Archives for category: Wineries

Although this Portuguese varietal is often associated with port wines or blending, some wineries have shown that this grape can be made into an outstanding single varietal wine. This Bending Branch version is a testament to how fine wine can be made from Souzao. Sourced from Silvaspoons Vineyards of the Lodi region, this red wine explodes with bold deep flavors that you might have thought were exclusive to other typical red wines. It can be tart at first, but just letting it breathe for a good hour will take care of that. This wine has some great acid levels that lend to perfect meal pairings with meaty dishes and proteins. Even at just 12.5% alcohol, the balance and character of this wine is amazing. Some fantastic blackberry notes will envelope your senses followed by some tobacco. There is just a touch of cocoa towards the end complimented by that classic long-lasting finish. This is a bottle worth savoring and enjoying with a nice meal. You will want more, so stock up well on this one in your cellar. Cheers!

Bending Branch Winery - Souzao - NV

The newest adventures of Nikhila Narra and Gregg Davis at Kalasi Cellars is their latest endeavor into all things grape and wine in Texas. Having already established themselves as one of the top-quality growers of Texas grapes, the expectations of their own line of wines has been eagerly awaited. Although this is her first big step into the Texas winery business, Nikhila is certainly no stranger to the wine industry. Having experience in wine making at Cakebread Cellars in Napa Valley as well as wine certification from UC Davis AND a Texas Tech viticulture certification, her credentials are only matched by her inspiration and enthusiasm for this big dream. Like his wife, Gregg has jumped all into this new business with enthusiasm and is not looking back. With experience in business management practices, he can help foster growth and success for this new bright star that recently opened. At 3300 feet in the Texas High Plains AVA, the Davis’s have been setting the bar on sustainable and quality grape growing practices for six years at Narra Vineyards. In 2014, they started with 20 acres of Albariño, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Sangiovese vines. Since then, they have expanded to almost 117 acres including not only Tannat and Tempranillio, but also Malvasia Bianca, Viognier, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc as well as some “rising grape stars” like Carménère, Sagrantino, and Teroldego. And as if that is not enough, they have started a new vineyard on their Texas Hill Country estate with freshly planted Teroldego last May. WOW…right? Using low yielding practices, the quality of each grape varietal at both vineyards will continue to be highly sought after by winemakers. Their commitment to a holistic approach to winemaking is unwavering and you can taste the difference in their inaugural wine releases. There are six wines to try in the fresh new hill country tasting room. The first line of wines to try are called the Heritage Collection. This represents the more common and traditional wines that everybody knows and loves. For the 2018 Roussanne, this stainless-steel aged wine does have a deep golden color and a well-rounded mouthfeel. The “newbie” on the rack is a 2019 Sparkling Muscat. This wine has just a touch of CO2 and was bottle aged for 6-months, giving it a pleasant tingling sensation along with honeysuckle notes that dance and delight across the palate. A great wine for spicy foods or a great summer sipper. Moving on to the reds! The 2018 Sangiovese was aged 18 months in neutral oak. It has good depth, character, great raspberry flavors, and is smooth. Got Malbec? This 2017 release is a big pleaser. It has a medium bodied texture, with cocoa, and cherry notes, making this bold wine a winner! The other two reds are part of their Reincarnated line. These seldom seen and grown grapes in Texas may not be so rare once Nikhila and Greg show the Texas wine world how they can be grown and crafted into great wines. You certainly may have had some good Carménère from Chile, but this “lost grape” explodes with beautiful berry structures and a touch of paprika. Have never heard of Teroldego? This Italian varietal has certainly found a new home here at Kalasi Cellars. With vanilla and tobacco notes, this very deep dark rich red wine will certainly rival many traditional well-known reds. Bring on that locally sourced fatty aged steak for pairing! It goes without saying that this 100% estate and Texas grown fruit is working out quite nicely for this new winery. On the wine horizon will be a Rosé Tannat and a Sagritora – yum and YUM! It was great being there for their opening weekend and we hope to visit again and enjoy spending a bit of time on the patio. They are a great young couple to chat with and they certainly have their hearts and passions in the right place. Do plan to stop by! They have a kitchen, so stop in for lunch and a tasting or snacks and a tasting. We think you will be incredibly pleased with the wines and glad you visited. Enjoy!

