Last April I set out to experience the Granbury Wine Walk, an annual wine and food celebration that not only showcases more than a dozen Texas wineries but also highlights one of the most interesting little towns in Texas.
As a professional wine writer, I’m still surprised at the reaction I sometimes get when I encourage people to drink Texas wine. It’s usually something like: “Texas makes wines?”
Yes, Texas makes wines—delicious wines, as a matter of fact. Well-known varietals like cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and chardonnay are all produced within Texas, but there are also exciting varietals like vermentino, tempranillo, and dolcetto—which are well worth the effort to track down and taste.
Last year, about 3,000 visitors found their way to downtown Granbury for the fourth annual event—and that’s impressive considering that Granbury’s population numbers about 9,000. Five stations located on and near the town square—which is anchored by the picturesque Hood County courthouse—featured 17 Texas wineries, each offering tastes of their most popular creations.
This being Texas, where wine tastes traditionally skew sweet, wines made from strawberries, blackberries, peaches, and other fruits were plentiful. But dry wines, produced from grapes and with less residual sugar in the final product, have grown much more popular than in the past—and many of the examples I tasted in Granbury were of superb, even world-class, quality.
Raymond Haak, for instance, makes several wines at his Santa Fe winery near Galveston. In fact, Haak Vineyards and Winery produces one of only a handful of domestic Madeiras, which are traditionally Portuguese fortified wines. Made from the blanc du bois grape, this dessert wine features stunning aromatics while delivering peach, caramel, and honey flavors. It’s one of my favorites in Texas, and so I was glad to spot Raymond and his wife, Gladys, pouring their wines last year in Granbury.
“This festival is one of the best organized that we attend,” Raymond told me. “Also, the shopping around the square is fantastic, and we enjoy many of the restaurants. It’s a very nice festival in all areas.”
As Raymond pointed out, the Wine Walk is not just about wines. The stations include booths with cheese, smoked meats, and other foods from local and out-of-town restaurants and vendors; arts and crafts; and souvenirs. Plus, more than a dozen bands play on stages set up throughout the town.
All of that means a lot of moving parts for festival organizers, who put together a small army of more than 250 volunteers to coordinate the weekend.
It also means a lot of business revenue is coming in, and not just for the clothing boutiques, restaurants, and shops on the square. I encountered festival-goers exploring other parts of Granbury, like the city beach (yes, there is a white-sand beach in Granbury) and the city’s only craft brewery, Revolver Brewing. No matter where I ventured, I ran into people with “Granbury Wine Walk” glasses snugly fit into “wine yokes” that hung around their necks.
Because Texas is such a large state, it can be difficult to visit every winery, which is why festivals are so valuable and enjoyable for visitors. Not only does Granbury bring in wineries from far away, it also allows the local wineries to step up their profile. In fact, Barking Rocks, LightCatcher, Sunset, Bluff Dale, and Lost Oak wineries are all within an hour’s drive.
For Todd Webster, winemaker at Brennan Vineyards in nearby Comanche, the Wine Walk is even more special: Granbury is his hometown.
“We’ve participated every year in the Wine Walk, and it has grown leaps and bounds,” Todd said. “It’s good to see some of the same folks come through every year.”
I tasted Brennan’s Buffalo Roam wine in 2013 for the first time. This blend of syrah, mourvedre, petite verdot, and ruby cabernet is medium-bodied, softly textured, and immensely enjoyable. It could complement earthy dishes, like mushroom stew, and just about any grilled meat you can name.
At some other wine festivals, which are designed merely for tasting, I would have to go home and figure out where and how I could purchase a wine like Buffalo Roam. One of the memorable aspects of the Granbury Wine Walk, however, was that—when moved by a particular wine—I could purchase a bottle on the spot.
Of course, that bottle is long gone by now, and I’m eager to have another. Thankfully, April is the perfect month for a Granbury-bound road trip.