With July 4th being a Monday it seemed like an excellent idea to drive down to Flat Creek Estate near Marble Falls in the Hill Country just north of Austin. They were holding their VinoPalooza Festival, apparently a variation on Lollapalooza, so it involved both wine and music. Four wineries poured their wines and Flat Creek served Tex-Mex food while a rock band played a set of mainly classic rock covering bands like The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, and a mean version of “Brown-Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison. The hundred degree temperatures weren’t a problem either as the music was in The Pavilion, a covered stone patio adjacent to the vineyard, and the tasting was held inside the Event Center. The name of the game was to taste some wines, pick one you liked, and buy a glass of it to sip while you took in the band.
Thankfully the place wasn’t as jammed as the real Lollapalooza and attendees didn’t have to wait in long lines for wine (you were usually first or second in line). Plus seats for the concert were easy to find. The organizers had been disciplined, as we found out when we arrived an hour after the event opening. We were told that over 150 people had been turned away at the door. Fortunately, we had bought our tickets in advance. Blame for our lateness falls squarely on Coop DeVille and Shane Stephens who suggested I take US-281 instead of I-35, claiming it was a lot more interesting. It was, and we stopped often enough to stretch our expected three and a half hour journey into five hours. The longest stopover was at The Ranch House BBQ in Glen Rose, a place so authentic that they appear to not even have a web site. The succulent ribs and spicy sausage were good, the brisket was just okay. Covered outdoor tables made it dog-friendly.
To get to Flat Creek Estate at Marble Falls you turn left on FM 1431 and go at least 20 minutes along the edge of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. With more time we could have taken CR 328 through it. Either way, the landscapes are dramatic. The winery is set just outside the refuge, near the north shore of Lake Travis.
We paid $25 each for the event, and that included enough wine and food tickets to keep us happy. All of the participating wineries were local to the area. Notable wines were Pillar Bluff Kitty 2010, an unctuously sweet Muscat that tasted like concentrated apricot juice. Drink this with sweet desserts such as Tres Leches cake. The Flat Creek Estate Super Texan 2009 was a creditable Sangiovese. Pride of place for best of show however goes to Stone House Vineyard Claros 2008. This wine is made from 100% Norton grape, a variety that may have been used to make more bad wine than just about any other in the world. Stone House is not in that category at all. It is spectacularly well made and simply the best example that I have tasted. The winemaker is contractually obliged not to reveal his identity but the winery web site reveals that he is an Australian who graduated in Oenology from Roseworthy College, Adelaide and works in California. My money is on Michael Scholz of Napa’s St. Supery, but I’m not going to reveal that. I’m not even going to allude to the similarity of this picture and this one.
All of these wineries welcome visitors. Flat Creek Estate welcomed our dog as well. Check them out this summer if you can.
Oh, and we came back on I-35 and it is just three and a half hours – but not as interesting.