Kalasi Cellars

The great expanse of Texas Hill Country wineries seems mind boggling at times.  The new grape varietals, quality of wines, and wine tasting experiences are vastly changing.   Many dedicated Texas wine fans remember the startup of 1851 vineyards a few years ago.  It was a great beginning with a great vision by the Hollimons that many fell in love with.  In 2019, they passed on their dreams to the Jones family.  Under the Slate Mill Wine Collective brand, the love and vision of 1851 Vineyards continues to be expanded along with a number of other independent boutique winemakers.  The Jones are certainly no stranger to the Texas wine industry.  They’ve enlisted the help of many well know Texas wine and vineyard expertise to help expand and elevate the estate to many new levels.  Haven been opened since 2019, your first visual notice is the greatly expanded vineyard site.  You’ll still take the leisurely road through the vineyards (plus all the newly expansive vine rows) and up to the now vastly expanded tasting room and wine making facilities.  The expanded areas of crushing area, winemaking, and barrel rooms gives a whole new meaning to everything is bigger and better in Texas.  Randy Jones can often be found here and will warmly welcome you with top county hospitality.  He is more than happy to tell you about what has been happening, their future plans, and of course, the great wines being served.  Randy sees this has a unique experience, both in wine tasting, company, and scenery.  The expanded wine tasting room includes a water wheel, outdoor patio, and fire pits.  It’s a great new atmosphere and décor to enjoy. The beautiful estate scenery sets the eye appeal for your visit.   The expanded wine making facilities serves not only in-house production, but as an incubator for new startup winemakers.  Tim Drake, now a legend in Texas wines, is heading the winemaking and can often be visibly seen chatting (and chatting and chatting) with customers and telling them about all the cool new wine things he is doing.   It looks like he may have found his new “home” for all things in great wine he wants to do.  Directing the whole “show”, is Jennifer Beckmann, well known and respected Texas sommelier. There are two sets of tasting sessions you can do. One is the 1851 brand where you can enjoy some previous and new in-house 1851 labeled wines.  The Collective tasting allows you to sample some wines from different small independent winemakers. Dandy wines from Wine for the People features a great selection by Rae Wilson. There are also reds and whites from Tatum Cellars made by Joshua Fritsche, who many remember from Williams and Chris Vineyards. Randy Hester has also been crafting some outstanding reds from the C.L. Butaud label, as well.  Selections from Majek Vineyard & Winery and Farmhouse Vineyards will be here, as well, for tasting. Being “new” and if you ask, you just might be able to sample some from both tasting tracks.  Also coming around the corner for Slate Mill is a 2017 Barbera for the Spring, a 2017 Tannat, and a 2017 Petite Sirah/Malbec blend (an out of this world blend!).  Future estate blends are also in the works, so keep your wine glasses close by. In addition to 1851 and independent winemakers, the collective will also include the Slate Theory Winery (not too far down HWY 290 east of Frederiksberg), Re:Rooted 210 Urban Winery (near Hemisphere Park in San Antonio),  and La Bonne Vie Ranch (beautiful ranch venue south of Fredericksburg).  With great people, great grapes, and a great wine, there will be no shortage of great things to come here.  No empty glasses here, as Randy will be sure that yours is full. With the ever fast-changing pace of Hill County wineries, you definitely don’t want to blink, or you will surely miss greatness. With second to none hospitality, this new collective will make you feel right at home. Enjoy, y’all!

