Wednesday, June 27, 2012

28. Hye Society: Learning all about William Chris

Nighttime view at William Chris
28. Hye Society
Through the leaves, the stars
view: talking, drinking, sharing
wine's community.

With each sip, each word, we form
a haven among the vines and oaks.

On Saturday, June 23, I was lucky enough to be invited to a special event at William Chris Vineyards. A number of media folks showed up, including a large group of Texas wine bloggers (including noted writer Russ Kane) and writers. So of course, there are a multitude of blogs already out there (see my blog list and visit those many great blogs). Everyone has been writing about what they took away from the Watermelon Thump and Chef Throwdown -- the new walking tour, the watermelon, the cheese, the wine (especially Current and the upcoming Enchante), and the Iron Chef watermelon battle Texas hill country style. I want to focus on something that stood out most to me: community.

The group gathering in the oak grove.

This winery is a special place. For Bill Blackmon and Chris Brundrett, their slice of Hye heaven is the community they were both looking for. As our group gathered beneath the oak grove -- a site on the soon to be installed walking tour -- the two told us about the history and the meaning behind the winery. The group pulled in close. On this first Saturday of summer, we avoided the heat under the large canopy of trees. A cool breeze slipped by, and with a glass of cold Current in my hand, I settled into a peaceful state. It was easy to let go and just listen to Bill and Chris share a bit of their lives with us.
Bill discussing the new vines
 Bill started with the history of the place. They went looking for a place in late 2009. The duo was already making wine, but they didn't know how to distribute it just yet. The idea of a tasting room, maybe even more vineyard, had occurred to them, and it came to be when stepping on to the Hye property. They arrived to find many of the older buildings -- the tasting room (a semi-historic site that will be on the walking tour, the building housing the offices) and plenty of farmable land. They decided to dig into this new soil and turned the area into a tasting venue.

Bill enlightening us on the winery and Chris cutting watermelons

This venue would embody Chris' idea of community. During a trip to Napa, they decided to skip their reserved table at one of the restaurants they were visiting and instead joined the throng at the community table. This evening gave them an idea about wine; this single item can help create and cement a community. This is a concept I am well aware of; when I take the time to stop and chat at a winery, I get to meet people, get to know people. This very idea drove some of the fashioning of the spot in Hye. And once arriving to the beautiful oak grove behind the tasting room, they sensed the feeling they wanted. They knew this land could house a community.

The tasting room -- as seen from the oak grove out front

Today, that community can be seen everyday at William Chris. Groups gather inside the tasting room, which has been renovated to serve more people more comfortably; sometimes gatherings occur in the barrel rooms and tank rooms (the new metal buildings on the property); and when the weather isn't bad, under the oaks around the tasting room. Even on my first visit, I can say I felt like I belonged. Chris came out and introduced himself as Sean and I sat under one of the many trees. Every time since, I have had that same feeling: a regular visit, a wine tour, and especially during Hye Society (wine club) event. Even on this night, I finally "joined" the community I had hoped to enter: Texas wine bloggers and writers. The event allowed me to meet and get to know many of the bloggers I had heard of and read.

Today, Bill and Chris look to expand that community. Their future endeavors, to some degree, will provide them an opportunity to strengthen the community they have built.
Malbec Vines
  • Earlier this year, Malbec, Petite Verdot, and Tannat were planted on some of the acreage next to the offices (a line that runs from the entrance along the entrance towards the office and the oak grove).  In fact, Bill considers these grapes as blending grapes. He plans on using a majority of these grapes to strengthen some of their other wines.

