On the Road Again – Chisholm Trail Winery

Our first road trip of the year started like most of our road trips: on a whim. Our destinations are usually selected the same way, and Chisholm Trail Winery was no exception.

We didn’t know that this weekend was Port ‘N Pairing weekend for the Fredericksburg – 290 Wine Trail until we had already started driving, while sitting in line at Starbucks. Julie looked at the posted pairings and out of the wineries we haven’t visited yet, she picked the dessert pairing that sounded the best. Chisholm Trail listed a burbon-orange pecan pie with their Lenoir port. Almagres.

Chisholm Trail Winery is located about nine miles west-southwest of Fredericksburg, south of US-290 on Usener Road. It wasn’t hard to find, and the blue sign on the 290 that we look for showed us just where to turn.

We have been greeted by dogs at McReynolds but never donkeys. The two little burros that graze at the entrance caused me to pause and double-check that the latched gate keeping the donkeys in was truly the winery entrance.

The tasting room is arranged much like a saloon with the “bar” along the back wall as you enter the building. The area in front of the bar at the entrance contains wine and cigar related merchandise for sale, and about halfway down the length of the room are tables for patrons wanting to purchase a glass or bottle for relaxed enjoyment. At the far end of the tasting room is an event / dining area where we were told they serve gourmet pizzas on the weekends. The atmosphere is laid back; no rush; we’re all friends here. If you want something, just ask.

For $9, Chisholm Trail offers a tasting of any five of their eleven wines and includes a logo tasting glass. Since we’re most interested in wines made from Texas grown grapes, our selection was simplified. We started with the Belle Starr, a dry Texas Blanc du Bois, then Julie and Mandy continued with the sweeter wines while I did my usual.

I’ve never tasted a Lenoir wine that I really cared for. It’s a very citric grape, in my opinion, and can’t stand on its own as a wine. Again, in my opinion. It holds up very well in a tawny port or madiera, just not a dry wine. I would dearly love to taste a great working Lenoir (sometimes called Jacquez or mistakenly referred to as “Black Spanish”) given its heritage and probable roots in American, possibly even Texan, soil but the best I have tasted have been blends. As a side note, I have some ideas if there are any crazy winemakers who want to hear them. Back to Chisholm Trail, though.

At the very end of our tasting flight, Paula Williamson, owner and winemaker, walked up to our tasting guide and I was compelled to ask about her choice of Lenoir to stand alone. I complimented her on a gutsy move, but more so on her choice to pair the Lenoir with Sangiovese in the 2010 Diablo.

Paula makes a Merlot from California sourced grapes, and since I had an extra “slot” in my tasting, I tried it out, but I think there was enough of the previous tasting of the dry Lenoir in the glass to affect the flavor of the Merlot. By that time I had started talking to Paula, so instead of re-pouring the Merlot, I purchased a bottle to try at home.

As we were preparing to leave and find a good steak, Paula offered to take us on a tour of the barrel room and to taste some wines in process. The two stand-outs from the barrel room will be released sometime next year. The first, a reasonable Cabernet Sauvignon is her appeasement to many requests from customers for the California varietal, and I am confident that they will be delighted when it’s ready.

The last wine that we tasted was from the first vat she told us about – a crop of Blanc du Bois that had been severely damaged by a tropical storm in the Valley. When she fermented the juice, Paula realized that her crop of grapes had turned into lemons. Not one to give up, demonstrated by her determination to tame the Lenoir, she toyed with ideas to salvage the juice and came up with Limoncello. I don’t know what she did, but she gave us a preview taste of Yellow Parasol that still has a year to go before release and we tasted genius. I will be in line at the release party for sure because as is, Yellow Parasol in incredibly delicious.

What we took home:

A bottle of the Diablo and a bottle of the Merlot.

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