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Sunday, November 24, 2019

Wine Dogs Get a Taste of Texas

Texas Hill Country AVA, TX

Your favorite Virginia Wine Dog is reporting from deep in the heart of Texas where the wine is flowing in a region that "feels like Napa in the 1960's" - growing fast and producing some really good wine according to Dave Bryant, 4.0 Cellars new General Manager who comes from the vaunted California region. Sound familiar, #VAWine fans?

Similarly situated to Virginia’s Monticello AVA, the Texas Hill Country AVA begins just west of Austin where the University of Texas is located and spreads across 22 counties. At 15,000 square miles, it is the second largest AVA in the country. Wine Enthusiast named it one of the Top 10 Wine Travel Destinations in the World in 2015.

Wineries line the highway along U.S. 290 (aka Wine Road290), where Ecco’s tour began. There are some 88 wineries between Fredericksburg and Johnson City, not to mention the breweries and distilleries.

Ecco managed to take in four during her two-day visit:

Becker Vineyards, the big dog, produces more than 100,000 cases of wine a year. Check out the vintage log cabin and the estate’s lavender field (the Lavender Festival is the first weekend in May).

4.0 Cellars represents the marriage of three solid High Plains producers who combine forces in a tasting room in Hill Country. The modern facility showcases wines from McPherson Cellars, Brennan Vineyards, and Lost Oak Winery.

Barons Creek Vineyards opened in 2016 by Chase brothers Mike, Chris, and Marc. The dramatic tasting room opens onto a spacious back courtyard framed by villas which are available for rent.

Duchman Family Winery lies off the 290 Trail in Driftwood. Founded by Drs. Lisa and Stan Duchman in 2004, the winery showcases Italian varietals and was featured on HGTV as one of the one of the 20 most picturesque wineries in the country. Ecco was enchanted by the 2015 Tempranillo, recently awarded a double gold and honored as the Best Tempranillo at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

The Virginia Wine Dogs left with a few observations.
  • Most Texas Hill Country Wineries use grapes grown in the Texas High Plains. Tempranillo shone among the reds; Roussanne was a favorite white.
  • Pets are generally welcome on the patio but not in tasting rooms (seems that Texas law is behind Virginia, where a 2018 law made it the winery's choice on whether dogs can visit tasting rooms). 
  • Don’t want to drink and drive – take the 290 Wine Shuttle from downtown Fredericksburg or one of 18 wineries on the loop. 
  • Many wineries also operate storefront tasting rooms in the town of Fredericksburg. 
  • Tastings tend to be pricier than in Virginia.

No visit to Texas Hill County could be complete without a stop in Luckenbach, Texas. 
Feeling no pain!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Wine Dogs Meet the Briede' Bunch

Briede' Family Vineyards
Winchester, Virginia

Always on the trail for a new adventure, the Wine Dogs set out to explore Briede' Family Vineyards and loved the hospitality!

Built in an old horse stable, the tasting room is small but delightfully decorated with a French country flair. Owners Paul and Loretta Briede' purchased the property in 2000 then decided to start planting and established the vineyard in 2013.

Paul's pride and joy is the Arandell, with Briede' being the only place in the world it is produced. The grape's tiny red-black clusters create an inky wine that delights the palate. Ecco gave the 2017 vintage, produced by Matthieu Finot of King Family Vineyards, an enthusiastic two paws up. The entire crop was lost in Virginia's devastating 2018 season - but a good harvest this year means Arandell will return in 2020, this time teaming up with Nate Walsh (Walsh Family Wine).

The flower that adorns the label was painted by neighbor and local artist Janis Smith.
A second unique grape in the Briede' lineup is the Cayuga, used to produce the Verde, a clean, crisp, slightly effervescent white. The vines are still recovering from 2018, but about 30 cases are expected from the current harvest. Coming attractions not often seen in Virginia include Marquette, Pinot Meunier, and La Crescent.

Sparkling wines also feature prominently on Briede's tasting menu, and they recently debuted their own Sparking Winchester made from the Cayuga grapes. A portion of the proceeds go back to the community - most recently $1,000 to support Shirley's Angels Animal Rescue.

The Wine Dogs November 10, 2018, visit was an afternoon as unique as the Briede's wine - the electricity went off but the show went on, including a performance by singing duo Chuck and Sherrie.

Paul and Loretta believe in sustainable agricultural practices, including an insectary on the property for resident "good bugs." They also have two resident wine dogs, aptly named Chardonnay (yellow lab) and Bordeaux (black lab).

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