Feb 182017

“Texas really is a wine country – more than 1000 gallons of this wine made annually”

Texas Frontier News: Texas Mustang Grape Wine Judged Excellent!

An article in the Galveston Daily News from October 25, 1868, on the front page no less, caused me to ask the question:

In the 1860s, what characteristics must a locally produced Texas wine, and especially a local Texas native Mustang grape wine, possess to show well?  

Here is the article from the Galveston Daily News:



Shown above is the first use of the words “Texas” and “Wine Country” in the same sentence.

This article also extols the virtues of our local Texas grape wine made from Mustang grapes harvested in the wild and made into wine by N.L. Halbert in Washington County, just a few days travel up the Austin trail from Houston by horseback.

Even after a lot of thought on the question I posed, it is was hard for me to discern an clear answer. So, I tried to rationalize one.

Recall, in Texas, the 1800s were a time of hot dry dusty trails, hot dusty saloons and hot dusty homes prior to the advent of air conditioning and refrigeration. Shipments were by slow boats, bumpy trains and/or wagons. Texas was a place far afield from the center of European wine production and it was also a place where ice was a precious commodity, definitely scarcer than diamonds and rubies.

My first question turned into a second question: How did they store and transport wine (it must have been a difficult issue) back then? This made questions of proper serving temperatures for wine to be of little relevance.

Knowing that Mustang grapes are the most sour and acidic of many native grape varieties that grow in Texas, the proclamation that this Mustang wine was “excellent” made me look for a proper perspective on the subject.

Being hot and  far away from the major wine centers, must have been a challenge for European wines. What were these wines like after the month’s long trip by ship to Galveston (likely in barrel) and after being bottled and stored in a hot Galveston warehouse, and perhaps even land shipping for distribution around the state? My bet is that they were not anywhere close to their optimal condition and likely were bad tasting most of the time.

Now compare… We have the good Mr. N.L. Halbert in Washington County just up the road harvesting Mustang grapes in September and shortly thereafter making his wine using the time tested formula for Mustang wine – Addition of sugar, sugar and more sugar! He likely finished fermentation, a short barrel aging and bottling the wine in the cool breezes of a Texas November. He then, lofted a few bottles to the journalists at the Galveston Daily News and they gladly (maybe even festively) tasted the wine in December – Note that the scores for the wine appear to have gotten better the more the tasted imbibed (a typical thing that happens even today).

My opinion is that a fresh Texas Mustang wine likely had attributes leading to the journalists proclamation that it was “excellent”, especially if it was compared to a fine European wine that did not travel well in its months long trip to Texas and it’s time in hot storage.

The lesson here is not to judge a wine only by the norm of the present day (modern transport and storage, refrigeration, service temperature, etc.). I say this particularly if the question pertains to the wines of our frontier Texas – à votre santé!




 Posted by at 3:29 pm
Jan 192017
Texas Flag2

Texas Flag Waves Proudly for Texas Wines!

Texas Wines Outshine Other States at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

Great news for the Texas wine industry!  This year, Texas topped all states except for California with “Best of Class” awards for seven Texas appellation wines at the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. One of those is Brennan Vineyards, which was awarded Best of Class for its 2015 Reserve Viognier.  The competition also awarded gold medals to Brennan (2), Duchman Family Winery and Spicewood Vineyards. This competition is the largest competition of American wines in the world, with 7,000 entries from 28 states.

“This year, Texas wineries won more medals–including some of the top awards in the 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition–than ever before,” said Bob Fraser, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition executive director. “It is not surprising to me, as I recently visited the Texas Wine Country and was completely impressed with the quality of their wines.”

 Posted by at 3:44 pm
Dec 212016

Newsom Vineyards First Brand – 2013 Inception

Newsom Vineyards Inception: A Legacy Conquers Despair

A little over a year ago, I attended a dinner at Llano Estacado Winery‘s new tasting room and events center in Lubbock. In a long list of truly excellent Llano wines, one stands out in my mind today. It was the Newsom Vineyards 2013 Inception.

As we tasted the excellently paired courses and paired wines, we came to a red wine poured from a nearly black bottle with a leather strap around its middle. Affixed to the strap was a medallion emblazoned with the familiar Newsom “Rocking N” brand. In my glass, the wine was a red-black beauty that awaiting my approach.

