There is a new cordon of the Texas wine country developing in the northern Hill Country, based around the tiny town of Pontotoc.
Over ten years ago, Carl Money bought the 1800’s buildings in downtown Pontotoc, as well as an old German farmhouse behind the strip. He envisioned it as the place for a family he didn’t have yet. Now that he and his wife, Frances Money, are expecting their third child, that dream is taking flight.
Carl now plans to convert the downtown strip into three tasting rooms and an active theater for movies, live music and theatrical performances.
By gracious invitation, a few of us had the opportunity to tour the property, meet the people, and spend an incredible weekend in this place. I traveled out with three wine women of the Austin wine scene, Alissa Leenher, Jessica Dupuy and Denise Clarke.
We made a few stops along the way at William Chris Vineyards,
We met with owners of Sandstone Cellars, Scott and Manny, tasted through the wines and visited their new wine bar, next to the winery.
Upon arriving in Pontotoc, we were warmly welcomed by Don, Ronnie, Carl, his beautiful wife Frances and their two children,
and were joined by San Antonio Express writer Jennifer McInnis, her partner and two Texas State theater professors. After sipping some 2011 Estate Tempranillo out of mason jars and munching on appetizers, we began a tour. We saw each of the future tasting rooms. One will be for for Pontotoc Vineyards. One is slotted for Akashic Vineyard Winery, soon to be pouring wine made from grapes of Don Pullum’s Akashic Vineyard and other nearby growers. He will be the winemaker there too, of course. I asked where the word Akashic originated and he said it is the Buddhist term for “nature’s memory” and the perfect metaphor for wine.
The third tasting room is for Alphonse Dotson and Martha Cervantes of Certenberg Vineyards. The winery will be named Dotson and Cervantes.
On our tour, Ronnie explained the vineyards to us,
Carl showed the buildings and shared his plans for their future
and Don let us taste from the barrels and tanks, explaining each vintages characteristics and blending wine on the spot.
We learned that Carl’s dream for the property was one of celebration and education. The house is naturally designed for entertainment and the firepit in the yard calls for camaraderie. He said his vision is for people to come and thoroughly enjoy themselves. If they’ve had too much to drink, they can grab a Mexican blanket from the theater and curl up on the tasting room floor for the night, or go pitch a tent in the vineyards. He wants people to enjoy the vibe and atmosphere as much as he does. Not a hard thing to do.
He also wants Pontotoc to be a center for education, true to the town’s roots. Out of the handful of streets in town, one is named College, for the crumbled university that faces the downtown strip.
Carl hopes to revive that tradition with viticulture and enology classes. He is currently working with Ed Hellman on curriculum for the Texas Viticulture Certificate Program based out of Fredericksburg and wants to extend some of those opportunities into Pontotoc.
After our touring, Don Pullum created an incredible seafood stew, shared with side dishes brought by all.
We sat at a long table in the middle of soon-to-be Pontotoc Winery tasting room saying grace, sharing stories, making friends and giving cheers. The possibility off the place rang off its earthen walls.
I was so moved by the town, the idea and the spirit, I returned a day later to learn how to filter wine with Don, Ronnie and the cellar helper Justin. But that’s another story.
Best of luck to you, Pontotoc! Your future is bright.