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!
Savour South Australia Wines: Old Vines, Classic Wines, Family Lines made it’s way through Dallas, Texas this last week. I was luck enough to be invited to attend the Seminar in Downtown Dallas located at Café Momentum.
About the time I think I actually know a lot about wine, I quickly realize there is an immense amount of information about the wonders of wine and the production of grapes that I have yet to learn. This is why I have such a passion for the grape; just as many of you reading this now do as well. It is a never ending journey discovery and love for this thing called wine. So when I get invited, I feel very fortunate to get to attend these types of seminars. I always learn so much, and is very humbling at the same time, and I start my journey of discovery all over again.
Savour South Australia Wines Seminar was no exception!
Australia’s wine story is long and storied. The South Australian wine story is even more exciting and historic.
I discovered some of the oldest living grape vines in the world are in Australia!
The Barossa and McLaren Vale Regions of South Australia are the only one of the world-famous viticultural area in the world NOT to have been ravaged by Phylloxera. Therefore it remains home to some of the oldest continually producing vineyards in the world.
The first Colony was founded in 1836 in Australia, with McLaren Valearea founded by John McLaren 2 years afterward. The first grape vines were planted at this time in 1838 by John Reynelland Thomas Hardy. Soon the Seaview Winery and Hardy Winery were in operation by 1850!
The Barossa was settled in 1842 with some of the first European Settlers. First came the British as farmers and landowners, and then the Lutheran German speaking Silesian farmers and craftsmen, who brought also brought in the grapevines to the Barossa, and the rest is history!
The State of South Australia is one of 6 total and 2 Territories. To get an idea of the size, the State of South Australia is 1.4% bigger than the size of the State of Texas. With a population however of only 1.3 million, or about the population of Dallas, Texas alone. Most of these residents live in the City of Adelaide.
The cool winds blow from West to East across South Australia coming from the Antarctica, so even though the summer temperatures can be very warm, the cool winds are ideal for cooling the grapes at night and keeping humidity from being much of an issue in viticulture. Cool wet winters and warm, dry summers are ideal for grape growing.
Temperatures are only slightly warmer than that of the Bordeaux region of France in the Barossa Valley. The makes for lush wines more similar to the Napa Valley in California. Riesling, Semillon, Chardonnay are the favored white wines for Barossa, but you will also find Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz (Syrah), and Mataro (Mourvedre) are king here. In fact some of the oldest Grenache vines in the world are still thriving today, dating back to 1848, and 1843 for gnarly old Shiraz grapevines!
The Eden Valleydepends on the higher altitude and the slope of the hills, as well as the more shallow and rocky soils to produce more acidic wines such as world class Riesling!
McLaren Vale is located about 40 minutes south of the capitol of South Australia, Adelaide. The climate is Mediterranean and characterized by warm summers, moderate winters dominated by rainfall, low relative humidity, and relatively high evaporation. The climate can be very diverse between the Gulf of St Vincent to the south and Mt. Lofty to the north. This climatic diversity helped producers embrace Spanish and Italian varieties such as Barbera, Fiano, Tempranillo, Mouvedre, and Moscato, as well as re-emerging varieties such as Viognier, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, and Verdelho. Having said that the Key Varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, and the crown jewel of McLaren Vale; Shiraz!
We tasted through the 12 wines listed below, and each were very different, yet very reminiscent of the “Aussie Styles” that I have been familiar with from top quality wines I have been accustomed too in the past.
The intense Grenache, Mouvedre, and GSM (Grenache, Shiraz, Mouvedre) can be very tannic when young, but the aging potential is outstanding. The young wines tend to be full bodied, lush ripe & rich dark fruits, chocolate, licorice, and complex. The Aged Wines lend more to mocha, earthy, prune, savory meats, cigar box.
The 2010 Cirillo Estate 1850 Grenache was produced from Grenache vines dating back to 1850. Bright Cherry, intense and seductive palate.