As we began to taste, Mark Hyman and Greg Bruni , President and Vice President of Llano Estacado Winery, stood and addressed the group. I cannot recall their exact words, but they described a day in 2013 when high plains winegrower Neal Newsom arrived at their loading dock with his entire harvest of that year’s red grapes.

In case you don’t recall, 2013 was a bad year with multiple spring freeze events. According to Texas Wine & Trail Magazine, “The High Plains were hit by late freezes that reduced the crop by 75% versus normal output.” Almost no white wine was made from early budding white grapes and the harvest of reds was well down, as well.


Newsom Vineyards in Texas High Plains Primary Colors – Red, Green and Blue

In this case, Neal’s entire 2013 harvest of red grapes was contained in one partially filled harvest bin.

In a recent conversation, Neal talked about what eventually became his Newsom Vineyards 2013 Inception. In his usual humble and understated way, he described the wine made from his 2013 red grape harvest by Llano Estacado as a “limited release.” He said, “I believe that all of the red grapes that we harvested from our 120 or so acres that year amounted to just 860 pounds. Most of the grapes were produced from secondary buds. Taking those grapes to Llano was heart wrenching.”

What I remember from Mark Hyman’s comments was that Neal brought those grapes with low expectations.  It was such a small amount of grapes, he offered the them to Llano Estacado and figured that they would just be added into the mix of Llano’s over 100,000 case production.

However, from the despair of that day, with the helping hands of Llano’s winemakers, came the start of the Newson Vineyards new wine brand called Inception. According to an Instagram post I made during the evening’s dinner, I commented that Neal’s entire “limited release” of 2013 Newsom Vineyards Inception amounted to only 35 cases. I believe this wine contains a quotient of Texas winegrower grit, gumption and midnight tears that is likely to be an all time high, and for that, is meant to be slowly savored


News Vineyards 2014 Inception

Since then, Nolan and Yanmei Newsom have started a tasting room in Comfort Texas for their family’s Newsom Vineyards brand – called Newsom Vineyards in Comfort. As mentioned previously, they carry wines with Newsom Vineyards or their Inception labels. These are wines made by wineries the Newsom family has worked with for decades that they think are really the best at the particular wines they make. These wineries include Texas stalwarts like Bending Branch, Calais, Lewis, Pedernales, Llano Estacado, Flat Creek and Driftwood.

Returning from a recent trip to the recently opened Newsom Vineyards tasting room in Comfort, Texas, I returned with a bottle of the Newsom Vineyards 2014 Inception. As a proprietary red blend, I did not know the grape varieties involved. After tasting, the tannic structure of Cabernet Sauvignon was evident. However, there were additional notes of red berries, dusty red dirt, leather and a lingering old world barrel-aged nuance that made me think an Italian variety or two.  However, Nolan later filled me in on the details of the bleak 2013 harvest and the contents of the 2014 vintage Inception.

He said, “The 2013 inception was a “super-field blend” alright. It was made up of 120 acres of reds. All secondary clusters made one barrel of wine. Looking back, that was how inception was born. The Inception of our first label. The 2014 Inception is a continuation made with the help of our long time friends at Llano Estacado winery. However, compared to the 2013, the 2014 blend is a little more varietally focused. It is made up of Tempranillo and Cabernet, in a 58/42% blend. The good news for the 2014 Inception is that we had the opportunity to make much more of it than in 2013, almost 200 cases.”


Newsom Vineyards at Comfort – Now a Reality!

Going forward, the blend in Newsom Vineyard Inception will change vintage-to-vintage based on what they have available and what makes sense. And so, the legacy continues!

Newsom Vineyards at Comfort

Address: 717 Front Street, Comfort Texas

Phone: (806) 549-6732

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/newsomvineyardsatcomfort/


 Posted by at 2:29 pm
Nov 302016


Grand Slam for Wineries in Texas at 2017 Houston Rodeo International Wine Competition

Champion wines have been named from the thousands competing in the 2017 Rodeo Uncorked!® International Wine Competition, held Nov. 12 – 13, 2016, at NRG Center, Houston, Texas. Highest honors were given to four wineries in Texas: Pedernales Cellars, Fall Creek Vineyards, Kiepersol Vineyards and Winery, and Nice Winery (See underlined below).

The 2017 International Wine Competition judging included 2,850 entries from approximately 20 different countries, including Australia, Austria, France, Italy, Japan, Peru, South Africa and Spain. The competition also received 105 entries from the 2017 featured region, Tuscany. Texas wineries represented 351 entries.

