What would a proper girls’ weekend be without a serious adult beverage? I had the answer & a very specific destination in mind for my friends when they spent a fun weekend at Woodrow House Bed & Breakfast – Cap*Rock Winery (which ironically, is located on Woodrow Road just south of Lubbock, Texas).
Many visitors to our area find the existence of an award-winning winery here on the High Plains of Texas a huge surprise. After all, most folks think of South Texas as the go-to region for palatable Texas wines. What they don’t realize is the majority of grapes grown in the state come from the Lubbock area.
“The hot & cold climate of this area is important to the sugar levels in grapes grown for wine,” according to my good friend, Charles Yancey, who is the Tasting Room Manager for Cap*Rock. “Our long, hot days, followed by cooler nighttime temperatures create a balance between sugar & acidity.” He added that approximately 75% of Texas wine grapes are grown in our area. Not bad for a region known more for cotton, corn & cattle.
According to the High Plains Wine Growers Association web page, this region has more than 3,700 planted acres, including more than 75 wine grape varieties. The Association is in its inaugural year, having been founded just last March with the goal of promoting awareness of the superior quality of High Plains wine grapes, advancing community awareness of the industry to the local economy & the quality of life on the High Plains of Texas, assuring a healthy social & political environment & striving to maximize the quality of High Plains grapes. If you’ve never lived in an agricultural setting, it’s easy to underestimate its importance as a business enterprise. With drought continuing to be a major problem for producers struggling to grow more traditional crops, grapes are proving to be a favorable alternative, as they require less water & land.
The Cap*Rock Winery was actually founded in 1988 & was christened Teysha Cellars. Four years later, the name was changed to Cap*Rock when ownership changed hands. The next few years showed a glimmer of what could be, but times were turbulent, & the fledgling business fought for a foothold in the Texas wine scene.
Fate intervened when Catherine Bodenstedt fired up Google to find an investment firm with a similar name & found a hit detailing a public auction of the winery. After one failed bid, & the subsequent failure of the initial bid by another buyer, she submitted a second, sealed bid. Next thing she knew, she was the new owner of a winery & it was almost harvest season. She can proudly claim it is one of the largest female-owned wineries in the state, & she now makes Lubbock her home, after almost 25 years in San Antonio.
Her keen business sense is well served by a team of professionals who bring decades of experience to Cap*Rock’s talent pool. Phillip Anderson holds the post of General Manager & Michael Vorauer claims the lead role of Wine Maker. There also is a sales team that is working diligently in Houston, West Texas, Dallas & Central Texas to spread the word about Cap*Rock’s fabulous wines, get them onto retail shelves & into homes for patrons to enjoy. Overall, the Winery employs eight full-time & 10 part-time positions. It takes every single person to create the wonderful atmosphere that guests encounter when they walk through the huge double doors.
Of course Charles works his magic in the Tasting Room, but I’ll talk more about that a little later. He assumed his role at Cap*Rock a mere two years ago & wasn’t a wine drinker when he started. He credits Phillip’s expertise & his daughter Leah for fostering a deep appreciation for wine. “I believe that I have found my perfect job, & I don’t mean that because I am allowed to have a drink with our customers, but that I am doing what I love to do: visit with people & try to pass on some knowledge I have learned &, at the same time, learn from that same customer with whom I have the privilege of raising a glass of Cap*Rock Wine.”
TASTING ROOM & FACILITIES
Charles undoubtedly gave our little group a VIP experience on the Saturday we visited Cap*Rock. Before we descended on the Winery, we parked near the large entrance sign, piled out of the car & posed for the obligatory group photo.
We jumped back into the car, drove through an impressive tree-lined entry (if you know much about the Lubbock region, any tree-lined vista is scarce & something to behold) & officially parked with the other visitors. The Winery is fronted by beautiful mission style architecture & includes a majestic sculpture of a Native American brave offering grapes to an unseen spirit.
Coincidentally, the entrance was recently named the 2012 TX Wine Lover Awards Best Entrance & Tasting Room. You can read the entire article by visiting http://www.caprockwinery.com & clicking on the Media tab.
Facilities include a barrel reception hall that can accommodate up to 250 people, a bridal suite, large tasting room, 14-foot ceilings, stone fireplace, large lighted outdoor patio, full catering kitchen, graciously appointed interior furnishings, 11 foot HD projection screen, professional sound system, & much more.
The feel of the Tasting Room has always reminded me of a plush lodge – it’s warm & so welcoming. When you walk up to the bar of the Tasting Room, you immediately feel like you are among friends. The traditional tasting is $10 per person & allows each guest to select up to seven wines. Categories include white, blush & red wines.
Each member of the tour received a souvenir glass etched with the Cap*Rock logo, & Charles proceeded to demonstrate the durability of the stem by bouncing it on the counter (please do not try this at home, all stunts were performed by a highly trained professional).
“I’ve seen a glass get knocked over, hit the counter, fall to the floor & bounce without breaking,” he noted.
