Tag Archive | "Texas wine"

The Johnsons to Retire, Sell Alamosa Wine Cellars

It wasn’t the best of news for Texas wine lovers: Jim and Karen Johnson have announced that they’re selling Alamosa Wine Cellars, the winery they built in Bend, where they produced award-winners including El Guapo and Scissortail. But we wish them well in their retirement.
Jim Johnson (Photo courtesy

Jim Johnson (Photo courtesy

Here’s the release they sent out:

After nearly twenty years in the business, we have decided to sell Alamosa Wine Cellars. We will be operating the vineyard until the property is sold.  The tasting room will operate on a regular basis through the Labor Day Weekend and we want to see as many of our customers, friends and fans as we can before that day.  We have some fun events and great sales to let you stock up on your favorite Alamosa wines as long as they last.  Come soon for the best selections.  We will also be holding a special Library Tasting in August when you will be able to taste through several of our older, special vintages with other wine lovers guided by Jim and Karen.  Look for those announcements and tickets very soon.
We are looking forward to retirement but with a bit of a heavy heart as we leave a place that has occupied so much of our efforts and passion for many years.  Most of all we’ll miss the opportunity to see so many people who have made the journey so much fun.  Retirement will allow us to do a lot more of the travel we so love, and to spend more time with our family, especially our little grandsons.
Save these dates:
July 11th  Sales begin
Aug 1st, Library Tasting, tickets required, only 24 spaces. (info soon)
Aug  8th  Final Wine Club Party (afternoon)
Aug  22   Retirement Celebration and Sale
September 4-6 Final Weekend.
Special mention must be made of how Jim Johnson helped pioneer the use of new varietals of grapes on the state’s wine scene, grapes that were able to produce great flavors and still thrive in the heat. The list includes Northern Rhone varietals such as Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah among the reds as well as the whites Viognier, Verdelho, Roussanne and Marsanne.
The Johnsons were also instrumental in developing Way Out Wineries, a group that helped promote the Hill Country wineries beyond the Fredericksburg area.

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Lone Star Spirit: Bending Branch Petite Sirah Brings Home the Gold

Bending Branch Petite SirahBending Branch Winery in Comfort has won a gold medal for its 2012 Old Vine Petite Sirah, Shell Creek Vineyards at the 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition.

The wine received a 90-point rating from the judges. According to a release from the winery, “We make this wine with grapes harvested from 43-year-old vines at Shell Creek Vineyards in California’s Paso Robles American Viticultural Area.”

It’s been a good year for the Texas Hill Country winery. The Bending Branch 2012 Tempranillo won a gold medal in the 2015 Lone Star Wine Competition.

You can buy both of these wines through the winery’s online store. Or you could taste them when you visit the winery, which is close to I-10 in Comfort.

Several upcoming events include:

—A wine tent during the Comfort Fourth of July festivities at Comfort Park. A parade begins at 10 a.m., followed by  music from noon to midnight. Wine cocktails will also be available at the downtown Comfort tasting room, 704 High St.

—Two Tons of Steel will perform during the annual Crush Fest, July 18, 6 to 9 p.m. This will be at the winery, 142 Lindner Branch Trail. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children under 12.

For more information, visit the winery’s website.

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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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Got Your Tickets for the Gruene Music and Wine Fest? Better Hurry.

The 27th annual Gruene Music and Wine Fest gets under way Thursday with That’s Right — It’s Not from Texas, a tasting of 30 German and New World wines and plenty of live music on the side.

logGrueneoBut if you want tickets for Friday’s Rockin’ With Texas Wine & Food, you’re out of luck. They’re all gone. So are tickets for Friday’s concert with Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell.

The good news is that you can get tickets for Saturday’s and Sunday’s big tastings, which take place at various spots in Gruene, just outside of New Braunfels.

The Thursday night tasting event, hosted by Kevin Geil of Two Tons of Steel, is from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Grapevine Garden. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

Saturday brings Texas Tastings & Tunes from noon to 6 p.m. You can taste more than 80 wines from more than 25 different Texas wineries. (Look for a list of participating wineries below.) Plus, you can taste the cuisine from the DUK truck, Institute of Chili, Where’s That Truck and Saweet Cupcakes. Tickets are $20 in advance or $30 at the door. Admission includes a souvenir glass and five drink tickets.

