Pleasant Hill’s Quincinera

Some of the nicest people in the wine business, Bob and Jeanne Cottle, are throwing their winery a 15th Anniversary party this weekend at their Brenham, Texas location (address below).  Festivities will be

Friday, March 30, 2012       3:00 – 7:00

Saturday, March 31, 2012    11:00-6:00
 Sunday, April 1, 2012         noon – 5:00
Tonight will be an opening “Wine Down” with live music (Jax’s Sax), then the weekend will feature Anniversary cake and ice cream, wine tastings amongst the beautiful wildflowers!  They are out in force this time of year.
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Saturday will have a very special addition: True Blue Animal Adoption will be on site from 11am to 4pm to help you find your new best friend.
Pleasant Hill is located at1441 Salem Road, Brenham, TX 77833

Call

(979) 830-VINE (8463) if you need directions

and See 
www.pleasanthillwinery.com for more information.  This is a great excuse to visit lovely people and get out into the beautiful Texas spring!
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scenes from the North Texas wine trails

The roads of North Texas are shockingly beautiful.  Dallas/ Ft. Worth metroplex, you have a  treasure in your backyard: charming escapes from the city, both in its limits and in the vast rolling countryside that spans out in all directions from the twisted highways and fast moving traffic.  There were roads in Northeast Texas so sparsely traveled, I didn’t see a vehicle for 20 minutes at a time.  And the scenes were so breathtaking, I nearly ran my car off the road on several occasions (on the drive to Sugar Ridge Winery, I actually did… just a little).  Varying shades of green, from the deep darks of pine, to the bright, nearly neon shoots of spring; patches of blue from our State flower, waving in the wind; entire meadows of yellow mustard flowers, so tall they look like childhood-fantasy clouds, hovering above the lush grass.  Faded red barns and old ranch houses, spotted cattle and horses that race cars alongside their cedar fences.  Below are a few scenes from these drives, but photos cannot do the beauty justice.  It is something to be experienced.

Texans, don’t miss the opportunity to explore these wine trails.  They are much more than you think.

wildflower seasondirt road excursion on the way to Collin Oaks Winery

trees starting bloom at Brushy Creek

enchanting bridge on property of Collin Oaks Winerygood taco trucks are everywhere. by suggestion of Rachel Cook at Brushy Creek

sunset over Wales Manor vineyards

view from the new tasting room at Blue Ostrich Vineyard and Winery

endless beautiful empty roads

on the way to Sweet Dreams Winery

Rachel Cook

One idea behind this blog was not to post anything that might appear in the book, just stories around the wineries.  But this girl is just too amazing not to talk about in two places.

Rachel Cook, thiefing. And, yes, she is that close to the ceiling because she just climbed up a shelf of barrels.

And besides, it’s her birthday.

Miss Rachel Cook, winemaker of Brushy Creek Vineyards and Winery in Alvord, Texas.

She’s 28 years old today.  And it’s her 6th year of working at the winery.  But she’s been around it since she was 8 years old, when her mother worked in the vineyard.  Six years ago she started volunteering with bottling and, as she jokes, Les, (her mentor, owner of Brushy Creek, and original winemaker) tried to send her home, tried to get rid of her, but she just kept coming back.  Truly though, Les recognized her talent and ambition and encouraged her to continue with school and increase her skills.

Les Constable, owner and winemaker at Brushy Creek, explaining one of his many experiments.

Now she’s trained in viticulture and enology from the T.V. Munson Center at Grayson County College, one of the few accredited programs in the country.  And she’s a natural.  As Les’ mother, Dorothy, told me, “Rachel has what we call good taste buds.”  Les says she can pick up all the nuances in a wine, just on scent.

I believe them.  Her wines are fantastic.  Fine.  Wines with complexity, that change in your mouth from start to finish.  She manages the estate vineyard too, in addition to several other vineyards that supply the winery.  And she mentors other winemakers in the region, lending instruction and advice.  As one man told me, “She’s young enough to be my daughter,” but a great winemaker and he goes to her for guidance.  “Rachel is a really smart girl.”

Since the beginning of this research, I’ve been fascinated by the next generation of the Texas wine industry, people in their 20’s and 30’s who are eager to push Texas wine forward.  Rachel is the first girl I’ve met of that group, and she is clearly a force to be reckoned with, and a blessing to the industry.  She and Les make an incredible team, playing off each other ideas, learning from each other.  And it makes for fantastic quality.

Happy birthday, Rachel!  My guess is you’ll be in the vineyard, working with the vines you love.  Can’t wait to see what comes of them, and you, this year.

Rachel Cook and Les Constable in front of Brushy Creek Winery

Ed Pickett

As chance would have it, immediately after writing the last blog, I met Ed (Pappy) Pickett.  And just cannot help but write a little about one of my new favorite locavores in the wine and art industry.

Ed, along with his wife Flo, own Savannah Winery and Bistro in Canton, Texas.

And Ed is a big fan of the arts, as well as a talented artist himself.  During our interview, he kept returning to how important it is to combine wine and art (and cheese and chocolate).  I couldn’t agree more.

And he really means it.  In his winery, he will display and promote any artist’s work, from first-time painters, to artists commissioned to produce for big Dallas hotels.  For no charge, not even commission on sales.  In addition to their art, you can see his beautiful and detailed sculptures and carvings around the winery.

But there’s a lot more.

About two miles up the road of the winery is the Van Zandt County Veteran’s Memorial.  Ed is part of a team of volunteers working to build a plaza to honor the local county’s men and women who have served in the Armed Forces.  They’ve been working for 4 years to raise the money to finish it.

Here’s what Ed does.

He is building a large and beautiful bronze sculpture to sit on this platform.

It costs $80,000 for the materials alone.  So he is raising it by making small versions on the sculpture and selling them to individuals:

He gives 100% of the cost of the smaller figure to the Plaza project and 100% of his time and talent to the big sculpture, which you can see the beginnings of right in the Savannah Winery’s bistro.

And, if you wish, you can donate to the cause.  He has been working steadily all these years to raise the money for the memorial, even as his wife Flo endured heart and back surgeries and he continued to run the winery 7 days a week.  There’s no doubt, with determination like that, he will succeed.

Thank you, Ed, for your incredible use of art, passion, and dedication to supporting the community.

For more information on the Van Zandt County Veteran Memorial Plaza and the statues visit : www.vzcm.org

art and wine

A lovely union for the senses.  Art and wine by themselves are incredibly stimulating.  Combined, the neurons are truly on fire.

I’d like to take a moment to highlight a small handful of favorite examples of local art exhibition from the winery journey so far:

Sylvia of La Diosa in Lubbock provides support for local artists as a part of her business model in her winery and restaurant.

The McPherson winery in Lubbock is drenched in art, even in the bottling area- featuring pieces created by employees.

Labels of Christoval Winery bottles designed and created by tasting room manager and local artist, Christine Jackson.

Man's Best Friend wine and labels released once a year, featuring the pet of charity auction winner for the local Humane Society fundraiser. Paintings are by local artist Robert Carlson.

Wine labels at WestCave Winery by Tim Wooding.

The list goes on, and will continue to grow as the journey progresses.

And it’s refreshing to see that art is not the only sensual element sourced locally in Texas wineries.  There’s also local produce for on-site bistros, finished products like olive oil and crafts in the gift shops, and most wineries act as venues for local musicians.  Since the beginning of this research, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard the word “community,” as in the winery being an active part of it.

Think about that: a community being in tune with its sensual characteristics and a winery being a center for that.  Definite treasure.