Welcome to the William Chris Vineyards blog, we we will be sharing a piece of our world with you every month. Check back often!
When it comes to winemaking, tradition is deeply rooted. Whether it is the type of barrel you use for a certain variety or how you age the wine, there is a history and purpose that dates back hundreds of years. With the upcoming holidays, we are reflecting on tradition - not just in winemaking, but with the people we love most. Because Thanksgiving is a special time here at William Chris, we wanted to share a few of our favorite family recipes with our fans.
Chris, co-founder of William Chris, and his wife Katharine host Thanksgiving right here in Hill Country with family and friends. They have a smaller gathering with 10-12 loved ones at their home. Staples on their menu include seasonal veggies, a smoked turkey, quail and a very special sweet potato casserole from his mother-in-law’s recipe collection. Check out the recipe below!
Sweet Potato Casserole
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed with a fork
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup butter
1/3 cup milk
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped nuts
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup butter
Add ingredients to sweet potatoes and mix well. Put in a greased casserole dish. Mix topping and crumble on top of casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes.
Naturally, lots of wine is flowing at the Brundrett household, and he loves to pair our Cinsault Rosé with his mother-in-law’s sweet potato casserole.
Rachael, Wine Club Manager at William Chris, and her husband PJ celebrate Thanksgiving here in the heart of Texas as well. With her family in Chicago, she brings a bit of home to the table with Mama Pat’s Layered Salad as detailed here:
1 head iceberg lettuce
1 box baby small peas – thawed
2 bunches green onion – chopped
Cauliflower thinly sliced
1 large bottle of Bacos – covered layer, but not thick
Salad seasoning (shilling or McCormick brand)
Parmesan cheese – a good thick layer
Layer in order – cover and let stand overnight.
Rachael prefers light, citrus notes with her salad, so our Blanc du Bois is the perfect pairing!
Josh, our production winemaker, enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter over the holidays. He brings tradition to the table by using one of his grandmother’s old recipes, Sweet Corn Bread Pudding:
1/2 onion, diced fine
1-ounce unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1 (15-ounce) can creamed style sweet corn
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, whole grain, stone ground
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Ground black pepper
2 cups cubed French bread
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Sweat onions with butter and herbs in an oven safe skillet until translucent. Combine corn, cream, eggs, baking powder, cornmeal, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add cubed bread and fold to combine. Pour batter into skillet, right on top of the onion mixture. Bake 50 minutes, or until set. Cool slightly before serving.
The richly textured core of our Vermentino complements the sweetness and texture of the bread pudding.
It’s our sincere pleasure to share a few of our traditions and hope you get to enjoy a few of your favorites with the ones you love this Thanksgiving! We’d love to see what you are cookin’ up, and of course, what you’re drinking—share with us by tagging #williamchristradition
As we grow as a winery, it makes sense to step outside of our comfortable [Texas] bubble we know and love and share a piece of our world with new fans we might not have otherwise encountered. This means leaving the grounds of William Chris to meet new people, taste new things and experience a new style of hospitality.
We did just that last month when our crew headed north to Chicago for wine dinners at Nico Osteria and The Gage. We’ll admit, although we’ve seen growth in this new market (outside of Texas, it is one of our biggest markets where we ship wine), we didn’t expect the overwhelmingly positive response from everyone we met. From fans that traveled from Michigan, New York and even Houston for the dinners, to the sommeliers and chefs we worked side by side with to pair the meals, to the bartenders we met by chance—everyone not only embraced William Chris wines and our staff, but were absolutely eager to share the good Texas wine word. Having never been exposed to the often sub-par Texas wine that’s been the generalization our region, these new and thirsty fans presented the perfect palate to embrace the wines we’ve worked so hard to grow and bottle. Not only were we blown away by the response, but we were blown away by the hospitality of Chicago. As prideful Texans, we think everything is better here (rightfully so), but our eyes were opened when we set foot in Chi Town. The culinary scene is absolutely world-renowned. The cuisine was incredible (who knew a crudo bar at The Gage would pair so perfectly with our pétillant naturel?), and the service, impeccable. We had trendsetting sommeliers chomping at the bit to sample our wine, which of course is an incredible feeling for our hardworking team. Taking off from Midway, we left feeling more inspired than ever. Our minds filled with new ideas leaving us revitalized, refreshed and inspired.
