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.

40 Years of Thanksgiving Wine and Food Parings

21st Nov 2019 @ 12:21 by matt@penandtellus.com

By Susan Auler, co-founder

Thanksgiving provides an amazing opportunity for us to reflect on the year and take stock of our many blessings. Celebrating with family and friends is a wonderful way to express our gratitude. As winery owners, we tie our Thanksgiving celebration to the original feast by giving thanks for a successful harvest. This year, we’ll not only reflect on a fantastic harvest, but we’ll also reminisce about 40 years of harvests as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Fall Creek Vineyards.

A trip to France that my husband Ed and I took in 1973 changed our lives. We visited the major wine regions in France and immediately fell in love with French wines, foods, and culture. Within two years of that trip in 1975, we planted grapes on a corner of Fall Creek Ranch to experiment with wine growing at the encouragement of Texas A & M and Texas Tech Universities. Soon that test plot grew from ¼ acre to 7 ½ acres, and we purchased 400 acres along the west side of Lake Buchanan to construct the permanent location of Fall Creek Vineyards and Winery. We formally established the Fall Creek Vineyards winery facilities in 1979.

Thanksgiving Wine and Food Pairings

Since 1979, we have lovingly paired Fall Creek Vineyards wines with traditional Thanksgiving dishes. A few of our favorites include:
  • 1983 Fall Creek Vineyards Chenin Blanc - Paired with Foie Gras served with homemade apple chutney on toasted brioche as an appetizer. This was our first vintage of Chenin Blanc and it was the number one rated Chenin Blanc in the United States in the “Wines and Spirits Buying Guide.” The natural fruitiness, beautiful minerality and ample acidity of the wine made it a beautiful compliment to the richness of the Foie Gras.
  • 1990 Fall Creek Vineyards Chardonnay - Paired with classic Cornbread Dressing. This vintage tied for top honors in a competition of Texas Chardonnay and French White Burgundy in Burgundy, France. It is a food-friendly wine with bright tropical fruit flavors that brings out the sweetness of the dressing.
  • 1997 Fall Creek Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc - Paired with fluffy mashed potatoes and turkey gravy. In 1997 our Sauvignon Blanc was the first Texas wine to be given a “Best Buy” by Wine Spectator. What an honor! Its crisp citrus flavors and mineral undertones made it a perfect accompaniment to our decadent potatoes with plenty of butter and gravy.
  • 2005 Fall Creek Vineyards Meritus - Paired with cranberry sauce. Our 2005 vintage received a double-gold medal at the 2006 Tasters Guild International Consumers’ Wine Judging. This blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is a delightful complement to cranberry sauce. The red raspberry and cherry flavors are a delicious match with the sweet tarty taste of cranberry sauce providing a smooth and enjoyable experience.
  • 2016 GSM Salt Lick Vineyards Terroir Reflection - Paired with Salt Lick smoked turkey. We love our 2016 Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre (GSM) Salt Lick Vineyards Terroir Reflection Texas Hill Country with smoked turkey. Wine made with grapes grown in the Salt Lick Vineyards is an obvious pairing with a recipe from the famous Salt Lick BBQ restaurant. This vintage scored 90 points in the James Suckling 2018 Report. It is a velvety rich wine full of black cherry cordial flavors and hints of chocolate-covered purple olives that pairs really well with the smoky bird.
  • Try this delicious recipe for smoked turkey from our neighbors in Driftwood, Texas. The Salt Lick Cookbook: A Story of Land, Family, and Love by Scott Roberts and Jessica Dupuy for your Thanksgiving dinner.


  • 1 1/2 gallons water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 (12-pound) turkey breast
  • 1 bottle favorite Salt Lick Bar-B-Que Sauce
  • Preparation

  • Mix water, sugar, and salt. Rinse turkey breast and pat dry. Seal in a large container with poultry brine, and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
  • Bring smoker to 265 F. When ready to smoke, rinse turkey with cold water and pat dry. Discard the brining solution. Baste turkey well with Salt Lick barbecue sauce. Place on smoker rack midway from heat source.
  • Baste again after 3 hours. At 5 1/2 hours, check internal temperature at the thickest area of the breast. If the temperature is 165 F, the turkey breast is ready for removal. If the temperature is not 165 F, recheck at 15-minute intervals. Remove from smoker and place on a sheet pan to rest. Baste turkey before slicing and serving.
  • Makes 10 to 12 servings.

