It’s the often dreamed of but rarely lived out romantic notion… quitting your day job to make wine. But, despite the fanciful, pie-in-the-sky overtones, that’s just what Ross (Founder & CEO) and Cooper (Head Winemaker) of The Austin Winery did.
In my non-MBA-holding opinion, the best businesses provide solutions to problems. On their website, The Austin Winery points out that visiting a winery is sort of difficult if you live in most urban areas, and especially Austin. While we have a thriving wine region about an hour away, it’s still AN HOUR AWAY. As well, these Texas wineries tend to stick to Texas varietals, which is fine, but it’s nice to get a whiff and taste of something new from time to time.
These are the problems Ross and Cooper set out to solve with their urban winery concept. They have acreage in vineyards in Texas, California and Washington and are not absentee fathers. They are intimately involved in the growing and harvesting of the fruit that ultimately makes its way back to Austin to be turned into the wines they produce on site.
Cooper is the head winemaker and is very much a purist. The wines produced by The Austin Winery can be summed up with one word: quality. I didn’t try anything that I couldn’t respect—and I tried MANY—even if it wasn’t a particular personal favorite. The fruit stands on its own with only application of true craftsmanship and time to alter it.
The Austin Winery is producing a wide variety of reds and whites, but their debut was Violet Crown, an 80-20 grenache and syrah blend. It carries a heavenly aroma of dark fruit and vanilla, and on the palate is full of rich, ripe fruit, but still carrying a spice and strength that, in my humble opinion, makes this a perfectly balanced red—at least for drinkers like myself that enjoy fruit but also want body and spice.
Another red they do incredibly well is the Old Vine Zin, which I chose to fill a barrel with for my husband’s 40th birthday luau. This zinfandel is smooth, smooth, smooth and chock full of fruit and spice. Having a barrel of this sitting around my house for a few days was just plain dangerous. The grapes for this wine come from old vines in the Shenandoah Valley. We served it with a smoked pig and a plethora of side dishes, from quinoa salad, to potatoes and pineapple, to asian slaw. It complemented every flavor in a special way.
The tasting room is also original and refreshing. Comfortable couches and clusters of tables and chairs fill this former light industrial office space—a welcome change to standing at a bar and sharing a bowl of captain’s wafers with strangers. The space was designed by Austin’s own Kris Swift who incorporated touches like corkboard wallpaper-covered ceiling tiles, maps and stacks of books all around. It’s like having wine in Sherlock Holmes’ study especially when you factor in an incredibly knowledgeable and friendly staff that's more than happy to sit down and talk shop about wine. You're also likely to see Ross and Cooper roaming the tasting room--they may be filling your glass.
I should note the these guys are moving to a hipper part of town soon. They’ll be on east Cesar Chavez, which is far away from me, but I suppose better business for them. Sigh…
If you have a chance to swing by, I encourage you to do so, if not for the wine, as a nod to two guys stepping out to live a dream and make really good Austin wine.