There are some moments you want to bottle. You pause in appreciation and drink them in with all of your senses to give them a firm hold in your memory. There were a few moments like that on Saturday at William Chris Vineyard. I was honored to be invited (as “press”-woohoo!) to the Watermelon Thump and Chef Throwdown held on their property in Hye, Texas.
I have heard wonderful things about their wine and have been wanting to make it out to their property, near Johnson City, for some time now. They exceeded my expectations. The night began here in Austin. Being the incredible hosts they are, Chris Brundett and Bill Blackmon arranged transportation for us with Heart of Texas Wine Tours. My husband and I were lucky enough to ride with Matt McGinnis and his lovely wife, Susanna, in the Mercedes van. We arrived a bit early so we stopped in the super-quaint tasting room, a restored farm-house. We then made our way to the barrel room for a warm greeting and a generous pour.
A few tastings later, we were treated to a sampling of cheeses from Brazos Valley Cheese Company. A-MAZ-ING. If you are ever fortunate enough to try these raw cheeses, don’t hesitate. They began when one woman set out to use the surplus of milk on an agrarian community. It has turned into a company that received first, second, and third place in the 2011 American Cheese Society competition in Montreal.
We then began the walking tour of the 40 acre property. Our first stop was the Oak Grove where we received a lesson on watermelons and a sampling of their “pink” wine, Current. It is a lovely summer sipper with a blend of Chenin, Barbera, Sangiovese, and Dolcetto. How can you go wrong with that? This spot is enchanting. The shade from the ancient trees, the sun setting beyond the vines, and the golden light on smiling faces combined to create the first moment I intend to hold on to.
We walked past the plot for the future tasting room, through the vines of Malbec, Tannat, and Petit Verdot, and returned to the tasting room lawn where the chefs were preparing to throw down. I told Chris how much we enjoyed the tour and that it reminded me of the experience at a Sonoma favorite, Gundlach Bundschu. His response? “Where do you think we got the idea?” I knew I liked them.
We then sampled appetizers, featuring Luling watermelon, from chefs from Rose Hill Manor, Kenichi, Paggi House and Quality Seafood. The first dish was a Scallop with kohlrabi and watermelon and a watermelon sorbet with mint and serrano from Joseph Bannister of Rose Hill Manor. The next was a seafood wrap from Carol Huntsberger of Quality Seafood followed by a Thai inspired watermelon and goat cheese salad from Shane Stark of Kenichi. Unfortunately, that is as far as I got.
Apparently, my sweet son decided to leave me with a shellfish allergy that showed up in full force for the first time Saturday evening. I had gotten itchy from shrimp and crab before, so I avoided the wrap, but had never had problems with nibbles my husband’s scallops. I thought I would be fine, but instead wound up having to excuse myself with stabbing , elephant-on-my-chest pain. Thank you, Chuck, for saving the evening (but unfortunately, not my appetite) with a quick trip home for Benadryl. Good times!
I was able to rejoin the party about an hour later, and had the pleasure of chatting with Alphonse Dotson and other growers under the stars. The shadows of the Oak trees under the lights, the sound of cicadas in the trees, and sipping Enchante (a remarkable red blend) while chatting with Texas wine legends provided another moment to bottle. One of the things I love most about wine is how it brings people together. Bill and Chris were able to bring together some amazing, talented, and incredibly gracious people on Saturday and I am beyond grateful to have been included. Thank you, Miguel Lecouna, for all you did to make the event happen. If you have not had the pleasure of visiting, I can’t recommend it highly enough. They are doing something really special out in Hye. And if you were wanting more specifics on the wine, well, you are going to have to be patient. Although my tasting opportunities were short-lived Saturday, my sweet husband brought home four bottles for me to taste with a working palate. Can’t wait! We will be visiting again soon and I have a feeling that, by weeks end, we will be a part of “Hye” Society.