Friday, July 6, 2012

29. The Dripping Springs Wine Commmunity

29. The Dripping Springs Wine Community
Vineyards to nurture,
passion that fashions grapes
lovingly into wine.

Each one, a place all its own,
but together, community.

Back in late May, Sean and I took a drive north of Highway 290 to see the four wineries in the Dripping Springs area. Our jam-packed day gave us four separate experiences: no one winery was like the other. Along this stretch of highway between Johnson City and West Austin, we were treated to a diverse tour of Texas as we visited McReynold's Wines, Westcave Cellars, Solaro Estates, and Bell Springs.

A Wine Community

What this group of wineries proves is a thought I wrote about in a previous post: community. So how are these four wineries a community? First, they are a group that works together. Texas Wine Lover, Jeff Cope,  recently mentioned this concept in a post of his when describing how many wineries treat one another: they share equipment, help each other out, etc. These wineries live up to this idea.

Helping One Another Out

At every stop along the trip, we were asked where we were headed or where we had been. If we didn't respond quick enough, the place we were currently visiting would quickly suggest the next winery we planned to visit. Most of the time, we were quick to answer. This prompted a similarly positive reply: we were told something special or complimentary about the next stop on our tour. We welcomed these recommendations. In fact, we were convinced to make an unplanned stop at the Texas Olive Oil Company, the olive oil showroom, after many recommendations from every winery.

A Unique Take

These wineries also complement the concept of community being discussed by the Texas wine bloggers. Everyone seems to agree that each blogger brings something unique to the greater community, each provides their individual perspective. In the end, one visit or one event leads to a number of diverse blogs without any distinctive repetition (for an example, see the collection of blogs pertaining to the William Chris Watermelon Thump). The same goes for these wineries; they all presented their own perspective on the wine-going experience.

The Wineries


Gerald "Mac" McReynold's and his tasting room
First up was McReynold's. Here, the mood is its unique aspect. As soon as I drove onto the property, I felt like I was entering into someone's home, their private sanctuary. Everything about McReynold's exudes home. First, the owners are intimately involved in everything: Gerald (or Mac) was mowing and tending to the vineyard and Maureen presided over our tasting. Before we left, they shared a little of themselves and told us stories about the winery and vineyard; personal stories, such as knowing that the tasting room was built by the owner, adds that special touch. And for us, this felt even more like home, as both of them seemed a lot like Sean's grandparents; Mac even physically resembled Sean's grandfather.


Westcave Cellars' tasting room

We then went to Westcave Cellars. What they have going for them is unique wines. The folks here are crafting strong representatives of the favored Texas varietals (the different Viogniers were a treat), but they are also offering a diversity and selection I have yet to see. The number of sweet wines, as well as less common ones like their White Merlot, are fun. I normally don't drink sweet wines, but the balance Westcave brings to these wines makes them drinkable even for dry-loving palates. And, though we didn't get a chance to experience it, they love to have pig roasts. I am eager to get a chance to enjoy one in the future, and I have a feeling their wines pair well with roast pork.

In back of the tasting room


A look into the vineyards from the patio (where we had lunch)
We stopped for lunch at Solaro Estates, enjoying a meal on their extensive "patio" region around the tasting room. This is the place for a one-of-a-kind set-up; Solaro is also a working horse ranch, a sight we saw as we drove in. But they also had a hint of uniqueness in their wines. They tout their Texas-friendly varietals in single varietals, like the Tempranillo and Mourvedre, and in blends, like the Cheval 5 or the Montage.

Bell Springs

The view from the porch at Bell Springs
Finally, we stopped at Bell Springs. This winery provides ample shade. Oaks and other trees surround the tasting room, hiding the gem against a hillside. Here it felt like we were leaving behind the urban world and escaping into a Texas forest. Not only was the physical location an escape but so was the wine. Like Solaro, they chose Texas friendly varietals, but they were often experimenting with less noted ones, like the currently sold out Nebbiolo (note: this wine is not made from Texas grapes). They also have fruit-infused wines. This is similar to Fiesta Winery, but I felt the subtle touch they had in infusing allowed the wines to stand out and not the fruit.

One long day later, we found ourselves driving into Austin. We started the day at a winery that made us feel like we were enjoying a morning with family. We moved on to a modern feel with fun wines and then off to a horse ranch. Finally, we slipped away into a Texas forest. Not once did we find ourselves drinking the same old thing. As the environments changed, so did the wine. I guess the only constant was the knowledge and friendliness of the people we met.

*NOTE: I hope to write more about these great wineries in the future. Look for future posts.

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