At 6 p.m., Charlie Robison will have a free and open sound check and meet-and-greet at Gruene Hall. That will be followed Robison in concert at 9 p.m. with tickets priced at $25 apiece.

On Sunday, the morning starts with a Gospel Brunch with a Texas Twist at 10:30 a.m. The event, catered by the Gristmill River Restaurant, is held in Gruene Hall. Tickets are $30 apiece.

From 1 – 6 p.m, the Grapevine Grounds will be the site of Brew-n-Que will feature the best in beer paired with Texas barbecue from Rudy’s, The Smoke Shack, Big Daddy BBQ, The DUK Truck and Institute of Chili. Original Texas tunes showcased live throughout the day. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

Meanwhile at Gruene Hall from 2 – 10 p.m., you can enjoy eght full hours of the best in Americana music on two stages. The lineup includes Cory Morrow, Ray Wylie Hubbard (acoustic), Cody Canada (acoustic), Stoney La Rue (acoustic), Micky & the Motorcars, Band of Heathens, Sons of Fathers, The Trishas and more. Tickets are $30 apiece or $40 at the door.

Ticket sales go to benefit United Way of Comal County. For more information or advance tickets, click here.

bending branchConfirmed wineries for Saturday include:

  • Bell Springs Winery
  • Bending Branch Winery
  • Bernhardt Winery
  • Blue Lotus Winery
  • Fall Creek Vineyards
  • Fawncrest Vineyard
  • Fiesta Winery
  • Georgetown Winery
  • Grape Creek Winery
  • Haak Vineyards
  • Hilmy Cellars
  • Inwood Estates Vineyards
  • Kerrville Hills Winery
  • Llano Estacado Winery
  • Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards
  • Maydelle Country Wines
  • Pleasant Hill Winery
  • Rohan Meadery
  • Salado Creek Winery
  • Santa Maria Cellars
  • Seifert Cellars
  • Three Dudes Winery
  • Texas Hills Vineyard
  • Texas Mead Works
  • Val Verde Winery
  • Wedding Oak Winery
  • Woodrose Winery

pedernalesConfirmed beers and other beverages for Sunday include:

Tenth & Blake

  • Third Shift
  • Batch 19
  • Strawberry Redd’s

New Belgium

  • Seasonal Brew
  • Rampart
  • Shift


  • Purple Haze
  • Harvest Pecan
  • Turbodog

Mike’s Hard Lemonade

  • Seasonal Pink
  • Cider
  • Strawberry

Blue Moon

  • Seasonal Brew
  • Rounder
  •  Shortstraw
  • Vintage Crimson Crossing
  • Vintage Golden Knot
  • Graffiti series

Smirnoff Ice

  • Light & Soda Black Cherry
  • Apple Crisp
  • Screwdriver


  • Krombacher Pils
  • Krombacher Dark
  • Krombacher Hefeweizen

Pedernales Brewing Company

  • Pedernales Lobo Lito
  • Pedernales Lobo Negro
  • Pedernales Classic Hefewiezen

Tri City Distributing

  • Shock Top Pumpkin
  • Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat
  • Stella Cider
  • Pacifico Clara
  • Negra Modelo
  • Modelo Chelada

Boulevard Brewing Co.

  • Unfiltered Wheat
  • Bob’s 47 Oktoberfest
  • Long Strange Tripel

Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co.

  • Hoppin Helles
  • Orange Shandy
  • Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch

Horny Goat Brewing Co.

  • Horny Blonde Lager
  • Exposed Cream Ale
  • Watermelon Wheat

Heineken USA

  • Strongbow Cider
  • Newcastle Brown Ale
  • Amstel Light



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Meet the Makers of Texas’ Wines and Beers

redwine1On the third Thursday of each month, The Grapevine in Gruene invites visitors to meet the people who are responsible for making some of the finest wines in Texas.

Now you have the chance to meet the folks behind the growing craft beer movement in the state as well.

The dual tastings will be featured in the Grapevine, 1612 Hunter Road, New Braunfels.

