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Written by Texas Highways

In the August 2013 issue of Texas Highways, Lori Moffatt writes about a Madeira tasting that featured the wines of Haak Vineyards in Galveston County. Co-founder Raymond Haak, who operates the winery with his wife, Gladys, chatted freely about anniversary surprises, the challenges of winemaking, and life’s circuitous pathways.

“My wife, Gladys and I were celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary in 1969. We were living here in Santa Fe, Texas, and she came home from a local nursery with some grape vines. I put them in the flowerbed and didn’t think anything more about it. Spring came, they budded out, and started making a few grape clusters. I thought it might be fun to make some homemade wine. So I went out and started reading. I knew nothing about growing and tasting wine, but I like a challenge. The next year, I put in a little vineyard, maybe 30 vines.

That year, I learned that what you really want to do is pinch them back the first few years—let them spend their energy on root development. Then in a few years, you can try making some homemade wine.

The next year I thought, if 30 vines is fun, 300 vines would be more fun. I plowed up half an acre and planted. Back then, I was trying different varieties. I tried cabernet sauvignon, petite syrah, merlot, champenel. I was told they wouldn’t do well on the Gulf Coast, because we have Pierce’s Disease down here. I was stubborn and thought, ‘How would they know? They haven’t tried growing in Santa Fe.’ In a few years, though, all my vines died. The experts were right.

A few years later, I discovered a hybrid grape called blanc du bois. It was developed at the University of Florida and is resistant to Pierce’s Disease. This grape has been tremendous for us. I’ve been growing it since the mid-80s now, I was one of the first in Texas. I make seven different wines from blanc du bois. One is a port and another is a Madeira.

I am the first and the only producer in Texas to make Madeira. I produced my first one in 2006, but I didn’t have a label approved. I was told by the feds that if I didn’t have a label approved for port, Madeira, or sherry within the next two days, I couldn’t call it Madeira. I could make the same wine, but I couldn’t call it Madeira.  So I really squeezed in under the wire. I was grandfathered in.”

Madeira—a richly flavored fortified wine, usually produced on the Portuguese islands of Madeira—was first made in the late 1700s by happy accident. Ships loaded with port embarked on the six-month voyage to the Americas, where the wine was exposed to heat and oxygen—normally wine’s arch rivals. But when buyers tasted it, they liked it and sought to duplicate the process, and hence the birth of a new spirit.

“How did I arrive at making Madeira? It’s a complicated story. I had gone to a wine symposium in Tow, hosted by Ed and Susan Auler of Fall Creek Vineyards. One of the guest speakers was D.C. Flynt, a Master of Wine who lived in Louisiana. We were all told to bring samples of our wine, and that D.C. would taste them. I brought a black Spanish port, and D.C noted that it reminded him of Madeira. Had I ever thought of making Madeira?

I started doing research …  how and why it was made. Then my wife and I embarked on the laborious and torturous chore of going to the islands of Madeira in Portugal to taste it. In Portugal, they make Madeira in heated cellars called estufas, the Portuguese (and Spanish) word for oven. That’s how I do it, too. My cellar heats up to about 105-110 degrees. It simulates the 6-month journey to the Americas in a hull of a ship. It caramelizes the sugars, oxidizes the wine, and makes the wine practically indestructible.

You can taste our Madeira on tours of the vineyard. We’re open seven days a week, and we have tours and tastings daily. We take visitors out by the vineyards, where we grow grapes on three acres. (We buy the majority of our grapes from other growers in the state.) And we go ito the cellar, where we have ten stainless-steel tanks, and we show visitors the destemmer-crusher and bladder presses, too. The we end up at the tasting room, where, for $10 you can taste 4-5 of our wines. The tours themselves are free.”

To locals, the town of Dripping Springs is known only as “Drippin’.”  But you don’t have to be a local to see the beauty that this proclaimed “Gateway to the Hill Country” offers.

In the July issue’s Taste department, Lori Moffatt gets turned on to shrubs, old-fashioned mixture of fruit, sugar, and vinegar that make great cocktails. (You can also use them to jazz up still or sparkling water.)  She wrote a blog about her experience and also shares this introduction to the idea:

By Lori Moffatt

“Imagine that it’s 1780, and there is no electricity, no railroads, and you’re a locavore because you have to be,” began Austin craft-cocktail guru Bill Norris at a seminar at the recent Austin FOOD & WINE Festival. “You’ve got to figure out a way to preserve your fruit and vegetable crop. You would have canned most of it, and you might have made some of it into wine (or even distilled some of the wine), but you might also have made something called a shrub—a fruit-infused drinking vinegar that you could use to flavor water, kind of like a precursor to soft drinks.”

Most cocktails, Bill explains, are comprised of a liquor plus sweet and sour elements. “Lime and lemon are delicious, but they can get old,” he says. That’s where vinegars come in. “Hugely popular in southeast Asia, drinking vinegars add a complex element to cocktails.”

To make a peach shrub, combine 1 cup chopped peaches with 1 cup sugar; cover and leave on the countertop. The sugar will immediately begin pulling the water from the fruit, making syrup. After two days, strain the solids from the syrup and add ½ cup to 1 cup champagne vinegar. “You want the vinegar to linger like a ghost,” says Bill.

