Friday, June 4, 2010

Texas Wine Trip: Days Five through Seven

For those who are just jumping in, Hubby and I are in Texas. I have a conference here in San Antonio next week, so we came early to explore Austin and Texas wine country. I'm a couple of days behind due to inconsistent internet access, so this is going to be a long one.


We started out on Wednesday at the Blanton Museum of Art on the University of Texas campus. They had a special Matisse exhibit and some great European art. I'll admit we don't really get that much into modern art, which they're heavy on, but those who are would probably like it.

After the art museum, we found our way to "The Drag," which runs along Guadalupe Street for lunch and then wandered back through campus to the parking deck. It's a beautiful campus, and now I have a better idea of the University of Texas other than "that football team whose sole purpose is to annoy Ohio State." They even have a fountain that spews water roughly the color of margaritas (no, I didn't taste it):

After that, the heat chased us inside back to Cork & Co wine bar, where we had a few glasses, a cheese plate, and got to hang out with Alex from and Personal Wine. I don't have a picture of Alex, but here's the cheese plate:

By then, it was storming, so I still didn't get to see the bats. We ran back to our hotel in the rain, changed, and ate dinner at Sullivans Steakhouse, where they're having a great summer prix fixe of three courses for two for $69. We enjoyed everything we ate, which was typical steakhouse fare.

Back to wine country...

We took off early after breakfast at Bakerman's Bakery, where we split an amazing turkey and Swiss cheese croissant. The chocolate fudge brownie I'd gotten the day before was great, too. This is a place I'll seek out should I ever return to Austin.

Our first stop was Texas Hills Vineyard, where Camille welcomed us into the tasting room and made us feel right at home. We also thought the sign in the bathroom was funny:

The highlights:

2006 Syrah
Dark cherry and plum aromas balanced with smooth spice on the palate.
Rating: Very Good (but not quite $75 good)

2006 Kick Butt Cabernet Sauvignon:
Smoky nose, medium-bodied with a little leather. Berry-smooth.
Rating: Very Good

2006 Kick Butt Cabernet Sauvignon:
Smoky nose, medium-bodied with a little leather. Berry-smooth and a little tart.
Rating: Very Good

2007 Kick Butt Cabernet Sauvignon:
Earthy nose with bigger fruit. Very smooth on its own.
Rating: Very Good
This one is also award-winning. The trophy? Yep, you guessed it, big belt buckle:

We liked all the sweet wines as well, especially with chocolate. I talked with winemaker Gary Gilstrap, who said he is most proud that all his wines are good. I agree – I rated all of them as good or above.

We'd seen a low-slung brick building that wafted aromas of smoked meat out on to the road on the way in and returned to Ronnie's BBQ for lunch. We each had a huge sandwich – Hubby's was sausage, mine turkey – prepared by Ronnie himself. If we were impressed with Texas barbecue before, we really are now.

The place:

The equipment:

The owner:

The first stop after lunch, Pedernales Cellars, had the best views of the hill country wineries we'd visited. They're known for their Viognier and Tempranillo. Highlights there included the 2008 Garnacha rosé, 2008 Merlot, and 2007 Family Reserve blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with a little Merlot and Tempranillo. With space in Bertha the wine safe at a premium, we didn't get anything there.

Woodrose Winery had a beautiful back patio where we were seated for tasting. It was like being on my parents' back porch at home with all the trees. Again, the wines were good, but nothing wanted to come home with us.

One of the fun things about tasting wine in Texas has been what I've called the Texas terroir. We could hear cows mooing from several tasting venues, and driving to the wineries was fun because we'd see fields of cows, cross cattle rails on roads, and then suddenly – grapes! Indeed, the driveway to Becker Vineyards has corn on one side and grapes on the other. However, they do have an elegant tasting building:

They also offer souvenirs:

We'd been told by several that Becker is the "Big Dog" of Texas wineries, and they did have a long tasting list. We stuck with reds. Highlights included:

2008 Claret: A Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot
Savory fruit nose and nice smooth palate.
Rating: Very Good

2008 Zinfandel:
Again, nice smooth fruit.
Rating: Very Good

2008 Syrah:
Blackberry nose, medium-bodied and fruity
Rating: Very Good to Excellent

2009 Reserve Cabernet Franc:
A little more acidic with a buttery finish, but already good. Probably wants more bottle time.
Rating: Very Good

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve:
Nice fruit with cedar and caramel.
Rating: Very Good

Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (High Plains):
Dryer, but still great fruit.
Rating: Very Good to Excellent

Uh, oh. We got three bottles, the Claret, 2008 Syrah, and High Plains Cabernet Sauvignon. That meant we arrived in Fredericksburg with one spot left in Bertha, several tasting rooms to explore, and one or two more wineries to visit. The tasting room quandary solved itself because by the time we got to Town Creek B&B, checked in, and made it back to town, Fredericksburg had pretty much rolled up the streets. Yep, most of the shops and tasting rooms close at 5:30. We did find two notable exceptions:

Mar Silver Jewelry, where the jewelry prices are seriously low for the beautiful handmade pieces. I got two pendants and a chain. If you know me, you know I wear the same pieces all the time, so you know I was wowed if I'm willing to introduce others into the rotation.

Lincoln Street Wine Bar, where "Director of Nectar" Dave Shaw poured and kept us entertained for a couple of hours until we went to find dinner.

Friday (yesterday) found us back in downtown Fredericksburg after an incredible breakfast at the B&B. We stopped by a few more shops and one of the tasting rooms, and decided to head out to Chisolm Trail Winery, which everyone had described as "cute." They hadn't told us how good the wines are. The cuteness factor was, of course, upped by the winery critters.


Winery cat C.J.:

Our favorite wines:

2008 Belle Starr: Blanc Du Bois
Blanc Du Bois is a white grape with nose of pineapple and apple with great tropical fruit on the palate.
Rating: Very Good

2007 Lone Wolf: Lenoir
Lenoir is a red grape, also known as Black Spanish, that was developed from Spanish root stock brought over 300 years ago and hybridized with native grapes and root stock from Georgia. Or not. No one is really sure, but it's yummy with blackberry jam nose and tartness on the palate.
Rating: Very Good

Lil's Red Satin: Cabernet Sauvignon
Again, very berry/cherry nose with bright fruit and medium body. I might chill this one down a little and sip it on the back porch.
Rating: Very Good

We got two bottles, the Belle Starr and Lil's Red Satin. That meant we were one over in Bertha, but we took care of that last night with some Claret before dinner.

I'm in San Antonio until Thursday, but I'll be conferencing and need to give my Random Writings blogsome attention, both with regard to content and to get back to the serial I'm writing for The Penny Dreadful, so look for occasional notes on particularly great San Antonio dining experiences while I'm here. And, of course, I'll be tweeting daily. As for drinking, there will likely be lots of these:

Disclosure: We got free tastings and a discount at Texas Hills for being "industry." I felt guilty, so I didn't try for that anywhere else. I would have still rated all the wines as good or above even if they hadn't treated us so nicely.

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