As I mentioned yesterday, Julie and I headed out for another winery-seeking road trip. We had done a bit of research – I put every vineyard and winery in the Northern Texas region onto Google Maps to make sure we could find them – and had some idea of where we wanted to go. We didn’t leave quite as early as we had hoped, so I knew that we had to trim the “hopefuls” list so we could visit at least a couple of wow wineries.
At about 3PM sitting in a never-to-be-visited-again name brand fast food “restaurant” in Nacogdoches (I wonder if I can filter those out of RoadTrip’s quick search?), I fired off a tweet to #TXWine explaining our situation and seeking recommendations. James F. (@JFTxWine) came to our rescue, telling me exactly what I needed to know. Given the three closest vineyards/wineries, he eliminated one from our list giving us just enough time to visit the other two, Kiepersol Estates and Tara.
On a side note: We just discovered Waze, a driving/mapping/real-time-traffic/social media/navigation app for our iDevices. Since I maintain the Pearland Area in OpenStreetMap and Waze has a similar process to update its maps, I thought it would be a pretty cool program to try out. Its maps are messed up. Bad. It would be really nice if they would grab all my fixes from OpenStreetMaps so I don’t have to put them in again…
When we finally reached Kiepersol Estates, we discovered that the vineyard was closed. Mind you, their website states that they only give tours on Saturdays, except by special appointment, they don’t explicitly state that they don’t do tastings at the winery unless you’re on a tour. Well, once we figured that out it was too late to turn around and head to Tyler to their tasting room. Perhaps another time.
So I switched to a different navigation program and set Tara Vineyards as our destination. Unfortunately, Google Maps can’t understand the address. I don’t know why, it just can’t. Sad.
On the way to Tara I tweeted, “Kiepersol a bust, heading to Tara”, and in a few minutes received a reply from James telling me that he had called Patrick at Tara and they were eagerly awaiting our arrival. Once again, Wow. I really need to meet James face-to-face. I just hope he’s not Zin boy. (just kidding)
We pulled into Tara Vineyard at close to 7:00pm, walked up to several people sitting on the patio and asked for Patrick. Then I asked where I could get some fine green Irish wine for St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a good thing they could tell I was joking.
Patrick led us into a modest tasting room and started talking about his wines while pouring samples for us to taste. His presentation of the wines was that of a passionate winemaker, not a salesman or counter-clerk, so we learned even more about the craft. He tailored the tasting based on our responses to each wine. He focused on the sweet whites and red for Julie and the dry reds for me. That worked out quite well.
Patrick also gave us a tour of parts of the winemaking facility where we got to taste some of his wines in process. I am eager to see how they mature and how he blends them to be what he wants.
On our trip to Tara Vineyards Julie looked up their web site and noticed that they have a bed and breakfast on property, so when we arrived I asked if there were any rooms available. Our earlier poor luck with Kiepersol (I had tried to make a reservation on Tuesday for a room there) turned into great luck at Tara. We were able to secure two nights and will use Tara as our “base” for the rest of our road trip to Norteast Texas wineries.
In the middle of our tour and tasting with Patrick, the B&B hostess asked us if we would be staying for dinner as well as the room. “Of course if it’s available!” Being able to eat on property would keep us from having to find decent food in a town we are completely unfamiliar with. The options were presented to us, fish or filet, and we readily chose the filet. Julie is hesitant to order filet because 1) most chefs get offended when you order one well done (as she likes her steak), and 2) it’s not easy to cook a thick-cut filet well done without completely burning the outside in order to get the inside right. Our hostess assured us that this would not be a problem.
We sat down to a nicely prepared salad that was perfect for me because I love balsamic vinaigrette. Unfortunately Julie doesn’t care for the balsamic part of the vinaigrette, so that was a slight disappointment to her.
The filet more than made up for the salad, though. It was cooked just right and the grilled zucchini was a very tasty and fitting side. My filet: perfect. Absolutely perfect. Medium Rare, cooked wonderfully. He must have taken the steakhouse chef;s oath seriously, “I will present to my diners the steak, the whole steak, and nothing but the steak.” One paragraph doesn’t seem enough to highlight how delicious our meal was, but one word covers it quite well. Perfect
One thing James had tweeted to me about Tara Vineyard was, “It’s one of east Texas best kept secrets IMO”. Not for long, James, not for long. and Thank You for recommending it to us.