The Second Annual Texas Hill Country Wine and Brew Festival on Lake Comanche Trace in Kerrville will be held over Memorial Day weekend, May 24, 2014 from 11am to 7pm. Last year was such a success, but this year promises to be even bigger, tastier, and more entertaining: more vendors, more wineries, more beer, more entertainment, and more folks like you!
For adults who wish to sample Texas wine and craft beer, tickets are $35 and include a souvenir wine or pilsner glass, a wine-bottle carrier, and 10-tasting tickets, each good for a 1-ounce sample of wine or a 3-ounce sample of beer. The first 200 ticket-holders through the door receive a complementary festival t-shirt. Additional tasting tickets are available, 10 for $10. For adults not sampling alcohol, tickets are $25, $10 for attendees under 21 years of age, and children under 12 get in free.
There is an exciting line-up of wineries this year. Below is a little synopsis on each to give you a preview of who you will meet and what you can sample.
There are several attending wineries that are committed to using only 100% Texas grapes. Compass Rose Cellars, a boutique winery set in Mason, Texas, started production in 2011 and has made wine from only Texas fruit. To date they have bottled a 2012 Mason Country Pinot Grigio, a 2012 Merlot, a 2012 Syrah, 2013 Blanc du Bois, and a 2013 Chenin Blanc. Winemaker, Rob Nida, came on board with a BS in Horticulture from Texas A&M and wine production experience from regions in France, Spain, South Africa, Oregon, and Texas. He and owner, Mark Watson, are now building a new tasting room in Hye, Texas, along the 290 Wine Trail.
Lewis Wines, located outside of Johnson City, represents a new generation in Texas winemaking. Young co-owners and winemakers, Doug Lewis and Duncan McNabb, are in their mid-twenties and started making a few barrels of wine together back in college while Doug worked at Pedernales Cellars. They opened Lewis Wines in February 2013 and focus on boutique wines made with minimal intervention and 100% Texas fruit. They have planted their own vines as well, Spanish and Portuguese varieties well-suited for Central Texas climate, and are transitioning into only organic growing methods. Their wines have received some rave reviews and the industry is eager to see what they will do next.
Also relatively new and all Texan, Wedding Oak opened with a bang, making Texas Monthly’s top Texas Wines of 2013 with their 2010 Sangiovese. The winery is located in downtown San Saba and was started in 2010 by Mike McHenry and a group of friends, who wished to draw more tourism to the area. After a thorough restoration of their 1926 commercial building, the tasting room opened in 2012. Before the winery was finished, they made wine off-site and did not take it lightly, hiring longtime winery and vineyard consultant, Penny Adams, as their Master Winemaker. They sell out of their wines quickly and are making fast inroads as they grow.
William Chris is also dedicated to 100% Texas fruit. Seeing themselves as both “winegrowers” and “winemakers,” they manage almost all their own vineyards and strive to let the grapes show their true nature by using Old World techniques like open-air fermentation and longtime barrel aging. They are experts in blending, but have several single-varietal bottles as well, ranging from tannic reds to sweeter whites and roses. Considered some of the forerunners in Texas wine, their beautiful tasting room in Hye is often packed, people spilling out onto their back porch to enjoy live music and the sprawling Live Oak trees.
Hye Meadows, located a few miles from William Chris will be joining the festival for the first time this year. They opened the doors to their beautiful tasting room and events center in August 2013, but they have been making and promoting their wine long before that, pouring barrel samples at various events around the state. Owners Mike and Denise Batek are delightful people to be around, clearly in love and passionate about the business. Mike works at the winery fulltime, and you would be hard pressed to find a photo, or a moment in real time, when he is not smiling. Their winemaker, Jeff Ivy, has been working in Texas wine for many years, starting at Spicewood Vineyards. He began his winemaking career in California and enjoys the challenge of working with Texas grapes. He and Mike set their goal to be one of the best wineries in the state.
Singing Water, named for the beautiful Bruins Creek that runs alongside their tranquil shaded property in Comfort, Texas will be on hand as well. They have produced several award winning wines since their first release in 2005, but perhaps their proudest characteristic is their commitment to supporting U.S. Troops. They make a “Freedom Wine” label dedicated to all those who have sacrificed their lives for our country. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Fisher House, a service providing college scholarships and comfortable houses near military hospitals and bases for visiting families of wounded soldiers.
