AWG Correspondent

Becky Parr

Umbra Winery Photos

Umbra Winery Review

Region: Texas

Reviewed: January 31, 2015 by Becky Parr
Published: March 13, 2015

Umbra Winery is the re-launch, reboot, and relocation of the former Crossroads Winery.

John and Debbie Wilson purchased Crossroads in 2013 and very wisely relocated it from its "boonies," warehouse-esque location east of Frisco into the wine mecca of Grapevine's Main Street area. I had the pleasure of visiting during the Crossroads era and now following the re-launch as Umbra. They always had some good wines, but now they have the added advantage of a beautiful facility and the possibility of foot traffic, which was never going to happen in the warehouse boonies!

The Place:  Umbra Winery's Grapevine tasting room has the feel of an urban wine bar. Its prominent feature is the long, flat-U-shaped, lit-up bar. Yes, it's lit up! It's striking; we were there on a rainy day, and the bar is almost mesmerizing in contrast to the darker outdoor light. It's visible from the sidewalk, and I can imagine people seeing it from outside and wanting to come in and check it out. Umbra means "the completely dark portion of the shadow cast by the earth, moon, or other body during an eclipse," and the bar itself seems to represent that contrast between dark and light. It's fascinating.

Besides the bar, there are various lounge seating areas, a large chalkboard advertising menu items and special events, an exposed ceiling, and an olive-green wall that oddly fits right in. It was busy on the Saturday afternoon when we visited, but not crowded. It's an atmosphere that invites you to settle in and stay awhile.

The People:  When I first visited Umbra, in its Crossroads days, I met John Wilson, the winery's current owner. John has the perfect personality for a wine tasting room; friendly, chatty, affable, and full of stories. He's a former chemical engineer who declared, "Making wine is a lot like making chemicals…but it sure does taste better." Of course, John Wilson isn't the winemaker; that's John Otis, who we had the good fortune to meet during our visit to Umbra's Grapevine tasting room! John Otis has been the constant in Crossroads/Umbra's history as it has changed hands and locations; he's been the winemaker the entire time. In talking to John, we discovered that he learned winemaking in Oregon, which explains his proficiency at Pinot Gris. Umbra still sources some of its grapes from the Pacific Northwest, keeping John true to his winemaking roots.

We also had the chance to meet Debbie Ray-Wilson, John's wife, who helped serve us during our Grapevine visit, and Rebecca Otis, the other John's wife, who had dropped into the tasting room with him. It was a good day to visit! There were several other bartenders and servers helping Debbie provide customers with their wine and small plates. No one seemed to have to wait. Adequate staffing is a definite plus in an urban tasting room! Who wants to wait for the good stuff?

The Wines:  Speaking of the good stuff, Umbra has some. I really enjoyed the aforementioned Pinot Gris, formerly known as Speed Bump, made from Washington grapes. The winery's tasting notes describe this as crisp apple with citrus, but it's not the tart green apple I usually don't care for in a Pinot Grigio. This is one of the few white wines in the world that my best friend (who was with me during my Crossroads visit) and I can agree on.

When I first visited Crossroads, they were out of Chardonnay, but it was available this time around. It's described as partially oaked, but I really didn't get an oaky taste. We were divided on this wine. We had a couple of friends with us, and they didn't care for the Chardonnay; I thought it was okay, but not spectacular. It seemed a bit thin to me.

My favorite among the reds was, and still remains, the Red Fusion, previously called CSM (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot). This is a nicely balanced red blend that could stand up to red meat or be enjoyed all by itself. We all agreed that this was the best of the reds. On the other end, we were all disappointed in the Tempranillo. Tempranillo grows so well in Texas that it's become something of a signature grape – but this one was much lighter than expected and fairly unremarkable. The Syrah didn't go over very well either; it had an odd nose and a bit of an unpleasant aftertaste. The Sass in a Glass, another blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Tempranillo) was good; and the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon got accolades all around. My friends described the Cab as reminiscent of a high-end California Cab, which is high praise from them. When I initially visited, I tasted both the 2008 and 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and declared my favorite to be the 2009, so I'm glad to see it featured now.

How can I leave out My Cheeky Bastard? This is a sweet wine, so I knew it wouldn't be my favorite, but it's won numerous People's Choice awards at our local GrapeFest in Grapevine. My husband tried it and discovered that it paired excellently well with the apple jelly served on the cheese board! He declared it the perfect accompaniment for apple pie.

The Experience:  The Umbra Grapevine tasting room is a super-classy place with some really good wines. It was perfect for a rainy Saturday afternoon and would be equally perfect for girls' night on a Thursday or an evening trip to resuscitate on an unfortunate Monday.

Address & Contact Information: 415 South Main Street Grapevine, Texas 76051. Telephone: 817-421-2999, website: Tasting Hours: Sun-Thurs 11:00-9:00, Fri-Sat 11:00-11:00.

Overall Rating:  

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