When is an Award-Winning Wine Like a Breeze on a Hot Texas Day? At Pilot Knob Vineyard
Even though it’s barely summer, it’s been hot, hot, hot and dry, dry, dry in most parts of Texas! Nevertheless, earlier this week as my wife and I drove off from our Texas Hill Country cottage near Fredericksburg, there was hope in the air for a reprieve in the form of ten large rain drops that hit the car’s windscreen.
About 90 minutes later, I was standing on the breezy back patio at Pilot Knob Vineyard still sans rain, but with the refreshing taste of their award-winning wine on my palate and lingering still longer in my mind. Before me on the horizon was the winery’s namesake Pilot Knob, an ancient column of magma dating back to the Cretaceous Period, 60 to 100 million years ago when the areas limestone soils were deposited in a vast inland sea.
My trek to Pilot Knob Vineyard near Bertram, Texas (northwest of Georgetown, TX) was not for studying geology, but to gather a more leisurely taste of a wine that I found earlier this month at the Lone Star International Wine Competition and to find the people the made it happen. After the competition when the wines were revealed, I was drawn to this particular wine for one main reason: the Pilot Knob Vineyards 2010 Viognier was the only Texas Viognier to garner a gold medal in this year’s competition. I also realized that I’d never heard of Pilot Knob Vineyards, and for good reason: they weren’t even officially open until the day before our visit.
We were met by the prime movers behind Pilot Knob Vineyards: Craig Pinkley, General Manager and Ross Wood, Director of Marketing. These are men of considerable vision and action. They admitted being bitten by the “wine bug” on a trip to California and then put in motion a grand plan to bring their dream to life in central Texas.
Their domain now encompasses 112 acres on the northern edge of the Texas Hill Country, just 2.5 miles west of US 183, 14 miles north of Liberty Hill and only 50 miles north of downtown Austin. Pilot Knob sits on the edge of a sweeping ridge line overlooking light limestone soils and rolling hills with panoramic views of gradual undulation and the area’s landmark, Pilot Knob about six miles away but as close as the winery’s logo.
In their mind, Craig and Ross see their Pilot Knob Vineyard with 92 acres of vines with six distinct grape varieties growing, but they know that they have to start with small but deliberate steps. The first acre was planted in 2008 with Cabernet Sauvignon vines grafted to rootstock, a pairing chosen for its quality and to fit with the limestone soils. Their second planting took place in 2009 and consisted of two acres planted with two varietals: another half acre of Cabernet Sauvignon and 1.5 acres of Tempranillo, a new grape variety that shows potential as being the “signature” grape for Texas. Next came the construction of the winery and tasting room and finding the necessary winemaking expertise that would convert the wines they had “tasted” in their visions into reality and bring their first commercial release.
Sitting comfortably at the Pilot Knob tasting room bar, Craig and Ross presented their wines: a five-wine set handcrafted with the guidance of their consultant winemaker. We started with a off-dry, Viognier dominant Proprietor’s White blend and a semi-sweet Rosé of Chenin Blanc and Ruby Cabernet that provided a hint of sweetness and refreshing acidity. Then,we graduated to their gold medal wine: their 2010 Viognier, a delightfully complex, fruit forward wine with hints of honey suckle orange blossom and peachy-nectarine. We finished with the Pilot Knob 2010 Franco-Rojo, a medium bodied but refreshingly aromatic wine that combined red berry essence of Tempranillo with the smooth texture of Merlot, a perfect red wine for Texas summer.
It was obvious that plans and excitement abound at Pilot Knob with Craig’s and Ross’s vision of pouring tastes of their wine in the newly opened tasting room and of hosting a range of wine events and weddings in their expansive limestone winery building.
Even though the tasting room doors are barely open at Pilot Knob Vineyards, they are offering seriously good wines and are worth a visit. However, one word of caution. You won’t be able to find them on your Garmin (as I wasn’t able to). According to Ross, you might find them with a Tom Tom GPS. I know that they can definitely be found on Google Maps and they have a map feature on their website.
Pilot Knob Vineyard, 3125 CR 212, Bertram, TX 78605
Tel: 512-489-2999, Website: www.pilotknobvineyard.com