If you know Spicewood Vineyards owner Ron Yates like I do, you known that there is one thing that stands out in his affinity for wine. It’s his love of Tempranillo with which he has a long-standing relationship starting with his travels to Spain in his younger days and now verges on advocacy for Texas Tempranillo. This is why I’m so surprised by Ron’s excitement with his Spicewood Vineyards 2019 ”The Independence” that is made without a drop of Tempranillo in it. But, what it’s lacking in Tempranillo, it has in wine quality and an equally good story.
When I asked Ron, why this wine is so special to him, he remarked, ”It’s actually a funny story.” Then, he reflected back in time to what he recalled was 2013.
Ron said, “It was after a big freeze. So, that Fall, there was hardly any fruit around. I remember that it was right after the Bingham family bought Pheasant Ridge Winery. They sent out an email to everyone that bought grapes from them in the past. It said that, the winery had over 400 barrels of wine in it and they’d be happy to sell them to any of their grape customers.”
2019 Spicewood Vineyards, “The Independence” Hits the Mark
But, for starters… Why is Mr. Yates so excited? Well, I’ll give you one reason. This wine is just that damn good. It yields nuances of black currant and dark red plums, chocolate and leather. It has the essence of a truly enjoyable Bordeaux-style red blend that comes from 58% Cabernet Sauvignon 37% Merlot derived from careful Texas High Plains cultivation in the vineyard of farmer-now-winegrower John Friesen with an added smidgeon of Petite Verdot for good measure.
Spicewood Vineyards’ ”The Independence” also comes with stellar gold and double gold awards in wine competitions both within Texas and from international judging from the far away Mecca of the modern wine world, California:
Gold – 2022 Lone Star International Wine Competition
Double Gold – 2023 San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo International Wine Competition
Gold – 2023 Houston Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition
Gold – 2022 Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition
I get it, it’s a truly remarkable wine as judged by the best-of-the-best. But, this still does not tell me the story as to why Ron decided to call it “The Independence”. So, for more information on this, I decided to phone him up directly, and ask…
Ron, Why is This Wine called “The Independence?”
Back to 2013, Ron’s memories right after the Bingham family bought Pheasant Ridge Winery, and their 400 barrels of wine looking for a new home.
After reading the email from Bingham Vineyards, Ron and his winemaker just looked at each other and laughed a bit. They thought that all these barrels of wines had been sealed up in a big warehouse all this time and it had to be horrible. There were varying number of barrels from different years and they didn’t really know what to expect. Then, Ron related to me, ”I said to my winemaker, ‘You gotta go up there and check it out. I know it’s probably going to be bad.’ But, the fact of the matter was we didn’t have any wine in 2013.”
Ron related that it was an interesting time back then. This was when everybody started planting Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, Tannat and other Mediterranean grape varieties in Texas. Ron said, “Everybody was saying ’You can’t do Cabernet. You can’t do Bordeaux fruit. You just can’t do it here in Texas.’ We took this on as a challenge. We did grow some at Spicewood and did a pretty good job of it, too. But, not enough to make a go of it back then.”
Ron said, ”While this debate was going on at our winery, my winemaker went up to Pheasant Ridge and checked out the 400 barrels of wine. Then, he called me super, super excited. He indicated that about half of the barrels were so bad that all he had to do was smell it through the bung hole in the barrel; they didn’t need tasting. Then, he reported that starting with the 2010 wines in barrel, he found four barrels of Cab Sauv, two barrels of Merlot and two barrels of Cab Franc all in new French oak. He then said, ‘These were really really good’.”
With that report, and since they were the first to visit the winery, Ron slapped his name on those eight barrels. That was the first time, Ron really thought that he could show everybody that good red Bordeaux-style wines could be made in Texas and prompted Ron to start seriously working with these varieties grown on the Texas High Plains and teaming with grower John Friesen.
Ron said, “That was the first iteration of what inspired me to make Bordeaux-style red wine and we called it… ”The Independence”. But, I still had to ask Ron, why did he give it that name?
Ron said, ”We wanted to show that we were independent… independent of the rules and restrictions of what people were thinking could not be done in Texas especially when it came to making red Bordeaux-style wines here in this state.”
I love good wines that have good stories; alway have, always will. This wine from Ron Yate’s Spicewood Vineyards definitely passes the test for proven good wine quality and a good story to boot. Stop by Spicewood Vineyards and check out ”The Independence” and Ron’s cool wine cellar. Click here for more information on setting up a visit.
What to enjoy with Spicewood Vineyards “The Independence”? They suggest a blue cheese, bacon burger or slow-cooked braised beef stew. Not to your fancy? Well, try this… black pepper pork ribs or crawfish pasta. Like my friends in Napa always say, “It doesn’t matter if it is red meat, fish or fowl, you can drink Cabernet with anything as long as it is good!”