Tag Archives: road trip

Battle of the Texas Tempranillos

November 8, 2014…Houston, Texas

Battle? Smack down? War? Beating?

The third Texas Wine Lover’s “Battle of the Texas Wine” was determined back in May to be the Battle of the Texas Tempranillos. Wineries across Texas were invited to participate in this event which would pit Texas Tempranillo against Texas Tempranillo. Twenty-eight wineries across the state eagerly accepted and offered their finest bottle. The requirements for this smack down were simple: the wine had to be at least 75% Texas Tempranillo and had to be readily or soon to be readily available. Several other wineries would love to have participated, but they did not have a wine readily available at this time. In order to participate, one even winery pulled a couple of cases of their wine out of their library hold to make available. Now that is dedication to this event!

While the wines were being accumulated, the decision for who would be judges was determined. I like how Jeff invites a variety of levels of participation. In the mix of 15 judges were winery owners, winemakers, blog writers, sommeliers, grape growers, and wine enthusiasts. The date was finalized for November 8 and the location would be at the NICE Winery in Houston where the Battle of the Texas Roussannes was held last July. This is a great venue with enough room to hold everybody and not be tight or crowded.

With all these details set, we waited for the event to come up next on our calendar. When it did, The Boy got to have his gramma/grampa visit and Shelly and I loaded the car and headed south to Houston. We arrived in plenty of time to enjoy lunch in the vicinity of NICE Winery and relax for a bit before we got down to business.

The winery is located in an industrial business park and seems to be an odd site, but when you open the door and step inside you are transported to what feels like someone’s luscious home. Bookcases flank a large stone fireplace on one wall where large couches and a coffee table would normally be arranged in front of it. A wet bar is at the back of the room and a hall takes you to the restrooms and the bedrooms, I mean offices. The kitchen area is located on the other side of the bar down another hall. Overall, it easily offers the illusion of someone’s home.

As we entered we saw some of the other judges had already begun arriving and were visiting with each other. Of course Jeff Cope and Gloria Schlanser, original Texas Wine Lover bloggers; Jeremy Wilson, Texas Wine Lover correspondent and Sommelier; and Rebecca Marmaduke, new Texas Wine Lover correspondent and also a Sommelier, and her husband Ben were all busy putting on various finishing touches. Ryan Levy, owner/winemaker of NICE Winery was also putting on finishing touches for a wine dinner that was to be held after we were finished. I also saw Mike Batek, owner of Hye Meadow Winery in Hye, and Bob Landon, owner and winemaker at Landon Winery in McKinney and Garland. Not being one to pass up a hug, I approached both gentlemen and greeted them and got wonderful hugs! I LOVE this industry!!! Soon Bill and Gail Day, grape growers with Buena Suerte Vineyards in the High Plains, arrived followed by Sergio Cuadra, winemaker at Fall Creek Vineyards in Tow, then Marta Lastowska winemaker at Haak Vineyards and Winery in Santa Fe. Jerry and Gail Levy, Ryan’s parents and fellow wine lovers and wine industry supporters, and Jarrett Buffington and James Watkins, Houston area Sommeliers, rounded out the field of judges.

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Photo courtesy Jeff Cope, http://www.txwinelover.com

Since Ryan had a wine dinner almost immediately following our Tempranillo tasting, he and Jeremy began pouring the first flight of three wines as we continued assembling and greeting each other.

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All of the bottles had been painstakingly wrapped in brown paper bags so as to hide any and all identifiers.

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We found out at that time that there would be 28 wines tasted in flights of threes. Scoring sheets and pens were provided along with blank paper for personal notes.

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The scoring would be similar to the Battle of Texas Roussannes that we attended last July. Each wine would be scored with a number grade. There was also a block where notes were encouraged. Each flight would last 5 minutes, an opaque cup was provided to spit and dump, and pairings of crackers, meats, and cheeses were available to cleanse our palettes as needed. Discussion during the flights was discouraged, but that’s ok because there wasn’t much time to talk, taste, and spit anyway. Everyone took the task at hand very seriously.

As I began tasting and spitting the first couple of flights it became clear to me that I was not getting the “whole” picture. I was finding that by spitting out the wine that was in my mouth I was lacking the finish that I enjoyed so much in a good Tempranillo. I decided that I would go ahead and swallow the taste, but not drink what was poured in my glass. I was there to judge the wines, but I was going to enjoy doing it as well! After that I was able to give more honest opinions about the wines. I find it very interesting that while there were 28 wines made from the same grape by 28 different people each and every one was different. Some were very different. Some were fruit forward, some were smoky, and some were spicy. Some I liked. Some I liked a lot! Some I didn’t like at all. I wish I had kept better personal notes so I would know which ones to go add to my collection.

