Bella Vista Ranch Vineyard, Winery – and Olive Oil

photo courtesy of

I know this is a sad admission, but I really didn’t want to go. Julie and I had driven to Hye on Saturday for the William Chris 2nd anniversary dinner and even though they were going to open up their “library” to wine club members Sunday afternoon, I just wanted to go home. I really enjoy driving to wineries and spending time with winemakers, but it was just one of those days.

I also have this “thing” about driving the same roads over and over, so I will often take side roads just for the change in scenery, so when we got to Dripping Springs, I turned right and headed south on TX 12. What was I thinking… 

Did you know that there are several wineries “just off” 12? Driftwood Estates (our third Texas winery to visit – before I started writing about it) is just east of 12 about halfway between “Drippin'” and Wimberly, Wimberly Valley Winery is a bit farther east and south, but an easy side trip if you want to visit.

Then there is Bella Vista Ranch, just west of 12 and just north of Wimberly. What’s unique about Bella Vista is that they also have olive tree orchards and are probably better known for their olive oil than their wine. They provide tastings for both the wines and oil in their tasting room – which has more room for the olive oil than the wine, by the way; just enough room for Julie and me.

photo courtesy of

Many thanks to Laura at Way Out West Austin for kindly granting permission to use her photos… I forgot to take some. Here’s her article and more photos

Given this setup, I prepared myself to taste either lots of “Texas sweet”, wine made from imported bulk juice, or some really nasty Lenoir – you know, a native wine from a “native” grape.

Side Note: Please, people, let’s get the whole Lenoir story straight – there’s some really good research on it, and it’s probably not the grape you think it is – but that’s for another time.

April, our slightly flustered but very friendly tasting guide, introduced us to the Bella Vista wines with their “Lyte White”, a Muscat – Chardonnay blend not altogether different from Dotson-Cervantes Gotas de Oro in flavor, but much drier. It’s a very smooth off-dry white wine made from California grapes (a fact that we are pleased they don’t try to hide), and it’s very reasonably priced at $12.95/bottle.

All of their other wines, all the red wines, are made from Texas fruit – all from Hill Country vineyards. The first red wine we tasted was the Texas Sunset, a semi-sweet Sangiovese blend. That’s the token “Texas sweet red”, and I’m sure that it sells well because it’s very fruity and nice on the tongue.

April poured us the 2006 Syrah next, and the first aroma that hit me was dust. Maybe it’s because Guy Stout pointed out a dust aroma in one of the wines we tasted in class the prior Monday, but this seemed pretty strong. Mind you, a dusty nose isn’t a bad thing, but it’s only the second time that I’ve noticed it. I’m also pretty happy that it’s OK to use fruit colors in tasting notes because that’s what I taste, colored fruits. It’s harder for me to pick out particular fruits and berries than it is to say “black fruit”, “red fruit”, “stone fruit”, etc.

The Syrah’s nose was pepper, black fruit, and dust. When I tasted it, a little licorice kicked in, too. It had medium tannins and they were a little “tight” still, but all in all it is a pleasant glass.

Next on the list was the 2008-2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, a two-year blend because they didn’t have enough juice in 2008 for a reasonable production run. April poured it and we picked up a peppery plum on top of a rich, deep red cherry nose. I could tell from the aroma that the tannins were still a little tight and a small taste confirmed my guess. Julie was still working on the Syrah, so April pulled a different glass and poured Julie’s Cab in it. And it sat there while I worked on my Cab, talked to April about their 2010 Cab which was undergoing some bottle shock and late fermentation.

About ten minutes later, Julie picked up her Cab, tasted it, and asked me what April had poured in that glass. I assured her it was the Cab, but it didn’t match my description to her – so she had me taste it.

“Are you sure this isn’t the Blackberry wine she poured?”

“No, here’s the Blackberry” and she let me taste it. Sure enough, the glass with the Cab (now the “mystery glass”) wasn’t the Blackberry. But it was NOT the Cab I had tasted. I finally decided to use the scientific method in order to determine what we were tasting. April poured us two more glasses of the 08-09 Cabernet, I did an initial taste to confirm my first tasting notes – which I did – and we let them sit there while we talked some about Bella Vista’s olive oil. About ten minutes later we gave the glasses a good swirl and a taste and were stunned by the transformation. Tannins has smoothed out a bit and the fruit stepped forward – fooling my palate into thinking there HAD to be some residual sugar. Yeah, we’re buying a few bottles of the Cab.

photo courtesy of Laura@wayoutwestaustincom

I didn’t know that they use many of the same techniques in olive oil tasting that we do in wine tasting – that’s a big “d’Oh”, isn’t it? I got a little gutsy and tried their 2010 and 2011 pressings and could actually tell a difference, with some guidance, of course.

“Could I get another taste of the Cabernet to wash the olive oil flavor?”


Talk about a really nice pairing…

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