What is it about Wine Tours that is so tempting? And having them here in our own backyard is even more tempting. In this case we had a chance to visit West Sandy Creek Winery, in Richards, Texas.
Yesterday, we had our very first Wine Tour. I had not posted the date on the web page (my apologies ) since it was spur of the moment. I had to find out what the tour would consist of and what was involved. Fortunately, I had plenty of Guinea Pigs ready and able to partake of the luscious liquids.
We set out from Los Pericos Restaurant, so we would have some place to come eat when we got back. The van was delightfully cool, thanks to “flat bottom” (my husband, so named by the manicurist whose husband also spends all his time sitting on his flat bottom watching TV and playing on the computer) and to the #TexasBusCompany (a relatively inexpensive $650 AC fix).
As usual, my delusions of grandeur fell apart rather quickly. I had images of us sitting on the magnificent Pavilion overlooking the vast fields of grapes with elegant crystal stem glasses in our hands full of amber white wines or pink rosé. Well, no.
It was hotter than hades, and the Pavilion up on the hill is not air conditioned. The heat is frying the leaves on the vines, the plants are looking decrepit and dry, and the grapes have long ago been picked. And besides, their 7 year-old pet camel had just died. The Winery was in mourning.
But, nothing daunted, we arrived to find that Diego Varela had set up tables for us. Diego, an accomplished somelier, explained the wines, and Sandy, (the appropriately named owner) came over to explain the history of the place.
It seems his father was a high-level Aramco executive who spent nearly 40 years in Saudi Arabia (hence the camel). Originally a Texan, he brought his big bucks back to Walker County and bought up what may, at one time, have been the Farris family League and Labor. (See? if you had taken the Huntsville tour you would know what that was). The Farris Chapel is just down the hill and they have plans to move it back up the hill and place it behind the pavilion and turn it into an Events Center.
This is an area which is not conducive to European grapes. Walker County requires a very special type of plant that can withstand heat, aridity/humidity, bacteria, bugs, and our soils. After four years of growth, the plans will begin to bear fruit. Then the vines must be sprayed, hand-trimmed, fertilized and protected from hordes of birds. It is a time-consuming, laborious and challenging job.
Unlike many of the wineries, West Sandy Creek has bought its own equipment. They have everything they need for crushing the grapes, processing the juice, storing it in barrels and then bottling the wine. Most of the Texas wineries just buy either the grapes or the juice from others and then mix and bottle their own wine. Much like our beloved friend Lilian has done in the past.
As we gathered around the table in the tasting room, Diego went over all the wines they produce. They use moderately sized bowl-shaped glasses into which they poured about an inch of each of four wines. At least they didn’t make us spit out the sip so we could really “taste” it. Some were sweet, some dry, some white, some red. After each tasting, Diego hustled around the table rinsing out each of the glasses before adding the next wine.
It is far too complicated to list the wines or explain their varieties. It was fascinating to see all my Guinea pigs sampling them. Some liked one but not another. Others liked them all and happily drank up the ones the others didn’t want. I got to drink water since I was the designated chauffeur.
Morgan, the young Ag grad from Sam (no, he’s not an Aggie), gave us a tour of the facilities. He explained all of the processing, showed us the rotating crushers, the giant silver tanks for the juice, the big storage barrels and the machine that fills, corks, labels and caps the bottles. Fascinating.
Some of our crew went out to the pasture to feed carrots to the Donkey/Zebras. Seems Saudi Arabia still influences them, and they have brought back zebras that have been inter-bred with donkeys. The result is a strange creature with beige donkey features and striped legs and backs. As I mentioned, their camel had just died and they were terribly distraught.
Although I had planned to drive over to Teysha, Walker County’s second winery, we never made it. We spent way more time relaxing and talking and tasting and tasting and tasting and talking and tasting. By 4:30 I realized there wasn’t any time to make it to the second winery.
So, it seems one winery per trip is all we are going to be able to handle. But it was well worth the trip and we all came away with bottles and boxes of wines that will make great gifts.
So, the next tour is set up for Friday, September 20. We’ll meet at Los Pericos again, and head out for West Sandy or maybe Teysha. Sign up now at www.historictoursoftexas.com if you want a spot on the Joye Mobile.
There is so much to see and do and so little time to do it!