I’m going to admit that I volunteered to play designated driver for our visit – an idea that every guest needs to take into account when participating in a tasting at any venue. I can’t say I enjoyed sitting on the sidelines as my friends were trying each variety, but I had quite a bit more experience with my fondness of Cap*Rock offerings.
In listening to the girls talk about their favorites, the Orange Muscat 2010 was a hit with one friend who didn’t have a great deal of experience with wine in general.
The technical sheet for this wine describes the tasting notes as, “Creamy, luxurious & sweet. This wine opens with the aroma of orange blossoms. There’s no missing the orange in this Orange Muscat. The balance between the sweetness & the acidity makes this one of our best-loved wines.” If you are tempted to give this one a try, Cap*Rock suggests it be paired with soft cheeses, creamy desserts, or for a decadent delight, pair it with chocolate. Charles even suggested that the wine could be served as a shot. To this wine’s credit, it finished in the 2012 Lone Star International Wine Competition with Grand Star Award/Gold
Medal/Double Gold placing.
Another friend fell in love with the Legacy Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – mainly because Charles paired it with a delicious chocolate ganache that is made with the wine as a key ingredient. Cap*Rock sends bottles of wine to Schakolad Chocolate Factory in Amarillo, where the ganache is made, & then it is shipped back to the Winery, where it is sold exclusively. It can be purchased for $1.25 per piece or in packages of three, six, nine & 12.
The Legacy Cab, as it’s known, was awarded the 2012 Lone Star International Wine Competition Silver Medal. The wine was held for three years in a combination of French & American oak barrels, allowing it to develop its luxurious texture. Deep garnet in color, this wine opens up big with mixed berry aromas & spice. It finishes smooth & the velvety texture is full of dark chocolate, black cherry & plum. The ideal pairing for this wine includes grilled rib eye steak & baked potato, leg of lamb & robust pasta dishes. My friend said she was just fine in a corner with a full bottle & a bag of the chocolate. “What else do you need in life,” was her reply.
According to Charles, the most popular white wine is the Roussanne 2010. Tasting notes state the Roussanne is becoming one of Texas’ best white grapes. A dry white wine with an exotic bouquet & a depth of fruit flavors. This wine is creamy & shows a slightly nutty aroma, which gives way to honeyed richness on the palate. To achieve the distinctive taste, 60 gallons of the lot were aged for one day in new medium toast oak barrel, yielding the vanilla & nutty aroma. The soft sweetness comes from 0.7% Roussanne natural grape juice held as “Sweet Reserve,” which was added back to the wine before bottling. Suggested dishes that compliment this wine include creamy sauces, chicken, pork,and grilled fish.
This year alone, the Roussanne has been awarded the Dallas Morning News & TexSom Wine Competition Gold Medal, Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo International Wine Competition Silver Medal & Lone Star International Wine Competition Silver Medal.
The most popular Cap*Rock wine is, hands down, the Blush Royale, which is described as having a color reminiscent of a pink sunset. The bouquet is aromatic, bursting with tropical fruit flavors, melon, pear & a hint of soft rose petals. According to specs, it is a blend of eight different grape varietals including: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, Ruby Cabernet & Grenache. The Blush goes great with salty finger foods, hamburgers & spicy Asian dishes.
The Blush awards for this year include the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo International Wine Competition Texas Grand Reserve Champion, Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo International Wine Competition Silver Medal, Denver International Wine Competition Double Gold, Dallas Morning News & TexSom Wine Competition Bronze Medal & Lone Star International Wine Competition Bronze Medal.
If you want to read more about all the wines, again visit Cap*Rock’s website & click on the Media tab. You’ll be able to select the spec sheets & award information for the 11 wines that have netted 27 major awards in the past nine months.
With glasses in hand, Charles next escorted our group outside, where we first took a look at a small area where new vines had been planted. They resulted from Cap*Rock’s “Our Wines – Your Vines” event, which allowed patrons to be a part of the wine making process by planting a Malbec vine & naming it after themselves, a loved one or a cause. Subsequently, they will be able to watch their vine grow & be among the first to try the fruits of their labor with an option to purchase the first vintage in approximately four years. This area includes an arched pathway, where I could easily envision a bride strolling to the altar. I definitely want to go back & track the progress of the little vineyard growing on the three acres where the Winery sits.
We then had fun standing in the gondolas that will eventually hold harvested grapes. They stood empty & pristine when we were there, but harvest time is almost here. The way Charles describes the process, it almost sounds like a sporting event. At the very least, it is intense. Grapes are picked after midnight, in the coolness of the night air & are transported to the Winery gondolas by 7 a.m. They are dumped into an auger, where debris is culled from the crop (apparently this can include everything from pliers to snakes – ooky). They then go into the press by 7:30 to 8:00 a.m. This is all done quickly, as grapes begin to ferment immediately when they get warm. At this point, the winemaker takes over & the magic begins (along with a lot of complicated science).
We re-entered the 26,000 square-foot facility, where we viewed huge vats & proceeded through the bottling area – including everything from how corks are inserted into the bottles to how labels are adhered.