Again, my mind had been taking a hiatus. Now, maybe, I can finally get down to the business of writing - actually, I prefer it to be cathartic for me, yet enjoyable for you. I had felt void of most creativity, and definitely my fingers didn't seem to want to transcribe any thoughts. But, at last, I am making a contribution and am getting caught up with travel antics. Take good care, my friends. And thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts and feelings. Happy 4th of July!
Leaving Houston on Friday, about 11:00a.m., much of the intense traffic was avoided. Destination Tyler, Texas, just a short jaunt of four hours’ drive (225 miles.) Tyler was my home in the 90’s, and I have spent many an hour on the road visiting since leaving in 1998. This excursion is significant because it’s a combination of Valentine’s and birthday celebrations for my daughter and me. So, off I go, over hill and dale (actually over the Beltway, up I 45, connect with Hwy. 19 then Hwy. 155 in Palestine. Since it is still a bit of new route (with the exception of the I 45 portion,) the drive is interesting. The road is good until it surprises me by going down to two lanes just after Riverside. However, still not much traffic, so few obstacles. Hwy. 19 passes through towns like Trinity, Lovelady, and Crockett. My favorite is Crockett. It’s a county seat of one of the oldest counties in Texas; so, if you stay on 19, avoiding the “loop” and follow it through town, you take a right, a left, then another left, around the old courthouse, and lastly a right – witness some mid to late 1800’s architecture - cool! More towns like Latexo, Grapeland, and Elkhart are glimpsed as I pass by. Arriving in Tyler about 3:00 (after a pit stop in Palestine), I settle in – do a small wash – and wait. When my daughter arrives, we visit for a bit then head out to a friend’s home. On the way home from this friend, we stop at another friend’s home for a short visit and a glass of wine.
Saturday gives us a bright cheerful start. We leisurely get ready for the day, then leave for a mid-morning breakfast at a popular place called The Egg and I. With a substantial breakfast consumed, I felt I wouldn’t be hungry for the entire weekend. I can safely say it was one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever eaten. After a few errands, we set out for a winery in Hawkins, TX – a 45 min drive from Tyler. Although I had been to Fairhaven in late 2010, I wanted to re-visit. We managed to leave in due time and arrived at the winery around 1:00p.m. We were the only guests – which is my preference. Fairhaven Vineyards, nestled in the Sabine Valley of East Texas, is set back off of a farm road, accessed by a windy dirt driveway. Vineyards are to the right of the drive. When we approached, I noticed a gentleman clipping root stock. The tasting room is in one corner of the huge metal building which also houses a kitchen and the winery processing/storage area. After a brief conversation with the young lady behind the counter, we began our tasting. Amy and I shared each of the seven pours chosen. Each pour is priced differently depending on the wine. Fairhaven makes many wines, but we only selected those which more satisfied our palates. Our tasting included two whites and five reds. Fairhaven is unique in that the owner, a master horticulturist, wishes to grow French American and American hybrids which are heat, drought and disease tolerant. R.L. Winters will also assist in vineyard installations – his root stock is for sale. Owning the property since 2004, the vineyard has undergone exponential growth. R.L. opened the winery/tasting facility in late 2010. Ending our delightful visit, we began our return to Tyler where we were to meet a friend.
Making our designated rendezvous time, we departed for Athens, TX and Tara Vineyard & Winery. This, too, had been visited before, but the facility had undergone some expansion since then. The first time I visited Tara, I managed to miss the correct turn and drove a round robin through some pretty countryside until able to find the right road. This time, a friend was driving – well, I still don’t think I could find it on the first try – got a wee bit turned around again. However, we made it! The tasting room is up a dirt road not too far off the farm road. The first thing you see is the gorgeous ante-bellum style house that is the current B&B. As you drive up toward the tasting room and winery facility, the vineyards are on the right. Blanc du Bois is planted here. The old 10x10 tasting room is still there, but expansions included a larger tasting area near the restaurant seating. As we were waiting for our fourth person, we chatted briefly with the young man who was serving the tastings. Again, each pour was a certain amount – so, you could taste as much as your wallet (and your constitution) allowed. I ended up tasting eight wines, two whites, a blush, and five reds. I was having so much fun; I forgot to do tasting notes. My favorites were the reds, though. Early in our tasting, other folks began arriving so the young man called in reinforcements. This person was none other than the owner of the winery, Patrick Pierce. He led us through the remainder of our time at the tasting bar providing great conversation and information. By the time we finished, it was past our dinner reservation time. However, that wasn’t a monumental problem; the restaurant had not yet become too busy. We were seated for dinner. I, for one, had a hard time choosing an entrée – it all looked so delicious. Once we all ordered, we settled into good conversation with a couple bottles of wine for the four of us – what a delicious and delightful time! The dinner was not the end of our evening. Upon returning to Tyler, the four of us met at my daughter’s house – I opened my special bottle of wine (one I had purchased for my birthday in 2009) – a 2005 Grand Crus Pinot Noir from Clos Vougeot. And so, we had a little taste of France to celebrate the culmination of a delightful weekend. Only traverse back to Houston remained.