By Sheena Williams
Killeen Daily Herald
LAMPASAS — Tucked away in Lampasas’ wooded countryside sits Pillar Bluff Vineyards, a debonair 17-acre retreat for wine connoisseurs and casual tasters alike.
Soft classical music permeated the cozy tasting room of the winery as Gill Bledsoe perched at his vineyard’s tasting bar Tuesday while he talked about his simple beginnings creating wine.
Blending frozen juices and concentrates into refined concoctions started as a hobby for Bledsoe. Now his hard work and fine-tuned palate has produced award-winning brews.
This year, the vineyard took home a silver medal and three bronze medals for its wines at the 2008 Texas Open Wine Competition. Yet even with years of amateur wine experience, Bledsoe said the transition from shifting his favorite past time into an entrepreneurial undertaking was a learning experience.
“When you’re an amateur, you’ll make the juice into wine and you’ll filter it and do everything that you do as a professional without the high-dollar equipment,” he said.
“As a commercial winery, you lose the physical context of seeing stuff but you still have that love because you know what’s going on behind that stainless steel wall.”
“It’s volume — a difference of volume and scale. As an amateur you’re not nearly as critical over losing a little bit of fluid because it’s for you. But now, I’d hate to have a hose break or have something go wrong and watch fluid or wine disappear out on the floor because that’s your livelihood. So consequently, the excitement is in putting together the balance of wine.”
Concocting the perfect wine requires a union between having the right chemistry and good taste. Adjacent to the tasting room is a cellar that houses several white oak barrels of wine that are tested monthly for pH.
Acidity and sugar are important variables that must constantly be maintained to the highest standard in order to ensure the best wine, Bledsoe said.
“Wine competitions are not like the Olympics in that every wine is competing against every other wine. In wine competitions you compete against the judge’s taste qualifications or his taste standards,” Bledsoe said. “So if there are 15 wines entered there’s a potential, if all of them were excellently made, that there could be 15 gold medals. Or there could be no gold medals, just silvers and bronzes.”
There have been no significant fluctuations in business since the economy began to weaken, Bledsoe said, but conscientious customers have helped that.
He said the demand is still high and White Merlot still remains the vineyard’s signature wine.
“It’s a wine that’s got fruit, sweetness and on the kitchen table or on the dining room table with turkey, ham and sweet potatoes for the holiday season — it’s a wonderful wine for family get togethers,” Bledsoe said. “It’s just a ruby on the table.”
For more information on Pillar Bluff Vineyards, call (512) 556-4078.