When Julie found Valley Mills while researching for Texas Wine Traveller, she was pretty excited. She had worked for one of the owners, Dr. Peper for a while before moving to Houston. We thought that was pretty cool.
We arrived just before noon on Sunday, and had the whole place and staff to ourselves – most of the Waco area folks were probably struggling with the DST change, so traffic was light.
The tasting room sits in the front of the production facility, giving visitors a full view of the barrels and tanks. For a smaller winery, I can see advantages and we really enjoyed being able to taste and browse at the same time. Since we were the only customers at the time, Kandi Bagnasco, our tasting guide and one of the proprietors of the winery, let us wander around, ask questions, take our time (and pictures), and taste at leisure.
I didn’t take notes on all the wines, but I did experience a “first” here. I thoroughly enjoyed every wine that we tasted at Valley Mills. There weren’t any wines that I considered to be “just OK”. I would enjoy having any of them in my cellar and serving them to friends and guests.
Here are the notes that I did take:
2010 Viognier – unoaked (Black bottle top)
I cringe whenever I try a Viognier because I was spoiled early in my Viognier tasting career with Jim Johnson’s Tio Pancho Ranch Estate Viognier. Naturally, I compare everyone’s offering to his since it’s my benchmark.
The Valley Mills unoaked Viognier holds its own with very mild aromas of grapefruit and honeysuckle and a smooth balance of acids with the alcohol. I was left with an aftertaste of sweet grapefruit that lingered. This is a “pairing” wine in my book – some fettucini alfredo or shrimp scampi would surely enjoy the company of this wine.
2010 Viognier – oaked (Silver bottle top)
I know that it’s big to create wines that pair well with different foods, but I look for “sipping” whites since I prefer dry red wines with my steak. 😉
The 2010 VMV oaked Viognier is one of those sippers for me. Sure, it will pair well with light meats, seafood, and creamy sauces, but I can just stand/sit and sip this one – that is if I can get my nose out of the glass and actually SIP it. The winemakers here selected the right oak to contribute vanilla, burnt caramel (think the crust of a creme brûlée), and smokiness that blend so well with the grapefruit, which is more up front than the unoaked Viognier, and honeysuckle which is more of a background aroma. In the mouth, the honeysuckle moves forward a little while the caramel steps even further back. It has a smooth, almost buttery mouth feel to it with medium-low acidity – at least that’s the feel of it.
Oh yes, it’s a sipper.
2010 Tempranillo Rosé – (off-dry)
I’m not a big rosé drinker. Perhaps it was because the first rosés I had were bad, or the winemakers didn’t “get” how they should taste, but since most rosés that I try taste about the same to me, it makes more sense that I just don’t like them. I usually pass when a tasting guide offers a rosé these days… I didn’t at Valley Mills.
The 2010 Tempranillo Rosé is off-dry, presenting a wonderful, sweet rose (not rosé) and light cherry aroma with a well-balanced cherry flavor complemented by mild tannins and medium acidity. There was none of the tart acridity that I have come to associate with rosé wines. It finished with an aftertaste of cherries blended with golden delicious apples. Delightful!
Bin No. 1 Red
I was ready for a “serious” red, so Kandi served their Bin No. 1 Red, a Tempranillo – Malbec blend. It presented an initial aroma of cherry laced with white pepper, but quickly added tobacco and plum “notes” – which is funny that we use the term “note” since there is an aromatic tobacco with plum aromas called “Blue Note”, and the blend reminded me of it. I was a little disappointed, however, when the first sip didn’t agree with my nose – the flavors were subdued and seemed almost “watery” compared to the fragrances it presented so boldly. A swirl of the glass and a second sip opened up some earth tones and light plum, but I knew there had to be more, so I asked for a separate glass that I could set aside for experimentation while we chatted. Sure enough, about 20 minutes later, the blend really opened up and presented the cherry, pepper, and tobacco – another delightful experience.
Like I said, this was the first winery where I thoroughly enjoyed every wine they presented; including a couple of barrel tastings. I’ll let you in on this: It’s going to get even better with time…