Each event will be held on The Grapevine’s outdoor patio and garden and will be uniquely designed around the featured winery and brewery, providing an intimate setting for each representative to tell about how they craft their wines and make their beers. Complementary tastings will be offered of the craft beer and three of the winery’s latest releases, top-selling and hardest to find wines. You can also sample the food that is for sale.

This a great opportunity to learn direct from these craftsmen, engage with other visitors interested in wine and beer and enjoy the natural surroundings and all the other offerings of Gruene Historic District.

Each event features Ryan Waguespack’s Classical & Spanish guitar duo or French bistro music by Rumbullion, both local artists. Giveaways include wine, Grapevine merchandise and possibly gift certificates for wine tours, resort accommodations or winery merchandise.

beer icyThe lineup of wineries for the rest of the year will include the following:

  • April 18 – Pedernales Cellars
  • May 16 – Haak Winery
  • June 20 – Bell Springs Winery
  • July 18 – Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards
  • August 15 – Fiesta Winery
  • September 19 – Duchman Family Winery
  • October 17 – McPherson Cellars
  • November 21 – Westcave Cellars
  • December 19 – Grape Creek Vineyard

For more information, call (830) 606-0093 or click here.





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Get a Taste of Italy in the Hill Country – Duchman Vermentino 2010

duchmanBy Cecil Flentge

Duchman (pronounced Duke-man) Family Winery in Driftwood, Texas, specializes in wines made of grapes commonly thought of as Italian. Sangiovese of Chianti fame and Montepulciano, which is grown extensively in the Abruzzo region, are two examples. Their Vermentino (pronounced ver-mehn-TEE-noh) follows in the same vein. Most famous in northern Sardinia, this Texas edition is both a surprise and a delight (pronounced Good!). It is available at Twin Liquors for about $12.


Made from 100 percent Texas grapes grown in the Texas High Plains AVA (American Viticultural Area), this robust white evokes lime and citrus blossom on the nose. It has the appropriate mouthfeel, a smooth viscosity found in classic Vermentino wines, and the flavors flow to pear, lime and grapefruit with a nice minerality lingering in the finish. The alcohol does not give any harshness, even though it is high at 14.4 percent, and that is a side benefit of the rich presence of the grapes’ glycerol. Overall, a nice Vermentino from a new area.


This so calls to be a brunch wine! Delicate enough to caress lobster or shrimp salads, robust enough for a plate of braised clams, and crisp enough to mingle with the tastes of the sea in oysters on the half shell. But just chill it and taste the welcome that it gives.

Cecil Flentge is a San Antonio wine educator for professionals or novices and a restaurant/bar consultant. Questions? Email



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Texas Hill Country Wineries Are Awash in Medals

Bending Branch is just one Hill Country winery to be honored recently.

Bending Branch is just one Hill Country winery to be honored recently.

It’s award season in the wine industry, and that means wineries across the Texas Hill Country are bringing home the gold, silver and bronze.

According to the Texas Hill Country Wineries’ March newsletter, the following wineries brought home some medals for their efforts, and we can second a number of the awards. Just this Wednesday, we sampled the Grand Star and gold medal-winning Bending Branch Winery 2009 Tannat RF Silvaspoons Vineyard with a bison ribeye and a short rib tamal. They pairing was a thing of beauty.

The 2010 William Chris Cabernet Franc, Dry Comal Creek’s 2009 Petit Verdot and Pedernales Cellars’ Texas Viognier are a few others that will show you just how good Texas wines are.

So, sample your way through the list, and enjoy some Lone Star treasures.

Bending Branch Winery

2012 Lone Star International Wine Competition

  • Grand Star/Gold Medal – 2009 Tannat RF Silvaspoons Vineyard
  • Bronze Medal – 2009 Tannat RF Bella Collina
  • Bronze Medal – 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

2012 San Francisco International Wine Competition

  • Silver Medal – 2010 Picpoul Blanc
  • Silver Medal – 2009 Petite Sirah
  • Bronze Medal – 2009 Tannat RF Silvaspoons Vineyard

2013 KLRN San Antonio International Wine Competition

  • Silver Medal – 2010 Petite Sirah
  • Silver Medal – 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Newsom Vineyards
  • Bronze Medal – 2010 Tempranillo, Newsom Vineyards
  • Bronze Medal – 2010 Texas Tannat