Turns out you can make shrubs from all kinds of fruits and vegetables, and the method is roughly the same: Chop your fruit or vegetable, add an equal amount of sugar, and let the syrup form for about two days. Strain out the solids, and add roughly the same amount of good vinegar as your fruit or vegetables.  Since discovering shrubs, I’ve gone a bit shrub-crazy, and I’ve made peach shrub, ginger shrub, guava shrub, strawberry shrub, mango shrub, and blueberry shrub, using combinations of balsamic vinegar, champagne vinegar, apple-cider vinegar, and specialty vinegars from Con Olio, a shop in Austin whose products are amazing.  Next, I’ll try cucumber and tomato shrubs, which I imagine would taste terrific in a gin-and-tonic or bloody mary. Personally, I like to shake the heck out of my drinks in a cocktail shaker loaded with lots of ice, but you can simply mix the ingredients in a glass full of ice, too.


Bill’s Bourbon Blast

  • 1 ½ ounces bourbon
  •  1 ounce ginger liqueur (Domaine de Canton is a good brand)
  •  ½ ounce peach shrub
  • three dashes Angostura bitters


Bill’s Bitter Mary

  •  1 ½ ounces white rum
  •  1 ounce Aperol (an Italian aperitif that tastes similar to Campari
  • ½ ounce strawberry shrub.


Blueberry Bomb

  • 1½ ounces vodka
  •  1 ounce orange liqueur
  • ½ ounce blueberry shrub

A bit of mint is nice as a garnish and adds a lovely fragrance; drape some across the top of the ice.


Pineapple Vinegaroon

 This one is inspired by the Vinegaroon served at Contigo, a restaurant in Austin.

  • 1 ½ ounces tequila (or mescal, my preference)
  • ½ ounce pineapple shrub
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • ½ ounce Herbsaint (a liqueur, originally used as an absinthe substitue) that adds a slight licorice note

From the July 2013 issue.


More worthy experiences

Lori Moffatt plays hooky—and tourist—for the day

Matt Joyce explores life on Austin’s aorta, where history meets quirky

Jill Lawless’ grade-schooler runs a tight ship. Here’s her kid’s dream day downtown.

(Photo by J. Griffis Smith)

It’s a challenge to write about the place you call home, especially when that city is as multifaceted as Austin, a bustling burg flavored by music, art, and the outdoors. In the end, our Austin story is a staff collaboration: Jill Lawless explores Austin’s kid-friendly enticements, Matt Joyce rediscovers Congress Avenue after returning to town from a nine-year hiatus, and Lori Moffatt embarks on the perfect grownup “staycation” day. We had to leave dozens of worthy experiences on the cutting-room floor, so see those here. Check the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau website  for details on hotels and tours, as well as maps and other information.

In the May 2013 issue of Texas Highways, we offer 12 ideas for enjoying your Best Summer Ever, ranging from biking the new stretch of San Antonio’s River Walk to stargazing in air-conditioned comfort in one of Texas’ many state-of-the-art planetariums. While researching the planetarium aspect, we found a great website,, which features sections on the solar system; constellations; deep sky objects such as nebulas and galaxies; astronomical events like eclipses and meteor showers; advice and information about binoculars, cameras, and telescopes; and a guide to nationwide astronomy clubs, observatories, star parties, and planetariums.

According to the database, planetariums in Texas include:

The Texas Highways Events Calendar is a free, quarterly publication that features hundreds of events happening across the state each season, expanding on the selection offered in Texas Highways magazine.

As Houston’s Hotel Derek completes the final stages of a $6 million renovation of its rooms and public spaces, we’re pleased to announce the details of a Houston getaway package created solely for Texas Highways readers. Here’s the scoop: Beginning on March 1 and continuing through March 30, go to the Hotel Derek’s Facebook page, “like” it, then post a line to the Derek’s wall identifying yourself as a Texas Highways reader who wants to rediscover Houston—and explain (in one sentence) why. Hotel Derek staff will pick a winner, who will receive a two-night weekend stay with breakfast for two, plus complimentary car service to destinations within three miles of the hotel. And if you win, let us know. We’d love to share your experience with other adventuresome readers.

We often turn to the Texas Highways community for their input on the best of Texas travel. Here's a chance for you to sound off on the topics we've been discussing on Facebook and elsewhere.

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Who Shapes Your Community?

Texas is full of interesting characters that make our state a “whole other country.” Who are the artists, musicians, chefs, and other taste-shapers in your community that set Texas apart from the ordinary?

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It’s hard to believe, but Americans reportedly leave hundreds of millions of paid vacation days on the table each year. As we resolve to make the most of our time off in 2013, what are the most beautiful scenery and striking views across Texas that inspire you to get out of the office?

Most Interesting Small Town?

Texas’ small towns are cool for lots of reasons—it could be the people (or lack thereof), the location, the history, the events, or the unique establishments. What do you think is the most interesting small town in Texas, and why?

Special Kind of Quirky?

Texans are internationally known as a unique group of folks. And there are lots of eccentric Texans that add extra flavor to the mix. We’d love to hear about the quirky characters that make your town special, and why?

Your Favorite Small Town?

Playing with a new tablet or smartphone today? Stretch your fingers and social networking with Texas Highways. Here’s a fun question for the TH community: What’s your favorite Texas small town, and why do you love it?

Who Makes a Difference?

Texas is full of difference-makers that shape our communities for the better. In the spirit of the holidays, Texas Highways would like to know the difference-makers in your community that you’re thankful for, and why?

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