden door swings out in an odd way; something I found a surprising delight. The tasting room has a comfy area – nice couches and chairs for relaxing. The tasting bar feels like it belongs in a nice restaurant, especially one with a homier feel. The entirety is decorated with diverse, bright, bold artwork that matches well with the wine. But the best part of the tasting room was the staff. They were all very friendly and knowledgeable. Before I left, I had the chance to chat with all of them, sharing stories and experiences. This is definitely a place you can spend a day in – as their site suggests.

One of my goals this year is to go to new (at least to me)wineries. Hilmy gave me a completely new winery. I am eager to see where they go, as well as eager to go back and see the dogs and the cat and try the unreleased wines.

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