Chisholm Trail Winery

2012 Lone Star International, Texas Division

  • Grand Star/Gold Medal – 2011 Belle Starr Blanc du Bois

Driftwood Estate Winery

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition

  • International Class Champion, Double Gold – 2010 Alamo Red
  • Texas Class Champion, Silver – 2010 Lone Star Cabernet
  • Texas Class Champion, Silver – 2011 Muscat Canelli
  • Silver – 2012 Viognier
  • Silver – NV Syrah
  • Bronze – 2010 Longhorn Red

2013 Dallas Morning News & TexSom Wine Competition

  • Silver – 2012 Viognier
  • Silver – 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Silver – 2012 Orange Muscat
  • Silver – 2010 Longhorn Red
  • Bronze – 2010 Lone Star Cabernet Sauvignon
Vineyards has some medal-winning wines waiting for you.

Singing Water Vineyards has some medal-winning wines waiting for you.

Dry Comal Creek Vineyards

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition

  • Silver – 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

2012 Dallas Morning News and TexSom Wine Competition

  • Gold – 2009 Petit Verdot

2013 KLRN San Antonio Wine Competition

  • Gold – 2009 Petite Verdot
  • Bronze – 2010 Demi Sweet French Colombard

2012 San Antonio Rodeo Wine Competition

  • Best of Class, Silver – 2009 Petit Verdot
  • Silver – 2010 French Colombard Demi Sweet
  • Silver – NV White Black Spanish
  • Bronze – NV French Colombard Demi Sweet Sparking
  • Bronze – NV French Colombard Bone Dry Sparkling
  • Bronze – NV Comal Red X
  • Bronze – 2010 French Colombard Bone Dry

Fiesta Winery

2013 KLRN San Antonio Wine Competition

  • Bronze – Savannah Rose
  • Bronze – Back Porch Sittin’

Grape Creek Vineyards

San Francisco Chronicle

  • Silver – 2011 Cuvee Blanc
  • Silver – 2011 Viognier, Lost Draw
  • Silver – 2011 Cab Blanc
  • Silver – 2011 Grand Rouge
  • Bronze – 2011 Riesling
  • Bronze – 2011 Pinot Grigio
  • Bronze – 2011 Muscat Canelli
  • Bronze – 2010 Bellissimo
  • Bronze – 2010 Rendezvous
  • Bronze – 2010 Mosaic

2013 KLRN San Antonio Wine Festival

  • Silver – 2011 Merlot
  • Silver – 2010 Mosaic
  • Silver – 2010 Cabernet/Syrah
  • Silver – 2010 Bellissimo
  • Bronze – 2010 Cab Trois
  • Bronze – 2011 Pinot Grigio
  • Bronze – 2011 Riesling
  • Bronze – 2011 Viognier, Lost Draw

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition

  • Reserve Class Champion, Gold – 2011 Cabernet Blanc
  • Texas Class Champion, Silver – 2011 Grand Rouge
  • Silver – 2010 Mosaic
  • Bronze – 2011 Viognier
  • Bronze – 2010 Serendipity
  • Bronze – 2010 Rendezvous
Many Hill Country wineries were honored in this year's KLRN San Antonio Wine Competition.

Many Hill Country wineries were honored in this year’s KLRN San Antonio Wine Competition.

Kerrville Hills Winery

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition

  • Silver – 2007 American Merlot
  • Bronze – 2009 Purple Cab (Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • Bronze – 2009 Gold Cab (Cabernet Sauvignon)

2013 KLRN San Antonio Wine Competition

  • Silver – 2009 Purple Cab (Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • Silver – Gold Cab (Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • Silver – American Merlot

Pedernales Cellars

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition

  • Top Texas Wine, Class Champion, Texas Class Champion, Double Gold – 2012 Texas Viognier
  • Gold – 2010 Texas Tempranillo
  • Texas Reserve Grand Champion, Silver – 2011 GSM

2013 KLRN San Antonio Wine Competition

  • Silver – 2012 Viognier
  • Silver – 2011 GSM
  • Silver – 2012 High Plains Tempranillo
  • Bronze – 2012 Texas Tempranillo
  • Bronze – 2010 Reserve Tempranillo