These are all 28 contenders…

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These are the top three…

Photo courtesy Jeff Cope, www.txwinelover.com
Photo courtesy Jeff Cope, http://www.txwinelover.com

1st: Lost Draw Cellars, Tempranillo 2012, Texas High Plains, $36

2nd: Brushy Creek Vineyards and Winery, Tempranillo 2012, Rush Creek Vineyards, $34.99

3rd: Bending Branch Winery, Tempranillo 2011, Newsom Vineyards, $40

I’m not going to repeat information that you can get better from the gang at Texas Wine Lover, but I hope I could convey the process that we went through to arrive at the conclusion. It was a privilege and an honor to be invited and included in such a prestigious group of judges.

Photo courtesy Jeff Cope, http://www.txwinelover.com

 

 

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Enoteca–Flat Creek arrives IN Marble Falls

Enoteca (EnoTECa)…literally means “wine repository.” It has been used more recently to mean a wine bar giving visitors the opportunity to taste a variety of wines. Flat Creek Estate Winery is doing this at their new wine bar/tasting room and light fare restaurant in Marble Falls called simply The Enoteca. Located just at the bridge on 281 crossing the Colorado River in a building they renovated for this venture, you can find a tasting room with a fine select variety of Flat Creek wines to sample, a wide variety of Flat Creek wines in the bottle to purchase, and…surprise…a nice group of import wines from Italy to purchase!

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I have been anxiously watching the progress of Enoteca on Facebook as the construction has taken shape. We definitely made it a place to stop as we were planning our annual trek to visit the Hill Country wineries over Memorial Day to meet up with friends from different corners of Texas. When we arrived at the bistro we were warmly greeted at the door by Jessie and he offered us a complementary tasting of Blanco Brio as he explained how the concept works. He said it will be “go at your own pace” where you can step up to the tasting bar and enjoy a wine flight tasting, place your food order, place your wine order, and take your selections back to any number of seating arrangements inside or outside on the good sized patio that looks toward the river. He explained the wines available at the tasting bar will change weekly in order to keep the variety fresh. The wines are ordered by tasting flight of either dry red, dry white, or sweet; by bottle; or by full glass or by half glass.

There is a woodfired pizza oven, the tasting bar, gift shop items, and a back patio. The pizza oven definitely turned out some fine pizzas. We ordered the Margherita Pizza and the La Banderia Pizza. They also have beautiful sandwiches (I saw a patron eating one and it looked great) and salads in addition to cheese trays and simple dessert options. The chef that oversees the Bistro at the winery also oversees the menu at Enoteca so it is definitely up to his exacting standards.

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We decided on sharing the dry red flight consisting of the 2012 Super Texan (a bold Sangiovese), the 2010 Tempranillo, and the Trooper Red. The Trooper ends up being the Super Texan just not aged as long and available “on tap.”

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I also ordered a half glass of the Tempranillo to drink as I finished my half of the pizzas.

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While we were enjoying our pizzas and wines we looked up as the front door opened and in walked Rick Naber, owner of Flat Creek Estate Winery and now this Enoteca Tasting Room. After quick hugs he asked how we were enjoying our experience? We assured him that it was very enjoyable and Jessie was doing a great job taking care of us and keeping us happy. Rick let us know they had their “soft opening” starting last Sunday so they could iron out any kinks before the Memorial Day Holiday hopefully brought in more people. I’ll be watching to see if they have their Grand Opening and hopefully we can make a quick run down for it.

Come for lunch, come for happy hour, come to sit and rest a bit with your friends. Come on your way through as you visit either end of the Hill Country wineries.

Weekend Winery Road Trip

So…do you have a free weekend coming up soon? Here’s a great idea – how about taking a road trip? But, wait, not just any road trip…a winery road trip!! How does a picnic lunch on a patio sound? Good? OK, how about pizza and wine for dinner? Oh, yeah, now I have your attention. What about an overnight stay in an old hotel on a quiet town square to end the relaxing day? Let’s put this plan in motion…

Check your calendar for a couple of dates and make a phone call to Ancient Ovens (940-366-4255) and see which one is available, they have a tendency to sell out rather quickly. Next call Texas Kings Hotel (940-995-2565) and make reservations for the same night, trust me after the wine and pizza you will not want to drive home.

OK, now that the dates are set and reservations are made lets plan the rest of the weekend!

The morning of your reservations, pack an easy picnic lunch of maybe a pasta salad, French bread, cheeses, deli meats, whatever you enjoy eating as a picnic, and water. The secret to a good winery trip is to stay hydrated. Load up and head up the road a couple of hours to Blue Ostrich Winery. Their building once housed a herd?…a flock?…a gaggle?…of ostrich and the barrel room was the hatchery. Be sure and have them tell you the story, it is very interesting! As you go through your tasting keep in mind that you will want to take some wine to the pizza dinner. Maybe Poppy’s Garden if you like a little sweeter? Hmmmmm…Meritage? What about Cielo? I know, so many choices! These are just some of the reds, they still have a handful of whites to try. The good news is you don’t have to make the decision yet. Choose a glass of wine and take your picnic out to their pergola covered patio. You can enjoy the view overlooking the vineyard as it drops into the valley. Maybe the ostrich will do his dance for you, ask your tasting guide how to get him started. Most of all relax as you enjoy your day. Now you can make your decisions, but remember you still have another winery just down the road to visit.

