Discovering Texas Wines
Crossroads Winery's John and Monica Otis
Texas winemakers all have their challenges. They all worry about Pierce's Disease. There's weather to be considered. Distribution is always an issue. Even so, John Otis has a unique concern no other Texas winemaker has to worry about. He has to stop what he's doing once a week and fly halfway around the world.
"I'm a flight attendant for Delta Airlines and I work international flights so one week I might go to Barcelona and the next Frankfurt."
Even that wouldn't be so bad if he could fly out of Dallas. After all, his Crossroads Winery is in Frisco, just north of there. But when Delta shut down it base at D/FW Airport, he had a decision to make.
"Just as my wife and I were starting the winery, getting licenses and things like that, Delta closed its Dallas operations. I was going to start flying out of Atlanta. We thought about moving our operation to northern Georgia. There's a thriving little wine industry there but when we started looking at all the logistics of moving our operation, we decided just to stay here and I'd commute."
That crossroad became the name of the couple's 3,000 square foot operation.
That point in time came three years ago when Otis and his wife, Monica, opened the Crossroads Winery. He started making wine at home in 2000 and was pleased with his success.
"That's when I started taking enology courses at Grayson County College. I was getting my grapes from Wales Manor Vineyard. The owner invited me to come be his winemaker. That was my first commercial wine making experience."
Otis opened Crossroads Winery in 2005 after his wife asked him what his dreams were.
"I told her I'd like to have my own winery by the time I was 50. For my birthday in December of '04 she gave me a surprise birthday party in my own winery. She said, ‘Here's your dream.'"
Otis doesn't consider his work at the winery to be a second job. "It's one of those situations where you wake up in the morning and just can't wait to get started. I was up at 4:30 this morning because I wanted to be here."
Crossroads Winery's WinesCrossroads features two white wines and five reds. "I have one white that's slightly sweet and one dessert wine. The rest are reds." The winery's flagship is its CSM, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and merlot. "I made that one for my palate. It has a wonderful nose and some complexity but it's very easy for anyone to drink. It's a soft palate style wine that's just jammed with flavor. I thought I was going to be the only one drinking it but it turns out other people like it too. It's our best seller."
Otis doesn't plan to add too many more wines to the menu. Concentrating on a few high-quality wines is his goal. Striking a balance between sweet and dry wines is also a priority.
"I don't try to do it all. I just bottled a sangiovese. That's a new addition to our list but I don't want to try to get the complete spectrum of colors.
"I like to taste the fruit in wine. If you go into the vineyards, that's where the wine is actually made. If you can get good quality grapes, and you don't screw it up, you should be able to make good quality wine. So I want to taste that fruit. I don't want to mask it over with oak."
Crossroads ages its reds in oak but only used barrels and for up to a year longer than most wineries. "I like a more subtle approach," Otis explains. "I try to get one or two-year-old barrels. I use a combination of both French and American barrels. They each lend something to the wine. The French is a little more earthy and the American is a little more spicy. If you blend them right, you'll hopefully have a nice, complex wine that people will enjoy.
"I have a tendency to age my reds a little longer than most people. The tannins are very soft in my wines. I find that I've introduced a lot of novices to red wines. When they see it doesn't have a bite to it, they realize they can enjoy it.
"I have what I call a vintner's blend white and a vintner's blend red. The white is a Muscat canelli and sauvignon blanc blend with about 1.5 percent residual sugar. It's a little sweet and people love it. I tell them that if they like spicy, Asian food or want to hang out by the pool on a hot day, a glass of this chilled in your hand is going to go along very nicely.
"I've had a lot of people come through here to tell me, 'Oh, I only drink white wines,' or 'Oh, I only drink red wines.' If I can get them to try something new, they usually realize they've been missing something. I've converted a lot of people to new wines.
"It's mostly about education. When you get people to try something new with someone who doesn't talk down to them, they tend to find out their tastes are broader than they realized."
At only 3,000 square feet, Crossroads has to make the most of its space. Visitors walking in the front door find themselves in the midst of the winemaking operation. "You walk right into a wall of barrels. People visiting know they're in the real thing when they come into our winery."
Crossroad currently bottles about 1,000 cases per year. Otis would like to see that climb to 2,500. "I might like to look for some property to grow my own grapes down the road but that's another business entirely. The people growing grapes in Texas are doing a fantastic job. I'll leave that up to the professionals. If they'll grow good grapes, I'll make good wine out of them."
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Curry Pumpkin and Walnut Soup
Stir in broth and bring to boil over medium high heat. Add pumpkin and simmer, over medium heat until pumpkin is very tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer pumpkin with liquid to blender, add walnuts and process in batches until smooth. The mixture will remain quite thick.
Return pumpkin walnut puree to pot and slowly whisk in milk. Heat soup over low heat just until heated through. Do not bring back to boil or soup will separate.
Serve in warmed bowls, garnished with a dollop of plain yogurt, a sprig of coriander and toasted walnut pieces. Makes 4 servings.
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