Once we were back on Texas soil, we headed to the Bacon Bash, an annual bacon cook-off created to raise awareness and funds for children with Type One Diabetes and Niki Warms the Cold (a charity that collects blankets and coats for those in need) in Cranfills Gap, Texas. We were encouraged by our good friend Rebecca Conley over at Brennan Vineyards to enter a team for the cook-off. At first, we thought, this will be a great party—a way to blow
off steam post-harvest and a cause near and dear to our heart as our co-founder Chris spent his childhood working at a camp for those with Juvenile Diabetes. But as we grew closer we thought, hell, let’s take this competition and give our fellow competitors (legit restaurants, breweries and wineries) a run for their money. All of us have a background in food and are pretty damn handy with a grill—we’ve got this.
We put our heads together to come up with a pretty epic homage to bacon—bacon infused waffles with a maple bacon reduction topped with bacon mascarpone, bacon dust, and, wait for it, bacon fried chicken. It was a hit. We had one of the longest lines, and while we thought we were supposed to serve around 150 people, we ended up serving upwards of 600 and meeting even more folks than that. The pétillant naturel wine was flowing, and we were able to talk to a whole slew of folks that had never even heard of William Chris.
Our bacon-ized chicken and waffles ended up awarding us Best in Show, and er, Second Place. We were robbed! But seriously, it was such a fun day. We even had a fan call out during the awards how grieved he was that we only came in second, so we rewarded our bacon comrade a leftover industrial sized box of waffle mix. Needless to say, he was bowled over with joy.
These events, and every time we step outside of our winery, remind us that as our company grows and evolves, we must take note from the world around us to draw inspiration and flex our muscles in a different way. Most importantly, we were struck by our fans and their loyalty. We will continue to work hard to support our fans and present them with wines for which we are proud, and an overall experience that is new and interesting.
To check out what we are up to in November, head to our events page.
We are wrapping up harvest here at William Chris, but we wanted to pause from our punch downs and fermentations to tell you about some of the fantastic events we have coming up next month as well as how things have been going here!
Harvest – The whole team has been up to their elbows (literally) in grapes for the past two months. Because of the unexpected rain August brought us, we worked overtime to ensure our grapes were being picked with the perfect balance of acidity and sugar so it does not alter the flavor of the wine. We hauled them back to the winery from all over Texas, where we destemmed, crushed and pressed the fruits of our labor. Now in the fermentation process, we are anxiously awaiting the aging and bottling process, which means we are one step closer to having our fans share a glass with us. We hope you all are just excited as we are to try the upcoming wines.
Weren’t able to join us at our Annual Grape Punch? Check out a few photos below!
Texas Wine Month – All October – We may be biased, but October is our absolute favorite month. Why? It honors Texas wines! To celebrate, we will feature a Wine of the Week, available for purchase online or on-site. There is a limited supply, so keep an eye out for some of the exclusive, limited production and libraried selections from this year and last. We will be making out announcements on our Facebook page every week - don't miss it!
Artist Blend Competition – All October – We’re looking for artwork for the next label for our Artist Blend wine and who better to design than our very own fans! We are accepting submissions now through October 20. The final selections will be displayed at our November Hye Society Release parties for our members to help choose the next label.
Chicago Dinner Series – October 7 & 8 – Some of you may have heard that we have packed up a few bottles of William Chris wines and jet-setted to Chicago to wine and dine some of our favorite mid-westerners. You can find us hosting a collaborative dinner at The Gage on Friday, October 7, and Nico Osteria on Saturday, October 8! Our co-founder, Chris Brundrett, will be there to chat Texas wine and how Texas is changing the wine industry.
San Antonio Wine Mixer – October 16 – Catch us at the first ever San Antonio Wine Mixer at Paper Tiger! We will have samples of our favorite wines, alongside live music and bites provided by Paper Tiger.
We hope to see you at some of our events this month!
With so many new faces around the vineyards, we figured we should give a quick run down of our yearly events so that everyone can start planning now!
