Yesterday was interesting. Although there aren’t as many wineries in East Texas as in the Hill Country, there are too many to visit in a day, so once again we solicited help in determining our travel schedule. The recommendations that we settled on were Enoch’s Stomp Vineyard, Red Road Vineyard, and Los Pinos Ranch Vineyard. If time permitted, we planned on heading to St. Rose as well, but I was pretty sure that we’d hit our limit after Los Pinos.
It was a pleasant drive to Enoch’s Stomp, but my left brain protested, “Why are all the nice vineyards in BFE?”. The right half of my brain just rolled its eyes…
Let me tell you, Enoch’s Stomp is lovely even when the vines are bare as they were yesterday. If their vines started showing leaves overnight as they did at Tara, Enoch’s Stomp will transition from lovely to breathtaking very soon. We’ll have to sneak away in a month if we can to see the difference.
It’s interesting how each winery has their own way of doing tastings: some have “bars” where you stand and get a person behind the bar walking you through the tastings in order while others have you sit at tables while your guide brings each bottle to your table and pours. Some wineries have shot-measured stoppers on their bottles, some pour straight from the bottle, and at least one delivers your “flight” in tiny measured carafes to your table and walk away. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, and I’m sure that you’ll never get a consensus from winery operators or patrons as to which is best.
The tasting guide at Enoch’s Stomp had us sit at a bar-height table, asked us what our tasting preferences were, and started pouring. Julie focused on whites and sweets while my focus was dry whites and reds. I have created a Bento database on my iPad so I could take notes more efficiently during tastings and keep them organized after, so I set it up and started taking notes. Since I’m still learning a lot about wines and want to know as much as I can about each wine I taste, I usually ask which grapes have been used in each wine – and it’s not obvious when the wine is called “Go Getem Texas To-Die-For Bootlickin Red”. Of course Enoch’s Stomp doesn’t have a wine by that name, or any name so crazy – other wineries do, though.
Nevertheless, I really want to know what’s in the glass, and unless the winemaker feels that their particular blend is top secret and would create financial ruin if revealed, I’d like to be able to get that information without feeling either stupid because it should be obvious or feeling like I’m really putting the tasting guide out for having to put up with my constant queries. Perhaps I need to hand the guides a card when I enter a winery to inform them that I don’t mean to be a pain in the ass, but I probably will be.
Please don’t get the idea that we had a bad experience at Enoch’s Stomp because I tend to be lecturing on my particular irks while talking about our tasting there. I’m ADD, and keep having thought “butterflies” flit by requiring my attention. Our particular tasting guide was very friendly and informative. She readily answered my questions to the best of her ability, but there were some blends for which she couldn’t recount every grape varietal that was added. That’s OK. I’ll live.
You know, I’m not sure that I’m qualified yet to publish my personal reviews of each wine we tasted; however, I did have one winemaker applaud my honesty and untainted-by-reading-too-many-wine-reviews palate. Of course it’s likely he was just saying that to get me to STFU. I’m such a sucker for flattery.
I can tell you that we left with two bottles of Enoch’s Stomp port. We didn’t taste any wines at Enoch’s Stomp that were turpentine. They were good, but since I’m already out of space in my not-yet-existent wine rack and cases of wine are starting to look a bit obvious in the designated space for my soon-to-be-constructed rack, we’re only purchasing wines that pretty much knock our socks off. We kinda liked the port, can you tell?
I have this really cool navigation program on my iPad that let me put in multiple destinations, so I programmed Red Road and Los Pinos in order and let it guide me to the next vineyard/winery. Red Road appeared to be in BFE, too
Sometimes navigation systems and Google Maps just don’t get it right. We drove the entire length of West Front Road in Naples, Texas looking for 105. Of course it was at the very end. The other end. Smack in what appeared to be downtown-not-BFE Naples. Lynn (we think her name was), our gracious tasting guide, told us that they found out if you put 405 West Front Rd into Google, it gets the location right, so they changed the address on their web page to 405. We like their thinking.
