Wines As Big As Texas
If Howard Davies, owner of Arché (pronounced Ar-kay) Winery in St. Jo, is going to continue to make what he calls "big" wines he's going to have to do it with smaller grapes. The Texas drought has had a dramatic impact on the size of the grapes he's harvesting at Oak Creek Vineyard. Davies doesn't expect the weather to affect the quality of his wines, just the amount. It's a tough time to have a low harvest since the Idaho native just increased his production capacity 10-fold.
"Last year we went from a 300 gallon capacity to 3,000 gallons," Davies explains. "That was a big, stressful move but it's very rewarding to see all the equipment working and in use. Instead of this tiny crusher/destemmer, we have this big unit where we can crank out 11 tons an hour."
While cluster counts are up in the vineyard, the size of the berries is down. Davies grows mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Roussanne grapes in his 11-acre vineyard. One tough year doesn't keep him from being optimistic about the winery's future though. He expects to continue to grow. He plans to keep all that high-capacity equipment humming with even more grapes.
"We have 111 acres here so there's room to grow. We could plant about 15 acres of fruit right now. The next thing that will happen is we'll run out of water so we'll have to drill another well," Davies says.
A debate over water was how Davies got into the wine business in the first place.
"I'd been a garage winemaker for a while. I've been growing grapes in my backyard for 40 years or so. My wife Amy and I were in California visiting wineries and she asked if maybe I'd like to make wine commercially.
"I said no. 'Let's put a pool in the backyard instead.'
"She wouldn't let me do that so we started looking for a vineyard. We found this winery along the Red River that had been abandoned for about nine years. It was overgrown with greenbriar and oaks and, of course, the grapevines were all gone by then."
The vineyard wasn't the Davies' first business. They'd built and sold a successful printing business in the Addison area. After buying the vineyard in the couple, along with their sons Grayson, the Arché winemaker, and Patrick, the winemaker at Eagle Castle Winery in Paso Robles, Calif., started planting vines.
Arché didn't come along until eight years later in . "We started out just selling our grapes," Davies says. "Then in we decided to start making wine. Selling the grapes and hauling them around just got to be too much of a chore. It's a lot easier to just sell them to ourselves and make our own wines."
And while Arché has to occasionally buy a few grapes from other Texas growers, its wines are mostly estate bottled, using only grapes the Davies family has grown personally.
"We started out with Cabernet grapes but we've had Roussanne for about 11 years on an experimental plot just to see if we really liked them. (British wine critic and author) Jancis Robinson really likes Roussanne and if she likes it then I should probably like it to," Davies jokes.
The Arché growth spurt started when Davies poured a new concrete crush pad outside an existing open-air building on the property. "Then we enclosed that building and made it the winery," explains Davies. "The building was a giant garage and we had the winery in one little corner of it."
What was the entire winery is now the tasting room. Arché doesn't use oak barrels to age its wines, preferring the convenience and capacity of stainless steel tanks with oak chips flavoring the wine.
"We've had obstacles," Davies adds. "But we've found a way to work around every one of them and the winery has just matured into this much larger operation because we have the capability. The equipment we were buying wasn't capable of just a ton and half an hour anymore. Now it was capable of 15 or 20 tons an hour. We weren't getting 110 or 120 gallons a ton anymore, we were getting 150 to 160 gallons per ton. That's when we realized we'd been throwing a lot of our juice away.
"The winery followed the popcorn theory. Popcorn will keep expanding until it fills all the available space. That's exactly what happened. The winery kept growing to fill up however much space was available for it."
Saint Jo, Texas 76265
- 12:00pm to 6:30pm
- 12:00pm to 5:00pm
The Davies, who live on the winery grounds in what they call "the world's largest doll house," say their operation is incredibly fulfilling.
"This isn't retirement. You can't retire. This is a lot of hard work and a lot of heavy lifting but it's just extremely romantic. It's good for your soul. There are just a lot of good things that go on at a winery and a vineyard that just make people really happy, but it's hard work."
Flagship Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon
Davies calls the winery's Cabernet Sauvignon his flagship wine. "If you open a bottle of our cab and are looking for the flavors you find in a California cab, you're not going to find them. You won't be disappointed, but it won't be what you're expecting."
Davies says it's all about setting expectations. California cabernet and Texas cabernet are two different animals. "If you drink our cab expecting bright fruits like bright red cherries then you won't be surprised. But you're not going to find the black fruits like cassis that you'll get in a California cab. The black fruits are in there but the heat doesn't let them mature out. Ours is a much brighter wine. I think it's better, more food friendly."
Davies describes his cabernet and the winery's white Roussanne as "wanting food."
"My wife says our Roussanne is the white wine for red wine lovers. It's a real eye opener. It has lots and lots of finish. You're not going to drink one of our wines strolling around a party. You're going to park near the food. This wine wants food. It's a good stand-alone wine but it really complements food.
"People are often surprised by the wine they find here. You drive down this little dirt road and you see what looks like a warehouse with a sign over one of the doors that says 'winery' and you don't expect much. But when people come in and taste the wine, they're suddenly in a different world. That's a lot of fun."
Pork with Apple-Thyme Sauce
- 2 pounds boneless pork loin (not tenderloin)
- 1 cup dry white wine or vermouth
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- Grated zest of one lemon
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Kosher salt to taste
- 2 Tablespoons butter, divided use
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 cup applesauce or thyme applesauce
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme, for garnish (optional)
- Cut loin into four steaks about one-inch thick.
- Place each piece between plastic wrap and pound with a flat meat mallet to tenderize. Re-form each into its original shape.
- In a large heavy-duty freezer bag, combine white wine or vermouth, vegetable oil, thyme, lemon zest, and black pepper.
- Add pork loin medallions to the marinade in the bag, squeeze out the air, and seal. Turn bag to distribute the marinade evenly around the pork. Refrigerate for at least two hours or up to eight hours.
- Remove pork from refrigerator and let rest at room temperature in the marinade for one hour before cooking.
- Remove pork steaks from marinade, discard marinade, and pat pork dry with paper towels. Season with kosher salt.
- Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add one tablespoon of butter and the oil to the hot pan, swirling to combine.
- Add pork medallions and cook about four minutes on each side. Do not overcrowd the pan and do not overcook.
- Remove pork to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
- Deglaze pan with 1/3 cup white wine, scraping up browned bits.
- Cook to reduce the liquid to about two tablespoons, lower heat, and add applesauce.
- Heat about one minute until warmed through. Return pork steaks to the pan along with any accumulated juices from the platter. Heat about two minutes.
- Remove pork medallions to serving dishes. Quickly swirl remaining tablespoon of butter into the apple pan gravy.
- To serve, spoon apple thyme pan sauce over pork steaks and garnish with thyme sprig.
Makes four servings.
Prep time: 2 to 8 hours; Cooking time: 30 minutes; Total time: 2 1/2 to 8 1/2 hours