Singing Water Vineyards

2013 San Francisco Chronicle International Competition

  • Gold – 2010 Vintner’s Reserve
  • Silver – 2010 Freedom
  • Bronze – 2011 Merlot

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition

  • Silver – 2010 Freedom
  • Silver – 2011 Pinot Grigio
  • Bronze – 2010 Vintner’s Reserve
  • Bronze – 2011 Merlot
  • Bronze – 2011 Sweet Lupe

2012 Lone Star International Wine Competition

  • Silver – 2009 Freedom
  • Silver – 2010 Merlot
  • Bronze – 201 Vintner’s Reserve
  • Bronze – 2010 Pinot Grigio
  • Bronze – 2011 Sauvignon Blanc
  • Bronze – 2010 Sweet Lupe

Solaro Estate

2013 Dallas Morning News & TexSom International Competition

  • Bronze – 2011 Reserve GSM

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition

  • Gold – 2010 Tempranillo
  • Silver – 2011 Sangiovese
  • Bronze – 2010 Tempranillo

2012 Fingerlakes International Wine Competition

  • Bronze – 2010 Mourvedre
  • Bronze – 2009 Bordosso 27

2012 Denver International Wine Competition

  • Gold – 2011 Sangiovese
  • Gold – 2010 Tempranillo
  • Gold – 2011 Reserve Montepulciano

2012 Vineyard & Winery Management International Women’s Wine Competition

  • Silver – 2010 Tempranillo
  • Bronze – 2011 Miscela Bianco

2012 Dallas Morning News & TexSom International Wine Competition

  • Bronze – 2010 Lisse
  • Bronze – 2010 Montage

Stone House Vineyard

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition

  • Texas Reserve Class Champion – 2010 Claros

San Diego International Wine Competition

  • Gold – Claros
  • Silver – The Survivor

Riverside International Wine Competition

  • Gold – Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Silver – Claros
  • Silver – Riesling

Dallas Morning News International Wine Competition

  • Bronze – Claros

Pacific Rim International Wine Competition

  • Silver – Scheming Beagle Port
  • Silver – Angela’s Wish

Lone Star International Wine Competition

  • Silver – Riesling

San Francisco International Wine Competition

  • Silver – Angela’s Wish
Texas Hill Country wineries have won plenty of awards lately.

Texas Hill Country wineries have won plenty of awards lately.

Texas Hills Vineyard

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition

  • Silver – 2009 Newsom Vineyard Cabernet Franc
  • Silver – 2010 Merlot
  • Silver – 2010 Orange Moscato
  • Silver – 2009 Newsom Vineyard Toro de Tejas
  • Bronze – 2008 Port Rubino
  • Bronze – 2010 Newsome Vineyard Sangiovese

Texas Legato

Houston International Wine Competition

  • Texas Class Champion – 2009 Family Reunion
  • Bronze – 2010 Merlot

2013 KLRN San Antonio Wine Competition

  • Bronze – 2009 Family Reunion
  • Bronze – 2010 Merlot

2012 Wines of the Southwest Competition, Knoxville, TN

  • Silver – 2010 Malbec
  • Silver – NV GCP Mirtillo

William Chris Vineyards

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition

  • Double Gold & Best of Class – 2010 Cabernet Franc
  • Silver – 2011 Emotion
  • Silver – 2011 Mary Ruth
  • Silver – 2011 500 Block Merlot
  • Bronze – 2011 Malbec
  • Bronze – 2011 Jacquez

2013 KLRN San Antonio Wine Competition

  • Silver – 2011 Hunter
  • Bronze – 2010 Enchante

Dallas Morning News and TexSom Wine Competition

  • Silver – 2012 Blanc du Bois
  • Bronze – 2011 Artist

Jefferson Cup International Wine Competition

  • Silver – 2011 Emotion
  • Silver – 2011 Mary Ruth
  • Silver – 2010 Enchante

Woodrose Winery

Lone Star International Wine Competition

  • Silver – 2010 Cab/Syrah
  • Bronze – 2009 Tempranillo

Indy International Wine Competition

  • Bronze – 2009 Tempranillo

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition

  • Gold – 2009 Tempranillo
  • Texas Class Champion, Silver – 2010 Cab/Syrah

For information on Texas Hill Country Wineries, including special events, click here.

