If you dine out regularly you may notice an increasing amount of Texas vino is finding its way on to wine lists in some of the best restaurants in the Lone Star State. This was not always the case, and up until very recently you were hard pressed to find more than one or two Texas labels on any wine list. Texas restaurants, bistros, and grills still have a very long way to go before supporters of Texas wine and the drink local movement will be impressed. But as more foodies discover award winning Texas wines while exploring the industry, restaurant owners are granting their requests and listing them.
Chef Ross Burtwell, owner of Cabernet Grill – Wine Country Restaurant in Fredericksburg, Texas is the ambassador of Texas wine and food pairing. Restaurant owners need only look at the success Burtwell has as evidence that adding Texas wine to their own lists is in agreement with Texas’s growing food and wine culture. When he first bought the restaurant, there were a couple of Texas wines already on the list, but as Chef Burtwell began the transition to his own gourmet menu, he decided to add several more local wines as well. Diners noticed the new selections, and began asking for their meals to be paired with a Texas wine over California wines or an import. I asked Chef Burtwell about his motivation behind dropping the other wines in favor of an exclusive Texas wine list, the only all Texas wine list to date. He said that being in the heart of Texas wine country, and the growing interest his customers were showing toward Texas wines already on the menu, “There were no reservations. It was just the logical next step to give our customers the authentic Texas wine experience they traveled here to have.”
Chef Burtwell sees to it that his entire staff is well educated in Texas grape varietals, wines, winery history, and every label carried in the restaurant. “We do extensive training here, and I send a lot of the staff to different wineries to learn more about the individual wines we carry, and be part of the Texas wine community. It’s really important that they are able to answer our customer’s questions and help them choose Texas wines that will pair well, throughout their dining.” Customers don’t have to be experts on Texas varietals to enjoy their meal, as the staff is eager to help assist in pairing. Most usually leave the restaurant learning something new about Texas wine and even how to better pair what they purchased once back home.
The large all Texas wine list at Cabernet Grill is a brilliant refection of the success of the Texas wine industry in general. Chef Burtwell expressed his enthusiasm for this new era, “We have over 75 Texas wines represented on our wine list today, and it will continue to grow. Our biggest challenge is not finding good Texas wines to include, its storage.” As I spoke with Chef Burtwell he went over the restaurant’s new construction plans to increase storage space which will help to accommodate the expanding collection. Fredericskburg is a central location for a lot of Texas wineries, making it easy for winery owners or wine makers to deliver the cases themselves, often timing their delivery to enjoy some of Chef Burtwell’s fine cuisine.
After a full day of tasting on Wine Road 290, Chef Burtwell knows his customers are very hungry and their palates probably a little overwhelmed, which is why he’s developed a menu that helps “take Texas wine to the next level.” As he explains, “It gives customers a chance to revisit the wines they enjoyed on the trail with food, which is a whole different experience. And there are wineries that people may not have had time to get to, but want to have a tasting, or some that want to taste a flight of Viogniers, etc.” The number of ways to enjoy Texas wine at Cabernet Grill can be 5 courses with numerous pairings, or as simple as sitting on the porch of one of the Cotton Gin Lodging cabins and savoring a bottle at sundown.
Chef Ross Burtwell shows his support outside the restaurant as well. He is a board member for the Texas Center for Wine & Culinary Arts to be located in the center of town. Chef Burtwell will be at Grape Creek Estate June 15th serving a savory pork creation paired with Grape Creek’s award winning wines as part of the Vino al Pastor events along Wine Road 290 in Fredericksburg.
More information on Cabernet Grill Wine Country Restaurant & Cotton Gin Lodging
Article by Leanne Holley, Texas Wine and Trail Magazine
Photos by Whitley Photography