Friday, January 2, 2015

Texas Tempranillo: Brennan Vineyards

Tempranillo is one of Spain’s many gifts to the world.  It takes an honored place alongside such wonders as Salvador Dali, Manchego cheese and sherry - we’ll just overlook that whole Spanish inquisition thing for now.

The Tempranillo grape is planted worldwide, of course - about 575,000 acres' worth - and it is the world’s fourth most-planted variety, with some of the oldest Tempranillo vineyards located in Spain’s Ribera del Duero and Rioja regions.  Tempranillo is known by other names in other places: "Ull de Llebre or Ojo de Llebre in Catalonia, Cencibel in La Mancha or ValdepeƱas, Tinto Fino in the Ribera del Duero, Tinto Madrid in Arganda, Tinto de la Rioja in the Rioja, Tinto del Toro in the Toro, Grenache de Logrono, Tinto del Pais or Jacivera in other parts of Spain, Aragonez or Tinto Roriz in Portugal, and it may actually be the grape variety ValdepeƱas in California."  Thanks to the awesome blog post on Under The Grape Tree for that information.

There are about 400 acres of Tempranillo planted in Texas, where it stands, arguably, as the Lone Star state's signature grape.  The climate and soil in Texas mimic those qualities of Tempranillo's Spanish roots.

During the virtual tasting event for Texas Tempranillo on that grape’s international day back in November, the Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society - @TAPASociety - tweeted, "Texas is now the 5th largest grape growing region in the US and Tempranillo takes center stage."  @TXViognier admitted, "I'm biased, but the #txwine kinda kicks the ass of the 2 Spanish #tempranilloDaywines."  On the subject of the grape’s many aliases, @shoozmagooz let us know why: "it mutated to adapt to the various Iberian microclimates, got new names each place."

The four wineries of Texas Fine Wine invited everyone to pick up a Texas wine for Tempranillo Day. They invited me, too, and this wine was provided for that purpose.

Brennan Vineyards Tempranillo 2012

Brennan Vineyards puts their motto in all capital letters, as if they are screaming on the internet: “100% TEXAS GRAPES, 100% TEXAS WINE.”  Maybe they feel nobody thinks to look first in Comanche, Texas for great grapes and wine.  However, that’s where the Texas Hill Country meets the High Plains, so a proper inspection should be made.  I spent a night once at a motel in Comanche, and awoke to find it was across the road from the Comanche Livestock Exchange.  The aromas were quite ripe, as I recall.  Brennan’s winery is located a bit further to the southwest, but you might still pray for a prevailing wind that will blow the other way when you visit.

The land was bought in 1997 and vineyards were planted a few years later.  In 2005, the sale of "Sophisticated Wines with Texas Roots" began.  They grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Viognier and a TexItalia grape that we know as Nero d'Avola, owing to its Italian hometown.  Who knows, though?  Maybe someday, Nero di Comanche.  Winemaker Todd Webster will be able to turn such a grape into a Texas-sized hit.

Webster says the Tempranillo grapes for their 2012 vintage - the winery's second effort with the grape - "are from our Newburg Vineyard and from the vineyards of Bob Ossowski and Adrian Allen in Cross Plains."  The 2011 version won awards all over the place - gold awards, mind you - and I would not be surprised to see the 2012 follow suit.  It clocks in with alcohol at 14.3% abv and retails for $26.

It’s a very dark wine, with a nose that shows plenty of darkness - blackberry, juicy tar, spices and some good ol' Texas dirt.  The palate strikes a dark chord, too, with black fruit leading the way for black pepper, smoke and a pleasant dash of cinnamon.  It finishes earthy, and takes its dear, sweet time doing it.

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