North Texas Trip Entry 1:
A Frosty Morning at Kiepersol Winery / Wine Wiz Quiz Answers
It was an early morning, and particularly chilly, as I departed Houston for my wine destinations in northeast Texas. I was up and on the road with a steaming cup of coffee before sun up and had visits scheduled at Kiepersol Winery (http://www.kiepersol.com – Tyler, Texas) and San Martino Winery (Rockwall, Texas) with plans to finish the day with a Grande Bordeaux tasting in Dallas.
I was well on my way heading north past Conroe when the sun finally appeared casting oblique yellow rays filtering through a crystalline haze. The increasing daylight revealed a dusting of frost on the countryside but, the road was dry and fast.
In Huntsville, a lone dog sat at attention on a roadside hill casting its long shadow across a landscape of tan, gray and white layered on ochre-red east Texas soil. As I continued on to Tyler, my path paralleled the western edge of the prehistoric inland sea that once covered Texas. The mineral-rich, red soils in this region are those created by erosion over 60 million years from as far away as the Rocky Mountains.
At Kiepersol I was greeted by Marnelle de Wet Durrett who runs the winery, her head winemaker, and her father Pierre de Wet who Marnelle calls her “investor” and most critical taster. (I am currently preparing for a tasting of Kiepersol wines and wanted to take this travel opportunity to visit the estate, the winery and gain a better understanding of their terroir and approach to their branding Kiepersol Estates, KE Cellars and Barrel 33).
I learned that their branding was driven by two things. The first was the change in the Texas state constitution that allows wineries to sell wine in “dry” counties. They have two wineries at two locations in Smith County, Texas and therefore have two brands (Kiepersol Estates and KE Cellars). The second driving force is Pierre’s desire for a true top-of-the-line red wine. Kiepersol’s Barrel 33 is the winemaker’s equivalent of the artists “blank canvas”. With this wine, Marnelle and her assistant winemaker, Justin Wiggins, can strive to create their best wine possible with an element of artistic freedom not possible with their standard wines. We will explore more on this as I taste through these wines and I will keep you posted.
One thing that I can report is that, this being my first visit to the Kiepersol Estate, it is in a striking setting of rolling hills and red soil in the east Texas countryside. Their production is now approaching 50 acres in two blocks with mostly French vinifera grapes (like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon) despite a constant threat of Pierce’s Disease (also referred to as PD) in the area.
Both Marnelle and Pierre admit that they are “working outside the box” as most wineries in similar circumstances have gone to more PD resistant French-American hybrid grades. Hybrids may reduce the operational risks of PD for the winery, but they also make it harder to compose and sell high quality wines. Marnelle has a successful track record with their wines winning many prestigious awards. Alongside the Kiepersol Estate winery, the Kiepersol’s operate a restaurant that has established an extensive wine list that includes both wines from Kiepersol and other quality wines that Marnelle and Pierre have selected from other Texas wineries.
Tomorrow: Visit at San Martino Winery
Wine Wiz Quiz Answers; Quiz @ http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?p=466
1. Valley of the Moon
2. 27.322 days
4. A Crater
6. Heat Summation Index; BONUS – Below 50 F grapevines go dormant and do not mature.
8. Midnight Wine
9. Remote sensing and geospatial technologies
10. Llano Estacado