We were blessed. As I write this the day after, the clouds are keeping a dreary pall on the day after some brief sprinkles, and the promised warmth is being kept at bay. That was not the case yesterday. The weather cooperated, providing a comfortable day with abundant sunshine. When we started before noon, there was still a crispness in the air that we stopped noticing as the the sun warmed everything. So of course, as the day wore on, more and more people found their way to the wineries along Highway 290.
Wine Road 290For those unfamiliar, Wine Road 290 is an affiliation of wineries more or less on the stretch of Highway 290 between Fredericksburg and Johnson City. Not every winery along thew way is a member, but most are, including 4.0 Cellars. The group participates in six scheduled events throughout the year. These events are all pairing events.
For each themed event, the winery pairs one of their wines with a specific food choice. Sometimes the focus is on the wine, as was the case this time: the wineries paired one of their ports (or another wine if they didn't have a port) with a food item of their choice. Other events, like February's Rajin Cajun, will focus on food. In a case like this, the winery will choose a food pairing that matches the theme and pair a wine with that food.
Oftentimes when wine trails offer events like this, there is a fee or a needed ticket. That is never the case along Wine Road 290. No ticket is needed and the pairing is always free. Some wineries make the tasting completely free. In many of these cases, a separate tasting area is set-up with the food and the wine. For others, the food pairing is free but the wine tasting may not be; in those cases, a tasting must be purchased as well. Often, if a tasting is required, many wineries will add the pairing wine as a special bonus, a free additional taste with your tasting.
Port and PairingsWhen I went out on Saturday, I stopped by my all-time favorite places. I drank great port at two of my spots, got to try a young port still in barrel at another, and sipped on a nice red wine at the last. It all depends on what wines the winery has available. All provided wonderful sweets that paired well with the wines.
As for the sweets, most wineries made their own. This is always a treat because most of these wineries have some incredible cooks hiding among their ranks. And if you needed further proof of that, just check out ABC's The Taste to see Hill Country winemaker Don Pullum (Mason County grape grower, winemaker for Sandstone Cellars and Akashic Vineyards, and consultant to [Wine Road 290 winery] Torre id Pietra, Fly Gap, and Pontotoc) as he wows the judges with his culinary delights. Some wineries also opt to bring in professional culinary talent to provide the pairing; one winery I visited did that. Among the member wineries, Grape Creek usually enlists the services of local chef Russ Brutwell of Cabernet Grill; I recommend visiting them during an event if the opportunity arises.
Ready Ports -- Pedernales Cellars & William Chris
|From left to right: Flourless chocolate cake, Pedernales Ruby Port, and El Rey Chocolates|
|Port Brownies and chocolate covered cherries from Chocolat|
|Homemade Buttermilk Pie and Jacquez|
Port in Training -- Hye MeadowAlso in Hye, the newest winery to the trail, Hye Meadow, provided one of the most unique tastes of the day. Winemaker Jeff Ivy brought out his new Syrah port for sampling. The wine has only been in the barrel since October and will remain their for two whole years before bottling. Since this wine is far from ready, Jeff rolled out two barrels to the winery's scenic back porch. It was exciting to taste an infant port. The nose shows a lot of potential character with my favorite go-to notes, such as nut and caramel with some rich chocolate. The taste though is a right now a darkened berry that is full and alive. I would liken the taste to a bold red rather than a port; however, right at the tail end I noticed a hint of that aroma. I have high hopes for this port, and I can't wait to see how it progresses.
|Winemake Jeff Ivy with the Syrah port|
A Taste of Wine and Chocolate -- Hilmy CellarsOur last official Wine Road 290 stop was at Hilmy Cellars. Though there will be a port n the future, there isn't one yet. Instead, the crew there brought out the new Politics and Religion -- a supple red blend -- for the pairing. Kuntry Kunfekshuns brought out some final sample but also paired their Choco Krossie with the wine. This chunk of chocolate brought together rolled oats, nuts, and some cayenne for a fine snack. To be honest, I could have eaten that all day long.
|Choco Krossie in the afternoon sun|