IMG_3070 -Slate Mill Wine Collective

Before and after the 55mph speed limit sign in Stonewall, you can find wineries galore popping up east and west. Now, “downtown” Stonewall has its own winery that should be on your list of places to visit.  Having worked in the real estate business for many years, owner Jeff Williams has made many great contacts during his career including a few wineries.  Those contacts have paid off and now Jeff and his wife Barbra have set their own course in the Texas Hill Country winery universe.  They picked the name Cicada from its historical reference to good luck. They’ve put that good luck to use by renovating the former Stonewall volunteer fire department building into their wine tasting and storage facility. It’s quite spacious with just over 4600 square feet to “play”.  The interior is quite bright and is decorated with some interesting modern art on the walls.  Grapes are sourced from Texas and California with a focus on small batch production.  Bending Branch Winery and Kuhlman Cellars have been helping Jeff with his initial wine production. The tasting room has only been opened to the public for about eight months.  There are several wines for tasting of which you can pick five.  We started off with the 2017 Rosé.  Sourced from the Texas High Plains, this blend of Mourvèdre, Tannat, Montepulciano and Sagrantino is dry and smooth with a pleasant lingering fruit finish. We then moved on to the 2017 Texas High Plains Tempranillo.  It is fruit forward with bright acids, cherry flavors, and some slight peppery notes.  Like Tannat?  Their 2017 vintage has a very dark rich color, strong tannins and super long-lasting finish.  The 2017 High Plains Malbec/Merlot blend has great balance and ripe blackberry flavors. Lastly, we sampled the 2015 Ruby-Eye Red. Aged in whisky barrels from Garrison Brothers, this California sourced blend of Sagrantino, Tinta Cão, and Petite Sirah packs quite of punch of intensely diversified flavors and aromas. Future releases in the works include another Tannat, a Cabernet/Tannat blend, and Sagratino blend. The causal and comfortable atmosphere compliments the great hospitality you’ll enjoy here.  Yes, there is now a good reason to slow down in Stonewall, besides the speed limit. Next time you are passing through, stop in and give Cicada a try. Enjoy!

IMG_2453 - Cicada Cellars

Parr Vineyards is certainly no stranger to Texas Hill Country wineries. William and Chris Wines, Pedernales Cellars, and Lewis Wines have all produced some of their best wines from fruit sourced from this vineyard. Located in the outer frontiers of the the Texas Hill Country AVA near Mason, owners Robert and Dilek Parr have been transforming their 20-acre ponderosa into one of the most unique and top-notch grape growers over the last 15 years. Living abroad and experiencing many great ways of pairing food and wine helped plant those early seeds of one day growing grapes to produce their own wine. Over the years, Robert dabbled in wine making and grape growing in Boerne. The desire to have a fine bottle of wine was certainly a motivator to find a place to grow quality grapes. There are about 16 acres of production vines on their estate that consist of Mourvèdre, Semillon, Tempranillo, and Touriga National. The special terroir of this location consists of decomposed granite lying within the Hickory Sandstone formation. This allows for not only great drainage, but excellent plant nutrients for the vines. This coupled with cool nights to offset the typical brutal Texas heat of summer has yielded some very fine quality fruit. Robert Nida has been assisting the Parrs with their winemaking. All fruit is hand harvested, estate bottled, and non-filtered. You truly get the essence of what quality work is all about. Their new Mason tasting room currently features their seven initial estate wines to sample. Starting off with the whites, we dove into the 2018 Semillon. It has pleasant aromas, is very fruit forward with a wonderful mouth feel. Next up was the2018 Mourvèdre Rosé. This wine has a lovely raspberry light hue with tantalizing acids and nice licorice and blackberry flavors. For the first red, we tried the 2015 Mourvèdre. This smooth red has more of a rich dark fruitier flavor with a touch of pepper. The 2015 Touriga is very dark in color with a great nose and a full mouth feel. Ironically, the 2016 Touriga seems smoother and more elegant and interesting with richer dark fruit flavors and a slight pepper finish. The last two reds we sampled a couple of months ago at Mason’s Hallowine event where we met the Parrs and talked about their new tasting room opening. At that event, the wines poured were the 2018 Tempranillo Joven which was drinking quite well for such a relatively young red wine and we sampled the 2019 Wild Child. This last red wine is a blend of Touriga, Tempranillo, Cabernet, Graciano, Mourvèdre, and Viognier. It’s well balanced and a great melding of flavors and aromas. This was a fantastic launch of their initial wine releases. First impressions are everything and the Parrs have made a strong impression with us. Robert mentioned that there may be Syrah and Viognier vines producing fruit in the future. We left the tasting room full of delight and eager anticipation of our future return to sample impending new released in the new year. Visiting this couple in their tasting room and hearing them share their passion about what they are doing and their story of how they arrived at their present dream come true was inspiring and delightful. We’ll be back and look forward to many more great things happening here. Do make plans to visit them in Mason, you will not be disappointed, and you should enjoy visiting with them and learning about their journey. The lovely cheese and snacking plates for you to enjoy with the wines is a great compliment to the conversations. Enjoy and Cheers!

