La Cruz de Comal produces only authentic Texas wines from Texas Hill Country grapes and offers true Texas Hill Country “terroir”: 100% estate grown grapes; fermentations on wild, natural yeasts–We have never had commercial yeasts on the property; and no additions of acid, sugar, grape concentrate, powdered tannins, artificial coloring agents or sulfites. Our passion embraces the age-old concept of “regionality” where food, wine, and agriculture are concerned. In a word, it is real wine.
HOW IT BEGAN
La Cruz de Comal is a collaboration between two long-standing friends, California winemaker Tony Coturri and Texas lawyer and wine enthusiast Lewis Dickson. The two met in 1981, when Lewis was in Sonoma and tasted some of Tony’s first commercially released wine from the 1979 vintage. Lewis called Tony the next day, praised the wine and arranged for a visit. They became very good friends, always keeping up with each other over the years, and Lewis of course consistently buying and enjoying Tony’s wines.
Lewis’ interest in and passion for wine continued, ranging from owning part of a small vineyard and winery called Felton-Empire in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California to traveling throughout the world of wine — Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand. In the late 1990’s, Lewis moved to France and lived in both Provence and Toulouse.
Upon returning from France in 2000, Lewis began planting the three acre estate LD3 Ranch Vineyard. To begin with, eleven different types of grapes were planted in order to see, first hand, which could survive without being on 24/7 pesticide life support. After six years, the laws of natural selection clearly pointed to a white grape, Blanc du Bois, and a red grape, Black Spanish. Accordingly, the vineyard was partially replanted, being dedicated to those two grape varieties. Meanwhile, in 2001, Tony came to Texas to make a few precious barrels of natural wine from Texas Hill Country grapes. Over the next ten years, Tony made many trips to Texas, making wine his natural way, both with grapes from our estate vineyard, as well as from a few other vineyards in the Texas Hill Country. Working alongside Tony, Lewis learned how to make wine Tony’s way: the natural way. By the way, in early 2018, Tony was nominated as a semi-finalist for the prestigious James Beard Award in the category of Wine, Beer and Spirits Professional of the year. Since 2011, all wines are made strictly from our estate grown grapes. In fact, using estate grown Blanc du Bois and Black Spanish, Lewis has made eight completely different types of wine.
Where did the name La Cruz de Comal come from? It is named after the old Mexican graveyard cross that is in the estate vineyard. Lewis bought the cross in San Antonio in the mid-1980’s. As the story is told, not far from Lake Chapala in a small village in Michoacan, Mexico, there lived a man who was highly revered and loved by all. He was essentially the Mayor, Priest and Godfather to everyone in the village. When he died in the late 1800’s, the villagers wanted to cast a special cross to place on his grave. For that purpose, they gave over their comals or comalitos (iron utensils used to cook carnitas and heat tortillas,) and the cross was thusly made. In the early 1980’s, the cross was vandalized and the family replaced it. Having seen so many crosses in and around vineyards in Europe, Lewis decided to put the cross in his small vineyard. La cruz means “the cross” in Spanish. It is just a coincidence that the vineyard is in Comal County, Texas, as the reference to comal has nothing to do with the place. Rather, it has to do with what the cross is made of and the message of dedication that lies within. Hence, the name of the winery became La Cruz de Comal (the cross made of comals).
La Cruz de Comal became a bonded Texas winery in 2004.
In 2012, the tasting room opened on the estate vineyard.
OUR PHILOSOPHY: MAKE REAL WINE
Our wines are alive, literally. They have not been manipulated and beaten into submission chemically prior to bottling. At the risk of oversimplification, they make themselves. We fully expect our wines to have personality and individual character. Wines and their evolution are like people in many respects. It is the differences in people (and wine) that make them interesting, rather than their similarities.
Each wine is different, just as each vintage is different. Our goal is not to envision some benchmark wine heralded by critics and then artificially concoct a beverage in its image. We offer our wines for what they are not, just as much as for what they are. Only through such an approach will authentic wine be produced — wine that is true to its origin: the very soil, micro-climate and environs from which it came –its terroir.
Our wines are permitted to be what they want to be. We literally do everything by hand from start to finish. Grapes are always hand picked. Very limited, small lot fermentations allow us to make wines that simply cannot be made any other way. We punch down the “caps” of fermenting red wine by hand, at least three to four times a day. All red wines are aged in oak barrels, most of which are new or one year old. We bottle by hand without fining or filtration.
La Cruz de Comal wants to present the wine world with authentic Texas wine made with integrity; wines that are literally alive with the personality of the region. More and more, wines from around the world either taste essentially the same or have the same “international style” earmarks of quality, no matter the origin, grape, vintage or cost. Many such wines are just as uninteresting as they are good and just as dead as they are technically correct with “textbook chemistry.”
Making natural wine means we add nothing to the wines during vinification, starting with hand-harvesting grapes to hand-bottling the finished product. In natural winemaking, no sulfites are added to kill the native, wild yeasts present on the grapes and in vineyard. By maintaining the natural grape yeasts, the wines truly reflect their “terroir” (sense of place), and there is a true connection between the vineyard and what is in the bottle.
Our wines tend to be more European, “Old World” in style. Once the grapes are physiologically ripe, they are picked more for acidity than for sugars. Our harvest practices, coupled with long, cool fermentations, provide our wines with acid-driven character. It is this natural acidity that not only helps to naturally preserve the wines but also allows them to evolve in the bottle and later, in the glass. It is also a character that makes them pair well with food; “No acid, no pairing” is a mantra we abide by.
When our wines are put into the barrel, and later in the bottle, they are still elbowing their way around, so to speak. We want the aging process to be completed bottle-side, rather than barrel-side. Consequently, La Cruz de Comal wines will need some time in the bottle, particularly the reds. They are literally alive and will improve and evolve in the bottle, if taken care of (see Storage & Presentation). Because the wine is alive when bottled, once the bottle is opened, each glass evolves slightly differently from the prior one. The second glass will have aromas and dimensions slightly different than the first glass. The fourth glass will have evolved nuances slightly different than the second. Opening a bottle of our wine is the start of a motion picture, as opposed to showing still snapshots of the same thing. This makes the wine as interesting as is it good, a rare plus, in our view.
Our red wines are never fined or filtered. Often we bottle white and rosé wines without doing so, as well. Though the wines are clear when bottled, they more than likely will precipitate some sediment in the bottle, even when relatively young. If any sediment is shaken up or disturbed appreciably, it is best to allow the wine to settle several weeks by standing the bottle upright prior to opening and then, decanting the wine off of the sediment (see Storage & Presentation).