It is hard to beat Austin in March. The Mountain Laurels, with their grape scented clusters, are in full bloom. The landscape is painted with every green you can imagine. The sky, cerulean and vast, illuminates the rebirth. It is almost criminal to stay inside. So when my parents offered us a date this past weekend, there was only one thing on my mind- a Hill Country Winery.
There are several wineries within a thirty minute drive of Austin, and I have hit most of them, but I was looking for a new adventure. My husband and I decided it was time to hit Solaro Estate in Dripping Springs.
This winery is truly a labor of love. The family has incorporated the Old World traditions from their family winery in Solaro, Italy. The wines are produced using only grapes grown in Texas. Some are grown on their 160 acres, others are purchased from the Texas vineyards that have the most favorable conditions for the particular varietal. The family is directly involved in every step, from picking the grapes to hand racking the wines. Jessica, our host for the tasting, educates the guests and pushes the button to cork the bottles on bottling day. The dedication and love are reflected in the wines.
We began our tasting with a Montage Blanc (70% Viognier, 20% unoaked Chardonnay, 5% Muscat Canelli, %5 Chenin Blanc). Honeysuckle nose, medium body, well-balanced. Soft peach and floral with a clean finish. A great sipping wine. Our next white was Arancia, a dry orange muscat. Big flavor in front. Think orange creamsicle with out the sugar. Since I prefer dry wines in general, I really liked this take on what is typically a sweeter wine. This wine received a Silver medal in the Finger Lakes Competition. In fact, of the six wines Solaro submitted, four medaled in the competition.
We transitioned to reds in a big way. The 2010 Mourvèdre is big. There is nothing “young” tasting about this wine. Cherry, vanilla, earthy nose. Soft, round, cherry, and plum with rustic heft. Then we had the Lisse, which means smooth. The blending of 40% Merlot with the Mourvèdre changed it up. It added surprising tart qualities (in a good way) and a long finish which inspired the name.
Sangiovese does well when grown in limestone so it is a natural fit in Texas. As with the other red wines at Solaro, it is unfiltered, a beautiful ruby-red. Bright, silky, Strawberry spice. The Tempranillo was incredibly smooth. Soil and spice and everything nice; it developed with each sip. Solaro also does a Bordorosso, an even blend of Merlot and Tempranillo which is held for 27 months in French Oak. Rich fruit and chocolate. The Merlot brought out even more spice in the Tempranillo.
Finally, the pièce de résistance: Cheval 5. Solaro is home to five Thouroughbred horses, thus the name of this winner. A blend of Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, Sangiovese, Barbera, and Ruby Cabernet. (If you are, as I was, unfamiliar with Ruby Cabernet, take the time to read up on it. An interesting hybrid.) Raspberry and rhubarb on the nose. A brilliant red. Fruit in the front, huge in the mid-palate, and an incredibly smooth finish. An amazing wine. If you are lucky enough to spend a Saturday at Solaro, you can sample this beauty by the glass at a great discount while listening to their music series. This wine alone is worth the visit.
I love being “wowed” by Texas wines. I love seeing family-run wineries excel at what they are doing. I love when the people at a winery add to the charm of the experience. Solaro Estate exceeded my expectations in each of these areas and was an all around delight. A perfect way to get outside and spend a spring afternoon near Austin. With the impending release of the Barbera, I think we will be heading west again soon.