Monday, March 30, 2015

Texas Tempranillo: Pedernales Cellars

The key for success of the Texas wine industry has been identifying the right grapes to grow. The first drip of perspiration during the long, hot Texas summer made someone think about Spain's Tempranillo grape, and the rest is history. Texans have had some luck with Italian and Rhône varieties, too, but Tempranillo sure seems like the most logical choice to me.

The sixth-generation Texans at Pedernales Cellars makes wines that are "100% Texan," no matter that the grapes in question originated in Spain - or France, in fact. Those grapes for the Texas Tempranillo 2012 are all Texan now, some grown in the Texas High Plains and some in the beautiful Hill Country. Their trophy case must be ready for remodeling since they have raked in awards from a wide variety of wine competitions.

By the way, the pronunciation of the town - and river - from which the winery takes its name is "Per-den-al-ess, according to natives of the area. I seem to remember Lady Bird Johnson using the term, "If the lord's willing and the creek don't rise," but I know I recall her - or maybe Fannie Flagg's impersonation of her - making it, "If the lord's willing and the PERdenales don't rise." Fact check me on that, if you like, and let me know if I'm correct.

This ten-gallon Tempranillo has a really strong smell of alcohol on the first whiff - and quite a few whiffs to follow. And this was after it had been decanted for a day. The wine only carries a 13.2% abv number, so it was disconcerting to find the alcohol so prominent. It's a bucking bronco of a wine, and needs to be busted before you can expect a quiet ride.

An hour in the glass, with a lot of swirling, brought the oak-spiced cherry aromas into focus. A little cedar, a little clove, a little pipe tobacco and you've got yourself a nose. Sipping is a treat, too, once the tannins are tamed. Brilliant cherry and blueberry flavor washes along the spicy notes that result from the oak aging.

The wine compares quite favorably to Rioja in both taste and mouthfeel. That acidity is really mouthwatering, and a steak or a pork chop would be great with the Pedernales Tempranillo.