Archive | May, 2015

Lone Star Spirit: A Wedding Oak Sampler

Lone Star Spirit: A Wedding Oak Sampler

wedding oak sangiovese

Here are five wines from Wedding Oak Winery worth seeking out. The winery doesn’t have distribution, so you can find them largely at the winery in San Saba, online at or at specialty Texas wine shops, such as the Grapevine in Gruene:

2014 Terre Blanc

Find out why people are claiming Texas has the perfect climate for Rhone-style whites. This blend of Marsanne, Viognier and Roussane is crisp and clean with a medium body and a bright citrus finish. Lush. Pair it with tagine or other Moroccan dishes with chicken or warm spices.

wedding oak label2014 Viognier

I’m a sucker for whites with a clean finish, and this is an excellent example of why they’re so refreshing in our Texas heat. Stone fruit reminiscent of Hill Country peaches predominates on the flavor profile. Pair with roasted chicken, stuffed trout and Floribbean dishes.

2013 Sangiovese

Only 1 percent of this wine is made with Petit Verdot, and yet that pungent grape makes its presence felt – and welcome, at that. It adds a tart edge to a wine that’s otherwise 75 percent Sangiovese and 24 percent Tannat. Flavors include bright cherry with a touch of Texas spice. Try this with a meaty lasagna, pizza with anchovies or chicken Parmesan.

2013 Tioja

This blend is made from 74 percent Tempranillo, 15 percent Tannat and 11 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and it showcases the excellent fruit owner Mike McHenry grows in the Hill Country. Smoky cherry flavors dominate with a pleasant vanilla touch. Pair with paella, a rib-eye or a bacon burger.

2013 Syrah Reserve

Mix 77 percent Syrah with 23 percent Tannat for a rich, medium- to full-bodied red that is full of dark fruit flavors, from currant to plum, with notes of tobacco and coffee. The pleasant finish lingers. Pair with pulled pork with a low-sugar sauce or leg of lamb.

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A Winery Grows in San Saba

A Winery Grows in San Saba

The tasting room at Wedding Oak Winery.

The tasting room at Wedding Oak Winery.

Mike McHenry didn’t start out with dreams of owning a winery. He was a farmer, not a tasting room manager or someone who’d ever dealt with busloads of thirsty tourists. He simply grew grapes on his property near the small Hill Country town of San Saba and sold them to other winemakers, people like Jim Johnson of Alamosa Cellars.

Mike and Lynn McHenry

Mike and Lynn McHenry

But a few years back, McHenry became convinced that his grapes were good enough to base a winery on. Together with a group of friends, he opened Wedding Oak Winery on June 1, 2012, and word has spread in a few short years that his wines are well worth seeking out.

“My deal is Rhones,” he says, explaining that he specializes in French varietals such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Viognier, Roussane and Marsanne as well as Tempranillo and Tannat, all of which are proving to be adaptable to the extremes of Texas’ various climates.

McHenry hired Penny Adams to be his winemaker. She was the first woman in Texas to earn the Master of Wine designation, and her tastes seem to mirror his own in how to showcase the grapes. “They are Penny’s wines,” he says. “They are made in collaboration, but they are definitely her wine.”

The whites are fermented entirely in stainless steel, resulting in crisp, clean expressions of the grapes used, whether you’re tasting Wedding Oak’s 100 percent Viognier or its Terre Blanc, a lively blend of Marsanne, Viognier and Roussanne.

“Whites are difficult to make” that way, McHenry admits, because each one has to be “clean and well-made, without flaw.” Otherwise, it would show in the glass. So, when you encounter the refreshing stone fruit and bright acidity in the 2014 Viognier, you’re made aware of how “the grape sings,” he adds.

For a look at several of Wedding Oak’s wines, click here.

Reds, meanwhile, are aged in neutral oak barrels that McHenry buys from Bryant Family Winery in Rutherford. The end results are fruit-dense wines with touches of minerality and earthiness from the Texas soil, whether you tasting the 2013 Sangiovese or the 2013 Tioja, a play on Spain’s Rioja and a winning blend of Tempranillo, Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wedding Oak Winery's barrel room

Wedding Oak Winery’s barrel room

Not all of the grapes needed for Wedding Oak’s wines are from McHenry’s vineyards or even the Hill Country. Some are from the Texas High Plains and occasionally from California.

