Friday, July 27, 2012

32. Dry Comal Creek: Leisurely Tasting and Talking

32. Dry Comal Creek: Leisurely Tasting and Talking
As we let wine flow,
words will follow -- dry, sweet, vital;
we harvest ourselves.


Last weekend, Sean and I decided to take it easy and stayed close to home. We gathered up my mother-in-law and made the short drive up to Dry Comal Creek near New Braunfels. We enjoyed a leisurely tasting followed by a chat over some wine. This impromptu visit allowed us the chance to slowly take the whole tasting experience in.

Dry Comal Creek's Grapes

First, there has been a lot of interest in Texas wineries using non-Texas grapes. I have read a number of responses providing reasons why some wineries choose grapes from other states and countries: there are not enough grapes to meet demand, Texas cannot produce enough specific grapes to meet commercial demand, and even Texas grapes are too expensive. Whatever the reason, Dry Comal Creek is one of those wineries that has decided to use California grapes and juice (as well as grapes from other states) to make a large number of their wines.

Black Spanish grapes at Dry Comal Creek

The one grape they do grow themselves is the Texas terroir's favorite: Black Spanish. As we drove on to the vineyard property, we were greeted by lush bunches of these grapes snuggly tucked beneath netting; they looked very close to being ready to harvest (the harvest and "Order of the Purple Foot Grape Stomp are coming up). To give the winery credit, this is their go to grape; it is the grape that dominates much of their wine offerings (that and the Colombard).

Dry Comal Creeks Black Spanish under the nets, late July 2012

And Dry Comal Creek's Black Spanish offerings are good. Honestly, I am not often impressed by wines that are dominated by the grape. I do realize it is one of Texas' two best grapes (the other being the other US hybrid Blanc du Bois), but I often find the Black Spanish wines a bit off. Even on my first visit to Dry Comal Creek, about two years ago now, I was not impressed. This visit, though, changed me. The current selection of Black Spanish based wines are fascinating and tasty. I am happy to have gone back and given them a second try.

The Wines

Dry Comal Creek Tasting Menu

The menu at Dry Comal Creek is a complex one, providing dry and demi-sweet whites, dry reds, and sparkling wines. That is just the main nine wines on the non-Reserve menu (a tasting that runs $10). Then there are the three Reserve reds (an additional $5 charge that I felt was worth it). Finally, there are two ports, which can be tasted for $5 each (a total of $10 that Sean happily paid).

Considering the breadth of this menu, I will only go into a few, those that most stood out and impressed me. And let me tell you, there were a number of pleasers.

Whites

The whites currently consist of a 2011 Dry French Colombard, a 2010 Suavignon Blanc, and a 2011 Demi-Sweet French Colombard. In this selection, the Dry French Colombard is the best. Even on my first visit, I felt that was the case. This wine is crisp and refreshing with strong citrus flavors. I also noticed a hint or herbs that rounded out and dried the citrus. I could honestly drink this white regularly, and I am not a big white fan.

Black Spanish Wines

The menu abounds with Black Spanish wines (the only comparable grape is the Colombard). These include a rose' -- White-Black Spanish IV -- 2010 Comal Red, Foot Pressed Red (this is the wine that commemorates their annual Harvest and Grape Stomp event), and a 2011 Black Spanish Reserve. All told, the reds, in general, were spicey and a bit fruity. When I drink them, I tend to notice flavors like nutmeg. Now, compared to my last visit, these reds are more balanced and subtle; good representations of Black Spanish.

The wine among them that most caught my interest was the White-Black Spanish IV. This rose' is a blend of Black Spanish and Muscat. The Muscat brings a nice citrusy sweetness to the sweet berry taste of the Black Spanish. However, this is not the sweetest Muscat, drier like many I have been drinking lately, so the wine doesn't become ovepowered. Instead, the wine seems to be only semi-sweet. As I drank it, I first noticed the Black Spanish, the ripe, red berries, that ended in the fruity citrus of the Muscat. It was a pleasant blend that moved naturally.

Sparkling

Dry Comal Creek offers two sparkling wines: a sparkling dry and a demi-sweet. Honestly, I  generally go for the dry. One of my favorites is Flat Creek's Sparkling Almond (another wine made from California grapes). For me, the bubbles in sparkling wines tend to set off dry wines better. These dry whites are great for Mimosa's -- a treat I enjoy. So of course I liked the dry, as it was a solid dry sparkling wine.

I was surprised by the demi-sweet. Normally, I avoid the sweeter sparkling wines. For me, they often leave a sticky, sweet aftertaste in my mouth. This is not the case here. The blend of Colombard and Muscat create a lightly fruity wine, one that ends subtly. The sweetness tends more towards the front and softens. When we tasted it, it was recommended to add this to cranberry juice; something Sean hardly agreed with. I think any fruit drink that doesn't tend to be too sweet or some good puree (I was thinking strawberry or peach) would also pair nicely.

Reserves

During this visit to Dry Comal Creek, there were three Reserve wines: 2008 Unoaked Cabernet Sauvignon (that was paired with the non-Reserve 2009 American oak barrel Caberent Sauvignon), a 2009 Petite Verdot (recently bottled), and the 2011 Black Spanish Reserve.

The Caberents are presented together to allow for comparison. The difference is clear: the oaked one has more depth of flavor that provides subtle earthy undertones and the unoaked (done entirely in steel) is smooth. Though both had a hint of the mineral nature of the terroir, the oaked brought it out and the unoaked smoothed it out.

The one that I liked best was the Petite Verdot. They had decanted it into a carafe and had been letting it breath. By the time I tasted it, and later enjoyed a glass, I was treated to a smooth and silky wine. At first, it swept through me. But on later tastes, the flavors perked up, providing subtle hints of berries, earth, and spice. The best was the spice that developed towards the end and lingered afterwards. And I want to emphasize, these flavors were subtle; I had to sit and take my time with the wine to really notice and enjoy them.

Ports

Though I can't detail the ports, as I didn't try them, Sean told me they were both good. The first port, 1096 Port made from the Black Spanish, was robust. However, Sean says the 1096 White Port, made from the Colombard, was the most interesting, providing a soft complex sweetness. He ended his day with a glass of it.

Sangria

Though it isn't on the tasting menu, we were treated to Franklin's Cheap Sangria. This wine cocktail, combining the Comal Red with lime, orange, and grapefruit juice, was served as a slush. It was a refreshing end on the hot day. What I found most interesting was the different tastes that came through this cocktail. Sometimes I tasted one of the fruit flavors, sometimes a combination. At other times, it seemed more like I was drinking a frozen mulled wine; the fruit and wine had a mulled wine and spicy flavor.

This wine can be enjoyed by the glass ($7 for one or $12 for two) and by the three gallon container (a party pleaser).  Though it is probably good in a more liquid state, I definietly recommend it in a slush form, especially this time of year. Even adults like Icees.

Enjoying Petite Verdot and 1096 White Port in the back room

We ended out visit enjoying the comfort of the back room. The three of us took our drinks to a table and chatted about the problems of the day, commiserating over the wine. Before leaving another party joined our table (it is a communal style set-up with large picnic tables) and joked as they shared a bottle of sparkling wine. It was nice to have a place to drink, relax, and talk inside (so many wineries have very little room inside for this). The three of us left refreshed and relaxed. Dry Comal Creek provided us a nice little get-away.

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