Sunday, July 10, 2011

Finishing Off the Hill Country Wine Trail (Part 2)

Our next stops on Saturday: Pillar Bluff and Texas Legato. They share the land, but not the vines. The winemakers are twin brothers, but the wines were vastly different. The staffs at both tasting rooms were very friendly, even more so than most tasting room staff. We enjoyed the chenin blanc and Founders red at Pillar, and the Family Reunion at Legato. We also had a delicious wine slushy at Pillar Bluff and brought back the mix for our next party. Texas Legato served some Ghiardelli brownies made with their port (instead of water); a definite "must-try" for our next gathering. Yum!

On the way to our next stop, we discovered an unlisted vineyard, Fiesta Winery (on FM 580 outside of Lampasas; tasting room is pictured). Only open 9 months, they serve several varieties flavored with different syrups. "It's differ'nt than ev'body else," said winemaker Stephen Baxter, sounding (and looking) just like my dad. "It's our niche." I am not normally a sweet wine fan, but these were not overpowering and very tasty. I'm sure they'll appear on the wine map soon.

Last stop of the day was Alamosa Wine Cellars, just outside San Saba; we brought home some El Guapo (a red) and Scissortail (a white).

We enjoyed a terrific Texas diner dinner at Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls. I even got a piece of pie (chocolate meringue); desserts are unusual for me. If you haven't made a stop there, you need to rectify this error post-haste.

On Sunday, we booked passage on the Vanishing River Cruise on Lake Buchanan. I worried a bit about the lake level. Turns out that they can't do their signature cruise (Canyon of the Eagles and waterfalls), but we got a cool tour of a normally submerged old town. We packed our own lunch (no wine allowed, unfortunately), and set off.

When the dam was built in 1937, the old town of Bluffton was relocated. From 1937-2007, the old town only reappeared four times. From 2007 until now, it has appeared three times. Any doubt we're in a prolonged drought?

Even all these years later, a casual walk on the sandbar reveals many "found" items (pictured). 75 years underwater washed all the color out of the stone foundations and any metal, so any flash of color—blue glass, green pottery, shoe parts—stands out immediately. Bruce and I found an old pulley and an iron bolt of some kind. It's nearly impossible to imagine such a move in this day and age; can you imagine the lawsuits? Another advantage of a river cruise: no dust. Any time a breeze blew up on land, a teaspoon of grit landed in my contacts-laden eyes. Not fun.

Our last stop before heading home was Perissos Winery, near Inks Lake State Park. The owner is an architect, and the grounds and working tasting room show it....everything neatly in its place. He even labels his vines (pictured).

I said at the beginning that this "finishes" the Texas hill country wine trail, but that's probably untrue, as Fiesta Winery showed. My guess is that one or two new ones open each year.

I highly recommend a visit to this northern region. You can do the trip in one day from San Antonio, but it made for a much more relaxing, restful, and enjoyable weekend staying in the area.

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