His 2013 Albariño, Wedding Oak’s lone wine to be made entirely with non-Texas fruit, won the Double Gold Medal from the Houston Stock Show’s competition. It’s a beautiful wine, and it’s easy to see why most of it sold quickly after news of the medal was released. It’s also easy to see why McHenry quickly adds that he’s planted more Albariño with plans of making a Texas version as soon as the vines are ready.

“From a business standpoint, we want all Texas fruit,” he says, adding that a great many of the state’s more than 300 wineries want the same. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough fruit to go around. “We’re solving that by planting more,” he says.

McHenry’s not waiting around for more grapes to come in. He’s got plans for new projects, including one that would involve planting grapes in the Fredericksburg area.

Enjoy a taste or two on the patio at Wedding Oak Winery.

Enjoy a taste or two on the patio at Wedding Oak Winery.

He and his wife, Lynn, are heavily involved in the seven-day-a-week operation of the tasting room in downtown San Saba. It’s housed in a restored space that dates back to 1926 and is next to the 7,800-square-foot production facility, which can produce up to 10,000 cases. Current production is less than half that amount.

Each person who comes in gets a tour of the winery, and those visitors have helped make sure that all of Wedding Oak’s wines have sold out up to the new releases. While they’re in town, they can also take in the rebirth of San Saba’s downtown area.

About 2 ½ miles northeast of the tasting room, there stands a tree known as the Wedding Oak. It has been the site of numerous weddings and other ceremonies through the years. They continue to this day, celebrating in their way the natural treasures of Texas. McHenry’s wines do much the same.

Wedding Oak Winery
316 W. Wallace
San Saba


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Growing Something Special at the Hot Wells Ruins

Growing Something Special at the Hot Wells Ruins

Planning this year's Hot Wells Harvest Feast.

Planning this year’s Hot Wells Harvest Feast.

Resurrecting the Hot Wells Hotel and Spa may seem a little crazy to some, after two fires in 1997 and 2011 destroyed much of the fabled resort. But that is somehow in keeping with the history of the place.

The "Gents" pool at the Hot Wells Hotel and Spa.

The “Gents” pool at the Hot Wells Hotel and Spa.

Its story begins in 1892, when the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum drilled a well in order to have enough water to operate, according to a history on the Edwards Aquifer website.

And it continues today as a project of the Hot Wells Conservancy, which was formed in 2013 “to preserve the vestiges of the historic hotel and provide educational, cultural, and environmental programming,” the site says.

But enough of history. What’s happening on the grounds of the spa these days?

Heirloom tomatoes known as blueberries.

Heirloom tomatoes known as blueberries.

You can take a yoga class regularly in the old ruins, if you’d like. Or you can join with hundreds of other food lovers on June 3 for Hot Wells Harvest Feast, a event in which you can tour the grounds while eating food grown on the property and sipping your choice of cocktails, wine and beer.

This is a fundraiser to benefit the conservancy that was created by Robbie Nowlin, executive chef of the Hotel Valencia, and artist Justin Parr, who lives on the grounds.

The concept is simple: The participating chefs, including the mixologists, have to include ingredients grown on the property in their dishes. That could mean one or more of several dozen heirloom tomatoes, peaches from the heavily laden trees, any of the many hot pepper varieties, hoja santa leaves, lovage, fennel pollen, garlic blossoms — you name it. Some of the booths will be set up inside the ruins, while the remainder will line the exterior, all under strands of Italian lights.

A few of the gardens at Hot Wells.

A few of the gardens at Hot Wells.

This year, Nowlin has more than 30 chefs lined up, and he had to turn away many more. He knows it has caused some hurt feelings, but he hopes they understand that there’s just not room to accommodate everyone at this point.

“I’m a chef,” he says, “not an event planner. But I’m an event planner.”

In the end, it’s the cause that’s important, and if you’d like to see this once-grandiose site restored or if you just want to have some fine food in a wholly unique setting, you can visit the Hot Wells Conservancy website for details. For a list of the participating chefs, click here.

