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Love to taste, talk and tweet about Texas wines and where they are in the global scheme for wines. After all that's the only way they will reach the full potential.

Mar 022016
 
THP-A-Team

“Texas High Plains A-Team” – Left to Right: Jason Centanni (Llano Estacado), Vijay & Subada Reddy (Reddy Vineyards), Greg Bruni (Llano Estacado), Janice & Neal Newsom (Newsom Vineyards)

Texas Wine’s High Plains A-Team: Newsom, Reddy, Llano Estacado

As I disembarked from the plane in Lubbock, I recall thinking that the skies above the Texas high plains are bigger and bluer than just about anywhere I’ve been on this good Earth. The air had the familiar dry bite of the area’s fine red sands, and if I took a deep enough breath, I could also sense the underlying desiccant of the porous caliche limestone. After this brief reflection, I started my way to Brownfield, about an hour south of Lubbock. It’s in Terry County, the acknowledged wine grape growing capital of Texas.

At my destination, Reddy Vineyards, was the point of rendezvous for the wine writer meet-up with the rightfully named “Texas High Plains A-Team”. The A-Team consisted of winegrowers Vijay and Subada Reddy (Reddy Vineyards) and Neal and Janice Newsom (Newsom Vineyards), and winemakers Greg Bruni and Jason Centanni and CEO Mark Hyman (Llano Estacado Winery). The grape growing and wine making/selling experience packed into this assemblage spans the last 30 years with some of the best Texas wines on record being credited to their collective hard work and dedication.

Lunch was served with a selection of Llano Estacado Winery wines as we looked out from Vijay’s second story office into his vineyard. The vines were “all-Reddy” easing their way into their winter slumber period, contrasting themselves against the bright, red-orange vineyard soil. This soil (red sandy loam over pour caliche limestone, something that covers much of the Texas High Plains region) has already obtained notoriety for its low-vigor way of making grapevines focus on making fine, high quality wine grapes.

Presented were two of Llano Estacado Winery’s unoaked wines:

2014 Pinot Grigio (67% Reddy Vineyards and 33% Newsom Vineyards) and 2014 Cinsault Rosé (100% Reddy Vineyards), both with Texas High Plains appellation. The third wine was Llano Estacado THP Stampede (oaked red blend) made with 56% Petite Verdot, 29% Petit Sirah, and 13% Syrah (all Reddy Vineyards), and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon (Newsom Vineyards).

Newsom-at-Reddy

Neal Newsom (on left) and Greg Bruni and Jason Centanni (on bottom right)

This presentation was very appropriate since the High Plains region was where the words “Texas wine” in its modern sense were likely first spoken. Texas wine, also in its modern sense, was first made and tasted in the basement lab in the Texas Tech Chemistry building in Lubbock. Much of the credit for these events has been given to Clinton “Doc” McPherson, the college chemistry professor that took the plunge into Texas wine research and later helped to start the first and longest running of Texas’s modern wineries, Llano Estacado Winery (federally bonded in 1977), the winery that now hosted our high plains visit. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 8:37 pm
Feb 172016
 

Sergio-Cuadra-Fall-Creek

Tasting with Fall Creek’s Winemaker Sergio Cuadra: What Grows Well in Texas (Part I)

I love sunny winter days in Texas. Being raised up north, it is something that I appreciate almost as much as well made wines. Recently, I had the opportunity to score both of them on the same day when I visited Fall Creek Vineyards, Director of Winemaking Sergio Cuadra at the new Fall Creek tasting room in Driftwood.

It is already known by most that following Texas wine that, from the early 1980s, Ed and Susan Auler’s Fall Creek Vineyards played an important role in the winegrowing, winemaking and culinary development of the Texas Hill Country. But, it seemed, in 2013, when experienced Chilean winemaker Cuadra came to Texas on the referral of legendary Paul Hobbs (click here), things were posed for a change.

