Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Valentine’s Varieties

Wine Spotlight from New Braunfels Monthly
February 2019
By: Connor Brown
Valentine’ Day is right around the corner, and most of us are aware of the stress that can come with it. Often times, it seems that we’re completely on our own trying to make each year better than the last. Fortunately, its very easy to rely on a solid bottle of wine to be your companion for a successful Valentine’s Day. Whether dessert or dinner is the specialty, a good bottle of wine will take the dish to another level. And the least I can do, is recommend a couple of bottles that reserve a special place in my heart for this Valentine’s Day. 
Out of Fredericksburg, Texas, Barons Creek Vineyards makes some of the finest wine known to south Texas. In particular, their Merlot is an easy wine to consider as its complex yet neutral flavor profile compliments any hearty meal. It’s full body and rich ripe cherry notes cascade beautifully into a deep smoky vanilla finish, to provide support to both smooth and savory flavors. This wine also contrasts beautifully with dessert and other sweet treats, so experiment and enjoy!

For a lighter meal with chicken or fish as its focal
point, a dry white wine is ideal. In many occurrences, the zesty and refreshing white wine is paired with lighter fare to bring out the softer, and more delicate flavors of a dish. Try some crisp whites out of Texas like the Fall Creek Sauvignon Blanc. Notes of citrus and mint awaken the palate to form a lasting and rich fruity yet refreshing finish, not only pairing well with a dish, but complimenting it as well.

Sweet treats are best enjoyed with a sweetheart. And with everything that goes into this special day, some slack is always welcome. Don’t sweat it with the chocolate covered strawberries, when you can experience Los Pinos Ranch Besitos De Chocolate. From Pittsburg, Texas, this Lenoir based sweet red wine is literally dessert in a bottle with spot-on notes of chocolate and strawberry and just a hint of alcohol on the finish. Though its one of the most interesting wines to come through The Grapevine, it’s quite delicious and does a solid job of covering dessert for any occasion. 

So here’s to a hopefully less stressful and more successful Valentines Day, with hopes that these Texas wines can help elevate your palate and upgrade your experience on this holiday. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wines for Winter

Wine Spotlight from New Braunfels Monthly
November 2018
By: Connor Brown

Now that its officially cold outside, some of us may be feeling lost or even confused with these sub-80 degree temperatures. Sure, most of us are prepared with some warm clothing or access to heat, but one of the most effective ways to stay warm, is drinking red wine. No foolin’! While alcohol in general will dilate blood vessels to increase blood flow and ultimately heat you up, tannic acid and histamines from red wine pack in a few extra degrees, which helps to explain why many Texans share an adversity towards red wine in the summer. So, let’s take a look at a few wines from around the world, and at home that myself and other Gruene locals have been waiting to indulge in all year.

                Pinot Noir is one of the most popular varietals in the world, and is known for being difficult to grow outside its key climate. Great U.S. Pinot Noir is often found in the northwest regions of the country, with Oregon, and Washington being some of the most popular areas. A local favorite Pinot Noir that exhibits some of the varietals best characteristics, is the A to Z Pinot Noir from Oregon. This wine carries wonderful dark cherry and raspberry notes that are well balanced with light acidity and tannins to make this wine as smooth as velvet from start to finish, making it a perfect easy going companion when trying to ease up on the cold. It’s also neat that Gregg Popovich (Coach of the San Antonio Spurs) is a partner of the winery!

                Another favorite for the season is a blend of three popular northern California varietals. The Cleaver Red Blend from Amador County, California boasts a trifecta of red Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, and Syrah. Individually, these varietals have significant flavor differences. On the surface Zinfandel will commonly offer more spicy, tangy, and fruity flavors, Petit Sirah will present more bold fruit notes, weight, and texture, and Syrah will provide structure and dynamic by being well balanced by nature. However, the harmony between these varietals allow The Cleaver to sing lovely notes of dark cherry and vanilla on the nose and palate, while following through with balanced acidity and a nice spicy yet fruity finish. At nearly 15% alcohol, this wine is also very pleasant for being a bit stronger, but is strong enough thaw a frozen Texan.

                Last but certainly not least, we’ll revisit a favorite from the Hill Country that has been previously mentioned, but honestly not mentioned enough. Duchman Aglianico of Driftwood, Texas is always a favorite for those visiting and those who call Texas home. Aglianico is quite the uncommon grape that thrives in environments like Texas, and is slowly becoming more popular at vineyards in Texas, and around the world. Duchman does a fine job of balancing the flavors of the notoriously hearty and tannic grape, while maintaining consistency between vintages. This wine greets the palate with bright cherry and red fruit notes while being carried by a subtle minerality before transforming into a zesty, balanced and oaky finish. While this wine is quite dry, it awakens the palate and leaves the drinker in desire for more, until it’s simply not-so-cold anymore.

