We’re starting the New Year off celebrating Australia! Why Australia? As many may know, our owner Angela is from Australia, specifically Adelaide, the capitol city of the state of South Australia. Adelaide is situated just below the Barossa Valley, one of Australia’s major wine making regions. Growing up in Adelaide, so close to the Barossa, played a large role in Angela’s desire to be a part of the wine industry. Wine making in Australia dates back over 200 years. While the country can boast having some of the oldest vines in the world, thanks to mostly missing the phylloxera epidemic, it is also known as a place of great innovation. It is the birthplace of the screw cap, after all!
Many people likely think of a big, tannic Shiraz when they think of Australian wines, and this is certainly fair. Across the continent, it is the most-widely planted variety, at 30% of all vines planted. In the Barossa Valley, the percentage is even higher, at 52% of all vines planted.
However, depending on the area you’re in, there’s almost nothing Australia, and the Barossa area, can’t do well. Rich Chardonnays and smooth Pinot Noirs can be found in the Adelaide Hills, while some of the world’s best dry Rieslings can be found in the Eden Valley. It’s also very common to find interesting blends incorporating Shiraz, be it the well-known GSM (Grenache-Shiraz-Mataro) or the truly Aussie Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend.
As a result of Angela’s Australian roots, about half of our current wine production comes from Australia. We try to make wines that showcase the best of what the Barossa has to offer, from the dry Rieslings to the big Shirazes, and everything in between. For that reason, we share a strong connection to this diverse place.
Why celebrate Australia now? Australia celebrates the anniversary of it’s founding on January 26th, a day also known as Australia Day. We felt that made it the perfect month to celebrate Australia and, primarily, Australian wine!
We received some very exciting news today from the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. We entered our 2018 Claros in their Rodeo Uncorked International Wine Competition, and we found out we were named Texas Class Champion and Class Champion, and we also received a Gold Medal! This means we’ll have some more belt buckles heading our way!
The class we entered was: Non-Vitis Vinifera Reds. To be named Texas Class Champion, we were considered the best Texas wine in that category. To win Class Champion, the majority of the judges awarded us a Gold Medal in our Class. To win a Gold Medal, we received a high enough ranking among the judges tasting our wine.
The 2020 competition was held on November 16th and 17th at NRG Center, and it included 3,528 entries from 19 countries, including France, Spain, Bulgaria, Italy, Israel, Argentina. and South Africa. Texas wineries represented 489 entries. Over 130 local and national judges, boasting impressive credentials, judged the record number of entrants.
We're incredibly honored and thrilled by this news. It's very rewarding to see our hard work acknowledged in this way.
If you haven't had a chance to try this latest Claros vintage,we hope you'll stop by soon to enjoy our big award-winner!
For December, we’re celebrating our Cuvée Cuddles as the Wine of the Month. While Cuvée Cuddles goes with everything, it’s definitely a great pairing for the holiday season! Before we get into the production and style of this much-loved sparkler, first the story behind its embracing name. Cuvée is a relatively common word found on a wine label. It means blend and refers to the different grapes or barrels or vintages that can go into the creation of a wine. Cuddles, on the other hand, is very unique.
Cuddles is the nickname of our owner Angela’s mother. Known by many as Lady Mary Downer, she was better known to her closest friends and loving family as ‘Cuddles.’ She was a generous and caring person, and though she stood only about five feet tall, her big personality was lively, effervescent, and good on any occasion! When the time came to name the lively and effervescent wine she was making, Angela decided her mother’s nickname was the perfect fit. And how is this customer-favorite made?
It’s a traditional, Champagne-style blend of 61% Chardonnay, 34% Pinot Noir, and 5% Pinot Meunier. The three wines individually go through their primary fermentation in tank, before being blended and bottled. Then, the effervescence is created using the Méthode Champenoise, in which the secondary fermentation is completed in the bottle. This is achieved by adding additional yeast and sugar to each bottle and sealing it. One of the byproducts of fermentation, in addition to alcohol, is carbon dioxide – the bubbles in your bubbly wine! Once the secondary fermentation has finished, the bottles are slowly turned upside down, in a process called riddling. The dead yeast cells then fall into the neck of the bottle. Once they have all settled there, the cells are frozen, the bottle is opened, and the cells are removed. To refill the bottle to its proper volume, one more dosage of wine is added before the bottle is corked and caged and sent your way!
It is actually this last dosage that determines how sweet a sparkling wine will be, as the added wine can range from very sweet to very dry. For our Cuvée Cuddles, the dosage added is not completely dry, but is close. For this reason, Cuvée Cuddles is considered a Brut Sparkling Wine.
