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Beauty and Taste: Comfort Cellar and Singing Water Vineyards in Comfort, Texas

Glass on a Cask

After leaving the peace and quiet of the tiny village of Sisterdale, we struck out cross-country to the Big City. Comfort, Texas, that is. It’s the second-biggest metropolis in all of Kendall County, right after Boerne. Last census showed nearly 2,400 folks live there, and rumor has it that it’s grown a tad bit since 2000.

Compared to Austin or San Antonio, it’s a sleepy wide spot in the road. Which is fine by me! Sure is different than Sisterdale, though. And there are three wineries nearby: Comfort Cellar, Singing Water, and Bending Branch. Since Comfort Cellar Winery is right in-town, we stopped there first.

Located in one of the neat, old houses found in that part of the world, Comfort Cellar is more a knick-knack shop than winery. They offer some wines unlike anything found in a more classical winery. Such as raisin, orange chardonnay or jalapeño. Yes, I said Jalapeño! It’s got the usual chile bite, only in liquid form. I think it’ll make great zesty sauces for Mexican dishes. We purchased a bottle of raisin wine to experiment with, and then moved on.

We stayed in town for a bit, walking around gawking like rubes from the sticks doing our best tourist imitations. Actually, we were hungry and looking for a local place to eat, and along the way we found some shops and old buildings to experience. We finally did find a great place for lunch: High’s Café and Store, on High Street (naturally). More on that later; right now, it’s about the wine!

Wino Crossing

We moved on out south of town, looking for Bending Branch Vineyards. I knew where I was going, of course, so I didn’t need no stinkin’ map or nothing. The countryside was beautiful and the weather clear and pleasant, so I drove slowly and rubbernecked. After arguing about which road we really should take, and PJ checking her smartphone GPS twice we turned off the main drag towards our objective, we began to see beautiful fields and “yard art” made of old farm equipment. Fairly soon we found Bending Branch Winery. Of course, they were closed; we knew that as soon as we looked at the printout we’d made earlier. They’re open only on weekends, which unfortunately doesn’t include Thursdays. So we waved at the folks there in their front yard and moved on to our next destination. We’ll catch Bending Branch in the near future; looks like an interesting place!

Within a few minutes and after more GPS consultations we saw the entrance to Singing Water Vineyards. We drove slowly past their acres of vines, figuring out how they cultivate their graps and also keep deer and other varmints out. We parked and were immediately hailed by Cowboy, their resident greeter. He waggled and wiggled and barely held still for a good headscratch. A fine pup, and he does his job very well.

There were no other cars around when we arrived, so we had the place to ourselves.

Singing Water Vines

This location is mostly purpose-built, unlike the buildings at the two other locations we’d visited. Still, it was built with Hill Country sensibilities in mind, as much as it was for the purpose of making and aging wines. Singing Water’s owners, Dick and Julie Holmberg, were there and they greeted us like long-lost family. I guess if you make it past Cowboy, you’re set. This vineyard and winery is not yet twenty years old, and still growing. They produce about 25,000 bottles of wine a year at this point, and they have plenty of land to expand into.

The Singing Water catalog includes Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, a Merlot-Cabernet blend in the classic Bordeaux style, and Sweet Lupe, a purpose-sweetened Merlot. This last wine immediately caught Paula’s attention, as it has a yellow dog on the label; Lupe, the wine’s namesake. (The dog’s only failing: she’s not a Golden. But she IS a lab, so we forgive her. This time.)

We sat and chatted with Julie as we tasted the selections. She’s a pleasant and wine-knowledgeable hostess, and she kept sharing all sorts of snacks with us to see how their wines paired up. Not just the usual palate-cleansing crackers; oh no, that Simply Wouldn’t Do. We had almondized peanuts, for instance. And chocolate; lots of bits of chocolate. Both of which are extra-primo with red wines of this caliber.

What caliber is that, exactly? Large, very large. We began with the Pinot Grigio, and that was a more than satisfactory start. This wine would be great with seafood, although it’s not bold enough for a lot of zest. Anything delicate would work, for sure: Stuffed flounder, or shrimp scampi, for instance. I think even fish tacos, if they’re not too sassy. We samples the Sauvignon Blanc next, and I think that would be an ideal wine to cook with. So long as you didn’t spill too much into the food, I mean. Very aromatic and mildly complex as only well-prepared Sauvignon Blanc can be, we noted lots of fruit flavors, including peach. And since Hill Country peaches are one of our favorite indulgences, we declared the Blanc to be fine and wunderbar.

Big House

Singing Water Merlot is very dry with more than a hint of toast in it, from their barrels. I noted several fruit essences, including cherry and cranberry. We talked about food pairings, and Julie suggested this wine would stand up to a lot of zest; I agreed, although I wouldn’t challenge it too much with spicy food, as there’s no need to hide the wine’s flavor. Their Texas Reserve blend, however, is a different story. I wouldn’t mind placing it on the table with the boldest of flavors: Char-grilled blackened steaks, habañero seasoned Mexican dishes, the works. Even quality Indian food would compliment this wine. And vice-versa, as this wine isn’t merely a bit-player in a meal.

Sweet Lupe we saved for last, and it was a treat. With sugar at about 3%, it’s really only a hint of sweet; not like a classical dessert wine. This wine was “invented” at request, and it’s a nice find. Many Texans haven’t learned to appreciate a really dry red wine yet, and this may help them bridge over as they train their palates. However, it’s more than that; it’s a class-act Merlot that’s worth looking into on its own. I’d go with some Jamaican dishes for this one, as the semi-sweetness would help balance the flavors on the tongue as it cleansed off the fire.

We took a short tour of the facilities, and then we unloaded our life savings bought a few bottles for later. And not much later, I hope!

With a good day of tasting and exploring done, we took leave of Singing Water via the high road (Skyline, to be exact) and then headed over to visit my mom in Boerne. It was clear we wouldn’t make it to New Braunfels in time to visit one more winery; we’ll leave that for next time…

Enjoy the (Drinking and Singing) Heat!

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