Black-Eyed Pea Contests
Each year on January 1st, we like to kick off the new year right. We host a huge shindig including a black-eyed pea cook-off contest, as well as a blackeyed pea eating contest! We have tons of contestants cook up their best black-eyed pea creations for the judges to taste. And who are the judges? Anyone who wants to be! All you have to do is register! It comes with a souvenir William Chris Cook-Off apron and the opportunity to taste all the black-eyed pea entries and then vote on them! It is super fun, with live music, wine and dancing. It's the perfect way to start the new year off.
We host this annual dinner under the beauty of the hill country stars (weather permitting). This romantic dinner is full of all the decadent foods you can imagine. Last year, Chef Chozet used aphrodisiacs in every course to get your Valentine's Day (and night *wink wink*) in full swing.
Each spring, we here at William Chris love to host a big concert event. We bring tables out onto the lawn and have a stage framing the vineyard. We have had acts such as Bonnie Bishop, Larry Joe Taylor and Dr. Zog. Each year we like to provide a new and exciting experience with the music paired with a unique dining experience. We have served paella, had several food trucks serving everything from cajun to BBQ and even had a huge crawfish boil! Everyone comes out and eats, drinks and dances the night away.
Every year on April 24th, we get to celebrate our anniversary and show how truly thankful we are to be here and for everyone's loyal support. We host a dinner the weekend closest to our anniversary to celebrate. We have an elegant coursed meal, complete with amazing wines of course! This is the dinner where we bring out wines from both the library and the barrel. Bill and Chris are on hand to talk about how far we have come and where we are going in the future. It is a small dinner, so you have to book early to make your reservations.
Hog and Goat Roast
The last weekend in June, you can epect to see us having a glorious Sunday Funday with all who are present. We host our annual Hog and Goat Roast event. We roast whole goats using the Brundrett family recipe and a couple hogs as well, complete with al the fixin's! We have live music, lawn games and wine. It's a ton of fun for the entire family. It's a great way to kick off the summer.
Grape punch is an event that happens in the middle of harvest season. It is similar to the Grape Stomps most are familiar with, but with a William Chris flair. We host a mini-seminar about the entire process of harvesting and crushing grapes. After the seminar is complete, all participants will then "scrub up" all the way to their shoulders to sanatize themselves. They will then help us punch down our bins of fermenting grapes. It is so much fun! After our guests are finished playing in the grapes, they will then put their purple handprints onto the back of their complimentary William Chris Grape Punch t-shirt! It is a total blast. This event typically takes place the first and second weekends of August on both Saturday and Sunday.
As harvest season draws to a close, we love to hold a dinner to celebrate. Bill and Chris are on hand to talk about the trials and tribulations of that year's harvest. It is a great way to keep up with what wines will be coming out in the future, as well as enjoy an incredible meal prepared by our chef.
Our final event of the year is our Holiday Dinner. We use this dinner as a time to reflect on the past year at William Chris. It is a dinner where everyone is family and we can celebrate the holidays as one. With beautiful holiday decor and scrumptious holiday foods, this dinner is one for the books. It is the perfect gathering before the chaos of late Decmeber kicks in. If you attend this dinner, don't forget to check out the beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the tasting room an pick up a commemorative William Chris Christmas ornament made in the shape of our star logo in Hill Country clay.
Of course we hold many other event throughout the year, such as Hye Supper Club, private tastings and pick-up parties. So keep a look out on our website for tickets to these and all other William Chris events.
With Earth Day 2015 right around the corner, what better way to celebrate than by sharing all of the ways William Chris has gone green so far this year. We have take several big steps to change the way we live to save the planet one day at a time.
A little over a month ago, we took a huge step in decreasing the number of plastic water bottles that we used in the tasting room. We added in an incredible water machine that takes water right out of the water line, cleans and chills it to produce some of the best tasting water you will ever have.
To date, we have used 205 gallons of water from this machine. That is the equivalent to 1,553 water bottles saved! That's incredible! If we can save that much plastic from being dumped in landfills in just one month, imagine what we can do over the years to come!
