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Wine Matters: Wine kegs from Bell Springs

Staff Writer
Austin 360

More refined keg party? Contact Bell Springs

Bell Springs Winery in Dripping Springs (3700 Bell Springs Road, bellspringswinery.com) is now selling wine kegs full of their wines. Because the kegs place a thin layer or argon gas over the wine, they can keep wine fresh for 90 days minimum, says winemaker Nate Pruitt. The Barber Shop Bar in Dripping Springs is already using them, but individuals can rent the kegs for weddings or large events. They come in two sizes - 2.95 gallon or 1.3 gallon, 15 and 7 bottles, respectively - and start at $105 for the white and $115 for the red, plus a deposit on the keg.

Coffee-table book raises a glass to Texas

Want to tour Texas wineries without leaving your couch? Check out "Spectacular Wineries of Texas," ($40, Signature Publishing Group) a stunning coffee-table book featuring small profiles by Dallas author Jolie Carpenter of almost 50 wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms across the state. The book, which came out last month, features a number of wineries in the Austin area, including Bella Vista Ranch in Wimberley and Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood, but it's fun to flip through the whole book to see how each winery, just like the wine, reflects the terroir, from the High Plains to as far south as the Rio Grande Valley. With each profile, Carpenter includes a pairing guide to match some of the wineries' wines with food.

Hill Country center to pair wine, food

Ernie Loeffler, director of the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, knows that when people come to Fredericksburg, one of the big reasons they are coming is for a taste of the German heritage of the settlers who founded this city in the 19th century, and in the past 10 years or so, wine has quickly become a top draw, as well. All that's fine and dandy, Loeffler says, but a few years ago, he and his staff started to think about ways to stay ahead of the curve. What they came out of those brainstorming sessions is the Texas Center for Wine and Culinary Arts, a facility dedicated to the awareness, understanding and celebration of Texas food, wine and agriculture. Loeffler says that in some ways, they are modeling the center after the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, N.Y.

Plans for the center are still under way, but the city is looking at three potential sites for the center, which would act as an events center, a culinary school, exhibit space and a training center for servers and locals who want to get into the food and beverage industry. A study in 2009 found that such a center would bring in an addition 34,000 visitors and $11.2 million to Gillespie County. Loeffler says they've estimated the cost to be about $10 million and are trying to raise funds for it to open in October 2013. Among the big donations have come from Torre di Pietra Vineyards in nearby Stonewall and from Edible Austin, which raised $10,000 at the Edible Texas Wine-Food Match at the Carillon in June. Plans are already under way for the 3rd annual Hill Country Wine & Music Festival (hillcountrywineandmusic.com), which is one of the biggest annual fundraiser events for the center. Next year's event will take place from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on April 28 at Wildseed Farms, just east of Fredericksburg. You can find more info about the center at VisitFredericksburgTX.com.

Wine Events

• On Friday evening and all day Saturday, celebrate meat and grapes at the Texas Reds Steak and Wine Festival in downtown Bryan. The event, which features live music, chef demonstrations, a grape stomp and shuttles from Blinn College and Messina Hof, is free on Friday night and $5 on Saturday, which does not include wine tickets and food. tr.blog.bryantx.gov

• Flat Creek Estates near Lago Vista is hosting a Grape Jam Wine and Music Festival from 4 to 7 p.m. on Sunday featuring wines from Dry Comal Creek, Perissos, Pillar Bluff, Stone House and Pilot Knob and music from Acoustic Jungle and Mike and the Moonpies. General admission is $10, not including wine tickets and a lasagna dinner prepared by Sean Fulford, the former Vin Bistro and Austin Club chef who said at says that he has snagged the "best chef job in Texas" at the bistro at Flat Creek.

• Celebrity chef Sara Moulton joins some of Texas' top chefs, including Shawn Cirkiel of Parkside and Rob Snow of The Mansion at Judges' Hill, for a six-course dinner at the Driskill Hotel on Oct. 12. Bill Elsey of Duchman Family Winery, who was recently named TexSom's sommelier of the year, will be helping pair the wines. Tickets (391-7162, cskipsey@destinationhotels.com) cost $199 per person or $339 per couple, and include a Chantal 10-inch pan.

• Chisholm Trail Winery, the westernmost winery on the 290 Wine Trail at 2367 Usener Road, is hosting a day of fall fun with gourmet pizza and live music from The Empty Handed Vagabonds from 2 to 5 p.m. on Oct. 15. (830) 990-2675, chisholmtrailwinery.com

• Chris Brundrett and William Blackmon, the winemakers behind William Chris Winery in Hye, offer one-hour wine tasting classes every Saturday. The class costs $45 and feature hors d'oeuvres to help explain how wine and food pair together. Call or email (info@williamchriswines.com, 830-998-7654) for details.