Leave enough time in your schedule to call and meet at the hotel to check in and pick up your keys.

Now it’s time to go to Arche’. More than likely Amy will be at the tasting bar to greet you as you step inside. Allow her to guide you through a tasting. Do they have something you’ve never tried before? Give it a taste. They have some great varietals. Let her know you have reservations for the pizza dinner and she will get you out on time and with directions. Before you leave, take a moment to step outside and enjoy the view of their vineyards. Rows and rows of grapevines!

Did you make a wine choice at Blue Ostrich to drink with your pizza dinner? Did you find something at Arche’ you’d like to take too? It’s ok to take two, you can put the corks back in them if you don’t finish.

Dinner is just down the road and around the corner. Be sure to get there early enough to get settled and your wine poured before dinner gets started. It is quite a production. I am purposefully not saying much about it because it is so good and so fun. We went during February so we sat inside the new building, but I want to go back either in the Spring or Fall so we can enjoy dinner on the patio and watch the sun go down. Spoiler…save room for dessert!!!

When you can waddle out, head back to town to the hotel. Let yourself in and enjoy your room.

Breakfast is not provided, but feel free to bring your own continental brunch provisions. Pastries, yogurts, and fruits would be good to munch on as you leisurely prepare for the day ahead. There is a community coffee pot in the billiard room that can be used.

Brushy Creek  is just outside of Alvord about an hour down the road from Saint Jo. Their tasting room opens at 10:00. Les Constable, the owner, has a very wide variety of wines to taste and choose. Most of their grapes are estate grown, but they do purchase grapes from various vineyards from the high plains in west Texas to some vineyards in east Texas.

The tasting room is rather small, but that is fine when there are other people in there with you. Before you leave you will probably have new friends! The tasting guides will help you decide which wines to try based on your tastes and preferences. They have a table on the front porch of the tasting room you can take a glass and enjoy the quiet sounds of the country or they have an event facility that you can see if you can take your wine and sit and enjoy the view of their little valley.

Feel free to personalize this trip so that it fits your preferences and desires, I really meant this to be just a guide or a basic idea. Be sure and check driving directions and travel times that work for your schedule.

www.blueostrich.net

www.archewines.com

www.ancientovens.com

www.texaskingshotel.com

www.brushycreekvineyards.com

Hobbies

Stamp collecting

Coin collecting

Photography

Model trains

Hobbies. Hobbies are a great way to spend some leisure time doing something you really enjoy. My husband and I have a hobby we enjoy. We visit Texas wineries. This hobby actually encompasses several things we truly enjoy: traveling, drinking wine, and visiting with people.

Shelly and I grew up driving cross country for our family vacations. This was before the digital age of DVD players in the vehicle (we looked out the window), hand held gaming devices (we read a book), cell phones (we actually talked to our brothers and parents)…yeah, you get the picture. I have great early memories of driving in the family VW bus west to California to visit my great-grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. I would actually sleep on the ledge in the back over the engine. Later we had a station wagon. I really enjoyed sitting in the seats in the back that faced each other. Looking back, I thank God we never had an accident!! Shelly and his family enjoyed driving vacations to Colorado and many of the Civil War battle ground states back east in their station wagon. Since we’ve been married we’ve driven to California a few times, New Orleans, Arkansas, Oklahoma and all over this great state called Texas.

I’ve been drinking wine since high school (with my mom), but didn’t really enjoy it until Shelly and I stopped at a winery on one of our trips to Central California. They had every kind of varietal imaginable! Dry, sweet, red, white…what else is there? We tasted and enjoyed and got “bit by the bug!” When we got home Shelly found out there were wineries in Texas!! Bonus!! We made our first trip to the Hill Country in July of 2005. We made it to Lost Creek Vineyards, Texas Hills, Grape Creek, Torre di Pietra, Becker, Comfort Cellars, Sister Creek, Dry Comal Creek, Driftwood, and Spicewood. That was a pretty good representation for the first trip out. We came home with a case of wine and a bottle of olive oil.

Our first trip's haul!!

Our first trip’s haul!!

As I was looking at this picture again I noticed that one wine that we picked back then has become one of my favorites: Spicewood Vineyards Cabernet Claret. I’m not really big on sweet wines, so this one is like a port to me. After these first ten wineries on our first adventure, we have added another 70 wineries and tasting rooms on our way to more than 220. We have been to many of these wineries several more times as they have become our favorites and we can’t stay away.

Whatever your hobby, enjoy the passion that fills your soul. Follow that passion wherever it takes you…