We have also started carrying William Chris branded aluminum water bottles. Now on your visit, you no longer have to get plastic water bottle after plastic water bottle. You can grab a canteen and use it everywhere you go! With our water machine, using these bottles is a breeze, as you can refill them over and over with crisp, cold, refreshing hill country water.
Another way that we are helping to save the world is through the process of mulching. Mulching is the process where we take mulch and spread it under the vines. This prevents us from having to use herbacides on the soil. The mulch keeps plants and weeds from growing near the vines. This allows the vines to absorb all of the nutrients in the soil instead of having to share the nutrients with other vegetation. This chemical-free way to control unwanted plant growth is a huge way that we are able to reduce our negative impact on the Earth.
We also use something known as compost tea when we irrigate the vines. This "tea" is the combination of rotten vegetative waste and water, like a liquid fertilizer. We use this to provide essential nutrients to the soil. Instead of throwing away these rotting plants, we would much rather use them in this super constructive way.
Here at William Chris, we go through a TON of cardboard and glass. Fortunately, we have implimented a strict recycling program. We take every empty wine bottle and every empty case box to the local recycling centers, often one van or truck load at a time. While it would be much easier to just dump it all in the trash, we would much rather see it again in the form of new glass and paper.
We also try to use a lot of recyclable paper in our tasting room. While more expensive, we only use recyclable bags or paper bags made of all recycled paper when wrapping up bottles for our guests to take home. The tissue paper we use when wrapping bottles in our tasting room and for our wine club shipments is also made of 100% recycled paper.
We truly feel that it is our duty and responsibility to help make the planet a better place for future generations. We attempt to reduce, re-use and recycle in any way that we can, in every aspect of the business. We hope that you wil take the time and evaluate you impact on the Earth and take steps towards building a better future for generations of wine growers and drinkers to come.
William Chris Vineyards is proud to announce an awesome new partnership. We have paired up with Equitis Flights, LLC. to provide a Hill Country Experience like no other. Equitis will be offering helicopter tours over Hye. You will have the oportunity to see William Chris and the beauty beyond on these ten minute trips.
Now, I am one of those people that are more than terrified of heights, and I did it. So if you are thinking to yourself "No way! I hate heights! there's no way I'm doing that!" Think again. The problem with planes, rooves, roller coasters and even ladders is that you know when you are ascending. With these helicopter tours, you are in the air and you didn't even notice. The helicopter is so smooth and quiet, you won't notice a thing! And then, Voila! You're high in the sky! You can see the majestic hills and beautiful rock formations on the Pedernales.
I would strongly recommend treating yourself to one of these rides. Halsey, the pilot, will take the most amazing care of you, while providing awesome details and incredible customer service. The helicopter will be available for tours on April 3 and 4, May 8, 9, and 10, as well May 22, 23, and 24. They will also be available during all three Hye Society Release parties in April. If you plan on flying high over Hye, book ahead on their website HERE!
We are pleased to announce the newest addition to the William Chris wine family! Next weekend we will be releaseing the new Skeleton Key!
This new wine is the perfect blend. Featuring grapes from all over Texas, we used a multitude of varietals in this unique wine. We used Aglianico, Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah (from 3 vineyards), Cabernet Sauvignon, Ruby Cabernet, and Tannat. We are really excited to be using some varietals in this blend that we have not used in the past.
When creating this blend, Chris just could not get it right. Every time he thought he had come up with the perfect combination, it just wasn't right. Chris woke up in the middle of the night one night and had a sort of "Ah Ha!" moment. He drove to the winery and put together the final blend, finishing around 6 in the morning. Now THAT'S dedication!
This wine has a rich garnet tint. It delivers delivers aromas of baked plum, black cherry and pomegranate, lifted at the palate's edges by lighter floral notes. Lush and nearly opulent with ripeness, its texture is expressive with moderately high tannins exhibiting flavors of roasted coffee and chocolate melting into a mocha-like finish.
The label of this wine has a really cool story, too! When Bill and Chris first purchashed the property, almost five years ago, they were walking through the old Deike house. As they were passing through, they noticed something on the wall across the way. They walked over, and on a nail, there hung a key. They discovered that this key opened all of the doors in the house. Bill took the key and kept it, hoping that there would come a time that we could use it. When the idea of the Skeleton Key wine came about, it was the perfect opportunity.