    We’re thrilled to have wine lovers like you celebrating 40 years of delicious Fall Creek Vineyards wine and food pairings for Thanksgiving. If you want to try our 2016 GSM Salt Lick Vineyards Terroir Reflection Texas Hill Country and smoked turkey pairing this year, you can pick up a few bottles of at our Tow or Driftwood locations or purchase it here: https://fcv.com/product/fall-creek-vineyards-brgrenache-syrah-mourvdre-brsalt-lick-vineyards-2016.

    Top 5 Fun Facts About Fall Creek Vineyards

    24th Oct 2019 @ 10:32 by tara@penandtellus.com

    Pictured above: Ed and Susan Auler is Bordeaux winemaker Jean Michel Cazes who influenced their decision to grow their vineyard operations in Texas.

    Celebrating Texas Wine Month with Nuggets of Truth About the Texas Wine Industry

    By Sergio Cuadra

    Pioneers in the Texas wine industry, Ed and Susan Auler have been writing Texas wine history since planting their first vines in 1975. Since then, they have grown not only a successful wine brand, but they have also helped build an entire wine industry. With so many years invested, there are lots of fun facts that you may not know about our favorite Texas winery.

    1. Fall Creek Vineyards Chenin Blanc program has always been a star of the portfolio.

    In April of 1983, Fall Creek Vineyards opened its present-day winery facility. That same year, Fall Creek’s first Chenin Blanc topped the Wines and Spirits Buying Guide as one of the top Chenin Blanc wines in all of America for that vintage.

    2. Fall Creek Vineyards wines have been featured at many presidential inaugurations as the only Texas wines on the list.

    Fall Creek wines were served at President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1985 and at the inauguration of George H.W. Bush in 1989. The family also presented their wines at the inauguration of George W Bush in 2001. Fall Creek Vineyards wines were the only Texas wines served at each of these inaugural events.

    3. Legends are realized here.

    James Michener, the author of Space, Centennial, and Tales of the South Pacific, stayed at Fall Creek while researching his book, Texas.

    4. The Auler Family are champions for distinction in Texas winegrowing.

    Ed Auler spearheaded the effort to create the Texas Hill Country American Viticulture Area (AVA) with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF), receiving the designation in 1990.

    In April 1986, Susan and Ed Auler founded and hosted the first ever Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival, after 25 years running the festival, it evolved into the annual Austin Food & Wine Festival that continues to this day.

    5. Fall Creek Vineyards has been the official wine of the Super Bowl.

    Fall Creek Vineyards 2003 Texas Hill Country Merlot was the featured wine at the Super Bowl XXXVIII. After serving three presidents and many global ambassadors, the Aulers represented Texas well with the who’s who attending football’s premier event in Houston.

    Forty years and counting…

    This year, Fall Creek Vineyards proudly celebrates forty years in the Texas wine business. Without a doubt, the family will continue to write history as Texas wines continue to grow in popularity and notoriety.

    The Excitement and Exhaustion of the 2019 Harvest

    25th Sep 2019 @ 08:34 by matt@penandtellus.com

    By Quincy Barton, vineyard manager

    That’s a wrap for harvest 2019! We are very excited to announce that all of our grapes for the 2019 vintage are off the vines and waiting patiently in the winery. The weather was very strange this year. We experienced very heavy early season rains, coupled with an uncharacteristically cool spring and early summer, which led to a delayed harvest. We picked about two-three weeks later than usual, making it our latest harvest in recent years at Fall Creek Vineyards. The anticipation was worth it.

    If you have ever had the opportunity to experience a harvest (grapes or otherwise), you understand the two overarching themes of the season: excitement and exhaustion. Long days followed by even longer nights become the relentless schedule for every vineyard worker and winemaker alike. Undoubtedly, however, the delirium and extreme sleep deprivation is nothing in comparison to the satisfaction of being a part of such a critically integral aspect of the winemaking process. Truly, there is nothing more rewarding for someone who has spent countless hours in the Texas heat tending to the vines than to work alongside other impassioned people for one last hurrah, collecting the fruits of such tremendous labor.