Before coming to Texas, when examining Texas’ summer temperature records, Cuadra had some trepidation. However, when he got here and ventured into our vineyards, all he found (in this description) were “healthy and great-looking vineyards”. Since his arrival, Cuadra has experienced the 2013 harvest (literally the jet-lagged day he arrived) and more recently, gained first-hand experience with the vintages of 2014 and 2015. He has also looked with “new eyes” at some of the Fall Creek wines in barrel going back to 2012.

It is with this backdrop that we tasted Fall Creek wines that bright winter day. To start, Cuadra reminded me, “Recall, in 2013, we only made a small amount of Chardonnay”, admitting that “we only had one barrel of it.” Then, he poured.

Fall-Creek-Chardonnay-2014

“In 2014, from the same vineyard, Alphonse Dotson’s Certenberg Vineyard, we had a very good harvest. There was enough to make two wines and make more of them. Both were whole cluster pressed to get their best expression. The first one, Fall Creek Vintner’s Selection Chardonnay is where the juice remained in stainless steel as we left it on lees for the following nine months. For the second wine, Fall Creek (our top of the line) Terroir Reflection Series, Certenberg Vineyards Chardonnay, we selected areas of vineyard that had the best grapes, in my opinion, the tastiest. After pressing, the wine was fermented in new French oak barrels where it laid for a year on lees and allowing the wine to undergo malolactic fermentation.”

In the glasses before me from 2014 was the net result of what I’ve already gone on record as calling a Chardonnay vintage for Texas that year. Upon tasting, I concurred: Two gold medal wines judged in Houston and San Francisco, respectively. My personal preference is the former, lighter and crisper style of Chardonnay. However, Cuadra’s personal recipe for the latter with a careful hand at ML resulted in a soft, silky mouthfeel, interaction between fruit and leesy notes while minimizing over-the-top “buttery” aromatics, which he said, “is something that winemakers in Burgundy have long known how to do.”

Cuadra followed these two wines with in interesting parlay; what he referred to as “a pretty good Sauvignon Blanc” what I recalled he previously made (and I liked) in 2013. He said, “In 2014, we made another Sauvignon Blanc from the same place, Mesa Vineyards near Fort Stockton.

This Sauvignon Blanc that gave a complex array of aromas and flavors impressed me. There was an interplay of gooseberry, green bell pepper, and grapefruit with a note of white spring flowers. It wasn’t the grapefruit bomb commonly expected these days in Sauvignon Blanc wines from New Zealand.

Cuadra, perhaps still noting a bit of his personal surprise of making this wine from Texas fruit said, “You need a good site to get all these characteristics rather than one focused on only one characteristic.” Cuadra’s style of Sauvignon Blanc is something more like found in old-world Sancerre rather than new-world New Zealand.

Imaging my surprise having gone three white wines into the tasting and not even one was made from an acknowledged “warm weather” grape like Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc or Muscat. Finally, by the forth wine, Fall Creek Vintner Selection Series Grenache Rosé 2015, we finally made to a grape with real warm-weather credentials. The combination of Grenache, Texas’s weather and Cuadra’s experienced winemaking style resulted in this gold medal wine from competitions in both Houston and San Francisco.

Fall-Creek-Grenache-Rose

Cuadra admits that to get this fine wine made, he was nervous. He said, “In 2015, the rains came early in the season, but in June they stopped just at the right time. I was getting really worried about ripening.”

He continued, “To make things more complicated, in this Grenache vineyard, we had two kinds of plants – some that ripening faster and some slower – that we harvested separately. The riper grapes went into our red wine (GSM). However, the grapes in this rosé were treated like a white grape; pressed and the juice taken off the skins rapidly and fermented cold.”

The aromas from this Grenache rosé were striking with stone fruits, in particular nuances of peach pit, and followed mid-palate by ripe cherry.

As we tasted, Cuadra commented, “We will definitely keep making this wine, the response has been great. Texas has become “Rosé Country”.

It goes to show that, in Texas, cowboys can and do drink pink!”

— — — —

Part II of this tasting (red wines) will appear in a future VintageTexas blog.