A few tips if you’re making the trip to Hot Wells, 5503 S. Presa St., Wednesday or any time in the foreseeable future:

–Dress casually and for warm weather.

–Leave your high heels at home.

–Wear plenty of bug spray.

–Have a designated driver.

–Enjoy yourself.

Robbie Nowlin stands in the Hot Wells ruin.

Robbie Nowlin stands in the Hot Wells ruin.

The ruins of the Hot Wells Hotel and Spa.

The ruins of the Hot Wells Hotel and Spa.

Fennel grows by the ruins.

Fennel grows by the ruins.

Peppers grow amid the flowers.

Peppers grow amid the flowers.



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Deep Eddy Raises Funds for Flood Relief

Deep Eddy Raises Funds for Flood Relief

In an effort to help Central Texas cope with the extraordinary floods that have affected the region this week, Deep Eddy Vodka Distillery & Tasting Room, 2250 E. Hwy 290, Dripping Springs, is donating 100 percent of the profits from this month’s Live at Deep Eddy Distillery to central Texas flood relief. The event is Saturday and Sunday.

deep eddy logoDeep Eddy expects a strong turnout for the weekend festivities and intends to use the profits from the event to support recovery. This month’s Live at the Deep Eddy Distillery will feature live music from Larry Gee and Walker Lukens, and a special weekend-long crawfish boil with Capital Crawfish Company.

Here’s the schedule:

Saturday, May 30

Capital Crawfish Company from 11 a.m.­ to 8 p.m.

Live music from Walker Lukens at 3 p.m.


Sunday, May 31

Capital Crawfish Company from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information, click here.

For more on Deep Eddy’s latest flavor, lemon, click here.

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Despite Rumors, Blue Bell Isn’t Headed to H-E-B Right Now

Despite Rumors, Blue Bell Isn’t Headed to H-E-B Right Now

There have been stories going around that our beloved Blue Bell Ice Cream was headed back to the freezer cases at H-E-B.

blue bell1But that’s not the case, according to a statement from the supermarket company:

“H-E-B is not restocking Blue Bell at this time. Food and safety recalls are something that we take very seriously. We will independently assess whether to carry the brand again once its products are deemed safe. For the most current information on Blue Bell’s recall and status visit”

Soon, we hope.

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Stir Up Some Fun During Negroni Week

Stir Up Some Fun During Negroni Week

Cocktail lovers know that there are few pleasures that match a well-made Negroni. It is also one of the simplest drinks to mix: Stir equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth with ice. Garnish with orange peel.

For Jeret Peña of the Last Word and the Brooklynite, the end result is magic. “The Negroni is my favorite cocktail, hands down,” he says. I couldn’t agree more.

That’s why Peña and many of the rest of us are ready to celebrate Negroni Week, which runs June 1-7 this year.

A Negroni

A Negroni

The fact that this event, sponsored by Imbibe magazine and Campari, raises money for charity only makes the week more inviting.

The rules couldn’t be much easier: You buy a Negroni from the participating bar of your choice, and the bar, in turn, donates $1 to the charity of its choice.

According to the event’s website, “From 2013 to 2014, Negroni Week grew from more than 100 participating bars to more than 1,300 participating bars around the world and more than $120,000 raised for charities.”

This year’s list is growing, with the following San Antonio bars taking part and the charities that they’re raising money for:

Alchemy Kombucha & Culture
1123 N. Flores

Arcade Midtown Kitchen
303 Pearl Pkwy.

Bar Du Mon Ami
4901 Broadway, Suite 130
Pets Alive

2720 McCullough Ave.
Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Blue Box
312 Pearl Pkwy.
Wounded Warriors

Esquire Tavern
155 E. Commerce St.
The Children’s Shelter

George’s Keep
17101 La Cantera Pkwy.
Wounded Warriors

555 E. Basse Road
Texas Science and Engineering Fair

Piatti at The Eilan
17803 La Cantera Terrace
Texas Science & Engineering Fair

Silo Oyster Terrance
22211 I-10 W.
Wounded Warriors

The Green Lantern
20626 Stone Oak Pkwy.
Humane Society

The Hoppy Monk
1010 N. Loop 1604 E.
Eco Life

The Last Word
229 E. Houston St.
GBS | CIDP Foundation International

Once again, this list is growing. So, if you don’t see your favorite bar on the list, ask for a Negroni anyway. You’ll enjoy the drink and you might be helping a charity.

