Fall Creek Journal
If you are curious what is happening behind the scenes at Fall Creek in Texas Hill Country, check in for our winemakers' and sommelier's notes on harvest, wine production, Texas wine and terroir.
By Sergio Cuadra, Director of Winemaking
Terroir is an elusive wine term, a French word that encapsulates more than a single definition. Without fail, it is usually sprinkled into every professional wine conversation and tasting. Despite the abstract nature of its meaning, many people agree that it describes the effect of soil, climate, aspect (which is a term for the geographical positioning of the vineyards), and the human factor on grapevines, thus the wines.
Winemakers and viticulturists in the Lone Star State are still discovering the effect Texas terroir has on its wines, something that is still not entirely understood. Luckily, we have such a great team at Fall Creek Vineyards that has dedicated itself to minutely analyzing each of our vineyard sites and their magical properties for four decades.
Take Salt Lick Vineyards, for example, home of the grapes that we use for our top tier wines, including our Terroir Reflections series and ExTerra wines. I am particularly fond of this site. So scarce are the number of really, really good sites that make high quality wines, and this is one of them. But what makes it such a top-tier vineyard?
In the case of the Salt Like Vineyards, it is the soil, clay subsoils over limestone bedrock. The clay is useful when it comes to retaining moisture, a necessity in this heat. Also, as the roots of the vines dig deeper, they eventually touch limestone, one of the most coveted soils types in the wine world because it allows the grapes to retain their acidity.
I am also absolutely convinced that the high temperatures in the Texas summer are not harmful and actually have a positive result on the quality of the harvest. Grape vines are accustomed to thriving in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and highly adaptable to a wide variety of climates. Afterall, grapevines are originally from the Middle East, in what is modern-day Iran where the heat is similar to Texas. These vines have dormant protective proteins that allow them to thrive under the scorching Texas sun and still produce noteworthy grapes.
Finally, less is more when it comes to winemaking. It’s nice to not have to do much to the grape juice after harvest to create a high quality. That’s when you know you’re in the right spot.
We invite you to taste our newest vintage of Terroir Reflection Tempranillo this month, a newly released wine gushing with aromas and flavors of ripe black cherry and plum, smoked cedar, new saddle leather and sweet toast. Despite the ripe quality of the fruit, this wine has managed to retain its structured acidity and vibrancy, a testament to its terroir and careful handling.
You can purchase a bottle here: https://fcv.com/product/fall-creek-vineyards-terroir-reflection-series-tempranillo-slv_thc-2017
by Quincy Barton, Vineyard Manager
For the past few weeks in the vineyard, the buds on the vines have been swelling, breaking, and sending new shoots upwards, reaching for the marvelous sunlight. It is a critical period in the vineyard. Each vine is hard at work producing grape clusters that are about to be pollinated, and there are several factors which can affect yields, or the size of our grape crop. Weed and pest management, fungal control, and weather tracking become top priorities now that we’re in the middle of spring.
Weeds below and around the vines are not only aesthetically displeasing, but they also impede the vine’s ability to absorb nutrients and water. By removing the weeds near the vines (excluding the bluebonnets of course!), we decrease the vine’s competition for these vital elements.
Pest management can consist of different solutions as well, depending on the type of pests. Ensuring that a deer fence is properly kept up and checked for breaks or weak spots is especially important to prevent loss in young leaves, shoots, and ripening fruit. Deer can be incredibly detrimental to a vineyard, especially shorter fawns. Moreover, insects can also wreak havoc on vines, as they can chew holes in the plants, allowing harmful bacteria to enter the masticated leaves and stalks.
One of the most common viticultural problems we have in central Texas is fungal infections; especially powdery and downy mildews. Warmer weather paired with high humidity and rain are the ingredients for this destructive phenomenon, and as such the vineyards require diligent inspection in the late spring and summer months.