My favorites were the Shiraz’s (6-9 on list above). The Dark fruits such as blackberry, blackcurrant, and plum dominate with floral qualities, and long finishes. Aging potential should be outstanding. I would love to taste through these Shiraz again in 20 years just to see how it has evolved.
My absolute favorite was the 2010 Angove The Medhyk Shiraz. The fruit was hand-picked with only the best, then hand selected with only the best barrels to insure the absolute best the winery can offer! This is a wine I will be looking to add to my collection.
Another favorite of the day was the 2006 Elderton Ode de Lorraine Barossa Valley. This is a blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Shiraz, and 12% Merlot. This was a very lush wine with black and red fruits, current, vanilla, and fresh leather. Still plenty of tannin structure remaining after 10 years in bottle, really shows how well this wine was structured. I will be looking for this bottle as well!
Most unusual wine of the year for me? The 2012 Shingleback Black Bubbles McLaren Vale! This is a SPARKLING SHIRAZmade in the “Methode Traditionelle” of the Champagne Region of France with the secondary fermentation in-bottle! Yes you read right… A sparkling red wine! I understand in McLaren Vale Region it is traditional to open a sparkling shiraz at Christmas Dinner. I was amazed and cannot wait to find more here in Texas. The body of a red wine with the cleansing palate of a sparkling wine would be perfect for a spicy Chinese dish including Peking Duck.
As I said I learned so much, and I got to spend time with my Dallas Wineauxs Wine Group I started a few years ago, so a fun time was had by all.
I have gotten a new-found respect and admiration for the Wines of South Australia!
So next time you are out looking for a terrific high quality wine remember the Wines of South Australia!
Thank you for reading my ramblings and thoughts. Please leave a commentof any kind, I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, or anything relating to the Wines of South Australia and any other article included.
There just isn’t enough time to do everything I want to do; visit all the Wineries, see all the incredibly beautiful places, eat at all the terrific restaurants, and taste all the wines you want to taste!
As I stated in the Day One article, I could have every minute taken up with appointments if I chose too. But that wasn’t what my lovely bride Margie and I wanted to do on day two. We both have been burning the candle at both ends the last several months at our jobs, and we needed some Margie & Terry time. We wanted to just let it happen as it came with a two basic starting points:
Start in the City of Healdsburg, Sonoma County
Spend time together talking, laughing, meeting people, and making memories
We awoke on Saturday morning at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country Hotelin Santa Rosa needing coffee really bad. While the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country is comfortable and in a great location for Sonoma, I have to say the hotel needs a serious renovation. They do offer a full service restaurant, large rooms, and amenities such as wine tastings in the evening. However the rooms look like they were decorated in 1980. And the pool was completely torn apart and we had to listen to the workers refinishing the pool. But… we don’t spend a lot of time in our rooms; we basically sleep there and go, go, go! I personally prefer the newer Marriot Courtyard for my money.
We dressed, had coffee and a light breakfast at the hotel and back to our room to get ready for the day. We decided to drive to Healdsburg Square, park the car, and just discover the town. We arrived about 11:00 AM. After parking we strolled around dipping inside the many shops lined around the square, as Margie dearly loves to shop. I think it is something in women’s DNA. I am convinced that the word “SALE” works as a pheromone that draws women into a store, where they can nearly always find something “cute”! Along with clothes, you will find terrific restaurants, candy shops, bakeries with lots of goodies, ice cream shops, and lots of places with home and kitchen goods..
I really did not mind walking around the shops, because about every 4-5 shops it seems is a wine producer sampling their wines. Well, it would be rude not to do a tasting right? We first stopped for a tasting at Roadhouse Winery tucked away in the corner of the square.
I have to tell you I was a little hesitant at first, but also intrigued as well because I am currently on my Pinot Noir kick. Plus I really liked the label. The young men inside were laughing, joking around, and NOT taking much very serious…except their pinot noir. This they were very serious and enthusiastic about the product. And they should have been because the Pinot Noir that they were pouring was great! In fact I bought 4 bottles and brought them back to Texas.
