The Aromas of Terroir: A Wintery Day in Texas Wine Country

I don’t know if you have had the same experience as I’ve had. That is, a visit to wine country in the winter after the wine is resting in the barrel room or bottle, and the vines that gave of themselves are asleep. My first of many such experiences came from my personal roamings to Napa, Sonoma and Russian River wine country of California.

The first experience came by accident, not with a lot of planning. My wife and I were attracted by a promotion from the Russian River Wine Trail called “Winter Wineland”. The motif was similar to that now shared by several of the Texas Holiday Wine Trails in the Hill Country of central Texas and recently in the Bluebonnet country just a short drive northwest of Houston. Despite the difference in locales, the experience is remarkably the same. It is characterized by cold and often moist winds from the north and warm cozy tasting rooms. The warmth of the tasting room comes from sipping with strangers that share your passion for wine [at times, it may also be sharing their first tasting experience], sampling small bites of food especially prepared for the trail’s “riders”, and the warm greeting from the winery staff and principals.

The often overlooked aspect of the wintertime wine trail experience that I enjoy most is the aroma; not of the wine, but of the country.  I was face-to-face with it again this morning when I stepped outside from my small cottage near Fredericksburg in the Hill Country just north of San Antonio and west of Austin. These are the smells of the local terroir that are often used to describe the wines themselves. Maybe it’s the whole wine tasting experience that just exercises my olfactory organs to the point that brings me a particular aroma awareness to all the things that surround me.

This morning it started with the tactile feel of frosty freshness of the morning’s heavy dew that first tickled and then prickled my nose as it peaked out through the crack in the cottage door. Then came a waft of wet wood rising up from the front deck, it having absorbed the prior night’s rain. This came as I fought back the urge to pop my nose back into the cottage’s comforting warmth. After I bravely exitted, came the herbal rush of rosemary that lingered on my sleeve long after I brushed against its long tendrils next to the barn, and as it still did hours later as I typed.

As I later walked down further from the top of the ridge, I was aware of the commingled pungent aromas of wet loam; a mixture of wet oak leaves and mushroom-like low notes punctuated with a sweet sassy grassy bite that evolved slowly into the identifiable smell of green coming from the moist alfalfa as I approached the deer feeder. 

My blog this morning was a bit of a ramble and perhaps verging on esoteric. As I depart, I am taking one more whiff of my sleeve and sinking back into my desk chair with a rosemary ecstasy for just a moment longer. But, I have to come back to reality fairly soon as I need to get ready to braise a  boar shoulder and fire grill some cabrito for a Texas holiday wine get-together tomorrow. I have not tried either before so it could be enjoyable, entertaining or even possibly amusing. I’ll let you know how it goes.

P.S. Don’t forget to take a whiff of your terroir, and like the song says, if you can’t be with the one you love, love [or at least appreciate] the one you’re with.

A list of links to Texas wine trails is given below;  please find one near you and enjoy.

Texas Hill Country Wineries: www.texaswinetrail.com
Grapevine Wine Trail: www.grapevinewinetrail.com
Way Out Wineries Trail: www.wayoutwineries.org
Bluebonnet Wine Trail: www.texasbluebonnetwinetrail.com
Dallas Wine Trail: www.dallaswinetrail.com
Crosstimbers Wine Trail: www.crosstimberswinetrail.com
Fredericksburg Wine Road 290:  http://www.WineRoad290.com
Munson Wine Trail: www.munsonwinetrail.com

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