Of the many things I really love about traveling Texas, bluebonnets and wine are among my favorites.
Rolling pastures of vibrant blue dotted with patches of pink buttercups and blazing Indian paintbrushes are a traditional celebration of springtime. Toss in a bottle of velvety red or a nice local Chardonnay and you’ve set the scene for an enjoyable afternoon like no other east of Sonoma.
That was the sort of afternoon my wife and experienced recently while traveling the first leg of the Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail north of Houston. Meandering from Waller to Montgomery, the trail led us from one winery to the next where we sampled wines with handles like Independence and Desert Rose.
From the Pleasant Hill and Windy Hill Wineries in Brenham, then along Highway 105 to the east we drove, passing less than spectacular arrays of color along the way. Occasionally we’d round a curve to spot a field of flowers in a sea of pale green, but the lack of rain and an uncommonly cold winter looked to have sucked the life out of springtime along the trail this year.
For whatever reason, as we turned onto FM 362 near White Hall the grass was noticeably more vibrant and the towering evergreens on either side of the truck were fuller. The roadside was a splattered with spots of bright colors, a canvas of nature’s best in a gallery of green.
As we turned into the winding drive of Retreat Hill Winery in Navasota the image was made complete. To our right acres of bluebonnets filled a gently sloping field next to the winery. The pride of Texas wildflowers swayed in the afternoon breeze by the thousands, corralled by a rustic split rail fence running as far as the eye could see. It was an iconic scene and we were happy to share it.
Though relatively small in size the winery and tasting room at Retreat Hill was filled with bottles of award winning wine, oak barrels and large stainless steel fermenting tanks. Outside was the covered patio that overlooked a new vineyard still years from producing.
There on the patio is where we were thoroughly entertained by a table of tipsy women on a “girl’s day out”, the Aggie antics of vineyard owner, Billy Cox, Jr., and a pairing of wines and cheese; Blue Heron Farm Mediterranean Goat Cheese on toast points paired with award-winning Retreat Hill Vintner’s Blend, and venison sausage Mac-N-Cheese cups prepared with Blue Heron Farm Chevre paired with award-winning Retreat Hill Reserve Cabernet Franc. The Mac-n-Franc was totally unexpected and totally incredible for this southern boy.
What had started as a somewhat disappointing day along the Texas back roads had turned into a memorable experience for two wine lovers driving the Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail. It was a day of nature beating the odds, and a day of tasty Mac-n-Franc in Navasota. Couldn’t ask for much more than that. Good job Retreat Hill!