Lastly, Texas spring weather can be quite detrimental to the prosperity of a vineyard. At Fall Creek Vineyards, we experienced quite a nail-biting cold front a few weeks ago. While the temperatures thankfully didn’t quite dip below freezing, the late cool snap posed a potential threat of damage to our newly budded vines. Young growth is particularly susceptible to frost as the growth of a shoot initiates from the top; if this area becomes too badly injured, the apical dominance is disrupted, preventing new growth from continuing. Late spring freezes are a common and highly unfortunate reality of life in Texas. Conversely, warm spring days can bring about severe thunderstorms with high winds and hail in tow. Intense wind can break off young shoots from the vine and hail can devastate new growth and older vines alike. We’ve been very lucky to escape both fates during the severe thunderstorm cell that passed through this month.
So far, our vines are happy, healthy, and growing fast. Stay tuned for updates as this exciting growing season progresses, or better yet, come out and see us for a glass of wine and vineyard tour!
Juicy, sun-ripened strawberries. Delicate, floral white peach. Aromatic and flavorful yet dry, crisp, and refreshing. Yes, we are talking about the delectable flavors of our 2018 Vintner's Selection Creekside Rosé. It’s cheerful cherry hue and mouth-watering intensity of flavor will keep you coming back for another taste.
Zesty and never overpowering, our Creekside Rosé is our wine of choice for Easter Dinner. Yes, its flavor is legendary, but its pairing versatility is practically unmatched. If you need one single wine to accompany a wide range of food options, our rosé is always the answer. It can provide the delicacy that a lighter dish craves, but its richer profile stands up to the substance of a heavier meal. From salads to steaks, our Creekside Rosé is the perfect food-friendly pairing.
When we think about Easter, we think about a variety of dishes. You may cook ham or lamb, scalloped potatoes or spring peas, devilled eggs or asparagus tarts. And you may be entertaining a wide range of guests with different palates and wine preferences. Surveying your bounty, you may exclaim, “If only one wine could marry well with the wide range of options on my table AND please all my guests!”
Pair Creekside Rosé with Pancetta-Wrapped Pork Roast
We love our Creekside Rosé with roast pork. Try this delicious recipe for Pancetta-Wrapped Pork Roast for your Easter dinner.
Blend the garlic, rosemary, thyme, and oil in a small food processor until the garlic is minced.
Sprinkle the pork roast generously with salt and pepper. Arrange the pancetta slices on a work surface, overlapping slightly and forming a rectangle. Spread half of the garlic mixture over 1 side of the pork and between the 2 loins that meet in the center of the tied pork roast. Place the pork, garlic mixture side down, in the center of the pancetta rectangle. Spread the remaining garlic mixture over the remaining pork. Wrap with pancetta, overlapping strips slightly. Use toothpicks to secure pancetta, if necessary. Place the pork in a roasting pan. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Pour 1/2 cup of broth and 1/2 cup of wine into the roasting pan. Add more broth and wine to the pan juices every 20 minutes. Roast the pork until a meat thermometer inserted into the center registers 145 degrees F for medium-rare, about 1 hour. Transfer the pork to a cutting board. Tent with aluminum foil and let stand for 10 minutes. Pour the pan drippings into a glass measuring cup and spoon off any fat that rises to the top.
Using a large sharp carving knife, cut the pork into 1/4-inch-thick slices and serve with the pan juices.
Let us adorn your table this Easter. We would love to prove that a wine can please everyone and pair with, well, mostly everything. You can pick up a few bottles of our Creekside Rosé at our Tow or Driftwood locations or at your local HEB, order them online: https://fcv.com/product/fall-creek-vineyards-vintners-selection-creekside-rose-2018
by Quincy Barton
Spring is almost here. With the approach of spring, the grape vines are preparing to come out of dormancy with the onset of bud break. In preparation, the Fall Creek crew is hard at work pruning the vineyards. Winter pruning is an essential process that must occur annually in order to produce a good crop this season, as well next year. There are two big reasons that it is essential to prune the vines before spring growth: 1. to ensure the vines structure are trained to grow properly, and 2. to appropriately balance the crop growth with the leaf canopy growth.
It is during the first few growing seasons that the structure of the vine is formed. After this is established, an annual maintenance of pruning off canes from the previous growing season is required to ensure that healthy fruiting canes develop this growing season; fruit will only grow on new shoots from one-year-old canes.
