What? Wine Tasting & Painting in Huntsville

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Positive change is happening all over the Huntsville area, but at the top of the list would have to be the opening of the beautiful wine tasting and dining venue at West Sandy Creek Winery located at 1773 FM 1791, just a few minutes South West of Huntsville.  My husband, Jeff, helped the McGinley family purchase the 350+ acre ranch in 2007 and the family’s dream of owning a winery has evolved into an impressive, well planned destination for tourists and locals to enjoy. After attending the opening monthly dinner, with perfect local wine pairings, I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon touring the winery, interviewing one of the family members, SANDY MCGINLEY and painting, en plein air, in the fabulous vineyards.

So, Sandy, what motivated your family to develop a vineyard in Walker County, Texas?

My sisters, Dianna McGinley Aylesworth, Elissa McGinley Sarkiss and I grew up in Saudi Arabia. My father, Stan McGinley, was an attorney for Saudi Aramco and he and my mother, Peggy, spent 39 years there.  Dad fell in love with wine when he was in the military stationed in Northern Italy. He learned to make wine and spirits during these years. Over time my parents begin preparing for retirement and bought a property in The Woodlands in the late 1980’s. My Dad mentioned that he would like to buy a few acres to grow some grapes on. My first vision of this was him growing a few trellises of grapes out by the swimming pool!

How did your family vision develop into the beautiful vineyards and facilities that we are enjoying here today?

The next step found us reaching out for free resources and education on grape growing in Texas. One of the earliest contacts we made was with a Huntsville landowner, Oscar Gutierrez, who had been growing grapes on his property for some time. Oscar introduced us to the viticulture resources available through the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Program. With that support and support from numerous friends and family members, we planted our first vines in 2009.

 
In the Vineyards, 9x 12, oil on canvas; $300

In the Vineyards, 9x 12, oil on canvas; $300

 

What types of grapes do you grow here?

We were fortunate to meet Fritz Westover, a Viticulture Extension Program Specialist for Texas A&M.  Fritz is now in private practice, but still advises us on all aspects of viticulture and vineyard maintenance. The most important lesson we learned was to choose grape varieties that are resistant to Pierce’s Disease (PD), which is prolific in southeast Texas vineyards.  We grow three types of grapes at West Sandy Creek Winery:  Blanc du Bois, Lenoir (or Black Spanish)  and Spanish Tempranillo ( a non-resistant PD grape).

This property is so much more than a vineyard. Can you tell us how the other improvements on the property have evolved and the possibilities they offer for the public?

Initially my father thought this would be a wonderful place for corporate retreats, but over time, he realized that, although there is space and opportunity for that, there are vacation opportunities for individual getaways. We engaged Southland Log Homes a few years ago and built a number of log cabins on the property. These cabins are strategically set on the property for guest rentals and family events. We have a total of 13 bedrooms in all of the log cabins. We also have plans to start a wine club so members can enjoy all we have to offer.

We love the Agra/Tourism aspect of having visitors come for a few days, visit the vineyards and learn about wine making.

 
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We continue to develop the property. Of course, my Dad wanted a camel…we have one, as well as some other exotics, and we began to change the cattle to the Angus breed with the help of neighbors, Robert and Toni Bruner.

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Your winery officially opened in March of 2019 and my husband and I were honored to attend your first A TASTE OF WSCW that delighted everyone with a four-course dinner and perfect wine pairings from your original selections. What are the wine tasting experience opportunities you are offering in the future?

Our beautiful tasting room will be open from 12 Noon-6 PM Thursday through Sunday. Reservations are not required and we offer a variety of wines at various prices.

We will offer a four-course dinner, with wine pairings, on the first Friday of every month. Reservations are required for the dinner and pricing is $55.00 per person.

Your wines are already garnering a first class reputation. Tell us about some of the successes you have had.

I’m happy to report that we entered 8 of our wines in the Texas International Wine Competition in January and our Blanc du Bois Sweet white wine won Best in Class/Best Texas White, our  Lenoir red wine won a gold medal and all of the other 6 wines entered won silver medals.

It was very exciting to be recognized at this event!

The process of wine making

The process of wine making

Just think about it.you can come here, drink wine and look across the vineyards and see the actual grape vines. That, in itself, is a special experience.

Thank you, Sandy, for sharing your vineyard with me and offering an opportunity for tourism to grow in Walker County. I am headed out to do en plein air sketching in your beautiful landscape and hope that this story will help open your gate to many new visitors to Walker County, Texas.

Wishing you the very best at West Sandy Creek Winery!

