What do New Orleans, Boston, Memphis, Charleston, Chicago and now Austin all have in common? Gundlach Bundschu WOMers have reveled in each city and brought them to their knees – or is it vice versa? If Austin is an example, it is the latter. Your fellow adventurous WOMers have just returned from a sold-out trip to the Texas capital having celebrated together the joys of Bacchus and camaraderie.
We first rendezvoused at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel on a Thursday afternoon. Upon checking in we were handed an envelope which contained instructions to the first event. “We are meeting at the Continental Club at 5:30, take a cab or walk only six blocks away.” WOMer queen Kathy’s GPS was evidently malfunctioning for the distance was more like a mile and a half. But Bacchus was smiling. If it had been a typical hot Austin afternoon we would likely had WOMers resigning their memberships, but instead a cool breeze accompanied them along the easy trail.
The Continental Club is a classic; an authentic roadhouse which arguably provides one of Austin’s most authentic music venues. Name an old line country and western or blues performer and they have been there. Jeff Bundschu greeted us all, and we greeted each other, shook off the day’s trail dust with Merlot, Chardonnay, Tempranillo Rosé and plenty of southwestern appetizers. The first gathering of any Revel is always a combination of experienced WOMer Revelers catching up accompanied with the introduction of first timers. Quite soon, with wine and gentle coaxing from Jeff, other Bundschus and staff, everyone “knows” one another.
A few short hours later, we walked en masse across the street to America’s most famous boot and western wear emporium: Allen’s Boots. The store stayed open just for us WOMers and even allowed GunBunners to be served and enjoy wine among the racks and racks of boots. Multiply the distinct smell of a brand-new, leather-upholstered car by ten and that’s the way it smelled inside Allen’s. Ever respectful, WOMers spilled nary a drop. Many WOMers walked out with a new pair of boots. Who would have thought, cowboys and fine wine?
Nine a.m. the next morning, we met in the hotel lobby and were divided into groups for Jeff’s annual WOMer competition: a timed zigzag race trough the streets of downtown Austin with city landmarks as check points. Each of these places having to be attended by the entire team; no cheating! All teams arrived at the finish line approximately at the same time except for Jeff’s. Seems he zagged rather than zigged and ended up in the state capital building which in fact was not one of our intended landmarks.
Dazed and confused, they at last arrived at the finish line, just in time to board the two buses that took us on a trail through the outskirts of Austin. We drove into rural, brush covered hills and arrived at the famous Texas barbeque house, “The Salt Lick.” It is a destination restaurant established on an old Texas ranch. Recently vineyards have been planted adjacent to the restaurant, a comforting backdrop for WOMers. Sumptuous quantities of barbequed ribs, chicken, sausages, baked beans, corn bread, cole slaw, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Gewürztraminer were served with enough time to sit back, sip and chat. Towards the meal’s end the third generation owner of “The Salt Lick” presented a spirited historical review of the restaurant, beginning with his grandfather cooking for local cowboys over a campfire on this spot up to the recent addition of vineyards and wine.
Tables were then pushed aside and a pretty, petite dance instructor appeared and announced we were about to learn how the dances of Texas. The great thing about WOMers is that they are up for most anything, so after digesting a rather bountiful meal along with ample wine, they charged the dance floor. Some were excellent students, some not so good, but none lacked enthusiasm. After instructions, we were divided into our teams once more for a team dance off. What ensued was no “Dancing with the Stars,” but at least there were no broken bones. Finally, we all cooled off under some large spreading oaks and listened to the restaurant’s winemaker discuss grape growing and wine making in the hill country of Texas. As he spoke, we enjoyed his wine.
We traveled back to Austin, and everyone had a free evening to experience the joys of the city. Some of us walked out to the South Congress Avenue Bridge to witness the well publicized nightly flight of bats. We were a bit skeptical, but there they were -- an endless ribbon of six million pairs of flashing wings beating into the night sky. A study revealed they consume twenty four tons of insects each night, thereby making them Austin’s favorite pets.
Eleven Thirty Saturday morning found us all gathered at the respected Paggi House for a formal four course lunch with accompanying Gundlach Bundschu wines selected by Executive Chef Ben Huselton. We do this at each Revel, and this chef hit a grand slam. Many WOMer ooooh’s and ahhhh’s were heard as each course was enjoyed. As good as the wine and food was, the highlight of the meal for many occurred when Jeff revealed that the 2011 winner of the annual Gundlach Bundschu poetry contest resided nearby and was a guest at the lunch. Jeff coaxed her into reciting her poem. A bit nervous at first, and rightfully so, as it was towards the end of the feast and given the considerable amount of wine enjoyed, the decibel level of conversation was no doubt daunting. But bravely she proceeded; after the first two lines and until her final word, you could have heard a pin drop. The poem about Rhinefarm and the Bundschu family was that good.
We adjourned the meal and headed to the bus, having been previously instructed by Jeff at “the Salt Lick,” to bring a change of clothes to the Paggi House for our afternoon’s adventure. He suggested hippie motif, fairy wings, tie dye, sparkles, etc. We were whisked away to Eeyore’s (yes, Winnie the Pooh’s pal) Birthday Party, held annually in Austin Park. Yikes! Two o three thousand celebrants, some clothed, others simply painted entirely silver or gold. Large drum circles, hoola hoop teams, ragamuffin little kids. And in the middle of it all was the Gundlach Bundschu tent serving chilled Gewürztraminer to the by now bug-eyed WOMers. Only a hardy few stayed until the last returning bus.
Back at the hotel, most took a short nap in preparation for the final evening, A short stroll down sixth street to the Iron Cactus bar and restaurant for a southwestern buffet and more Gundlach Bundschu wine, followed by speeches extolling WOMer fidelity, lots of hugs, and the eager “where are we going next year” questions (to be announced at the Harvest Party in September). Jeff had one final surprise: wrist bands to get us into the famous Parrish Club several doors down Sixth Avenue. Performing that night was “Joan as a Police Woman.” Unfortunately for Jeff, he never heard her sing but acted on the recommendation of a trusted friend. Most of us agreed Joan would have been a better cop than singer. Oh well, you never know unless you go. We went, we left, and Joan has become a part of WOMer legend -- a history that is beginning to fill binders.
A word of advice for those of you who have read this far: two buses are all that we will ever take on a WOMer Revel. The number of people is manageable allowing both enough flexibility to find a variety of adventures and for WOMers to get to know one other. So make sure to sign up early for next year!
P.S. - Plenty of photographic evidence is available on our Facebook page