To ensure a sound structure for the vine, a strong trunk must be created by training a healthy shoot upwards on the vertical wire/post until it reaches the bottom-most horizontal wire. The next season, the two strongest and best-positioned lateral shoots should be tied down to the horizontal wire to form the cordons, or arms, of the vine. The shoots that grow off the cordon are trained upward and held in place by more horizontal catch wires. This is the training method we employ at Fall Creek’s Oxbow Vineyard in Driftwood, which is called VSP, or Vertical Shoot Positioning. Once the vine is correctly trained, winter pruning transitions into a more maintenance-driven role.
At Fall Creek in Driftwood, some of our younger Carignan vines are still being trained to their more established structures; however, the older Cabernet Sauvignon vines are one year more mature and ready to bear a high yielding fruit crop. Stay tuned to hear about bud break which we expect in the next few weeks as Spring blossoms.
Celebrate Spring with a Progressive Vineyard Dinner
To celebrate the arrival of Spring, Fall Creek is partnering with two Texas Hill Country friends in a progressive dinner on March 28, 2019. The evening will start at Thurman’s Mansion overlooking Salt Lick Vineyards with the first three courses prepared by Scott Roberts and Salt Lick BBQ. We will then transition to Fall Creek Vineyards at Driftwood to enjoy the next four courses of Texas Hill Country Cuisine prepared by Chef Bryan Gillenwater of Bryans on 290. We will enjoy the bounty of the two vineyards as pairings to the delicious progressive meal. Join us to see the vineyards in their Spring glory and to celebrate the end of this rather chilly and wet winter! The menu and tickets are available on our Fall Creek Vineyards website.
by Quincy Barton, vineyard manager
The sun is tempted to shine. The days are warming up. The bluebonnets are beginning to pop up along the roadside. Spring is on its way (a little bit early here at Fall Creek). With that, we are preparing for our vineyard to come back to life and start the long growing season ahead. We’d love to keep you abreast of what’s been going on in our vineyards throughout these chilly, drizzly months.
You’ve probably noticed that, during the winter, there seems to be little activity in the vineyard; the vines look like little more than sticks protruding from the earth. Well, surprisingly, the winter stage of a grapevine’s life cycle is very important. To protect itself from the harsh cold, a vine must go into a state of dormancy, a stage where its growing ceases, its leaves fall, and it retreats into a woody state. Because the process of photosynthesis is halted, the vine must survive from the reserves stored during the previous growing season. It is very important for the vine to properly accumulate these carbohydrates to sustain itself during these winter months, not unlike a bear preparing for hibernation.
During the cold winter months, the vines stay "asleep" until spring, when they reach the adequate number of warmer hours to initiate the next stage: bud break. Bud break is when the grape starts its annual growth cycle. It is when the tiny buds on the vine start to swell and eventually shoots begin to grow. The timing of bud break varies slightly from year to year and is dependent mostly upon climatic influences. With spring and bud break fast approaching, we are hard at work here at Fall Creek Vineyards, pruning the vineyards in preparation for the great growing season this year.
We hope that the 2019 vintage produces a crop of fine fruit that will translate into incredible wines, just as they have in previous years. We are still blown away by our 2016 vintage, a small but quality crop that produced superior grapes for our wines including the new ExTerra lineup.
So, before bud break occurs, we are hosting one last winter event: a wine dinner! To honor the 91-point scores that our ExTerra Tempranillo, Mourvedre, and Syrah all received from James Suckling, we are holding an exclusive 5-course dinner for Founder Wine Club members on the 1st of March. This dinner will be presented by Chef Bryan Gillenwater of Bryan's on 290 and will be at our Driftwood location. For more details, click here: https://fcv.com/events. Not a member and would like to join? Click here: https://fcv.com/wine-club-benefits.
Here are two recommendations for home and away that are sure to delight your Valentine.
Nothing ignites passion as well as properly paired wine with a delicious meal. Making a romantic dinner for your sweetie at home on Valentine’s Day is a great way to avoid the crowds. Taking your love to a festive Valentine picnic in a picturesque bucolic setting is also a sure-fire way to impress.
Whether you believe in the physical or psychological properties of aphrodisiacs or not, it sure is fun to eat healthy food with the love of your life on Valentine’s Day. Wonderfully prepared food affects our hormones, our energy levels, our brain chemistry and other physiological properties that set the mood.
