Bending Branch 2011 Estate Tannat – An Unexpected Preview

In May of 2011 I wrote about the most incredible Texas wine I had tasted, the Bending Branch 2009 Texas Tannat. In that article I told the story about my first introduction to Tannat, Bending Branch, and John Rivenburgh with the words, “This is the grape that’s going to make Texas,” at the Hill Country Roadshow. I also did a “live tasting”, by blogging about the wine as I tasted it straight from the bottle, and after opening up.

Since I wrote that article, several red grape varieties have made quite a splash in the Texas-grown wine market with Tempranillo making a strong showing at many wineries – including Bending Branch, and I have heard a lot of talk about it being the “go-to” grape for Texas.

While I really enjoy a good Tempranillo, and have several excellent Texas-grown Temps in my cellar (some of which have sold out at their wineries since I purchased them, wink wink), I think it is a transitional grape for Texas at best. Tempranillo will always do very well in Texas, mind you – I just don’t think it’s the grape for Texas.

In the May 2011 article I admitted that I didn’t know that I could support John’s claim that Tannat will be the grape that makes Texas – I didn’t have nearly enough exposure to Texas wines to draw that conclusion, and although I still can’t claim any authority in predicting the future of Texas wine, I can state my opinion.

Today Julie and I had the honor of spending a couple of hours with John Rivenburgh and Robert Young in the Bending Branch tasting room just south of Comfort. We tasted a mix of wines made from Texas and California grown grapes – and unlike many wineries in Texas that purchase and use non-Texas grapes, John personally oversees the harvest and processing of all the grapes used in Bending Branch wines. The star of the Bending Branch tasting room today (IMHO, of course) was the 2010 Bella Collina EM (Extended Maceration) Tannat. John and Robert allow the juice to sit on the skins and stems longer to pick up more of grape’s intensity with the EM wine. The risk with Extended Maceration is the potential for bitterness, but the 2010 BC EM is all good. Reminiscent of a quality Amarone with raisin and black cherry on the nose. Here’s the Visual Tasting…

Bending Branch 2010 Bella Collina EM Tannat

Even though the star of the tasting room was the EM Tannat, the star of the whole visit is still in the barrel. Three barrels to be exact, and those barrels contain (pardon the brazen but flawed reference to The Beverly Hillbillies) liquid gold, Texas T. Yes, friends, Julie and I had the incredible honor of getting a first taste of the Bending Branch 2011 Estate Organically grown Texas Tannat, and even though it still has another 20 months to mature in the barrel before they bottle it, it has all of the character that I tasted in the 2009 Texas Tannat – and more. I’m not sure exactly how many cases Bending Branch will get out of those three barrels – about 23 cases per barrel if I heard right – but I pre-ordered a case. I’m serious, too. I am NOT going to miss this wine.

Is Tannat “the grape that is going to make Texas“? I don’t know, but I think it’s possible.


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