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Sister Creek Winery in the Texas Hill Country

Sister Creek.png

Sisterdale is a small village in the hills, about an hour north of San Antonio. Once upon a time it took nearly two hours to get there; the roads were narrow and winding. Now the Interstate gets you most of the way there, and a ten-minute drive off the main highway puts you in beautiful, downtown Sisterdale. Nobody knows quite how many souls live there (estimates vary from 60 to 100); it’s not even clear that the U.S. Census knows how to find this little hamlet.

Sisterdale became a real settlement in 1851, when it was granted a post office. The population was anti-slavery and pro-Union from the beginning, but it was so far from civilization that even the Confederates couldn’t find it to burn it down. According to old records, the town reached a peak population of about 150 on or about 1885, and declined from there to about 25 residents in 1914. There are no new buildings in town (few even from after 1900), and only four listed businesses.

It’s certainly a sleepy little place, except for the evenings when the dance hall is busy.

Inside Sister Creek

One of the going concerns early on was the cotton gin. Since the local economy was (and mostly still is) based on agriculture, this business was vital to the community. However, in the 1950’s or so, it went out of business. The old buildings and property stood empty and aging until 1988, when it was purchased and the new owner founded Sister Creek Vineyards. Since then, the winery has produced a select assortment of small-run wines that have drawn a loyal fan base. Their selections include Chardonnay, Pino Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines, and two related Italian style Muscat Canelli offerings.

Paula Jo and I decided we were thirsty, and since it was well after 5 PM (somewhere) we plunked down our fee and tasted across their whole range. We began with their chardonnay, which we found pleasant and drinkable. This wine is aged about 8 months in American oak barrels, and then bottled. Unlike many chardonnays we’ve tasted in the past, this one had definable fruit and vanilla essences, and I think it would go great with fish dishes. Or just to enjoy a glass to unwind in the evening.

We moved on to the reds. The Pinot Noir had plenty of spicy scent and flavor, things like cherry, vanilla and so on. Not a bold flavor, though! Somehow it made me think of enchiladas or a zesty tortilla soup as the meal. Their Merlot, aged 16 months, has won several awards recently. I found it smooth, a bit more so than the Merlot I’ve used recently in cooking. It wasn’t different enough for me to consider taking home a bottle at this time, though; gotta conserve the cash for the day, or we’ll be going home early!

Wine Barrels

Sister Creek produces three different Cabernet Sauvignon blends: A 3-grape blend, a 4-grape mix labeled Reserve, and a Vintner’s Collection 5-grape blend. We enjoyed the 4-grape the best of these, and I could see using it for dinner parties; it has an elegant sense about it.

The Muscat Canelli we saved for last. The standard vintage won silver at the 2008 Los Angeles International competition, and it shows. Sweet enough for dessert, light enough for sipping before a meal, and smooth enough that a whole bottle could go missing quite quickly. And I’m not talking about sharing!

The Reserve edition won a gold medal at the last Los Angeles International, and a sliver at the International Eastern in New York. I thought the standard Muscat Canelli was great. Until I tasted the Reserve, that is. After that we were done tasting and were ready to buy. The fact that there were no more wines to taste had nothing to do with our decision. It was all based on logic. Really. We bought a few bottles of each of the Muscat; Christmas is nearly here, and I need gifts for friends. (I’ll be sure to let them know how good it was, of course.)

With a successful first stop under our belts we saddled up and headed off west to Comfort. We quickly agreed that it would take some high-falutin’ fanciness to top this visit.

If you’re ever heading out I-10 northwest of San Antonio and have an hour to spend, consider taking a small detour to Sisterdale and sipping some Sister Creek wines. Or make a special trip like we did; either way, you’ll be glad you did…

Enjoy the (Tasty Fruit of the Vine) Heat!

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