The photo of the key pictured on the label is a photograph of the actual skeleton key found in our historic tasting room so many years ago.
If you have ever been to visit us at William Chris Vineyards, you have more than likely tasted or at least seen our Emotion wine label. With February about to begin, and lips prints about to cover our tasting room, I figured there was no better time to tell the story of how the label came to be.
When Chris was still in college, he and a few of his buddies were out having some drinks when he saw a woman kiss a barnapkin and write her phone number on it and he thought about how cool it would be to use that concept and turn it into a wine label one day when he was making his own wine. He told his friends of his new idea.
Several years later, once Chris had graduated and worked his way up to the Hill Country, met Bill and started William Chris Vineyards, Chris finally had the opportunity to make the label he always wanted! The wine was blended, the label drafted.
Right before the label went to print, Chris called up one of those buddies from so long ago and told him about the label. Unfortunately, his friend had some bad news...One of his other buddies had taken Chris' idea and ran with it! This put Chris in quite the pickle. He had to get those labels printed and put on the bottles!
Chris came up with a new idea. He emailed all of the women in his contact list, friends, ex-girlfriends, in-laws, asking them to kiss a piece of paper and scan it in and send it to him. He took these lips and used them to make the label shown above. Pretty cool, right? Only problem was, he forgot to ask his wife, Katharine for her lips, putting Chris in the doghouse (understandably so!).
As the years went by, the emotion label changed quite a bit. Each year, we have asked the guests and members at William Chris to partipate in making the label bu kissing a piece of paper and sticking it on the wall. We have then used these lips to make a collage for the newest label.
This upcoming vintage will be a little different. Chris has finally gotten himself out of the doghouse and made a label with Katharine's lips exclusively.
This new Emotion will be one of the wines featured in the April Hye Society Release, so get excited! It is a blend of many different varietals from around the state of Texas. This wine is incredible! If you would like to purchase some of the new Emotion CLICK HERE!
If anyone has been to visit us in the last few months, you may have noticed a new agricultural area here on property. And no I'm not talking about the vines...I'm talking about our new garden!
This new garden will feature two different sections. The front half will be growing herbs and flowers, while the back half will be full of row crops.
Our current fall/winter menu items in the ground include cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, turnips, radishes, peas and carrots. We are waiting for springtime to really take this garden to the next level!
When it gets a little warmer, you will be seeing a lot more of Chozet and Carol working hard in the garden as they plant more flowers and spring veggies, as well as fill the back section of the garden.
They also plan on adding many different white flowers to make a moonlight garden!
To taste what we've been growing, make sure to check out our amazing dinners! Check out the Event Tickets page on our website for upcoming dates!
We expect that our garden will flourish for years to come, so come out and take a beautiful stroll through the flowers and sip your wine in the best garden in Hye!
Finally harvest is over and we can finally relax in the winery....Just kidding! We are as busy as ever in the winery this season. Josh and the rest of the winery crew have their hands full with quite a bit right now. Currently, the team is swamped with racking.
Racking is a process in which wine is pumped out of the barrels (as shown above). The barrel is then cleaned and all the lees are removed from the barrel.
Lees are the heavier proteins and sediment found in the wine. When these lees (shown right) are removed, it helps with clarification of the wine, as well as aid in the wine's stabilization.
Once the wine is pumped out, and most of the lees drain, we can then wash the barrels to remove any leftover sediment or lees from the barrel, as shown below. We can then re-barrel the wine.
Speaking of re-barreling, winter is the perfect time to do some pre-emptive barrel selection.
A lot of times during harvest, we don't have the time to put wine in the exact barrels that we would like, what with the tons and tons of grapes coming in, on top of crushing, pressing and punching down. With the little more free time that we now have, our crew can now chose the best barrel for the wine and place that wine in that type of barrel after racking.
Needless to say, there is still quite a bit to do to make sure that our wine maintains the high quality we desire. If you are here for a visit, make sure to ask what's going on in the winery and if you're lucky, you might be able to experience racking in person!