Showing posts with label Texas High Plains. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Texas High Plains. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Tempranillo Willing And The Pedernales Don't Rise

Many in the great state of Texas would consider Tempranillo their signature red grape. Texan winegrowers have done a great job over the past decade or so of finding the right grapes for their various terroirs. Mediterranean and Iberian grape varieties are working well, and Tempranillo seems to be a popular favorite in Lone Star vineyards.

A virtual tasting from Texas Fine Wine, a group of four distinctive wineries committed to making quality wines from Texas appellation vineyards, included Tempranillos from Duchman Family Winery, Brennan Vineyards, Bending Branch Winery and Pedernales Cellars.

Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo 2014

Stonewall, Texas offers a great view of the lovely Pedernales River valley. That is where Pedernales Cellars has helped pioneer the Lone Star State’s embracing of Tempranillo as one of the top grapes to grow there. The Pedernales website crows that the boutique winery is owned and operated by a sixth-generation Texas family and employs "ecologically sound and environmentally sustainable practices."

This Texas Tempranillo is a blend of Tempranillo grapes from the Hill Country and High Plains AVAs. The alcohol content strikes 13.3% abv. For pairing purposes, they like their Tempranillo with grilled rabbit and Alamo-style Texas redfish, as described on the site.

It’s a dark wine, inky, nearly black. The aroma package is brambly and rustic, full of black fruit and oak spice - toasty vanilla, aromatic cedar, smoke. It's also a brawny wine, big on the tongue. Black plums, blackberry and anise color the wine as dark as night. Tannins are big, too, but not so imposing that they upset the enjoyment of the sip.


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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.


Monday, March 9, 2015

Texas Tempranillo: Duchman Family Winery

The Spanish flag once flew over Texas.  So have the flags of five other entities, but none of the grapes claimed by those other flags have taken to the Texas terroir like Spain's Tempranillo.  In Driftwood, Texas they make a Tempranillo that is worthy of a little flag waving.

The Bayer Vineyard Tempranillo 2011 - the first Tempranillo effort from Duchman (DOOKman) Family Winery is a real family affair.  The 100% Tempranillo grapes come from the Bayer Family Vineyard.  Winemaker Dave Reilly takes a break from the Italian varieties for which Duchman has become known and crafts a Texas-sized gem from the Spanish grape.  Only 682 cases were made, and the wine contains a very reasonable 13.5% alcohol.

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.

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 a Twitter tasting event which featured Texas renditions of the Spanish favorite, @bsvtexas noted that “the Duchman 2012 Tempranillo from Alan Bayer's vineyard in Terry County is wonderfully complex and spicy.”  Texas wine expert Russ Kane - known on Twitter as @VintageTexas - tweeted that the “@DuchmanWinery 2011 Tempranillo (Texas High Plains AVA) is smooth and aromatic with smoky notes, red berry, soft finish.”

This dark Tempranillo smells just how one would imagine a meeting of Rioja and the Lone Star State would smell.  Huge whiffs of blackberry and blueberry are laced with some good ol' Texas dust.  Earth plays a big supporting role, with oak pulling up in third place.  A little bit of vanilla, a little bit of clove and a lot of leather are in its aromatic saddlebag.  The wine's earthiness comes through even bigger on the palate, where it rivals those dark berries. There is an abundance of spice, tobacco and a hint of mint as well.

If the Duchman Tempranillo - paired with a smoked brisket or a nice steak hot off the grill - doesn't make you happy, you should start therapy and make this issue #1.  Less carnivorous folks will love this wine with sautéed mushrooms or roasted potatoes.


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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 Valdepeñas, 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 Valdepeñas 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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Monday, September 30, 2013

Texas Tempranillo: Llano Estacado Winery

We have visited this west Texas winery in the Now And Zin Wine Country series before.

Recapping for those who don't like clicking into the past, Texas played a big role in helping the Europeans recover from the 19th-century phylloxera epidemic.  Horticulturist Thomas Munson used rootstock from wild Texas Mustang grapevines to give French grape growers a way to rebound.  The French government honored him for his effort.  Too bad the French couldn't have helped us out on that Prohibition thing, which killed off the wine biz in Texas and most other states.

Llano Estacado Winery, in Lubbock, Texas, is one of the first modern day Texas wineries to pop up some forty years after Prohibition was repealed.  It’s located in the Texas High Plains AVA, one of eight American Viticultural Areas under the Lone Star.

In the eighties, President Reagan served Llano Estacado wine at the White House.  In the nineties, they served their wine to Queen Elizabeth when she visited Texas.  In 2005, Llano Estacado was served at President Bush's Inaugural Ball.  They must be doing something right.

Created from select small batches of wine, the 2011 Llano Estacado Cellar Reserve Tempranillo shows alcohol at just 12.5% abv and represents the Texas High Plains AVA very well.  The blend features Tempranillo grapes from Newsom Vineyard in Plains, TX and Reddy Vineyard in Brownfield.  There is some Merlot in there, too, also from Newsom.  It retails for $20.  I was provided a sample for review.

The wine is very dark - nearly see-through - and the bouquet is as fragrant as can be.  Blackberries and blueberries hold their own amid a nose full of tobacco, nutmeg and white pepper.  As I have found with Texas Tempranillo before, it smells like Rioja to me.  The palate is spicy, too, and has a farmers market full of dark fruit playing into a minty note that borders on eucalyptus.  Some very bright acidity rounds out a sip that can be described as very enjoyable.  The tannins are extremely smooth, but pairing with beef is perfectly alright.  It's good with goat cheese, too.

I don't think Llano Estacado markets the wine like this, but I think it would be great during the holiday season.  I always like a wine with a strong profile of spices for the holidays.  Of course, you don't have to wait.