 Posted by at 3:52 pm
Feb 032016
 
Pierre-de-Wet

Pierre de Wet – Kiepersol Estates

Farewell Pierre: Memoriam to a “Good Enough Farmer” that Could Change Terroir to His Liking

“Entering the winery at Kiepersol, I was dwarfed by a large room with shiny stainless steel tanks defining its perimeter. Across the room, I saw a tall man in a white shirt and jeans, topped with a cowboy hat. His jeans had the fade of outdoors, and his boots had the scruff of a man who walks the land, not an office. I recognized immediately that this was Pierre de Wet.

He leaned against the wall just outside the small winery office/laboratory as we entered. He was preoccupied with a cigarette in one hand and his cell phone in the other. After we assembled in the office and exchanged greetings, it was obvious that he already knew what had become “my quest.”

After our introduction, Pierre said to me without a prompt from me, “Sense of place, terroir, for me it’s very different than the old conception that you read about in all your wine books. With modern-day technology, man can change the terroir. I’m a good enough farmer to change it to get what I want.”

Pierre-de-Wet-2

It’s with this mental image and statement of his can-do attitude captured in my book, The Wineslinger Chronicles that I remember Pierre de Wit who recently passed to tend a vast new vineyard of his Father Almighty.

He is remembered also as the man who came to America, ending his journey in Texas, with two young daughters. He considered himself a farmer with vast experiences on the world stage. Once in Texas he fought the scourge of Pierce’s Disease in his vineyard on the outskirts of Tyler with his own head-strong yet self-educated approach that many professionals and academics in Texas thought was mere folly. His vision and hard work eventually brought success and accolades for Kiepersol’s vineyard and estate winery.

Pierre, we will miss you. But, we will be comforted as we savor your daughter Marnelle’s wine made from grapes that you knew would grow here, but only because of your vision, experience and hard work.

Farewell, my friend.

Pierre-and-Marnelle

Pierre de Wet and Daughter (winemaker) Marnelle Durrett

 Posted by at 4:01 pm
Jan 252016
 
TexasFineWine1

             Texas Fine Wine Line-up Now includes Spicewood Vineyards, too.

TEXAS FINE WINE WINERIES WIN BIG AT RECENT WINE COMPETITIONS

Five stellar wineries recognized for consistent quality, expression of wines

CENTRAL TEXAS, January 25, 2016 – The wineries of Texas Fine Wine continue to shine at international wine competitions, bringing home gold medals, while also making Texas Monthly’s Best Texas Wines of 2015.  Texas Fine Wine is a group of five distinctive wineries dedicated to making quality wines from Texas appellation vineyards and setting the highest standards in the Texas wine industry.  Texas Fine Wine includes Bending Branch Winery, Brennan Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, Pedernales Cellars and Spicewood Vineyards.

                Pedernales Cellars won Top Texas Wine for its 2014 Texas Viognier at the 2016 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Wine Competition and will receive the coveted award saddle at Rodeo Uncorked! on February 21 at the Houston Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup & Best Bites Competition.  This is the second award saddle won by the winery; Pedernales won Top Texas Wine also in 2013 for its 2012 vintage of the Texas Viognier.  Bending Branch Winery won a saddle in 2014 for its 2011 Estate Tannat CM and Brennan Vineyards in 2008 for its 2005 Viognier.

                Texas Fine Wine was also well represented in the Best Texas Wines of 2015 by Texas Monthly – including 4.0 Cellars by Brennan Vineyards 2013 Mourvèdre, Brennan Vineyards 2013 Tempranillo Reserve, Duchman Family Winery Grape Grower’s Blend, Duchman Family Winery 2012 Montepulciano Oswald Vineyard, and Spicewood Vineyards Mourvèdre Rosé.      

Here are recent awards received by the Texas Fine Wine wineries since the 2015 TEXSOM International Wine Competition.