Lamb is for LoversA voluptuous red wine with a hearty dish will stoke passions. There have been many health claims about red wine in recent years. The most important one for Valentine’s Day lovers is that Italian scientists claim that a glass of red wine each day can boost your desires. We’ve got just the right red for you.
Fall Creek Vineyards Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Salt Lick Vineyards 2016 is a special wine worthy of the most romantic dinner. Made with grapes grown in the Texas Hill Country, Fall Creek GSM is a highly acclaimed wine, recently scoring 90 Points from James Suckling 2018 Report.
This is an elegant, velvety wine with the right amount of finesse to make your Valentine take notice. With brambly raspberries blackberries and black cherry cordial flavors intertwined with licorice, chocolate and hint of pepper, this wine has depth through the palate to a long finish. The tannin bites in a flirty way. This wine is as potent as your lover knows you will be.
Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre pair incredibly well with grilled meats like lamb seasoned with rosemary, garlic, black pepper and topped with mushrooms sautéed in butter. Of course, lamb is for lovers. Mix up a simple marinade and fire up the grill.
• 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup red wine
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
• 1 tablespoon dried oregano, crumbled
• 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
• 1 (2- to 3-lb) butterflied boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat
Combine oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper in sealable plastic bag or a glass pan. Add lamb and let that baby marinate, chilled for around 4 hours. Bring lamb to room temperature, about 1 hour, before grilling. Grill on a lightly oiled grill rack, turning over occasionally until the temperature reaches 125 to 128°F for medium-rare. It should take about 10 to 15 minutes on a hot grill. Let lamb stand 20 minutes before cutting across the grain into slices.
The elegant, yet audacious GSM paired with the lamb will make every morsel taste lovely.
Valentine's Pique-Nique in the Vineyard
Why not extend the romance through the weekend? Our Valentine “Pique-nique dans les Vignobles” at Fall Creek Vineyards on beautiful Lake Buchanan in Tow, Texas, starting at 12 noon, on Saturday, February 16 is just the ticket. Enjoy a French inspired pique-nique basket with maple glazed, house smoked salmon, arugula salad, demi baguette with brie, blanched haricot verts and new potatoes, and tartelettes au limon curd. Select your favorite Fall Creek bottle to pair with this sumptuous lunch. In addition, after lunch you are invited to stroll the vineyards for a hands-on viticulture experience with winery owner, Ed Auler.
Now you have your menu for Valentine’s dinner and an elegant lunch that are sure to spark romance. We’ll leave the rest up to you.
We received the loveliest of complements from Fernando de Luna of Vintages 2.0, San Antonio’s retailer of rare and fine wines, in our inbox this week. We were so honored and proud that we decided to share his kind words with you.
Thank you, Fernando, for speaking so highly of our pride-and-joy, our newly released ExTerra wines.
Fall Creek’s EXTERRA Red Wines from Salt Lick Vineyard, Texas… “Outstanding American Wine” - James Suckling: “American Wine Revolution” report in October 2018 JamesSuckling.com
Having tasted Texas wines for the 40 years I’ve been in the wine trade, these new releases from Ed and Susan Auler’s EXTERRA are for me the finest, most characterful Texas red wines I have ever tasted. I know that is quite a statement as there are many other wonderful wines grown and made from Texas fruit. But these limited edition wines made in tiny quantities (44 to 134 cases per wine) grown in the Salt Creek Vineyard south west of Austin and carrying the Texas Hill County AVA, signal in the fullest sense of the word that these are wines of terroir… meaning that they reflect the vineyard’s character and the human skill and sensibility that went into the growing and making of wine from those grapes grown in that vineyard. It’s appropriate that Ed and Susan Auler have named these ExTerra, Latin for ‘From the Earth’.
When Ed Auler came by the office/store last month to have me taste these wines I expected they would be very good examples though I also fully expected them to be made in what for me is the expected exaggerated New World style. By which I mean the wines would show the naturally clement conditions of a very warm climate and translate these into at best a one-dimensionally ripe, if not overripe fruit tricked out with the obvious makeup of too much expensive, heavily toasted new oak. Characteristics that are still too prevalent in most top-end Texas and New World red wines for this Old World trained palate.