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‘The Wineslinger’ Is Combining a Book Signing with Some Liquid Fun

To celebrate Texas Wine Month, the Westin La Cantera is hosting Russ Kane, who has recently written perhaps the most comprehensive guide to wine the state that has appeared to date.

Kane will be signing copies of “The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine” from 5 to 6 p.m. Friday in the resort’s Steinheimer’s Lounge. Kane is also the author of the wine blog, VintageTexas.

That’s also the time that the resort’s sommelier, Steven Krueger, shares his passion for local pours, so you can sample a flight of four 2-ounce Texas wines for $10.

Kane will be glad to answer any questions you have about the wines you’re sampling or the Texas wine industry in general.

The Westin La Cantera is at 16641 La Cantera Parkway. For more information, call (210) 558-6500.

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‘Wine and Food – Something We Can All Enjoy’

This Friday and Saturday brings  the second annual San Antonio Cellar Classic, sponsored by Max’s Wine Dive and the upcoming Boiler House Texas Grill.

More than 80 wineswill be poured during the event, which brings together additional restaurants, all in an effort to showcase how well wine pairs with food.

Max’s executive chef, James Moore, sat down recently with chef de cuisine Clint Connaway, wine sales manager David Hood and online wine director Greg Steiner to discuss the event.

Q: What wines will be featured at Cellar Classic?

Hood: We have one of the most carefully constructed wine lists in the city, with more than 150 varieties from around the world, and we’re always adding more wines to that list, some of which we’ll be debuting at Cellar Classic. We’re working with more Texas wines, like Bending Branch — we’re the only San Antonio restaurant where you can find them. There’s a lot going on with Texas wines. We’re seeing a departure from conventional varietals and more experimentation with reds and whites like Picpoul Blanc, Tannat and Petite Sirah. Texas wineries are looking at other parts of the world, matching soils and climate to what we have here and venturing into those areas. It’s not just Chardonnays or Cabernets — they’re playing it less safe and we’ve got some interesting things to feature for Cellar Classic.

We’re also adding more Spanish wines to our portfolio, and we’ll be featuring those at Cellar Classic. But people shouldn’t come to Cellar Classic just to taste one wine or because we’re featuring a certain winemaker — they should come because we’re featuring so many wines and winemakers, names they don’t know but will want to once they taste them.

Q: How do you select the wines for Cellar Classic?

Steiner: Our staff works with wineries, importers and distributors to see what’s available, what’s hot and what we like, and we select from there. We leverage our buying power to come across opportunities that others can’t offer and ultimately, the deals are terrific. Our volume drives great prices, so if someone tastes something they like at Cellar Classic, they can take it home for a great deal.

Our buying power also means that we have the chance to work with wineries to make specific requests — for instance, maybe we ask them to leave the wine in oak for a little longer, or they create labels specifically for us. At times, we’ll even buy out an entire vintage, so there’s no where else you can get that wine other than from us. We work so closely with them — our relationship with them is truly a partnership that can create unique wine finds for our guests.

And of course, we like to feature things that are unique and cool: we’ll be including a Vicius Albariño that’s been aged at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The movement of the ocean actually helps the aging process and there is an ever so slight impartation of ocean salt water flavor that finds its way into the cork and therefore in the wine which gives the wine an amazingly addictive salinity. The result is maybe the greatest bottle of Albariño wine you will find. That’s something you won’t see at a typical wine tasting! It’s also one of the reasons that Cellar Classic is great place to discover new wines to add to your collection or the perfect spot to start a collection of your own.

Q: Why does Cellar Classic feature food alongside the wine tasting?

Moore: Food and wine are the perfect marriage because they enhance each other so well. Characteristics in wine change the flavors and dynamic of food while you’re eating and food can bring out nuances in wine. Wine that might taste flat in one note changes when paired with the right food. The right pairing can make the wine more full-bodied and more dynamic. We wouldn’t think of doing a wine event without including food.

Q: What makes Cellar Classic so great?

Moore: Cellar Classic is helping establish and nurture a culture in San Antonio that hasn’t existed before — featuring food and wine in one event. Being such a wine-centric company, hosting an event of this nature allows us to share our exploration and appreciation of wines and how they accompany food.

