Wine Walking in Granbury and Mind Tripping in the Brazos Hardscrabble Country
I sailed out of Houston and out from under a low gray blanket of clouds threatening rain. After just a few miles, however, the slanted yellow rays of summer sun peered over my shoulder from the east casting long morning shadows. I was in the country now, heading north to Granbury, Texas with mixed anticipation.
The “official” purpose of my travel was to participate in the first ever Granbury Wine Walk (www.granburywinewalk.com). My unofficial expectation was to again travel the Upper Brazos hardscrabble country of Texas author-laureate, John Graves.
The Gulf Coast green met the road’s edge and melded with oceans of tall green corn topped with golden silk. Long leggy tendrils of wild grapes already reaching high overhead mantled the tops of tall post oaks as I reached the inland savanna.
The first vineyard cultivation that I spotted was to the left just shy of reaching Waco. I don’t know whose it was, but time was too short for investigation, and I pressed on into the cedar country of red bottomland and limey alabaster hills. This is the land of John Graves’ prose that for many years was over worked and under loved. While traveling through this part of Texas, it was easy to replay his comments in my mind, with the passing of familiar towns, Meridian, Walnut Springs, Glen Rose, and on up to my destination – Granbury on the Lake. An historical and serene venue, made such by the damming of the Brazos River of yore that Graves dearly loved for its rugged, uncontrolled manner and hearty and quite personal past.
View from the Inn on Lake Granbury (www.innonlakegranbury.com)
By afternoon, the sun was high and the ambient heat permeating the Granbury town square. I questioned for a moment if people would turn out for this first time wine-walking event that featured the growing number of local and north Texas wineries, many of which are part of the Way Out Winery Trail (http://www.wayoutwineries.org).
I walked the square and found a momentary sanctuary from the heat in the D’Vine Wine winemaking and tasting room, known for encouraging inner winemaker passions that most of us hold latent and are ready to be exposed. Out front was a lone grape vine growing; potted and ready to give up its fruit [if it had any] for your personalized bottle of wine.
The people came out, perhaps more than expected, for this first time festival. They took the heat and nary a complaint while they swirled and sipped, tasted and some even commented on Twitter, tweeting and tagging their comments with #GranburyWine. Check it out at: http://search.twitter.com/search?q=Granburywine
Many of the wine tasting tents had lines of patient people. They waited to imbibe a taste of Texas wine or sample a glass or even still, buy a bottle to take home for family and friends. Some had never tasted Texas wine before, but some were “professionals” having favorites in far away districts of Lubbock, Galveston, Fredericksburg and even El Paso (http://www.gotexanwine.org).
By evening when the town square was winding down, Tiberia’s Barking Rocks Winery was just heating up for one of his First Friday gatherings. It started as just an informal get together years ago among friends and now has grown to a group of over one hundred people. Each guest brings a cover dish or appetizer, Tiberia furnishes the band and sells his wines to all comers. The music was lively and a bit nostalgic, bringing back thoughts of the band (The Whatchamacallits…senior moment) that did the song that goes…”I Been through the Desert on a Horse with No Name….bla, bla, bla, bla, bla”.
During Saturday’s festivities, my contribution to the mayhem was to try to do a food and wine pairing with wasabi peas that were offered by Heflins Produce Market (http://www.hcmarketlink.com/marketplace/businesses/heflins-produce-market). I took my encrusted green globules to D’Vine Wine as I had found them to have a wide selection of wines and wine infused beverages in town. After some deliberations, owners Gary and Diane Hedges and the gathering in the wine shop agreed that Wasabi Peas were a difficult pairing, but we came up with two wines that worked their magic well. The first was a conventional Pinot Grigio, light, dry and herbal that pitted well with the earthy green flavored peas and did not clash with the stealthy hot rush of wasabi. The second pairing was a bit more creative and involved their Peach Chardonnay. In this case, the rush a piquant was ameliorated with an agreeable dose of fruity sweetness and aromatic peach nectar.
Other interesting experiences among many at the Granbury Wine Walk included a tasting of olive oils from The Texas Hill Country Olive Company (www.texashillcountryoliveco.com). These olive oils ranged from buttery to herbaceous to spicy with variation of the olive type and blend ratio and all from Dripping Springs, Texas, to boot.
Also a hit was the selection of Texas-made cheeses from Texas Cheese House (www.texascheesehouse.com) paired with the wines from the nearby tasting tent of Alamosa Cellars and Lone Oak Vineyards. Honorable mentions go to the Alamosa Rosato (a Sangiovese-based Rosé) and Lone Oak Syrah that was rich aromatic and full-bodied.
Wenzel Lonestar Meat Company (www.wenzellonestarmeat.com) brought some of their jerky and dried sausages for tasting. Ooh-wee were they good. The “Bite-My-Butt” popcorn, infused with the Wenzel special butt rub, also caught my eye and palate. I took my dried sausage down to the Brushy Creek wine tent and paired it with their Texas Red Sparking wine.
Wines of note from the other wineries were the Sunset Winery Pinot Gris, made from Texas high plains grapes resulting in a rich Alsatian-styled wine, and the sweet white Muscat Canelli from Pillar Bluff.
As it came to late Saturday afternoon and a breeze kick up from Lake Granbury, a member of the event organizing committee, Tim Bubel gathered up the ballots for the People’s Choice Awards. Michael Zerbach, chairman of the upcoming Lone Star International Wine Competition, supervised the counting of the votes.
After the first count, the excitement was heightened with a tie for third place, something that was not anticipated, and a way to settle the matter had to be developed on the spot. I was brought in as one of three “tasters” to blind taste a run-off round of three wines from the two competing wineries that consisted of a red wine, a white wine and a sweet wine from each. As we tasted, it was obvious that the vote was close and, in fact, for a moment looked like it was going to end up in a tie again. However, when our scores were tallied, the three winners of the People’s Choice Award were selected and medals awarded to:
First Place: Barking Rocks Winery
Second Place: D’Vine Wine
Third Place: Brushy Creek Vineyards
The honorable mention goes to runner-up winery, Brennan Vineyards.
All in all, it was a great first time effort. The event was well organized and well attended, and the venue of Granbury city square could not have been better selected. It gave an old time flair with storefronts, most of which from the looks of their centennial plaques where originally saloons, dry goods and hardware shops, but now were antique, food and craft shops. The square also offered convenient locations to tuck concessions stands and tasting tents. The attendance of over one thousand people for the two-day event was a fine first-time turnout.
Clicking on the following links can provide you more information on the Texas wineries at the Granbury Wine Walk: