Majek Vineyard & Winery – 5/9/2015


I had the pleasure of visiting Majek Vineyard & Winery on my way home from the Hill Country area in the evening of Saturday, May 9th. During the trip I was watching the time closely hoping that I got there in time. Lucky me, I got there with just less than an hour to go before closing. I’ve had a couple Facebook interactions with Randy Majek in the Texas Wine Drinkers group and was hoping to meet him when I stopped in. As I entered the tasting room Randy was right by the door. We greeted each other and he directed me to a table where I began my tasting. At this time I also got to meet IMG_3085.2015-05-09_231115Randy’s wife Lynne Majek. Randy and his capable staff tag-teamed my tasting of several wines served in an un-traditional “wine” glass. Or maybe should I say traditional. Lynne said they think that this is how “grandpa would have drank it.”

While I won’t mention every wine I tasted a few were standouts for me. Remember, I’m not a sommelier and can’t describe wine like one would so I’ll just give my redneck impressions. Wine made from Blanc Du Bois (BdB) is becoming something I enjoy more each time I taste it as wine makers learn how to bring out the character and flavor of this grape. Their sparkling dry BdB is outstanding. I’m not a champagne drinker but I can see drinking this whenever others would reach for the bubbly. I can’t wait for my wife to try the bottle I brought home. The non-sparkling dry BdB was excellent. Nice and crisp and the citrus notes were evident. I also had the 2013 Tempranillo sourced from the Texas High Planes. A dry red wine that had strong notes of vanilla. Randy said that that quality has just started to come out in the last few weeks. It’s amazing how wine character changes over time. Especially if it improves it! Majek’s 2013 Lenior (Black Spanish) wine is now on the “reserve” list. You can still get it but you better hurry. I love the story on their blog about their road trip getting the lenior grapes from the Gibson vineyard in Weimar to Texas Custom Wine works in Brownfield. It makes this wine all the more special. Like BdB Texas wine makers are getting better in making good wine from this grape. What used to be almost exclusively used for port/dessert wines is now making great drinking dry wines. This one fits that category. As taken as I was with the Tempranillo, I was impressed even more by this Lenior. It had nice oak and a very soft mouth feel. The tannins have smoothed out nicely in my opinion.

During my tasting I was able to enjoy conversation with both Lynne and Randy. Maybe one of the benefits of showing up close to closing time. You should read their story (Or Saga) here. You won’t be sorry and you’ll find it interesting to hear some of what they went trough to get where they are today. One thing I took away from the visit, and Lynne conformed this. If you have an idea of something you want to do take the plunge and go for it.

What you need to know:

-Majek Vineyard and Winery is about 8 miles outside Schulenburg, TX near Moravia on the south side of I-10. It’s about half way between Houston and San Antonio. They have good directions on their website.

-They have wine for beginner to enthusiast wine drinkers. You should be able to find something you like. You can do a dry or sweet tasting (or maybe a combination) for a very reasonable price.

-They’ve been dropping the grapes on their estate vines of Blanc Du Bois and Lenior while waiting for them to mature. I believe they will make wine from this year’s crop if everything goes well.

-Take your time and enjoy their vineyard. It’s beautiful and relaxing. A great getaway from Houston or San Antonio (Or even Austin!)


Saddlehorn Winery Revisited


A little over two years I visited Saddlehorn Winery which is located in Burton, Texas and not too far from Brenham. The visit was on a Sunday afternoon and they weren’t too busy at the time. I don’t remember much about from that visit except that the wines were okay and I enjoyed a muscat that they offered at the time. My wife and I also visited a year ago as part of the February Bluebonnet Wine Trail wine and chocolate event. I can’t remember what we tried then but I know it was something sweet to go with the chocolate.

