I don’t usually go for events advertised on Facebook from groups I don’t know – but this sounded laid back and fun. The perfect girls day out with my best gal pal.
Basically, it’s an indoor wine festival with a set of wineries for tastings and buying a bottle, some food vendors and some local crafters. Just add the veg and meat sellers and you’d have your typical farmers market. But you can read an official description on the Texas Winos website (here) – it’s at the bottom of the page – or pick an event. The pricing wasn’t too out of line with the cost of a normal tasting – just more options.
I’ll walk through the wineries in attendance and then tell you what we thought at the end under “Final Thoughts.”
Based in Hye, Texas – don’t know where Hye, Texas is – don’t worry – its on Highway 290 between Austin and Fredericksburg (aka the Wine Road). We didn’t snap a picture of this booth, but then again we’d just walked in a room where people were playing poker and shuffleboard… and the line was a little overwhelming – as people don’t know how to queue.
To be honest – starting with Cider was probably not the best idea. Especially since we teamed up with the couple behind us in line (we’ll call them P & J) and it was his first time at a wine tasting. Which, honestly is what this event was designed for – to make wine approachable.
How’d we team up? Well, he saw me making notes about the Hye Stylin’ and asked me what I thought – and I said “tastes like flat champagne.” I got – “yes, it does, like when you open the bottle and can’t put the cork back so you stuff it with paper towels.” I hate to say it – but he nailed the taste! Complete with the weird aftertaste because it’s oxidized just a bit.
Now, normally I’m a huge fan of ciders – but this didn’t really do them justice – so I guess I’m just going to have to head to Hye to try them again.
We headed to the next table – Tara Vineyards, but I’ll come back to them.
This was one we’d tried many times before, so again, no picture. It was fun suggesting what P & J should try. He’s from Oklahoma and says the don’t have wine there… well you know I did the road trip and reviewed Oklahoma wines – they were okay. He insists the moonshine is better. So, you better contact me so we can go on a moonshine tasting.
She’s local to McKinney, but got her to try the Tempranillo since she’d never had it. All us girls agreed it was good. I think he still had his mind on moonshine.
Located in Naples, Texas – which is in East Texas on your way to Texarkana, this was a new winery to me.
To be honest – the people serving didn’t make much of an impression on us – they seemed tired and not that interested in discussing their wine. But with group after group after group of people, I can see how if you weren’t used to it – you’d get tired.
We tried the Mourvèdre (more-veh-druh), and I know in my southern accent it doesn’t sound right (more-verd) – but the wine was good. A dry, full bodied red. The notes on their sign said “earthy notes, soft red fruit flavors & dark fruit & aromas of black pepper, thyme.” I’d agree.
I also tried the Red Moscato – which had a bit of a watermelon flavor to it. It’s a porch pounder. We had to explain that to P & J. I didn’t try the one he did that made him say it tasted like bad cough syrup. Hey – don’t be embarrassed – it’s probably a very accurate description, I probably would have said the same thing. I believe it was the Chocolate Lach Rua.
The Sig Red (not pictured) was described as your typical merlot. None of us tried the Sedoga (a semi-dry white.)
Being very familiar with Hidden Hangar I was really disappointed by their options.
They brought none of the blends, other than the Riveter Rosie – but then again since the people manning the booth didn’t seem to want to be there – I can see why you’d stick to what you know.
I wondered why it wouldn’t be anyone I’d know, having just been at the pick-up party. It hit me later that this event took place at the same time as the Houston Rodeo & Livestock show – which has a huge wine event – including a competition. So, yes the owner, wine maker and others would be there and not at this “little” event. But I will say, after having raved about how good the wines were, how friendly the people were – it was a tad embarrassing. However, everyone agreed – Riveter Rosie needed some BBQ.
If you haven’t read my posts on Hidden Hangar – check them out here (link).
This “winery” is located in Bertram, Texas (northwest of Austin), though much like the cidery, it’s more of a mixer producer than a winery.
But each bottle makes up to a gallon of drinks. It’s unfiltered and they only use organic fruit and no chemicals. Yet once you open a bottle you can leave it out and still use it for six months. Which is good, because while I can see how I’d have a time for a gallon of Sangria – I’m not sure I’d do it that often.
However, they are unique mixers and the Spiced Black Current Extra Hard Mixer tastes like Christmas. Add some whiskey and hot water and I’ve got a toddy.
This was probably one of the most enthusiastic groups at the gathering and we had a great time discussing how to remix classic cocktails using their mixers. I can definitely see if I’m down that way, stopping by and enjoying a drink.