Tannat Vines
  •  A walking tour of the grounds and an expanding tasting room are underway (the walking tour is closer to completion). The walking tour will help visitors to understand the community and help them become a part of it. The expanded tasting room will accommodate more guests, again bringing more people into the community.
  • And a quietly shared possible new addition -- a cocktail made with Cibola -- will provide something new to entice new visitors. I do have to say though that too much -- in this case, Cibola, club soda, mint, lemon, and ice -- did not make for the best flavor. I had a pared down version earlier that day -- Cibola, club soda, and ice -- that was smooth, light, refreshing, and highlighted this group's star, the Cibola. 
Watermelon Throwdown starters: Sorbet with scallop & shellfish watermelon wrap
  •  Food is also a route for creating a greater community.
    • There are plans for more dinners. This was highlighted with the Chef Throwdown featuring the chefs from Rose Hill Manor, Quality Seafood, Kenichi, and Paggi House. Future dinners on the premise are in the planning (look for Hye on the Hog).
    • There are also more food partnerships in the works. The one we experienced was Brazos Valley Cheese, a great variety of cheeses that come from a community.
Night sky @ William Chris

I am excited about what this winery has planned. I had a lot of fun, finishing my night gazing at the stars glinting through the trees. Jeff Cope -- TX Wine Lover -- asked me if I was okay. I guess my face relaxed and my eyes softened into that state many of us find ourselves in when we are feeling the peace and beauty all around us. I said I was enjoying the stars. In fact, I felt like I was enjoying the simple joy of community.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

27. What a day: A random visit to 4 Wine Road 290 wineries

27. What a day
The light of the summer sun
streaks through each room,
slips into every space,
every spot and every face.

Over a glass a wine, we chat
about the new goings on --
new vines, new ideas, big events --
that linger on the horizon.

We linger over soft, golden gems
sliding cool down the inside
of the glass. We share a bit
of ourselves as we reach
the last few blood red drops of garnet
resting in our glass.

It all slips away,
like the drops of wine in our glass.
On my palate, I still taste the wine
and make memories
of a shiny new day.

Saturday, June 23:

One thing I do, as a wine blogger, is just drop in and visit a winery, I know wineries would like a call so they can show their best face, but I want to see what a visit is really like, no matter who the visitor is. The knowledge gained from these visits lets me share a more realistic experience with others. And of course, I get to find the wineries that are great all of the time.

My random visits on this past Saturday provided just that. I decided to stop in on a few places along the 290 wine trail near Fredericksburg. It seems lots of others had the same idea; in fact, I have rarely seen so many different wine tours about. And despite the busy state, every winery I visited did their best to make sure I had a great experience. The four wineries I dropped in at made for a fantastic day.

William Chris 

I started with a quick stop at William Chris vineyards -- a winery regular readers know I love to visit and write about. They were busy preparing for the evening's festivities (which I will share in a later post). Despite that, I was warmly greeted by a number of the folks there.

This winery is all about community, and I have felt a welcome part since my first visit during their first year of operation. This day's visit and tasting exemplified that. My tasting turned into more of a get-together, a casual time of drinking and chatting. Hints were dropped about the evening event, stories about other wineries were shared (there was a consensus that Perissos is a great winery well worth the drive up 281), a sample of a possible new cocktail (again, I will detail that in the later post), as well as news about the three new wineries that will soon appear between William Chris in Hye and Johnson City. And since I didn't have any specific afternoon plans, I was advised on other spots to stop at.

4.0 Cellars

And of course, I took the advice and drove west to 4.0 Cellars. Even as soon as I arrived, I was given superb service. A staff member noticed that Sean and I couldn't find the outdoor bathrooms, so he was kind enough to direct us -- and this was all as they were setting up for their special event later that night. Once we stepped into the busy tasting room, the personal approach continued. A quick trip to the register got the ball rolling. We decided on a tasting; we had done a tasting here before, but with the variety of wines available (from Brennan Vineyards, Lost Oak, and McPherson), one tasting just isn't enough.

After paying for for the tasting fee ($10 for seven tastes and a souvenir glass) a piece charge, we were escorted to a comfortable spot at the tasting bar. I love this. I love this because it is sometimes difficult to find a spot at some tasting rooms, and with someone to help, there is no worry about getting the tasting (this is also not uncommon at William Chris).

Before our tasting began, we were greeted by Garret, our pourer from our first visit, who came and said hi -- it was nice to be remembered after just one visit. Steve, who helped us this day, lead us through our tastings with a natural easy friendliness that allowed us to enjoy the company and the wine. After coming across the La Herencia blend, I could have stopped drinking; it was so complex and exciting, I not only bought a bottle but joined the Dean's List (the three bottle wine club). And even as I left, the personal treatment didn't stop. This is a place I would recommend people visiting; they have incredible wines and a wonderful ambiance.