The 2017 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition champions are:

  • Grand Champion Best of Show – Arinzano, Pago de Arinzano White Grand Vino, 2010
  • Reserve Grand Champion Best of Show Nice Winery Notorious Malbec, Mount Veeder, 2013*
  • Top Sparkling Wine – Laetitia Brut Rosé, Arroyo Grande Valley, 2014
  • Top Red Wine – Trinchero Forte Red Wine, Napa Valley, 2012
  • Top Region Wine – Talosa Vino Nobile di Montelpulciano D.O.C., 2012
  • Top Sweet Wine – Bodegas Dios Baco, Baco de Elite Amontillado Sherry, Jerez D.O., NV
  • Top Value Wine – Aia Vecchia Lagone, Toscana I.G.T., 2013
  • Top All-Around Winery – Wilson Winery of Dry Creek
  • Top Region Wine Company – Palm Bay International
  • Top Wine Company – Trinchero Family Estates

*Wineries located in Texas

All champion wines will be paired with dishes from top chefs at the Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup and Best Bites Competition, Sunday, Feb. 26, and sold at the Rodeo Uncorked! Champion Wine Auction and Dinner Sunday, March 5, 2017.

Visitors to the 2017 Show can enjoy a selection of award-winning wines by the glass or bottle at the Rodeo Uncorked! Champion Wine Garden, located in Carruth Plaza at NRG Park. For more information on Rodeo Uncorked! events, visit rodeohouston.com/wine.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a Section 501(c)(3) charity that benefits youth, supports education, and facilitates better agricultural practices through exhibitions and presentation. Since its beginning in 1932, the Show has committed more than $430 million to the youth of Texas.

For more information, visit rodeohouston.com and connect with #RODEOHOUSTON online via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for all of the latest news. The 2017 Show is scheduled for March 7 – 26.

For a complete listing of medal-winning wines, visit .com/wine.

 Posted by at 7:04 pm
Nov 222016


Cabernet Grill Experience: Tasso Chicken and McPherson White Wine Trio

If I wasn’t so familiar with Chef Ross Burtwell’s Cabernet Grill Restaurant at the compound called Cotton Gin Village on the south side of Fredericksburg, I likely wouldn’t expect the modern culinary treasures it holds. While his restaurant is part and parcel of the quaint log cabin village, its cuisine is definitely finer fare. It’s a place where creative gourmet plates with upscale Texan cuisine (sometimes even with a Cajun kick). It’s also accompanied by (what I feel safe to say is) the best selection of Texas wines anywhere in the whole dang Galaxy.

On a recent stay in Fredericksburg, I was drawn to Chef Burtwell’s restaurant by one of Chef Burtwell’s Twitter postings:

@CabernetGrill: Our featrd. wine flight continues throughout Nov. Taste 3 @mcphersoncellar white wines & let us know which one is your favorite! #txwine.

Like many in Texas, I’ve been a long time fan of winemaker Kim McPherson and his Texas high plains-based McPherson Cellars wines from his winery in Lubbock. What locked me into making a dinner reservations was the photo that accompanied the Twitter post. It showed a flight of three McPherson single varietal white wines: Albariño, Piquepoul Blanc and Viognier. After that, I immediately thought how well they would pair with my single favorite item on Chef Burtwell’s dinner menu: Tasso Chicken with crimini mushrooms and roasted garlic serrano Béarnaise sauce.

When I asked Chef Burtwell how he came by the McPherson wine selections, he responded, “I need to bring our operations manager and wine director Elizabeth Rodriguez into this conversation. She is the one who sets up the monthly wine flights.” Ms Rodriguez has worked with Chef Burtwell for more than 10 years and they both search long and hard to find the best values in Texas wines for Cabernet Grill patrons.


Luis Alvarez  and Elizabeth Rodriguez at Cabernet Grill

When my wife and I settled into our table, we order the special trio of McPherson white wines. Our server for the evening was Luis Alvarez. As we tasted, Elizabeth stopped by to discuss her wine selections. We went through her notes on the dominant characteristics of each wine:

  • McPherson Cellars Albariño 2015 – flavors of peach, mango and pear (I even picked up a hint of white flowers in the 2015 not previously noted in the 2014).
  • McPherson Cellars Piquepoul Blanc 2015 – light in body and crisp acidity on the palate carrying citrus aromas and flavors.
  • McPherson Cellars Viognier 2015 – Floral aromas of honeysuckle and orange blossom precede flavors of white peach.