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Lunch at Southerleigh, Basil Fest and More

Lunch at Southerleigh, Basil Fest and More

crawfish1Southerleigh opens for lunch at Historic Pearl

Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery is now open for lunch. Beginning this week, Southerleigh will serve lunch from Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Chef Jeff Balfour says the lunch menu is featuring favorites from the dinner menu including the wood-fired pretzel served with beer cheese and sweet and spicy mustard, smothered and fried Parker Creek Ranch chicken breast served with red eye gravy, and the crawfish boil served with corn and red potatoes.

Southerleigh will also offer new sandwiches and salads including a pressure cooked pot roast in gravy sandwich served with shredded lettuce and tomato; Griddled 44 Farms Texas chili dog with 1015 onion, white cheddar, and hand-cut fries; and a chilled gulf shrimp roll with green goddess dressing, lettuce, and tomato.

Additionally, Southerleigh will offer the Cellarman’s Lunch Pail, which includes a choice of entrée from southern pot roast, crisp fried gulf golden tilefish, and wood-broiled oysters, served with your choice of green salad and market soup for $11.

Southerleigh offers weekday lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., dinner daily from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., and the bar is open daily from 2 p.m. to midnight. Southerleigh is located on the ground floor in the historic Pearl brewhouse at 136 East Grayson, Suite 120. For more information, please visit


Houston Street Food Community Picnic is Sunday

Support the San Antonio Food Bank by attending this Saturday’s gourmet picnic, with basket selections from Bohanan’s, Luke, the Monterey, Market on Houston, The Palm and more. Your basket purchase includes live music and unlimited wine and beer.

The picnic baskets must be reserved from participating restaurants ahead of time and picked up at the event Sunday, May 31.

picnic basketThe event will be on Houston Street between Navarro and St. Mary’s from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The gourmet picnic baskets will be $50 each. For $25 you can pick up a “kid-friendly” basket.

Visit the Houston Street Food website by clicking here at the store to look over the menus and reserve your basket. Each dollar raised from this event helps provide seven meals for a child this summer, while school is out and children lose their daily access to school lunches and breakfast.


Basil Fest is this Saturday at Pearl

Laurel Tree Basil1The San Antonio Herb Market Association is proud to present Basil Fest 2015 Saturday, May 30
from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Historic Pearl. The event is free and open to the public and includes plants sales, cooking demonstrations, a chef’s challenge and other educational features for all ages to enjoy.

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The Cookhouse Is Serving Up a Better Burger

The Cookhouse Is Serving Up a Better Burger

I can safely say that most of us would vote yes when it comes to burgers.

The Cookhouse's Better Burger

The Cookhouse’s Better Burger

But Pieter Sypesteyn of the Cookhouse, 720 E. Mistletoe Ave., is offering something beyond your average burger.

During his lunch hours, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, the chef is offering a Better Burger, as part of the James Beard Foundation’s efforts to come up with a “tastier, healthier, more sustainable burger,” he says. “This beauty is blended with 30 percent mushrooms to create a big umami bomb, and give you something healthier, to boot.”

Your job isn’t over when you bite into that beauty. The Cookhouse needs your vote. You need to post a photo of the burger to Instagram with the hashtag #betterburgerproject. Then tag the photo and write what’s better about it.

The winning chef will get invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York.

The Cookhouse is only one of two restaurants in Texas taking part in this project. The other is RC Grille at the Austin Marriott.

For more details, click here.


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A Daring Rescue at Tejas Rodeo

A Daring Rescue at Tejas Rodeo

A story is going around on Facebook about what happened when the floods and storm struck Tejas Rodeo Company, 401 Obst Road, Bulverde, on Saturday night:

Tejas Rodeo Company, when it's not wet.

Tejas Rodeo Company, when it’s not wet.

