Wine culture in the Texas Forest Country Living has been an important part of many people’s lives, and Wanda and “Buzz” Mouton are no exception. In fact, the Moutons are encouraging wine lovers across Texas and beyond with their growing winery, Naca Valley, in Nacogdoches.
How It All Began
“We’ve always been interested in [wine],” Wanda said. “We’ve been members of the Texas Wine and Grape Grower’s Association, which is both a winemakers and grape growers organization. We just joined it because we really wanted to learn more about it. We weren’t interested in starting a winery, at the time. We didn’t think about that for years.”
Wanda said Buzz has been making wine since his high school years, and Wanda and Buzz have shared their love of wine together in many ways.
For example, Wanda retired from teaching public relations and journalism at Stephen F. Austin about 20 years ago, and before that Wanda wrote her dissertation for Texas A&M on adult education in the world of wine.
Wanda and Buzz had met at SFA and were married by this time, so they traveled across the country and beyond to conduct research for Wanda’s paper. Together, they went to countless conventions and wineries, learning all they could about the world of wine. From the Napa Valley, California, to Italy – the couple couldn’t get enough of the world of wine.
That was only the beginning of the Mouton’s inspiration for Naca Valley.
Skip ahead several years later, and the Mouton’s son Scott comes home from school in Florida and said to them, “I think we need to do this. Ya’ll have been involved with wine. We’ve talked about it for years. Let’s start this winery.”
So, that started the building blocks to Naca Valley.
Caught Up in the Naca Valley
“It developed over time,” Wanda said. “We started small at first. We started with the grape vineyard. Members of the family came in, and helped us put in the vineyard that day.”
Wanda said it took about three or four years for the vineyard to produce a fruit.
“We started the winery a year or two ago,” she said. “It was a building we already had, so we worked with what we had. Buzz has done all the work. Members of the family have helped, but he has done 98 percent of the work. From making the wine, building the winery, designing the winery and everything in it.”
The vineyard, located in north Nacogdoches at 9897 Fm Rd. 1878, is 62 acres. Currently, it is not open to the public, but wine is being produced from it and is on sale in various places in Texas such as The Liberty Bell, Auntie Pasta’s, and Liquor Mart.
“We have been so appreciative with how people have supported us and been so enthusiastic about our business,” Wanda said. “I will tell you KTRE did a feature on us; just a little 60 second clip, and the response was huge. We are not open yet, but people are still so excited and enthusiastic about it.”
The couple is also in the process of opening a small tasting room in downtown Nacogdoches that will be open to the public on weekends.
“People are very excited about it,” Wanda said. “We’ve got lots of calls from people every weekend wondering if we are open. We are also at the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays from 8 to noon.”
As for the wine currently available, there are four different kinds.
“We have four varieties or labels of wine currently out for 2016,” Buzz said. “The 2017 vintage has not yet been released. The 2016 release is for the 2015 vintage. We’re always releasing a year after the vintage.
“Because it takes time to make this fine wine,” Wanda added.
NVV photos for publication (2)Brick Street Red is currently the winery’s best selling wine, and the Moutons get repeated calls asking about it. Another of the wine’s from Naca Valley is dolcetto. Dolcetto is Italian for “little sweet one,” even though the wine is not a very sweet wine, Wanda explained.
“For 2016, we have Dolcetto, which is an Italian grape variety,” Buzz said. “It’s our dry red. And then we have Rose, which is a blend mostly of white grape, orange muscat, bernardino, and symphony grapes. We have a sweet red called Brick Street Red, and that is a blend of red grape varieties and a little bit of white varieties just to give it some aromatics. And then we have our Vermentino, and that was our first release. It’s a white grape variety from Italy. It’s been well received. It’s a lot like our Riesling as far as the sweetness of it.”
Red wines are usually aged, and white varieties are not. The red wine dolcetto, however, is an exception. It does not age well because it is acidic.
The Moutons did not deliberately pick the red or white Italian grapes; they were the grapes available when the winery started up because the Moutons got their license so late last year. Another factor that goes into choosing the grapes grown at Naca Valley is the locale of the vineyard.
Different kinds of grapes grow better in different kinds of environments. The Texas Forest Country Region is very humid and hot, so there is a greater chance of mold than in dryer areas such as California, Buzz explained. This limits vineyards to grapes that are not hindered by mold and moisture. Blunc du Bois, a white grape, and Lenoir, a red grape, are two of the kinds of grapes suited for the region that Naca Valley grows.
“Both of them are really resistant to the mildew and humidity that we get and all the diseases that go along with the high humidity. Both of those grapes do really well in this area, except for ours,” Buzz said, referring to the difficulty the couple has had getting their grapes to grow well in their first few years. Battling wildlife like deer and crows, who Buzz said like the grapes as much as anyone, has been difficult. However, the couple is determined to have a good crop this year.
“[It has been difficult] only because he has had to concentrate so much on the winery and actually making wine, which actually takes up an enormous amount of time,” Wanda said. “It’s very labor intensive. A lot of people think that it’s very glamorous to start a winery. It can be, but we really are farmers at heart, you know. We’re supposed to be out in the middle of June in the 110 degree weather harvesting, mowing cleaning, everything you have to do. You have to get out there at certain times of the year and do the work.”
The Wine Guide
When asked if they had a favorite wine, both Wanda and Buzz said it depended entirely on what food the wine was paired with.
“For me, it’s all about what you’re eating,” Wanda said. “If I’m eating a steak, I’m going to want a dry red. If i’m just sipping the wine, the Brick Street Red is great. The Rose I like; it’s very sweet. A lot of people who just start drinking wine like to start with the sweet to acquire the taste. The Rose is very popular with the new drinkers, but that’s not always the case. Vermentino, the semi-sweet white, is great with chicken, good with pasta, with seafood. For sipping I like the Rose and the Brick Street Red.”
“You have to pair it with the food,” Buzz said. “You wouldn’t want to drink a real sweet wine with, say, a meal of red meat. It just doesn’t go well together at all. We also cook a lot with the same wine. We put the dolcetto in spaghetti sauce and chilli sauce and a lot of your red sauces, and I use a lot of the white whines for the white sauces like with fish.”
The Wine Swirl
The Moutons are going to be a part of the annual Wine Swirl held by Nacogdoches Main Street. This year, the Moutons will be bringing Sangria from Naca Valley made from white wine and other fruits to the event.
The Wine Swirl will be held on Saturday, Feb. 11 from 6 to 10 p.m. Attendees will have the opportunity to enjoy wine samples from at least 15 Texas wineries and purchase delicious fare from several local and regional food trucks. The event will give also attendees the opportunity to interact with local artisans, enjoy live music, be entertained by various street performers, and sample the hospitality from local Nacogdoches downtown merchants.
“We Call It Home”
Wanda and Buzz said they are passionate about the winery, and they consider it to be their home. The couple said all they have left to do is to put in a road and preparations will be complete to open the winery to the public.
“We want to make it a beautiful experience for everyone who comes,” Wanda said.
For more information on Nava Valley Vineyard, visit their website at nacavalley.com.