One nice thing about visiting wineries during the week is that we are often the only ones there. One bad thing about trying to visit some wineries during the week is that we are the only people there… and they’re closed. But I’ve already talked about that.
Red Road was very open and Lynn was very cordial. Duh. It is Texas, after all. Julie, Lynn, and I got along famously, and Lynn even graciously fixed us a snack tray so we’d have something other than breakfast and Enoch’s Stomp in our stomachs before we started tasting their wines. We really enjoyed the Las, Muscat Canelli, and Sedoga.
We got to meet Merril, the owner and winemaker at Red Road. He seemed to be a little shy around crazy Pearlanders like us, though. We do put some people off even though we’re completely (mostly) harmless, but Merril was nice enough and Lynn had done a great job of keeping us both entertained while presenting the wines to us. Of course we left with a few bottles of the afore-mentioned wines.
All we had to do now was make it to Los Pinos and back to Tara for dinner, so I propped up the iPad on the dash and turned on the nav app.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “How The West Was Won”, you may remember the segment where James Stewart gets suckered into going to see the Varmint in Walter Brennan’s cave/general store. There are times when driving to vineyards at remote locations that we also wonder if we’re going to see the Varmint. Single lane or dirt roads make us wonder if we really have our directions right. We don’t blame the vineyards for the roads, believe me. They don’t own the roads and couldn’t afford to fix them even if they did. Hey, at least the state put those blue signs by the hiway to at least let us know that we DID make our turn at the correct intersection to find the vineyard. We like the blue road signs. We also like the passports. And the perks. If the state cuts funding for the GoTexasWine program it won’t keep us from visiting wineries, but it may prevent us from finding them. Or even knowing they exist. How much money do Texas wineries pour into the Texas economy? I forget, but I know it’s not just a pittance. ‘Nuff said.
Oh! Los Pinos Ranch! Once you get there, it’s lovely! Can’t wait until the vines are full of leaves and grapes to see it again. We had never been there before, so we walked into this restaurant-looking tasting room not quite knowing if we were in the right place or what to do if we were. Fortunately, the hostess must have recognized my deer-in-the-headlights look and informed us that we could pick a table – any table (how about theirs by the window? Oh, an empty table) – and they would do the tasting at the table. Oh, like Enoch’s Stomp, right? Nope.
When we sat at the table, we noticed a “tent” placard which informed us that tasting “flights” were $6 each, and the available flights were sweets and dries. That works fine for us as Julie will want the sweet flight and I will try the dry flight. A waiter came to our table, dropped off a menu with a smaller paper showing today’s special. So this is a restaurant! We felt a little sheepish when we just ordered the two tasting flights. We hoped that we were not putting them out too much.
The tastings were delivered to our table in two small racks holding, for lack of a better term coming to mind, miniature carafes of wine. Julie referred to them as test tubes. What was nice about this arrangement was that we could take our time and do tasting our way. What wasn’t nice about this arrangement was that we didn’t have anyone to ask about our wines if we did have questions. We didn’t see any mention or sign regarding tours, so we don’t know if they were available. We can check the web site later if it’s kept up to date. As nice as the restaurant and property are, I bet they stay on top of their site.
We didn’t leave with any of their wines, though I did find the signature Meritage to be a fascinating wine even though the Sangiovese was the best-tasting. Julie thought the sweet wines were a bit too sweet for her tastes, and having tried a few of them, I agreed. Her palate is being refined through exposure to great dry whites (and her willingness to try them), so she doesn’t like her sweet wines to be quite as sweet as she did last September.
An interesting note: When the waiter saw that we were finished, he came by and asked, “So who’s the winner?” I told him that I liked the Sangiovese best of the dry wines and he told us that some top female sommelier (like gender matters?) commented about the Sangiovese after tasting it, “This can’t be from Texas.” It’s sad that some people have such a low expectation of Texas wine quality.
Loved reading about your trip. I think that traveling and visiting wineries around the state is one of my favorite parts about being in this business.