Pillar Bluff Review
Address: 300 County Road 111 Lampasas,Texas 76550.
Phone Number: 512-556-4078
Tasting Hours: Fri-Sat 10:00-5:00, Sun 12:30-5:00
Region: Texas Hill Country AVA, Texas
Reviewer: Becky Parr
Review Date: 3/23/2013
Reviewer: Becky Parr
Pillar Bluff Vineyards is an absolute find. Located off the beaten path near Lampasas, Texas, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, there lives a winemaker named Gill who knows his wine. Contest judges have recognized it, too; Pillar Bluff boasts several bronze and silver medals and one double gold wine that is absolutely extraordinary. These wines demonstrate their winemakers passion and illustrate exactly what Texas grapes can do.
The Experience:  Fortunately it was a balmy March Sunday when we visited, but I could envision the summers being VERY hot on the flat plain that is the Pillar Bluff vineyard. We missed the turn on the first try; on a drive-by, it looks like youre turning into a golf course or the parking lot of the building nearby, but there really is a road there. Trust your GPS!
Pillar Bluff shares a vineyard with neighboring Texas Legato; the vineyard lies to the left of the winery as you drive up. Its an unassuming-looking tasting room, but dont worry, greatness lies within.
The People:  We were first greeted by Rudy the dog, who is the on-site marketing and public relations representative for Pillar Bluff. Since I think a four-legged greeters give a winery a sense of hominess and personality, and my fiancé loves canines in any form, we were quite glad to see Rudy! After checking us out and getting a good petting, Rudy retreated to the comfy pillow in the back room and turned the helm over to Gill.
Gill Bledsoe is the owner, winemaker, tasting pourer, source of any and all wine information, and chief cook and bottle washer. He is also a very knowledgeable presence behind the wine tasting counter, accompanied by a consistently affable grin. He taught me a mechanism not exactly a mnemonic device, but kind of a version of YMCA to help me remember how to pronounce Viognier, a prevalent varietal in Texas that I have always found to be a tongue twister. He is a happy presence, excellent company, and obviously knows what hes doing in terms of winemaking.
The Place:  I didnt ask, but Id venture a guess that the tasting room is part of a house that has been converted for this purpose. That would make the actual tasting room a foyer or small living area where a bar has been added, along with a dishwasher for glasses (very smart). The actual bar seats four or five, with additional places around the room; if you can, sit at the bar and talk to Gill. Theres a kitchen opposite the bar, and the barrel room through a passage opposite the front door. Outside, Pillar Bluff has a lovely, partially covered pavilion that could house a large-scale public or private event in conducive weather.
The Wines:  Viognier, which I learned to pronounce properly at Pillar Bluff, is one of the most common wines in Texas because the grapes grow so well here. I really enjoyed Pillar Bluffs Viognier. It hints at sweetness without being sweet if youve read any of my reviews, you know I have to take companions with me to taste the sweet wines because I dont care for them and would be a great wine for the poolside in the summer. I brought some home and shared it with the ladies at my moms canasta night. It was the first bottle emptied that evening, around the time the first hand was dealt. The Tempranillo is well balanced and has a nice finish. The Merlot and Reserve Cabernet are both award winners, and they deserve every accolade. The Merlot has a double gold; I wasnt sure what that meant, so I asked, and Gill said that each and every judge at the competition said the wine deserved a gold. How many? was my next question 13 judges.
Gill also poured two orange muscat wines, which he named after his mother Kitty. My fiancé tried both of them for me, since he really enjoys orange muscat; he had a preference for the less expensive of the two because it was a bit lighter.
Insiders Tip:  This was the best part of the whole trip. Gill invited us into the barrel room, with our glasses, to taste a Cabernet Franc and pear wine that have yet to be bottled. I am quite a fan of Cabernet Franc in general, and this one blew me away. Well, Gill warned me before I went back to the barrel room that the wine was going to make me swoon! He said he anticipated bottling in the summertime, so Ill have to make a road trip back to Lampasas to get some. Theres only one barrel, which is one of the saddest things Ive heard at a winery. Oh, the pear wine was good too!
I think this is a place Ill have to visit at least once or twice a year, to see what new award-winning wines Gill has aging in his barrel room.