Hill Country Hot Spot: The Cabernet Grill, the Texas Wine Country Restaurant
The Cabernet Grill is in a storied space at Cotton Gin Village, just south of Fredericksburg, Texas. The preceding restaurant in this space languished, never reaching notoriety for its drink or cuisine, but within the past two years, this has all changed.
The restaurant at Cotton Gin Village was rebranded as the Cabernet Grill. Executive Chef Ross Burtwell totally revamped the menu specializing in fresh seafood along with tantalizing offerings of Angus beef and wild game for his Fredericksburg-area patrons. The restaurant has a knowledgeable, “Texas friendly” staff. But, best of all, the Cabernet Grill can boast of the largest, restaurant-based Texas wine list available anywhere in the Texas Hill Country, and most likely anywhere.
Saturday Night Dinner
Last Saturday, my wife and I decided to give the Cabernet Grill a try for dinner. This was the second time that we attempted it. Back in December, we were on our way to the Cabernet Grill, but our GPS sent us about five miles north of town on a dark country road smack dab in the “middle-of-nowhere”.
This time I waited to the last minute to make reservations. Oops! The restaurant was “filled to capacity”, the manager related to be me on the phone. But, I told him that we would come anyway and were willing to eat dinner at the bar if no tables were available in the main seating area.
This time, armed with the restaurant address, detailed instructions and the phone number, we arrived at the Cabernet Grill at 7:45 pm. As promised, we were met by a full house of what looked like ravenously hungry people. But, a short wait gave us a chance to review the wine list that featured over 75 selections of wines from around the State of Texas and taste a few wines in preparation for our main wine selection. At the bar, with glasses of Texas Hills Sangiovese in hand, we were notified that our table was ready.
While the main dining room at the Cabernet Grill was tall and spacious the exposed beams yielded a cozy, country experience warmed by a large stone hearth and wood fire. Above the fireplace were the remnants of the boiler that likely powered the old cotton gin in bygone days.
The menu at the Cabernet Grill could be described as mostly “ranch fare” with a stroke of Texas gourmet. I just have this weird mental picture of a bunch of Texas ranch hands, trying to get their escargot to stay in the corral over night. But, it is a good thing that they did because the appetizers range from escargot to crab cakes that can easily be followed by widely varying preparations that include grilled steaks and enchiladas to shrimp scampi.
Our evening food escapade started with two Hill Country Caesar salads with some of most delicious garlicky, creamy dressing that we could remember. My wife ordered the Black Diamond Buffalo Enchiladas and I bellied up for the Grande Chicken Fried “Pork” Steak with chipotle country gravy.
The All Texas Wine List
The Texas wine list at the Cabernet Grill was indeed impressive. We couldn’t recall ever having encountered a restaurant with this many Texas wines. In fact, this month’s feature was wines from Sister Creek Vineyards just about 30 minutes down the road in Sisterdale, Texas. Their winemaker, Danny Hernandez, has an “old world hand”, making food-friendly wines that impress with finesse rather than with a big alcoholic explosion.
The Cabernet Grill was offering flights of Sister Creek wines that included three, four- ounce pours all for $18. Do the math….that’s a real value at only $6 per glass. But, to get the best out of each wine, my suggestion is to ask for their larger wine glasses. You don’t get any more wine, but there is more room in the glass. That yields an enhanced aroma experience from the wine.
Pairing Wines by the Flight
The best part of the wine flight is that my wife and I shared the wines and both of us experienced how each wine paired with our respective entree. We selected a three-pour flight, two red wines (Sister Creek Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon) and one white wine, Sister Creek Muscat Canelli (slightly sweet and with an interesting hint of carbonation).
The most appealing part of this wine and food pairing was the fun educational experience finding out which of wines worked best with the food, and why. In fact, they all made for good matches, each in different ways. The Pinot Noir was a medium-bodied, red wine that lended itself more to the light-meat, pork steak, and the fuller-bodied, Cabernet Sauvignon harmonized with the Buffalo and black beans in the enchiladas.
The most astounding pairing incident was the white wine – Muscat Canelli and how it melded with both dishes. The slightly sweet, honeysuckle qualities in the wine played with the spicy qualities in both preparations. Normally, people don’t think of white wine with meat dishes, but the Muscat Canelli handled the buffalo enchiladas in a commanding fashion leading to a grand food and wine moment. Yet, the Muscat Canelli also had enough grace to pair with the much lighter preparation of the pork steak. The common element in this food and wine pairing that led to its success was the light sweetest in the wine, its spicy aroma, and the spiciness in the food or sauce. In the case of the pork steak, it was the warm heat of the chipotle sauce and with the enchiladas it was its combination with the more staccato notes of the chili peppers.
White Wine with Red Meat Then Why Not Red Wine with Dessert
For closers, we shared a warm German chocolate bread pudding topped with brandied black cherry ice cream and had enough of each wine left to pair with the bread pudding. If you don’t think that a dry red wine goes with dessert, try it with something made from chocolate. In this case, the Cabernet worked better than the Pinot since the Cab had more dark-berry fruit qualities. But, the remnants of the Muscat Canelli provided an interesting lighter counterpoint to deeper chocolate and berry flavors in the dessert.
In any regard, tasting wines in flights with food pairings in the friendly, warm surroundings of a restaurant like the Cabernet Grill can be lots of fun and even a bit educational.
More information can be found online at: http://www.cottonginlodging.com/
P.S. Note: We are trying to help get their GPS issue resolved.
Until then, please call the Cabernet Grill at 830-990-5734 and ask for directions and check out the ajoining cottages at Cotton Gin Village.
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