Texas wine month has come to a close. But during its thirty-one days, I found myself swept up in the excitement and activity (that, Sean's and my birthdays, and midterm grading). This weekend I have some time to catch-up and finally sit down to write, so I thought I would start with the grande finale, the Fredericksburg Food and Wine Festival.
This twenty-two year old tradition took over the last weekend of Texas wine month. Held in the Marktplatz, this festival brought together twenty-nine wineries and other great Texas specialties (craft beer, food, and crafts). The event covers the entire weekend with a multitude of different events, but the main focus is the Saturday afternoon festival. Sean and I went to taste some wines from wineries we have not visited and meet up with a large group of wine bloggers and wine enthusiasts. The day had nothing but promise, and it delivered.
The WineOur first stop was the pavilion where the wineries set up. This area was a good fit for it all. The wineries had decent size tables with a bit of room between one another, and there was a large space in the center for people to congregate and enjoy their wine and all the great company (something I appreciated after the cramped space at Dripping with Taste). The weather also proved to be on our side. The grey morning had a nice chill in the air, making the stuffy places more comfortable; the mid-day sun evened things out to a mild and pleasant day.
|The Winery Pavilion|
The wineries present were also an interesting array: large, established wineries -- such as Becker, Llano Estacado, Messina Hof, Fall Creek, and the three wineries of 4.0 Cellars -- the hill country locales -- a list that goes on forever -- and wineries from hither and yon across the state. I avoided my regular haunts, except a visit with Jen from Bending Branch, so I could try the wineries I never get a chance to go out to. Unfortunately, the tasting price (between $2-$4) stopped me from having any selection at the wineries and even missing some. But Sean and I bought a great collection of tickets and made our way through the wineries.
And just as the tasting price was a bit of a shock -- Dripping with Taste does a fine job here with the one ticket ($1 cost) per taste -- so were the wines. We found most of the wines we tried mediocre. There were a few worth mentioning, though. The port-style Blanc do Bois from Haak was as everyone has said; this rich, honeyed wine was smooth and sweet. The Crump Valley Merlot was a knock-out red that was complex and flavorful; a perfect Texas Merlot. And the most wondrous surprise was the mead from Rohan Meadery. Though we had very wished it was a Lord of the Rings reference, we were still happy with the mead they brought. Sean enjoyed a more traditional mead and I indulged in their raspberry blend. After that tasting, we had an itch to go to a Ren Fest and hunt down the other Texas meaderies.
Vintner's ExperienceSean and I also decided to take in the brand new Vintner's Experience. It was advertised as a special event with the winemakers from Fredericksburg Winery, Becker, and Grape Creek. The wineries would present either a white, red, or rose. Well, the chance to speak with winemakers was one I didn't want to pass up, especially for only $15.
|Dr. Richard Becker and Bunny Becker|
Though the idea was a great one, it fizzled out. The company was good: we had a great group of bloggers and friends to enjoy the time with, and we also met a group of people who live near us. But, the event was not as we expected. First, there was only one official winemaker (Fredericksburg Winery). Three generations of Becker came -- Dr. Becker and Bunny, as well as their son Joe and his wife and son. They all had great stories to tell, but I had hoped to learn more about the wineries wine making process. The upside was that the guests were readily available afterwards. It was nice to get a chance to do have a bit of one-on-one time, and the Becker's were the most gracious of all.
|Esor Ed Ehcnarg|
The wine available to us, the Esor Ed Ehcnarg (Rose de Granche) from Fredericksburg Winery, the Prairie Rotie from Becker, and the Cuvee Blanc from Grape Creek, were all good wines, but these wineries could have really wowed us if they wanted to. In fact, the Esor (as they call it) had a caramel hue -- rather than a pink one -- which put me off a bit. The current Prairie Rotie is a solid wine, but there are much better options in the red category from Becker. The best of the day was Grape Creek's Cuvee Blanc. This is one of their strongest whites and a fine example of the drier flavors found at the winery.
|Empty Cuvee Blanc with a untouched tasting in the background|
The "After" PartySean and I headed out pretty early and found ourselves making a few stops at our favorites. We had a quiet tasting at 4.0. We ended our evening with a group of fellow Texas wine lovers at Pedernales Cellars. Jeff Cope made arrangements with winery owner Julie Kulhken to allow our group to stay a bit late. We all enjoyed their wonderful hospitality -- Julie and Whitney spent a large amount of the time chatting with the group -- and wine. Honestly, it was the highlight of my day. It was so nice to just sit and talk to so many people; the ability to share our passion for Texas wine and our experiences was great. By the time we left, Sean and I were happy knowing that many of our experiences were ones shared by many of our new friends -- good and bad experiences.
|Me after my first stop: Bending Branch|
The glass fills, recedes.
Voices ebb and flow, a mate
to the wine: a song.
Memories -- the best souvenirs --
expressions in garnet, gold.