                So, with a whole world of wine available to us, and as we adjust to the cold for a few months, just remember to take advantage of this season in more ways than wine. Be sure to try some of the great wine mentioned above with your favorite winos down the street from the Hall, we always love (wine)ing. Come and Taste It, Y’all!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Hye Quality Texas Wine

Wine Spotlight from New Braunfels Monthly
August 2018
By: Connor Brown

                Wine in Texas lives and comes from many places in our great state, though many of us are most familiar with those wineries in and around Fredericksburg. Sure, we have the giants like Llano in Lubbock and Messina Hof in College Station, but an up-and-coming area for wine is none other than Hye, Texas. Where is Hye and what’s so special about this area? Well, there’s much more to Hye than just a cool name (and copious amounts of puns). In a previous spotlight, we dove into a little of what Hye had to offer with the William Chris Skeleton Key and Mourvedre. However, just down the road, Hye Meadow makes some equally delicious juice that’s all Texas, using carefully selected varietals and made with nothing but love. I promise this wine won’t sit in your fridge until your next family gathering. 

                With such a vast selection, it’s hard to pick out a favorite. However, in my most semi-professional opinion, the Tempranillo, Trebbiano, and Edelzwicker stand out as exceptional Hye Meadow wines. The Tempranillo takes my top pick for a dry red. It has an excellent robust body with bursting fruit notes throughout and, characteristically for a temp, a tobacco, spice, and oaky finish, without the illusion of drinking tree bark. This varietal is traditionally from Spain but has gained popularity in Texas as it grows so well in our soil and climate. This particular wine has the right balance versus other Texas Tempranillos. Enjoy this with a plethora of hearty meals, but definitely give its complexity a chance to shine alone during a cool evening.

                For a lighter, whiter option, the Trebbiano steals the show even over their Rosato (Rosé in Italy) and usually I’m pretty partial to rosé. Now that doesn’t mean their mastermind blend of Dolcetto, Aglianico, Montepulciano, Negro Amaro, and Sangiovese isn’t amazing, it just means I was blown away by their 100% Trebbiano. It’s different from other Texas Trebbiano as it has more depth and complexity as it’s made with a single varietal. This wine isn’t too light or too much of anything. It has a wonderful body and mouthfeel, but the bursting fruit flavor captivates the drinker and eventually cascades into a delicate lasting finish that’s so smooth and balanced -- no jumpy tannins and nothing is left to be desired. This is an all day, everyday wine. If only there was a place in New Braunfels that had it… *ahem*

                And last but certainly not least, a sweeter option for all our sweethearts out there, the Edelzwicker. A refreshing take on a traditional German grape blend of Reisling, Roussanne, and Malvasia Bianca graces the palate with a subtle sweetness that carries the wine from start to finish. With a slightly higher residual sugar content, it doesn’t disrespect the drinker with brazen sweetness but instead adds to the overall experience of the blend. First, we’re greeted by the roussane and its lovely texture and weight, but then we’re whisked away by the Riesling and its lovely fruity and crisp finish. Definitely, a must to try with dessert or even a spicy dish to compliment the heat and draw out more subtle flavors. Heck, have a glass or two on the porch or by the pool and let it be your companion to cope with this summer’s heat!

                So go ahead and try something from Hye, and taste why you’ll be seeing more from this lovely winery and why their wines rank so Hye on my list of good Texas wines! Keep tasting, Texas!

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Historic Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar

The Gristmill: Then & Now

Situated on a bluff overlooking the Guadalupe River, this spectacular restaurant nestled under the shade of towering oak trees has been the perfect getaway for a unique casual dining experience for over forty years.

Situated on the banks of the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels between Austin and San Antonio, the Gruene cotton gin processed crops raised by area farmers until the wooden structure burned to the ground in 1922 leaving only the brick boiler room. All that remains of the water-powered mill today is that three-story brick boiler room – now the Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar.

Located in the historic district of Gruene just beneath the famous Gruene water tower, The Gristmill opened in 1977, serving steaks and hamburgers from a tiny kitchen in the corner of the building. The multi-level restaurant features outdoor and indoor dining with sweeping views of the river, special dining rooms with native stone fireplaces, an indoor bar with waiting area and wood burning stove, a relaxing beer garden and a merchandise store.  The River Grove, added in 1998, is a refreshing open air, bricked patio nestled in a grove of trees overlooking the river.

Today, while the menu still features thick steaks and large hamburgers, they also serve up popular South Texas Favorites like chicken fried steak, fried catfish, grilled chicken, enormous sandwiches, fresh fish and off menu daily specials. 