Next was an ice cream break at Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie. With a great selection of delicious deserts to temp you! And anyone that really knows me understands I love my ice cream as much as my wine.
On around the square for more shopping and wine tastings. We enjoyed the wines at Portalupi Wines so much we bought a glass each and sat down to chat and sip the terrific wine and decide our next move!
Remember, we had very little agenda upfront and decided to just let the day come to us. So we decided since we love the Dry Creek AVA so much; let’s drop the top on the convertable and go discover!
First stop is one of our favorite places in Sonoma; Dry Creek General Store. Established in 1881, the Dry Creek General Store is a very historic and unique establishment that is still to this day a local hangout. They offer great crafted sandwiches, soups, salads, and local gifts. We have a a tradition of buying coffee cups every time we stop to remind us of our great times in the valley. You can get a great sandwich or salad made to order, then head to the gardens or on the front stoop to enjoys with the locals. Many times we will load up on picnic supplies and head over to one of the local wineries to picnic. Regardless this is a MUST STOP when in the area!
After a great sandwich, and wine out of our new coffee mugs, we are off to explore!
Feeling adventurous we just took a road and drove, looking and exploring until we ran upon a small winery by the name of Zichichi Family Vineyard.
There was a small sign out front that got my attention: “Wine Enthusiast 95 Points”
Now we were WAY off the beaten path, but what the heck? Let’s check it out. We were extremely surprised and pleased.
A little history of Zichichi:
In 2000 a New Orleans Physician Steve Zichichi and his wife Kristen purchased the 22 acres in Dry Creek Valley. 14 acres of zinfandel and 4 acres of petit sirah, all planted in 1928 and 1964 by the previous Bartolozzi Ranch. After several years of selling grapes to local wineries, the Zichichi’s built their own winery in 2006. They now produce an Estate Zinfandel, an Old Vine Zinfandel, A Cabernet Sauvignon, a Petite Sirah, and an incredible Sauvignon Blanc that blew me away!
In fact, we loved the Sauvignon Blanc so much that we bought a case and shipped it to Texas, where we almost immediately drank every bottle and wished we had bought 2 cases! I am on the very short member list now, and have already bought the next vintage. They are very unique in that they sell out most of their wines to members every year, usually within 3 months.
We were taken to the back for barrel samples of the upcoming vintages of Old Vine Zinfandel and this was quite impressive. You can really see how well the wines have been made, and the promise to come in a few years. We will stop in again next trip to the area.
After driving around the wondrous beauty of Dry Creek and Russian River Valley, we headed back to the room to rest up, then clean up for dinner. I made dinner reservations at Willi’s Wine Barin Santa Rosa. Margie and I had visited, and loved the original Willi’s Wine Bar in Paris, and in fact have artwork in our entryway of our home from the famous establishment in Paris. While I understood already that they were not affiliated, I was still intrigued.
While Willi’s Wine Bar was almost nothing like the Paris version, it was a very nice wine country restaurant, lots of character, and a very impressive wine list.
We like to arrive before our reservations and sit at the bar. We meet a lot of wonderful Bartenders and staff, as well as the patrons at the bar. We enjoyed a terrific bottle of Black Kitty Pinot Noir Soberanes Vineyard that was a suggestion of the Bartender. It was nicely perfumed with aromas of raspberry, violets, chocolate, and somewhat earthy. Chew tannins, and black cherry bursting in our mouth. Delicious Pinot Noir! We had a wonderful time at dinner, food was very good, and I would suggest it when in Santa Rosa.
The next day was pack up and go home day. I carry with me a great packable wine shipper called “Wine Check”. It holds 12 bottles of wine in Styrofoam, covered by a very sturdy box, and then covered by a padded heavy duty vinyl cover. It has a removable strap and wheels on one end for easy transport. It weights 45-48 lbs full and you can check it as luggage on the plane!
I always bring back a nice booty of wine to enjoy!