One sip of the ExTerra Syrah 2016 (only 44 cases made) and I was taken aback: here was a wine that, yes, had classic varietal notes of ripe plum, pepper, and violets but these combined in a balanced complexity of harmony and length with spice and a certain, for lack of a better word, minerality metaphorically speaking; here was a beautifully elegant wine that from its core expressed that undefinable yet unmistakable character of a good to great vineyard. I thought this was a wine that would do a southern French Rhône proud…and it was from a vineyard outside of Ausitn, Texas!
Next was an equally superb expression of a 2016 ExTerra Mourvèdre (134 cases made): dark red fruit tones, dark spice and dark olive, full-bodied, supple, with mysterious depths of flavor. I could have been drinking a Bandol.
To finish the range a superb 2016 ExTerra Tempranillo (72 cases made): luscious and lifted red strawberry and cherry fruit tones, a wine that shows Tempranillo has indeed found a good home in Texas. The subtle spice tone from the oak kept the wine from reminding me of a great, traditional Rioja Gran Reserva but it did remind me of one of the new wave Rioja that forgo long aging in American oak in order to emphasize the vineyard and its fruit.
I can’t recommend highly enough that you try these wines if you want to experience an entirely whole new dimension to what Texas can achieve. The wines are very limited.
Critical acclaim has started with these wines: James Suckling, formerly head Bordeaux critic for the Wine Spectator wrote of the wines as follows: <br< 2016 Tempranillo: “91 points: Blueberries and currants on the nose with some blackberry leaf, too. The palate has ripe, plush and pronounced wooded style with ripeberries and an assertive, plush finish. It's a boldy convincing tempranillo. The Toro of Texas? This has promise! Drink or hold.”
2016 Syrah: “90 points: A brambly array of raspberries and blackberries with licorice and stony, slate-like notes. The palate carries attractive depth of flavor with good oresence on the finish…A lot to like here. Drink now.”
2016 Mourvèdre: “A smoky and savory, slightly meaty nose with slate and blue-plum aromas. The palate has deep and earthy ripe-plum flavors with a handy hold on the finish. Drink now.”
Visit 2.0 Vintages website
We are incredibly excited to share that our three newly released ExTERRA wines have all received a score of 91 from renowned wine critic James Suckling in the tasting report, “American Wine Revolution”, a review excluding West Coast wineries. The new ExTERRA label was created as confirmation of the star quality of three single vineyard varieties deemed exceptional by the winemaking team. Fall Creek Vineyards wines were included in a tasting of more than 800 wines from some of the best wineries in 14 states that were evaluated by Suckling and contributing editors Nick Stock, William McIlhenny, and Stuart Pigott. In addition, Fall Creek Vineyards new ExTERRA Tempranillo, Salt Lick Vineyards, Texas Hill Country, 2016 received an “Outstanding American Wine,” evaluation from Suckling in an Instagram post.
Ed Auler, who is the co-owner of Fall Creek Vineyards along with his wife, Susan, had this to say, “We have always ignored the naysayers who purport that wine grapes such as Chardonnay and other noble varieties cannot grow in Texas because of the heat. Year after year we have won prestigious awards in international competitions which have fostered an ever-increasing strong following for our wines, and this has slowly fallen into the hands of people in the know. Now, James Suckling has brought the world’s attention to what we have known for more than forty years, that FALL CREEK crafts world-class wines grown in Texas.”
The five top-scoring Fall Creek Vineyards wines reviewed for American Wine Revolution on JamesSuckling.com include three new ExTERRA wines and two Terroir Reflection wines, Chardonnay and GSM:
Fall Creek Vineyards ExTERRA Mourvèdre Texas Hill Country, Salt Lick Vineyards 2016
Winemaker Notes: The Mourvèdre is quite elegant this vintage with lively fruit character reminiscent of red and black plum, and ripe tannins supporting the terrestrial flavors of farmland soil, sarsaparilla and morel mushroom.
Fall Creek Vineyards ExTERRA Syrah Texas Hill Country Salt Lick Vineyards 2016
Winemaker Notes: This Syrah has haunting aromatics that recall violets, smoked rosemary, bacon and black cherry. This is a lively wine with a ripe mid-palate and elegant tannins. The finish is savory and juicy with a hint of black peppercorn and Gaeta olive.