Bending Branch Winery

  • Gold and Texas Class Champion – 2014 Comfortage (Roussanne) at the 2016 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition
  • Gold – 2012 Tempranillo at the 2016 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition
  • Gold – 2012 Tempranillo at the 2015 Lone Star International Wine Competition
  • Texas Class Champion – 2014 Texas Tannat at the 2016 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition
  • Texas Class Champion – 2012 Estate Cuvée at the 2016 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition
  • Texas Reserve Class Champion – 2012 Malbec at the 2016 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition
  • Gold and Top of Class – 2014 Comfortage (Roussanne) at the 2016 San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo Wine Competition
  • Top Texas Winery – San Antonio Express News Readers’ Choice Awards 2015

 Brennan Vineyards

  • Gold – 2014 Lily at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
  • Double Gold – 2014 Mourvèdre Dry Rosé at the 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition
  • Double Gold – 2013 Texas Tempranillo at the 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition
  • Double Gold and Chairman’s Award – 2014 Mourvèdre Dry Rosé at the 2015 Riverside International Wine Competition
  • Double Gold – 2013 Lily at the 2015 San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition
  • Double Gold, Reserve Class Champion and Texas Class Champion – 2012 Super Nero, Comanche County at the 2016 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition
  • Double Gold, Reserve Class Champion and Texas Reserve Class Champion – 2013 Tempranillo Reserve at the 2016 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition
  • Double Gold, Class Champion and Texas Class Champion – 2013 Tempranillo at the 2016 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition
  • Texas Monthly Best Texas Wines of 2015 – 2013 Mourvèdre
  • Texas Monthly Best Texas Wines of 2015 –2013 Tempranillo Reserve

Duchman Family Winery

  • Texas Monthly Best Texas Wines of 2015 –Grape Grower’s Blend
  • Texas Monthly Best Texas Wines of 2015 –2012 Montepulciano Oswald Vineyard

 Pedernales Cellars

  • Top Texas Wine – 2014 Texas Viognier at the 2016 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition
  • Texas Reserve Class Champion – 2014 Viognier Reserve at the 2016 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition
  • Gold – 2014 Texas Viognier Reserve at the 2015 Long Beach Grand Cru Competition
  • Gold and Top of Class – 2013 Texas Tempranillo Reserve at the 2016 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo Wine Competition
  • Gold and Best of Varietal – 2013 Texas Tempranillo at Lone Star International Wine Competition

 Spicewood Vineyards

  • Gold – 2014 Estate Chardonnay at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
  • Gold – 2014 Tempranillo Rosé at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
  • Gold – 2014 Viognier at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
  • Texas Class Champion – 2014 Estate Sauvignon Blanc at the 2016 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition
  • Texas Monthly Best Texas Wines of 2015 – Mourvèdre Rosé
  • Gold – 2012 Estate Tempranillo at the 2015 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition
  • Gold – 2012 Estate Tempranillo at the 2015 Concours De Lyon International Wine Competition
  • Gold – 2012 Estate Tempranillo at the 2014 Dallas Morning News & TEXSOM International Wine Competition
  • Gold – 2014 Estate Sauvignon Blanc at the 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition
  • Gold – 2012 Tenny Wren (Tempranillo Blend) at the 2015 San Diego International Wine Competition
  • Gold – 2013 Roussanne at the 2015 New York World Wine and Spirits Competition
  • Gold – 2012 Tempranillo Rosé at 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
  • Gold – 2012  Tempranillo Rosé at the 2013 San Francisco International Wine Competition

 Texas Fine Wine promotes its award-winning wines, events, winemakers and growers at major wine education conferences such as TEXSOM, wine and food festivals, sommelier meetings and tastings, media events, restaurant dinners, and its signature Texas Fine Wine events.

Texas Fine Wine invites wine enthusiasts to follow Texas Fine Wine on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 Posted by at 9:47 am
Jan 112016
 
086-small

                      Ron Yates, Owner of Spicewood Vineyards

TEXAS FINE WINE ADDS SPICEWOOD VINEYARDS AS NEW MEMBER

2016 marks third year of marketing initiative driven by highly respected, distinguished Texas wineries

For the first time since its inception in March 2014, Texas Fine Wine is adding a new winery to its roster: Spicewood Vineyards in Spicewood, Texas.  Texas Fine Wine is a group of five distinctive wineries dedicated to making quality wines from Texas appellation vineyards, providing exceptional winery experiences to guests, and setting the highest standards in the Texas wine industry.

