Old World, New World Texas Wines (Part 2)

Green and Wine by Nancy Eckels

Torre di Pietra – New World Texas

From Sisterdale, I headed north to find Torre di Pietra (www.texashillcountrywine.com). Its name “Tower of Stone” in Italian conjures up visions of an old world Italian monastery perched high upon mountainous outcroppings. However, this Torre di Pietra could not be more different. It is constructed from Hill Country limestone and sits on the south side of the stretch of US 290 that runs between Johnson City and Fredericksburg.

Torre di Pietra has vineyards situated about an hour northwest in Doss, Texas and at the winery estate bordering US 290 in Gillespie County.  The vineyards and winery are owned and operated by Ken Maxwell and his family. Opened in December 2004, this new and ambitious winery brings to mind the full new world wine experience…big friendly wines combined with an entertainment destination.

Turning off of US 290 into the parking lot at Torre di Pietra we see the obvious choice of the name as everything outside and inside is constructed from stone and mortar. Externally, there are walls, patios and large stone fireplaces surrounded by Maxwell’s youthful, yet productive estate vineyard. It is a great setting for a party, wedding, or just relaxing with a glass of Texas wine and friends under a Tex-sunny sky.

Torre di Pietra Winery

Inside the winery, the stonework encloses a massive tasting room complete with tasting bar, overstuffed cowhide chairs and sofas and another stone fireplace. Many wineries try to line you up at the bar for tasting, give you a few comments about the wine and then wait for you to buy something. Not at Torre di Pietra, here you can step up to the bar to taste. But, after tasting, you are invited to purchase a glass or bottle of your favorite wine along with some light food offerings, kick-back and loosen-up a bit.

The day I visited Torre di Pietra, they had a Texas quartet set-up next to the fireplace inside the winery, complete with a guitar player that could have doubled for George Bush (the Elder) but with a much better voice. Ken Maxwell explained that in college he worked in the hospitality industry and liked to make his customers feel at home enjoying themselves. In coming months, he also plans to have country & western and jazz music and a host of other events including a wildflower festival, art exhibits and cooking demonstrations.

After college Ken worked in the semiconductor industry and had a chance to experience the new world wine experience first hand in California and has successfully incorporated this into his new venture. At the winery, my wife and I pulled up on an overstuffed sofa and shared a glass of Maxell’s “Texas Claret” – an interestingly named red blend of Bordeaux and Mediterranean varietals with crispness and a fruit forward approach well know in many new world wines, such as Bonny Doon’s “Big House Red”.

Torre di Pietra also offers semi-sweet favorites such as a Chenin Blanc, Rosa Flamenco (blend of white Zinfandel and Chenin Blanc), and an elegant estate bottled Muscato dessert wine from their Doss Valley Vineyard. In the red category, they also offer a soft, Merlot structured by a touch American oak, a sweet red intriguingly named “Red Flirt” Maxwell is just now releasing a new Cabernet Sauvignon which should attract lovers of big, bold, new world-style Cabernets.

While in the Area

After checking out Sister Creek Vineyards and Torre di Pietra, stop and smell the wild flowers at Wild Seed Farms (www.wildseedfarms.com), listen to some Texas music in quirky little (but famous) Luckenbach, TX (www.luckenbachtexas.com); and grab a room at the Full Moon Inn (www.fullmooninn.com).

Experience the excitement of the harvest and smells of new wine being made.  Enjoy tours, patio sitting, picnics, grape stomping and, of course, a glass of wine.  A special gift awaits you at each winery visited with your registration ticket (www.texaswinetrail.com).

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