    The key to having a successful harvest is to have a strong team of individuals who have a heart for wines and a work ethic to match. Luckily, at Fall Creek Vineyards, we have exactly that. As an extension of that fortune, this theme carries across the street to our partners at the Salt Lick Vineyards. This is the site where the grapes of some of our most elegant wines are grown. While soil type, climate, varietal selection, are absolutely important factors behind this, we fully acknowledge the impact of their incredible vineyard management as well.

    Harvest at Salt Lick Vineyards

    I had the pleasure of getting to experience harvest with the Salt Lick Vineyards team for our Grenache, Syrah, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Sauvignon harvest and to say that these guys know what they’re doing is a colossal understatement. Joining in with the team for their night harvests, we started our evenings around 8:00 p.m. and worked through the dark hours of the night underneath the light of the beautiful starry sky aided by the glow of our headlamps. It isn’t easy work, but it is enjoyable.

    One of my favorite nights this season was during the Tempranillo harvest, when the Perseid meteor shower was in full peak. Half the evening was admittedly spent staring at the sky and enjoying one of nature’s most captivating phenomenon’s—an experience I would have otherwise missed.

    Harvest at our Oxbow Estate Vineyard

    Across the road at our Oxbow estate vineyard, our harvests took place in the early morning in an attempt to beat the scorching heat. The morning of our Cabernet harvest was particularly memorable. A myriad nocturnal critters were enjoying our vineyard at 4:00 a.m. when I arrived to remove the bird netting from the vines. The final count was one armadillo, three opossums, six deer, a couple wild hogs, and one bobcat (the “yipping” of adolescent coyotes could be heard all around, but thankfully never seen).

    This season we had several amazing wine club members volunteer to help us with both the Cabernet and Carignan harvests this year, easing the burden of our staff quite a bit. We are tremendously grateful. There were opportunities for great pictures and even greater fellowship together. It is a fantastic way to learn a lot about what goes on in a vineyard as well as foster an even deeper appreciation for what ends up in your glass as a final product. We love having our volunteers come out every year, so if you are interested in helping out with the 2020 harvest, let us know!

    Anticipating a Stellar 2019 Vintage

    All of our tank space and almost all of our barrels at the winery are completely full, making this one of our biggest harvest yet! We are especially very excited about our very first harvest of our Carignan here at our Oxbow vineyard and our neighbor’s Salt Lick Vineyard up the road from us. So far, we are very pleased with how promising this vintage is turning out to be. We will have a lot of really delicious rosés ready for next summer, so stay tuned for those releases. Overall a VERY fantastic harvest for 2019. We cannot wait to share our new wines with you soon!

    TEXSOM Tempranillo Tasting: the $100 Texas Wine Question

    12th Sep 2019 @ 15:58 by matt@penandtellus.com

    By Guest Author, Miguel Lecuona, Wine Marketing and Wine Tourism Instructor at for the Texas Tech University

    Editor’s Note: Fall Creek Vineyards was privileged to have our ExTerra Tempranillo Salt Lick Vineyards Texas Hill Country 2016 included in an educational session at TEXSOM, an educational conference for beverage professionals. The session, “VARIETY FOCUS: TEMPRANILLO,” was hosted by speakers Sarah Jane Evans MW, Dirceu Vianna Junior MW, and Jessica Dupuy, who guided participants to evaluate 13 different Tempranillo wine examples from the classic producing countries of Spain and Portugal and forays into the United States, Australia, and Argentina, others.,

    Following the conference, a participant posted the following in a wine group on Facebook, “Fantastic tasting on Tempranillo, but to my Texas friends, there’s a lot to be said when Fall Creek charges $100 for the “Saltlick” to be followed by Muga Prado Enea Gran Rsv, $75, and Vina Real Rsv, $60. Something is wrong with that picture, need to come back to reality if they want the Texas wine industry to grow.” The post spurred a lively discussion with more than 60 comments. Some people agreed with the post, while others disagreed with his assertion.,

    A few days later, Miguel Lecuona, a wine judge, wine instructor, wine marketer, and co-owner of Siboney Cellars, a Texas Hill Country Winery, penned his own response to the post. His thoughtful and thorough analysis of the factors that impact wine pricing deserves a broader audience. We are publishing it in its entirety here.,


