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.

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