Fast forward to the last week in February this year. I was on my way to Taylor, TX and was early so I decided to stop in again and take my time sipping through a tasting. It was a Thursday afternoon and pretty quiet in the tasting room. Emilee greeted me and invited me to taste my choice of six wines from their tasting menu for $10. My tasting was standing at the bar. She let me know they had a new Blanc du Bois (Texas, N.V) that wasn’t on the list yet so that’s what I started with. Emilee was very knowledgeable about the wines including what they tasted like and where the grapes were from. I was happy that she was willing to share that some came from CA, some from OR, and of course some from TX. She also seemed to really know that processes that got the wine from grapes to the bottle. This post is not meant to be a critique of wines just an account of my visit. I’m not a sommolier or a wine “Critic.” I just know what tastes good to me. What I’ll say about the wines is that the winemaker/owner (Steve I think) is really developing his craft. The reds, especially the Cab and Malbec, made much more of an impression on me than two years ago. The Blanc du Bois was one of the better ones I’ve had in a while. I enjoyed a glass of Riesling (Oregon) after my tasting while relaxing in the lounge area.

It was a fun visit and I plan on going back soon with my wife in tow. If you haven’t visited Saddlehorn in a while I highly recommend you stop by. It’s just a simple one mile trek off state highway 290.

Wine Making Class – The End


Several months ago I posted a “Part 1″ article on a wine making class that I took at Defalco’s-Home Wine and Beer Supplies in Houston, TX. I said that I would follow up with an additional post. Well, laziness and procrastination took over and this post is my attempt to get back on track writing blog posts.

At the second session of our class we racked our Vintner’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and Vintner’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon kits into 6 gallon carboys. This was an interesting step to me because it was the first time I’ve ever seen and smelled a wine product after fermentation was pretty much complete and it taught me a lot about getting the “good stuff” off the dead yeast and particulate (“lees”). The class leader Scott asked if anyone wanted to taste the wine at this point. Most in the class seemed reticent to taste but I was very interested to see what it tasted like at this point. Since I planned on making my own wine after the class I wanted to get an idea of the progress at this point so that I could compare and tell if my wine was going down a good path after fermentation. I’ll admit it tasted “yeasty” and not very refined but it didn’t taste unpleasant or bad. If it had been spoiled or compromised I’m sure we would have been able to tell.

The following week we degassed using a whip and started the clarification process. I missed the class due to being out of town on business but Scott walked me through the steps. When we showed up the following week the wine was pretty clear but we let it set and began making a raspberry flavored honey mead.

Skipping to bottling we began our process using a Bottle Rinser (Sulphatizer) to sanitize the bottles. It was a simple process of filling the rinser with sanitizing solution and pressing the bottle down on the spring loaded nipple that was in the rinser. This spread the liquid sanitizer efficiently around the inside of the bottle which was then put on a 90 Bottle drying tree
to dry out some. The bottling began with using an Auto-Siphon – 3/8″, plastic tubing, and a Plastic Spring Tip Bottle Filler. From there it was pretty easy going. Just fill the bottle to the top and pull out the bottle filler. The displacement of the filler when removed left the perfect amount of wine in the bottle. We finished up the bottling using a Floor Corking Machine
and then added custom made labels to the wine bottles.

That was pretty much it to the class. I learned the process of kit wine making and have since completed two kits on my own and have a third going. It’s a fun process. Next I want to make wine from ingredients instead of a kit. I’ll keep you updated on how that goes.

Winemaking Class – Part 1


I just completed my first ever wine making class that was put on and taught by the fine folks at Defalco’s-Home Wine and Beer Supplies in Houston. It was a weekly class that met on Tuesday evenings for 6 weeks. Just long enough to make a couple batches and get them bottled.

The class covered equipment needed for home wine-making and went over the various steps. We made a white and a red from kits readily available at Defalco’s. As a class we walked the aisles to choose the wines to make. We were told that some were designed to be make in about 4 weeks and some 6-8 weeks. Most would be ready to drink in 6-12 months after bottling. We chose two Vintner’s Reserve kits, Vintner’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and Vintner’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

We sanitized the primary fermenting bucket with sodium metabisuphite as-well-as the other equipment being used. It was pre-mixed in a one gallon glass jug. I will be doing the same thing in my home making process. We learned that the solution is ok to splash a little and can simply be washed off your hands. We also learned that it is more the gas of the solution opposed to the solution itself that does the sanitizing so it’s important to let things “sit” awhile.

