Earlier this Spring my wife Carole and I were thinking that it would be cool to hit up a few Texas wineries for tours and tastings. At the time we weren’t aware of many tasting rooms or wineries in the Houston area so we knew we wanted to go to the Hill Country and that it would have to be an overnight trip.
The idea we came up with was to visit Hill Country wineries during the Independence day holiday and we decided to go with some friends who live in Georgetown, TX and would also let us crash at their place. We visited six different wineries between 7/3 and 7/5.
We started off Wednesday evening (7/3) in Bryan, TX at Messina Hof. Wednesday is “Chocolate Night” and for $10/person we were treated to some chocolate and three tastes that were paired it. My wife and I actually got there a little early and tasted some Paulo Cabernet Sauvignon and their “Solera” Sherry. Their tastings are pretty straight forward. You can taste a wine for $2.00 or $4.00 for a reserve wine. The Paulo and Solera are both reserves. The Cab was fantastic and I decided to buy a bottle of it to take on our vacation to California so it could be part of a TX-CA blind taste-off I had planned (I’ll post on this later). For a Texas Cab it was pretty bold and complex and didn’t die on the finish like I experience with a lot of Texas reds.
The Colera Texas Sherry? Well, wow! It’s a desert wine and meant to be so. They describe it as “liquid cinnabon” and that’s about right. I really got the vanilla and cream flavors. This offering is all estate grown and made from the lenoir grape. Messia Hof has really mastered the are of making wines from lenoir grapes in my opinion. Everyone should try this at least once.
That ended our tasting on Wednesday. We headed to Georgetown for the evening and planned our trip for the next day. Mainly researching where the wineries were and determining if they were actually open on 7/4.
We packed a lunch of sandwiches and snaks and decided to start Thursday off with a trip to Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall, TX along 290. We knew this route would take us by multiple wineries. We got there shortly after opening time (I find this a good time to go to avoid the crowds) and were greeted by a friendly staff. At first they weren’t sure if they were giving tours on the holiday but later they fixed us up and we got to tour the facility. Pretty much like all wineries except they boast the “largest underground wine cellar” in the state. After the tour we did their standard tasting which was nine wine tastes for $12.95 including a souvenir glass. As we always do my wife and I shared a tasting. That was pretty much necessary as we planned on visiting a few wineries that day. We got to taste a few of their award winning wines that day including their Viognier which won Grand Gold at the 2013 Lyons International Wine Competition in France. The only U.S winery to receive such and honor. I also really enjoyed their red GSM blend (I ordered a glass to have with lunch) and two different Tempranillos, the Hill Country and the High Plains. Both would be good to have in any cellar.
After a lunch on the patio at Pedernales Cellars we headed to one of Texas’ biggest wine producers, Becker Vineyards. Becker is the largest purchaser of French and American oak barrels in the state. This place was packed! They were having a chili cook-off on site and the holiday visitors were many. The tasting fee was $12.00 for six tastes and a Becker glass. Because their Viognier was a Sliver medalist we wanted to taste it as a comparison to Pedernales Cellars. It was good, close to the aforementioned but silver is probably a good ranking in comparison. They make a lot of wine, but nothing that really jumped out at me on this day.
Just down the road from Becker is Grape Creek Vineyards. We stopped in there for a tasting and skipped the tour. They have a very nice patio area and a classy tasting room. They also offered six tastes and a glass for $12.00. Of the tastes we all liked the Bellissimo, the Grand Rouge, and Riesling. The Riesling was one of the best I’ve tasted in the state. Maybe the country. We bought three bottles, one to enjoy on the patio and two to take home. The Bellissimo and Riesling were also ones that went to California with us.
That ended the day for us. We made the trip back to Georgetown for an Italian dinner and planned our trip for 7/5. We knew we wanted to have lunch at Coopers BBQ in Llano and planned accordingly. That meant that Fall Creek Vineyards in Tow, TX was our late morning stop. It’s located on the north end of a very, very low Lake Buchanan. A very nice setting that was the first to remind me a little of Napa Valley. I guess it was the hills to the north. For tasting at Fall Creek you choose one of three glass sizes (The prices escape me) for their tasting flight. You get to take the glass with you after the tasting. I must say the server James, was on his game. He was the only one there and I guess about 10-15 people were at the tasting bar. He was quick, took the time to explain each wine to us and seemed to be able to keep up with everyone there. I really enjoyed their Chenin Blanc, and the recently released 2010 “Salt Lick Vineyards” Tempranillo.
We were pretty tired after lunch and almost went home to rest. But, we knew that Perissos Vineyard and Winery was just off the route home so we decided to stop by. We weren’t disappointed! I’ve got to say this is the first tasting I’ve done anywhere where I really enjoyed ALL the offerings. I especially liked their “Lucy,” a Roussanne, Viogneir, Muscat blend 100% Texas sourced. The orange zest smell and taste were wonderful. They’re about to run out of this vintage so I’m thinking of adding to my supply of two bottles that I already have. The 2012 Bella, slightly sweet was also fabulous. It’s 100% estate grown of Tempranillo, Malbec, and Viognier. It’s just a really nice sipping wine. And last but not least (or exclusively) I liked the 2010 Tempranillo. They don’t have anymore so my mistake for not buying a couple bottles. It’s 90% Tempranillo and 10% Viognier. So complex and smooth going down. I’ve tried the 2011 and while good I still liked the 2010 better. After our taste we got to meet the Martins who own Perissos. Their passion comes out as they tell the story of how they started in the business. We saw it again when they took us privately out to the vineyard and showed us some almost ready Muscat grapes. A small taste suggested some really good wines coming out this year. They ended by showing us the new construction going on adding barrel and tasting space. Knowing that I wanted to join a “Texas” wine club I knew right away this was the one. The wines are good, Seth has a passion for wine making and really seems to know what to do with what the grapes offer. He’s also committed to 100% Texas grapes and this last year 80% of their wine was sourced from estate fruit. I hope the 2013 shortage doesn’t hurt their production too much.
Overall it was a great holiday weekend. We got to see some of the wines Texas has to offer and really feel that the industry is maturing in the state. I can’t wait to see what will come in the next few years.