Our Vineyards are in Rapid Development as We Approach the Summer Solstice
By Quincy Barton, Vineyard Manager, Fall Creek VineyardsThe summer solstice is Saturday, June 20, at 4:44 p.m. CDT. This date marks the official beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Anyone who lives in Texas knows that it is already summertime. With the advent of summer, we are quickly making our way towards a very fruitful harvest this year at Fall Creek Vineyards.
The Natural Order of the VineyardWith all the craziness and uncertainty in the world right now, we find comfort that life in the vineyard is still chugging along outside of the reach of the pandemic’s influence. During the spring, our vines followed the natural order from emerging from dormancy, to flowering, to fruit set and now getting ready for the next stages of development. It is the kind of normalcy we like to see. It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how unbalanced everything is around us, the vineyard with all its normal processes and progression presses on. It appears there is no lack of intuition for the vines in uncertain circumstances…it simply knows exactly what to do and executes it beautifully. We have seen healthy growth this year with the plentiful rains. With warmer, sunnier days ahead, the fruit is well on its way to greatness. Average high temperatures have climbed from 80 in April, to 87 in May, and likely will be in the low 90s in June and high 90s in July helping our grapes to ripen fully by late July and early August. We have had quite a few remarkable thunderstorms here in the hill country over the past month, but our vineyards have fared well so far. We continue to monitor every day for threats such and hail and high winds. With steadily climbing temperatures, the vines starting to prepare for a growth stage referred to as “veraison.” This is when the green grape clusters begin to change color and the sugars begin to accumulate (this is my favorite time of year). Our Tempranillo vines in the Salt Lick Vineyard have already entered veraison. The name, Tempranillo, comes from the Spanish word temprano, meaning “little early,” and is fitting for this early ripening grape. This year we had veraison set in about two weeks earlier than previous years, signaling that we could have an early harvest.
Heading Toward A Bountiful HarvestFrom this point forward, the dark purple pigmentation will increase in our red varietals and the sugars will develop even further as the acids begin to decrease and soften. It is important at this stage to continue to moderate the disease pressure for both fungal and pests for the vines. By doing so, we allow the vine to stay as healthy as possible and as free from stress as possible as it moves towards fruit ripening. I have even been letting Brinkley, my vineyard-dog-in-training, tag along with me to alleviate some of the issues from deer and other small pests. He has been very enthusiastic and extremely effective! With every additional year of maturity of the vines in the estate Oxbow vineyard, we see more vigor and higher fruit yield. We have thus far been very impressed with the high-quality wines they are producing. We cannot wait to share some of these wines with you soon! As we all know, vitamin D is the best medicine for a lot of things, so come on out, grab a bottle or two, and socially distance yourself on the property and out amongst the vines. Check out the pop-up garden that our great friends at the Plastic Pink Flamingo have set up-it is a beautiful spread and the perfect way to kick of the summer.
Introducing Lescalo Chenin Blanc 2019, a New Low-Calorie Wine
By Sergio Cuadra, director of winemakingFor decades, Chenin Blanc has been one of our signature wines. In fact, in 1983 our first Chenin Blanc was the top-rated wine among all Chenin Blancs in the United States in the “Wines and Spirits Buying Guide.” Now we are introducing
Chenin Blanc Lescalo 2019, a new Chenin Blanc wine with lower alcohol, and fewer calories. It is a delicious, refreshing wine that people can enjoy without worrying about extra calories. Lescalo is the inspiration of our co-founder, Susan Auler, who continually looks for ways to innovate within classic styles of winemaking. She chose the name Lescalo as a salute to the small European winegrowers who have produced and enjoyed low alcohol wines for generations. Here is what she has to say about Lescalo: “For several years I have wanted to create a wine with less alcohol, less calories, and lower carbs for people to enjoy on any occasion. I like to pair different styles of wine with various settings, for my guests, and with different styles of food. We made Lescalo for people to enjoy on almost any occasion like after playing sports, or as a late afternoon refreshment, or as a beautiful companion to an elegant picnic. We like to say that it is the right wine to raise a glass to toast to ‘Haute Santé’ or high health.”
Classic Chenin Blanc StyleChenin Blanc is a perfect grape to choose to make a lower-alcohol wine because of its fruit forward profile and the inherent fuller body of the grape balance well with the higher acidity to create a delicious wine. The main source of calories in wine is alcohol. Wines with lower alcohol naturally have a lower caloric content. To make Lescalo, we harvested the grapes a bit earlier, just as grapes are harvested to make sparkling wines or Champagne. Lescalo has a low 9.8% alcohol which roughly equates to around 80 to 85 calories (estimate made using USDA guidelines). That compares to roughly 130 calories for a typical 5-ounce glass of dry white wine. Lescalo fits your active lifestyle. It’s possible to enjoy this refreshing lower alcohol white wine in moderation without being slowed down. Lescalo is made with 90% Chenin Blanc and 10% Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown in deep, but well-draining, gravelly, loamy sand and soil in west Texas. The wine is released young, without oak aging to retain the youthful freshness. Lescalo has clean, fresh citrus scents with subtle floral aromas married with spicy acidity, lively lemon, white peach, toasted almond flavors that come to life with engaging acidity, and wet-rock-minerality on the finish. The bright flavors make this the perfect wine match with fresh seafood, oysters, and sushi. We only made 500 cases of Fall Creek Vineyards Lescalo and it is available at the winery tasting rooms in Driftwood and Tow, and on ourwinery website. It is also available at select retailers including the Austin Wine Merchant, Dallas Fine Wine, and the Houston Wine Merchant.