After lunch in town, we stopped in at two of our other old favorites. The first was Hilmy. They were very busy planting new vines. In fact, Chris (William Chris) had gone there the night before with some of his staff to help plant. He proudly showed my the evidence of his hard work during our earlier visit. The new vines are exciting and will be a great view at the entrance.

Despite being busy showing around some of Texas's most important growers, the Binghams, winemaker Eric Hilmy stopped by to say hello and make introduction. As I have been learning more about the Texas wine industry, Bingham is one of the names that keeps coming up (Newsom being another one of those VIPs). In fact, everyone at Hilmy found time to say hello (even when coming in for a moment to cool off from the planting).

Hilmy is one of the friendliest places I know. They are always quick to greet visitors, no matter who they are. They go to great lengths to make make every visitor not only feel welcome but a part of the Hilmy family. On our visit, we had an advantage because we know them -- this lead to more personal conversations -- but everyone in the tasting room was made a part of the family as they enjoyed their tasting and their wine.

Before leaving we were given the Hilmy news. First, the new vines were going in; in several years that means more estate wine. Second, they are expanding. An expansion to the tasting room is underway, as well as the same for the parking lot (more space and better surface). Today's traffic made it very apparent these two changes are a necessity, one I am happy to see. I was also told that they want to increase their internet presence; another good thing that is great to see. In the future, more people will get to enjoy this lovely little place too.


With a bit more time to spare, we dropped into Pedernales for a glass of Tempranillo. I entered the busy tasting room with a warm and helpful greeting. As I waited for my wine, I chatted with the folks there, finding out that they had spent much of the day cleaning up spills; I could feel their pain. I also got to talk to Bob. He told me about the next wine club shipment for September, and boy am I excited. We also got a chance to catch the band and enjoyed a little surf music before heading to our final destination.

Even though the visit was short, and focused more on lounging on the patio, we still got a chance to have that personal touch that Pedernales like to have. Here, I always feel like a friend. I always seem to get to share in their simple stories -- the sort that aren't particularly exciting but nonetheless fun. 

This day highlighted everything I love about visiting Texas wineries, and why this specific piece of highway is such a treasure. Everywhere I went, despite how busy everyone was, I received a personal experience. Yes, all the wines were great, but the people and the environment they create was better. It was hard not to be happy, to not get lost in the simple joy of it all. These are the days that form memories and friendships that last a lifetime.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

26. The "Twin" Wineries: Pillar Bluff and Texas Legato

26. The "Twin" Wineries
Pure Hill Country
Grape vines wrap around,
cradle a humble refuge:
effortless, wine flows.

Hill Country Song
Carefully they move,
crisp, light shifts to deep and dark:
a wine symphony. 

A word of warning: This is a long entry. I was compelled to write about the two wineries -- Pillar Bluff and Texas Legato -- together. This was due to the strange and fascinating connections the two share.

The last day of our wine trip in the Northern Hill Country found us visiting two distinct wineries with a common heritage. Pillar Bluff and Texas Legato present a different take on wine, from the wine to the bottle. Despite such differences, the two wineries (around the corner and within sight distance of one another) are owned by twins. This provided a unique and exciting wine experience.

The vineyards at Pillar Bluff
Texas Legato

The Twins' Shop: Drops of God, Vol. 2
I first want to talk about the twin thing. Heather, at Pillar Bluff, made it clear that these were very different men. Gill Bledsoe (at Pillar Bluff) spends as much of his time as possible tending the grapes and making the wine. He lives and breathes the whole thing. Bill Bledsoe (Texas Legato) is equally in love with this endeavor; when we were there he was intimately involved. However, this is his weekend job. During the week, he knows the professional world like most of us (I could easily relate). I think their philosophies -- simplicity and complexity -- derive from this. But for me, the most interesting part of this all is the connection to my current favorite comic, Drops of God. 

