Do you live in the DFW Metroplex area? Have I got a great Daytrip for you!
My wife Margie and I love Day Tripping to different spots not far from the Dallas-Fort Worth Texas area.
So what is “Day Tripping”?
Day Tripping is getting in the car and driving 2-3 hours from home, spending a few hours doing something fun, and then driving back home all in one day. No need to pack for an overnight stay. No need for the expenses of a hotel / motel room. Simply dress casual, pack some snacks and water for the road trip, and hit the road!
One of my favorite day tripping is visiting wineries in and around the DFW Metroplex. While there are many in and around our home in North Dallas that are within 30 minute drives, I dearly love the wines of Brennan Vineyards in Comanche, Texas.
I have known the Winemaker Todd Websterfor many years. We first met at TexSom about 4-5 years ago, but I began corresponding with him on Twitter a few years before, so I felt like I knew him already when we met face to face. (On a side note: I have met so many great “Wine People” on Twitter). I also met the owner and founder of Brennan VineyardsDr. Pat Brennan at TexSom several years ago. Todd and Dr. Brennan have been asking me to visit the winery for many years, but I never could quite find the time.
One Friday night Margie and I were sitting on the patio enjoying a nice glass of Brennan Viognier, and she said to me “I love this wine!”. I agreed whole heartedly so I suggested we day trip on Saturday to visit the winery in Comanche.
Now you may be asking “Where the heck is Comanche, Texas”?
Comanche, Texas is about 2 hours Southwest of Fort Worth, and 2-3/4 hours from Dallas, near Stephenville. So it qualifies for Day Tripping!
Todd was busy the day we arrived, so we were given the grand tour and tasting from the beautiful and very knowledgeable Rebecca Conley! I met Rebecca a few years back at TexSom as well, and her and Margie hit it off immediately. She had a nice selection of barrel tastings that Todd had taken earlier that day to share with us, including the terrific Orange Wine! We tasted through the wines, and I was getting excited about the upcoming vintage that Todd had produced. The Tempranillo and Reserve Viognier are my personal favorites, but you cannot find a “so-so wine” in the portfolio. The quality is truly impressive across the board.
Dr. Brennan stopped by and we visited and talked Texas Wines, and how he got his start in the wine business for over and hour. He is so great, I just love this man! Pat was a retired Physician, and bought land in Comanche to grow grapes. His good friend Dr. Richard Becker (Becker Vineyards) used to buy his grapes, and helped convince him he should build a Winery in 2004. The rest is history!
In 2009, three Texas winemakers – Pat Brennan of Brennan Vineyards, Gene Estes of Lost Oak Winery, and Kim McPherson of McPherson Cellars– began exploring the idea of opening a winery in Fredericksburg, the heart of Texas wine country. As a result of their collaboration, 4.0 Cellars opened its doors in April 2012.
So when you are in Fredericksburg, definitely stop by and taste and purchase some of the absolute best wines Texas has to offer!
Here are a few pictures of the Winery:
Tasting Room: 802 South Austin Street
Comanche, TX, 76442
T | (325) 356-9100
Sun, Mon, Tue(Closed)
Reservations are NOT required.
If possible, please provide advance notice of parties of 8 or more to ensure that we provide your party with the best experience possible.
The wine is some of the absolute best in all of Texas, and they are genuinely glad to see you.
So if you love good wine, and you are looking for a Day Trip to somewhere fun, go see Pat, Todd, and Rebecca at Brennan Vineyards!
When the quality of Texas wine is this incredible The Texas Wineaux has a TEXAS WINE PARTY!
My beautiful wife Margie and I love wine. Everyone that even remotely knows us understands this very well!
We were married in France and caught the “Wine Bug” while discovering the most romantic city in the world, Paris France. When we ran out of time and money, we returned to Texas and began the incredible adventure of learning about wine and the wonders that it brings. Naturally we favored “old world wines” from France, then Italy and Spain. Then after a trip to Napa Valley with a close friend that was a Wine Rep for Glazier, we were thoroughly hooked after tasting the phenomenal wines of Napa and Sonoma Valley.
