Ever heard of it? You will soon. Carl Money and his family, which owns Pontotoc Vineyard, have big plans to turn this small section of a beautiful Texas highway into a Texas wine destination.
Read the front-page San Antonio Express News story by Jennifer McInnis who provides a great overview of the winery, its history and what’s to come.
Our group headed to Pontotoc to see first-hand the property and hear from Carl about his plans. Carl, his wife Frances and his uncle Ronnie (who runs the vineyard with the detail of a hawk) graciously welcomed us to their place, even putting us up for the evening in their several-bedroom home on the property (which has terrific potential to be a future B&B).
Vineyard with home in background
We met Carl at TEXSOM last year with one of our favorite Texas winemakers Don Pullum of Akashic Vineyards, who makes the Pontotoc wines and will soon start his own Akashic winery in this new development that is scheduled to open in October in time for Texas Wine Month.
Don, Ronnie and Carl
In addition to Akashic Vineyards, Alphonse and Martha Dotson will also open a winery here. Alphonse and Martha’s first wine has been a huge hit — the Gotas de Oro - and I can’t wait to see what else they plan to make.
Pontotoc sits between Mason and Llano — in what I would call, the most perfect bike riding stretch of the Hill Country. Absolutely gorgeous country.
The home overlooks the vineyard and immediately upon settling into one of the chairs around the fire pit or on the porch, you start to slow down and just enjoy living.
Jessica and me
Alissa, Margaret and Carl
We enjoyed a lovely dinner prepared by Don, and of course, shared several bottles of Pontotoc wine, which is 100 percent estate Tempranillo and absolutely delicious.
The tasting room is gorgeous — can’t wait to return for harvest (yes, I will get my hands dirty!) and for Texas Wine Month.
Yes, I really am one of the luckiest people I know. I spend lots of my time enjoying wine and visiting Texas wineries. The best part is the friends I travel with and the friends I make along the way, including the winemakers, winery owners and grape growers in the Texas wine industry.
This weekend, Jessica Dupuy of Texas Monthly, Alissa Leehner with SAHMmelier, Margaret Shugart with Wine Roads of Texas and I headed out for a Texas wine journey.
Destination: Mason and Pontotoc.
Of course, we had to make a few stops along the way, starting with Hye. Texas and William Chris Vineyards.
Tasting with Chris Brundrett of William Chris.
My two favs:
Next stop: 4.0 Cellars — the tasting room with McPherson Cellars, Brennan Vineyards and Lost Oak Winery.
Had to pick up Brennan Vineyards Lily and Buffalo Roam.
Next up: Mason and swinging by Sandstone Cellars.
Scott Haupert with Sandstone Cellars
Beautiful, rich, dry reds powered by Touriga
I went home with this piece of art — not sure I will ever want to open it because it’s so beautiful!
Sandstone NV Port
Lenoir definitely ranks high among my favorite restaurants in Austin. I like the small, but stylish restaurant, always-changing menu focused on local foods, and its distinctive wine list.
Out back is a casual area to enjoy a glass of wine while you wait for your table and enjoy music. Inside, there is group seating, individual tables and the bar.
The prix-fixe $38 menu for three items from its field, sea, land and dream courses means it’s not my weekly go-to restaurant, but it’s definitely on my list for special nights out — at least once a quarter.
This past week, I enjoyed butternut mole tortelli with roasted brussel sprouts, drum ceviche with avocado, and crispy goat terrine spiced with harissa. My friend had the smoked sweet potato soup, roasted gulf shrimp with upma polenta, and the rice flan served with meyer lemon curd.
Not a single dish disappointed. And the portions are just right…not too small, not too big. A good value for the price.
The wine list has been carefully selected by Sommelier Mark Sayre from Four Seasons Austin. I was in heaven with the Hugel Riesling from Alsace and the Occhipinti SP68 Nero D’Avola-Frappato. With dessert, we enjoyed the Kracher Welschriesling-Chardonnay that was perfectly sweet, yet balanced.
Congrats Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher. We’ll be back soon!
Yes, Texas does make some great Cabernet Sauvignon!
Frankly, I was a skeptic so that’s why I attended this week’s Texas Wine and Food Consortium tasting of Texas Cabs compared to Old World classics and some other New World wines. But given my skepticism, I wanted to taste them all blind and thankfully, the TWFC folks obliged my request.
Several Texas wines were really nice with lots of red and black fruit, hints of green and even a little funk (which I happen to like).
