In 2018, the Jones family – seven siblings and their parents – acquired a location on Route 290 east of Fredericksburg for their new Slate Theory Winery and Vineyards. Their immediate neighbor Grape Creek Vineyards was started by Ned Simes back in the 1990s. Back then, he was a visionary who back then saw the Texas Hill Country’s future potential for wine tourism in every passing car.
The Jones family today, like Ned of yore, are visionaries, too. They see a bigger picture still of the Hill Country wine region beyond the vision Ned and his cohort had that created the wineries you see on Route 290 today. As a result, I can comfortably say that the Jones family’s Slate Theory Winery is definitely not your usual belly-up-to-the-bar kind of winery.
My visit started with a glass of Slate Theory Roussanne. With my mind in tasting mode, I thought… ‘a pleasant herbal lemon drop note’ as I descended down a stairway into Slate Theory’s recently completed cellar. Sweet Jesus, have I just said cellar… what I meant was CELLAR in all caps. The cellar goes down two stories and extends under the winery and took over three years to dig into the hill country limestone. I’ve seen nothing like it at any winery in Texas. It brought back fond remembrances of cool, secluded venues experienced in prestigious Napa Valley wineries.
Slate Theory’s green ”living wall” and comfortable accommodations for a a cellar tasting.
The winery’s name “Slate Theory” with its branding and imagery first appears to be dark and mystical. However, in reality, once the code is revealed, its more cerebral and inspiring. As explained by co-founder Chase Jones, the winery’s name is influenced by English philosopher John Locke’s ‘Blank Slate Theory’, hypothesizing that individuals are born without built-in mental content and proposed that all knowledge comes from experience or perception. What better way to approach wines, too.
Chase continued, ”Like the ‘Blank Slate Theory’, my family and I came into the wine world with no prior knowledge of the industry, no preconceived notions, just good, hard working business people. We were all quite literally the blank slate.” From my first Slate Theory visit, I’ll say… They must have been quick learners. Why?
With remarkable speed, the Jones family went from west Texas oil operations to looking at possibilities for a San Angelo game ranch, ultimately coming to Fredericksburg to start a wedding venue. Shortly thereafter, they decided to own two hill country wineries – Slate Mill Collective and Slate Theory – with plans to ultimately plant between 200 and 500 acres of wine grapes on their associated properties. With their initial 100+ acres in the finishing stage, they plan to continue planting 20-30 acres a year thereafter.
Driving onto the Slate Theory estate and entering the winery, one is taken by the imagery. It is influenced by retro-psychology as reinterpreted in image by Chase’s brother, co-founder and artist Cody Jones. His work is immersively seen on Slate Theory’s labels, winery walls, wine glasses, and wine barrels with the core identity featuring a human skull. More importantly, the focus at Slate Theory Winery is not on the skull itself, but on what is going on inside it (Get it? The blank slate). The Jones family is keen on the learning experience of the mind, and also mental health awareness and advocacy. You can find more about this at www.slatetheory.com.
After ascending back to the surface and checking out the winery, it was obvious that they were planning for future growth. Chase explained that there would be new space upfront for receiving, staging, and entertaining winery visitors, preparing them for the cellar visits and other tasting experiences. The existing space behind has been transformed from the old Torri di Pietra winery into a modern, open, and exciting wine club-like experience. The cellar eventually will become the exclusive tasting venue for Slate Theory’s cellar-reserve estate wines.
Near the end of our visit, we sat on the patio near the back of the winery enjoying the late afternoon warmth and breeze. My wife and I sampled two The Slate Theory wines:
Slate Theory, The Psychiatrist, a captivatingly aromatic white blend composed of 36% Fiano, 28% Viognier, 23% Sauvignon Blanc, 8% Muscat Canelli, and 5% Albariño. It was solid and crisp providing aromas of citrus and honeysuckle, followed by pineapple and peach on the palate.
Slate Theory, Insomniac, an eclectic red blend composed of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Petite Sirah, 14% Malbec, and 10% Souzao that oozed dark cherry, blackberry, and black olive with hints of mocha and leather.
We were in sight of the estate vineyard. Chase admitted that their plantings on this property, Slate Mill Collective, and their wedding venue are “kind of all over the map” in terms of grape varieties. From memory, he gave me a long list of their grape varieties (too long to repeat here) that included both whites and reds, Italian, French Bordeaux and Rhone, and Spanish varieties which seemed to just keep on coming. One grape variety Chase is keen on that stumped me at first was Fiano, a white Italian wine grape variety that is grown primarily in the warmer Campania region of southern Italy and the island of Sicily. So, why not in Texas?
Slate Theory Winery needs to be on your hill country winery itinerary. Referring to their winery experience, The Jones say, “Fill your head! At Slate Theory Winery, we take pride in uniqueness. This pride extends from an uncommon artistic styling to an impressive underground cellar, and includes one-of-a-kind winemaking philosophy.”
Photo Credit: Several photos courtesy of Slate Theory Winery.