The Advantages of Cane Pruning in the Fall Creek Vineyards Oxbow Estate Vineyard
Moving to Cane Pruning in the Oxbow VineyardIn cane pruning, the idea is to reduce the amount of growth in the vine and direct more energy into the fruit overall, increasing both the yield and quality of the grapes. We do that by cutting back nearly all the vine’s previous growth and correctly selecting a single cane growing from the trunk to bear the fruit this season. Our transition to cane pruning this year allows the vine to support only the number of shoots that we know it can handle reasonably. To accomplish this, I am going through and looking at each vine individually and counting the number of healthy canes the vine bore the previous growing season. This number tells me how many buds to leave on the canes I’ve chosen to keep based on their location and strength. We prune previous growth to leave one cane that can support 8 buds total. This reduces the potential number of grape clusters per vine, but also significantly reduces the amount of vine growth. A second advantage of cane pruning is that it limits the vine’s permanent growth to just the trunk, which makes it less vulnerable to frost. We are susceptible to late freezes in Texas, which puts us at risk to freeze damage of a cordon on a spur pruned vine. That forces us to cut that entire section off, and we lose a lot of potential fruit. It also delays the developmental process of the vine. With cane pruning, we can renew the growth each year since the canes are developing in the area of the vine we refer to as the “renewal zone” close to the trunk. Because we can choose new canes every year, we can worry less about detrimental freeze damage. We expect with moving to cane pruning, we will see an increase in yield and quality in our Oxbow Vineyard.
Why Texas Terroir is Bigger and “Badger” Than Ever Before!
By Susan Auler, co-founderOver the past 40 years Fall Creek Vineyards has had the honor and privilege to work with some of the most incredible culinary professionals from Texas and around the world. As we continue to celebrate our 40 years and counting, we celebrated the start of 2020 with yet another rewarding collaboration. Foster ATX assembled swoon-worthy group of chefs from around the country for an amazing event called “Soil: a Seed-to-Pop-Up Dinner.”
The evening’s featured chefs included Philip Speer and Gabe Erales, Comedor, Austin; Matt McCAllister, Homewood, Dallas; Chris Shepherd, UB Preserve, and Georgia James, One Fifth, Houston; Cara Stadler, Bao Bao, and Tuan Yan, Portland, Maine; and Todd Duplechan, Lenoir, Austin.
We were invited to pair our wines with the featured ingredient of the night, a unique vegetable with roots in Texas, the Badger Flame Beet.
What is a Badger Flame Beet?
The Badger Flame Beet is an incredibly delicious, mild beet with a tender and smooth texture, and an amazingly eye-catching, flame-like orange and yellow interior. Simply put, the beet cultivar is a farming innovation. It’s a product of careful breeding (much like winegrowing) for desirable qualities and characteristics. Forbes.com recently gave a little background on the Badger Flame Beet project in Austin:
The invasion project began in October 2019, when Urban American Farmer partnered with local farm Urban Roots to plant over 1,200 row feet of Badger Flame Beets. “Once the seedlings were starting to sprout, we reached out to chefs who we knew could really highlight the flavor and unique qualities of the Badger Flame Beet,” adds Sutton. “Every chef involved cares deeply about local foods, so it was not a hard pitch to get them on board.”
Fall Creek Vineyards Featured Wine and Food Pairings
“An added bonus is that the beet was grown at Urban Roots ATX (a two-time grant recipient). Also fitting to have Fall Creek Vineyards wine with our deeply rooted history.” — Mariam Parker, Executive Director, Austin Food & Wine Alliance
It was a pleasure to select wines to pair with five inventive courses featuring the Badger Flame Beet. Here are our pairing selections.
2018 Chenin Blanc, Classics, Texas paired with Scallop Crudo with Badger Flame BeetsPairing a fresh, crisp white wine with savory seafood like a scallop crudo allows the brightness of the Chenin Blanc grape to pleasantly enhance any minerality or saltiness of the scallops without being too overpowering.
2019 Chardonnay Classics, Texas paired with Roasted Badger Flame Beets with Tkemali, Coriander, Black Walnut & Whipped Olive OilTkemali tends to be pungent and tart, that calls for a lightly oaked Chardonnay to counterbalance. A more acidic white wine could make both the food and wine finish with a sour pucker. The full mouthfeel of a classic Chardonnay also compliments the nutty whipped olive oil and allows the heartiness of the badger flame beet to shine through.
2017 Merlot Vintner’s Selection, Texas Hill Country paired with Antelope Heart Tartar with Badger Flame Beets, Smoked Trout Roe & Beet Top NoriTartare is a preparation method that showcases a meat in its raw form. With a minerality in line with a rare cut of steak and the smokiness and robust flavor of the Trout a Merlot holds up nicely to the strong flavor profiles in play with this dish.