And if you’re not stuffed from your meal, or if you decide to save room, their desserts are AMAZING! Fudge pie, Texas-sized strawberry shortcake, German chocolate cake, and their signature Jack Daniel’s Pecan Pie are some of their most popular.

Not only do they have delicious food, they also offer a full bar complete with fresh margaritas and frozen sangria. Some of their most popular drinks including the Perfect Patron Margarita and Grizzly Sangria. They even have live music in the beer garden most weekends! Check out this month's lineup here.  

In recent years The Gristmill has played host to many familiar faces including John Travolta, Robert Duvall, Rob van Winkle (aka Vanilla Ice), Tiffani Amber Thiessen of 90210 and Saved by the Bell, Erik McCormack of Will & Grace, Sherman Hemsley of The Jeffersons, Lou Diamond Phillips, Mary Lou Retton and Dan Rather.

The Gristmill has also served several notable politicians including former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Texas Governer Ann Richards, Texas Governor Rick Perry, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Notable sports figures include the San Antonio SPURS, former head coach of the 49ers Bill Walsh and former UT coach Darrell Royal, and the Gristmill provided food for the X Games at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Last but not least, countless music artists have been guests at the Gristmill including George Strait, Rodney Crowell, Miranda Lambert, Evan Felker or Turnpike Troubadours, John Hiatt, Pat Green, Bruce Robison, Cody Canada, Robert Earl Keen, Aaron Neville, Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett, The Smashing Pumpkins, Evanescence, Kacey Musgraves, Midland and Maren Morris.

Next time you're in Gruene, you have to stop by and have dinner and drinks! It's the quintessential Texas Hill Country dining experience.

For more info and a full menu, visit

Draft Beer for All!

Wine Spotlight from New Braunfels Monthly
July 2018
By: Connor Brown

Draft Beer for All!

They say the intense heat and the mocking rays of the sun can make one act and feel strange. Some say this mixture can even cause people to see things that aren’t actually there, and as Texans, most of us have experienced something like this to a slight degree. I recall a particular time wandering around historic Gruene and feeling thirsty, nearly crying for a good beer. I found myself in shop after shop dismissing every taunting Bud Light sign and small refrigerator full of beer cans and bottles only to spot something in the distance. A small building with draft beer handles. “No way,” I thought to myself. “Seven different handles right in the middle of town! Is this a mirage? Did I just stumble upon some sort of beer oasis? Are those mostly Texas Craft beers?” I remained skeptical until I was offered free tastes of my desired brew, and I collapsed in pure joy and elation!

Okay, okay, so maybe I’m a bit dramatic (and full of it), but the tap handles don’t lie! There are now seven beers on tap at The Grapevine, featuring five Texas crafts and a couple staples for your less-hip uncle! However, with so many options it may get confusing, especially when affected by the Texas sun, so here are a couple suggestions to jumpstart your draft beer journey…

Try the Faust Ghostly Pale Ale! A wonderful ale with balanced malty and hoppy flavors. This beer has a semi-sweet caramel flavor on the front that finishes with an earthy airiness that’s just hoppy enough to give it the pale title, but light enough for drinkers who are inching into the pale ale or IPA scene. This beer also lacks the higher alcohol content which many pale ale or IPA’s tend to have, which will allow for a longer day walking around town, or jamming to some tunes in the garden.

Out of all seven beers featured this summer, a favorite despite the heat, is the Hops and Grains Porter Culture. Indeed, the darkest beer on draft is still a favorite Texas craft brew. For most of us, its hard to think of anyone enjoying a Porter in 100+ degree weather, but this one is special because it doesn’t feel like one on the palate. While only feeling a bit heavier than an amber, the flavor will please any seasoned stout or porter drinker with robust notes of malts and coffee, but you won’t be sweating halfway through the pint as the finish is more delicate and smooth. This beer is the perfect pre-game partner for a Gruene Hall concert as it packs a punch at 6.5% so it will keep you dancing all night without weighing you down!

So stop sweating and swing on by to find your favorite summer draft in the heart of Gruene. Let us be your beer guide as we beat the heat and inch closer to cooler days. Keep tasting, Texas!   …And don’t forget to hydrate with water when consuming alcohol.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Summer Flavors in Gruene

Wine Spotlight from New Braunfels Monthly
June 2018
By: Connor Brown

Summer is finally here, which means many of us are ready to take it easy and pop a bottle or crack open a cold one to celebrate the beginning of the lazy season here in New Braunfels. Luckily, there are plenty of options to pair with the Texas heat that will leave you feeling refreshed rather than defeated when trying to enjoy the season, but with so many different flavors and choices, it can be a task to find the right beverage to accompany a summer day in Texas. However, with almost 400 wineries and about 200 craft breweries in our state, there are certainly options that can quench our (seemingly) eternal thirst during the next few months regardless of your preference. 