Wine became a lifestyle by this time!
Anyone that knows me very well also knows that I am a born and bred Texan! When you grow up in Texas, we study Texas History right along side American History. The people of the Great State of Texas have a pride and love of our state that I have never experienced anywhere in the U.S.
So I have followed the Texas Wine Industry since I first tasted wine in Gruene, Texas in 1981. I do not remember much detail about what the wine tasted like, or who the producers were at that time, because I was primarily a beer drinker. But I do remember it really did not impress me much! It was sweet and red, and my girlfriend liked it. I walked over to the legendary Gruene Halland got a beer at the “Oldest Dance Hall in Texas”.
Texas Wine production has changed a lot in the last 35 years. It was in it’s infancy back then, and everyone seemed to think Texas had to become ‘the next California’. If you remember, California wine scene was still exploding in popularity after the Judgment of Paris in 1976 where the wines of Napa and Sonoma bested the wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy.
But up until about 10-12 years ago the Texas Wine Industry was still trying to be the next Napa and Sonoma. In other words, they focused on Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot because that is what Americans were buying from California. But the varieties that do so well in Napa and Sonoma don’t necessarily do well in the arid and hot locations of Texas such as the Texas Hill Country AVA or the South Plains AVA near Lubbock. Check out great information here for Texas Wine Industry and Wine Growers in Texas!
Texas Wine has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, and even more great improvements in the last 5 years! The best of the best are no longer heading West to California to grow grapes and produce fine wine. Many have learned that if you grow the right grapes for our hot arid terroir in Texas, you can produce as fine a wine as anywhere in the world! I have become very impressed with the quality, the variety of grapes grown and produced, and the incredible commitment to the craft from the bright new producers that have really changed Texas wine.
Now don’t get me wrong… there is still a ways to go, and there are plenty of Texas wineries that produce simple and sweet wines that have little to offer the true wine aficionado. But trust me when I say that it is not just unique to Texas. I have found simple unimaginative wines in Virginia, Michigan, Arizona, and even lot’s in California.
I have been excited about sharing my enthusiasm with the true quality of some of my favorite Texas Wines for some time. What better way to spread the word than to gather my wine club the Dallas Wineauxs for a fun Texas Wine theme at my home?
Here are some of the producers that so graciously sent me samples to share my excitement over Texas Wine quality, and notes of the night:
Pedernales Cellars:One of the few underground wine producing wineries in the Southwest. Frederik Osterberg is the Co-Founder and President, and David Kuhlken is also a Co-Founder and Winemaker. Pedernales produces a stellar Tempranillo that the variety seems to be perfect for Texas terrior, and many consider to be the “Official Red Grape of Texas”. They also make a very impressive GSM, but my favorite is the Reserve Viognier which was named the Texas Top Wine and Gold Metal at San Francisco International Wine Competition! Think ripe white peaches, lemon drops, beautiful floral nose, and vibrant acidity that cleans the palate. But don’t forget the Albarino, dry white wine with notes of peach & citrus fruits & perfect acidity.
McPherson Cellars:Kim McPhersonis the WInemaker and has a degree in Enology and Viticulture from UC Davis. Kim started his label in 2000 and he and his father “Doc” McPherson have been pioneers in the development of Texas Wine. The Mourvedre is the star here! Strawberry, raspberry, ripe cherries, and rose petals with elegant structure, and perfect for grilled meats. We also agreed the Les Copains Blanc was one of our favorites. Blend of Rousanne, Viognier, Marsanne, and Picuepul Blanc. Lemony, citrus, honesuckle, clean and refreshing!