Blue Duck is located in Cisco, Tx (west of Fort Worth) and I met them at the 10th Annual Vineyard Festival in Brownfield, Texas. At the time I only got to try their Primativo (see review here). And also the Cynthia Ann – which I haven’t written up yet.
I tried the Viognier – so did my gal pal – and we both loved it. I had to explain what I meant when my first comment was “tastes like West Texas.” But it has a sharp taste with a sweet finish. My gal pal said “better than most viogniers in Texas.” I’d agree.
We then convinced several people to try the Cynthia Ann. Still as decadent as I remember – and yes, I will open my bottle soon and stop saving it for a special occasion.
Tara Vineyards is located in Athens, Texas – so another East Texas winery. They were the second winery we visited and the one where we had the most fun. Especially since P & J hung out with us. It was great getting his comments. We tried everything they brought and honestly there was not a bad one in the group. We all liked some more than others, and we didn’t all like the same ones. Here’s a rundown on some comments from the tasting.
But note – I’ll definitely have to go back and do a proper tasting, if anything to stay in the historic bed & breakfast (here). Though explaining why your rinse your glass between wines – or at least whites and reds got quite a few people to start rinsing.
- Twelve Oaks – a Mourvèdre/Syrah blend that dries the tongue
- Texas Cabernet Sauvignon – not bad
- The next was either a pure Mourvèdre or Montepulciano, but I have no notes
- Blanc du Bois – this was fruity with a good taste. A bottle came home with me
- Texas Deck Wine – a rosé – which was good and definitely an entry wine for those new to wine. It’s a bit of a porch pounder – but more of a lazy Sunday afternoon with a book type porch wine.
- Texas Twang – made from Lenoir grapes (Black Spanish) – this came home with me too – even if its technically a sweet red – but I wanted to try this almost native to Texas grape
- Sweet Scarlet Rosé — Very Sugary – but the “he” from P & J was starting to get into tasting and liked this one. Another sort of entry wine – but also a great dessert wine
- Something Sweet – named because people would respond “pour me something sweet” when asked what they wanted. It had an herbal taste to it – between the four of us we narrowed it down to pine – which makes sense, since Athens is in the Piney Woods
- Angels Kiss – Pure Sugar. The he of P & J said “its got a funny little backend.” Which is a great way to describe the lingering taste it leaves on the tongue. You can’t quite tell what it is – but wouldn’t mind taking another sip.
- Blueberry Blanc – made with Blanc du Bois infused with blueberries. This was straight blueberry syrup from my childhood. Not a bad thing – but not my fav.
- Starboard – dessert wine in the style of a port. It’s chocolate cherry. After some discussion my gal pal nailed it with it’s a liquid form of the chocolate cherries you get at Christmas time… the one her Mother-in-Law loves… yep – Queen Anne Cherries with a touch more alcohol and blended smooth.
Tara really was the high point in this event, which didn’t live up to our probably greatly inflated expectations. I know its a relatively young venture (this is the second year I think if the internet is to be believed) in terms of the wino fests, and maybe the fact that it was the same weekend as the Houston Rodeo events may have had something to do with the experience. The format wasn’t too bad and unlike other events, you did get to taste before you bought a bottle (no by the glass sales), and the wineries were pretty consistent with their pours.
But when you promise me a souvenir wine glass – I at least expect something with your logo screen printed on it…. not just a stemless glass I could liberate from Holiday Inn. Maybe you ran out… but nothing was said. If the promised “instructional material” was the sheet you gave me for notes, I wish something would have explained how you expected me to use it.
While you had tables around, it was hard to take notes and the queues were all over the place, you never knew if you were jumping line or not. I’ve already mentioned the placement of the wineries being a factor.
It was only 7 wineries – and while two were local – there were at least 4 more wineries within an 1.5 hour drive of the event that could have participated. Maybe the Rodeo impacted that – maybe it was a space thing. I will say, it was nice to have some wineries that I couldn’t easily visit as making weekend trips to a lot of the wineries in Texas is not easy from Dallas/Fort Worth
IF I was to do this again – I’d bring my own notebook to make notes – at least then while standing at the tasting table I have a hard surface to write upon.
Overall, my gal pal, and I had a great time. We laughed, we chatted with people, we enjoyed good and bad wine. More so, it was a great girls afternoon out in a relaxed atmosphere with no pretension (as promised). So, if you are looking for a family friendly, laid-back, come as you are, not bougie, as my brother would say, way to experience wine. I highly recommend it. See more upcoming Wino Fests and tours on the website here (link).