Monday, June 15, 2009

Afternoon Tasting at Pedernales Cellars

On a wonderfully warm April afternoon, we arrive for a wine tasting at Pedernales Cellars, one of many wineries that operate in the Texas Hill Country near Fredericksburg. Despite the spelling of its name, locals and savvy visitors know there's another way to say it in these parts. Just like the nearby river of the same name, both are called 'Per-du-nal-is' in Hill Country. The business opened in 1995 amidst the fertile Pedernales River Valley, which offers the perfect climate for growing hot-weather-loving grapes such as tempranillo, cabernet, merlot and viognier varieties.

We're sitting on a spacious deck behind the visitor's center, where white linen, long lines of sparkling goblets and light snacks await us, with skewers of strawberries and blackberries, huge grapes, crusty bread and lahvosh crackers, robust and creamy cheeses, and a plethora of marinated vegetables including fresh asparagus and peppers. There's something about looking out over the quiet sun-drenched countryside while sampling wine and food with friends that makes the afternoon special.

While we sip each of several different whites and reds we learn that Pedernales Cellars crafts 4,000 cases of wine annually, making it the fifth largest volume wine producer in the United States. All of its red wines age in white oak barrels made with wood from America - mostly from Lebanon, Missouri - France, particularly for merlots, or Eastern Europe. The winery stops using each barrel after about four years, because much of the oak-y character of the wood dissipates within three years.

As our tasting draws to a satisfying close, the porch swing attached to a nearby tree beckons. But we have another appointment this afternoon, so swinging will have to wait for a future visit.

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