    There’s a brief pause in our harvest schedule, with many grapes literally just hanging around, getting a little riper day by day. That’s perfect, as we are not in a hurry. So, with a bit of time between vineyards, I wanted to take a minute to respond to an interesting post and exchange on this forum (Texas Wine Drinkers Facebook Group) from August 29. The post, from a wine industry professional, referenced an amazing TexSom Tempranillo tasting, which included Fall Creek Vineyards and Winery ExTerra, Muga, and other internationally sourced wines. And while he appeared favorable to the Texas wine itself among those famous labels, one statement struck me regarding the objection to the $100 price point for ExTerra: “Something is wrong with that picture, need to come back to reality if they want the Texas wine industry to grow."

    I think it’s understandable in the context of an international tasting to consider such conclusions, but it’s overly simplistic. In fact, there's more than $100 worth of misunderstanding and incorrect premise in this statement. There’s a lot to unpack here, so allow me the privilege of your attention for a few minutes to make my case, then you can tear this apart as you like!

    OK let’s start with a few of those realities. Let’s take Rioja.

    Muga — what a great historic bogeda, beloved the world over. I was in Rioja early this spring, driving through Haro, en route to an appointment. Did you know that Muga owns or controls over 1000 acres of vineyards — more than the entirety of vineyards in the Texas Hill Country. Another major Tempranillo grower, Marques de Riscal makes splendid Riojas, wines I have shared with many who read this forum, including vintages from 1964, 1961, and 1952. Those old blends include a fair amount of Cabernet, by the way. Do you know how many barrels they manage in their winery? 37,000. Not cases… BARRELS. They have a guy - a barrel guy - whose sole job is to move barrels from the lower chamber up 5 steps with a hydraulic lift, roll it 20 feet and down another lift to be washed and recycled. All day, every day.

    The scale is, well, staggering is not too big a word for it.

    So is it fair to say that maybe these producers have more than just history on their side — that they are quite a ways down the fixed cost curve? They are very large, worldwide producers. (Bonus points if you post below how many bottles of wine can be made from 37,000 barrels!) Have they perhaps also benefitted from decades of protectionist tariffs against imported wines and favorable export tariff markets by comparison, to say nothing of time-tested AVA-level rules (which can be both a help and a nuisance, but that’s a topic for another time!).

    Here’s another reality — Texas.

    The post fails to define what is actually meant by growth. I hope readers will forgive me for being obvious, but this needs to be stated, apparently. The Texas Wine industry is, in fact, growing. Boy, is it growing. By any objective measure — new acreage under vine; winery permits; tourism; Tour Operators; wine club member growth; new wineries and tasting rooms; destination marketing; investment; media coverage — the Texas Wine Market is growing, thriving, hustling and bustling. TexSom itself is a sign of the vibrancy of the Texas Wine Industry. My TexSom classes were taken at the Four Seasons Hotel Austin over a decade ago!

    While it’s not without numerous challenges, the industry is growing in all directions at every price point. A huge chunk of this growth continues to serve the vibrant Direct To Consumer sales market, to which Texas Wineries take a back seat to nobody. So unless you are actually in the market, you won’t observe this thriving arena of wines, experiences, dinners, offerings, and exclusive programs on your supermarket shelf or on many wine lists (another topic which bears a full on discussion). Examples abound: in the last 12 months since Exterra was introduced, Texas wineries have opened a smashing new tasting room just for club members (William Chris Vineyards); an entirely new winery dedicated 100% to Sparkling (Grape Creek Vineyards); a tasting room for destination tourism dedicated to classic cars (Wine Garage); a winery spa and resort hotel (Carter Creek Winery Resort & Spa); a new 60 acre estate vineyard with tasting room and production facility (Augusta Vin); and this week, the rebirth of a former small winery into another interesting concept/venue driven by one of our top wine makers (will let them unveil their program at their own leisure!); and soon, a winery that sold & will re-open under a massive new investment scenario that will include an ancillary wedding venue, more vineyard acreage, custom crush facility, and talented wine professionals, as a destination venue (the “Family” project of Chase Jones et al). And this is all within a 30 mile stretch of Highway 290! Two other healthy signs: (1) Numerous strong High Plains Winegrowers have committed to advanced farming practices and rigorous testing, and invested in frost protection, hail netting, state of the art harvesting, and the ability to crush close to the vineyard location. Even 10 years ago, this was not the case. And (2) we have great vineyard growers opening their own tasting rooms and making their own wine labels - Lost Draw Cellars, Betty Bingham, Neal Newsom, Nikhila Narra Davis, Farmhouse Vineyards. This will make everyone better at growing grapes and making quality wine.

