Wines New Winery: A Place “Where I get to play around and have some fun”
VT – Please note that right after posting this blog, I was contacted by the PR force working for Yates Wines and was notified that the Ron Yates’s winery called “Yates Wines” was changing its name to simply: “Ron Yates”. I guess now there is Ron Yates – the person, and Ron Yates – the winery.
Closely followed by his dog Elway and surrounded by the echo of the large chilly room stacked with oak barrels, winery owner Ron Yates, pointed to the features of his new winery’s production facility on Route 290 between Johnson City and Hye, Texas.
During my late-August visit, he said, “With what you see here, we are about 60% complete with the stainless tanks I need; about all I can afford right now. I’ve got other plans, too, including installing wood and concrete fermenters. I can’t wait to start my Gran Reserva Tempranillo program, too. But, some plans will have to wait.”
He appears off to a good start.
As Yates continued his tour we went outside of the large, dry-stacked stone building and onto a spacious high-covered crush pad in back and a shaded veranda in the front. I recall thinking that his plans, while still unfinished, seemed to rapidly be coming into reality.
Yates’s plans also include a 10-acre estate vineyard largely focusing on Tempranillo, a grape that he openly favors. Then, there will be a large event pavilion on the east side of the vineyard scheduled to take shape before the end of the year. As we looked out front of the production facility, his outstretched arm with finger pointed “out yonder”, aiming at the west wide of the vineyard. He said, “This is where I’m putting a dedicated tasting room, hopefully sometime in early 2017.”
Two questions that piqued my interest and the real reasons why I wanted to link up with Yates on this trip were: Why start another winery? Why not, just continue to expand at Spicewood Vineyards like he had been doing since acquiring the winery from founders Ed and Madeleine Manigold in 2007.
In response to my questions, Yates said, “When we acquired Spicewood, we wanted a place where we could be off-the-beaten-path, by ourselves with our hands in the dirt. But, now about a decade later, we have kind of maxed out the available space at Spicewood Vineyards. So, our plan is to take it back to the Manigold’s original concept of being mainly an estate winery. We may never get totally there, but our goal is to eventually use 85-90 % grapes grown right on the winery estate.”
Having followed the changes in the Texas wine industry during Yate’s near ten-year term at Spicewood, I sensed that the soon to opening Ron Yates winery operation on Route 290 was going to be something different and definitely bigger.
During the past decade, Route 290 has become to the Hill Country wine region what Route 29 is to Napa. It is the “main drag” for the many incoming wine tourists that has also become a draw for winemakers and their wineries from around Texas. For anyone with high aspirations in the hill country wine business like Yates, not having a winery on Route 290 is simply as many say, “leaving money on the table.”
In Yate’s case, he acknowledges this fact, but at Ron Yates new winery, he is also looking for something with a still higher meaning.
According to Yates, “Doing what we did at Spicewood, extending the Manigold legacy, has been great. But now, I’m looking to start something that is ours. Something new and larger in scale where we can handle grapes grown from all over the state, but where we get to pick the best. We have some west Texas Sangiovese lined up, and looking at a host of Mediterranean varieties like Tempranillo, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan that will be coming it, too.”
I sensed that another key aspect of Yate’s new plan is also to be able to do it front-and-center, right on the 290 wine trail directly in the eye of the many wine tourists that now travel this road and pack winery tasting rooms most any weekend of the year.
As we re-entered the winery, I asked about a hissing sound I heard as I looked around.
Yates said, “It’s the sound of carbon dioxide coming from this Rosé that I’m fermenting in neutral oak barrels. The wine’s made from some of Vijay Reddy’s Cinsault. These are the kind of things that I’ve wanted to do, but we just didn’t have the space to do before at Spicewood. In this new space, I get to play around and have some fun.”
Driving back home, I was still trying to assimilate Yates’s already long “to-do” list when something made me stop.
I thought, ‘Didn’t he also tell me that under the yet-to-be-constructed tasting room, he was going to have a cellar dug into solid limestone?”