Discovering Texas Wines
Windy Hill Winery
Don't let the relaxed attitude and the friendly smiles fool you. Augie and Linda Meitzen may look at ease when they're pouring wine for guests at their Windy Hill Winery in Brenham, but when the doors close they get down and dirty.
"Making pottery is a way to work off our frustration," Linda says with a laugh. "It's a good way to let out your aggression. When we moved to Brenham we met some folks who were into making pottery and they introduced us to it. It's very relaxing. Just make sure no one's standing in front of the wheel when you throw the clay on it. It may end up on the wall."
Windy Hill Winery, which opened in March 2005, grew out of the Weitzens' love of gardening. Augie, who grew up in San Antonio, loved puttering around with plants and Linda, an Arkansas native, knew the ins and outs of canning.
"The process of cooking, canning and preserving food just fascinated Augie," Linda explains. "We were canning all kinds of things. Augie had a couple of grapevines and we started joking about canning grapes. One thing led to another and we decided to try making some wine. We started out just like everyone else. We got a kit and made a little wine at home."
"Augie had a financial services business in Brenham and every time we came here there were flowers everywhere. The town was just beautiful. By then we had more grapevines than we probably should have. We decided if we were going to grow all these grapes maybe we better get a little more serious about making wine.
"So we moved to Brenham and started growing grapes. We came here because it's pretty and things grow well."
Linda admits the novice vintners planted too many varietals. "The only way to determine what would grow was to plant a lot of different kinds of grapes and see what survived."
They avoided French vinifera after being warned of Pierce's Disease, a pathogen that will eventually kill most grape varietals. "We were warned. We decided we didn't want to plant anything that was almost guaranteed to die so we stuck with American grapes. Now we're growing blanc dubois and black Spanish grapes. They're both immune to Pierce's Disease."
Windy Hill Winery WinesThe Weitzens are turning those grapes into a number of different kinds of wines including a port that's one of their best sellers. Tejas Port is a fruity port with a deep color that pairs well with robust foods including wild game.
"We were a little shaky about making a port at first. Augie's brother, David, encouraged us because he likes port. We decided to give it a try in 2005 and poured it in 2006. People just loved it. It's really taken off."
The other best seller at Windy Hill is its Yellow Rose blush, a light, sweet wine that Linda says pairs well with sliced pears on the patio or a spread of boiled shrimp.
"We have food wines and we have stand-alone wines. You can have our wine with dinner or you can just sit and sip it on the back porch. We want to make wines that regular people can enjoy. We're not going to stay in just one category. We want to encourage people to enjoy wine. All our wines are going to be approachable. You're not going to have to be a wine expert to enjoy our wines."
Augie is in charge of making the wine and Linda runs the operations of the winery. While some of their grapes are grown in their own six-acre vineyard, the couple purchases others. "We buy most of our grapes right here in Washington County but we have to go elsewhere for some," says Linda.
Windy Hill is best described as a boutique winery, producing only 1,000 cases a year. "It's grown some since we opened. In the first year we only made about 200 cases. Even that little bit was scary. When you're sitting there with a 500 gallon tank of wine and you don't know if you did everything right and what it's going to taste like, it's pretty scary. We just hoped it wasn't going to taste like bleach."
After working together in the financial services industry and now in the wine business, Linda says the couple's association seems to be working out. "After 21 years we're still married," she laughs. "We're as retired as a winemaker can be. Augie thought spending time outside in the sun would be a good way to retire. Now we realize we're not really retired. We're working harder than ever.
"That was kind of a surprise. I didn't realize going into this how much work it really was. You expect to be open on the weekends and you expect to be busy then greeting people and pouring wine but I didn't realize how many hours it took to get to that point. Going from vine to wine is a lot more work than I ever realized."
Linda describes the 1,200 square foot winery as homey. "It's a little tight but it has a nice, relaxed atmosphere. There's nothing fancy. You're not going to find a chateau at Windy Hill.
"We really enjoy what we're doing. And you better love it. You're not going to get rich but you can have a lot of fun. It's a lot of hard work. There are untold hours of work before you sit that bottle in front of someone. The best part, for me, is the way Augie's face lights up when people enjoy his wine. It makes him feel good to know he's produced something people enjoy."
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Sautéed Shrimp with Wasabi Mayonnaise
Peel shrimp down to the last knuckle. Marinate in olive oil, garlic, ginger and lime juice for 15 minutes. Sauté shrimp until pink. Season with pepper and place on a serving platter. Stir together mayonnaise, ginger, lime zest and juice, sugar and two teaspoons of wasabi paste. Taste and add more wasabi until it has some spiciness without being overwhelming. Serve with the shrimp.
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