    A third reality

    Fall Creek Vineyards and Winery. This is, I believe, the oldest winery in the Texas Hill Country Wineries AVA, with the first grapes planted in 1975 and bonded in 1979 by Susan and Ed Auler, who after traveling to France to assess a potential expansion of their cattle ranch, gave up that dream and went all-in for wine. They founded the Hill Country Wine & Food Festival. And it was their application to the US Government that granted the legal basis for the Texas Hill Country AVA. A producer of Texas wines from 100% Texas grapes, Fall Creek’s portfolio includes wines from $12 to $50, and the new trio at the range-topping ExTerra line at $100 - Tempranillo, Mourvédre (which is brilliant) and Syrah. The wine maker is Sergio Cuadra Schlie. Any self-proclaiming professional taster owes themselves a delightful visit to taste with Sergio. You will learn a lot, and understand the seriousness and discipline with which he approaches this project. The vineyard site itself is quite young, and at present not very large. And yet, it is already kicking out world class wines. That a 2016 vintage could sit on the same table as a Grand Reserva and live to tell about it is itself an achievement. All three of the ExTerra wines are knock-outs by any standard, and critically acclaimed. The production quantity for the whole program in 2016 is a scant 250 cases — no more than 10 barrels!

    That said, in fact the price point is well under $100 if you’re a wine club member and might be more if you taste it at the Four Seasons, or Biga on the Banks, or Cabernet Grill. You can also pay more for Muga at these competing locations. So much depends on how we define “the market”. I actually like the price point. I mean granted, I'm not stockpiling wine at this price, but I am happy to buy and share this wine of stellar quality. This is not a daily drinker. It’s not for everyone. It means this wine won’t quickly disappear down the memory hole in three months before serious collectors and evaluators can buy and hold some and track this label through the vintages over time. So the $100 price isn’t a flaw, it’s actually a feature.

    The final reality - History.

    To be frank, and with respect, I think the original poster has it exactly backwards. ExTerra is not a case of unreality. It’s actually another welcome sign of recognition for the potential that exists to produce world class wine in Texas and builds on the progress demonstrated by other wineries. Inwood has sold $100+ Texas wine in their fine portfolio for many years, and that has not stopped their growth nor stunted anyone else’s. And, it is BECAUSE the Texas wine industry is growing and thriving that we are attracting the talent, investment, energy and commitment to produce world class wines from the very sites that many tasting professionals reflexively maintain can’t yield such wines, and should never seek to price them above their place. Seriously, if the objection to this wine is price, because we don’t have the history and don't deserve to think so highly of our wines, let me show you dozens of wines in Bordeaux, and Rioja, that do have the history, and are in fact, inferior. Or invert that. I can show you many Bordeaux wines that do NOT have the legacy of a historic classified growth Chateaux and make brilliant wines, often selling for even more.

    History does not make wine. As the French say, making great wine is easy -- Its just the first 200 vintages that are hard. Well, Texas has been busy in the last 200 years, granted. But now we are focused on this wine business. And ExTerra is just the latest #TxWine to confirm that it is the confluence of wine maker, owner, site, farming persistence, and passion that makes great wine. I hope owners find many more sites like the block at the Salt Lick, adjacent to Onion Creek and depository of complex soils, and put grapes in the hands of skilled wine makers like Sergio Cuadra and Joshua Fritsche who really see what’s possible to create.

