Sunday at Sandstone Cellars: An Apple for a Drinker to Enjoy
Fall is here and it’s time roll out on the highways and byways around Texas stopping in to see old friends and meet new ones at Texas wineries. I phoned up to see if Sandstone Cellars proprietors, Scott Haupert and Manny Salerio and winemaker, Don Pullum in Mason were going to be around on Sunday. Word had it that Sandstone Cellars had a new “brew” (or more appropriately, apple wine made from Texas apples, no less) and I wanted to get a first hand look and taste.
Heading northwest from Fredericksburg, the road was like a black asphalt snake that slithered first through limestone ledges and outcrops of caliche on the outskirts of town. Later, just as I descended into the Llano basin and on into Mason, it wound around masses of ocher-brown sandstone.
When I arrived at Sandstone Cellars, I saw Don seated at a table on the front porch of their wine bar and Scott in the doorway talking to winery visitors. As I stepped up to the porch, I overheard a conversation. “On Route 290 between Johnson City and Fredericksburg, you get the feeling that you’re in Napa Valley. It’s eventually going to be wall-to-wall wineries, and some of bigger ones, too.” Then, I heard Scott say, “I know what you mean. We like to think that this stretch of road to Mason and on into Junction is more like Sonoma where you can still find smaller wineries and their artisanal wines like we have at Sandstone Cellars.”
I mentioned, “I liked that comparison to both premium California wine regions. It’s a good one for Texas to make. Napa Valley has its Route 29 and the Texas hill country has its Route 290 and beyond.”
I noticed Don was seated at the table already pouring a light amber fluid from a tall and slender, clear-glass bottle. My mission was now in sight: a taste of Sandstone Cellars Cider Dessert Wine. While Don continued to pour several more glasses of the cider for Manny, Scott and me, it reminded me of the splash of October sunshine that was about to engulf our patio party.
This apple cider is like none that I’ve had before. It came with an herbal bouquet of verbena overlaid onto a freshly baked apple tart carried by wine’s aromatic alcoholic vapors. The wine was made with only a mild tinge of sweetness, barely perceptible against the tart flavor of apple and the yeasty quality of just baked pastry, punctuated by the nip of brandy on the finish. This was truly an apple for a drinker to enjoy!
The light, bright and barely sweet apple elixir was a fine aperitif before we segued into a visit with two of my “old friends”: the Mourvedre-dominated Sandstone Cellars III (one of only a few bottles known to be in existence), and Sandstone Cellars V 2007 in which the number one position was replaced by Syrah. Bottle age was doing these old pardners well. The Sandstone III had mature and dusty red wine qualities that ended with the desiccatingly dry finish of river stones, and the V had red fruits and cedar clear to the end. These Mason County wines were paired with the equally famous Cooper’s BBQ for true Mason County gustatory delight. If you want to know more of my long relationship with these friends, you can read about it in The Wineslinger Chronicles (Chapters 2 and 18). All I can say here is that it goes back to a past life and likely farther.
Our afternoon was complete with a sampling of Sandstone Cellars XIII – a Touriga-led port-style blend of Mediterranean grapes and vintages with the qualities simply described as blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream.
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Stop by Sandstone Cellars for your own taste of Apple Dessert Wine and XIII:
Sandstone Cellars Winery – http://sandstonecellarswinery.com/
211 San Antonio Street, Mason, TX 76856 – Tele: (325) 347-9463