Here are my favorites from the tasting:
Old World: Le Relais De Dufort-Vivens from Margaux
New World: The Vineyard at Florence Veritas and Stags Leap Artemis
Other Texas Cabs that earned stars were from Bending Branch (Newsom Vineyards), Flat Creek Estate (Newsom Vineyards), Brennan Vineyards and Cap*Rock Winery.
Two highlights of the night:
A Becker Vineyards vertical tasting — let me tell you, if you have the 2007 or 2009 Cabs from the Canada Vineyards, hold on to them (lucky me, I have a 2009)! The 2007 is an elegant wine with nice fruit and hints of cocoa, while the 2009 expresses more earth, tobacco and green pepper notes.
The Becker Claret was also one of my favorite wines of the night — lots of red fruit and, for me, a sour cherry sweet tart finish. And that’s what I like.
Finally, Flat Creek Estates shared a 2002 Cab from their cellar. This 12-year-old Cab was terrific — great fruit, hints of mocha — like a chocolate covered cherry.
Green apple, pear, hint of peach, and lots of wet stone. A lovely, really lovely, unoaked chardonnay from Macon-Villages in Burgundy. Full-bodied wine with nice acidity with a crisp finish.
It caught my eye at HEB where I think it retails for less than $12. Wow. I need to go back and pick up a few more!
The Wine and Food Foundation of Texas has some killer events, and today’s Cowboys and Gauchos was one of them — super fun and laid back, with great wines and amazing BBQ meats prepared by local chefs.
The wines were primarily from Texas and Uruguay, both countries sharing similar climates. More and more Texas wineries are making wines from Uruguay’s Tannat grape — including Bending Branch and Alamosa Wine Cellars, which includes Tannat in its Texacaia red blend. Alamosa’s Jim and Karen Johnson have also been pleased with their Graciano, the first of this Spanish varietal to be produced in Texas. Super nice wine with chocolate-cherry flavor.
My wine favorites included some new Texas wines I have not tasted before: Becker Vineyards Provencal Rose, the first Provencal made by their new winemaker John Leahy, and Flat Creek Estate’s Cuvee Blanc and Tempranillo. I also enjoyed old favorites including the McPherson Cellars Albarino, Duchman Family Winery Vermentino and the Pederales Cellars GSM.
Hye Meadows Winery is set to open in several months and will offer wines from Washington state, including a lovely Edelzwicker, Chardonnay and Sangiovese. Today, they shared a tank sample of their first Texas Tempranillo.
My food favorites: Jack Allen’s cabrito tacos and Cafe Josie glazed pork with a sweet sauce and served with the most amazing, super crisp sweet but peppery cookie.
Salt Lick Pavilion meat pit
Jim and Karen Johnson with Alamosa Graciano
Alyssa @Sahmmelier and Matt @whatareyoudrinking
Hye Meadow Winery owners Mike and Denise Batek with Matt McGinnis
Hye Meadow Winery wines
David Mayfield, king of Tannat and importer of Uruguay wines
John Bratcher and Kassie McPherson, McPherson Cellars
Yes, that’s what Dolcetto means in Italian and let me tell you, I love this red wine. Lots of black cherry, red plum and hint of pepper on the finish, with soft tannins make this a red wine to pair with pasta or meat. Me, I like it as a red sipper.
Duchman Family Winery makes Dolcetto in Texas and it’s one of my favorite Texas reds.
I am still in state of euphoria from passing my Certified Sommelier exam on Sunday. Even though this wine study is a hobby for me, I put lots of time and energy into doing as well as I could. I am extremely thankful to my wine study group who pulled me through it — thanks Jessica Dupuy, Matt McGinnis and Margaret Shugart.
In Austin, we have an amazing group of sommeliers at different levels who are willing to devote their time and knowledge to help educate and mentor people like me who were studying for the exam. A big shout out to Bill Elsey, Craig Collins, Devin Broglie, Nathan Prater, Scott Ota, Mark Sayre and June Rodil.
For those of you new to the Certified Sommelier exam, here’s what it entails:
1) Theory exam about anything wine and spirits.
2) Blind tasting of a white and red wine.
3) Service exam to show you can open and serve a bottle of Champagne or wine properly. (Most challenging for me since I have never worked in a restaurant!)
Here is a photo spread of event leading up to and during the big day! Cheers!
A tasting of white wines just two days before the test.
An example of blind tasting two wines.
Set up to practice wine service.
Negroni cocktail at noon, waiting for exam results.
My wine study group after receiving our Certified Sommelier certificates. Big smiles!
Austin Texas Sommeliers
Fernet About It cocktail at Parkside to kick off celebratory dinner!