• Fleming's Steakhouse at the Domain will host a dinner featuring wines from Fall Creek Vineyards at 7 p.m. on Oct. 21. 835-9463

• Fried foods get all the attention at the State Fair of Texas, but you'll also find Texas wines - not to mention cheeses and other snacks to nibble on while you try the wines - at the wine garden on the fairgrounds. The fair runs through Oct. 23. bigtex.com

• Asleep at the Wheel. Ten Texas wineries. The San Saba River. From 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Oct. 22, these Texas stand-outs and more will converge at a riverside park in San Saba for the San Saba River Pecan and Wine Jam. Asleep at the Wheel goes on at 6:30 p.m., but get there early for food, wine, cooking demos and kids' activities. Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for kids ages 5 to 17. Seven tasting tickets cost $10. pecanjam.com

• Fredericksburg Herb Farm, 405 Whitney Street, is hosting a five-course vintner dinner ($89 per person) on Oct. 27, featuring wines from Becker Vineyards. (830) 997-8615, fredericksburgherbfarm.com

• On Oct. 29, explore the world of chocolate and wine at the Chocolate Festival of Texas in Boerne. The event, which takes place from noon to 6 p.m. at the Kendall County Fairgrounds, 1307 River Road, will feature sweet treats, culinary demonstrations, live music and wine tasting. Tickets, which start at $15, are available online at ChocolateFestivalofTexas.com .

• Neal and Janice Newsom are among Texas' top grape growers, and on Nov. 3, the Cabernet Grill is hosting a five-course dinner ($75 per person, 830-990-5734) featuring Newsom and a handful of winemakers who use his grapes. Tickets cost $75.

• Big Reds and Bubbles is back. The Wine and Food Foundation of Texas' annual fundraiser will be at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 at the Driskill Hotel. More than a dozen restaurants, including Eddie V's, BC Tavern and Finn and Porter, will be providing food to go with the wines. Tickets cost $85 for foundation members and $100 for the general public. Also of note: On Dec. 4, the foundation's annual Stephan Pyles dinner and live auction will take place at Stephan Pyles Restaurant in downtown Dallas. winefoodfoundation.org

• On Dec. 3, Spicewood Vineyards is hosting its third annual half marathon and 10K benefiting Toys for Tots. The chip-timed races start and finish at the tasting room and takes runners along farm roads in Burnet County. Even if you aren't running in the race, you can drop off donations and enjoy wine and food. Details and race entry at runintexas.com .

• On Saturdays and Sundays the first three weekends in December, Becker Vineyards hosts its annual port and Stilton cheese tasting. It's a free tasting event to showcase how well the two holiday favorite pair together. 830-644-2681, beckerwines.com .

Grape Creek Vineyareds trickles into Georgetown

Georgetown is creating its own wine hub in the middle of the historic downtown. After voters last year approved a measure that changed the city's liquor laws to allow wineries to operate in the city with fewer restrictions, Grape Creek Vineyards near Stonewall signed on to lease a space that currently houses the city's visitors center at 101 W. Seventh St. (The visitors center will be relocating next door.) Grape Creek owner Brian Heath plans to open a tasting room and small production facility next year. The agreement is part of the Georgetown Winery Initiative, an economic development effort to bring more wineries to the heart of Georgetown. The Grape Creek expansion will join Georgetown Winery, located just down the street at 715 S. Main St.

Food briefs

• Susan Auler, who founded Fall Creek Vineyards in 1975 and has been one of the most influential people in the Texas wine industry ever since, is a finalist for Texas Business Woman of the Year, an award that is presented by the Women's Chamber of Commerce of Texas. The winner will be announced at the Annual Money and Power Conference, which takes place this week.

• Wine and Spirits Magazine recently named June Rodil, the sommelier behind the 500-wine wine list at Congress, Bar Congress and Second Bar and Kitchen, one of the top five best new sommeliers in the country. She's not exactly new (in 2009, she was named Texas' best sommelier at the TexSom conference), but it's an honor nonetheless.

• After a number of years growing and selling their own grapes to other wineries, the Salt Lick (yes, the barbecue hub in Driftwood) is now selling its own wines. Last year, they added the Salt Lick Cellars tasting room, which let visitors taste a number of local wines, but now they have their own wines - BBQ Red, Sangiovese and Hill Country Blend - to add to the list.

• In.gredients, the packaging-free grocery store that will be opening this fall at 2610 Manor Road, has signed on to carry wines from Pedernales Cellars, located near Stonewall, says In.gredients marketing director Brian Nunnery. Customers will be able to either bring in an empty wine bottle or buy one from the store and then fill it from a tap. "We are hoping to have a couple of different wineries as well," he says. Renovations on the Cherrywood building are just getting under way, but Nunnery says they are hoping to open by the end of next month.

• Lots of limo companies offer tours of wineries around the state, but how about going on a tasting tour in a 1971 Volkswagen Bus? Vintage Tours of Texas, based in Dripping Springs, offers tours of wineries in the area in a blue hippie bus that will surely be the talk of the tour. Tours start at $150 per person. 573-2877, vintagetoursoftexas.com .

• On Texas 16, south of Fredericksburg, you'll find the newly opened Santa Maria Cellars. Argentina native Martin Santamaria, who is from the wine-rich region of Mendoza, earned a master's degree in viticulture and oenology in Italy before moving to Central Texas, where he worked for Dry Comal Creek Vineyards in New Braunfels. He started making wines, with a focus on malbec, under his own label there and opened the winery earlier this year. (830-998-5357, santamariacellarswines.com).

• Also new to the area is Pilot Knob Vineyard, a 112-acre winery located off U.S. 183 north of Liberty Hill. Owner Craig Pinkley first planted grapes in 2008 and opened a tasting room and events earlier this summer. pilotknobvineyard.com