Thursday, May 31, 2012

22. Siesta: A Visit to Fiesta Winery

22. Siesta
Summer's glaring sun:
hindered by the wine's cool breath,
lessened by a hint of sweet fruit.

I will relax here awhile.

Entrance to Fiesta Winery

The end of my first day in the Northern Hill Country took my husband and I to Fiesta Winery. We were told to expect something different. In fact, this region is very happy that the wineries are all a bit special, a bit different from one another. Fiesta, expect to settle in and relax. From the setting to the wines, this is a place to just sit back and take it easy.

When we arrived, we were encouraged to find a table. Only one other table was occupied, a group that had just finished their tasting and was having lunch. We skimmed over a menu of the wines, trying to decide which ones to taste. We were also supplied a score sheet of sorts. On the sheets, we listed our choices (to help the person serving us) and later used them for comments.  I have to admit, I like when wineries give guests something with the wine names and places for comments; it helps to make informed purchasing decisions. We meandered through the wine list and chose an eclectic lot – as the wines here are not the normal fair). From them on, we strolled through the wines, drinking at our own pace. And of course, seated at a table provided a chance to privately share our thoughts and easily take notes.
Inside Fiesta Winery

All that being said, I have noticed a drawback to this sort of set-up. At first glance, the seated and served tasting seems relaxed and nice, but after the visit here, and later at Woodrose Winery the next week, I am beginning to wonder. I always look for a memorable wine experience; I hope to get involved with the wine or the winery – a good example is our chat with Jim Johnson just before our visit to Fiesta (see A Northern Hill Country Landscape -- Visiting Alamosa). I want to take a way something special. This special experience  can be hard in more service-like setting. The person serving the wine has to work harder. It is easy to strike up a conversation and socialize at a bar; there is a natural sense of camaraderie while both parties saddle up at the bar, gaining crucial eye-to-eye contact. At a table, this can be achieved only one of two ways: either sitting down at the table with the guests or just hanging around the table (like many top wait-staff do). Unfortunately, most times I visit wineries like this, no matter how well meaning the folks are, something seems to draw their attention way and keep them from crossing the barrier created by the table. At Fiesta, I realize it was a lazy Saturday afternoon without much going on, and I also realize that Sally was probably busy increasing the presence of Fiesta online, but it wasn’t the homey, welcoming experience I expected (an expectation created by visiting their website).

So, with the tasting underway, the focus quickly turned to the wine. The wines here are almost entirely blends (which can be a VERY good thing), and not the traditional sort. Most of the wines are blended with fruit. This is interesting when it works. The Rhinestone Cowgirl is one of these. This blend of Pinot Gris and Malbec (that single word always piques my interest) is blended with cranberry and prickly pear. The resulting blush is a gentle, sweet fair that is more like a pleasant fruit drink or cocktail. The drawback here is that it isn’t much like wine.

The vineyard just outside the tasting room
That isn’t to say that there aren’t good wines. Fiesta has followed the new Texas tradition and has a solid Tempranillo. This one feels very Spanish, spicy and earthy, the taste of tobacco and leather is powerful; the spice though adds a depth that doesn’t weigh down the drinker. We were told this was the winemaker’s favorite, which is no surprise. This Tempranillo didn’t taste like the Fall Creek one we had the night before (that one was subtle and smooth) or like the Tempranillo blends at Alamosa. Instead, it was robust and swarthy. I could almost imagine a Spaniard, straight from the vineyard, sweat beading on his sun-darkened, resting under a large tree sipping at this wine.

In the end, we lazily moved through our selections, both happy to end with the robust Tempranillo. Inside the cozy ranch-house like tasting room, we watched the sun blaze down on the grounds around us. This little stop is a nice place for escaping the summer heat, from the seating to the wines.

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