From my conversations with Elizabeth and Luis, it was obvious that both were very happy to have had a recent opportunity to take a trip to Lubbock where they had a tasting with winemaker Kim McPherson and other growers and winemakers in the region. Elizabeth and Luis were both impressed with Kim’s wines and his willingness to help other winemakers and wineries around the state to make the best wines they can. It was in Lubbock where Elizabeth decided to latch on to this magnificent Texas wine trio – McPherson Cellars Albariño, Piquepoul Blanc and Viognier.

More about Chef Burtwell’s Tasso Chicken creation…

I commented to Elizabeth that no matter how hard I try to do otherwise, I always seem to order Chef Burtwell’s Tasso Chicken. I’m always surprised by how good it is. At no other restaurant I’ve been to, anywhere in the world, have I picked a white-meat chicken dish to be my absolute favorite thing on the menu. Why?

Well, perhaps it’s the marinade composed of garlic, olive oil, sherry and thyme. Or, maybe it’s the flavor and aroma imparted by the mesquite grilling or the sautéed crimini mushrooms or the incredible roasted garlic serrano Béarnaise sauce (To die for!). Most likely, It’s all of these things compiled into this flavor-packed dish.

During dinner, Elizabeth came back with a copy of Chef Burtwell’s cookbook (Texas Hill Country Cuisine: Flavors from the Cabernet Grill Texas Wine Country Restaurant. Opening it to page 151, she showed me the recipe for Tasso Chicken! I admitted that I had a copy of this cookbook, but never thought to see if the recipe for my favorite Tasso Chicken was in it. Then, Elizabeth said, “See, now you can make Tasso Chicken for yourself and when you come back to the Cabernet Grill, you can order something different.”


Chef Ross Burtwell’s Cookbook

When I mentioned this to Chef Burtwell, he said, “Glad to hear you found the recipe for the Tasso Chicken in my cookbook. We will need to compare notes after you try it at home to see if I got the recipe correct for home use!”

I guess now I’m on the spot, but gladly.

You too can make Chef Burtwell’s Tasso Chicken and over a hundred other of his top recipes. Click here to order. Or, simply stop by the restaurant on your next trip to Fredericksburg, Texas, where you can check out the great all Texas wine list, as well.

Cabernet Grill at Cotton Gin Village: Upscale Restaurant and B&B featuring cozy 19th-century log cabins with porches, fireplaces, Koi pond with waterfall (complete with the sounds of splashing water on slab limestone) & free WiFi.

Address: 2805 S State Hwy 16, Fredericksburg, TX 78624


 Posted by at 6:50 pm
Oct 162016


Periwinkle Hosts Houston’s Premier Sommelier Competition and Wine Tasting

Iron Sommelier… Presented by AutoSol® Returns on October 20th, 2016

 VT – What more could you want:  a good cause, good wine/food pairings, a challenge and competition among some of Houston’s best and most creative sommeliers? It’s all in one at Periwinkle Foundation’s IronSomm event!

WHAT: Houston’s finest sommeliers will be put to the test for the title of Iron Sommelier in the city’s premier wine competition and fundraiser benefiting The Periwinkle Foundation. Now in its 8th year, Wine Chair Sean Beck and Sommelier Chair John Clutterbuck invite guests to an evening showcasing the expertise of 13 sommeliers while guests mingle and taste hand-selected wines that showcase a theme chosen by each sommelier. Competitors will be rated on wine choice, presentation, creativity and knowledge of their wine selections. 


Lindsay Thomas of Camerata presenting her wines

On hand will be: Rachel DelRocco – Camerata at Paulie’s; Thomas Moësse – divino Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar; Melissa Lamb – Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar; Evan Turner – Helen Greek Food and Wine; Travis Hinkle – Hunky Dory, Bernadine’s, Foreign Correspondents, Down House (Treadsack Restaurant Group); Samantha Porter – Oporto Fooding House, Oporto Wine Cafe, and Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen; Brandon Kerne – Pappas Bros. Steakhouse; Shepard Ross – Pax Americana; Christian Varas – River Oaks Country Club; Angie Chang – Sonoma Wine Bar & Restaurant; Matt Crawford – State of Grace; Adele Corrigan – 13 celsius Wine Bar; and Matthew Pridgen – Underbelly. 