Brennan Vineyards: Brennan Vineyards produce some of my personal overall favorite Texas Wines. The winery in in the tiny community of Comanche, Texas and Dr Pat Brennanbegan planting first vines in 2002. He decided to produce wine soon afterward and hired Winemaker Todd Webster. Todd has a minimalist approach to his wines and is incredibly talented. In fact his Reserve Viognier may be my favorite Texas Wine! Dry, full bodied white wine, Honeysuckle, Meyer lemon, white peaches, floral notes, and an incredible limestone minerality that is very reminiscent of the wines I enjoyed in France. But don’t forget the Reds! The 2013 Tempranillo is outstanding. Deep Garnet in your glass, black cherry, black and blue fruits, slightly earthy, medium tannins and delicious.
4.0 Cellars: This is a Winery and Tasting Room in Fredericksburg, TX collaboration of Brennan Vineyards, Lost Oak Winery, and McPherson Cellars. Todd Webster of Brennan Vineyards produced a terrific Mourvedre and sent me a bottle, and was one of the favorites of the night as well! 78% Mourvedre and 22% Ruby Cabernet. Ripe red wine with notes of Smoky meats, root beer, raspberries, blackberry, and slightly earth. I need another bottle Todd! The 4.0 Tasting Room is a must stop when in Fredericksburg.
Wedding Oak Winery: One of the new kids on the block in Texas Wineries, they began producing wine in San Saba in the Hill Country in 2012 but have made a true name for themselves in a very short time with real quality wines. Wedding Oak sources grapes from the Texas Hill Country and High Plains AVA. One of our favorites of the evening was the Hill Country Sangiovese. Winemaker Penny Adamsblends a bit of Tannat and Petite Verdot for structure. Soft palate, ripe black cherry, tart strawberry, and a nice grip of tannins.
Spicewood Vineyards: Spicewood sent several yummy wines to sample, but the favorite was a truly special Rose of Mourvedre that was a big hit! Very light in color, floral on the nose with notes of strawberry, and tropical fruits on the palate. Juicy and vibrant with perfect acidity. This wine begs for BBQ on the patio or pool time! The Temranillo sourced from the High Plains AVA was impressive as well. Juicy red and black fruits, red plums, and med tannins. Ron Yates is the Owner, and President. and Todd Crowell is the Winemaker. His commitment to the great wines of Texas is very evident in his delicious wines.
A great time was had by all, and I want to thank all our close friends and the Dallas Wineauxs for bringing lots of terrific foods to nibble on during the night!
And a HUGE thank you to my beautiful wife Margie for setting a great table!
Do you know where your grapes actually came from or what is actually in that bottle of wine you paid top dollar for?
It is date night at home with that special person and you want to make it memoriable.
You pull that very special bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet Savignon you bought many years ago that has been on laying on its side in the cellar peacefully for 10+ years. You’ve been saving this incredible wine for just for this type of occation. That “POP” as you carefully pull the cork with precision and decant it in your favorite wide bottom decanter is all part of the antisipation of what is to come! As you decant very slowly to make sure all the sediment stays in the bottle and not in your glass, the excitment is simply palpble.
To add a certain allurement and grandeur, Tonight’s wine is a great exuse to break out the special Riedel Sommeliers Series Bordeaux Grand Cru wine glasses that ONLY come out for your best wines. You clean and polish them to perfection “extra carefully” as to not torque the stems because you know the stem will snap in your hands!
The Prime aged Ribeyes that were hand cut earlier for you have been marinating all day in your special “double-secret marinad” that always brings raves from family and friends. The meat sizzles as you slap them on the hot grill.
Everything is perfect…right?
Do you really know your wine? Are you sure the fruit from cabernet sauvignon wine you paid top dollor for is actually from the Napa Valley region? Is it even 100% cabernet sauvignon, or is it actually a blend of merlot, cab franc, petit verdot or even (god fobid) malbec?
You may be surprised about the answer:
Maybe… but maybe not!
