Last weekend, Julie and I had the pleasure and privilege to attend a gathering of Texas food and wine writers at William Chris Vineyards. The timing for the event was perfect as we really needed a weekend away to relax and recharge, and we are grateful to have been invited by Bill and Chris.
We planned to leave early Saturday and visit a couple of wineries before the 6:00 PM start at William Chris, but we had to stop and see Chris Brundrett (the Chris of William Chris) and secure our cabin for the evening. When we arrived, Chris told us that Alfonse and Martha (of Dotson-Cervantes fame) were there delivering their signature sweet wine. We decided to hang around.
Julie and Martha settled at a table to chat while Alfonse and I milled around in the tasting room. I eventually acted as an unofficial, impromptu tasting guide for a couple of visitors, and talk them into joining the Hye Society. I really enjoy introducing people to good wine.
The William Chris family treated our fellow writers and us to a fascinating evening that included an introduction to Brazos Valley Cheese, a two-course throw down between chefs, a workshop on watermelons, and the introduction to their new winery walking tour.
The variety of all-natural, pure milk cheeses provided by Marc and Rachel Kuehl of Brazos Valley Cheese paired well with the wines at William Chris – Julie and I had been snacking on cheese and wine throughout the afternoon without realizing it was their fromage we had been enjoying. Marc explained how he decided to visit his cousin in Waco – he had been living in Denver, Colorado – for a couple of days in 2005… and stayed. His cousin, Rebeccah Durkin had been making cheese from the surplus milk their grass-fed community cows produced, and as it grew in popularity, they realized the benefit they could provide if they increased production and, as a result, the “reach” of their craft.
I am digressing some from Marc’s presentation to say a few things that he didn’t talk about in his presentation – possibly because of the particular audience he was addressing, or perhaps because they don’t make a big deal of this; however, Marc and his family have created what I think of as the “perfect” business. I call it perfect because everyone wins. By increasing the production of their all-natural, organic cheeses created with pure, whole milk from exclusively grass-fed Jersey and Brown Swiss cows from local, Brazos Valley dairies, they have created opportunities for dairy farmers to return to sustainable, organic, and more humane treatment of their cows while remaining competitive. They have also created greater interest in hand-made, artisan cheeses, and offer classes in cheese making to visitors. Since their cheeses are natural, whole, and organic, they are “spreading the word” about just how good sustainable lifestyles and foods can be.
And to top it off, Brazos Valley Cheese placed First, Second, and Third place in the 2011 American Cheese Society competition in Montreal, Canada.
Chris and Bill led us to the oak grove where Richard De Los Santos, the Texas State Marketing Coordinator for Horticulture, Produce, and Forestry had prepared slices of watermelon for us to enjoy with William Chris’ new semi-sweet white wine, Current. It was a welcome refreshment as the heat of the day began to wane.
From the oak grove, we walked to the new vineyard sections, where they recently planted Petit Verdot and Tannat, two personal favorite varieties of mine, and then to the small Washburn family cemetery just off the main drive. We learned from Andy that there is a bit of Hatfield-and-McCoy-like feuding behind (or below) the cemetery there.
The stops of the William Chris Vineyards walking tour will have placards explaining the purpose and significance of the different areas.
I’m not much of a “foodie”, so I can’t say a lot about the chef throw-down Bill and Chris hosted except to say that my favorites won the two categories. The first throwdown course had to include watermelon while the second was open for the chefs to decide what to serve. Between the two courses, Chris guided us into the larger barrel room to let us sample the 2011 Enchante and do a “live in-glass blending” of the three wines that comprise the latest of my favorite William Chris red.
It was a refreshing day topped by a fascinating evening all put together by the entire – and extended – William Chris family. Chris and Bill have a wonderful all-star cast working for and with them, and it showed last Saturday.