Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On it's own: Visiting Sandstone Cellars

For over half a year, I kept saying I would made the trek out 87 towards Mason. Ever since I had a taste of Sandstone Cellars, I knew I had to have more. But one thing lead to another, and I just never made it out. At the end of November, I escaped my piles of papers to unwind. What I found was a hidden gem.

The road stretches on --
blank space bordered by empty lands --
towards an open secret.
Ruby, garnet, rainbows of red
sing songs of the hand, heart, earth.

Sandstone Cellars is coming together of two enterprising men and one talented winemaker. Scott Haupert and Manny Silerio are the "proprietors" of a little slice of Mason: a tasting room, a wine bar, and Santos Taqueria. Don Pullman, one of Texas's top winemakers, creates some of the most interesting wines around.

The Tasting Room

My first stop was the tasting room for Sandstone Cellars where visitors can taste the currently available Sandstone wines and purchase wines from around the state. Scott greeted Sean and I upon our arrival and took us through a tasting of eight wines.

Top: Handmade pottery; Top shelf: Texas wines; Middle shelf: Sandstone wines; Right: Bill Worrell originals

We started with the main wines, Sandstone's VI, VII, VII, IX, and XI (they name their wine based on its release). All the wines are dry red blends relying on Texas friendly varietals made from 100% Texas grapes (or Texas apples -- see the Cider Dessert Wine).  Touriga -- a Portuguese grape -- features in most of the wines.
  • VI: A 2008 blend of Touriga, Barbera, Primitivo, and Zinfandel provides a rich fruity experience with an oaky finish.
  • VII:  A 2009 Touriga (one of only 2 single style wines) is a dusty wine that is full of savory smoke; this was Sean's favorite.
  • VIII: A 2009 blend of Zinfandel, Touriga, and Merlot makes up the lightest wine that had a predominately fruity side.
  • IX: A 2009 blend of Tempranillo and Touriga is a great contrast to the other Temp-Touriga blend in Texas (from Perissos). This wine is a more natural or rough wine, compared to the one from Perissos. There is a surprising lightness to the wine that gives it depth and complexity while still containing earth tones.
  • XI: A 2010 blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Touriga, and Viognier is my favorite (a detailed post is forthcoming). This layered wine provides a journey through the Texas hill country, much like the drive to Mason is.
Note: XII is now available. This 2010 is a new more even blend of Tempranillo and Touriga (IX is 75 Temp/ 25 Touriga).

We moved on to three special wines. While sampling, we had the chance to compare the two ports.
Cider Dessert Wine
  •  IV: A 2006 Vintage port that is primarily Touriga with a small amount of Tempranillo, Barbera, and Viognier. This port is one to sit and relax while drinking; it is 19.5% alcohol with high sugar. There is a hint of caramel in the abundant but not overpowering sweetness.
  • XIII (I am unsure if the number is correct): This non-vintage 2010 port is still young (6 months in the bottle) with another high alcohol and sugar content. It is a lighter port -- especially with the earth tones -- but currently takes on more of a brandy feel. It reminds me of dried fruit.
  • Cider Dessert Wine: This unique wine is a fortified cider made from apples also used by Argus Cidery. The brandy is soft and the fruit is mild. The bite of the cider develops overtime as spiced apple flavors -- like cinnamon -- start to come through. I served this to beer drinkers; they loved it.
Note: New cider is on the way.

In addition to great wines to taste, the tasting room is a wine shop. Sandstone's dedication to the Texas wine industry is evident in the tasting room. They make an effort to carry small, independent winemakers, especially those without an affiliated winery or tasting room. When I visited I purchased a bottle of the well received Ponotoc Tempranillo (a winery that is currently being built in the nearby area).

And if you are looking for a unique gift, look no further. Beautiful pottery handmade by Scott's mom is available. And for art afficiandos, Southwestern artist Bill Worrell has a number of works available at the tasting room. It helps that he's a local and a friend. Worrell's work can be found, outside, inside, and on the bottles at Sandstone.
Cider Dessert Wine label by Bill Worrell

Santos Taqueria

Next we took a break and had lunch at the adjoining taqueria, primarily ran by Manny's mother Santos. It was great to see wine and relaxed home-cooked food side-by-side (wine can be purchased at the restaurant, tasting room, and wine shop). The simple, tasty food from family recipes warmed us on a dreary day.Sean highly recommends the shrimp taquitos. I went with simple hard shelled tacos. The meat was well seasoned and flavorful; the bonus was the missing grease one so often finds with this sort of dish. 

The Wine Bar

We ended our day with a short visit to the wine bar where we relaxed and enjoyed a glass of Sandstone wine. Locals an regulars sat alongside first-time visitors. The regulars were very friendly and helpful. However, they mainly kept  to the "bar" while we were there; with so many in such a small place, there wasn't much room for anyone else.

With limited space, Sean and I took to the rest of wine bar. We sat in the front room (where one enters). This room is more structured with multiple tables and chairs. Despite the gathering, there was plenty of space between groups, and the walls were decorated with art that leaned toward the natural and native. The side room, which was thoroughly occupied as well, boasted comfortable couches and a more homey feel. There is also space outside in back and front, but do to the weather (it was cold and a bit damp), we stayed inside.
The view coming from Fredericksburg (side of the tasting room)

Scott and Manny were incredible hosts on a dreary November day.  This was a visit I hope to do again soon and encourage anyone heading towards Fredericksburg to take the short drive out of town to stop at Sandstone. And if all works out, nearby Ponotoc will eventually provide another reason and more Sandstone wine.

No comments:

Post a Comment