Wednesday, May 30, 2012

21. At Attention: Visting Fall Creek

21. At Attention: Visiting Fall Creek
Each branch, a sword,
each leaf a tasseled honor:
these trees stand ready.  

I dared not touch any grapes
for fear the trees would take me.

Drive up the tree lined path

Fall Creek was the first winery on my Northern Hill Countrylist. I have seen them around for years, as they often dominate the shelves whereTexas wines are sold. I also got my first real taste of the vineyard at theTexas Hill Country Wine and Music Festival. The wines hinted at solidwine making, so I was curious. I had high hopes for the first stop on myNorthern Hill Country tour.

View at Lake Buchanan Dam
First, I was in store for a trip I did not expect. Going to Fall Creek (from the South) is a journey, one that provides a lot to view. We drove up along Lake Buchanan, which provided a majestic view for most of the trip. However, it was only its former glory; at closer inspection, the lake is obviously the victim of the drought. At Lake Buchanan Dam, this is most apparent. We walked out where once the lake stood, shuffling through rocks,shells, and sandy grasses. Despite the low water levels, the lake was just off to the right most of the time.

 Also, as we drove, we realized that even late May has its share of wildflowers, at least up here. The road was lined with blankets of yellow; dispersed in the yellow was a bold red and clusters of startling purple. This wonder of fauna led us straight to a tree lined path. This spectacular sight greeted us and shaded us all the way up the winery. The canopy of large trees felt more like driving up an English country lane rather than a path to a Texas winery. The vineyards, flanking the trees, did match though. At the end of the path, the visitor is aware of arrival: one of the winery buildings is centered perfectly at the head of this trail, welcoming the guest in.

Fall Creek grapes as of May 20
On our arrival, we wandered around outside a bit. Right now,the grapes are starting to grow, small, green, and tightly clustered; we saw bunches hanging from the leafy vines. Honestly, it was nice to get up that close. From most of my experience, the vineyards are off a bit, a sight to view from a distance. Here began a trend I saw through most of this region, the vineyards are right there – the parking lot is sandwiched between the tasting room and the vineyard. This closeness was a nice touch and allowed me to see just how far along the 2012 crop was.

Looking on to the patio area
As for the winery, it is a welcoming place, open and yet not empty. The outside patio is a great touch, harkening to patios in great Spanish and Italian homes. Despite the strengthening sun, shade fills the space in a most pleasing way. But of course, the tasting room stands out. The tasting room is a shrine to Fall Creek’s success. Their many ribbons are out for viewing, as well as awards hidden on shelves and accolades lining the walls. This is a place that has been working hard with wine, and they have earned their praise;it is no wonder they want to show it off.

And that leads right to the wine. This wine here is solid;every taste is catered to in some fashion, and everyone should be able to find a wine that really pleases. The best part is the price. This winery has been around for a while (late seventies), and so they have had time to build up;this allows them to have wines within every price range – they start at around6 and head into the 30s. We spanned the gap, making sure to take home their 2009Tempranillo; it wasn’t available for tasting, but we had some the night before where we were staying and really enjoyed it. We also took home a new wine, a Muscat with a hint of Chardonnay. The blend softens the Muscat sugars and makes a smoother sweet wine.

The wine was a stronger pleaser – the whites provide crisp refreshment and the reds are smooth and deep. However, I guess I caught the folks at Fall Creek off guard. We arrived at opening on a Saturday and were the only people there (not something I am at all used to, as Saturdays get going early along 290). Most of the staff seemed preoccupied with various chores, and so we were left to one of three people there. Our steward for the tasting was a friendly and affable sort but was limited on his knowledge of wine (and even to some extent, Fall Creek); I am a red drinker, and he admitted he really didn’t know much about the reds. In the end, there was little to talk about, something I ama bit disappointed by. Unfortunately, this was similar to the experience I had at the festival. The Fall Creek representatives were approachable and polite, but they didn’t see eager to chat. I hope this is not a common occurrence, as Iwould love to really enjoy a winery like this – it has history (to see, checkout Spectaculars Wineries of Texas and The Wineslinger Chronicles), it is beautiful (and I didn’t even get to see the fabled Fall Creek falls), and the wine is good. If anyone has other experiences, I would love to hear about them and who I need to contact.

I left Fall Creek a bit torn. When I drove up, I felt like I was entering a magical place where wine came to life, a place that was a swath of heaven in a drought ridden landscape. The wines were as good as I was promised. I knew these were wines I would pour for friends that were just starting to get into Texas wine (the wines are pleasing, welcoming, and inexpensive). I happily bought one of the most expensive wines available. However,I didn’t feel as welcomed as I do at so many other Texas wineries. At so many,visitors, new and old, are greeted as if they were always friends. If it isn’t too busy, there is always time for a history lesson or an exploration of what wine is to this winery. I just didn’t get that, and I was a bit disappointed. I hope that will change on my next visit.

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