20191221_170915 - Parr Vineyards

A little bit of patience and a lot of hard work can make awesome dreams come true. And so, it goes for owners Barbara and Miguel Lecuona. You may know Miguel from his work at Hill Country Light where his photography work can be found at a number of fine Hill Country wineries. Together with Barbara, who earned her winemaking certificate through the Texas Tech program, they have ventured into this ever evolving and rapidly expanding Texas wine world. First, let’s get the pronunciation right – See-Bo-NAY. Second, you’ll get a great back story on the winery name when you visit with them and then better understand why it’s a perfect match for their winery. The name is one of Cuba’s great love songs and yes, it was written by one of Miguel’s relatives! How cool is that? The name also reflects a coastal village on the far south end of Cuba. The current tasting room location is at Hawk Shadow Winery in Dripping Springs. Grapes are sourced from the Texas Hill Country and Texas High Plains AVA with focus on Rhone and Bordeaux varietals. Barbara has made some great tasting wines with her initial selections. We tried five wines for our first visit. Starting with the whites, was the 2017 Hot Shot. A blend of 50% Viognier and 50% Roussanne, you’ll get the strength of the Viognier complimented with the full bright flavors of the Roussanne. A nicely balanced blend. Next up, was the 2018 Sauvignon Blanc. This Sauv Blanc hit the high marks! Sourced from Nara Vineyards, it packs great flavor of lime and peaches. Their 2018 Rosé is made from Mourvèdre from Lahey Vineyards.  It has moderate acids, dark color, full of dark fruit flavor and a hint of toasted pecan on the finish. We loved it. For the reds, we sampled the 2017 Travis. Sourced from Hoover Valley Vineyards, this 90% Mourvèdre and 10% Syrah has bright acids, plums favors and a hint of oregano. It will be interesting to try again in 2-3 years. Timing is everything, and we were fortunate to taste (and buy) some of the last 2017 Nebbiolo. Also sourced from Lahey Vineyards, this wine is reminiscent of Pinot Noir (difficult to grow in Texas). As a special treat we were given a sample of the ‘in-the-bottle-yet-to-be-released-and-named’ red blend. We won’t spoil the secret of this blend before release, but let’s just say Barbara has done justice and we will be back for some of these! On the horizon will be a 2017 Tempranillo from Newsom Vineyards and a Zinfandel port, which sounds very interesting. These new releases were impressive. You may have noticed the bud break symbol on the labels. It is from a bud break on 40-year-old vines from Bordeaux that Miguel photographed. In 2020, the Lecuonas hope to be at their new permanent location on a 52-acre lot adjacent to the west of Lewis Wines near Johnson City. They are a great and creative couple to get to know and you can see how their heart and soul and passion is all in this new chapter of their life. We have no doubt that their work will have a big impact on how “Texas Terroir” will eventually be defined and we can hardly wait to see and sample their future releases. Welcome and Saluté!