    Happily, we are putting our money where my loud mouth is - we are getting into it ourselves, with Siboney Cellars. My wife Barbara Lecuona is winemaker, the 2019 is our third vintage. In May, we closed on a 52 acre site situated on a limestone plateau between Hye and Johnson City. The site sits at 1500 feet of elevation, rising 100 feet above 290 entrance, is north facing, and features limestone terraces as well as favorable soils. Having lived and worked in Bordeaux and tasted everything since 2008 at the very highest levels of Primeurs, working with the best wineries in the Hill Country since 2011, and tasting hundreds of #TxWines with Daniel Kelada Texas Wine Journal for many years, I am very proud of what the Texas Wine Industry has achieved so far. We are thrilled to explore the possibilities of this site, and are rigorously examining everything for root stock, clone and layout. Meanwhile we are thrilled to work with vineyard experts like Fritz Westover, and a slew of passionate growers who help us to realize our own dreams while making the best wine we can possibly make. We look forward to welcoming everyone to Siboney in 2020. Just. You. Wait!

    Photo by Miguel Lecuona

    Veraison in the Vineyard: A Sure Sign that Harvest Is Near

    9th Jul 2019 @ 11:44 by matt@penandtellus.com

    by Quincy Barton, Vineyard Manager

    Veraison, or the beginning of ripening, has started in our vineyards. The Fall Creek team couldn’t be more excited to be on our way to a very fruitful harvest! The grape vines have been going through critical growing states over the past few weeks with the grapes transitioning from a state of growth into the ripening phase. This shift into veraison is marked by a ceasing of grape berry development followed by the accumulation of color within the clusters. The previously monochromatic green vineyard is now studded with a beautiful array of purples and pinks, creating a romantic atmosphere for the visitors at the winery.

    With the tremendous amount of early season rains this year, the vines have been incredibly productive. We have had substantial shoot growth throughout the entire growing season. Now as the composition of the berry’s changes the vines begin to transition from a focus of energy production to energy utilization. In other words, the vine’s metabolism starts to move sugars toward the clusters. The conversion of green to purple clusters in red varieties is due to the shift of the cell’s stores of chlorophyll to anthocyanins (a flavonoid in the grapes that contains antioxidant effects). Anthocyanins create a purple pigmentation in the skins of the grape. In white varieties, the chlorophyll converts to carotenoids, giving off a lighter pigmentation than in red grapes.

    Veraison brings on more than just a color change. With ripening, the acid in the berries begins to diminish as the sugar levels inversely rise. The goal is to find a great balance of acid and sugars in the grapes at harvest. With the increase in sugar levels, the grapes are more palatable, and unfortunately become a delicious treat for birds and other pests as well.

    As the mad dash towards harvest begins, our main focus becomes pest control and a close management of the irrigation schedule. We wrap row after row of vines in bird netting. This is the protective standard among vineyards in this phase of the growing season and as such, it is quite common to see nets draped across the vineyards all over Texas.

    This magical time of year paves the way for harvest, when all of the long hours and hard work in the vineyard begin to come to fruition for this vintage.

    If you are as excited about the upcoming harvest as we are, join us for our Harvest Kick-Off Party on Sunday, July 28 at our Driftwood location. We’ll celebrate with delicious wine, and food available from Garbo's Lobster Truck and The Bearded Baking Company. We’ll see you there. More information is available here: https://fcv.com/events.

    Stressed-out Vines Make Award-Winning Wine

    21st Jun 2019 @ 09:31 by matt@penandtellus.com

    By Sergio Cuadra, Director of Winemaking

    We are thrilled to learn that our 2015 Fall Creek Vineyards Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre (GSM), Salt Lick Vineyards was awarded Texas Monthly’s Top Texas Wine of 2018. It is a fantastic honor to be named for this prestigious recognition among so many outstanding Texas wines at the annual Toast of Texas event held by The Wine and Food Foundation of Texas. The Texas wine industry is truly producing some of the best wines in the world at this moment.

    I’ve been asked what it takes to make an award-winning wine. The truth is that some of it is up to the winemaker, but much of the quality of the fruit is dependent on the growing conditions that are completely out of our hands.

    It is a cliché, but it is true that every great wine is made in the vineyard. The time we spend in the vineyard is incredibly important and deeply impacts the final wine. There are elements in the vineyard that we can control, and there are elements that we can’t.

