Hilmy Cellars: New Kids on the Block. Clever Guy and Seriously Good Wines
Several months ago now, I received an invitation from Erik Hilmy to do one of my first book signing event at his winery, Hilmy Cellars. It was to take place on the 18th of March, his winery’s second official day in operations. Since then, things have been a blur of travels across the state for me with more appearances and book signings. I feel remiss that I’ve not blogged on my experiences at this winery. The one thing that I remember quite well is that Hilmy Cellars is a seriously good winery venue on the Route 290 Wine Road with a great look and tasting room feel. Additionally, and perhaps even more importantly, Hilmy Cellars has seriously good wines, both red and wine.
What was impressive was Erik’s style that seemed to be something like a wanderer in a foreign land. He did not promote himself as a true connoisseur of wine or even highly knowledgeable, but as someone who was striving to both learn the ways of the wine world while also presenting the bests wines he could in his tasting room. Equally noble was his interest in making wines of Texas appellation to the extent possible being the new kid on the block; literally standing in line to purchase some of the precious few Texas grapes and most coming from the lean 2011 harvest.
Interestingly, the wine that drew me in the day of The Wineslinger Chronicles book signing was a white wine with the interesting name of “Doo-Zwa-Zo”. While appearing to me to be something from an African dialect, it was my wife that realized that it was, in fact, a phonetic play with the French words: Two Birds…Deux Oiseaux. The play was continued with the image of the bird and the number “2” on the label.
But, why two birds? Well, like most of Erik’s wines, it is made from a blend of grapes. In this case, two grapes: Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. I really like this approach for both Hilmy Cellars and Texas wineries as a whole. It allow him to keep his options open. Erik can keep the interesting and clever Doo-Zwa-Zo name year in and out, but as his access to Texas grapes changes from year-to-year, he can vary the blend. Even more, I liked this wine that had a crisp and inviting citrus and melon character while offering the smallest imaginable hint of sweetness. To say this wine was off-dry would be to overstate its offering of residual sugar. It was wonderfully clean, crisp and refreshing the warm spring Hill Country day.
But, what really got me started on this blog tonight, was a pour of another wine from Hilmy Cellars that I first tasted that same day. It is again a blended wine and one called appropriately “The Temp”. After Erik enlightened me on the origin of the Doo-Zwa-Zo name, I hazarded to guess that this name’s origin was Tempranillo, one of the four grape varieties used in this blend. Erik said that I made a good try, but that I was wrong. The name “The Temp” came more appropriately from the fact that this wine came together as an opportunity resulting from the availability of these grapes and that it was likely to be temporary offering (questioning its availability in subsequent years). Knowing Erik though, I believe that “The Temp” could become “The Perm”, just with a different blend of red grapes depending on year’s harvest around the state. Kind of a Temp-to-Perm thing…
Frankly, I can’t totally and with high confidence remember the blend in this wine. My memory is focused on Tempranillo as the lead grape, with Grenache and perhaps some Mourvedre following. Anyway who really cares when the wine is as aromatic and flavorful as this one. Red fruit dominate in this medium-bodied red wine overlaid with a dry dusty earth quality common to Iberian-style blended red wines. This wine is on the track to what I believe Texas wines need to be for a successful run with Texas wine drinkers over the long haul.
Best of all, Hilmy Cellars, unlike many Texas wineries, has a philosophy. They believe that wine is made in the vineyard through quality farming, and harmony among the various contributors of quality grapes. In keeping with this philosophy, they are working on a challenging personal project even greater than their winery operation: an estate Sangiovese vineyard in their “backyard”. Like another grape, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese is not the easiest of grapes to handle in the vineyard or in the winery. Their guinea fowl patrol the vineyard for insects while their Great Pyrenees, Bella & Simon, protect the vines from larger grape predators: the local deer with big appetites for grapevines and grapes.
I recommend that you stop by for an interesting time and a taste of some seriously good wines (and a good book if you are so inclined).
12346 E US Hwy 290
Fredericksburg, TX 78624
Erik Hilmy and his wife, Neldie, in their “backyard” estate vineyard
Interesting labels and seriously good wine…sounds like a great combination. I’m looking forward to trying this new winery. Thank you for the great information. Russ, you never know how your gift of script affects others. I’m still enjoying the Texas Wineslinger. It made me realize how there is so much history in the grape. Flying to Philadelphia tomorrow. Planning to enjoy some NJ /Pa wine- and perhaps get a historical perspective of the wines of the Continental Congress. If travels progress the right way, may have an opportunity to see the Monticello wine trail and on to Ashville.
I am glad that I am not the only person who was fallen in love with Hilmy. I can only wonder where they will go next, and I am eager to see.
I’ve just returned from the 290 trail, and visited Hilmy on a recommendation from another winery that we connected with. Wow! What a great experience! Not only were the wines great but visiting with Neldie, Vinnie, and Erik’s brother Marc was really the highlight of our trip. It was our first (and so far, only) wine club sign-up, and we can’t wait to receive our first wines.
Thanks so much for the hospitality, good luck and congratulations! Here’s to hoping the new Tx-Dot signs get put up, ASAP!
This is THE place to go near F-burg. Must stop, great wine, great owners/employees, amazing wine! We’ve been several times now and joined The Flock (wine club). Can’t wait to watch them grow over the coming years.
I agree with both of you that Hilmy Cellars has a nice offering. Hope there estate vineyard does well. Sangiovese can be difficult. This is a highly recommended stop on the Route 290 wine trail, particularly for those that like smaller, family-style winery tasting rooms.