20191214_155757 - Siboney Cellars

Over the rocky roads and thru the countryside trees, to a new great winery destination we go! Great wine and great food will always bring good people together. Quintessentially, Saint Tryphon Farm & Vineyards is but one more fine example of someone daring to live the Texas Hill Country winery dream and proving it can be done in Boerne. Named after the 3rd century Christian Saint of all things related to wine and gardening, Saint Tryphon, owners Silouan and Mary Elizabeth Bradford have taken to heart what crafting great grapes from the land can do for producing wonderful wines. Impressed by Napa wineries, travels to Europe, and sound advice from local area winemaker Lewis Dickson, their dreams began to take root in 2013 with the purchase of their property in Boerne soon followed by Blanc du Bois vines being planted on the estate in 2016. The winery, which opened to the public in February 2018, has been serving some well-crafted wines to many happy wine lovers. They specialize in using natural wine fermenting techniques. Silouan’s winemaking style has yielded some incredible natural and great tasting selections. Most grapes are sourced from Farmhouse Vineyards from the Texas High Plains AVA. There are currently five wines for tasting. We started with the 2018 Albariño. Sourced from Newsom Vineyards, it had lovely notes of floral and melons. Their 2019 Mourvedre Rosé…wow! You will love the petals on the nose and watermelon notes with a very pretty color. For the first red, we tried the 2017 Mourvedre which is quite fruit forward and packing plum and cherry notes. The 2018 Tempranillo, sourced from Newsom Vineyards, is spicy with big acids, bold flavors, and a tantalizing fine finish. Like bubbly? No problem! Their 2018 Pét-Nat style sparkling is made from Orange Muscat with honeysuckle on the nose and tropical notes and citrus to delight the senses. Want more tastings? For sale but not on the tasting menu is the 2017 Blanc du Bois and 2018 Cinsaut Rosé. There are a few new wines coming out soon: a Tannat, an Aglianco blend, and another Cinsaut creation. Whether you choose the indoor or outdoor seating for your tasting, both have the right ambiance for sipping and taking it easy as you relax and enjoy your wines with your visit. The pool and big oak tree to the south makes a lovely picturesque scene as you look out over the Hill Country. It’s a bit of a winding road to get there, but you will be well rewarded with great hospitality and great wine for your efforts. Cheers!

IMG_2448 - Saint Tryphon Farm & Vineyards

Owners Robert and Lydia Nida are certainly no strangers to the Texas wine industry. Having hands on work experience at several area wineries, connections with Texas grape growers, running their own vino consulting business, and experiences from abroad including France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy has certainly served them well. The name of the winery has a real deep meaning to them on how they got engaged and Lydia’s love for penguins. Telling the story is one thing, but it is much better to hear it from them in person when you got to taste their great wines! Their passion for winemaking and how they want to see their new business run is quite inspiring. Not only are they sticking to their guns and keeping it a small production winery, but both Rob and Lydia see this as a unique opportunity to help give back and support the Texas winery community by fostering novel winemakers on the ins and out of the industry.  It’s a win-win for both the master and the apprentice and shows a serious and genuine commitment to the Texas wine world and helping to give back and mentor others to create an even better Texas wine industry. Current tastings are done at the Cicada Cellars location in Stonewall, Texas. Most fruit is sourced from the Texas High Pains AVA. We first tried the 2018 Chenin Blanc. Oh wow! If you are not already one, Rob’s latest creation will make a Chenin Blanc lover out of you.  It’s got a nice, crisp long-lasting finish that you expect from a great Chenin.  The second wine sampled was the 2018 Rosé of Sangiovese. Sourced from Nara Vineyards, it has great acids and a spectacular fruit forward profile. The winemakers also have a 2018 Table Red Growler. Their growler program allows wine club members a unique opportunity to refill wine from some custom batch wine jobs. The 2018 Growler was a Malbec and packed a full mouth feel with great tannins! Available during our visit was a 2017 Sangiovese from Cellar Rat…another small batch wine produced by another winemaker in the Hill Country. Lastly, we tasted the 2015 O Inicio. This fortified Blanc du Bois is rich in flavor, smooth in sipping, and really demonstrates the true quality character of this varietal. The labels and rocks in their tasting room are the Petoskey rocks from Lake Michigan – a testament to their life experiences. They likewise feature some great artworks on the walls to admire to help compliment your wine tasting experience. These two rising star entrepreneurs have made a great new start with Pebble Rock. Their vision signifies a new wave of next generation winemaking for the Texas industry and we could not be more pleased with their work. Look forward to more great things from this couple!