The Twins: Drops of God, Vol. 2
 One of the main characters, Miyabi, grew up with a pair of twins, Kenya and Junya Ishikawa. Their father owns a wine store that is to passed down to the both of them. Like Gill and Bill, they approach wine differently. One brother is more sophisticated; his appearance is sharp, crisp, and professional, and he focuses on premium wines. The other brother is a former bosozoku -- a biker gang member -- that still retains a bit of that style, the more denim themed clothes and a bit of a 50s throwback (even a pompadour). He wants to find the best wine at the best price, to make it available and enjoyable for all. Though their appearances didn't match, the idea of twins with different takes on wine piqued my interest.

 We started at Pillar Bluff, owned by Gill, after a supportive recommendation from family friends Steve and Kathy Feinstein (see there music work with Fein Tuned and The Tim and Bob Show). We arrived to a small and cozy tasting room; I was grateful, due to size, that we were the only ones there. Heather, who works the tasting room during summer break, greeted us as we entered and welcomed us to taste and chat. We felt very welcome here and enjoyed the conversation as much as the wine. We were told us about Gill but also Bill. We gained insight into the the history of the winery and Gill's philosophy. Then we found the most interesting news of the day: we all attended the same college and studied the same degree for at the same time. Well, that lead to a lot of reminiscing too.

As for the wines, they are simple. Gill seems to be a bare bones sort of guy. He dedicates himself to every aspect of the wine, from the grapes to the wine. The dedication shines through the wine. The MOST perfect example is their 2009 Double Gold Merlot. This wine is deep and complex, more akin to a Cabernet Sauvignon than a Merlot. The color is deep, and the aroma drifts up and hints at the wines subtle flavor. And that is just how it starts; there is a subtle development of flavors until a penultimate point is reached. Here the wine plateaus, and the flavor is rich with fruit that doesn't have much of a sugary feel. The undertone is earthy, but it doesn't get taken over by the mineral nature of most Texas wines. It ends smooth. When I opened my bottle after a bad day about a week back, it seemed to sink in and relax everyone of my muscles. Another stand out was the Tyler, a Rhone style blend. This wine, named for a family member, was more luxurious and closely resembled its French counterpart.

Outside at Pillar Bluff
Before leaving, we did take a bit of time to explore the grounds. Now, despite the small tasting room, the outside had a beautiful open pavilion in a circular form. This area had both an air of classicism and local flavor. It was classy and comforting. Too bad the sun was high in the sky and starting to bare down on us, otherwise sipping on a glass of wine in this peaceful landscape would have been wonderful.

After leaving, we drove around the corner to Texas Legato. This tasting room was homey, obviously made to be a home away from home for the owners. The inside seemed a bit kitschy or over-the-top at first glance, but the friendly greeting and the rapport of everyone there made it seem natural. Now I have to admit that it felt a bit tight and anxious during our visit, but that was because they were bottling when we arrived. The tasting room had a section that was stacked high with newly bottled wine, as well as the extra seating area over taken by labeling. Many of the folks at Texas Legato were running around between the back -- where they were bottling -- and the front. Despite all the activity, time was made to sit down and welcome us. We were even invited to the back to see the bottling firsthand.
At the tasting bar at Texas Legato

It was made clear that this was an example of a small winery bottling. The process was simple. One person took the bottles, usually two at a time, and placed them on a rod that shot water up into the bottle; this effectively cleaned the bottles. This, on occasion, often resulted in the person getting wet. Then the bottles moved through the makeshift assembly line to be filled. Wine was passed through a large steel container into the bottles. Though it seemed the machine knew what it was doing, Bill, who was operating it at the time, often had to check to make sure that enough was put in. Then the bottles had a cork inserted into them. After that, a covering was placed over the cork. The final step looked like placing the lengthwise portion of a hair dryer over this top. This strangely familiar looking tool sealed the material to the bottle. From there, bottles were boxed for labeling, and unlike at Perissos earlier in the day, they did this by hand. NOTE: if you want to see a larger wineries production in the hill country, I would suggest Duchman in Dripping Springs.

