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.

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