Category Archives: Our Journey into the Texas Wine Industry

“Bench” Trials aka Couch Tasting

Dave has been talking to me a lot lately about his thoughts on the wines he will be making this year from the grapes we were able to purchase. This year was a great year in the Texas vineyards and we were lucky enough to get our hands on two different white grapes.

For those of you following us, you may know that last year was our first foray into making wine from actual Texas grapes, as opposed to kits, and we were able to get almost a ton of Merlot from Blue Vineyards thanks to Brennan Vineyards.  That wine is still happily aging in the corner of our eat-in kitchen (well at least the wine is happy about it).  This year brought even more bounty and opportunity to us with a ton of Viognier from Bingham Family Vineyards and a ton of Roussanne from Oswald Vineyards. Both of these we were able to get thanks to our great network of friends at Lost Oak Winery and Eden Hill Winery. We are both super excited because the grapes come from two of the best growers and wines made from their grapes have often won awards and recognition for their quality. Dave plans to use these to make a wine this year that will be his first commercial product (rather than just wine made at home that we can’t sell) and produced through his working relationship at Crump Valley Vineyards.

Now when these opportunities came our way, at first I thought he might be making 2 different wines, both as just a straight varietal. But as we have started talking more with others and sampling along the process, we’ve come to the agreement that together these will make a really wonderful blend. Which leads me to Halloween night. Often during this short journey I suppose I have romanticized the craft of wine making, and thought about how fun blending and tasting would be. Perhaps I have even been a bit envious of the winemaking friends we know when they publish photos of the “hard” days at the winery, stuck in the back of the production area having to sample wine blends all day. Poor souls! HaHaHa – I only dreamed my life could be that entertaining – or so I thought.

This is what I might have imagined before we started, although we just used one glass for control and one for the testing.

This is what I might have imagined before we started, although we just used one glass for control and one for the testing.

Halloween night, after sorting candy and putting the kiddo to bed, Dave and I set about “bench trials” to determine how best to blend the Viognier and Roussanne together. I was excited as I sat on the couch, thinking that now I would be like all those others, enjoying the fruits of Dave’s labor and calling it work while I sat back, sampled, and enjoyed the rest of the evening. Dave brought me first a small glass of “control”, a straight Viognier to set my palate and identify the basic profile before blending. Then he brought a second glass with some mystery ratio of Viognier to Roussanne. I sampled, tried to break it apart, and provide Dave with some thoughts he could record for notes. Then another ratio sample, and another, and another. After sampling the controls and 9 different ratios of blending the two together, I began to think maybe this is more like work. The more we sampled the harder it got to discern the nuances of the wines, to think about what profiles were coming in each blend, what type of drinker would prefer each, etc, etc, etc. Not because I was getting light headed from the wine (lol), but because the differences sometimes can be subtle (or very distinct), and making all the notes, trying to decide what I liked best or would be the best for a general wine drinking audience was tough! All I really wanted was to find one that I could just stick with for the rest of the evening and sip along. I no longer romanticize this process, but rather have a new respect for how hard this really can be. So I apologize to all my wine maker friends who I have sarcastically mocked about their chores. Next time Dave asks, I’ll be better prepared for sure, and perhaps a bit more focused (aka less enthusiastic lol).

This is really more what I think the process felt like to me lol.

This is really more what I think the process felt like to me lol.

This image is probably more what you might see in a real winery lab, but we don't have all those "fancy" tools at home.

This image is probably more what you might see in a real winery lab, but we don’t have all those “fancy” tools at home.

Until next time friends – Cheers~

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Posted by on November 5, 2015 in Our Journey into the Texas Wine Industry


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Where it all began…

Once upon a time there were two young folks, at the beginning of a relationship, looking for stuff to do on the weekend…

And that’s pretty much how this all started. Dave and I met in 2000 right as I was moving from Lewisville, TX to Austin, TX for work. Literally it was an “at first sight” relationship. Dave was delivering a package up the stairs to the apartment next door as I opened to door to carry yet another armload of stuff out of my apartment to drop off for a yard sale before moving. Our eyes met, we exchanged greetings, and a few minutes later the brown truck pulled up next to my car and we were trading email and phone numbers. That was it! We never looked back and as I moved to Austin 3 weeks later, Dave pretty much followed – at least as best he could without actually uprooting. Every weekend for the next year Dave would drive from DFW airport after work to my new place in Austin and hang out with me until having to make the long return drive on Sunday night.

As we adventured around the Austin area, we discovered the Texas wine industry. Well, actually we stumbled upon some information about the Hill Country Wine trail. Back in 2000 there weren’t many wineries and the ones that did exist, like Becker, Grape Creek, and Dry Comal Creek were still small, with quaint buildings and small, intimate tasting rooms. We spent time stomping grapes at Becker, and sometimes accidentally found a winery or two on the trail. We even tried to participate in an event weekend, making sure to take the route backwards from New Braunfels back to the F-burg area to avoid as much of the crowd. That makes me LOL a little because the crowds then are no way resembling of the crowds we see now.

At any rate a love-affair was born in those hills. Both for us and our love of Texas wine. Somewhere along the way we started a blog, or maybe it was two, about our adventures, a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, and so it exploded. Being a part of things also meant that as we spent more and more time around the wineries, we got more involved with helping out. Both Dave and I have volunteered many hours with bottling, both in small wineries with a hand bottler and by working on a line with a bottling truck. We also jump in to help with harvest, crush, labeling, serving, or whatever we can to learn and help and enjoy the whole experience. This is something all wineries appreciate – its takes all of us to make great Texas wine happen!