Connaway: It’s far from the typical wine tasting. I’d say it’s the antithesis of the typical wine tasting. And it’s a window into what we do and what we’re about. Cellar Classic gets people out sampling wines in a cool atmosphere, outside of a restaurant setting in a fun, free-flowing event. Food, wine and music — it doesn’t get better than that. And you can take home the wines you like.

Hood: We’re in a unique position: we order and sell a lot of wine. In fact, we are one of the largest purchasers of wine in Texas, so we have the opportunity to feature wines that you wouldn’t see in other places. You can explore different grapes, different makers, and wines from different parts of the world all in one building. Cellar Classic lets us feature the unexpected and wines people haven’t had the chance to experience. And our team will walk you through what you taste and what to look for in the wines we’re featuring. It’s sampling wine and great food with very knowledgeable wine friends and even though it’s only the second year to hold it here in San Antonio, we know it’s already become a tradition.

Q: What are the rules of wine today?

Connaway: The idea of whites with fish and pork, reds with beef—all of that is gone. A really nice light red could go with salad or fish . . . the way we’re cooking these days, its more variety. At Max’s Wine Dive we have big, bold flavors, so you need wines that can stand up to that.

Of course, you can’t serve dessert wines with dinner, but as far as reds and whites, you could have a fish dish that’s blackened that goes well with red. There are Sauvignon Blancs that hold up to a steak dinner or a burger.

Moore: You have to pair based on the components and structures of the dishes, not because someone thinks you should. But you need to drink what you like: there are so many different wines and grapes; it’s about your preference and personal tastes.

Q: What’s the Cellar Classic Reserve Dinner?

Moore: The dinner is an opportunity to expand what we do every day — pair great food and wine — and raise it to a different level. With five courses, we can explore more pairings and flavors. It’s not just each course, but how the courses all work together.

Connaway: With five courses, it’s more expansive than what we normally do at Max’s, but it’s going to be fun to do that within the Max’s environment. It’s going to be something unexpected from us—we’re really looking forward to it. I like to heat things up with spices and then cool them down building up to the entrée. We may even toss in a palette cleanser with a surprise sixth dish. I like to mess around with the senses. Sweet and savory, hot and cold . . . it’s another play on juxtapositions which is what Max’s Wine Dive is all about.

Q: The Grand Tasting includes other restaurants rather than just featuring MAX’s and the new Boiler House Texas Grill. Why?

Moore: Events like this help expose more people to better restaurants, different cuisines, chefs they haven’t experienced, so we want to share this opportunity with other chefs and restaurants. This event is not about us, it’s about the culinary scene in San Antonio. An event like this can expose you to a wider audience. By including other establishments, it helps them gain exposure and talk about what other wines they have as well and maybe reach a different audience than what they may usually see.

Connaway: It’s a way we can work together to build more interest, support and appreciation of wine and food — something we can all enjoy. It’s also fun to get out of the kitchen, walk around the “yard,” visit with the other chefs, see what they are doing, and talk with our guests. Cellar Classic is a celebration of food and wine for the staff as well, we enjoy it just as much as our guests. San Antonio is a cool city and we need a food scene that matches that — Cellar Classic helps better define us as a destination for great food and wine.

San Antonio Cellar Classic’s reserve dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Max’s Wine Dive, 340 E. Basse Road. The price is $125 per person or $225 per couple and is limited to 40 guests. Saturday’s grand tasting is at the stable at the Pearl Brewery from 1 – 4 p.m. Wine, food and music will be available. Tickets are $40 per person for general admission or $90 per person for VIP. For more information, click here.


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Griffin to Go: Finding Comfort

Bending Branch Winery near Comfort.

The plan was to have breakfast before heading out to a couple of the wineries in Comfort, which open at 11 a.m. on Saturdays.

The patio at Bending Branch is great for relaxing over a glass of wine.

So, a group of eight of us made a quick stop for some fortification at the Flagstop Cafe along I-10 in Boerne before tasting any wine. Then, armed with a Google map, we made it to Comfort and immediately got lost.

Bending Branch cork trivet.