Spicewood Vineyards joins  Bending Branch Winery, Brennan Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery and Pedernales Cellars in this privately funded marketing initiative designed to bring national and statewide attention to high-quality wines being produced in Texas.

“Spicewood Vineyards represents the caliber of Texas winery that delivers an all-around great experience for wine enthusiasts – from its award-winning estate Tempranillo and Sauvignon Blanc to its welcoming tasting room and signature events held throughout the year,” says Fredrik Osterberg, co-owner of Pedernales Cellars.

The Spicewood 2012 Estate Tempranillo won gold medals at the 2015 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, 2015 Concours De Lyon International Wine Competition in Lyon, France, and the 2014 TEXSOM International Wine Awards, and the 2014 Estate Sauvignon Blanc won gold at the 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition.

Spicewood Vineyards is owned by Ron Yates, who bought the winery in 2007 and has continued the wine legacy started by Ed and Madeleine Manigold who founded the winery in 1992 to produce primarily estate wines. The original 17 acres has doubled in size to almost 32 estate acres, and the winery also has a 10-acre vineyard located west of Spicewood in Round Mountain.

Texas native Todd Crowell is Spicewood Vineyard’s winemaker, joining in 2012 after graduating from Texas A&M University and spending 12 years at Christopher Creek Winery, White Oak Vineyards & Winery and Stonestreet Wines in Sonoma County.

Yates is expanding his winery business with a new winery and tasting room along Highway 290 that will be called Yates, scheduled to open by this summer.

Texas Fine Wine promotes its award-winning wines, events, winemakers and growers at major wine education conferences such as TEXSOM, wine and food festivals, sommelier meetings and tastings, media events, restaurant dinners, and its signature Texas Fine Wine events.

Texas Fine Wine invites wine enthusiasts to follow Texas Fine Wine on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Use hashtags #txfinewine and #txwine.

 Posted by at 9:31 am
Jan 032016
 

Texas-wine-glasses

Texas Wine School Offers First-Of-Its-Kind Texas Wine Authority Course

This course will meet in three classes, 3 hours each on consecutive Wednesday evenings (January 13/20/27, 2016), 6:30 – 9:30 pm each day at Houston’s Texas Wine School. Course instructor: Dr. Russell D. Kane (Doc Russ, Texas Wineslinger) of VintageTexas.

RDKane-Wine

 

Course Summary

Texas Wine Authority is a first-of-its kind program offered by the Texas Wine School in the Rice Village area of Houston. It 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.

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 emerging wine region of Texas has to offer. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 4:47 pm
Nov 302015
 
LostOakGene&Jim

Lone Oak Winery Owner – Gene Estes; Winemaker – Jim Evans

Memories Revisited: Lost Oak Winery Tempranillo and Merlot

Wines and memories are the perfect match. It’s been over five years since 2009, but I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was a warm Sunday afternoon and I was in Burleson, Texas, just south of Fort Worth at Gene Estes’s family-run Lost Oak Winery. I was in the barrel room where Gene and I tasted some of his winemaker Jim Evan’s handiwork.

The wines included their soon-to-be-bottled Texas High Plains Tempranillo, rich and red-black in color. Though still not a finished wine, that Tempranillo had appealing color, a smoky aroma and a scent of rich ripe cherries. This tasting was clear evidence that this Tempranillo was destined for high marks, which it later received: gold medals at the Dallas Morning News and San Francisco International Wine Competitions.

The more we tasted that afternoon, the more Gene made his way rack-to-rack through the barrel room. Finally, he thieved another wine just as memorable, a barrel sample of Merlot from Jet Wilmeth’s high plains Diamante Doble Vineyards in Tokio, Texas. As he held up the wine-filled thief, Gene looked my way and said, “Look! This’s inky dark stuff, isn’t it?”

These are good memories of two very well made wines. One of the better things imaginable is, over half a decade later, I’m savoring them again and YOU CAN TOO!

