Julie and I visited Pedernales Cellars way back (OK, just over a couple of years ago…) when we started visiting Texas wineries. That’s even before I started writing about Texas wine. Pedernales was the last of several wineries we visited, and if I remember accurately, right after our first visit to Becker.
We were disappointed with the wines we tasted, but our assessment may have been influenced by our tasting guide who seemed totally disinterested and not at all knowledgeable about the wines. It was also the first winery that we didn’t buy any wine from on a visit. And we never went back.
I did have some of the 2010 Reserve Tempranillo at some wine event (I can’t remember where ATM) last year that I really liked, but we still didn’t go back. That is, until we met Dora Lupo.
We met Dora at an event at Hilmy Cellars where her husband and my brother from another mother, Vinny, works. It didn’t take long for Dora and Julie to become BFFs, so we had to visit her at Pedernales. That was actually earlier this year, but they were so busy and we were running late that we didn’t really get a lot of time to taste, except that we were very impressed with the Viognier.
Since this weekend was an us time with no particular schedule, we decided to stop by Pedernales and say HI to Dora. We arrived not long after they opened and although they were already pretty busy, Dora opened up the last unoccupied bar area and gave us a personal tasting tour of the latest Pedernales wines, assisted by Carrie, who was anything but disinterested and unknowledgeable about the wines we were tasting. In fact, Carrie and I compared tasting notes when Dora, the Cellars’ tasting room manager, was called away.
When we had arrived, I told Dora that we had to taste the Grand Gold Champion Viognier. She offered to takes us straight to the Viognier, but I had smoked a small cigar on the way and wanted to wash that out, so she served us the Albarino. Very refreshing, very smooth, and a great summer wine. Next was their Rosé, a blend of Sangiovese and Tempranillo; good, but I’m not a big Rosé aficionado.
Now for the Grand Gold… Dora told us that Pedernales only submitted their 2012 Reserve Viognier to the Lyon (France) International Wine Competition because they knew it would be a blind tasting. If you’re the underdog in being recognized for excellent wine, as Texas wines often are, you want the judges to taste blind – not knowing the source of the wine while they taste and judge. This is a Bottle Shock moment for Texas, you know! Grand Gold.
… and I can’t argue with the French on this one. There was a very subtle hint of oak in the nose, so I had to ask about the oak used – six months on new French oak. I would have expected much more oak on the nose with that length of time in French oak, but the hint was perfect. The mouth was as close to perfect as I have tasted. I had to take some time to do a Visual Tasting…
One thing to point out is that all of the aromas in the nose were present in the flavor, but shifted a little; the lighter citrus and floral aromas pull back some in favor of the darker citrus and hints of honeydew melon. And the finish was an extension of the flavors with very little dropping off.
We cheated on the normal tasting order.. Julie decided to stick to whites, so Dora poured her a glass of their Moscato Giallo, a fortified dessert wine, and I told her to go ahead and pour me a taste before I graduated to the red wines. Oh My God.
I was completely fixated on the luscious nose when Julie took her first sip, so I didn’t notice that I repeated her first comment when I took my first sip. I looked at Julie and asked, “Did you get this EXPLOSION of flavor when the wine touched your tongue?” She gave me the look and said, “You didn’t hear me tell Dora?” Ummm no. (sheepish grin).
Yeah, we are completely hooked.
I tried the Merlot, and have to say that it was greatly understated. Is that an oxymoron? Nevertheless, it came across with very little of the tannin structure I normally expect with a good Merlot. It would be a great starter “red” for a new wine drinker. Good flavor, not too strong, and not too harsh for the weak-of-palate.
The 2011 Reserve Tempranillo made up for the Merlot, of course. What can I say but all Tempranillo? Oh yeah, I took some of that gem home with me.
Here’s the complete surprise. Pedernales Cellars’ highest price reserve with is the Kuhlken Vineyards Reserve, a $70 bottle that I swore had to be a Bordeaux blend. I handed the glass to Julie, who had been “hanging around” with the Moscato Giallo while I tasted the reds, and she quickly identified Malbec with her exclamation of “Chocolate and black cherry”. Nope.
The Kuhlken Vineyards Reserve is 100% Tempranillo. I don’t know what the winemaker did to transform Tempranillo into a convincing faux-Bordeaux, but he fooled me.
I do have to say that after Dora told me it was Tempranillo, I finally picked up a hint of it. I’m sure that other tasters with far more refined palates than mine will taste the Kuhlken Vineyards Reserve and declare that I’m full of feces and I won’t argue with them, but for me it was well worth the price to be fooled like that. Three to go, please.
It takes a LOT to get me to join yet-another-winery-club, but our visit at Pedernales Cellars today convinced me that they belong on our short-list.
Thank you, Dora!!