Every winemaker has a different story, just like every wine they make. What impresses us most about the winemakers that we meet is the passion that they have for the land, the grapes, and the wine. I can”t remember a winemaker that we have met that doesn”t grow or hasn”t grown their own fruit, so their care for wine covers the entire lifecycle.
We have known Don Pullum for several months through Twitter and the #TxWine Twitter Tuesdays, but I haven”t really paid much attention or connected all the dots to understand his impact on Texas wine. His Twitter “handle” is @akashicvineyard, but I hadn”t heard of the vineyard, and he never mentioned owning a winery – but he sure talked a lot about Sandstone Cellars wines. Yes, I can be pretty dense sometimes.
Julie and I met Don face to face a few weeks ago at the Hilmy Cellars grand opening – he had visited Hilmy before the opening and mentioned it, so we asked if he planned to return for the opening. Fortunately for us, he coordinated a second visit while Russ Kane was also visiting at HIlmy and signing his new book, the Wineslinger Chronicles.
Coincidental to that, the following week I attended a business dinner at Pappas Brothers Steakhouse in Houston and noticed that they serve the Sandstone Cellars 2009 VII, a 100% Touriga Nacional wine that Don crafted for them. I tweeted about it and received various responses, some warning me that it was too “tanniny” unless opened, decanted, and allowed to breathe; and some telling me to “go for it”. The latter tweet was from Don, of course.
The “09 Touriga was very, very good. It had strong tannins, yet a wonderfully balanced body and a complexity that I didn”t expect – a great pairing with the medium rare Kobe Filet I ordered.
We had planned on spending as much time with Don as he could stand; we love to hear their stories, what path online casino gids they took to becoming a grape grower or winemaker, their philosophy and approach to growing and fermenting. So when we met at Sandstone I told him, “We are at your disposal the whole day.”
The new trail hasn”t been named yet, but they would like to find a title to highlight the notable features of their locations. Mason County is called the Jewel of the Hill Country as it is the only location in Texas where the state gem stone, the Topaz, is mined. Pontotoc is called the Heart of Texas because it is located in the geographic center of Texas, and Junction is known as a mecca for outdoor lovers.
Don explained that the wineries” locations relative to each other make the trail an easy drive for visitors – the wineries create a nice arc from the southwest in Junction, closer to San Antonio, to the northeast in Pontotoc, closer to Austin. If you start at Junction, Sandstone Cellars is less than an hour to the north-northeast on 377, and Pontotoc is another forty minutes past Sandstone. Between the three cities are miles of beautiful landscape and foliage. I was particularly fascinated by the change from Junction to Mason – limestone mesas and caliche to granite and gneiss outcroppings to sandstone hills as we approached Mason. The roadsides are full of wildflowers – bluebonnets were in full bloom with indian paintbrushes.
Since we met Don at Sandstone Cellars, the middle of the new trail, we decided to head to Pontotoc first, then double back later to head to Junction.
Don is the winemaker for Pontotoc Vineyards Winery, and he let us barrel-taste tthe Tempranillo grown at the vineyard, a Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon blend, and a Tempranillo / Cabernet Franc blend. All of them already demonstrate the smooth tannin balance we have noticed in Don”s other wines.
Jeanie and Joe King, the proprietors of Junction Rivers Winery, welcomed us and started pouring their wines – the topic of another article to come. We sat with Don, tasted new wines in the barrel, and talked about the plans for the trail opening, and here are the details we have so far: