Saturday, April 18, 2015

Fun in Paso: Episode 1 of Dudes Being Dudes in Wine Country

Let me first start by saying this has nothing to do with Texas wine, at least not yet. This shows does allow viewers into the winery and vineyard to learn more about wine, and enjoy it too.

At the beginning of the month, a new wine show premiered online. The owners of Nocking Point Wines, Stephen Amell and Andrew Harding, decided to take their enthusiasm for wine beyond just owning a winery and drinking lots of wine. These days they are also filming Dudes Being Dudes in Wine Country – at least when Stephen’s Arrow and Teenage Mutant Ninja schedules allow. Their debut episode saw the friends in one of the places that sparked their interest in wine, Paso Robles, CA. 

The episode is lots of fun. First, the guys are out for a really good time. They enjoy every glass of wine, every bite of food, and all the interesting people they meet. And they take us along for the ride. The show starts where their wine journey began, Paso Robles. They meet up with their original guide, Tyler Russell (winemaker at Nelle Winery), who takes them on a journey through Central California wine.
Their first stop was Herman Story where they begin to learn about wine from owner and winemaker Russell From. The relaxed atmosphere of the small winery is friendly and fun; it is reminiscent of many boutique wineries in Texas. Here the guys get a good lesson in winemaking and grape growing. In fact, Andrew and Stephen are recruited to do punch downs of some recently harvested Gernache, an experience I have had several times in various locales throughout the Texas Hill Country (It is much more interesting to watch Stephen do this and then me). As a seasoned wine drinker and winery visitor, the education portions provide the most entertainment, but having some wine knowledge made it easy to follow and understand. However, those not familiar may struggle through these parts. There are a few cutaways where Andrew provides lessons to help, but these may not be enough for the uninitiated. 

Me doing punch downs at Wedding Oak Winery, Fall 2014, supervised by winemaker Penny Adams
 From the winery, they head out to Glenrose Vineyards to learn more about growing. The picturesque trellises set the stage for a beautiful sundown. Here Stephen and Andrew find out about vineyard management and caring for the vines, a situation they recently found themselves in when they bought a vineyard in Washington State. In the vineyard, they learn about fermentation as they taste a wine that had just been pressed. Between jokes and shared stories, Tyler presents some great insight garnered from his experiences.

There is also some fun and indulgence. They spend time enjoying great local cuisine, paired with local wines. They even zip-line over vineyards as well. The guys have a great time, and they share that with the viewers. For me, they made me thirsty, very thirsty. I planned to drink one glass of wine during the show, but I fell prey to the constant wine drinking. The enjoyment they are having while drinking is contagious. And the beautiful filming of the wine made me drink a few more before the show was done.

The goal of Dudes Being Dudes in Wine Country is to experience great wine and visit fun places. They want more people to learn about and enjoy wine. To do this, they plan to visit wineries from lesser known wine regions. And if their site is to be trusted, Texas will welcome them to some more great wine. For now, Episode 1: Paso Robles is available through the GooglePlay and YouTube for $1.99-2.99 an episode. Definitely splurge for the $2.99 Hi-Res version for some beautiful shots of wine and wine country.  

For now, check out the trailer here:

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Preview of Spring: New Wine in the Texas Hill Country.

Spring hides behind the winter clouds, waiting for just the right moment to emerge and breath new life into bare trees and, for the Texas wine industry, the dormant vines. This bright new year is already upon us, at least for the wineries of the Texas Hill Country. Even though the vines sleep, new wines signal a new year. And this year has already started out exceptionally well.

Lost Draw Celllars

The first major beginning unfolded on a cool, sunny Saturday in January. Many of us gathered in a small courtyard not far from Main Street in Fredericksburg. That afternoon, the ribbon was cut, welcoming Lost Draw Cellars to the Hill Country. Many who had gathered already knew the winery's portfolio, as they opened for tastings in November 2014; however, now the winery's opening was official.
The Lost Draw Family with the representatives for the City of Fredericksburg
Lost Draw Cellars started in the High Plains. Andy Timmons, owner of Lost Draw Vineyards in the Texas High Plains, his nephew Andrew Sides, and Andrew's father-in-law Troy Ottmers came together to offer Texas another great winery. The winery boasts wines made from Lost Draw Vineyards fruit, as well as grapes from other Texas vineyards. At the moment, out of state fruit is used to bring depth and variety to the Lost Draw portfolio; that is until they can make 100% Texas wine.

The two Texas standouts are the Reserve Sangiovese and the Tempranillo. These rich, complex reds do not just join the growing lists of Texas Sangioveses and Tempranillo but take their well deserved place. The Sangiovese has rich fruit flavors and earthiness, much like its Italian counterpart. The Tempranillo is round, accentuated by rich fruit and notes of the High Plains' terroir. The diverse collection of whites and the three blends provide striking contrast to the dusty Texas High Plains reds.

Bending Branch

Just down the highway from Lost Draw, Bending Branch Winery offers some new Texas reds. After a year of firsts, including the use of the first flash detante' in Texas, a new Tempranillo and Tannat have finally seen light. Three Texas whites, Picpoul Blanc, Vermintino, and a Roussane and Viognier blend will deepen Bending Branch's Texas roots.

For now, the 2012 Tempranillo, from Newsom Vineyards on the High Plains, offers a taste of Rioja. The subtle red drinks smooth, a velvety wine with dark red berry notes. After closer inspection, the dusty soil of the High Plains takes over, resembling the dusty flavors of a Spanish Rioja. But Texas predominates, as hints of limestone and more nuanced darker fruit flavors seep in. This wine is a hot day, the sun the only object in the sky; and of course, it could be Spain or Texas. The careful aging produces soft oak flavors that build with the tannins.

William Chris

And as usual, new experiments at William Chris Wines bring new delights to Texas wine. Looking for other ways to produce sparkling wine, they turned to traditional sparkling methods. Instead of using méthode traditionnelle, they decided upon Pétillant naturel.

Also called Pet-nat, a term bandy about at the winery these days, this method completes primary fermentation in the bottle. The bottle fermentation creates natural CO2 as the yeast eats away at the grapes' sugars. This is not any wine drinkers wine. This opaque wine is not filtered, which leaves the lees behind. William Chris's recent Cinsualt Rosé Pet-nat is a creamy dark pink with a lightly frothy head, punctuated by the normal rose fruits and a beer-like flavor from the yeast. However, do not expect a lot of wines like this because this method needs lots of attention as the wine ferments in the bottle; do expect other experiments with this unique French method.

The view of 2015's horizon stretches out into a multi-hued Texas sunset. Old favorites will draw us in, and the new ones will surprise and inspire us. It won't be long, Spring will arrive and the wildflowers will flood the Texas Hill Country. Now is the time dare to try something new.