Margie and I had a short, but incredible time in Wine Country. I hope this article helps you plan your next trip. If you ever want me to assist you with where to go taste wine, great places to eat, and beautiful places to visit feel free to email me. I would be happy to help you with suggestions.
Just keep in mind:
A Weekend in Wine Country is Never Enough!
Thank you again for reading the ramblings of a Texas Wineaux!
(Please leave a comment,good or bad, because I need the feedback.)
Although the Wine Country is a great getaway and incredibly beautiful; 2 days in California Wine Country is just not enough. Especially if you are half a continent away from California in Dallas, Texas and you spend much of your valuable time in an airport, on an airplane, or trying to get a rental car!
My beautiful wife Margie was going to be in Oakland and Sacramento on business back in March, so I decided that would be the PERFECT excuse to take a day off and spend the weekend together in my personal Mecca; Napa and Sonoma! So I set up a few appointments for winery visits on the first day day and left the last day wide open to do whatever came to mind.
You can imagine I have a multitude of connections in the wine industry, and get offers to visit and write about my experiences on a regular basis. So I could have scheduled 4-5 winery visits per day and had every minute of our two days booked.But I really needed a nice relaxing and romantic weekend with my beautiful wife more than I needed to visit new wineries.
Margie is a Director of a large hair care products distributor, and lots of travel is just part of her job description. And the beginning of a New Year always brings on even more travel (to get the New Year started), so she has been away from home more than usual. Spending really quality time with each other was very high on our list.
SO…I only scheduled TWO (yes you read right, two) winery visits for the trip!
I flew into Oakland on Thursday, landing about Noon and rented a convertible Mustang. I then drove “topless” to Sacramento to pick Margie up at her hotel. She had just finished meeting with her clients in the early afternoon, and they were begging her to go to happy hour to celebrate a successful meeting. She politely said no, offering that I was picking her up and we were going to Wine Country for a fun weekend!
My wife is absolutely my best friend in the world, and we have an incredible marriage. We have so much fun together, sometimes doing absolutly nothing but making the best of our time making each other laugh.
I am a lucky man indeed!
The first night we decided to head over to Healdsburg for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in Sonoma Valley; BarnDiva. Located on Center Street in Healdsburg, it is an eclectic blend of different modern and old barn decor, with an ever changing menu. The bar scene is terrific and hip at night, and the Patio and area out back is calm, artistic, and relaxing during the day. The food is always creative, delicious, and ever changing according to the season. If you go you have to try the goat cheese croquettes with Wildflower Honey and Lavender is is incredible!!!
We enjoyed a perfect 2009 Simmonet-Febvre Vaillons 1ér Cru Chabliswith our dinner that was outstanding.
The next morning I had a 9:30 appointment with Jeff Mangahas, Winemaker at the legendary Williams Selyem Wineryin Russian River, Sonoma Valley. Jeff was gracious and accommodating with his time. You can read more and the actual interview with Jeff in my previous post in March. It is times like these that I dearly love what I do, as I feel very humbled to have had this opportunity to interview and spend time just visiting and talking wine with Jeff. We loved the behind the scenes stories as well that can only be told by the winemaker!
Our next appointment wasn’t until 2:30 but it was across the mountain range in St Helena, Napa Valley. For those of you that have driven from Santa Rosa to Napa Valley know there is a mountain range between the two valleys. So as the crow flies it isn’t that far. But to drive you have 2 choices;
1. Go south on Hwy 101 and go around Southern Sonoma down and come up along the highway 121 to Scenic Hwy 29 where all the wineries are located just North of the City of Napa (BORING).
2. From Santa Rosa in Sonoma Valley head east along Calistoga Road, across the mountains to Petrified Forest Road to Calistoga. This is the scenic route! If you can ALWAYS take this route because it is so beautiful and so “Northern California”.
