Monday, February 1, 2021

Uncork Gruene

By Connor Brown at The Grapevine

Gruene is a wonderful little historic district known for its honky tonk history and has served as the setting for unforgettable moments creating fond memories for generations of Texans. February is especially unique to our area as love dominated the air making special opportunities to take advantage of the season and create memories that last a lifetime. Fortunately, this humble town has been around longer than I can count after a glass of wine, so we can luckily always return for a visit. But wouldn't it be nice to take these feelings and bottle them up for a later time? Well, the masterminds of Gruene and Llano Estacado set out to do just this with some brand new and exclusive wines specially crafted and designed to invoke such a feeling when in need.

It all started with a big idea from the sommelier in charge at The Grapevine and his desire to start something big to make people think of Gruene when drinking Texas wine. A strong relationship with Llano Estacado created a Valentine's month miracle when the fling got serious and this idea became a project. For months, various teams of wine nerds and wine makers worked tirelessly to fit as much of the town into a bottle as possible before realizing it was no simple task. No single bottle could hold the history, beauty and energy of this town that flows from the historic water tower and into our hearts. Therefore, the compromise became two unique styles of wine that could capture most of the awe-inspiring details that create the experiences we all return for time after time. A rugged bourbon barrel aged Cabernet Sauvignon and a delicate yet headstrong un-oaked Chardonnay to personify what the town is about to anyone ready to fill a glass.

With specially selected grapes from the high plains of Texas, our special edition Cabernet needed to be bold like the visionaries responsible for the restoration and operation of our picture perfect town. Most importantly, the flavor needed to match the love that was poured into creating the vision, with nothing other than award-winning Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels to give the most excellent bourbon expressions while maintaining the best essence of Texas Cabernet. With every little detail as important as every brick in the H.D Gruene building, this Cabernet does not fall short of excellent. Admire its beautiful rich color, luxurious aromas of brown sugar and toasted walnut before greeting an eager palate with complex notes of dark fruits and caramel. The soul of bourbon comes through on the finish with subtly spicy notes of oaky vanilla that melts into a memory of warm firepits and good times under the stars in The Grapevine Garden.

The un-oaked Chardonnay represents the more delicate and detailed side of town, where any experience never fails to be amazing. This wine was created to be innovative and unique with its full body and oak-less flavor allowing for more delicate expressions of fruit to take center stage around crisp and bright acidity. A beautiful nose of white peach and apricot briefly dissolves into a kiss of honeydew before approaching the palate. Upon first sip, the drinker is mesmerized by round flavors of toasted almond carried by Chardonnay before bright notes of citrus from Chenin Blanc take the reins and gallop away from an impressive Hill Country sunset, only to turn around for another glance at its beauty. The delicate complexity of this Chardonnay is unmatched by most attempts at this varietal in our great state, displaying the wine maker's prowess and commitment to excellent tasting Texas wine, only attainable from a great partnership.

And good partners are made to last, especially in the month of love as these wines are becoming more popular every day through loyal locals and curious connoisseurs. So, stop in for a sip and step out with a story!

Monday, December 7, 2020

Mocha and Mead

By Connor Brown at The Grapevine 

December in the Hill Country wears many different hats– Stetson hats, to be specific. Some days we are graced with beautiful blue skies that carry a chill, and some days we find ourselves in short sleeves breaking a sweat. After months of Zoom interactions and going stir crazy, the cool gentle breeze on a warm Texas day is the beginning of another eventful month in our humble community. As we embrace the gift of double-digit weather and breathtaking sights of seasons changing, we also prepare for a list of traditions that come with it. However this spectacular season is rather brief, so it is best to enjoy it while it lasts and not make any rash decisions without the help of some seasonal sippin'. 

What never changes is our appreciation for delicious Texas-made beverages that accompany us through each change in weather. Fortunately, our friends at the Faust and Meridian Hive have us covered for the unexpected. There is never a bad time for a beer, and the sensation of enjoying a stout by the fire is unmatched, especially when enjoying the Mocha Stout from our friends at the Faust Brewery here in New Braunfels. Specially crafted with java beans, this brew packs a punch with robust coffee notes upon first sip finishing with malty flavors of dark chocolate and subtle smoke. Despite its deep dark color, this beer is still smooth and light on the palate, also allowing the drinker to indulge with its friendly alcohol content of 5.6%.

In the event we find ourselves basking in the warm rays of Texas during this month, fear not as the busy bees at Meridian Hive offer a unique alternative to thirsty Texans. Mead is a honey-based elixir made in many different fashions, but Meridian Hive uses only pure honey and real fruit to create a wide spectrum of flavors while being naturally sweet and gluten free. Of their selections, their Lemon Mead sticks out as a beverage of choice on a sunny day. As soon as the can is cracked, bright citrus and honey permeate the nose to resemble a pleasant hot toddy. On the palate, sweet honey cascades into a soft velvet texture, only to lift with a sting of refreshing lemon. Though the honey weighs slightly heavier on the palate, these flavors combined create a light, refreshing, and balanced drinking experience at a lovely 5% ABV, allowing for increased seasonal enjoyment, without buzzing like a bee. 

