4.0 Cellars – A Picnic in January
It is a Wednesday. The sun is shining. The air is cold and crisp. I’m lunching with a friend, tucked in a light and airy restaurant, enjoying a glass of McPherson Chenin Blanc that accompanies our soup and sandwich. The food is good. The wine is good. I mention that 4.0 Cellars outside of Fredericksburg carries McPherson wine.
Mentioning 4.0 Cellars makes me think of summertime picnics, which are a long way off. I pick up my trusty phone and ask Weather Bug to tell me when we will have the next bright and sunny day. The answer is Sunday. We have a date. Now we just have to break it to our husbands. A January picnic.
I offer to cook and pack—take care of everything. Why not? I am the picnic queen. I love them. And I have Trudi’s wonderful Sur Le Table pie plate; reason enough to fix a potato pie and give her the leftovers in the pie plate I have been coveting and hoarding for the past eight weeks.
At first, I think of only a savory potato pie. A Salad. Wine. What more do we need? And then I turn back into the me I am and think bigger. A first course of beef to please the guys. Dessert because we have to have one.
On Saturday afternoon I do the prep and make the Giant Sea Salted Oatmeal Cookies to go with creamy soft goat cheese and home-made fig jam. Sunday morning, I watch Sunday Morning while working on that wonderful potato pie. I pack a rolling picnic tote with all we need and dress in layers, prepared for the worst, counting on the best.
At 1 p.m. Michael and I are scouting out the available tables—which are all of them (how many people would think a picnic in January is a great idea?)—at 4.0 Cellars on Highway 290. I’m happy to be here. It’s been a while, and they represent two of our favorite Texas wineries, Brennan in Comanche and McPherson in Lubbock.
I head for a table in the sun. Michael chooses one with both sun and shade. Then we switch again and sit among the trees, still having sun and shade. The one fly in the ointment is a very gentle breeze, and a breeze—even a very gentle breeze—in January when the temperature gauge says 64°F —even when the sun is shining—is not a good thing. I take a walk and explore further options.
Our friends arrive and we recheck things, deciding on yet another table. It is good we have choices. I ask Bob and Michael to move our picnic to the newly chosen table and then Trudi and I head inside the winery to buy wine to go with our lunch.
Honestly, Sunday’s in the winter are a great time to be at 4.0. The Austin crowds were here yesterday, and today we are able to take our time, talk to the wine expert, get recommendations, and make our decisions. We settle on a red I know is wonderful, Brennan’s Super Nero, and the white we liked during our lunch on Wednesday, McPherson’s Chenin Blanc.
By the time Trudi and I return to our chosen table, Bob and Michael have moved again, taking things into their own hands. Imagine! Bob pulls up another table for me to stage the meal—the plating. I begin. Trudi is at my elbow, assisting.
Picnic’s in the park with fried chicken and iced tea are great, but picnics at a winery can be even better. We have three courses. We have comfortable seating. We have good wine. What can be a better way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon. Lifting our glasses, we toast the occasion. Old hat for Michael and me, a new experience for Bob and Trudi.
Brennan’s Super Nero wine is rich and smooth, delicious! Even better than I remember, and I’m glad I purchased an extra bottle to add to our ample wine rack. It proves to be a perfect pairing with our thinly sliced Rare Roast Beef with Balsamic Drizzle and Roasted Red Pepper Arugula Salad. The first course is delicious, and light, even though it is beef. Perhaps I shouldn’t be, but I’m impressed with my cooking. Only I didn’t really cook. I only assembled and combined quality ingredients. The Super Nero is the gold that gilds the lily.
As I cut into the buttery flaky crust of the rich potato pie, studded with bacon and layered with thyme scented cream and sharp Gruyere cheese, it conjures memories of many picnics past, where this pie was the star of the occasion, and leftovers were gratefully devoured the next day. The simple macerated/marinated tomato salad, flecked with slivers of fresh mint, should be the perfect accompaniment. I love the Super Nero, but we relent and let Michael and Bob finish the bottle while Trudi and I pour a glass of McPherson’s Chenin Blanc. Our entrée probably needs a buttery chardonnay, but since one isn’t available, the crisp white, mineral-driven wine works well.
And I know we doing things extremely incorrectly, going from red to white—heavy to light—but rules are meant to be broken. And so we break them.
This should be the end of our repast, but it isn’t. I continue the decadence as I arrange big fat grapes on a serving board along with Giant Salted Oatmeal Cookies. I present small glass crocks of creamy goat cheese to everyone to slather on the cookies and homemade fig jam to crown the concoction. The combination is perfection. Crisp. Creamy. Tangy. Salty. Sweet.
The bright Texas sun has warmed us. The gentle breeze has fallen away. The wine has mellowed us. The food has filled us. “You know,” I say, “We are sitting where they normally have entertainment on Sunday afternoons. We need to come back…”
Trudi asks, “You are going to blog about this, aren’t you? You have to blog.”
And so I am because this picnic queen is on a mission. Everyone I know needs to do picnics! I am selling picnics—and wineries and wine. It shouldn’t be much of a hard sell at all.
Click the link above for the full menu and all of the recipes.
Brennan’s Super Nero
Brennan’s Super Nero made from the Nero d’Avola grape from Sicily won DOUBLE GOLD (unanimous gold)- Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition 2016 Reserve Class Champion, Texas Class Champion GOLD- Texsom International Wine Awards 2015.
Wine Enthusiast says that, “Bing cherry meets soft vanilla and coffee tones on the nose of this southern-Italian transplant. A bouncy palate of red cherry and strawberry is supported by mild tannins.”
Vino Shipper tells us more: “Youthful, fruit forward wine with aromas of cherries, bramble berries, leather, tobacco, cedar, cinnamon and vanilla bean notes. Off-dry, full-bodied red wine with flavors of ripe cooked blackberries, brioche and hazelnuts. Non-fruit flavors round out the finish with rich and creamy notes of toasted hazelnuts. Wine shows brilliant and well-balanced acids that provide a lush mouth feel. Sturdy tannic grip allows this wine to be paired with an array of food dishes ranging from rich tomato based pastas, smokey BBQ and ribeye steaks. Well-rounded and silken mouth feel also embrace this as a wonderful sipping wine.”
Located just outside of Fredericksburg this wine tasting venue offers a relaxing and elegant setting for discovering and enjoying wines from three different Texas wineries, Brennan, Lost Oak and McPherson. As part of the Wine Road 290 Trail, which is the second most traveled wine road in the States, they pride themselves on providing the ultimate “Texas Wine Experience.” It is a great place to while away an afternoon with friends, enjoying special wines, picnicking, sitting on a porch rocker sipping a glass of wine, or listening to music—maybe even dancing—on weekends.
The spacious and elegant tasting room has more than wines. 4.0 Cellars also offers a variety of Texas foods, including cheeses from Dublin, Texas, olive oils from San Saba, Texas, and locally-made chocolates.