Calistoga, CA is a beautiful place to stay, taste wine, have lunch or dinner, shop, and just spend time! We had about 2 hours to kill before our next appointment at Fantesca, so we stopped and had lunch outside at Calistoga Kitchenon Cedar St. Very quaint and full of character. Great food, and we were so impressed with the owner and Chef Rick Wankel. Margie and I split a terrific BLT with duck egg and it was incredible! The bacon was localy sourced thick cut, smoked to perfection, and very meaty! We split a County Line Mixed Green Salad, and enjoyed a bottle of 2012 Cakebread Cellars Napa Chardonnay (that matched perfectly) and we were in heaven! The owner Rick explained his food is ingredients driven, featuring local growers, purveyors, and wines. If you are in the area I highly suggest a visit and tell them the Terry Hill the Texas Wineaux sent you!
When I took my Sommelier class at Texas Sommelier Conference(TEXSOM) many years ago, Master Sommelier DLynn Proctorassisted in our instructions and blind tastings, and I have kept contact with him over the years. You may know DLynn from the movie “SOMM”.Dlynn had suggested a few wineries to vist that were “unknown gems” in Napa. I chose Fantesca Winery from his suggestion and it was terrific. Fantesca was an extremely interesting story.
Susan and Duane Hoff were working for Best Buy, and decided they wanted to be in the wine business. So they bought 53 acres with 10 planted to vines in Napa Valley. The property was originally part of Caroline Bale’s dowry when she married Charles Krug, and the vineyards dated back to the 1860’s. After Phylloxera epidemic of the 1900’s and then Prohibition in the 1920’s the vineyard was allowed to go back to native forest for more than 70 years! The vineyard was replanted in 1997 with only 10 acres.
Susan Hoff is the real heart and soul of Fantesca, and she recruited the legendary winemaker Heidi Barrettto be the Winemaker. If you are not familiar with Heidi Barrett; she gained legendary status at Dalle Valle by creating powerful Cabs including the famous “Maya” cult cab that received two perfect 100-pt scores from Robert Parker. She then was hired by Screaming Eagle and AGAIN received two perfect 100-pt scores from Parker! This is a legendary name in Napa and she married well too. You may know Heidi’s husband Bo Barrettand Father-in-Law Jim Barrettof Chateau Montelena and the famousJudgment of Paris and the movie Bottle Shock.
We had a personal tasting of available wines, a barrel tasting, and a tour of the facilities including the Cave. The Cave was an old silver mine in Spring Mountain, and it holds the barrels for aging at a perfect 58-F.
The 2012 King Richard Reserve Russian River Pinot Noir and the 2012 Russian River Sonoma County Chardonnay were all that was available for tasting, and both were quite impressive. We left with few bottles of each, and we are looking forward to sharing these incredible Heidi Barrett wines soon! I will have tasting notes at that time.
Next stop was the iconic and legendary Chateau Montelena!I This is the historic winery that bested the French Burgundy in the famous Judgement of Paris! I have been all over Sonoma and Napa Valley and never visited in the past, so a quick visit of the beautiful property so full of history was a “must stop”. We strolled around the beautiful grounds longer than we did tasting wine because I know how incredible these Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are already because Margie and I often drink them at home.
We headed South on Hwy 29, and even though I knew it was getting late in the day I always have to stop at one of my favorite wineries; Peju Province Wineryin the mecca for Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. We stopped in for a quick tasting! Then back in the car to visit my very special friend Carrie at Napa Valley Wine and Cigarin the city of Napa!
Stopping to see Carrie is ALWAYS a MUST STOP for me when in Napa!
She is such a sweetheart, and she has an absolutely phenomenal selection of wines and cigars for all your hedonistic needs. If you tell her I sent you and ask very nicely, she will take you to the back room and the “special stash” of wines. I have bought some great wines from her over the years because she is on everyone’s wine lists, and has the wines in stock when no one else does!
Looking for a Harlan Estates or Screaming Eagle? She has it! How about a Dalle Valle or Saxum’s James Berry Vineyard? She has it!
Pick up a great stogie while you are there too!
We were exhausted after a long day in paradise, so we had a simple dinner and an early night getting ready for the next day!
Check back soon for Day-2 where we have NO SCHEDULE and we improvise the entire day!