At some point that I can’t recall now we also started making wine at home. It started with friends, a simple kit, and the dream of having lots more to drink. One kit led to another and before you know it we were pressing a near ton of grapes in the driveway last September to make our first at-home wine from real Texas fruit. It was a family affair and yes, its still aging in our kitchen!

Our appreciation for wine, for the work behind the scenes, the friendships we have forged in this industry of amazing people, and our ever developing interest in doing more led us to wanting our future to be embedded right in the middle of it all. Rather than be aficionados, volunteers, and supporters from the side, we decided a couple of years ago that we wanted to be in “for real”. So we started saving, and saving, and saving. And we still are so that soon we can buy our own “dirt” as Dave likes to say, and start our own vineyard, and probably a winery too. Dave’s grandfather may be the one he credits most with his early beginnings. Grandfather Weatherly started making homemade wine for Grandmother as an alternative to “prescription” wine for her health. They were Baptists in East Texas and in those days you didn’t just go buy it for fear of the talk around town. So since Mary Elizabeth was the impetus for it all, we will be naming our vineyard for her, and you can follow us on Facebook as Mary Elizabeth Vineyards when the time comes. I’ll let you know when the moment comes!

And finally here we are, present day. Many months back, probably close to a year ago, Dave began looking for a way to learn more and get prepared. If we are going to have our own place, we need to know how to take care of it. Rather than trying to find a way to fit in a Viticulture program into our busy schedule right now, we figured he would get more from a real, hands-on experience. So he joined Crump Valley Vineyards as a weekend warrior. You can find him there most Saturdays.

And that folks is the whole story. Its long, wine-dy (lol), and a daily adventure. We hope you’ll be a part of our stories along the journey.

Until then, Cheers!

IMG_0112Kelli (and Dave) Potter

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Posted by on October 2, 2015 in Our Journey into the Texas Wine Industry


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Grapefest, Harvest 2015, and What’s New with Us

You may have noticed that this site has been down for a while. Dave had previously been the main writer and we used this site to promote the Texas wine industry. We decided to shift our focus away from blogging a couple of years ago as we began to envision how to achieve our own dream of establishing a vineyard and venturing into the industry in new ways. Now that our journey has begun, we are also going to re-envision how to use this site to inform, entertain, and promote the Texas wine industry as well.  So with that, from now on Kelli will be the main writer here and the focus will be informing readers about the life and times of being a part of things from our perspective. Here’s where we are right now in our new adventures…

Rather than blogging, Dave is now working as the vineyard manager and assistant wine maker at Crump Valley Vineyards in Sulphur Springs, Texas. This is a part time/weekend venture for him to gain the knowledge and skills he needs in order for us to establish our own vineyard and possibly open our own winery someday. This work means many weekends with little family time for us but its a worthy sacrifice. Later, when we get closer, I’ll also go into a viticulture program to gain the formal learning for our family. But for now, I’ll be sharing stories about what its like to be the wife of a busy UPS driver by weekday and winemaker/grower by weekend.

This growing season certainly brought an interesting twist. All the early spring rains, in abundance, created a unique growing situation. The Crump Valley vineyard is a 3/4 acre site growing Blanc du Bois, a hybrid grape created to be resistant to the dreaded  Pierce’s Disease and it grows particularly well in the soils east of I-35 in Texas. The relentless rain meant strategic spraying in the vineyard to prevent mildew and other problems with the grapes. In east Texas this was pretty much impossible and resulted in a loss of the grapes. But the good news is that their young vineyard is growing and will be even better next year and crops in other parts of the state were much greater in terms of yield and quality than in the previous years. We have been able with this fortunate turn of events to secure new fruit opportunities. This year brought Dave a chance to use Merlot from Rising Star Vineyard as his first commercial winemaking project. And the benefits continued with a ton of Viognier grapes from Bingham Family Vineyards and a ton of Roussanne from Oswald Vineyards, both in the high plains. I know Dave and Travis are both excited about getting new Texas offerings into the winery and about making some new wines.

And that brings us up to Grapefest. Crump Valley Vineyards submitted wines for tasting at the People’s Choice wine tasting event. If you have never been, the People’s Choice tent is certainly an experience to have. Basically you buy a ticket for entry into the tasting tent which gets you access to tastings of about 4 wines for all those who are pouring. I don’t know exactly but I’ll bet there were 40-50 wineries present. Participants are asked to vote on their favorite wines in each category as they taste around the tent for an hour and a half. I don’t know about you, but 90 minutes of wine tasting is A LOT of wine. Dave and I attended this event a fews ago and it was just so overwhelming to be there with 800 other people trying to taste as much wine as you can and also intelligently compare them so you can vote. I do think I enjoy pouring more than tasting in this environment. So this year we took turns pouring and helping out. Its comical to watch everyone and I am always amazed that some folks can walk themselves out at the end. I did get the pleasure of pouring on Sunday which was a little lighter day than Saturday when Dave worked, and also the end of the festival. Since I got to hang around to the very end, I was able to attend the awards ceremony to see all the wines that take places at this event, and enjoy (aka taste) remaining wine from the pourings that day. Now that was much more fun!

So here we are…I’ll post from time to time to keep you in the loop of happenings in our Texas wine area, along with how things are progressing on our journey to become winemakers and growers too. In the meantime, visit a local winery, taste something new, and just enjoy the fruits of our Texas soils.


Kelli (and Dave) Potter

IMG_1566 preview

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Posted by on September 25, 2015 in Our Journey into the Texas Wine Industry


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