Flat Creek Winery, owned by Rick and Madelyn Naber, planted their first vines in 2000 and now have over 20 acres of grapes planted on their sprawling 80-acre estate. They specialize in Syrah, Tempranillo, and Southern French, Port and Tuscan varietals, with their best-known wine sporting the name “Super Texan.” Their winemaker, Tim Drake, runs a well-respected consulting lab for other wineries across the state and comes to Flat Creek with a background of winemaking from Oregon and Washington state. Their wines are seriously and soulfully crafted and range from dry reds to sweet sparkling wine infused with fruit flavors.
Texas Legato Winery, named after the Italian word for the gathering together of friends and family, and the musical term for “smooth connected notes in a performance,” focuses on a winery atmosphere that draws people together and wines that are smooth on the palate. Owners Bill and Sulynn Bledsoe planted vineyards in 2002 in Lampasas and released their first wine in 2007. With estate and other grapes, they craft a boutique line of wines ranging from an earthy Texas Hill Country Malbec, to a sweet blend of Chenin Blanc and Orange Muscat labeled “Sweet Peggy Sue.”
McReynolds Winery from Cypress Mills is owned by Gerald (Mac) and Maureen McReynolds, a couple who have been making wine since the 1970’s in California when they were both on staff doing scientific research at Stanford University, working part time at local wineries and making wine at home with friends. They joined the Texas winemakers in 1989 when they purchased 5 acres of land in Cypress Mills, preparing to buy grapes and be home winemakers. After several successful non-commercial vintages, they became licensed and began to sell to the public in 2000. Be sure to ask about the other four members of their winemaking family: Sangria the dog, and Earl Grey, Syrah, and Guy Noir, the cats.
Kerrville Hills Winery owner Wayne Milberger is a mechanical engineer by trade, his wife Carol has a PhD in Industrial Psychology, and they built their winery up from the ashes - literally. The tasting room and winery were a burnt house when they bought the property. They razed all but the fireplace, then with the help of many friendly hands and their tasting room manager Brenda Hardy, they designed and built the winery and tasting room around that two-sided, two-story brick piece, a unique centerpiece to the structure. It took a few years to release their wines, but Wayne wanted enough to sell when they opened and wanted to age it properly. “It took a lot of patience. That’s the most important thing about a winery is that you can’t rush it. It just takes time and goes according to its own timetable and not yours. I mean, there are ways to rush things, but I want to use traditional forms of fermentation.” This has resulted in an impressive barrel room, seen behind glass next to the tasting area. They will be traveling just down the street to showcase their carefully honed wines and would be an easy visit for anyone staying in town for the weekend.
And one of the favorite from last year’s festival will be joining us again. Dionisio Winery, located in Houston, specializes in sweet wines with added fruit flavors like Blackberry Merlot and Green Apple Riesling. Owned by young Jimmy Aranda and Clarice Nelson-Aranda, they are focused on being a fun winery that offers onsite wine tasting classes, live music, and fashion shows and they travel often to wine festivals to promote their bottles. Attendees from last year greatly enjoyed their wines and they will return to showcase them again.
On to the beers. In addition to many nationally recognized microbreweries including Saint Arnold, Sierra Nevada, Goose Island, Alaskan, Stella Artois, O’Dell Brewing Co., Firestone Walker, and Coronado Brewing Company, several Texas breweries will be on tap to sample as well. Here is a little background on each of them to get you excited.
Real Ale Brewing from Blanco, Texas started in the basement of an antiques store in the town square. For nine years, its founders Phillip and Diane Connor, and its current leader Brad Farbstein, produced a phenomenal amount of quality beer from its tiny space. As demand increased, Brad realized it was time to go bigger and make room for their expanding potential. You can now find their 50,000 barrel capacity facility on the outskirts of Blanco and their beers all over the state. Sample some of their unfiltered, unpasteurized options.
Alamo Beer Company was inspired by a popular local beer from 1884, brewed by Lone Star Brewing Company and all the rage with the citizens of San Antonio. The name and concept has been championed again by Eugene Simor, a Californian transplant who has a passion and dedication to all things Texas and beer. He worked hard in partnership with Real Ale Brewing to build and promote this light lager-style beer, now very popular all around San Antonio and increasingly across the state.