Whether you find yourself in a stout situation on a frigid day or a mead driven mozie in the sun, enjoy the season whatever it may offer with some of the best brews Texas can make for you. Happy Holidays, and don't forget to bring a koozie!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Flavor Trip

By Connor Brown at The Grapevine 

November marks the start of yet another exciting month for New Braunfels, even despite the curveballs our community has been thrown. Sure, things have been different, even strange at times, but more than ever our remarkable resilience is painted proudly on our city as we continue to navigate and persevere through this peculiar period in our history. We've stood up to these challenges and worked our hardest to make the best of a less-than-pleasant experience, and together we've done our finest to preserve one of the oldest industries in Texas. An industry whose creations bring us together to create memories, mementos, and relationships as we continue down an ever curious path. Texas wine isn't going anywhere. Many wineries have doubled down to let us know that they mean business by continuing to innovate and impress even the pickiest palates in the Lone Star State.

Mike and Denise Batek of Hye Meadow winery haven't skipped a beat when it comes to their passion for wine. Throughout the last few months, they've been tending to their expansive, exquisite vineyard and tasting room all while experimenting and concocting new vintages for us all to enjoy. Mr. Batek is a visionary when it comes to winemaking, and isn't afraid to experiment with the various "spices" in his cabinet. In the Come & Taste It interview I had with Mike, he compared his winemaking process to cooking and each element at his disposal could be seen as another spice or seasoning to complete the dish. Of course, a master chef cannot create excellence without an excellent palate, and years of experience and wine tasting led him and Denise to do us all a favor and open Hye Meadow Winery. Hye Meadow excels at capturing the Texas terroir with all of their wines. Their drive for quality and drinkability is abundantly clear with every bottle produced.

A brand new release from Hye Meadow this month is their 2017 Paka Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most popular varieties in the entire world. Originating in France, the Cabernet Sauvignon grape has been cloned and planted all over the world, including various regions in Texas. Hye Meadow is astute on quality and harnessing the complexities of our terroir. Key factors to their exceptional wines come from knowledge of what grows well in Texas, what flavors come from our soil, and what regions grow certain grapes the best. The cooler, wetter region of North Texas was the perfect option which led Hye Meadow to seek the Cabernet grapes grown at Paka Vineyards, allowing for unique yet familiar expressions to come from this wine as it's opened.

First impressions are always important, and as soon as this wine is uncorked, get ready for a ride. A deep purple hue on the underside of the cork is the equivalent to an ornate initial at the beginning of any book worth reading. It begins to tell the story even before the wine is decanted, and only then is the beauty clearly seen. Aromas of deep earth and oak permeate the senses before lifting into a beautiful bouquet of ripe red fruit. As soon as it touches the palate, delicate plum and black-currant cascade across a ripe and spicy background, carried by soft vanilla and white pepper undertones. Bold, rich, and full of flavor, this is a cab-drinker's cab that is perfect for dinner, or any special occasion down the road. 

Try this and many other selections from Hye Meadow Winery next tie you visit Hye or your friends in Gruene! And a special thank you to Mike and Denise at Hye Meadow Winery for sharing their passion and knowledge with myself, and the great people of Texas for the last 10 years. Cheers!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Wine and Recline

By Connor Brown at The Grapevine

In a town known for its events every month, October is the start of the prime season to be a NewBraunfels-er. A month typically bustling with concerts, festivals, artists' markets is gearing up for a one-of-a-kind virtual event! That's right, Gruene Music and Wine Festival is back and more accessible to everyone who loves Texas wine and craft beer.

From the comfiest cushion of your favorite couch, enjoy learning about over 15 different Texas wineries and breweries with valuable information straight from the source. This virtual event will cover information about their establishments as well as fine-tuned tasting notes to accompany their handpicked selections. Expect up to three different styles from each wine or beer maker, specifically chosen to showcase at this event; a list large enough for even the pickiest connoisseurs.

In addition to exclusive beverages and information, another Gruene Music and Wine Fest tradition is the Texas-sized guitar auction, benefiting the United Way of Comal County. This year with more guitars than ever, it's known as the Greatest Great Guitar Auction! A personal favorite, the event features a line-up of guitars that would make a guitar store owner blush, each signed or personalized by an experienced troubadour. And what could be more fun than an evening in with Texas tastes an tunes?