The result is a sparkling wine with bright, crisp acidity, coupled with buttery notes courtesy of the yeast from the secondary fermentation. Hints of pear, dried apricot, orange-zest, and white cherry all work together to great a delicious, refreshing wine. That is good on any occasion! Stop by to see us this month, and we’ll be happy to pour you a taste of our Cuvée Cuddles!
This November, we’re excited to announce that the Wine of the Month is our newest wine, our 2017 Special Reserve Mourvèdre! For those of you that may not be familiar with Mourvèdre, here’s a quick introduction. Also commonly known as Mataró or Monastrell, this grape is grown in many places around the world, including the Rhone region of France, Spain, California, and South Australia, where our wine comes from. Mourvèdre can be a difficult grape to grow, as its thinner skin and tight clusters make it susceptible to vine diseases like downy mildew and powdery mildew. It can also be very vigorous, spending more energy growing leaves than ripening its grape clusters, which can lead to unripe fruit at harvest time. Careful canopy management is a must for this grape!
Mourvèdre has a long history, dating back to Ancient Rome, and while debate exists as to whether it is from Spain or France originally, we know for sure that it has spawned numerous clones. In grape growing, a clone is a vine that is genetically identical to its “mother” vine. However, a clone will have a slight deviation in the way it grows from its “mother,” such as better disease resistance or warm climate tolerance, and this deviation will be identified as a desirable trait. A cutting will be taken from this specific vine, and it will be propagated in order to reproduce the desired trait. For our Mourvèdre, we crafted it from four different clones. So, while they are all genetically identical and identifiable as Mourvèdre, they were each selected as a pinnacle expression of this variety, then brought together to produce the best Mourvèdre we could make.
While the style of the finished wine can vary greatly based on where the grapes are grown, Mourvèdre is generally known to produce full-bodied, tannic wines with earthy and red fruit notes on the palate. Made with grapes grown in the Barossa Valley, our Mourvèdre is more medium-bodied, but does exhibit red fruit notes of cherry and cranberry, along with soft tannins. It is highly aromatic, alluring, and authentic. We think it is a perfect addition to our wines from Australia!
We hope you’ll stop by this month and give it a try!
This month, we’re featuring the perfect wine to help us all transition from Summer to Fall! Our 2017 Special Reserve Pinot Noir has a lighter body and soft finish, making it a great red wine for those slightly cooler Fall days. Pinot Noir is one of the truly great wine varieties in this world. When we decided to make a Pinot Noir, we knew, for us, there was only one place to source our grapes – the Russian River Valley. This AVA sits within Sonoma County, and is known for producing world-renowned Pinot Noir’s. The Russian River allows fog from the Pacific Ocean to channel into the AVA, bringing a cooling affect to temperatures. This climate is perfect for a cooler-climate varietal such as Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is a notoriously difficult grape to grow. It’s thin skins and tight clusters make it particularly vulnerable to damage from rot, so any grower has to be extremely diligent in their vineyard management practices. The challenges persist in the winery, where the thin skins also lead to a lower level of phenolics – such as tannin and color pigment – which can present a challenge for producing a wine that is in balance. But, when you find a remarkable grower, like we have, and partner him with an outstanding winemaker, great wines can happen! For our 2017 Pinot Noir, we used a carefully managed barrel program of both new and used French Oak, aging the wine for little over a year. The result is a perfect balance between the fine-grained tannins and savory & lifted fruit notes that creates a beautiful harmony in the mouth. Tantalizing aromas of blue fruit and brown sugar lead to a thought-provoking and complex finish of cranberry and blueberry. Youthful, bright, and fresh now, we are confident that it will mature very well over the next few years. We’ll have it available for tasting all this month! Hope you’ll stop by and give it a try!