Franconia Brewery from McKinney, Texas is based around the Bavarian concepts in brewing. Owner and brewmaster Dennis Wehrmann comes from a rich history of beer making in Germany where he grew up. His grandfather was a brewery owner, his mother has a degree as a brewery lab technician, and nearly all his uncles were involved in the industry. Dennis himself attended the Brewer School in Karlstadt and trained at the Neumarkter Lammsbrau, an award-winning brewery in Oberpfalz, Germany. When he moved to Texas and opened Franconia in 2008, he vowed to keep the Bavarian laws of brewing and to use green practices, including 100% recycling of the mash with a local cattle farm, reduction of energy and water usage and minimal transportation to bring the beer to market. Primarily found in North Texas, you will have the opportunity to taste their carefully crafted beers at the festival.
Rahr & Sons Brewing Company will be coming from Fort Worth, with their “family size brewery with Texas size flavor.” Their tradition starts in 1847 when the namesakes William and Natalie Rahr immigrated from Rhineland, Germany to Manitowoc, Wisconsin there they opened the first lager brewery in Wisconsin. The family in Wisconsin is still involved in brewing and malt production, supplying about 90% of all malt and beer making supplies for breweries across the United States. William Rarh’s grandson, Frederick William “Fritz” Rahr, Jr., opened Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. in south Fort Worth in 2004 specializing in lagers and rich ales from his family’s recipes.
Infamous Brewery from Austin, Texas was founded by ex-investment banker Zach Perry and graphic designer Josh Horowitz in 2012 and began producing in 2013. They have a distinct 1920’s gangster flare and describe their beers as “an aggressive take on traditional styles.”
Independence Brewing out of Austin opened its doors in 2004 and is now seen in taps all over the capitol city. In addition to their regular tasting room hours and tours, they have become well known for their First Saturday tours and tastings, drawing hundreds of people each month. Attendees line up starting a couple of hours before the event for the right to enter, buy a $10 glass of the month and a free wristband good for three free samples. There are bands and booths and lots of dogs. They make five year-round beers and several more seasonal and single-release batches.
Pedernales Brewing CEO Lee Hereford came to brewing through the Texas wine industry, first with Wimberley Valley Wines, then Blue Mountain Vineyards. He formed Hereford Companies in 1989 and started selling wine all over Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. His brewmaster, Peter McFarlane, has a diploma in Brewing Science from Siebel Institute of Technology and has 25 years of experience in beer making, including owning and running his own microbrewery, McFarlane Brewing Company. They make two lines of beer, Lobo and Pedernales Classic.
When you are ready to pair some of those wines and beers to fabulous food, head over to Buzzie’s Bar-B-Q, Chef’s Kitchen, West End Pizza, and Sunshine Kitchen.
And when you are ready to do some shopping, you will have lots to browse through, from artisan gifts, to prepared food and sweets. Attending this year will be Hill Country Artisan Soap, Rough Creek Lavender, Vela Farms, Hill Country Premium Beverages, In a Pickle, PAWsitively Sweet Bakery, Texas Hill Country Olive Oil, Ms. Chocolatier, Just for You, Lounge Lizard, Masterpieces by Michiel, Melissa A. Torres, Mudworks Pottery, Matt’s Ceramics, Blue Bottle Studio, Origami Owl- Rhonda’s Charms, Tara Hutch Jewelry, Texas Handbag Lady, Jacques Place, Silverlicious, and Wildgoose Manufacturing.
And last, but not least, will be this year’s entertainment. Playing throughout the day, will be bands Fred Andrew & Honeybrowne, a country-rock group from Austin, Texas, The Dustin Pittsley Band, a roots rock blues band from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Finding Friday Band, a classic rock cover band from San Antonio. Trick roper Kevin Fitzpatrick will be performing his stunts, and T & S Amusements will be on hand with a variety of fun games and rides for the kids.
While you’re in town, stop by the Texas Masters of Fine Art & Craft Invitational Exhibition and Sale at the Y.O. Hotel in Kerrville, benefiting the West Kerr Community Scholarships (WKCS) fund. Over the years, WKCS has awarded over $400,000 in scholarships to graduates from Ingram, Kerrville, Hunt, Divide, and Mountain Home.
It's a great day for the whole family to come out and celebrate more of what Texas has to offer.