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

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Bottled Summer: Citrus Flavors and Sunshine

By Connor Brown at The Grapevine

      If anybody knows about quenching thirst deep in the heat of the summer, it is the wineries deep in the heart of Texas! Located in Lubbock, Llano Estacado is one of the largest and best-selling wineries in the state—and their sauvignon blanc or rosé are the perfect summer wine selections.

      Sauvignon blanc is one of the most popular grape varietals, known to any wine-lover. Originally from the Bordeaux region in France, sauvignon blanc is a popular grape at vineyards all over the world for its versatility and variety in flavor. With so many different climates and conditions in the world, the flavor of this common grape is distinctly different depending on the region.

      This grape can be grown in every corner of the world, but Texans do it particularly well. This varietal demands sunshine, but cannot thrive in high temperatures. Finding the perfect compromise, Llano Estacado grows their fruit in the sweet spot of the high planes so it gets plenty of sunshine without getting battered by the extreme Texas heat.

      Llano Sauvignon Blanc is a dry white wine, boasting aromas of guava and lemon peel. Beginning with beautiful tropical fruit on the nose, a ripe lemon citrus flavor carries a balanced acidity into a pleasantly full-bodied mouthfeel. This wine carries a complexity found in other full-bodied white varietals while maintaining its light and zesty delicacy. This unique balance is what makes it a special, distinct American sauvignon blanc. Easy to drink on a hot summer day, keep a bottle chilled to enjoy in your favorite shady spot.

      With growing popularity, rosé has become a new go-to summer wine as more and more people discover its delicately refreshing qualities at the mid-point between white and red.

      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.

      The Llano Rosé is born using this method. After a maximum of 10 hours skin contact to extract flavor and color, the skins are gently pressed and the juice racked into stainless steel tanks where they ferment with a special yeast blend to preserve the delicate aromatics and build citrus flavor. The perfect classic rosé should be aromatic, food friendly and enjoyable on its own. Llano Rosé is all three, to a tee.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

17 Memes for Every Taco-Lover

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Cantina del Rio - Gruene, Texas

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Monday, June 8, 2020

10 Things We Love to Order at Mozie's

Mozie's - Gruene, Texas
 In a setting of casual rustic elegance where the all-sports TV’s and air conditioning are always on, Mozie’s in Gruene Historic District features a full bar and an all-day menu of favorite American classics done right.

Here are some local favorites!

Mozie's - Gruene, Texas
Nothing satisfies like a juicy, flame-kissed cheeseburger...and this is the king of them all.

Mozie's - Gruene, Texas
The Anticuchos prove that 3 simple components, when assembled thoughtfully, can be absolutely delicious.

Mozie's - Gruene, Texas
With fresh, bright flavors, the Fish Tacos are a meal that will fill you up without slowing you down!

Mozie's - Gruene, Texas
This is a super classic, deliciously familiar dish— but don't mistake that for basic flavor. It's anything but basic.

Mozie's - Gruene, Texas
 Are you an onion ring connoisseur? You're gonna love these rings. Don't typically care for onion rings? You're gonna love these rings. (Really.)

Mozie's - Gruene, Texas
 A hidden gem, this sandwich is purely craveable! There's friend chicken sandwiches and then there's the Panko Sandwich at Mozie's.

Mozie's - Gruene, Texas
Simple and straight forward sliders like you've never had them before. Served 3 to an order— although you'll wish you had room for more!

Mozie's - Gruene, Texas
From the slow-simmered sauce to the handmade meatballs, the Meatball Sub is a deliciously hearty sandwich you'll never see coming.

Mozie's - Gruene, Texas
 Don't overlook this local favorite— the seemingly simple Big Dog is layered with flavors that are just meant to be.

Mozie's - Gruene, Texas
It's a fresh, delicious dish that surpasses the meager reputation of a typical turkey sandwich.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Texas Wine: These Hills Have Vines

By Connor Brown at The Grapevine

               It is hard to avoid the elephant in the room. For many of us, things are far different than they were at the beginning of the year. In just a short amount of time, many of us have experienced unprecedented changes and are still overcoming challenges adjusting to this “new normal”. However, Texans are notoriously resilient, and during these times we are all doing our part to keep each other safe, healthy, and happy. Among us, are wine makers, grape growers, and thousands of others in the industry that are fighting to keep doors open and to help our beautiful state recover. Therefore, while being our best selves and taking proactive measures to stay safe, it has now become our urgent duty to help one of our oldest and reliable industries and drink up as much Texas wine as possible.

               Texas history is deeply rooted in wine and begins as early as 1662 with a vineyard established by European missionaries. These vineyards became more abundant as our historical churches and missions began to be constructed and the demand for communion wine increased. In the mid-19th century, the French world of wine was in peril as a massive phylloxera (invasive, vine-thirsty insect) problem wiped out over 25% of vines planted in France. This required a Texas sized solution, and with the help of Thomas Volney Munson, the French wine industry was saved. Thomas Volney Munson was a scientist who discovered that American vines had become immune to the pest. Through extensive research, he determined a specific grape grown near Temple, Texas would have the most success being grafted and grown in southern France due to the soil. Mr. Munson became the second American to receive the Chevalier du Mérite Agricole (Order of Agricultural Merit) behind Thomas Edison. By 1883 Frank Qualia opened Val Verde Winery in Del Rio which roared through the 20s and stayed optimistic through the Depression of the 30s to become the oldest winery in Texas today. Through their perseverance and the support of their community, Val Verde helped pave the way for countless other growers and producers in our state that helped create a wave in the 1970s when the industry saw its largest growth. Between 1975 and 1985, some of the biggest names including McPherson, Messina Hof, and Fall Creek produced their first vintages, and have since produced hundreds more and inspired new wineries as Texas ranks among the top in the country for wine production and consumption.

               Make no mistake, the Texas wine industry is as strong as ever with over four hundred wineries, over four thousand acres of planted vines, and booming business worth at least thirteen billion dollars. In fact, The Hill Country alone is the second largest AVA (American Viticultural Area) in the country and is home to over 50 wineries. However, these impressive figures do not grant immunity to freak events like pandemics, and wineries are still counting on us to enjoy their wine so they can keep making it. So, as we remember do our part in everything else, let us not forget to support our neighbors so they can continue to support us.