Last night we witnessed true heroism. An elderly couple’s car was swept off the road leading into Tejas Rodeo by the swollen and rushing Cibolo creek. The couple climbed out of their car and held onto the roof until they were forced to abandon it altogether and found themselves literally clinging for life to a corner post of a fence. Luckily, The women’s yells were heard by some people a couple of hundred yards away, standing outside watching the parking lot disappear under the rising waters. That itself was a miracle as the rush of the water, the sound of rolling thunder from the passing storm as well as the next approaching one and the pelting of the rain drowned out most all other sounds. A group of cowboys that had earlier competed in the rodeo, some staff from Tejas and the owner himself sprang into action. 911 was called but it would be too long before they could arrive. Navigating their way through the dark churning waters they made there way down the narrow water cover road towards the sound of the woman’s yells. The water was already several feet high and was rising rapidly. From across the parking lot, which looked more like a lake, we could see the beam of light from a flashlight crisscrossing the trees and shrubs searching for the source of the cries for help. They spotted the couple and new yells from the team of cowboys could be heard requesting additional help from the others that were gathered on the edge of the flooded road. A couple of more Cowboys went into action with the only tools they had at their disposal…a horse, a rope and selfless courage.

For about two hours, but what seemed to be an eternity, this team of brave individuals put themselves in harms way, risking their own lives for the sake of two strangers. From where we were we could offer only prayers, but could witness and hear the intense struggle…shouts of “PULL” or “HOLD ON” or “GET MORE ROPE”. Thanks to their tireless effort, extreme courage and the grace of God, all survived the effort, two lives were saved.

Later that night we spoke to the owner of Tejas and he said that after an hour or so of struggle to retrieve the couple, he could see them tiring and giving up hope, almost resigning themselves to their fate. But the team of cowboys would not give up, and would not let the couple give up either. Many times he said they thought, “what in the world did we get ourselves in to…but we knew we had to do what we had to do”.
I don’t know any of their names, but as for me and the rest of us there last night…we will just call them heroes. My heroes have not always been cowboys, but last night they definitely were.

Shelby Martin, whose father Trey Martin is an owner of Tejas Rodeo, confirmed that Saturday night was full of drama, as all roads leading to and from the compound had washed out, and the couple were indeed in peril. With no access to the place, rescue teams would not have been able to get there, either, she said. So, the men who were there did their best to make sure the couple and all who tried to help made it on to high ground were safe, if wet.

The people who had shown up for the rodeo or a dinner at the Tejas Steakhouse had to stay put until one of the roads was passable, which wasn’t until 10 a.m. Sunday. That meant most had to sleep in their cars. The first road that opened was the one that the stranded couple had tried to leave on.

Not all of the roads to Tejas are open yet, but plans are on for more steaks and rodeo to be served up this weekend. Check the Tejas Rodeo website for more.

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Salazar Named New Managing Director of CIA-SA

Salazar Named New Managing Director of CIA-SA

Food and beverage executive Fernando Salazar has been named the new managing director of The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) San Antonio, effective June 1.

Salazar replaces David Kellaway, managing director for the past five years, who is moving to Colorado. Salazar has been involved with the CIA for several years, serving on the executive committee of the college’s Latin Cuisines Advisory Council and presenting at several of its thought leadership conferences. He was commencement speaker at the CIA’s New York campus in 2010.

CIA Director Fernando SalazarSalazar comes to the CIA from Wyndham Hotels and Resorts where, since 2007, he was vice president for food and beverage and vice president of operations for Latin America. From 1996 to 2007, he held several management positions with Omni Hotels and Resorts, including director of operations for the Omni Colonnade in San Antonio and vice president for food and beverage for the entire company.

His career in food and beverage management began in 1975 as restaurant manager with Helmsley Hotels at the St. Moritz in New York City, and continued with more than a decade at Westin Hotels.

Salazar’s responsibilities in his new role include overseeing all aspects of the CIA’s Texas campus in San Antonio, including associate degree programs in culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, professional development courses, conferences, classes for food enthusiasts and the operation of Nao.

Salazar immigrated to the United States from Ecuador and worked his way up in the hospitality industry, starting as a dishwasher at age 14. He is profiled in a high school sociology textbook as a case study of the promise of the American Dream.

He earned a 2010 Silver Plate Award from the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association in the Hotels & Lodging Category for his contributions to the industry. He is a member of the International Food and Beverage Forum.

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