Fall Creek Vineyards Throws Rockstar Independence Celebration

There is no reason to make today your only for Independence Celebrations. This is a four day weekend and lots of opportunities to continue the party. Tops on my list is the Burgers n Blues feast at Fall Creek Vineyards.

There is a lot packed into the six hour event- music by Bill Rives, art by acclaimed artist Daniel Adams– but I’m most excited for the food (and wine, of course). Chef Paul Petersen from Auguste Escoffier Culinary School in Austin will be spinning his rockstar magic on the grill and if you haven’t seen this yet, you are missing one of the best true-Texas chefs in the state.

Image

Some lifetimes ago I worked under Chef Paul as a server at the Gage Hotel in Marathon, Texas  and my concept of wine and food was forever elevated. We were a hodge-podge staff with mixed experience and enthusiasm for the job. Paul, a CIA Chef with training in Manhattan and one wildly successful restaurant in Buda under his belt, entered the scene and lit a fire under our feet and in our minds. He taught us to taste wines like professionals, how to think and talk about food pairings, how to describe his creations with flourish and pride, how to polish our service and deliver the fine dining experience. With rockstar attitude. Our uniforms consisted of jeans, black and silver studded belts and Converse shoes. And Chef ran that kitchen like a rock show, music loud, pausing on the grill to play air drums with the tongs. Passion poured out of him and into us and I took that into all my future restaurant and tasting experiences. Chef Paul is the reason I really paid attention to wine and he gave me the basis for my culinary understandings. And I still wear that belt sometimes, when I need a little extra attitude. I have a lot to thank him for.

One of the first things Chef Paul did when he took ahold of the Gage wine program was make Fall Creek Vineyards our house pour. He wanted Texas wine in as many glasses as possible. I didn’t realize at the time how progressive this really was and had the chance to talk to him today about his connection to the winery and the people.

He said he was introduced to Fall Creek Vineyards through a blind tasting with a wine sales guy. The rep put a rich red wine in his glass and asked him to identify its origin. “I called it Bordeaux. Straight up. Not sure the producer or the exact region, but I knew it was Bordeaux.” The rep said, nope, it’s Texas. Fall Creek Meritus. Paul was amazed, impressed and became a loyal fan, then a close friend of Susan and Ed Auler, owners of Fall Creek.

Chef told me how he requested to hold a bottle of Meritus during many of his publicity and magazine shoots. I asked why and he said quite simply, “It’s the best wine in Texas. I am a Texas chef and this is my favorite Texas wine product.” He respects the care and attention Ed Auler puts into every vintage, and how it’s not made every year. Like Dominus Estate in Napa Valley, it has to be a stellar year to create the bottle.

You will have the chance to taste the new release of the 2010 Meritus at the winery on Saturday. It is 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot from Certenberg Vineyards in Mason County. It has won a Double Gold from the Tasters Guild International Wine Competition. Opaque in the glass, it shows layers of complexity from black fruit and dark cherries to mocha and leather; the tannins grip all over your mouth- a wine worth aging.

I asked Chef Paul if he would pair the Meritus with his burgers on Saturday and he laughed and said it might be too big of a wine. His recommendation for this weekend, and for every day drinking from Fall Creek is their Merlot. He said it’s always solid.

I’d also like to recommend their 2011 Tempranillo. It was aged in 1/3 neutral oak, 1/3 partially used oak, and 1/3 new American oak for a total of 14 months, and has cherry and cassis all over it with hints of leather in the finish. It was made for beef.

I had the opportunity to taste all these wines by invitation of Susan and Ed Auler last month and with Certified Sommelier, Matt McGinnis, including some preview barrel samples (get excited for the 2012 Tempranillo now! It’ll be in oak until 2014, but it’s already showing its steely berry fruits and herbaceous, floral notes). For Matt’s total tasting notes, visit his blog What Are You Drinking? I will add my own later on.

In the meantime, go make your own tasting notes. If not at Fall Creek Vineyards, then at a Texas winery near you. Explore all their offerings, buy a glass and enjoy it in some beautiful surroundings. For Chef Paul, I’d release the surprises he has in store this Saturday, but the Aulers don’t even know his plans yet. If you miss him this week, he’ll be cooking again in August for their Grape Stomp Festival.

Happy Red, White, Blue and Burgers to you.

– Margaret Shugart

Tasting at Salt Lick Cellars

The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association is headed to the Salt Lick in Driftwood for a winery dinner tonight.  And what a perfect place to explore different personalities of wine in the bottle.

I like to think of Salt Lick Cellars as an art gallery of sorts.  Jay Knepp, the Salt Lick vineyard manager, grows near 40 acres of grapes on the property in Driftwood, then sends those grapes to different winemakers around the region to craft into wine.  So if you don’t have time travel around to several different wineries in a day, you can make one stop here and explore the styles of a variety of winemakers, all creating art from the same grapes.

At this moment, there are five different wines in this category produced by three different wine makers, all done with Salt Lick fruit:Image

1) Salt Lick Cellars Mourvèdre by Bill Blackman and Chris Brundrett of William Chris Vineyards and Winery.  It carries the signature flavors of William Chris’ coal toasted South Armenian Oak.  The wine is rich with prominent oak flavors of cooking spices and vanilla, the fruit rounded by its time in the barrels.

2) Salt Lick Cellars GSM by Dave Reilly at Duchman Family Winery.  A grenache, syrah, mourvèdre blend aged in neutral and French oak barrels.  True to Reilly’s style, the fruit expresses itself in bright flavors with a clean and lingering finish.

3) Hill Country Blend by Dave Reilly at Duchman Family Winery.  A blend of grapes from different vintages: sangiovese from 2010, syrah from 2009 and cabernet sauvignon from 2010.  All the fruit is from Salt Lick vineyards, except for the cabernet sauvignon from Limestone Terrace, Reilly’s first vineyard (now otherwise owned/managed) in Wimberley.  Aged in American and neutral oak, it has pleasant hints of vanilla.  The finish is tight with good acidity that is sure to cut through your BBQ lunch, er, dinner.

4) Salt Lick Sangiovese by Dave Reilly at Duchman Family Winery, the newest addition to the tasting room selection.  The fruit is from 7 year vines at Salt Lick and was picked in the middle of a 6 1/2 inch rainstorm, then aged in neutral French barrels.  The rain apparently didn’t affect the grapes and the wine is still all the things I love in a sangiovese: beautiful color, bright, red fruit, again, great acidity.

5) Fall Creek Tempranillo by Ed Auler at Fall Creek Vineyards.  100% Salt Lick fruit bottled under the Fall Creek label.  Aged in American, French and neutral French barrels, this wine is a full-bodied gem.  The fruit is prominent with creamy vanilla notes and the complex sweet/sour play that comes from good American oak.  The finish is long and lingering, even after a few sips of water.  Stellar meat pairing wine.

Tonight should offer an amazing experience to all TWGGA participants.

And all others over these next few months, as long as the wine lasts!  Cheers to the chance to witness so many artists in one place.  Image