Evan Turner, 2015 Iron Sommerlier winner will be back to defend his title! (Houston Chronicle photo)

VT – The question is: Will any of the somms be packing any Texas wines this year like they did in last year’s competition (William Chris Vineyards Rosé). Texas wines have been attracting more attention from restaurants, wine bars and somms across the state.


William Chris Cinsault Rose’ – in good company!

An Auction, Wine Pull, Iron Sommelier Wine Case and Making A Mark® Children’s Art Sale will round out the evening of vino, entertainment and food. A special thank you to Periwinkle supporters and The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa.

WHERE: Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa – 111 North Post Oak Lane, Houston, TX 77024

WHEN: Iron Sommelier 2016 Presented by AutoSol®, Thursday, October 20 at 6 p.m.

TICKETS: $200 for individual tickets purchased in advance, $225 for tickets purchased day of event.  $1,000 for the Aficionado Package that includes two tickets and a magnum of Juve Y Camps Familia Brut Reserve.    


James Watkins’ professional pour!


For sponsorship and underwriting opportunities, contact Alice Rohrman, arohrman@periwinklefoundation.orgFor more information, visit www.ironsommelier.org or www.periwinklefoundation.org.

News Flash: They’ve added a 14th sommelier (Lexey Davis Johnson – B&B Butchers & Restaurant) and have the following judges lined up: Master Sommelier Brian Cronin of Palm Bay International, New York, NY; Liz Dowty of European Cellars, New Orleans, LA; and Antonio Gianola of Houston Wine Merchant. Great job again. You’d be crazy to miss this event. See the good cause below…

ABOUT: The Periwinkle Foundation develops and provides programs that positively change the lives of children, young adults and families who are challenged by cancer and other life threatening illnesses and are cared for at Texas Children’s Hospital. Funds raised through the Iron Sommelier help support the Periwinkle Camps, Arts and Survivor Programs that serve more than 14,000 children, teens and families. This is made possible by a collaborative community of 20,000 supporters with a reach of more than 12 million impressions worldwide.

 Posted by at 9:48 am
Oct 032016


Find the Best Texas Wines – Sign Up for the Specialist of Texas Wine Level 1 Class

What: Specialist of Texas Wine – Certification Level 1 Class. This Class is offered as part of the Texas Wine Schools regional wine specialists classes (United States). Click here for registration.

Where: The Texas Wine School, 2301 Portsmouth St, Houston, TX 77098; tele: (713) 828-7767.

When: This class will meet three times for 3 hours each time: Weds. October 19th and 26th, and Thurs. November 3rd (evenings).

Instructor: Dr. Russ Kane, award-winning Texas writer, author and Texas wine aficionado. Click here for Dr. Kane’s bio. The class will also feature guest presenters actively involved in Texas grape growing and wineries.



Specialist of Texas Wine is a first-of-its kind program that offers a comprehensive series of classes featuring the unique wines and wine regions of Texas. Never before has there been a wine program with specific classes focused solely on Texas focusing on their history, modern development and context with wines from major regions around the world (new world and old).

The program exposes students to unique landscapes of the major wine regions in Texas: Texas High Plains, Texas Hill Country, Texoma, Escondido Valley, and Davis Mountains AVAs, as well as non-AVA regions of East Texas and Gulf Coast.  This learning and tasting intensive program features important topics critical to the success of today’s wine professionals and savvy consumers that are looking for the best wines and wine values that Texas now has to offer.


This three-part class will cover:

Details of each wine region, including location, geologic history, soils, climate and leading grape varieties grown in the region;

The evolution of Texas winemaking from its early Spanish and immigrant European period (1600-1800) and early post-Prohibition (1940-1990) and modern period (1990-present), with a focus on winemaking techniques and grape varieties;

The links and contrasts between Texas wines and their old & new world counterparts through lectures and guided and blind tastings with benchmark wines.

Each class will  have a representative from the Texas wine industry’s grape growing, winemaking or winery owner communities in Texas that will be available to provide first-hand knowledge, Q&A and guided tasting.  The guided tastings will include over 20 Texas and benchmark wines. Tastings will include a range of grape varieties and blends originating from northern Europe (France & Germany), Mediterranean (Italy, S. France, Spain, Portugal) and hybrid wines from Texas and other American appellations. These tastings will help students understand the distinctions of wines from selected Texas regions and grape varieties and their attributes versus their counterparts in the American and global wine world.

