New tasting room brings a fresh perspective on Texas wine to Fitzhugh Road
Rae Wilson has been a notable name in Austin wine for more than a decade, but her reputation for finding creative ways to engage consumers about Texas-made wines expands beyond the state.
Fellow winemaker Randy Hester left Texas for Napa Valley in 2006, just as Wilson was starting her brand, Wine for the People, which now produces wines under the Dandy Rose and Grower Project labels.
But even in California, Hester had heard about Wilson's effort to showcase the versatility of Texas grapes, not in the Hill Country, where the wine trails were picking up national recognition, but in Austin, where the restaurant scene was also picking up steam.
In 2017, Hester and his wife, Brooke, moved back to Central Texas, and he attended one of Wilson's event at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden. "We should be friends," he recalls telling her, guessing that his congeniality and passion for sustainable winemaking style would jibe with hers.
Wilson says she was a little surprised, but Hester was right. They hit it off, and before long, they were traveling to the High Plains together, visiting grape growers, swapping viticulture and hospitality philosophies and talking about ways that they could collaborate.
Wilson had been looking at spaces in Austin to open a tasting room, but earlier this year, Argus Cidery closed its tasting room off Fitzhugh Road near Dripping Springs. She and Hester started making plans for a joint tasting room where they could showcase both of their wines and host the kinds of educational and social events that they know are critical to expanding their own brands and how customers think about Texas wines.
The tasting room at 12345 Pauls Valley Road officially opened last week, and it's already hosted several small tastings for members of both of the brands' wine clubs, as well as several grape growers and fellow winemakers.
The space has some indoor seating, but most of the tables are outside and spaced more than 6 feet apart to allow for physical distancing. Guests can order tasting flights that feature wines from either brand or a mix of both, as well as cheese boards from Casero. Bottles are also available for sale, and Hester says they hope to start using the cidery's old tap system next year to sell wine by the tap.
Wilson is now selling the first bottles from her latest project, a new line called La Valentía, named for her grandmother. Hester, whose C.L. Butaud brand is named for his grandfather, is pouring the wines he's been working on since returning to his home state, including a 2017 tempranillo, 2019 ramato made with pinot grigio grapes and a 2019 grenache. The tasting room opened Dec. 4 for on-site tastings and to-go bottles.
The tasting room is open by reservation only on Thursdays, from 1 to 7 p.m. on Friday and noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are encouraged, which you can make by emailing info@clbutaud or email@example.com. Both winemakers produce their wines at Slate Mill Wine Collection, a wine incubator in Fredericksburg, but they will eventually move the production to two warehouses next to the tasting room.