Wine Tasting – Three Wineries along Wine Road 290
I could probably count on the fingers of one hand how many individuals I know who would be willing to go on a picnic in the middle of July on a day with temperatures predicted to be in the mid 90’s. But when the opportunity arises to be with a friend and sample wines at some venues we have never been to, that he promises are very good, I’m willing to pack a picnic and get on the road.
So here we are, the three little pigs, the Three Musketeers, a.k.a. Michael, Ron, and Charlotte, driving down Wine Road 290, choosing three wineries to visit out of the twenty-three available that are on or just off of this straight line of highway.
Our first stop, Kuhlman Cellars in Stonewall, seems to be totally devoid of people, but we have an appointment for a tasting—at least we thought we did. They are closed tighter than a drum, except for a few hardy souls who are out in the fields, lovingly working with the vines, hand trimming the leaves, making sure the netting is protecting the precious grapes from the resident mockingbirds. A mistake has been made somewhere along the way, and our expected tasting does indeed need to be postponed. I am a bit disappointed, but it is also a great excuse to return soon to this particular part of the wine trail. Another picnic; I need to start making plans.
Passing a myriad of options along the way, Ron turns into the parking lot of 4.0 Cellars, that derives its name from the three separate wineries—Brennan, Lost Oak and McPherson—that came together to form a fourth winery—their goal is striving for 4.0 perfection.
At 11:30 a.m. this Wednesday, as we venture into the spacious tasting room, I proffer a suggestion, “How about a progressive picnic? I’ve packed three courses.” The gentlemen do not disagree.
So, rather than a tasting of wines I know I like—because we have visited this winery many a Sunday afternoon, sipping and listening to music—we opt for a glass. I’m searching for something chilled and light. Ron and Michael are opting for reds. I’m offered a sample of McPherson Cellars 2015 Chenin Blanc. It is light and delicious, lovely for sipping while sitting on my front porch watching the world go by. Michael and Ron choose a red blend of two Italian varietals, 4.0 Cellars 2015 Montepulciano by Jim Evans; it gets two thumbs up.
But I’m putting on my posh hat today, thinking seriously about a serious rosé. In summer, it is the preferred wine of the French in Provence and the New Yorkers in the Hampton’s—just ask Martha Stewart. I’m given a sample of Brennan Vineyards 2016 Reserve Mourvèdre Dry Rosé—light and dry—wonderful for our first course of grilled shrimp.
The long, porch that follows the length of the winery, lined with comfortable rocking chairs, is a temptation, but we need a table. We walk toward one shaded by tall crepe myrtles in the middle of the winery grounds. Totally full on weekends, it is lovely to have the area to ourselves this day.
As I set out the shrimp with the individual sauce containers for each of us, we discover it is a delicious journey to dip our shrimp into the savory saffron garlic aioli, take a bite, and then finish off the succulent morsel by dipping it into Dijon mustard and lemon spiked tomato jam. Alternating savory and sweet—perfect. As perfect as the rosé that accompanies the dish.
Lost Draw Winery
Back in the car, we head toward Fredericksburg and Lost Draw Winery. Now, the name sounds like it is a home-grown Texas winery and in fact it is. All the grapes are sourced from the estate vineyards of Andy Timmons, one of the managing partners of Lost Draw. The impetus behind this family connected business, Andy is also a pioneer of the rapidly growing vineyard population in Texas; his passion leading him to become the largest grape farmer in this state, now managing over 500 acres and over 30 varieties, supplying his fruit to many of the wineries popping up all over Texas.
Approaching the tasting room, located in an unlikely former industrial setting (industrial setting in Fredericksburg?) behind the local HEB, I notice that a group of rustic old buildings individually bear its moniker. Not surprisingly, on this nice warm day, the picnic area and sipping area are sans people.