To begin, lets talk beer. To some, beer is the lifeline between a good time and a bad time, but they can be quite heavy and filling, leaving the drinker feeling sluggish and uncomfortable. Imagine walking through Gruene on a smoldering day with a dark and heavy Guinness just after a huge meal at The Gristmill. Even the most seasoned beer drinker would find a light beer more pleasurable in that instance. Lucky for them, refreshing, easy-drinking beer styles dominate the Texas craft scene. Try a local favorite, Altstadt Lager out of Fredericksburg. This beer is almost too easy to drink, made from the freshest ingredients straight from Germany, but brewed with big Texas spirit. This beer is smooth yet crisp on the palate, and leaves one feeling refreshed with no lingering finish or after taste, so nothing but the flavor keeps you drinking.

As for wine, and those who frequent these spotlight articles (thank you!), or have spoken with me at the tasting room, may already know where this is going… ROSÉ! Yes, the perfect mid-point between white and red wine where one can enjoy some bold notes of a dry red and the crisp refreshing flavors of a white wine. My favorite at the moment is the Kuhlman Cellars Cinsaut Rosé. Another extraordinary winery from Stonewall, Texas takes this native French varietal from the Texas High Plains and crafts it into a magnificently fruity, bright, and zesty rosé. As this grape thrives in Texas, we can expect it to be delicious, with a nose of faint tropical fruit, a bold strawberry front and a graceful finish that leaves the palate refreshed with flavors of fresh watermelon and balanced acidity to keep you sipping. Grab this one while you can, as some of us may be in the process of stockpiling cases for the summer.

So as we kick off the summer, and all the festivities that keep us thirsty, remember we’ve got your back the next time your looking to cool off. With free tastings, free friendly knowledge and moral support, your friends in Gruene are always here to help you through the dog days and be your guide to what the great state of Texas has to offer.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Rosé Wines

Wine Spotlight from New Braunfels Monthly 

By Connor Brown
The Grapevine in Gruene Historic District

When Rosé is mentioned in wine conversations, many of us think of our grandmothers and the sweet pink wine that we've all snuck tastes of. However, not all Rosé wine is sweet, and the process of making a rosé wine is one of the oldest around. It offers a wide range of flavors to appease even the most picky wine drinkers. While there are many ways to achieve a rosé, one of the most common methods is called skin contact. This method basically allows red wine grapes to ferment with the skins for a limited time before the juice is drained and separated, leaving a wonderful pink juice to continue to mature into a delectable rosé wine. And though rosés have been produced for centuries, many US wine regions and other world regions have just started to experiment with producing dry rosé. Texas, however, has been on the train for quite some time, and The Grapevine offers a nice selection of them from some of Texas' most beloved wineries.

On the menu is Fall Creek Creekside Rosé, a luscious deep pink, off-dry wine made just down the road in Driftwood. The Creekside Rosé is a well-balanced and full-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo, and Syrah that boasts big fruit flavors of strawberries and watermelon with a zesty crisp acidic finish. This wine falls right in the middle of dry and sweet, and should be served chilled to allow maximum relaxation in the Texas heat.

Another favorite is the Kiepersol Rosé of Malbec from Tyler, Texas. This beautiful pale pink wine is light-bodied and mostly dry with wonderful melon and berry notes, followed by a crisp, smooth, semi-earthy finish. If you enjoy a Malbec for its soft smooth tannins, and round flavor profile, the Keipersol Rose of Malbec can easily be your new springtime favorite offering similar flavors with a lighter and more refreshing taste.

And for those who prefer something on the sweeter side, our neighbors at Dry Comal Creek here in New Braunfels have been perfecting the blush for years with their White Black Spanish. This wine has deep Texas roots with the Lenoir, or Black Spanish, grape that has been imbedded in American wine growing culture since the 19th century and is now grown vastly in the Lone Star State. (We even have some growing on the porch at The Grapevine!) This lovely blend of Black Spanish and French Columbard has a deep garnet color and tastes of ripe berry and cherry with a soft semi-sweet and jammy finish. However this wine isn't near too sweet with well-balanced cinnamon and citrus flavors to keep the sweetness from overpowering the delicate fruit notes that pull it together.

As someone who almost exclusively drinks Rosé, it's great to see such prestigious Texas wineries find their viticultural roots in producing this timeless wine style. It also grants many more options for those red and white wine drinkers to meet in the middle. In Gruene, we're all about good times, rich history and fine wine, so let’s all spend less time arguing reds versus whites and more time enjoying!