The water used was simply from one of those “windmill” water stations. After sanitizing we added some of the water to the primary fermenting buckets and mixed in bentonite from the kits. Then the juice concentrate was opened and added to the bucket. We mixed back in to the juice container some water several times to make sure we got all the juice out. Right before adding the yeast we added the included oak chips.

We “re-hydrated” the yeast with a little warm water and let it sit when mixing the juice in the fermenter. One note, Scott and Jim suggested adding an additional packet of yeast to the mix to help kick it off better. Another thing I will do in my first batch at home.

At this point we buttoned everything up by securing the lid and adding the air lock. We’ll come back next week for our first racking.

Stay tuned for part 2…

Malbec – Texas vs. Argentina


We had some friends in town visiting over the weekend and we wanted to do something different while enjoying a little wine. I happened to have two bottles of Malbec in the cabinet. One from Argentina, a Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec 2010 and one from Texas, a Haak Vinyards Malbec 2010. We decided it would be fun to “blind taste” the two bottles side-by-side and compare notes. It’s fair to note that my wife and I enjoyed a bottle of the Norton the previous week so it was still fresh in our memories.  Note that this is not meant to be a wine review just some impressions of tasting wine from two different regions.

We each got two wine glasses and one at a time turned our backs while someone else poured for us. Upon turning around we compared the color, smell, and taste. Going into this I really expected that the Malbec from Argentina would overwhealm the one from Texas. That turned out to not be the case.

Color impressions: When I turned around I immediatly know which wine was which. It was mostly because I had tried the Norton a week earlier. The Haak malbec had a more “orange” color to it while the Norton malbec was deeper purple/garnet. Both wines were “pretty” in the glass.Malbec Texas vs Argentina

Nose impressoins: We all thought the Haak malbec smelled nicer. It was floral and peppery. One description I heard was “wildflower and oak.” The Norton malbec was described as “buttery oak.” We all enjoyed just smelling the Haak malbec.

Taste: Here’s where we were all surprised. Both wines were enjoyable. While the Texas malbec from Haak was “harsher” it wasn’t overly so. One description was “burlap” but that’s not a knock on it, just a description. It was spicier to taste. The Norton was smoother, described as “velvety.” It had a smoother and longer finish.

As the evening progressed we finished to bottle of Malbec from Haak winery and enjoyed it very much. We saved the Norton for consumption the next day. The bottom line is this, the Texas Malbec from Haak holds its own against the Argentina malbec. I would have no problem serving either wine to visitors or simply as an evening drink.

Want to win a trip to the Texas Hill Country?


As you may have heard Wine Enthusiast magazine announced the Texas Hill country as one of the 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations for 2014 in a recent article. This makes me want to travel the various Texas wine trails even more.

Be sure to checkout Wine Enthusiast reviews of Texas wines.

In addtion to the great article they’ve also announced a contest that will take the winner on a trip to the Texas Hill Country for several days to enjoy great Texas wine and food. Something any of us would want to do at any time even though we’re already in Texas.

The winner gets the following great prizes:

  • Round-trip flights and transportation for two to Texas
  • Up to 8-night accommodations at local B&Bs and winery accommodations in the Texas Hill Country
  • Guaranteed visits at up to 12 wineries
  • Select exquisite multi-course wine-and-food dinners.


The winner will get a great itinery to great Texas eateries and wineries such as Flat Creek Estate, Bending Branch Winery, Becker Vineyards, Cotton Gin, The Bistro at Flat Creek Estate, Otto’s German Bistro, Lewis Wines, Pedernales Cellars, Perissos Vineyard and Winery, Grape Creek Vineyards, and Hill Country Bike & Wine. Plus many other cool things.

You can enter the contest at

Upcoming – Wine making class


To further my wine knowledge and maybe make a little wine at home I’ve signed up for a wine making class in the Spring of 2014. My wife Carole will also be joining me. The class we chose was Wine Making – From The Vine to Your Table offered at Defalcos in Houston. The class runs six consecutive weeks for 1.5 hours each session. The description of the class is:

De-mystify the winemaking process by making your own personal vintages. Winemaking dates back thousands of years and now more and more Texans are getting into the spirit of the grape (and blackberry, peach, strawberry, apple, honey, etc.). In this class you will produce wine from an easy winemaking kit. The proper methods of using a hydrometer, conducting an acid titration test will be covered, along with fortifying sherries and ports. Get a little sticky by crushing real fruit to make a “scratch” recipe. Note: You must be at least 21 years old to enroll in this class.