The program concludes with an opportunity to test your knowledge of the wines, regions and laws on an exam.    The credential will be awarded to those that pass the rigorous exam at the end of the series with a score of 80% or higher.

This Specialist of Texas Wine Level 1 Certification Class is open for registration online or by phone directly from The Texas Wine School. Don’t wait, the last class in January of this year was sold out. Click here for registration.


 Posted by at 4:56 pm
Oct 032016

2016 Texas Grape Harvest (photo credit: Messina Hof Winery)

Two White Wines to Start out Texas Wine Month

Why is October Texas Wine Month? Well, because it is!

In many wine producing regions, the grape harvest takes place in September and October. In Texas, the fact that it is a warm growing region, usually leads to the grape havesting starting first in the Gulf area in early July, followed by the hill country and east Texas taking place in August and September, with the Texas high plains being at the tail end of September.

So now, in October, we make the transition from viticulture to viniculture. The grapes leave their summertime vineyard home and have been transported to and safely reside in the winery where the crushing, fermentation, punching down and pumping over is taking place. Eventually, the wine will be clarified, tanked and in some cases aged in oak barrels.

I thought that it would be good to take a moment to celebrate Texas Wine Month by tasting two very interesting wines, one from the Texas gulf coast and the other from northeastern Texas.


Messina Hof Spumante, 2015 Spumante (Sparkling Muscat Canelli)

A delightful peachy effervesce greets your palate the moment your glass touches your lips. It has sweetness, but not too much, and accompanied with bright acidity that keeps things in balance and lively. The bubbles carry lemon-peach and floral notes (wine is made Methode Traditionnelle with secondary fermentation in the bottle) producing a steady stream of olfactory and tactile sensations that last with the bubbles. It is precisely these characteristics that make this wine a delight to experience and serve to others. It can accompany hors d’oeuvres and main courses particularly well if they focus on fish and fowl and are a bit picante. I hope you save some for dessert where almonds, cream and citrus that meld particularly well with this wine. Available at the Messina Hof Winery and at select Houston-area Kroger stores.


Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards, 2014 Branco Grande (dry estate grown Blanc Du Bois)

I’ll admit that I was remiss not to have tried this winery’s wine sooner. Like many other wineries along the Texas gulf coast and up into east Texas, Los Pinos Ranch is able to focus some of their efforts on the locally available and few worthy white grape – Blanc Du Bois. This “Big White” wine offers a huge tropical mix of aromas and flavors much like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with lemon-lime and kiwi notes with tangerine highlights hiding in the mix if you send a moment to search for it. Great wine for Pan Asian fare with ginger, lemongrass and Kaffir lime. 2015 vintage is available at the winery, but the 2014 is showing very nicely and is available in the Houston area at Houston Wine Merchant.

During Texas Wine Month, don’t forget to tell us what you are drinking. On Twitter, please tweet and use the hashtag #TXwine. Or, if you are on facebook, join and post to Texas Wine Drinkers Group.


 Posted by at 11:27 am
Sep 192016

Ron Yates and Elway

“Ron Yates” Wines New Winery: A Place “Where I get to play around and have some fun”

VT – Please note that right after posting this blog, I was contacted by the PR force working for Yates Wines and was notified that the Ron Yates’s winery called “Yates Wines” was changing its name to simply: “Ron Yates”. I guess now there is Ron Yates – the person, and Ron Yates – the winery.

Closely followed by his dog Elway and surrounded by the echo of the large chilly room stacked with oak barrels, winery owner Ron Yates, pointed to the features of his new winery’s production facility on Route 290 between Johnson City and Hye, Texas.

During my late-August visit, he said, “With what you see here, we are about 60% complete with the stainless tanks I need; about all I can afford right now. I’ve got other plans, too, including installing wood and concrete fermenters. I can’t wait to start my Gran Reserva Tempranillo program, too. But, some plans will have to wait.”

He appears off to a good start.

As Yates continued his tour we went outside of the large, dry-stacked stone building and onto a spacious high-covered crush pad in back and a shaded veranda in the front. I recall thinking that his plans, while still unfinished, seemed to rapidly be coming into reality.


