When your backyard plantings inspire your dreams for retirement, and you name your future dream after the cinnamon-colored wings of the Inca dove, where else would you look for land other than the Dove Capital of Texas: Hamilton, Texas?
Hamilton is a quaint town founded in 1858 that sits about an hour from Waco on State Highways 36 and 281. The city is best known for its weekend rodeos and the resting place of Brushy Bill Roberts, a man who claimed to also be Billy the Kid.
But it’s not known for wine. However, that did not stop Ellis and Susan Vandiver from scouting out the perfect piece of land on the outskirts of the Texas Hill Country to establish Red Wing Dove Vineyard and Winery.
Questions arose. Why so far out with not another winery in sight? Somebody has to be the pioneer, right? Is this part of Texas too hot to grow grapes? If they can grow wine in Australia, I think not.
People are also reading…
In 2004, the backyard dream became reality with the purchase of 79 acres in Hamilton County. To make their new vineyard complete, the Vandivers even brought with them their original backyard plantings of Shiraz to plant at the new property.
One recent Saturday while looking for new property like we always do, we set our sights towards Evant on U.S. Highway 84 outside of Gatesville. Once we got there, we took a right onto State Highway 281 in Evant, then about five miles down the road, and took a left to FM 221.
It is a pretty stretch of land, and we certainly did not expect it to be. That’s why we like veering off of highways; they rarely tell the story of what you’re driving through.
We drove a few miles before reaching FM 2005 where Red Wing Dove Vineyard and Winery is located. Taking a right onto FM 2005, you can’t miss the big gates on the right, and the rows and rows of vines planted. Turning in through the gates, parking is on the immediate left for the secluded tasting room.
Artfully situated at the high point of the land, amid the trees, it’s almost like a scavenger hunt — what will you find behind the trees?
A beautifully designed Texas-styled Tuscan winery, is what. It is a gorgeous native stone and stucco building with loads of light flooding in from the wood doors and windows.
The massive custom tasting bar is definitely the focal point in the room. Tall ceilings, a fireplace with seating and a puzzle not yet completed is surrounded by tables to make yourself comfortable. Windows showcase the barrel and production rooms.
You will find the owners behind the bar, or grilling burgers or pizza. This is a very laid-back atmosphere where all are welcomed.
We arrived late afternoon, and the tasting room was almost completely filled with locals and travelers. We were given a menu to choose the different tastings offered: dry red, dry white, sweet red, sweet white. The list contains single varietals, and blends from Shiraz, Ruby Cabernet, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Viognier and Tempranillo.
All wines are produced from the hand-pruned, hand-picked estate grapes. Immediately after harvesting, they are put into the air-conditioned winery to ensure the freshest flavors are retained, and bottled. No enhancement for flavors are ever added. These are some of the purest wines bottled with the limestone soil showing through each one.
Ellis Vandiver is the vineyard manager, tending to each vine with great care. Susan Vandiver is the winemaker, producing wines unique to their vineyard. She really showcases their grapes and terroir well.
As we were tasting our wines, we also ordered the hand-made wood-fired flatbread pizzas that made to order in an outdoor pizza oven. We slipped outside to the outdoor patios to gaze at the Hill Country views. You never would imagine you were in Hamilton, standing outside that early evening by now. It is a little gem out there!
After our tastings were complete, I ordered a glass of the Peno Veno to go with our pizzas. Excellent choice! Susan adds fresh jalapeño to the batch of Pinot Gris during fermentation. It’s a great full-bodied white wine with a kick at the end. Deliciously different. The grilled flatbreads literally had me sitting at a plaza near the Basilica in Palermo. It was that good, that authentic.
We tried their Shiraz, Tempranillo, Rose, Ruby Cabernet, Pinot Gris, in all of their styles. The only thing left is to go back on Friday night for burger night!
Red Wing Dove has won numerous silver and bronze medals. Everything we tried was good and representative of their terroir. However, there are two that stand out among the others that I believe represent their winery the most from name to style of the wine. Sometimes we try a place that’s trying to be everything instead of trying to be the best of who they are. Red Wing Dove wines fall in the latter category, and that’s exactly what we want.
For those that would like to visit soon, Hamilton hosts its annual Dove Festival every Labor Day weekend on the town square with dancing, vendors, a 5K run and lots more. This is a perfect time to go visit Red Wing Dove, along with other way-out wineries along the trail.
Wines in Review
Type: 100% Shiraz.
About: I laughed at this name. It drew me in. It really is labeled No Name. This Shiraz has a small amount sugar added back in to create a fruitier style. This is NOT a sugary-sweet Shiraz as one would think. Rather, it’s a little bolder with the fruits than the winery’s Rhone-styled Shiraz. It’s so different, you keep going back to it.
Tasting notes: Candied plums and ripe blackberries with white pepper coat your tongue. Medium-bodied tannins.
Type: Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris
About: Pinot Blanc can be an underrated grape, so seeing this as the first grape in the blend made me want to try it. Low in acidity, Pinot Blanc has a gentle, subtle sweetness. Pinot Gris is fuller-bodied, so blending the two is fantastic for all white wine drinkers.
Tasting notes: Pleasing to the palate with honeysuckle, white flowers, gingered apple and white stone.
Cost: $17. ￼
Red Wing Dove Vineyard and Winery
9112 FM 2005 in Hamilton
Tasting room open 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday.
Lorrie Dicorte has been in the wine business for 40-some years and her family for more than 90 years. Her grandfather, Billy Dicorte, and cousin, Tony LaBarbera, were the first to import fine wines such as Ch Lafite Rothschild. Lorrie has served on international wine competition judging panels, and is known for her keen smell and taste.