We have had more fun exploring the Texas Hill Country, and spotlighting Texas winemakers as The William. Ron Yates with Spicewood Vineyards was most recently highlighted due to his fascinating story, and a diverse wine selection. From the land that grows the grapes, to the heartwarming stories, and close team relationships, Yates has developed a solid winemaking foundation taking on the Texas Hill Country’s wine scene. We did visit both of Ron Yates’ properties, but our first stop was Spicewood Vineyards, where we ran into Ron, and learned about his the relationships with his team that go back to his early teens.
The recommended tasting at Spicewood started with a 2018 Viognier, Gold Medal winner in the 2020 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Full bodied, and flavorful without being overpowering, it was easy to see this as an easy win for Yates. Moving through the tasting we came upon a 2019 Grenache Rose, a 2017 Tandem, and finally landed at a 2017 Tempranillo. All award winners, but the Tempranillo stood out on the palate and, ironically, in the press. Awarded Best in Class AND Double Gold Medal in the 2020 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, as well as the 2019 Gold Medal in the San Francisco International Wine Competition, this full bodied red really jumped out as a star. The 2016 Syrah from Escondido Valley also had a unique and smooth taste experience.
Then came the 2016 Good Guy, a red blend with a story to warm any wine lover’s heart. 42% Tempranillo, 17% Graciano, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, and 7% Syrah, cherries and black raspberry are highlighted. Yates, as a young boy learning to talk kept attempting to learn his grandfather’s nickname, “Grandpa,” and it kept sounding like, “Good Guy.” His grandfather decided he’d like to keep the new nickname instead, so Ron grew up calling his grandfather, “Good Guy.” This 2016 blend commemorates the memory of Ron’s grandfather, and it’s the one he’s most proud of for the story alone.
The young man leading our tasting was proud to share that his father made pizza for Ron when he was in elementary school, and that the Yates family were prominent figures, respected by the town. He went on to say how he felt honored to be on the Yates wine team, because, he felt, they consistently go out of their way to show respect and appreciation. It is clear from the team members we spoke with, that Ron and his family have maintained fabulous and long standing Hill Country relationships. Every story we heard was either hilarious or moving, but all highlighted Ron’s love for people. The way that he interacted with his team hit a chord in my entrepreneurial heart. He treats them like family, in a protective sense, giving accolades everywhere he can.
The landscape for a glass of wine, or a full on tasting is exquisite, to say the least at Spicewood Vineyards. Surrounded by iconic live oak trees, Spicewood Vineyards makes every seat feel like you’re at the best table. I highly recommend sitting outdoors, as the scenery truly fulfills the excellence that is, on its own, a fabulous wine tasting experience.
As we wrapped up our Spicewood tasting, we called ahead to the Ron Yates Tasting Room & Winery to let them know we were on our way. Pulling up to the Tasting Room property, the grapes seemed to go on for miles. The path to the front door walks past a giant covered outdoor area with tables filled with happy families all enjoying the scenery and each other.
Dan Cook, another long time friend of Yates, and seasoned food and beverage manager welcomed us into the tasting room as the sun was just setting over the Hill Country horizon. I commented on the glassware being extra polished, and lo and behold, out comes a curious machine they use to auto-polish the glasses immediately after sanitizing.
Cook met Yates when they both worked at a Horseshoe Bay restaurant called Marty McFly’s. With some fabulous stories about how Ron kept him laughing, our tasting was, again, more than just wine. Shortly after working at McFly’s, Cook was offered a government contract to run the Navy’s Food, Beverage and Entertainment program in Japan, and lived there with his wife for the next 10 years. He reconnected with Yates after returning, and now runs the Tasting Room & Winery.
Between the wine, stories, and Yates’ team of excellence, Ron Yates stands out as a Texas Hill country winemaker whose reputation is worthy of our accolades. Thank you Ron.