Yates’s plans also include a 10-acre estate vineyard largely focusing on Tempranillo, a grape that he openly favors. Then, there will be a large event pavilion on the east side of the vineyard scheduled to take shape before the end of the year. As we looked out front of the production facility, his outstretched arm with finger pointed “out yonder”, aiming at the west wide of the vineyard. He said, “This is where I’m putting a dedicated tasting room, hopefully sometime in early 2017.”

Two questions that piqued my interest and the real reasons why I wanted to link up with Yates on this trip were: Why start another winery? Why not, just continue to expand at Spicewood Vineyards like he had been doing since acquiring the winery from founders Ed and Madeleine Manigold in 2007.

In response to my questions, Yates said, “When we acquired Spicewood, we wanted a place where we could be off-the-beaten-path, by ourselves with our hands in the dirt. But, now about a decade later, we have kind of maxed out the available space at Spicewood Vineyards. So, our plan is to take it back to the Manigold’s original concept of being mainly an estate winery. We may never get totally there, but our goal is to eventually use 85-90 % grapes grown right on the winery estate.”


Having followed the changes in the Texas wine industry during Yate’s near ten-year term at Spicewood, I sensed that the soon to opening Ron Yates winery operation on Route 290 was going to be something different and definitely bigger.

During the past decade, Route 290 has become to the Hill Country wine region what Route 29 is to Napa. It is the “main drag” for the many incoming wine tourists that has also become a draw for winemakers and their wineries from around Texas. For anyone with high aspirations in the hill country wine business like Yates, not having a winery on Route 290 is simply as many say, “leaving money on the table.”

In Yate’s case, he acknowledges this fact, but at Ron Yates new winery, he is also looking for something with a still higher meaning.

According to Yates, “Doing what we did at Spicewood, extending the Manigold legacy, has been great. But now, I’m looking to start something that is ours. Something new and larger in scale where we can handle grapes grown from all over the state, but where we get to pick the best. We have some west Texas Sangiovese lined up, and looking at a host of Mediterranean varieties like Tempranillo, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan that will be coming it, too.”


Ron Yates at Spicewood Vineyards

I sensed that another key aspect of Yate’s new plan is also to be able to do it front-and-center, right on the 290 wine trail directly in the eye of the many wine tourists that now travel this road and pack winery tasting rooms most any weekend of the year.

As we re-entered the winery, I asked about a hissing sound I heard as I looked around.

Yates said, “It’s the sound of carbon dioxide coming from this Rosé that I’m fermenting in neutral oak barrels. The wine’s made from some of Vijay Reddy’s Cinsault. These are the kind of things that I’ve wanted to do, but we just didn’t have the space to do before at Spicewood. In this new space, I get to play around and have some fun.”

Driving back home, I was still trying to assimilate Yates’s already long “to-do” list when something made me stop.


I thought, ‘Didn’t he also tell me that under the yet-to-be-constructed tasting room, he was going to have a cellar dug into solid limestone?”

 Posted by at 11:50 am
Sep 112016


Texas Wine Talk & Tasting:Texas vs. The World Roadshow:


WHERE: Whole Foods Market (Voss) – 1407 S Voss Rd, Houston, TX 77057 – View Map

REGISTER: $25 – Click here

The Texas Wine Journal is proud to present Texas Wine Talk & Tasting, a quarterly Texas vs. The World® roadshow. Join us for an interactive and educational tasting and talk followed by a mixer with Texas wine producers, the Journal team and other Lone Star wine lovers at the bar inside each Whole Foods Market where the event is held.

If Texas and wine hold equal parts of your heart, you’ll love this intimate tasting event. Experience a blind tasting of four Texas Wine Journal top-rated wines up against four world wines along with a talk about the regions, grapes and people moving Texas wine forward. This time around, we’ll be tasting Viognier and Syrah. Plus, get insider intel from featured producers, Journal’s Tasting Director and panel judges that will leave you feeling like a Texas wine boss.

Don’t miss out! There’s only 25 tickets available per event. Get yours before they’re gone.

100% of the ticket sales from The Texas Wine Talk series benefits the Texas Wine Journal and its mission to build awareness for Texas wines through independent, credible, and objective ratings.

*Must be 21 to attend. Wines subject to change based on availability. Sorry, no refunds.

**Wine will be made available for sale during the mixer by the bottle and glass. You do not have to have purchased a ticket to the Talk & Tasting to attend the mixer. 

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