There was a big movement in Texas a few years back to make sure that if a Texas wine says “Texas Wine” on the label, the grapes actually are from Texas! There are a few producers in Texas that have bought, or are still buying bulk juice from other states, including Arizona, New Mexico, or even California. I know this may seem very silly to the novice or naive wine consumer, but nothing could have been farther from the truth.
One of the biggest leaders of this movement for correct labeling wines is a friend of mine. Russ Kane is a Writer, Blogger, and huge proponant of Texas Wines. Russ is known as “Texas Wineslinger”. He was the one that brought this travesty to my attention atTexSomabout 5-6 years ago. Because of Russ (and many others like him) and the dilligence and hard work to get the word out; the laws were changed in Texas.
If wine producers are going to use “Texas” on the label, at least 75% of the fruit must be sourced from Texas.
Be very carefull because some so called Texas Wines will attempt to desguise the bottles. But by Texas Laws they are now required to label them the confusing “Not for sale outside of Texas” in tiny-tiny lettering. So if you want real Texas Wines made from “real Texas Grapes” please carefully read the label!
So is that bottle of wine really what it says it is?
When you shell out $100-$350 and more for a bottle of Rutherford cabernet sauvignon, you trust that the bottle is filled with wine that actually came from cabernet sauvignon grapes that were grown in the heart of California’s Napa Valley and specificaly Rutherford AVA, right? That is normaly the case, but not always!
Jeff Hill, Founder of the Hill Wine Company (no relation) and longtime Napa Vineyard Manager was a serious player in Napa Valley wine scene for many years, and very respected. He worked his way from pest control in a vineyard to a maker of $100+ cabernet sauvignon wines in the prestigous Silverado Trail, a destination for wine aficionados from around the world.
The federal government forced Mr. Hill to cede control of his business on April 23, and Napa County prosecutors have charged him with two felonies, saying that on two occasions in October 2013 he stole grapes that his crew was harvesting for another winemaker and diverted them to his own winery. He is accused of substituting much cheaper merlot and malbec grapes for the much more expensive Napa cabernet sauvignon advertised on his wine labels.
In January, he pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges, and a trial is set to begin April 13. If convicted, he faces up to four years and eight months in prison. Hill Wine has filed for bankruptcy and owes more than $8 million to creditors.
So how do we know what is in the wine and at what percentages? Here are rules for California wines produced in the state:
California Appellation of Origin
Wine labels may contain several types of geographic designations of origin:
Appellations of origin that are the names of states and counties can be used on wine labels under federal law if at least 75% of the grapes come from the named state or county. The remainder of the grapes may come from outside the named state or county.
For wine labeled with an American viticultural area (“AVA”), which is a specific type of appellation of origin established under federal law, at least 85% of the grapes must come from the named AVA (for example “Napa Valley”), while the remainder of the grapes may come from outside of the AVA. That wine must be fully finished in the state in which the AVA is located.
California law requires that 100% of the grapes come from within California for any wine labeled with the appellation of origin California or a geographical subdivision of the state. This is stricter than the federal labeling standard.
So, if you noticed in “B” listed above, if the AVA reads Oakville or Rutherford you could be drinking 15% cabernet sauvignon from Mendocino or Paso Robles, not from your beloved Oakville or Rutherford!
Does this matter to you?
While I do expect that if I am paying for Rutherford Cabernet, or Russian River Pinot Noir, I fully expect to be getting predominantly grapes from those sites and enjoying the terroir that only those sites can produce!
But I personaly do not mind if it is all 100% from the AVA listed on the bottle. I am more concerned in the quality of the wine vs. the cost. Especially if I am paying upwards of $25 per bottle, I expect my wines to be balanced and expressive no matter what the variety of grape.
Wines should be an expression of the soils, with a balance that incorporates all its main components; tannins, acid, sweetness, and alcohol in a manner where no one single component stands out above any other. This is a quality wine.
Thank you again for your taking the time to read the ramblings of a Texas Wineaux! Please take a few moments to leave a comment, and drop by often for new posts.