Blurry picture of bottling at Texas Legato

As for the wines, these were a more complex array. Blends and less common varietals (compared to the nearby wineries) were the offering. It seems that Texas Legato likes to provide a more complex wine. This is very easy to see in the more complicated and detailed labels (as compared to Pillar Bluff). The blends, such as the Family Reunion, and the ports were the standouts here. The Family Reunion was a bold complex blend that matches the larger wineries (especially the HWY 290 ones) similar red blends. It was rich and bold. As for the ports, well, they are a delight. I am not a port drinker; I often find them too sweet. My husband loves port; he would fit into the traditional formal meals found in Regency and Victorian England (you can also get a feel for it by watching Downton Abbey). The ports here were drier, mellowing the sweetness. But by doing that, other richer flavors came out. Instead of a strong sugary taste, I tasted other flavors, the berry and more earthy flavors. And with Texas Legato's port sippers, those flavors came bursting through.

After these last two visits, we were quite sated, and it was both easy and hard to make the long drive home. We had found two wonderful little gems. The wineries provided some of the most exciting wine and visiting experiences. We knew we had found the great time we had been looking for, and so felt comfortable heading home. On the other hand, these were wines we want more of; these are wineries we want to visit more. This made it very hard to leave. And of course, we are definitely planning on going back.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

25. The Drought: Sanctuary at Perissos Vineyards (and Inks Lake State Park)

25. The Drought: Sanctuary at Perissos Vineyards (and Inks Lake State Park)
Crafted by sunshine:
grasses and trees pull away
leaving only rocks.

The oasis runs through it:
sparkling lakes feeding grape vines.

Day two of our Northern Hill Country wine trip started at Perissos Vineyards. While we were there, things got busy. When we arrived, there was labeling going on, but not much else (even visitor wise). Before we were half way through our tastings, three more groups had arrived and were enjoying the wine too. And in the small tasting room, with two great big dogs lounging to escape the heat, it all seemed a bit snug. That didn't matter with such good wine to attract our attentions.

The shrinking lake at Lake Buchanan Dam

Inks Lake State Park

One of the rock faces at Inks Lake
Now before I get on to the visit, I want to talk a bit about an unplanned side trip we had just before reaching the winery. We had gotten a relatively early start and found ourselves with a few hours to kill. Our first stop was Lake Buchanan dam -- as we were coming from Burnet on 29. This didn't provide too much for us -- except for the quartz I scavenged for some future front yard landscaping. It did make things clear that water is an issue up here: the lake bed was there for all to see. What provided a great experience, though, was Perissos' neighbor, Inks Lake State Park. This treasure, just a few short minutes north on 4, was a natural wonder. The rock outcroppings we hiked -- some of the oldest rocks in Texas -- were magnificent. Their colors were a bold swash among the trees, red and orange streaked with black and a hazy, opalescent quartz. The formations were fascinating in their diversity, some jutted out from the landscape and other smoothed down an incline.

Rock outcropping with running water below
We decided to "climb" along these places to put the entire region into perspective. This is a harsh world that must be tended to carefully; in some areas the bare rock faces were radiating the glare of the late morning sun. But of course, the area was not all rock; the lake and its waters run through this scene. So just as I began to notice a trail of sweat forming and feel the sun beat down upon me, I caught a cool breeze right off of the water. The trees that hug the lake offered a respite from the sun drenched rock landscape. And the water itself provided a refreshment to ease my mind. This is an excellent example of the environment the grape growers struggle and relish here. My short hike to the Devil's Waterhole and through the vicinity put me in the best frame of mind for tasting wine. Next time, I am hoping to stay longer, and I would encourage others visit here too.

Tree lined lake front at Inks Lake

A row of my favorite, Makbec @ Perissos
From there, we drove the short trip down the road to the winery, missing it at first because we didn't realize it was so close. We still arrived early, so we wandered through the grapes. It was nice to spend time walking along the grapes. My favorite part was that they were clearly marked. Not only could I get up close to the vineyard, but I could learn which grapes were which. I wish I was visiting now, watching the darker grapes change color and take their full shape, but even seeing how they bunch and the vine grows was new knowledge I happily took in.