We’re looking forward to the class and I will try to sum up my experience each week on this blog. Not sure if the class will give us the wine making bug, but I suspect that we’ll be looking to purchase a small wine making kit once the class is over. If you’ve taken a class before I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Be sure to come back after March 25th to see my summary posts.

Familia Nueva Cabernet Sauvignon Liberté – 2011


So as any good redneck would I typically look for something good for “cheap.” I’m always on the lookout for a good wine for $15 or less bottle. I’ll spend a lot of time with ThumbsUpWine, both their website and their app. I’ll visit ReverseWineSnob and check out their recommendations also. Last week while I was in Trader Joe’s the ThumbsUpWine guys app recommended Familia Nueva Cabernet Sauvignon Liberté 2011 from the Paso Robles region in California. Sure enough it was there for $9.99. Could I possibly get a drinkable Cab for under $10?

When I first opened the bottle and poured a glass I was impressed by the nose. Nice and oakey and a little fruity. The first few sips were underwhelming and not too impressive so I decided to let the bottle sit opened for a while and then when I poured another glass I let it sit about fifteen minutes before drinking. It made a lot of difference.178753 The taste went from just ok to pretty good. It was thick tasting but not complex, a little fruit and slight sweetness in the mouth, and a medium smooth finish. It didn’t quickly die on the finish like a lot of cheap wines. Additionally the finish was a little “dusty.” On day two I had the same experience with the addition of a “soft” feel on the finish.

Overall it wasn’t bad for under $10. When so many at this price point are so, so bad this one was a pleasant surprise. Was I blown away? Of course not. It was just a good and pleasant wine, nothing special and not memorable but something I’d drink again. Maybe a good second bottle at a party. I’d rate it 2.5 out of 5. It might be worth keeping a couple bottles around.

Coppola Rosso – Red on the Cheap


Being somewhat “redneckish” means you have to be cheap. I know that cheap is relative so when it comes to wine if I can find and enjoyable bottle under $20 I consider that to be cheap. I saw and article on MensHealth website titled 10 Best Wines Under $15 and thought maybe I’d find something good. I’d like to eventually get through all 10 of them just to see if I can find a hidden “cheap” gem.

The first wine on the list is Francis Ford Coppola Rosso (2010). MensHealth describes this red blend from Napa Valley as “well-structured, interesting, and always worth the price.” Coppola’s website describes it, “Rosso is made from a blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from climatically diverse growing regions across California.”  rosso-wine_0I picked up a bottle from Whole Foods just to be sure. While MensHealth stated that a bottle could be had for about $8 it was $14.99 at Whole Foods. We know that Whole Foods never has the lowest price on wine and usually has the highest. Anyhow, it was there and I bought a bottle.

After getting home I popped the cork for a sample. I always like to smell the cork when opening a bottle of red and the cork from the Rosso has a good berry and oak smell. I was intrigued. In the glass Rosso has a nice deep red color and is pleasant on the nose. I thought it had a tobacco smell under the oak. I’m not sure how much Syrah is in the blend but the wine had the “inky” texture and feel to it when I had a sip. The tobacco taste was there along with some berry and smoke. The finish was ok and somewhat smooth but not long lasting and it went right into a plum aftertaste. The first few sips I enjoyed but I quickly tired of it. My wife didn’t care for it at all.

My conclusion? Well, I probably won’t buy it again. It could be ok for a quick pickup to have with a meal and some friends but for the price I’d just grab Cupcake Red Velvet or Ménage à Trois for a red blend. I’ll give it 2.0 stars.

An Independence Day Texas Wine Tour


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. Pedernales CellarsThat 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. Becker VinyardsThis 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. Fall Creek VinyardI 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. Periossos Vinyard and WineryWe 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.