Highland Lakes winery taste test
A wide variety of vineyards and wine-tasting rooms dot the hills and nestle in the valleys of the Highland Lakes. Over a weekend, this reporter explored three of the many local vineyards available for a taste of the vine and to learn a little something about the wine-making process.
STONE HOUSE VINEYARD
24350 Haynie Flat Road, Spicewood
This 7-acre vineyard of lush Norton grapevines looks out over Lake Travis and provides the fruit for Stone House’s two estate wines. The winery carries a variety of single-sourced wines from Texas, California, and Australia with the latter being a testament to owner Angela Moench’s roots in the Australian Barossa Valley. Look for the outlines of eucalyptus or cypress trees printed on each bottle to determine whether the wine came from Australia or Texas.
After trying a selection of five wines from the tasting menu, which changes often, the 2019 Claros won the day for me. It’s a red estate wine with medium depth and notes of cinnamon and clove. The flavor of peppercorn lingers at the end of each sip, waking up the edges of your tongue with a pleasant tingling sensation.
Stone House Vineyard is open noon to 5 p.m. Thursday, Sunday, and Monday and noon to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations are required for each tasting and can be made on the vineyard’s website at stonehousevineyard.com. Premier tasting tours, which include a private tasting and tour of the property, must be booked a week in advance.
FALL CREEK VINEYARDS
1820 CR 222, Tow
From Stone House, I headed west on Texas 71 to Tow in Llano County and Fall Creek Vineyards.
Established in 1975 by Susan and Ed Auler, Fall Creek is the oldest in the area. The Auler family played an integral role in putting the Texas Hill Country wine industry on the map. They founded the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival in 1986.
The vineyard sits on 400 acres of land just west of Lake Buchanan. Guests are greeted by a beautiful driveway leading to a homey indoor tasting room and a spacious outdoor patio.
Tastings include a choice of five out of roughly 30 Texas-grown wines produced on site using grapes from Fall Creek’s Black Spanish vines or fruit sourced from other Texas vineyards. Wines featured on the tasting menu rotate seasonally.
My favorite was the 2017 GSM, a red made from a combination of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre grapes that sits on the dryer side. Medium bodied and fragrant, it tastes of cherry and red plum.
The true gem of Fall Creek, however, is tasting room manager James Nobles. He grew up spending time at the vineyard with his father, who worked for the Aulers for years. His art is finding the perfect bottle for each guest.
Like humans, wine is a product of its surroundings, Nobles said. Flavors occur naturally and are affected by factors such as the storage barrel materials used and the type and state of soil around the vines’ roots. This explains why wines made in different years can present different flavors and elements.
Fall Creek Vineyards was awarded a Texas Vintners Cup for its 2019 chardonnay Terroir Reflection. The Texas Vintners Cup is a wine competition hosted by Texas Monthly and the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Uncork Texas Wine program and is in its inaugural year.
Fall Creek Vineyards is open noon to 5 p.m. Friday, Sunday, and Monday with extended hours of 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Reservations are required for groups of six or more. Tastings cost $20 per person. Visit its website at fcv.com.
PERISSOS VINEYARD AND WINERY
7214 Park Road 4 West in Burnet
My final visit was the most laid back. Perissos offers a casual wine-tasting experience accompanied by stunning views.
Owned by the Martin family, Perissos is family oriented. Children of all ages can accompany their parents inside the tasting rooms and on the patios. Leashed furry friends also are welcome.
Conventional tastings, which cost $18 per person, allow guests to try a variety of six Texas-grown wines. My personal favorite was the 2019 Italian Stallion rosé, which offers a smooth finish with hints of rose petals and strawberry — perfect for people still experimenting with palate.
The vineyard also produces a red version of this wine with deeper flavors. For the red, the grape skins are left in the wine for a longer period of time.
The tasting menu rotates monthly, so the vineyard’s wine club members, who can experience four free tastings a month, are presented with new combinations. Visitors can bring their own picnic spreads to enjoy during their tasting experience.
Perissos is open every day of the week. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations are not required for conventional tastings. The guided Winemaker’s Tour and Tasting does need a reservation. Visit its website at perissosvineyards.com.
For more local vineyards and tasting rooms, check out the comprehensive list on 101HighlandLakes.com.Make up your own wine trail and tasting experience. Although I favored reds, whites also are available.
Find more articles like this in Eat & Drink