As we continue to adapt and conquer challenges 2020 throws our way, find solace knowing some traditions are too good to go without. This exceptional content will be featured online and free to the public, but that certainly shouldn't keep anyone from a night out in Gruene to gather for pre-festival beer and wine vibes.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Heat Quencher

By Conner Brown at The Grapevine

      September is a bittersweet month for many of us in the Hill Country. For some, there’s a light at the end of a blistering hot tunnel. For others, it marks an unwinding of the summer season and perhaps a return to not-as-fun activities. Ultimately we can all agree it's been hot and, whether we lament or embrace a cooler climate, we can likely agree on that front. In this new environment of “normal” however, our methods of staying cool are changing. Many of us have simply resorted to making friends with air conditioners and wine bottles, and we'd be hard-pressed to find better companions in such strange and steamy times. However, the decision is never easy as individual wines carry unique expressions from vintages to varietals, which can add some stress to the situation. It's far too hot to panic, so a great strategy starts with staying local and choosing wine made for Texans, by Texans. 

      White wines are a definite go-to when gazing at a near boiling thermometer from a distance. These wines are served chilled, and can be refreshing and satisfying to a thirsty palate. However, it's important to take note of the varietal and fashion it was produced, as not all whites are the same. When discussing the body of a wine, we take into account a full-bodied wine will be rich in texture and flavor, and will likely carry a stronger alcohol content. As a summer drinker, these styles are not ideal when pairing temperature and taste. Lighter bodied wines often have structured acidity that refreshes the palate with every sip, while heavier selections embrace pairing potential and become missing puzzle pieces to favorite dishes. At the end of the day, there is one particular Texas wine that leaps into the spotlight for this event. 

      Despite warm temperatures, we must admit that this is still one of the most beautiful times to live in Texas. Leave it to a Texan to combine two of our most important summer traditions of barbecuing and drinking wine into one at the Salt Lick Winery. In addition to having some of the best BBQ in the state, Salt Lick grows and produces several different wines that usually require a trek to Driftwood to try (if you're not in Gruene, that is). Their BBQ White is an outstanding blend of Trebbiano, Vermentino, Pinot Gris, and Muscat. These varieties come together to form a citrus-forward medley, with strong undertones of limestone and lemongrass. Controlled by its unoaked aging process, a hint of Muscat gives this blend a short kiss of sweetness followed by refreshing acidity to pair perfectly with the patio and the brisket. 

Friday, July 31, 2020

Berries, Spice and Everything Nice

By Connor Brown at The Grapevine

      August is a very important month for many of us New Braunfelsers. A month of cramming in those final trips of the summer, getting the kiddos ready for another great year at school, and most importantly, drinkin’ wine and chillin’! However, some of us have seen our vacations morph into staycations and are turning living rooms into classrooms as we continue adjusting to this new normal. What hasn’t changed? Top Texas wineries bringing some of their finest juice to a little oasis just up the road in Gruene! No sweaty palm, high speed, two-way country road with Formula 1 turns driving necessary!

      Up north in Cedar Park, a small team transforms Texas grapes into gold. Utilizing Texas Tech education and Texas grown experience, Bent Oak Winery is a rising force producing excellent and authentic Texas wine. By paying close attention to terroir and climate, winemaker John Catalano understands the harmony when composing with Texas fruit and soil.

      The Bent Oak Cabernet Sauvignon, born and raised in our state, is hard to come by in a retail store due to a flavor profile in stark contrast to what wine drinkers are used to in cabernet. After all, the highest rated cabs come from France or California. While cab is grown extensively in Texas and used abundantly in blending across the state and country, it’s not common in my experience to drink a truly exceptional Texas Cabernet Sauvignon. And just when I thought 2020 couldn’t get weirder...

      Upon opening the bottle, dark red on the underside of the cork whispers of depth as faint notes of aged amaretto waft into a full bouquet of black cherry and spice on the nose. As the palette prepares for its first sip, white pepper and oak eagerly accompany subtle notes of vanilla and blackberry. The wine is properly aged so tannins make a memorable appearance without overstaying their welcome. Finishing flavors of smokey cranberry cascade across the palette, leaving it eagerly waiting for more. Mr. Catalano makes a wonderful display of winemaking prowess to deliver a familiar cab drinking experience, all while adhering to and exemplifying qualities that make Texas wine unique. This bottle makes a perfect companion for anyone trying to beef up some brisket, or to simply enjoy a cool evening under the Lone Star.

      Of all the things that we could be doing right now, it would certainly be worse if we didn’t have wine. An outlet of sorts, enjoying Texas-made wine is also a way to be closer to the community and support one of the oldest industries in the state, all while helping forget about cancelled travel plans and tomorrow's lesson plan for the little ones. But for those serious about Texas wine, this cab is a must try and a great example of what is going on at Bent Oak Winery.

      Come on in and start with the cab, it won't be long before their Tempranillo, Rose, or Cuvee start sounding just as delicious. Stay safe, and stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Gruene Hall BINGO

Can you get a BINGO on our Gruene Hall card? If not, consider it a To-Do List!

Gruene Hall Bingo
*click to enlarge