The blast furnace that is our South Texas summer is fading into memory, thus freeing us from the necessity of ice-cold hops-inspired medication. It’s time to look forward to a healthier, grape-based prescription, and to return to my wino rootstock. It’s harvest time in the Hill Country, and I’m ready for a winery tour. Among my faves are the Sister Creek Vineyards north of Boerne and Becker Vineyards outside Stonewall, two pioneers in the region.
Leaving Boerne on Ranch Road 1376, we get our first taste of the Hill Country back roads. Everything is green from the recent rains, and it’s a top-down kind of day. We cross the Guadalupe River, and soon Sisterdale (pop. 25) comes into view. There s a vineyard on the left, and a few parking spaces next to an old converted cotton gin: we ve arrived at Sister Creek Vineyards. The harvest is underway, and although they’ve picked all the Black Spanish grapes in their own vineyard, containers of Cabernet and Pinot Noir are being unloaded after the trip down from contract vineyards near Lubbock. The unmistakable aroma of fermenting grapes is in the air, and I’m getting flashbacks of my early days in Napa Valley.
The tasting room is just inside an old screen door, and the winery is in the back. Taste or tour? The question is answered quickly by the host, who gives me a sample of his particular favorite, the 4 Blend Cab (a blend of four different vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon), and points us to the door leading into the winery. It’s a self-guided tour into the heart of the operation, and a handy sheet tells the casual wine tourist all they need to know. Shiny stainless steel equipment and storage tanks are in one area, and racks of aging 60-gallon barrels are in another. An overhead door is being opened at one end, and a forklift comes to pick up a large white plastic vat of Cabernet grapes on their way to the crusher. I down the last sip of 4-Blend, and we head back into the tasting room for more.
The Merlot and all three Cabs have won awards in ’07 and ’08, as did the Muscat Canelli in ’08 & ’09, so it’s a crapshoot as to which one to start with. With all the medals hanging from the bottles on the back shelf, every taste is sure to be a winner. I’ll leave the sniffing to the wine experts, but the casual wine drinker will find several delicious selections. Even the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were good, even if they didn’t win awards. All are in the $10-$30 range.
Leaving Sisterdale, continue north on 1376 to Luckenbach. It’s a right turn on Luckenbach Road to US Hwy 290, then right towards Stonewall. About halfway there take another right on Jenschke Lane to Becker Farms Road. One more right puts you alongside one of Becker’s vineyards approaching the winery complex.
At Sister Creek we saw an old-timey operation; at Becker, we find a modern outfit. They’ve taken their winery to new tourist-destination heights. You can get married at the Lavender house, have your reception, with live music, on the verandah, and even enjoy your honeymoon at the Homestead B&B. Those less inclined to matrimony, however, are welcome to enjoy a wide range of reds and whites, dry and sweet, while shopping for every imaginable lavender-based consumer product. The winery area itself, however, was off limits during the crush, and it was far enough away from the tasting room that I didn’t get that whiff of fermenting grapes. Oh well.
The wines we tasted were wonderful, to say the least. They had three times as many selections (26 compared to the eight at Sister Creek), and the six we tasted sure did tickle my palate. I didn’t see any mention of awards the wines have received, but was informed that some of them have been served at the White House. I guess that counts for something. They are in the same general price range as the wines at Sister Creek, except for a couple of special ’08 Cabs which go for $40 a bottle. I’m sure they are worth it. •
Sister Creek Vineyards
1142 Sisterdale Rd
Sisterdale, TX 78006
$3.50 for 4 samples, $7 for 8
464 Becker Farms Rd
Stonewall, TX 78671
$10 for 6 samples
Full range of Reds and Whites, plus lavender, herbs, wildflowers and related products.
Fall Lavender Luncheon, Sat Oct 2nd, Reception @ 11:30, lunch @ noon, $65 a head
Bras & Boxers for Cancer Champions, Thurs, Oct 21st
Fredericksburg Food & Wine Fest, Sat, Oct 23rd