The Way Out Wineries tour leads visitors on a Mardi Gras parade to eight of the best Texas wines that they have never heard of
The Way Out Wineries tour leads visitors on a Mardi Gras parade to eight of the best Texas wines that they have never heard of. These wineries between Lampasas and Granbury are all small operations that are doing some innovative things with viticulture.
Friday, Feb. 2 through Sunday, Feb. 4, the owners and winemakers will be serving Cajun and New Orleans-style food along with samples of their wines. Tickets for all three days and all eight wineries are $15 per person and are available at any of the participating wineries on the days of the event.
"I think the visitors will find that these small country wineries are doing some pretty interesting things," says Jim Johnson, owner and winemaker at Alamosa Wine Cellars outside of Bend. "Besides, the tour is a great excuse to get out of the house on a winter afternoon and enjoy some Mardi Gras food, music, and wine."
Founded in 1986, the Alamosa vineyards are the oldest on the winery tour. The Johnsons grow Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and Viognier grapes on their hillside estate. "Central Texas wineries are looking toward the warm places in southern Europe for inspiration," Johnson says. Grapes grown in the Rhône Valley, Spain, and Italy are showing promise in Texas.
"We've had great success with the Tempranillo," Johnson says. Viognier is another varietal that is making headway into Texas vineyards. The grape can make a wine with fruity overtones that are much more flavorful than the popular Chardonnays. Viognier is more adaptable to the Texas heat and is more disease-resistant. "Chardonnay requires a lot of attention," Johnson says. "Viognier just makes better sense for our growing conditions."
You would go about 300 miles if you were to drive the entire circle of wineries from Lampasas to Rising Star to Granbury, and back to Lampasas. "We're all way out and well worth the drive," Johnson says.
Participating Way Out Wineries from south to north:
Alamosa Wine Cellars, 677 CR 430, Bend. 325/628-3313. www.alamosawinecellars.com. Three miles west of Bend. Regular hours are Friday and Saturday, 10am to 5pm; Sunday, noon to 5pm.
Pillar Bluff Vineyards, 300 CR 111, Lampasas. 512/556-4078. www.pillarbluff.com. Regular hours are Friday and Saturday, 10am to 5pm; Sunday, 12:30pm to 5pm. The winery produces a white merlot, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, Boar Doe (a classic Bordeaux blend), chenin blanc, chardonnay, and ruby port.
Texas Legato Vineyards, 2935 Hwy. 1478, Lampasas. 512/556-9600 or 817/313-9565. Call for appointment except on tour days.
Red Caboose Winery, 1147 CR 1110, Meridian. 254/435-9911. www.redcaboosewinery.com. Still a work in progress, this will be the first public opening for this winery that will ultimately use rainwater collection, solar panels, and geothermal cooling. TX 22 between Hamilton and Meridian is an exceptionally scenic drive. The winery is usually open by appointment only.
Barking Rocks Winery, 1919 Allen Court, Granbury. 817/579-0007. www.barkingrockswine.com. Open Friday and Saturday, 1 to 6pm. The winery produces Italian-styled Fume Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, orange muscat, Chardonnay, and a Bordeaux blend from grapes grown on the High Plains and Denison area.
Bluff Dale Vineyards, 5222 CR 148, Bluff Dale. 254/728-3540. www.bluffdalevineyards.com. Located midway between Stephenville and Granbury. Open daily from 11am to 6pm; Sunday, noon to 6pm; closed Tuesday. David and Theresa Hayes have built a scenic little winery south of Granbury where they produce cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, port, chardonnay, Muscat Canelli, sherry, and a selection of blended wines.
Brennan Vineyards, 802 S. Austin St. (Highway 16), Comanche. 325/356-9100. www.brennanvineyards.com. Established in 2001, the winery's first offerings have been very well received. They produce a Syrah, rosé, muscat, cabernet sauvignon, and Viognier.
Rising Star Vineyards, 1001 CR 290, Rising Star. 254/643-1776. www.risingstarvineyards.com. Open Saturday, 11am to 6pm; Sunday, noon to 4pm. Opened in 2006, they offer Muscat Blanc, chardonnay, and rosé wines.
Each of these wineries produces its handmade wines in small quantities usually of fewer than 500 cases. Take the time to get to know the winemakers now, and then watch as their offerings mature over the years. You might discover a new favorite. For more information and directions to the Way Out Wineries tour, go to www.wayoutwineries.org, or call any of the wineries.
814th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of Day Trips 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.