Wine, Rain and a Wedding at the LBJ Ranch


The morning rain had stopped.  Our favorite wineries did not open until 10 o’clock so we decided to stop at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.  We had been there before but had never toured President Johnson’s Texas White House.  Checking in at the visitors’ center, we were informed that the last tour would begin at 11 o’clock  because a special event was being held there.  The pass for the window of the car was put in place, and we started on the self-guided LBJ Ranch Tour Route that follows the Pedernales River.  The park brochure describes it this way.

“President Johnson drew strength and solace from to demonstrate the cultural and conservation practices associated with ranching prompted President and Mrs. Johnson to donate a portion of the LBJ Ranch to the National Park Service in 1972.  Johnson stipulated to park planners. that the LBJ Ranch remain a working ranch, and not a ‘sterile relic of the past.’  To that end, the National Park Service maintains a herd of Hereford cattle descended from the President’s registered herd and manages the ranch lands as a living demonstration of ranching the LBJ way.”

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The road meanders along the river until it turns and crosses it via a low river crossing.  It took us past on old school where Johnson attended, his reconstructed birthplace, the Johnson family cemetery and a modest farm-house where his grandparents had lived.  Remnants of Johnson’s Herefords grazed quietly as we passed cattle guard after cattle guard seemingly accustomed to the slow movement of cars.

The first thing you see at the Texas White is Johnson’s jet.  He would fly into Austin on Air Force One from Washington and then take the smaller jet to the ranch where a small landing field was constructed.  Husband reluctantly agree to a photo.

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The building next to the jet had been an airplane hangar originally, but it had been converted into a visitors’ center.  At the entrance a huge white tent was set up with white tables and chairs and red-checkered table cloths; people were busy decorating the tables and getting things set up.  I imagined some local fundraiser for a charitable cause.  We proceeded inside to obtain our tickets at $3.00 each.

Soon a park guide gathered our small group together.  We walked to the entrance of the house that was surrounded by a low white picket fence.  A small delivery truck full of wildflowers, some in blue and white pots, was being unloaded.  I assumed they were for the special event scheduled for later.

For those of us who had lived through the Johnson administration years, being inside the Texas White House was like going back in time.  There were three television sets placed side by side so that the President could keep up with the news on CBS, NBS and ABC – no cable in those days.  Telephones were scattered all over the sprawling house; the guide told us that Johnson was constantly on the phone.

At the end of the tour our park guide casually mentioned that we had chosen to visit at a special time as Jennifer Robb was getting married that evening at the ranch.  So that was the reason for the flowers and tent!  I remembered that Lynda Bird Johnson Robb was the daughter of President and Mrs. Johnson but did not know anything about her children.

Now I wanted more details!  I walked to the front of the house outside the fence and saw a woman (dressed in shorts & boots)  placing what appeared to be horseshoes on metal rods.

“Excuse me, ” I said.  “Are those for the wedding?”

“Yes, ” she replied. “They will be married up at the house on the lawn, but she wants to cut the cake down here by the river.”  That would explain the flowers being unloaded there, I thought.

“Oh, that will be lovely!  May I take a photo – I won’t include you in it.”

“Yes, that’s fine,” she replied as she continued placing the horseshoe things firmly in the ground.

I could just imagine flowing white silk fabric being entwined in the horseshoes to guide wedding guests toward the Pedernales River and a bride’s table with a huge cake.
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On our way out we had to pass the tent.  Politely, I asked if we could take a picture.  Again, a friendly wedding planner said it was fine and volunteered that the couple had reception the night before in Austin at the LBJ Library and that she hoped it would not rain.   I joked that my invitation must have gotten lost in the mail.

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On out way out we stopped at the Johnson family cemetery where President and Mrs. Johnson are buried near the Pedernales River.  At each of the headstones was a huge bouquet of wildflowers in short blue vases identical to the ones brought for the wedding.

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Later that afternoon as we left our last winery, Texas Hills Vineyards, just outside Johnson City, it started to rain.  Oh, I thought, I wonder if it is raining back at the LBJ Ranch.

To find out how the wedding went, click the link below to a website maintained by an Austin newspaper. 

http://society.blog.austin360.com/2015/05/26/everyone-is-safe-but-rains-soak-lbj-ranch-wedding-for-johnson-family/

For those on Facebook, check out even more intimate photos of the wedding on their 5/27 post.

https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofLBJNationalPark

CONGRATULATIONS, JENNIFER AND JOSH!

Tuscany in Texas


In June Husband and I went to the Texas hill country to buy peaches from our favorite grower, Gold Orchards, and to check out some wineries.  The Gold Orchards store is basically a small roadside stand in the tiny town of Stonewall on highway 290 between Johnson City and Fredericksburg.

There are about ten wineries located on this 36-mile stretch of highway called Wine Road , but the one that caught my attention was Grape Creek Vineyards with a sign that proclaimed, “Tuscany in Texas.”   Tuscany is on my list of places to visit, but each year there seems to be some reason why we can’t take that trip to visit our friends in Tuscany at their olive farm, Podere Boggioli.   This might be as close to Italy as I would get this year.  With a little wine perhaps it really would seem like Italy!

Entrance to Grape Creek Vineyards-Photo from their web site

The entrance with its bell tower sets the mood as the gravel road leads upward between Chenin Blanc vineyard toward the Tuscany-style villa that serves as the tasting room and gift shop.  It did not disappoint.

Thinking Tuscany…not Texas

The villa did indeed reflect old world architecture with its tiled roof and beams, stonework, landscape and obligatory fountain.  Even Italian music quietly playing added to the ambiance.  As we got out of the car a limo pulled up and out tumbled several excited and well-dressed ladies.  Now that is the way to tour wineries!

Inside we browsed the wine-related items and a generous selection of crackers, cheeses and nibbles.  We missed the Barrel Tasting Cellar Tour that included a tour of the winemaking  facilities and barrel cellar.  Instead we settled for tasting six wines and chose from white, red, sweet and semi-sweet and port.  We bought three bottles:  2011 Viognier, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah Texas and a port.

OK, so maybe those working in the tasting room spoke with a Texas twang instead of  in Italian and I was really not in Tuscany.  Still this small yet elegant winery with a bed and breakfast is worth checking out if you are in the area.

The Crone in Faux Tuscany

Husband in Faux Tuscany

From Johnson City you see gently rolling hills, peach orchards and pass the entrance to the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site that is worth the stop.  The self-guided tour is free and takes you by the graves of President Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson.

At the end of the road is Fredericksburg which offers history, shopping and good food.  We had lunch at Fredericksburg Brewing Company and enjoyed sampling excellent ale.

Our last stop  Gold Orchards was to buy a half-bushel of peaches for peach cobblers.   I use a recipe from “Aunt Pearl’s Cookbook, A Man’s Cooking” by Joe Sears.  Maybe I’ll share it in another post!  Cheers!