This time it’s the Lost Oak Winery 2014 Texas High Plains Tempranillo, Bingham Family Vineyards, and the Lost Oak Winery 2014 Double Diamond Merlot, again vineyard-designated Jet Wilmeth’s Diamante Doble Vineyards.

Lost Oak Winery 2014 Tempranillo, Texas High Plains, Bingham Family Vineyards

Lost-Oak-Tempranillo-2014This wine is a blend of 83% Bingham Family Vineyards Tempranillo combined with 17% of their Petit Sirah. The grapes were crushed and fermented using a “small-lot”, hand-crafted style in harvest bins for 10 days. The wine was then pressed and aged in American oak for 10 months.

The wine offers aromas of ripe red fruit, mainly black cherry, combined with the leather, toasted oak and vanilla. The aromas turn into magic on the palate where the black cherry explodes and melds with the wine’s exciting and titillating tannic structure.

Gene Estes and winemaker Jim Evans agree that this is one of their best Tempranillos. While still young, the wine’s got a rich bouquet, intense color and a smooth long finish.

Lost Oak Winery 2014 Texas Double Diamond, Texas High Plains, Diamonte Doble Vineyards

Lost-Oak-Merlot-2014For this wine, the Merlot grapes were harvested and transported to Lost Oak Winery where they were topped with 15% Merlot from Bingham Family Vineyards. After crush, the wine was fermented for 10 days on their skins. Delestage (rack and return) was performed daily to aerate the wine, soften astringent tannins and extract and stabilize the wine’s color. The wine was then pressed and aged in French oak for 12 months.

The wine offers dark purple color and a full-bodied, classic new-world Merlot experience with dark cherry, red plum, a smooth, well rounded mouthfeel, and a long finish. According to Gene Estes, “This is perhaps our best Merlot! Right up there with our 2003 Lone Oak and 2007 Double Diamond Merlot. Winemaker Jim Evans and I think it’s a fruit bomb! The grapes in this wine were harvested at exactly the right moment by two of our most reliable growers.”

Gene, you know what? Based on memories of our great barrel room tasting at Lost Oak Winery in 2009 and my recent tasting of these new wines, I agree with your assessment, one-hundred percent.

— — — — —

Lost Oak Winery

2116 FM 731 (also called 2116 John Jones Drive)
Burleson , Texas 76028

For more information, click here.

 Posted by at 7:58 am
Nov 202015
 
NPSOT-Plant-Seed-Swap

NPSOT – Houston Chapter Plant/Seed Swap

Don’t Get Between Me and My Frogfruit

This past Thursday evening, I attended the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT), Houston Chapter meeting held at the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. The November meeting is avidly awaited for two good reasons. First, it’s a potluck extravaganza and people bring dishes of food and come hungry. Secondly, it’s also the chapter’s annual “Plant/Seed Swap”.

Since joining the society and becoming a Houston Chapter member I’ve learned much about native plants. Its members are good teachers. Most have evolved extensive native Texas gardening knowledge. They’ve studied these native plants and have an encyclopedic memory developed over decades, if not, a lifetime of experience.

While many members are well into their golden years and appear as mild-mannered practitioners, their memories (and passions) are easily invoked. This usually leads to plant discussions encompassing a litany of common names and less familiar and harder to pronounce Latin names; example being, Aromatic aster, Aromatic American aster, Fall aster, Wild blue aster, Shale aster ending with the tongue twisting Latin name Symphyotrichum oblongifolium.

Fall-Aster

Fall Aster – Symphyotrichum oblongifolium

Personally, I’ve been a forty-year Houston gardener. Over these decades, I’ve perhaps killed off a hundred too many plants in my pursuit of natural beauty. But, as a result, I have finally learned what I refer to as the four tenets of Houston gardening success. I now consider them the Houston Holy Four: sun plants, shade plants, wet plants and dry plants that come with the accompanying knowledge of where to plant each in my yard.

Almost two years ago, coinciding with the completion of my new Houston home in the Montrose area, I made the decision that Texas native plants had most of the attributes that would simplify my gardening life. They are tough puppies having over eons mastered Texas weather, or what some people say is, in fact, not weather at all, just extremes.

