by Robin English-Bircher, Senior Writer, Texas Wine and Trail Magazine
Many people knew about Hye Meadow Winery long before it opened. Owners Mike and Denise Batek shared their journey on Facebook, posting updates on the development of the property. Visits by bloggers Jeff Cope and Dave Potter also chronicled the winery’s progress. And before the winery was open, Texas wine fans could try out the wines; I had my first taste at Hye Market, the winery’s next door neighbor, back in June (check out my blog post here). And just before the official opening, the winery welcomed guests to the production room floor to taste wines, providing a growing sample of the Hye Meadow portfolio.
After a long wait, August 3rd rolled around, and Hye Meadow opened the tasting room doors and invited us all in. To mark the occasion, visitors left a bit of themselves on the chalkboard posts that are found throughout the tasting room. The wine tasting included seven wines (a sparkling, three whites, a blush, two reds), but the highlight was the newly released sparkling cuvee. This non-vintage white blend became the base for two different adult slushies: the sparkling with Chambord or the sparkling, Chambord, and Orange Muscat.
Good company, great music, tasty food, and a comfortable atmosphere could be found at the grand opening. The staff at the winery, including the owners and winemaker, made sure to make each person feel welcome and comfortable. To aid in this endeavor, the Peached Tortilla came from Austin to provide unique tacos and other light bites. The highlight was the performance by Joe Dalton. Joe, a friend of owners Mike and Denise, sang a mix of well-known songs and original material. His most recent song, “Hye Meadow,” expressed his joy in visiting the winery; inspired by a visit to the scenic grounds and the dreams and hopes of his friends, Joe crafted a heartfelt song that embodies the Texas wine spirit. And as a special gift, visitors received a copy of the single.
Crafting a Texas Wine Experience
Now that the fanfare is quieting down, the winery can focus on its mission. Hye Meadow is still coming together; the back rooms and offices are still being worked out, the new equipment has arrived from Italy and is being prepped for the upcoming harvest, and little pieces are still being tweaked on the grounds. During the quiet times, work is furious and excited behind the scenes. All of this is in hopes of creating a memorable Texas wine experience.
One of the goals is to create a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Both Mike and winemaker Jeff Ivy shared what they consider this best sort of experience: one where the guest gets the chance to talk with owners and winemakers. At the grand opening, Mike and Jeff worked to make that a reality, one that will continue. In addition to a warm welcome, comfort is also important. Hye Meadow is set up so guests can wind down: the back porch situated off the tasting room is well shaded, and the open property before it allows for a great breeze. Another aspect Mike is particularly proud of is all the work to make the winery open to everyone; the back porch bar provides access to guests in wheelchairs.
The winery also hopes to host numerous events. The outdoor events center provides a covered getaway for parties and weddings. The ample space offers plenty of room for a large group to dine and relax. It also has an extended porch; guests will feel among the trees as they look out from this elevated space. It also has the best view of the dance floor, nestled among nearby shade trees. And to help with any sort of event, there is a full kitchen for caterers, as well as an extra room right off the women’s restroom. And when the area isn’t reserved, the rest of us can enjoy the shade and view.
As for a wine club, that is still being ironed out. Chris Black informed me that they are still working out the numbers. However, Friends in Hye Places will be available shortly. Mike even has ideas for wine club events; he hopes to bring something unique to his members and is already looking into different ideas.
Producing Great Wine
For winemaker Jeff Ivy, his primary goal is to make high quality wines. To do this, Jeff and Mike look for the best grapes. Jeff admitted that if that means occasionally going outside of Texas (poor quality, limited supply, etc.), he will. As many know, quality and quantity is an issue here in Texas. There are lots of winemakers scrambling for limited grapes, which can make getting good ones difficult. Add in the unpredictable weather, and the market can become rather problematic. This is what the winery faced in its earliest days.
When Hye Meadow was getting started, they struggled to find grapes. Most grapes were promised to others, so Mike and Jeff looked outside the state and turned to Washington state’s Columbia Valley (which is clearly labeled on the wine). These grapes are found in the new sparkling cuvee, the Edelzwicker (Riesling-Gewürztrminer), Shade Tree Blush (Riesling-Cab), and Sangiovese. If the future plans hold, Sangiovese will be sourced from Texas and will remain a part of the portfolio, as well as the sparkling. They would also like to make a Texas version of their Edelzwicker; the grapes in the current blend aren’t particularly Texas friendly, so more Texas friendly grapes are being sought out for future vintages.
The future of the winery is Texas. Hye Meadow plans on making wines that are Texas food, clientele, and climate friendly. Right now, three wines are all Texas sourced: the Viognier, the Junkyard Red (Mourvdre-Merlot-Tempranillo), and the Orange Muscat. Early next year, a single varietal Tempranillo will be released (currently, the wine’s nose is lush with oak and pepper that is matched by a subtle progression of flavors). And further down the line will be other warm weather varietals, especially Italian ones. For whites, Jeff wants to work with Trebbiano, Roussane, and Malvasia Bianca. Reds will include Dolcetto, Aglianico, and Montepulciano. The Trebbiano and Dolcetto are the grapes Jeff hopes to make into flagship wines. To help with all of this, Jeff and Mike have been working with a number of Texas growers, including Andy and Dusty Timmons, and will be growing on the Hye Meadow property next to the events center.
Though each member of the Hye Meadow team looks toward tomorrow, they are clearly aware of how they got to this moment. Mike will happily share the process of building the winery, including how many screws were needed to build the back porch. Jeff tells stories of the lucky breaks in getting grapes, as well as the diverted grape disasters. Chris Black has moved beyond the place holder website to one with a more personal touch. Now all that the winery needs is smiling faces ready to enjoy what they have created.
Hye Meadow Winery
10257 W. US Hwy 290, Hye, Texas 78635