20191103_115535 - Pebble Rock Cellars

Blanco has many local, historic, and natural charms to this little town in the Hill Country.  Now, it has something people will talk about more when they go to Blanco…a charming winery! Opened since this past April, owner Judith Raven is no stranger to the Texas grape and wine world. For almost 20 years, she has been experimenting with grape growing in the Hill Country near Spring Branch.  The estate has about 6 acres of grape vines planted and is known for Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo, and Merlot. The logo on the bottles, a raven, is a nod to the owner’s last name. When we visited, there were six wines featured on their tasting menu. The 2018 Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from Sierra Foothills AVA until the Texas Sauvignon Blanc grapes are ready. It is quite crisp with some distinct peach notes. The 2017 Hill Country Tannat is quite smooth with ripe strawberry and jam flavors. The 2017 Texas High Plains Tempranillo features more spice with a smooth finish. You’ll be delighted and quite happy with the 2014 Petite Syrah/Sangiovese blend.  Sourced from Reddy Vineyards, it is still drinking quite well. It is bold with nice tannic structure and is well balanced.  The last Esperanza wine is a sweet Orange Muscat. Source from the Texas High Plains, it hits the spot when temperatures heat up during the last three months of the year!  There is also a wine from Fly Gap that you can try called Cowboy Way.  It is for those who enjoy something bold and strong in a red. We enjoyed visiting with Judith’s daughter and hearing how they came up with the name for the winery. The name Esperanza comes from Judith’s childhood and relates to many good things that came with that name on her life’s journey, starting with living on a street named such. Now, Blanco has more good things going for it with the addition of this winery in the area. Inside the tasting room one will find tables and assorted cozy areas to sit and sip and relax as they enjoy their visit. There are also tables and chairs outside to enjoy the lovely warm fall temperatures of late. There is new artwork on the walls for sale by local artists making the space even more inviting and interesting. All in all, the space makes you feel right at home. Stop by and check it out for yourself. You just might find some new wines you enjoy and make sure to keep checking in from time to time, because there are more wines planned to be released. Cheers!

IMG_2446 - Esperanza Winery

With soft openings since July, this tucked away jewel located north of Bertram is going to stand out as a top quality fine wine destination in the northern Texas Hill Country.  Jerry and Janis Horne’s path to a winery career began many years ago with a casual conversation and visits to California wineries. That passion and love for what they do has matured into a beautiful estate vineyard and wine tasting room. The vineyard itself has been a work-in-progress for that last two years.  They currently have about seven acres (hmm, seven again…) of grape vines with a mix of Mourvèdre , Tannat, Vermentino, Alicante Bouschet and Souzao planted.  Tasting some of the grapes from the Souzao vines was an ‘OH MY’ and then some experience! Bob Young and Ron Yates are some of the winemakers helping them out on their first start.  Current wine selections have grapes sourced from California and Texas.  For the whites, the 2017 Chardonnay (Lodi) is aged in stainless still and exhibits great minerality, good acids, and a clean crisp taste! For reds, 2017 Mourvedre is sourced from the Texas High Plains AVA and shows off some great earthy notes. If you like Zinfandel, then you’ll do somersaults over this Lodi 40+ year old-vine 2016 vintage. It smooths out quite well with lingering notes of jam.  Got Alicante Bouschet?  7 Creeks does with their 2017 High Plains release. The garnet color is wonderful to gaze at with a touch of leather aftertaste. Don’t forget to also try their Alta Mesa AVA sourced Souzao.  If you love red wines and appreciate great meat parings, the 2015 Souzao vintage will have you hooked!  Scheduled for release in the fall, will be a Tannat, a Muscat Blend, and a superb Syrah Rose’….worth a return trip! And what’s a quality wine tasting with the bubbles? The 2014 Cuvée Blanc de Blanc is sourced from Lodi Chardonnay and made in the “Méthode Champenoise” way.  You can taste the greatness in every bubble! With some nice estate homes being built nearby, as well as, proximity to the booming Liberty Hill area, wine traffic will not be a problem here.  Stop by and enjoy their great hospitality!

IMG_2412 - 7 Creeks Vineyard