Eight years ago I moved from Northern California, about 40 minutes from Napa to Round Rock, Texas with 5 cases of wine. I love the art of winemaking. A friend and I made it a point to wine taste from the California Sierra foothills to San Luis Obispo. When I travel home, my sisters and I always enjoy the wineries where our family Sunday drives would land up. In the 1970s, as my sisters and I would run around the holding tanks and French oak barrels, the wine makers would share with my parents the art of making wine. What the art meant to their families and how they gave up their insurance jobs or mechanic shops in the 1960s to buy land in Napa. There was such an earnest love of winemaking and desire to be successful. They took the risk and survived the 5 to 7 years of being a dirt farmer until the grapes were ready. I thought I would not be able to continue following this art of supporting local wine makers…..only did I know.
On March 1st I was a guest at the Georgetown Swirl, a central Texas town that has celebrated Texas wines with local culinary fare for the last 5 years. The square was filled with music, cowboy hats, boots and the occasional Hawaiian shirt. The event was understandably sold out and attended by hundreds of locals. I started at the historic County building in the middle of the square and was armed with a map, glass and tasting tray. I followed the happiness around the square to the assigned swirl stops. I commenced at the Georgetown Winery and tasted three varietals: Sweet White, a dessert wine that was charming, then on to Chardonnay and Merlot. The winery has won several awards in the Best Dessert Wine competitions. I enjoyed the Sweet White with the history of the family Czech heritage commencing in Texas in 1891 and how the winery had acres of locally planted grapes while purchasing the remainder. It brought the local artisanship that I am looking for in my new home. I carried on my trip with a side bar to Galaxy Cupcake Bakery who was named 4th in The Learning Channel’s Bodacious Bakeries, Best Food Ever competition.
My next stop was at Grape Creek Vineyards where I was introduced to the Muscat-Canelli, a light dessert wine with a crisp finish of grapefruit. I felt I was back in Napa and found a great dessert wine that I would serve as a special occasion wine with a price that I could afford to have all the time. The Muscat-Canelli grape historically hails from the Piedmont region of Italy. It is heavily used in brandies, liqueurs and your grandmother’s Asti Spun Ante. However on its own, it was wonderful. I carried on with the Rendezvous, a blend of Mourverde, Syrah, Cinsualt and white Viognier.
I finished my tasting at the wine bar and was introduced to their white wine Viognier, pronounced Vee-ohn-yay not Wagner. I am quickly becoming a fan of the full bodied Viognier that hails from the Northern Rhone Valley with highlights of peaches and apricots and how it can adapt. The Viognier grape was slowing falling off the map and was reintroduced to the United States in the 1980s. I am pleased to learn that in Fredericksburg, Pedernales Cellars 2011 Viognier won at the San Francisco International Wine Competition and the Grand Gold at the Lyon International Wine Competition. How did I miss this when I have gone up to Fredericksburg for years to shop and buy jelly?
The Georgetown Swirl was an amazing introduction to local wines and the square. Shopkeepers were eager to join the fun as the wine and culinary delights were shared. I found a toy store fun for adults to look around and shop for kids. Another shop showcased local craft work and is manned by all volunteers. Williamson County history was readily available at the old bank. The event also enabled me to talk with so many others on how they enjoy the event and come annually. A band of “Dickens” dressed people mulling around the square, could not wait to tell you how they loved the wine and where their favorites are in the various shops.
I found myself on the second block of my night at the Georgetown Swirl with a dozen cupcakes, 3 bottles of Muscat-Canelli and 1 Viognier, knowing I should head my purchases to the car. The night has rekindled my love of supporting and finding the local winemakers in my new home. I have been introduced to grapes and wine that I would have passed on in favor of my Napa Valley Merlot. I am no longer looking to find what I left behind in Napa with her diverse appellations, but what Central Texas has to offer. I have over 23 new wineries to explore and commence my education of what grapes do well in this climate. Central Texas has become my new local.
by Deirdre Goggins