Hilmy Cellars – A Preview

Julie and I headed to Fredericksburg early this weekend with Mandy, our middle daughter. Julie and Mandy were on a mission to get Hill Country winery Christmas ornaments, and I played chauffeur.

We stopped at Hilmy Cellars on our way in because we haven’t had a chance to spend time with Erik and Neldie since they opened in March. Of course my decision to stop in was spur of the moment, so we had no idea whether they would be at the winery and/or available; however, we love the whole crew at Hilmy, so we were guaranteed a good visit.

Neldie was stepping out as we arrived, but stopped long enough to greet us warmly and talk to us about their planned weekend events assuring us that she would be returning soon. When we got to the massive tasting room door, Erik walked out with a couple of glasses of wine and handed one to me. Both he and Neldie stepped out to continue their preparations for a wine club dinner on Saturday, so we headed in to drink some wine and catch up with the rest of the Hilmy family.

We walked into the tasting room and talked to Vinny, Josh, and Allie, and I ordered a glass of Politics and Religion for me and glasses of Doo•Zwa•zō  for Julie and Mandy.  When Neldie returned, she took Julie and Mandy for a tour of the cellar and production facility because this was Mandy’s first visit to Hilmy. I caught up with them just as they were tasting Viognier from one of the tanks. Viognier? Oh I had to try some of that.

Now I’m not an expert on Viognier and I have never tasted any non-Texas Viognier, but when I had my first taste of Becker’s in 2011, I just had “a feeling” that it would be a go-to Texas white wine for me, and I have made a point to taste the Viognier from every winery we have visited that had one. The most notable Viogniers that I have tasted have been the 2009 Alamosa Tio Pancho Ranch Estate Viognier, a bone-dry, slightly oaked wine from Jim Johnson’s vineyard in Bend, Texas, Duchman’s 2010 Bingham Family Estate Viognier, and Todd Webster’s 2010 Brennan Viognier, a very slightly off-dry wine – perfect with his recipe for scallops that he gave Julie.

When I tasted Erik’s Viognier, I was convinced that it had between 1% and 1.5% residual sugar, but when Erik came back and met us in the tank room, he assured me that it was bone dry. Amazing. The grapes for the Hilmy Viognier also came from Bingham Family Vineyard, like the Duchman Family Viognier and I could definitely pick out some similarity, but this was also 2012 grapes vs. Duchman’s 2010 Viognier.

The Hilmy Viognier is still in the tank and unfiltered, so it will continue to change; however, as-is it has a gorgeous aroma with hints of Lichi fruit and sweet cream butter. The nose is a wonderful preview of the flavor of the wine, which I struggle to describe. Remember, I taste in color and sometimes have great difficulty finding the right descriptors; therefore, I asked Erik for his permission to do a Visual Tasting which he graciously agreed to. Had this been a bottled wine, I wouldn’t have needed to ask, but as this is still a maturing wine in the tank, I wanted to make sure that he felt it would be an appropriate representation.

Erik’s is planning to release the Viognier in three “versions”, the unoaked wine that I have been describing, a blend of the unoaked and a mildly-oaked Viognier (and the oaked is coming along VERY nicely) and as part of the 2012 Doo•Zwa•zō.

… And Viognier is just one of the new grapes Erik is introducing to the Hilmy portfolio. It looks like 2013 is going to be a great year for Texas white wines!


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