Pontotoc, a picture story

There is a new cordon of the Texas wine country developing in the northern Hill Country, based around the tiny town of Pontotoc.

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Over ten years ago, Carl Money bought the 1800’s buildings in downtown Pontotoc, as well as an old German farmhouse behind the strip.  He envisioned it as the place for a family he didn’t have yet.  Now that he and his wife, Frances Money, are expecting their third child, that dream is taking flight.

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His uncle, Ronnie Money, has been meticulously tending their acres of Tempranillo and maintaining the property for all those years, producing incredible fruit for their wines.  IMG_3304

Carl now plans to convert the downtown strip into three tasting rooms and an active theater for movies, live music and theatrical performances.

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By gracious invitation, a few of us had the opportunity to tour the property, meet the people, and spend an incredible weekend in this place.  I traveled out with three wine women of the Austin wine scene, Alissa LeenherJessica Dupuy and Denise Clarke.

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We made a few stops along the way at William Chris Vineyards,

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Hilmy Cellars, 4.0 Cellars

4.0smalland Sandstone Cellars in Mason, Texas where Don Pullum, winemaker at Pontotoc Vineyards also spins his craft.

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We met with owners of Sandstone Cellars, Scott and Manny, tasted through the wines and visited their new wine bar, next to the winery.

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Upon arriving in Pontotoc, we were warmly welcomed by Don, Ronnie, Carl, his beautiful wife Frances and their two children,

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and were joined by San Antonio Express writer Jennifer McInnis, her partner and two Texas State theater professors.  After sipping some 2011 Estate Tempranillo out of mason jars and munching on appetizers, we began a tour.  We saw each of the future tasting rooms.  One will be for for Pontotoc Vineyards.  One is slotted for Akashic Vineyard Winery, soon to be pouring wine made from grapes of Don Pullum’s Akashic Vineyard and other nearby growers.  He will be the winemaker there too, of course.  I asked where the word Akashic originated and he said it is the Buddhist term for “nature’s memory” and the perfect metaphor for wine.

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The third tasting room is for Alphonse Dotson and Martha Cervantes of Certenberg Vineyards.  The winery will be named Dotson and Cervantes.

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On our tour, Ronnie explained the vineyards to us,

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Carl showed the buildings and shared his plans for their future

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and Don let us taste from the barrels and tanks, explaining each vintages characteristics and blending wine on the spot.

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We learned that Carl’s dream for the property was one of celebration and education.  The house is naturally designed for entertainment and the firepit in the yard calls for camaraderie.  He said his vision is for people to come and thoroughly enjoy themselves.  If they’ve had too much to drink, they can grab a Mexican blanket from the theater and curl up on the tasting room floor for the night, or go pitch a tent in the vineyards.  He wants people to enjoy the vibe and atmosphere as much as he does.  Not a hard thing to do.

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He also wants Pontotoc to be a center for education, true to the town’s roots.  Out of the handful of streets in town, one is named College, for the crumbled university that faces the downtown strip.

universitysmallCarl hopes to revive that tradition with viticulture and enology classes.  He is currently working with Ed Hellman on curriculum for the Texas Viticulture Certificate Program based out of Fredericksburg and wants to extend some of those opportunities into Pontotoc.

After our touring, Don Pullum created an incredible seafood stew, shared with side dishes brought by all.

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We sat at a long table in the middle of soon-to-be Pontotoc Winery tasting room saying grace, sharing stories, making friends and giving cheers.  The possibility off the place rang off its earthen walls.

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I was so moved by the town, the idea and the spirit, I returned a day later to learn how to filter wine with Don, Ronnie and the cellar helper Justin.  But that’s another story.

Best of luck to you, Pontotoc!  Your future is bright.

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top blogs talking about Texas wine

After a hiatus from the blog, we are back in business.  Returning from a summer and fall leading cycling tours in France, I’ve been slowly reacquainting myself with the Texas wine world and have stumbled across some fantastic blogs writing about the subject.  To kick-off our restart, I would like to give a shout-out to my recent top 5 favorite online publications helping to push the Texas wine world forward.  Thanks for all you are doing out there to keep conversation flowing about this exciting industry!

1) http://whatareyoudrinking.net by blogger Matt McGinnis.  The blog delves often into the subject of Texas wine and with his thorough coverage of events and tastings, quality photos and fun banter, it is always a pleasure to read.  In addition to What Are You Drinking, McGinnis is a contributing writer to Culture Map Austin, Austin Man and several other publications.

2) http://texaswinegal.tumblr.com by PR specialist Denise Clarke.  Clarke is an avid promoter of Texas wines and the industry and her blog is a fun follow to find what’s new and hot in the local scene.

3) http://vintagetexas.com/blog by author of The Wine Slinger Chronicles, Russ Kane.  Kane has been in the industry for a long time and now travels all over the state exploring its wines and talking to the people behind them.  He is definitely an active name in the biz.

4) http://sahmmelier.wordpress.com by Alissa Fehr Leenher.  A new discovery for me, thanks to Twitter.  She writes on a variety of subjects and does some nice work with Texas wines and pairings.  She will be a definite follow from now on.

5) http://txwinelover.com/about by Jeff Cope and his fiance Gloria, also a new find thanks to Twitter.  These two have done a fantastic job traveling around the state, visiting Texas wineries and writing about their experiences.  In addition to their explorations, they are keeping an online database of current wineries (a nice find after the GoTexas database halted its information upkeep).

Margaret Shugart