When we got to the door, we were ushered in by Baron. He trodded along with us, happy for our attention and the cool stone floor of the tasting room. As I mentioned early, labeling was the task for the day, and one of the vineyard's whites was getting tagged. But our attention was quickly on the wine as Ray helped us through our wine tasting. Ray's enthusiasm for the wines was wonderful; even as the room got busy and he was struggling to help four groups, he kept smiling and chatting away with pride. And Perissos has something to be proud of. They focus on growing their grapes themselves. The vineyard I had just walked through helped create most of the wines I tasted. Now, like most Texas wineries, their vineyard was not enough, but unlike many others, Ray proclaimed with pride that all of Perissos' grape were 100% Texan, getting some from other Texas vineyards.

Inside the tasting room looking towards the door, and Charlie
The wines are much more than their grapes. Among the whites, the Roussane and Viognier blends were standouts. These crisp wines were refreshing after our hike. The went down smooth and made me feel cool. The reds, though, were strong contenders. Anyone who has been reading the blog knows I, like so much of Texas, am fond of Tempranillo. At Perissos, the Temp blend (with a bit of Touriga) is a spicy, yet fruity character. The bold spice of the Tempranillo is there, but it is mellowed and smoothed out by the more fruity nature of the Touriga. I have slowly come to like Touriga, despite not being a big Port drinker (main grape used in traditional port), but I have come to respect its dry fuitiness that is often lacking in so many grapes. And paired with a Tempranillo, the blend becomes well rounded. But the prize winners are their sold out Petite Sirah (I am glad I still have a bottle) and the Syrah blend. And recently, I found a small stash for sale at Vinously Speaking in San Antonio (along with the Tempranillo). These reds are big and complex. The wines exude depth: the terroir comes through with its mineral strength, like my rock outcroppings, and lush flavors, like the lake fed hills. These are wines we had to savor and allow to sink into us.

Bottling paused at Perissos.
 As we sipped through these wines, we learned about the vineyard and the soul of the winery, as much as Ray could squeeze in between pouring and explaining wines for four different groups. The folks here chose their name carefully; Perissos is a Greek term referring to getting what you want, maybe even getting the ideal. At Perissos, we found the ideal. The wines were perfect, matching the lands they came from. The company was wonderful; Ray was friendly, informative, and fun, but Baron, and later Charlie, stole my heart. They are top on my list for a repeat visit. I think I may make a whole day of the park and the winery.

The grapes at Perissos, mid-May 2012

Saturday, June 9, 2012

24. Random Wine Trip: Serengeti Resort and Vinously Speaking

Male ostrich at Serengeti
24. Random Wine Trip
Giraffe, ostriches,
we all meander today
searching nourishment:

a taste of wines I know, don't,
a new wine society.

I know I have lots of posts to write, chronicling my recent visits (Perissos, Pillar Bluff, Texas Legato, Westcave Cellars, McReynold's Wines, Solaro Estates, and Bell Spings), but I wanted to share a quick note about my random trip today. Sean and I followed up on some local wine places we recently happened upon. Both visits provided some great new places.

In the lodge with the tasting bar on the left.

Our first stop was Serengeti Resort in Bergheim (they are off 46 just outside of Boerne). This resort offers two of my favorite things: wine and animal viewing. They have a tasting bar where they highlight South African wines (go along with the animals just outside the lodge), but they showcase wines from throughout the world. We took our time chatting about wine, learning from each other. I learned about South African wine and I shared my Texas wine stories (their interested in expanding their Texas wines beyond their one excellent choice, Bending Branch).
Sean's prize: Indaba's Shiraz