Visit www.wscwinery.com

 

From the Duck Blind

At my church today there was a lot of conversation about quiet time and I have to say that quiet time is one of the best things about being an artist…the peace and quiet of painting or simply looking at painting subjects. My favorite grandson, Mason, (the only one) took me duck hunting the other morning. We were in the duck blind way before sunrise and quietly set out the decoys and hunkered down in our shelter on the muddy bank of the duck pond. The sun slowly opened it’s eyes on the horizon and bit by bit light fell over our pond and the ducks started coming in. My painting  “Flat Bottom Jon” was inspired by this outing.  

 
Flat Bottom Jon, 16x20, oil. $ 1200

Flat Bottom Jon, 16x20, oil. $ 1200

 

 Mason told me that the duck blind was made out of “C-Cane” and when the sun came up I could see that he was talking about CARIZZO CANE!!  That’s the terrible invasive species I told you about in my last post. Susan Kibbe of STPRA explained to me how this cane plant is literally taking over areas along rivers and other water sources in Texas. The photo you see here was taken in Washington County, Texas!  If you see it in your area, check out www.tsswcb.texas.gov for information on getting rid of it.  

Whistle Stop, 16x20, oil. $1200

Whistle Stop, 16x20, oil. $1200

Take a few seconds to listen to the short video here. You will actually be able to hear a Whooping Crane. It was really exciting to see this big guy (Endangered Species) near Riviera, Texas last week. He was very much at home with the Geese and Sandhill Cranes. What an amazing thing to witness! 

I’ve been painting bird hunters and bird dogs, deer, quail and landscapes and also finishing some commission pieces for clients.  I’ll post some photos later, but right now they are secrets! 

I'm Hopelessly Twitterpated

Here's how the Urban Dictionary defines Twitterpated

 

1. To be completely enamored with someone/something

2. The flighty exciting feeling you get when you think about/see the object of your affection

 

Okay, I admit it. Yes, I am totally, hopelessly "twitterpated" when it comes to anything and everything that has something to do with painting. It is truly magical to look at the world with the eyes of an artist and once I started developing an artist's eye, I began seeing painting opportunities everywhere. So, I am never bored. What color is this? What shape is that? Could I make it interesting? All of these questions, and more, spin in my head all the time. 

Even my friends and family are becoming "twitterpated" about art. Well, maybe not to the degree that I am, but they will text me photographs of things that they see that might be painting ideas. It's really great when some of my husband's hunting buddies send me photos of dogs in the field and tell me to "look at that light." My husband will drive out of the way for miles to show me an old mission church or waterfall. My kids and grandkids laughingly tell me they "squint" to see the lights and darks around them.

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Creating and viewing art is a shared experience. I do get a flighty, excited feeling every time I step to the easel to paint, but being twitterpated, for me, extends to each of you who share your painting ideas with me or who have a piece of my art hanging in your home or office. Look around you and let me know if you see something that makes you twitterpated. Develop your artist's eye. Let your heart race over a sunset, reflections in the water or maybe the color in your own back yard. It's really okay to be completely enamored with the world around you!

Shake it Loose

Being a person who works best under pressure, I love having something to work toward.  Well, now I am under the gun to paint, paint, paint as I get ready for an  upcoming solo show this October.

COLOR…OUTSIDE THE LINES is the title for the show and that’s exactly what I do.  I am crazy for color and I enjoy working fast and loose, but sometimes that’s not the easiest thing to do when I’m under pressure.

We all do it. There’s a deadline approaching and things have to get done. No matter what, the clock is ticking and we have to perform.  Regardless what the task is, it’s hard to stay cool and just get ready.  

If I am painting outdoors (en plein air) , it seems easier to stay loose. The birds tweet, the bugs buzz and the light changes constantly so I have to work fast and free. And  all of the elements keep me distracted. But, put me in the studio, on a hot summer day and I tend to get caught up in the details.

So, how to “shake it loose” in the studio this summer? Many artists play music while they do their art. This works for me too, sometimes. But the thing I find most helpful is to listen to a good audio book. Yes, that works wonders for me. The book, or sometimes a podcast, seems to occupy the left part of my brain. That’s the part that says “be neat, don’t mess up, get it right, think about it.” That’s the part of my brain that needs to concentrate on something else so that the creativity can flow.

Now, this might not be scientific, but I find that if I have done my preliminary sketches, thought through my color scheme and mentally planned for the painting, I can step up to that easel, turn on the audio book and things just seem to flow with the paintbrush or pastels.

So, as I listen to some great tales over the summer, I will be busily painting for the show. Hmmmm….I wonder if all that drama is reflected in the paintings.  I sure hope so!  STAY COOL, FRIENDS.