The wineries in Comfort, it seems, are not marked with the same plethora of signs that guide people from the interstate, such as those beckoning people to Sister Creek or those along Highway 290 through Hye and Stonewall. Nor was the Google map right: You do not have to go through the German retirement community to get there.

You do have to take a few twists and turns, which reminded me a little of the roads in Italy. That comparison was further reinforced by the beauty of the scenery, which had a Tuscan feel that could be seen in the hilly view that rises opposite Bending Branch Winery, our first stop.

Grapes growing at Bending Branch.

This charming winery is relatively new on the growing Texas wine scene and features an attractive tasting room with plenty of covered porch space, if you want to enjoy more than a sip after, the work of tasting all of the wines. (If you want an accurate map of how to get there, check out the winery’s website.)

For $10, you can taste the winery’s seven selections. Whites include the 2010 Vermentino, a clean, refreshing quaffer that has plenty of citrus flavor and touch of minerality, and the 2009 Picpoul Blanc, with its sting of citrus and spice among its qualities. Reds included the velvety 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2009 Tannat. If you’re not familiar with Tannat, it’s a hearty grape, inky and bold; it’s also the wine world’s equivalent of a superfood with its high concentration of resveratrol.

Bending Branch Winery was started by Dr. Bob Young. At the present time, all of his wines are made with grapes purchased from either the Texas High Plains, used in the rosé, or California’s Central Coast. All of the grapes have been planted on the property, using sustainable  methods, and will eventually be used. The first to mature, the Picpoul Blanc, is expected to be used in the next bottling.

A wine tasting at Singing Water Vineyards.

Around the corner and about two miles away is Singing Water Vineyards, which is a touch more rustic with its red barn look, but it is no less friendly. Dog lovers will especially enjoy the gentle Labrador retrievers on the property, including Lupe, whose picture adorns the label for the Sweet Lupe, a semi-sweet dessert wine.

You can taste the lineup for $6, which also includes the 2011 Pinot Grigio, which has a delightful almond flavor mixed in with a good level of acidity, and the 2010 Vintner’s Reserve, a Cabernet-Merlot blend with a buttery oak level and nice level of red fruit flavor. The 2010 Freedrom is a Syrah-Cabernet-Merlot blend that is rich with dark berry flavors, a slightly peppery quality and smooth oak; part of the proceeds from the sales of this wine benefit a scholarship fund for children of veterans.

You can’t go to Comfort without checking out the antiques, which is the town’s main attraction. So, we headed to High Street where we strolled from store to store to admire the treasures, many of which brought back memories of our childhoods. There were plenty of kitchen and foodie items that caught the eye, including an old Charles Chips cannister, an old-fashioned milkshake maker and various sets of china.

Comfort Pizza is in a converted gas station.

We also happened in on the Comfort Meet Market, a cool place for a beer or glass of wine adorned in all manner of Beatles and VW Beetle memorabilia as well as a wall of glass soda bottles through the years that included my childhood favorite, Wink.

We ended our stay with a trip to Comfort Pizza at one end of High Street, which offers mesquite-fired pizza in a renovated gas station from the 1920s. The dining area is outdoors under umbrellas that cover retro white metal tables with colorful chairs.

The drink list includes a variety of organic and natural sodas. There’s also a BYOB policy written out on the menu, in which the corkage fee is waived if you bring in any of the local wines.

The Bubba Supreme

But the real star is the near-perfect pizza on a thin but sturdy crust  that gets good and charred from the heat. We had the Bubba, which is real meat-lover’s treat, as well as the Bubba Supreme, in which the meats are crowned with a few vegetables that somehow don’t manage to get in the way. Tomato, meats, spices were all excellent, but it’s the slightly smoky flavor in the crust that is the real standout.

Comfort has more dining choices, including an old-favorite, 814 A Texas Bistro, and we heard praise for the Plaid Goat among others. Plus, there are many more antique shops to browse and even another winery, Comfort Cellar. So, a return trip is in order.


Singing Water Vineyards

Bending Branch Winery
142 Lindner Branch Road, Comfort
(830) 995-2948

Singing Water Vineyards
316 Mill Dam Road, Comfort
(830) 995-2146

Comfort Pizza
802 High St., Comfort
(830) 995-5959

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