In my pursuit of a Texas native habitat in my new yard, I recently did battle with the elimination of an extremely invasive exotic (non-native) ground cover in my tree bed. It’s name: Asiatic Jasmine (aka Dwarf Jasmine, Small-Leaf Confederate Jasmine and, of course, in Latin, Trachelospermum asiaticum).

Asiatic-Jasmine

Asiatic Jasmine – Trachelospermum asiaticum

After four days of digging, pulling, scraping and sweating, my tree bed was devoid of this botanical scourge. However, now it was time for replacement and I’ve just wiped the crumps of the NPSOT pot luck off my shirt and I was ready for the “Plant/Seed Swap”.

If you haven’t attended a plant or seed swap or native plant sale, you need to take caution. Usually, it involves a pre-sale/swap inspection of plants and seeds on a series of tables. This is where everyone scopes out what native plants are there and which they JUST HAVE to take home. In my case, my search was for a replacement (and native Texas) ground cover. In our Thursday night event, it appeared that nearly everyone had a keen interest in something on display. So, like everyone else, I had my focus on a particular table and a particular plant.

Finally, at the conclusion of the NPSOT business meeting with our stomachs full of potluck, and the high-sign that the plant/seed swap was now open, these presumably mild-mannered native Texas plant aficionados jumped to their feet to rush the tables. The crush of humanity was on.

I had Frogfruit (aka Texas frogfruit, Turkey tangle frogfruit, even matchweed, and, oh yes, in Latin, Phyla nodiflora), my ground cover replacement, in my sites!

Frogfruit

Frogfruit – Phyla nodiflora

Texas Frogfruit is an excellent ground cover and is evergreen in most years and especially in areas protected from frost. It spreads vigorously. Frogfruit is also a good nectar plant for butterflies (and larval host for the Phaon Crescentspot, Buckeye, and White Peacock butterflies).  It can also be an attractive plant rambling over boulders or the edges of hanging baskets.

IMPORTANT: True to its Texas heritage, Frogfruit also can tolerate drought and flooding (recall a key word for Texas gardening: EXTREMES).

Now… I just hope that nobody gets between me and my Frogfruit or there will be hell to pay. Lookout Frogfruit (and other NPSOT members) here I come!

 Posted by at 8:03 pm
Nov 192015
 

Old-Man-Scary-Cellars-exterior

McHenry’s Wedding Oak Winery Incubator Winery Project Gives Birth: Old Man Scary Cellars

Wedding Oak Winery will launch the first Incubator winery project in San Saba, Texas, with the opening of Old Man Scary Cellars in November 2015. Conceived with new Texas start-up wineries in mind, Wedding Oak Winery owner Mike McHenry patterned this incubator after similar successful winery incubators in Carlton, Oregon and Walla Walla, Washington, Wedding Oak Winery purchased a 1924 historic building in the same block as its San Saba winery, restored and re-purposed the building to house a retail tasting room and winery production facility.

According to Mike McHenry, “Wedding Oak is the landlord for their separate building (built-to-suit) and provides the custom crush for the wines. Old Man Scary Cellars is not renting or leasing space within the existing Wedding Oak Winery facility. Wedding Oak also act as their advisor and mentor until they become experienced and self-sufficient.”

Dr. Gabe Hisel, owner of Old Man Scary Cellars, entered into the incubator relationship with Wedding Oak Winery as a cost effective way to get a new winery open and operational. The on-site production facilities’ capacity will be augmented by the production facilities at Wedding Oak Winery, located just two buildings away. Leasing the bonded space for wine storage, small winery production area, store front retail space and outdoor courtyard gives Old Man Scary Cellars an attractive Hill Country location without the extensive capital expenses of starting a new winery from scratch.

Wedding Oak Winery winemaker, Penny Adams, will oversee the wine production for Old Man Scary Cellars, making wines to the specifications of Dr. Hisel. Wedding Oak Winery provides custom crush services, advises on retail operations and supports the Old Man Scary Cellars, while adding critical mass to the downtown San Saba resurgence with the addition of a second winery retail operation. Continue reading »

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 Posted by at 9:17 am