It’s back! We’re ready to release the newest vintage of our Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and name it our September Wine of the Month! Our 2017 is made with grapes grown on Howell Mountain in Napa Valley. Howell Mountain is one of 16 sub-AVA’s within the larger Napa Valley AVA, and we specifically chose this sub-AVA as the source of our Cabernet Sauvignon grapes for the style of wine it would make. At over 1,400 feet, Howell Mountain sits high above the Napa Valley floor. This means its vineyards are above the line of fog clouds that roll in from San Pablo Bay at night, allowing evening temperatures to stay warmer than those temperatures in the valley that are “blanketed” by the fog clouds. These warmer night temperatures combine with cooler day temperatures – thanks to the higher elevation – to create more consistent temperatures overall, growing grapes that retain more acidity than those grown closer to the valley floor, where spikes in heat promote greater ripening. Since the level of acid and sugar in grapes is inversely related, this also means there is less sugar in the grapes on average at harvest. This enables us to make a lighter-bodied style Cabernet Sauvignon then you might find in warmer areas of Napa Valley. Then, for aging, we use 30% new French oak and 70% mature French oak barrels to aid in creating good structure, while also keeping the wine softer and lighter in style. The resulting wine is elegant and balanced, with nicely focused black cherry and currant notes on the palate. Hints of cinnamon, vanilla, and mocha give the wine additional complexity and grace. The finish is long with ripe, round tannins that give it a concentrated core of fruit. The wine becomes more complex as it opens up. While enjoyable now, this wine will age nicely over the next 15 years. Whether it’s new to you or a long-time favorite, we hope you’ll stop by this month and give it a try!
We’re excited to announce our August Wine of the Month. Since August is when we harvest our estate vineyard, we knew it had to be… the Claros! As it is made entirely from the grapes we grow here. All seven acres of our estate vineyard is planted to a grape variety called Norton (vitis aestivalis), which is what the Claros is made of. It’s a native-American grape, native to Virginia. As a hybrid variety, we know it was bred from a European grape parent and an American grape parent, but we don’t know which ones specifically. Dr. Daniel Norton, who first cultivated Norton, didn’t do a thorough job of recording which varieties he was breeding, so we will likely never know! What we do know is that it has been very successful for us. Just this year, on Saturday, August 10th, we held our annual harvest of our estate vineyard. Over 80 volunteers braved a 6:30am start to fully harvest the seven acres of vines. After three hours of meticulous work, almost 4 tons of grapes had been harvested – one of the better harvests we’ve seen in recent years. The sugar levels and acid levels also came in at excellent numbers, meaning the 2019 vintage of the Claros, Norton Reserve, is shaping up to be one of the best! Which is saying a lot for our award-winning, nationally recognized wine. It has been quite the month for the Claros, too. It was just recognized by USA Today as the must-try wine of the summer in the state of Texas. (https://stonehousevineyard.com/in-the-news/) That was very exciting for all of us to hear! While not widely planted, Norton is well suited to this tougher climate. As a native grape, it is resistant to many diseases, such as Pierce’s Disease, that can kill European grape varietals. It is also drought tolerant and doesn’t mind the higher heat. The first block of 4 acres was planted in 1999, followed by an expansion of 3 additional acres in 2005. Norton is a low-yielding variety, rarely exceeding 1.5 tons per acre. In the warmer Texas climate, our goal yield every year is .75 tons to the acre. This low yield enables us to make a wine rich in color and complexity. With an alluring purple/garnet color, the appearance in clarity is bright to brilliant, with medium depth. On the nose, sweet spices are apparent, such as clove, cinnamon, and licorice. Hints of allspice also show. On the palate, acidity is lively, offset by ripe fruit characteristics that work to create good harmony. The body is medium, with rich consistency and a nice smooth, medium length. There is a distinct varietal intensity to Norton, including elderberries, and the structure is elegant and not heavy, with warm alcohol. Tannins are fine, though bottle age will improve the overall structure further. The overall palate shows almost Burgundian in some characters, with black cherry, lavender, raspberry, plum, and violets. We hope you’ll stop by this month to give it a try!
It’s time to announce July’s Wine of the Month! We’re excited to share with you the newest vintage of our Tempranillo, the 2017. Known primarily as a Spanish grape, where 80% of the world’s Tempranillo is grown, it has also seen rapid growth in popularity outside of Spain. Plantings have increased in Australia, Argentina, and the United States, including right here in Texas. In 2015, it was the third most widely planted grape variety in the world. Tempranillo is perhaps one of the most versatile red grape varietals currently being grown. It’s thinner skins and large berries can make it ideal for a medium-bodied, soft wine. Yet, under warmer growing conditions and extensive barrel aging, you can also find big, spicy, full-bodied Tempranillos. As for the name, “Tempra” translates to “early,” and references to the grape ripening earlier than others. For our 2017, the grapes were sourced from a cooler climate to retain more acidity, then barrel aged for a little over a year in mature oak. Mature oak refers to barrels that have been used for a prior vintage, and therefore have less tannin and oak flavors to impart on the wine. The result is a wine that has a floral note with a slight perfume of frangipane and a little mint. It's rich bramble berry, violet, and red pepper palate is alluring, as is the wonderful, deep-purple hue. It has long, fine tannins on the palate balanced with sweet fruit flavors. We hope you’ll stop by this month and have a taste!