We met Zach and were treated to six wines. We started with an Australian Moscato by Deakin Estates. This slightly carbonated, fruity sweet Moscato was effervescent; it's green apples and other lighter fruit softened the palate. We followed with Alamos' Torrantes from Mendoza Valley Argentina. This blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc that was light and soft. We then moved on to big, bold reds. The first was a Chilean Pinot Noir from Cono Sur. This hearty smelling wine had a hint of sweetness that was smooth on the palate. Sean then had his favorite wine of the day: Indaba's Shiraz from South Africa. This earthy, smooth wine was a treat. Are next red was the one I knew well, Alamos' Malbec (same folks as the Torrantes). This is a great example of Argentina's Malbecs. This smooth, rich wine is one of favorites to just set and drink. We tried it a few years ago at Olmos Bharmacy in San Antonio and were hooked. We finished the tasting with the only US wine, Josh Cellar's Cabarnet Sauvignon (from California). This rich wine was smooth and full; it helped me solidify my opinion of Pillar Bluff's Double Gold 2009 Merlot (a Merlot that is as rich and bold as a good Cab).

Giraffe visiting a Bungalow
We stuck around a bit, enjoying and glass and chatting with Zach, but we felt bad taking his time (they were getting ready to have a wedding on the property). We then took to the grounds just outside the lodge to check out some of the closer animals. A group of ostriches was hanging about to get a chance at some snacks (you can buy food to feed the animals). A giraffe has also wandered up to beg from some folks who were staying at one of the bungalows available. We also watched groups of gazelle -- I can't tell you which type -- graze through the area. Before we left, we visited the lemurs and saw what we think were probably kudu a short ways from the parking lot. Since it was mainly a wine day, we didn't do the tour -- you can rent a golf cart and tour the grounds and see animals up close (you can also buy feed). The tour is $53. This may seem steep, but after visits to similar places (like Fossil Rim in North Texas), this price isn't bad.

A bottle of Pedernales Cellars Merlot; quite the present
Since we finished up early -- and got there much quicker than we anticipated (about 40 minutes from IH-10 and 1604) -- we decided to visit a new wine shop that was tasting Pedernales Cellars today. Vinously Speaking (at Wurzbach and Babcock next to our last residence) opened in April and has sought to provide an eclectic selection of wines. I was impressed with the variety of less common varietals and blends. And I was even more impressed with their Texas wine selection. I was very happy to Perissos there; now I can drive about 10 minutes (and visit the comic book shop and  my grandparents), and get some great Northern Hill Country wine. It was nice to chat with the owner, Cecilia Barretto, and share our Texas wine experiences. In fact, it was nice to find out about another San Antonio based wine blog: Vinously Speaking. The spot they took has gone through multiple owners -- I can honestly say I was not impressed with the last folks, but I did like the first. I am glad to see it in its new hands and can't wait to visit again soon.

Today was one of those random wine days that brings more into my life. Sean and I decided a stay at Serengeti Resort for our birthdays is in order -- in October it will be much cooler for touring the grounds. However, another more leisurely visit will be in order soon. And as for the new wine shop, they have shot up on my list as places I MUST visit. It was a tasty day.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

23. Wine Friends: #TXwine chat on Twitter

23: Wine Friends
Make new friends, keep the old
One is white, and other red,
and blush, sparkling, and ...

Right now, the Texas Wine chat on Twitter is wrapping up. Tonight was a great experience talking to other wine lovers, wine writers, and the always useful wine professionals (without whom there would be no great discussion). There were lots of great pictures, but the sharing and replies were the best part. In fact, this is what wine is all about and is the essence of my favorite winery visits.

As my husband (the gaelbach on the Twitter event) always says, wine brings people together. On some winery visits, we get to chat with the owners (recently McReynolds, Westcave, Alamosa, and Texas Legato wineries). Sometimes, we get to just have a nice time chatting with the staff; Henri at Becker is always fun. Then there are all the other enthusiasts we meet. Last year, for our shared birthdays, we took a limo wine tour along 290. The six other people on the tour and our guide Darrel (who we often see and still chat with) made the day a memorable one. We enjoyed the wine and the company.

This is the beauty of wine. It provides a topic to share, allowing strangers to be friends for a moment. It helps us get past the structure and stiffness of everyday to be a human again. It is one of the world's most beautiful creations. And visiting the Texas wine country personifies this well.

Thanks and cheers. Can't wait till next time.