San Antonio, Texas- part IV
San Antonio, Texas- part IV
Sunday, March 2, 2019
We were up early, on this bleak and cold morning. It was 30 degrees out. Matt Garcia, from Cottonwood Winery Tours, was picking us up for a six-hour swing through the “Hill Country,” north and west of San Antonio. What exactly is the hill country, you might ask, as did we? Matt explained that it is an area about the size of West Virginia that runs from Austin in the North, to San Antonio and points west. It is Texas wine country for the burgeoning industry. The tourist town of Fredericksburg, settled mostly by pioneer German immigrants, is the area’s central town.
The ride out of town, in Matt’s new white SUV, took us along along Rte.’s 35 and 10 and reflected a portrait of most of suburban America. Strip Malls, toney housing developments and light industry clustered around the highways near town. Then, we exited and started our climb, along narrow back roads, into the hill country. Its appearance looks remarkably similar to the hill country above Santa Barbara, Ca. Gentlemen ranches, small farms and 39 wineries were set in a semi-arid climate, that is often rain washed with raging streams, like the Perdenales River. When in flood, it sweeps all before them. Back in the day, cotton farming had predominated in the area. Slaves were held until the Civil war freed them. Once upon a time, the area had been home to the Apache and later Commanche tribes. They didn’t take kindly to the expropriation of their lands by settlers. There were years of bloody raids until until the 1880’s, when war chief Geronimo was hunted down and later housed at Fort Sam Houston, until his execution.
Matt, and later wife Brandy, proved to be a font of knowledge on wine making, grape varietals and all manner of the esoteric knowledge that one picks up on a wine tour. Our first stop was in the very small town of Sister’s Creek, Texas. The “Sister’s Creek Winery” was a small boutique affair housed in an old, cotton-gin mill. The rough barn wood exterior belied the sleek steel vats and processing equipment inside. Matt walked us through the process and explained some of the Texas style grapes used, Tempranillo and Alicante-Bouchet. He also made note of the use of a portable processing facility that the local Vinters used. A semi-sized van arrives by appointment and backs up to the winery storage area. Then, tubing carries the grape juice through the various processing stages in the van, before being pumped back into the vats for bottling. It makes the whole process both much easier and more economical for small boutique wineries, like Sister’s Creek.
Then, we settled around a table and sampled eight different types of Sister’s Creek wine, ranging from Chardonnays to Merlot, Cabernet and two sweet dessert wines. The vintages were very tasty. And of necessity, pricey. Some of the vintages are priced at $39 per bottle. Luckily, the tastings came in only one-ounce servings, or the whole entourage might have had a package on after the second stop. We met the Garcia’s mother as well. She, Matt and Brandy all carried out the various tour assignments for the day. Brandy Garcia was taking Mary and I next up to another tasting in Fredericksburg. Matt was ferrying a couple to a different winery and Momma Garcia was taking yet another couple back to San Antonio.
As we drove upwards towards Fredericksburg, we peppered Brandy with questions about the area. This is where the real education about the area begins. We learned more about Texas, its politics and industry from the Garcia’s, in a brief few hours, than we had the rest of our stay.
We stopped at the Poahotoc Winery tasting room in the village of Fredericksburg. Samples of both the Tempranillo and Alicante Bouchet wines were pleasant. Our server, the daughter of the vineyard owner was just completing her fourth year of college, majoring in wine making and agriculture. She would carry on the line in years ahead. Then, Brandy turned us loose for ninety minutes for lunch. She recommended the Vaudeville Restaurant. We walked by the Chester Nimitz, world war two museum. An attractive outline of a naval vessel is incorporated into the exterior of the structure. I would have liked to visit, but we were short of time. Nimitz, one of America’s greatest Naval Admirals, had been born here in Fredericksburg. The wind was both cold and biting. We scurried to the Vaudeville and were seated in an attractive deli-style restaurant, in the basement of the building. Very good coffee started us out. In that this is Texas and beef country, the pickings on the menu, for a Vegetarian like me, were slim. We managed to order and enjoy some pretty tasty vegetable plates, with humus and salad. It was a good stop.
After lunch, we browsed a few of the toney boutiques around town, but it was too cold for shopping. We hurried back to our drop-off point and rejoined Brandy Garcia, for the one-hour ride back into San Antonio. Like her husband Matt, Brandy is college educated and extremely knowledgeable about the entire San Antonio area. We got a practical education from her about the “real Texas” and much enjoyed the ride back.
It was too cold out to venture forth from the hotel. I sampled some decent vodka as we watched PGA golf tournament in our room. Later, we wandered down to the level four of the hotel. There, an attractive cocktail lounge offered some very good tacos and a decent cabernet. We shared a table with two stewardesses from Florida, who were on a one-day stop over. Like most chance encounters, the conversation was both pleasant and educational. CNN kept us up to date on the various news of the day as we settled in with our books to end another pleasant day of our San Antonio excursion.
Joseph Xavier Martin