2015 Meritus, Texas Hill Country a red Bordeaux-style blend paired with Badger Flame Beet Kibbeh Naya, Toum, Schug & FlatbreadWith strong flavors like garlic, onion, and spice we presented one of our boldest wines, a Bordeaux blend with enough tannin to pair well with the savory characteristics of this dish. While the spice of most Indian-inspired dishes may carry big risks when pairing with a Bordeaux-style wine, when done well the tannins can result in a satisfying sensation and finish.
2017 GSM Salt Lick Vineyards, Texas Hill Country paired with Pork Rib with Badger Flame Mole Amarillo, Amazake Beet Pickles
With a dish like pork ribs with a mole sauce, how could we not pair it with a wine grown at one of Texas’s most legendary BBQ spots? Salt Lick Vineyards grapes have a subtle smokiness to them from the legendary BBQ pits on property, so this hearty red blend has enough flavor to stand up to the big flavors of this dish.
We invite you to try your hand at pairing our wines with similar dishes at home. Cheers to fantastic culinary experiences!
Fall Creek Vineyards Holiday Wine Guide
By Daniel Williams and Lauren Busch, tasting room managersDecember is loaded so loaded parties, holiday gatherings, and joyful meals that it can sometimes become stressful to manage all the fun. Adding to the stress is the pressure to meet year-end work deadlines, and additional family obligations. The last thing you need is the extra headache of figuring out what kind of wine to buy for dinners and parties. Relax. We’ve got you covered. Here are some straightforward tips to simplify holiday wine shopping.
Perfect Parings: Picking Wine for Your Holiday MealsHoliday dinners can be a cacophony of conflicting tastes with several dishes demanding your tongue’s attention. Selecting the right wine to pair with diverse dishes like ham, goose, turkey or prime rib and truffled creamed spinach, scalloped potatoes and cranberry relish is downright daunting. The three keys to success are: 1. Pick a variety of versatile wines, with food-friendly white, rosé, and red wines. 2. Bright and zippy white wine is a safe bet with a wide range of food pairings. No matter what is served with it, the high acidity perks up the palate and puts a smile on your face. 3. Don’t be a Scrooge and get caught with thirsty guests. It’s safe to plan to serve one bottle for every two people at the table (two bottles if your crazy uncle is on your guest list).
WhiteThe best way to start off any holiday celebration is with a kiss under the mistletoe, quickly followed by a lovely toast with a chilled, racy white wine. It’s a perfect mate with soft, creamy cheeses; curvy mounds of mashed potatoes and just about any luscious dish you encounter. The Fall Creek Vineyards Chardonnay Vintner's Selection Texas Hill Country 2018 is fantastic with goose, duck, turkey and a wide variety of holiday dishes. Our food-friendly Chardonnay is aged “Sur-lie” in a stainless-steel tank giving it toasty flavors with a note of roasted almonds to balance the crisp and juicy grilled yellow peach, and Meyer lemon flavors.
RoséA shimmering glass of gorgeous rose-colored wine sets a merry tone. Rosé wine is the best of both worlds with red fruit aromas of a red wine, and the lighter body and crisp acidity of a white wine. It is a beautiful accompaniment to winter vegetables, roast meats, and dry spiced fruits. Fall Creek Vineyards Rosado Vintner's Selection Texas Hill Country 2018 is made with 100 percent Syrah grapes grown in the Salt Lick Vineyards giving it a fuller bodied and more structure than your average rosé. It has abundant flavors of ripe plum, violet, and pepper dust.
RedStanding rib roast or Beef Wellington deserve to be paired with a velvety smooth, lush red wine with depth and structure. Fall Creek Vineyards Meritus Texas Hill Country 2015 is a Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Certenberg Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country that is elegant enough to adorn any holiday table. The Merlot dominant wine is graceful with plum, sweet cedar, tea leaf and black currant cordial flavors with a hint of violet. This deliciously complex wine is sure to wow your guests.
Holiday Party Wine-Buying GuideHoliday parties are fun and buying the wine for them can be almost as enjoyable. Here are some foolproof party planning suggestions.
Get the Right Amount. Figuring out how much wine to buy is as simple as understanding how many servings are in a bottle, how much your guests will drink and the number of guests you expect.1: Serving size:
Get the Right Mix. If your party begins before 5 p.m., get a mix that includes 45 percent white wine, 25 percent rosé wine, and 30 percent red wine. If your party starts after 5 p.m., your mix can be adjusted to include 30 percent white wine, 20 percent rosé wine, and 50 percent red wine.
Get the Right Wines. It’s always nice to pick crowd-pleaser wines that are both versatile with food and recognizable. Chardonnay is always a winner, as is Merlot. More about that below.Enjoy your holiday parties and celebratory meals with Fall Creek Vineyards.
40 Years of Thanksgiving Wine and Food Parings
By Susan Auler, co-founderThanksgiving 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 PairingsSince 1979, we have lovingly paired Fall Creek Vineyards wines with traditional Thanksgiving dishes. A few of our favorites include:
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.
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.