Fall Creek Vineyards ExTERRA Tempranillo Texas Hill Country Salt Lick Vineyards 2016
Winemaker Notes: This is a full-bodied wine with a muscular structure, firm tannin and ample fruit. It expresses punchy aromatics that suggest a rain-drenched fire pit, dark roast coffee and roasted black plum. The finish is complex and lingering with hints of red currant and sweet tobacco smoke.
Fall Creek Vineyards Chardonnay Texas Hill Country Certenberg Vineyards 2015
Winemaker Notes: Aromas of peach skin, smoked pineapple and lemon Danish with flavors of yellow peach, pineapple pith, Meyer lemon, and a hint of brioche, finishing with a lively, stony minerality that lingers. A perfect balance of intensity and restraint are present in this charming wine. Score 91
Fall Creek Vineyards Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre Texas Hill Country GSM Salt Lick Vineyards 2016
Winemaker Notes: This GSM is perhaps the richest and most velvety expression we have experienced yet. With notes of clove cigarette, Chinese 5-spice, and black cherry cordial and hints of chocolate-covered purple olives and pepper dust, we are carried away by this wine's eternal finish. Score 90
We hope you will try these amazing wines and share your impressions with us.
2018 Harvest Report: All About the Viticulture and Less About the Winemaking
August 16, 2018
We all know that expression, “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute”. As a winemaker in the Texas Hill Country, I have aggressively studied historic weather charts, recorded high/low temperatures and dates, had sleepless nights with my eyes glued to ominous cloud patterns sweeping over the west Hill Country radar maps, and tried in vain to see a pattern in the chaos. Once again, nature has left us in awe…a season unlike any we have seen or expected and a spectacular harvest in return.
What started as a surprisingly cold winter with a few shocking snowfalls transitioned into a cooler than average spring. Bud break occurred at an expected time and we luckily avoided late spring freezes and devastating hail storms. At this stage, we anticipated a long, slow ripening season and perhaps a later than average harvest.
Quite the contrary, as nature caught us off guard yet again delivering the hottest summer since I began working at Fall Creek in 2013 with a hot smack in late May and numerous record-breaking high temperatures during a late July heat wave. Veraison set on quickly, and thus began one of the speediest ripening periods I have ever witnessed. Crisscrossing the state, in a mad dash to gather grape ripeness (brix) data from the many vineyards sources, I realized that harvest was coming like a freight train. The vineyard and winery crews rapidly harvested and received two-thirds of the harvest haul in less than two weeks with barely a moment to catch a breath or some sleep!
Growing Degree Days to date Cumulative Growing Degree Days Cumulative Precipitation to date
The weather broke this past week, with some sweet, gentle rain, and a “cold front” that slowed down the process for our later ripening varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. We will have a little extra hang time for these varieties, and perhaps harvest them even later than last year. Thanks to this relief, our winery crew had a little break before the final harvest haul.
And the grapes? We have amazing quality, albeit smaller yields, with the exception of Mourvèdre which is clearly a heat-loving variety well suited for this part of Texas. Impressed, Phil Price, Winemaker, noted that the chemistry of the grapes this season reminds him of what he looked for in top vintages in Napa Valley. His assessment is, “great sugar to acid ratio…high brix, best acids in years”. The quality of the grapes this vintage makes it easy on the winemaker because everything we want is naturally present in the grapes. The 2018 vintage is all about the viticulture and less about the winemaking.
Tempranillo Salt Lick Vineyard Merlot Certenberg Vineyard Lenoir Fall Creek Vineyard
This year we will get to see a wider range of vineyard and varietal expression, as we have expanded our wines to include some new vineyard sources and new wine styles. We have been overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response to our Grenache Rosé the past two years and have dedicated a significant portion of our Sangiovese from Salt Lick Vineyards to be made into a dry Rosé that will be super fresh and savory. We are also making our first Rosé from our Fall Creek Estate Lenoir grapes which have a brilliant color and punchy aromatics. We also harvested the first Cabernet Sauvignon lot from Salt Lick Vineyards, which was planted in 2014, and Cabernet Sauvignon from our first estate harvest from the Oxbow Vineyard at Fall Creek in Driftwood. It will be exciting to see the range of terroir expression in Cabernet Sauvignon from three different vineyards in the Texas Hill Country as we compare the quality to our longstanding Cabernet source, Certenberg Vineyard. We also found a new source of Sauvignon Blanc in the Cerro Santo Vineyard near Lubbock in the High Plains AVA, a region we have not sourced from in many years. Highly aromatic and showing great freshness, this Sauvignon Blanc will be a perfect complement to our 30-year old Sauvignon Blanc source in Escondido Valley, Texas.