A Lost Draw Wine Club member, Ron assures me before we step over the threshold that the wines here are very good. The interior is cozy and cool; I almost feel like I am in the middle of a wine barrel with its wine centric decorations. CJ, vivacious and friendly, is a graduate of the CIA in New York and is taking a break from the food end of the culinary world for a while, concentrating her expertise instead on guiding us through our tasting today.
A Rhone varietal, and one of the most popular white wine grapes planted in that region, the 2016 Marsanne from the Timmons Estate Vineyard in the High Plains of Texas is light delicate and dry. The 2016 Picpoul Blanc, another French varietal—Picpoul meaning stings the lip—is crisp and clean. The 2016 100% Cinsault Rose from the Texas High Plains Lost Draw Vineyards is delicious; Lost Draw Rosés have been voted Best in the State by Texas Monthly in past years.
The two reds on offering for today’s tasting also come for the High Plains, the 2015 Tempranillo from the Timmons Estate Vineyard, has soft tannins and is very drinkable. The Bordeaux varietal from the Lost Draw Vineyards, a 2015 Malbec is rich and slightly tannic and would be perfect with a grilled steak—if only…
Thinking about steak and wine makes me think about our picnic in the cooler in the hot car, and about how hungry I am. And if I’m hungry, the guy’s stomachs must be at a low rumble. Time to move on.
I have decided, that if you do not like crowds, mid-week wine exploration, is the perfect time to explore the myriad wineries along 290. The area normally overrun with wine aficionados on the weekend has been virtually empty. I am feeling like I am on a private tour. As we drive down the winding road toward Lewis Vineyards, it is no exception. However, I know from experience, that three wineries a day are pretty much the max. For me. For sure.
Lewis Winery, surrounded by lush vineyards, is the end of the road for us this day. It is time for lunch—past time for lunch—so we postpone our tasting till after enjoying our repast. I’m into rosé, it is the perfect accompaniment for our smoked salmon and egg salad sandwich, so after tasting two very different, but both very good rosés, I choose the 2016 Parr Mourvèdre Rosé to have with our picnic.
We sit on the quiet peaceful deck cooled by the overhead fans, enjoying friendship and food, and delightful chilled wine. I’m pretty positive that life cannot get much better than this. The crisp romaine—that I packed separately—adds a great crunch to the smoky salty salmon and tarragon spiked egg salad. The roasted beet, pickled onion, and sliced grape tomato salad is a perfect foil for the richness of the sandwich. And who could ever pass up a potato chip? Not me. Not Ron. Somehow Michael has an iron will and says no to seconds of the salt and pepper crunch.
I take the leftover slice of our dessert, a blueberry-lemon tart with a cornmeal loaded cookie crust into the bright and light tasting room, offering it to the young server on duty, telling him if he can find something to put it on, it’s his. He smiles as he hands over a paper plate.
Started in 2009 by Doug Lewis, Lewis Wine is a virtual infant in the wine business that is flourishing from Johnson City to Fredericksburg, and yet their wines have been listed as the Best Wines of the Year in Texas Monthly and their Rosé has been listed as one of the top ten in the state. The goal of Doug and co-owner Duncan McNabb is to produce the best wine possible and source 100% from Texas fruit. It appears that they are succeeding.
Today’s tastings run the gamut from a slightly effervescent white—Swim Spot to the two Rosés I tasted previously, to a Texas Red Blend, a Texas Tempranillo and a Merlot. Almost everything is a small batch production and may be gone by the time I walk this way again. I ponder my options.
10354 E US Hwy 290, Fredericksburg, TX 78624
Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and
Sunday from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
113 E Park St. Fredericksburg, TX 78624 (830)992.3251
Sunday through Wednesday: 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Thursday through Saturday: 11:00 am to 6 pm
3209 Highway 290 West, Johnson City, Texas 78636
Tastings are offered seven days a week. Walk-ins are welcome, however, appointments are suggested, especially on the weekends and can be made online.
Monday – Sunday: 10:30 am to 5:00 pm
Click the link below for