    We take our queues in the vineyard from natural principals to get optimal production and quality. For example, wild grapevines typically only have fruit at the edge of the canopy, where it has exposure to sunlight. We apply that concept to proper canopy management to thin the number of leaves and arrange shoots so that they grow up to expose the flowers and fruit to sunlight.

    The most important aspect in winemaking, is to a degree, out of our control. Having just the right amount water to the plant during the entire growing season is absolutely essential in making high quality red wine.

    This is evident when we evaluate the great vintages in France and compare them. It turns out that in great years, there are similar rainfall patterns. In good years, you can have almost any type of rainfall before veraison. Veraison, which is when the grapes start to ripen, typically starts in mid-June and lasts into early July for many varieties in Texas vineyards. If it continues to be dry after veraison through harvest, the result is usually a high-quality vintage. In seasons with wet conditions after veraison, the result is typically a challenging year, or average year for wine quality.

    The reason is simple: Self Preservation. When grape vines have plenty of water, they are happy, and they follow their own sort of Manifest Destiny for growth with shoots and leaves expanding everywhere. When they are happy, they don’t care much about the grape clusters. With thicker canopies, the grapes are protected from sunlight and retain thin, delicate skins. The grapes grow large and diluted with all of that water.

    Conversely, when they feel a lack of resources, like water, the plants concentrate their efforts in the grape clusters rather than in growing the shoots. If it thinks that it is barely going to survive, it turns all their efforts into producing the tastiest, darkest berries to attract birds which will eat them and spread the seeds. Less rain means reduced canopy, resulting in exposure of grapes to wind and sunlight. The plant naturally protects its seeds with thicker skins, deeper color, and richer polyphenols which gives us more aromatics, and more tannins for a more complex wine.

    Knowing that the proper water amounts are essential to quality grapes, vineyard site selection and management are very important. At Fall Creek Vineyards, we plant our vineyards on great sites that allow excessive water to drain quickly. Without irrigation, like in Europe, we wouldn’t have any grape production in Texas. It is just too dry in most years. With irrigation we can control how much water the plants get in the dry months of June, July and August. In Salt Lick Vineyards, where we grow the grapes for our award-winning 2015 GSM, we use light irrigation after veraison so that the vines stop growing leaves and shoots at the right moment, concentrating production in the clusters.

    In 2015 the long draught in Texas ended. May 2015 was the wettest May on record. It rained 10.8 inches in that month alone. However, it only rained thee inches in June, and 0 in July. This was perfect timing with the onset of ripening. We had a nice, dry ripening period, leading to prime grapes to work with in the winery.

    The results were impressive. We had dark, concentrated juice right from the beginning in each of the three grapes in this Rhône-style blend. To make the wine with the intense Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre fruit, we used traditional, centuries-old winemaking approaches with minimal intervention. We use pump over regimes for full extraction of colors and flavor. We did not use fining, instead we let the juice settle and racked to separate it from the lees. We closely monitored the oxygen contact as more concentrated wines require longer aging in oak. We wanted slow, quiet evolution of the wine in barrel. For this wine we used primarily American Oak barrels. The final blend is a concentrated, complex and elegant wine that retains a sense of place.

    We invite you to taste our Top Texas Wine, the 2015 Fall Creek Vineyards GSM, Salt Lick Vineyards. We have the 2015 vintage available at our tasting rooms in Tow and Driftwood, TX. The 2016 vintage, which scored a stellar 90 points in a James Suckling review, is also available online: https://fcv.com/product/fall-creek-vineyards-brgrenache-syrah-mourvdre-brsalt-lick-vineyards-2016.

    A Taste of Terroir-Driven Tempranillo

    23rd May 2019 @ 09:15 by matt@penandtellus.com

    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

    Bud Break and the Start of the Wine Grape Growing Season

    30th Apr 2019 @ 14:52 by matt@penandtellus.com

    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!

    Brighten Easter Dinner with Fall Creek Vineyards Creekside Rosé

    17th Apr 2019 @ 09:05 by matt@penandtellus.com

    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.


  • 1 (3 1/2 to 4-pound) tied boneless pork loin

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced pancetta
  • 8 large garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • Preparation

    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

    Happy Easter!

    Pruning the Grape Vines to Prepare for Spring Growth

    6th Mar 2019 @ 19:55 by matt@penandtellus.com

    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.