Pear Tree Block in Salt Lick Vineyards
In the winery, we are still experimenting with different techniques to bring out the intrinsic quality of the grapes. We allowed all the 2018 red grapes and some of the white grapes to proceed into natural fermentation with ambient yeast. We conducted several small batch fermentations in a range of bins and totes to isolate the distinct personality of the grapes and vineyard source. We further diversified our cooperage collection this year, bringing in more French oak barrels, and we continue to prioritize the marriage of high quality grapes with elite barrel quality. It has become increasingly clear that our single vineyard and select block ferments are worthy of special handling and distinctive labeling.
A rainbow of mid-ferment wines (left to right): Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay,
Grenache Rosé, Sangiovese Rosé, Grenache Noir, Merlot (bin), Merlot (tank), Tempranillo, Syrah
While we are excited about the vintage as a whole, a few harvest lots stand out as notable: the Salt Lick Vineyard Pump House Tempranillo is stunning with fine structure, the Salt Lick Vineyard Pear Tree Block Cabernet Sauvignon has almost perfect chemistry, small berries and deep color, and always a favorite, the Salt Lick Vineyard Mourvèdre, has especially rich aromatics this vintage. Across the vintage, we are finding that the red grape skins are firmer which will lead to more structured wines with firmer tannins and will perhaps require lengthier barrel ageing regimes. While patience is a virtue in winemaking, we know you are thirsty, so we are releasing some mind-blowing wine from our 2016 harvest in a month or so that will keep your cellars stocked and your wine glass full until the 2018’s are ready for release.
Sergio Cuadra, Director of Winemaking Fall Creek Vineyards
Phil Price, Wine Maker Fall Creek Vineyards
A quick look into the 2018 grape growing season in Texas Hill Country for Fall Creek Vineyards.
The harvest will soon be upon us before we know it, because our red grape varieties are changing the color of their berries in the vineyard, which is called Veraison. This is a good time to review the weather thus far for the 2018 growing season.
Coming out of winter, the vines started bud breaking at a normal time this year, which is mid to late March, and these dates are similar to the past several years with the exception of 2017 when it was about a month earlier.
This year the vineyards had a rather cool April. In fact, Growing Degree Days (GDD) in the Dripping Springs area were just 440 which compares to 520 GDD in 2014, which is the next lowest of the last five years, compared to nearly 580 in 2015 and 2017, as seen in the chart below.
Then, as if to play catch-up in a race, May brought enough heat to level the averages up, to the point of making 2018 the second warmest season over the same period. June set a solid record of heat accumulation, the highest in the current quinquennial.
So, if these temperatures stay within reasonable ranges, we may expect harvest dates to be a bit earlier than those from 2014 to 2016. Just a reminder, 2017 had a full month advantage due to an unprecedented early budbreak, which moved harvest dates several days earlier than usual.
Rainfall, on the other hand, has shown a 35% deficit compared to a normal year which has led us to compensate with the correspondent irrigation scheme.
As stated above, we’re in the middle of veraison (pictures below) in the vineyards, which is officially the beginning of the ripening time of grapes. The weather, particularly precipitation, cannot be more crucial over the coming weeks. Whether we might have had a drought or a period of pouring rain up until today, it matters not, because the weather from veraison forward defines what the season is going to be like. This is the time for vines to “think” about their descendants. Yes, they need to “feel” like it´s more important to produce good seeds and prized fruit for the harvest and winemakers than to grow and expand their perimeter, in effect, foliage, which is exactly what they would do if they were to receive an endless supply of water, days on end.
I know we need rain in the area, but for the record, hopefully, the downpours will not be coming our way until we have finished harvesting!
Sergio Cuadra, Director of Winemaking, Fall Creek Vineyards