The last stop (at least for wineries) on the West Texas road trip was Val Verde Winery (website). Val Verde is the oldest continuously running winery in Texas. I’d argue in the US, but Brotherhood Winery (1839) in New York likes to claim that honor. However, Val Verde (established in 1883) is still owned by the Qualia family, while Brotherhood has changed hands several times. Buena Vista in California claims to be the oldest (1857), but again it has changed hands several times. Regardless, Val Verde is the oldest winery in the US that is still owned by the family that started it – and the vines are still grown in the same place.
We had lunch at Julio’s Corn Chips and Restaurant in Del Rio (website – restaurant address at very bottom of page) before heading to the winery. It made for a great plan as that meant we weren’t hungry when we arrived. There was no one else at the winery while we did most of the tasting – but it was early on a Friday afternoon.
2021 Blanc du Bois
Their notes: Growing in popularity due to its hardy constitution and easygoing flavor, this estate grown American varietal is light and fresh with notes of honeysuckle, apple, white peach, and melon. It has a smooth, slightly tart body with a crispy dry finish.
My Notes: I was told it would pair well with chicken or turkey. The wine itself was a very light straw color that really needed food. It had the peach/apricot taste, but with some green apple. The flavor was soft, but made the mouth water – unlike some Blanc du Bois’ that are cloyingly sweet. The downside to this wine was that the scent did not agree with my nose. I won’t tell you what it made me think of – but it wasn’t pleasant. There was almost no acidity to this wine and my tasting companion said it tasted like “spring.” The flavor lingers – much like the flavor of honey in tea. Despite the nose, I rated this as a Wednesday wine.
2021 Dry Rose
Their Notes: This European style Dry Rose is an estate grown blend of our Spanish Lenoir grape and Blanc du Bois. Our Dry Rose has a beautiful light pink with notes of cranberry and honeysuckle. This refreshing wine would be best paired with creamy goat cheese.
My Notes: I was also told it would pair well with pasta. It smelled like sugar and strawberries, and you can really taste the strawberry flavor. It was more astringent than just the Blanc du Bois. This is an everyday wine. It’s great for the porch – but its not a porch pounder! While it doesn’t need food, it’s not meant to be drunk mindlessly, it’s meant to be savored on a hot day.
2022 Muscat Canelli
Their Notes: Muscat Canelli in particular is a grape named after the town of Canelli (Citta di Canelli) in North-East Italy. This refreshing sweet wine is packed with aromas and flavors of apricot, ripened peaches and a hint of honey. This wine should be your go-to for any dinner party, picnic in the park, charcuterie night, or take-out Thai food.
My Notes: I underlined Thai food, but not convinced it would go with the local green curry I get. I think I’d like the Dry Rose or Rose better with it. However, this was a very light color – almost clear. It had a sugary scent with acidic undertones. The scent was reminiscent of pine-sol – that clean pine scent with a tinge of alcohol – that the house always smelled like on Saturdays by lunchtime and you couldn’t escape it. It was sweet but not cloying. I thought it tasted like a typical muscat canelli – sweet but grapey (with maybe a little peach). My tasting partner got “apricot and dog.” He also said that it tasted Old World. “Here I am, if you don’t like me, I don’t care.” We couldn’t agree on the rating, so there is none.
Their Notes: A blend of Ruby Cabernet and Muscat Canelli – this salmon-pink floral wine is reminiscent of sweet rosewater. It is said to be as sweet as honey with a refreshing clean lemongrass finish. Our Rose is a wonderful complement to fresh fruit, sharp cheeses and buttery crackers.
My Notes: I starred this one so I would buy a bottle to bring home. It’s sweeter in taste than it smells. But it smells of Alcohol and strawberry. (Note the order there.) I don’t have many tasting notes on this one other than it would be great for party as it would go with everything from nibbles to dinner. I noted that I want to try it with fig and blue cheese and also with a Welsh cheddar. It had a sweet rose taste much like Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s À la rose perfume (website). (You know sometimes you can’t help but inhale when you spray perfume, so you taste it…) We rated this one as “party.”
2019 Sweet Red
Their Notes: A young wine brought back from the early 1900s, this wine is a fruity blend with hints of strawberries and cherries. Although this wine is sweet, it is very versatile and serves as an excellent table wine. it pairs nicely with any southern homecooked meal.
My Notes: This is the same recipe since the 1920s. But this claret colored wine is nothing more than communion wine. It has that sweet but spoiled scent that you get during communion. It does taste better than it smells. But needs to be slightly above wine temp (warm) for it to be good. It’s a bit gritty. But we thought it might go with a Chicken Mole or an Ancho Pork Loin. It elicited a response in both of us – “spectacles, …, wallet and watch” (if you’re Anglican, Episcopalian or Catholic you’ll get it… If you’re not – just Google it.) We agree that we loved the history of the wine – but it just wasn’t for our palates. Apparently, it’s one of their best sellers.
Blend #18 Don Luis Tawny Port
Their Notes: A unique blend of Lenoir, this port has a buttery, nutty caramel flavor with hints of chocolate at the edges. This wine is ideal after a nice meal; Tawny Port is complemented by dark chocolate or cigars.
My Notes: I also starred this one, so a bottle came home. It smells like a men’s club or the cologne “English Leather.” Very much leather, tobacco, sandalwood but has a sugar scent on the top. It was a deep claret with orange toned edges. It tastes like it smells – spice, sugar, leather, sandalwood, and brown sugar. It’s not a heavy alcohol finish – just lingering sugar. This is a special occasion port – to be enjoyed by people who appreciate port.
It reminded me of the scene in Gosford Park at the end of dinner when Sir William McCordle says “All right, ladies, off you go. Gents, move down. Move down.” And the ladies are sent off to the drawing room for light sherry and music, while the men gather around for cigars and port. However, I’m not going off to the drawing room quietly – and if I have to go – I’m taking this bottle with me for the ladies to enjoy.
I’m really happy I’ve been able to visit the winery and try the wines, even not all of them were my style. I wish I had thought to contact them beforehand to arrange a tour – but with most road trips – schedules have to be fluid. However, I’d highly recommend that if you get the chance to head out that way (it’s only 2.5 hours West of San Antonio) that you go. Some pictures below…