I guess you could say this story began nearly a year ago. Our trek to Colorado started in the early morning hours, before the sun rose. By the time we arrived in Llano, the first light was beginning to show. The countryside was awakening as we rounded a turn and I remembered why I love mornings. One field in particular caught my eye. It was a small vineyard with a vintage tractor, a great photo-op, so we pulled over so I could take a few photos.
There was something magical about the place. A two-story sandstone home in the background, a windmill towering over the grapes, green and plumping. I allowed myself a moment to take it in. I wondered about life there, a life I’ve often yearned for. The daydream was interrupted by a quick wave to the gentleman in the field and we were off.
Fast forward to last week. Jennifer McInnis of the San Antonio Express published a piece on the town of Pontotoc and the family behind Pontotoc Vineyards, each with its own storied past. I was instantly fascinated and elated that it was going to be a stop on my journey west with Texas wine writers and friends. Jennifer did so well at capturing the essence of what Carl Money is building and the inspiration behind the vision that it would be redundant for me to retell, but I highly recommend stopping here and heading over to her piece.
So how are these stories connected? I didn’t know myself until we began the tour of Pontotoc. We arrived around 5pm and were warmly greeted by Frances Money and her lovely daughters. In the Tasting Hall, we met Carl Money, his Uncle and Vineyard Manager, Ronnie Money, and Don Pullum, the Winemaker.
After introductions and a few nibbles, with Mason jars filled with the 2011 Tempranillo, we made our way around the property. The Tasting Hall was once the General Store. The rest of the Sandstone strip once included the Post Office, the Barber Shop, and a Movie Theater. By October, it will also house Dotson-Cervantes and Akashic Vineyards, Don Pullum’s own boutique winery. The movie theater will become a performance venue for music, plays, and old movies. We continued to the farmhouse. Built in 1872 , this two-story home was crafted from the local sandstone by the German Emigration Company to house immigrant families. Four bedrooms, several families, and countless stories began here in Pontotoc. If Carl Money has his way, there are many stories to come. Each piece of art, each piece of furniture has its tale to tell. Carl is giving them an audience.
We went out through the back porch to the vineyard. As the sunlight began to soften, Ronnie told us about the different plots, the different strains, and the trials and successes they have faced thus far. We walked to the well, and that is when I realized the connection. The tractor, the windmill, the farmhouse came rushing back and, with much gratitude, I realized I was standing in the very vineyard I’d admired the year before.
We walked back to the tank room and began tasting samples. We compared the 2012 Tempranillo, bright red fruit, raspberries and cream, as compared to deep black fruits in the 11. We tasted the red cherry in the Cab and the fresh fruit and clean earth in the Mourvedre. Don introduced the Alicante Bouschet, a grape I’ve long admired in Wellington Vineyards Noir de Noir. This began with dried apricot and faded into raspberry truffles. It is a hefty red-flesh grape with tons of potential. And then he blended them. With little effort, Don took a little of this, a little of that and created a blend that silenced the room. Wow.
There is a saying that has become a bit cliché. To say that a person, place, or experience “feeds your soul” can sound almost trite, but as I reflected on this past weekend, it seemed the best way to describe the trip. A balanced dish, a balanced diet needs variety. A little acid, a little spice. We need energy to fuel, vitamins to heal. When it comes together with the right mix, your body gets just what it needs to continue. Each person brought what only they could. Like the wine in each individual barrel, each contributed something to blend. Shared stories and wisdom, humor and vision. Tranquil and alive, with a history and a budding future, Pontotoc and the people I was with fed my soul.
M. Robert Kidd is said to have named Pontotoc, which means “the land of hanging grapes,” after his home in Mississippi. He could not have known then what Carl Money would be doing now. When I stopped on the side that day, I knew the spot was special, but I could never have imagined that, within a year, I would be toasting friends, old and new, on that same plot of land. It is a magical place indeed and one I hope to return to frequently. Many thanks to the Money family and Don Pullum. We could not have asked for more gracious hosts. Thank you Denise, Jessica, Jennifer, and Margaret for making it that much more memorable.