Deep ruby color; black cherry, blackberry, fig, leather on the nose; black cherry, redcurrant, blackberry, blueberry, vanilla, chocolate on the palate.
Dry; tannins and acidity are in balance, framed by significant—but not overdone—oak thanks to 30 months in barrel. A substantial percentage had to be used wood. Medium body. Dense, serious wine. Tempranillo has been called the “Texas cabernet sauvignon.” It certainly seems to do well in warmer climates. In fact, many grapes that do well in the warmer climates of Spain and southern Italy thrive in Texas. Well, duh. 13.3% ABV
The winery is near Comfort, Texas. The grapes are grown on the Texas High Plains. That is how it typically works in the Texas wine industry. Newsom Vineyards, located near Plains, Texas, about 70 miles southwest of Lubbock, began with two acres of cabernet sauvignon in the spring of 1986. Today, the Newsoms grow 19 varieties on more than 150 acres, and supply fruit to more than 10 Texas wineries, including Bending Branch.
At first blush, the Texas High Plains seems an unlikely quality grape growing region. The popular image of Texas image is scorching hot, dusty plains and cattle. The vast High Plains, however, is a cotton and grain breadbasket. Grape vines love the red, sandy loam soil. The vines especially flourish in the diurnal shift. The area, which includes much of western Texas north and west of the Texas Colorado River, is called the “High Plains” because they are, indeed, high—3,000 to more than 4,000 feet above sea level. Plains, TX elevation is 3,642 feet. California vineyards brag about 1,000 feet. The result is hot days with plenty of sunlight to ripen grapes, but nighttime temperatures that can plunge 30 degrees and more and preserve acidity. That is a formula for quality wine around the world.
The Bending Branch Winery is located in the Texas Hill Country AVA. Dr. Robert W. Young is the owner and winemaker. He focuses on intense wine experiences—high acidity in picpoul blanc, assertive tannins in tannat, versatile easy drinker in malbec. The winery concentrates on Texas grapes, particularly ones that have proved successful in Texas: picpoul blanc, viognier, roussanne, tannat, malbec, and this tempranillo.
In addition to his medical degree and board certification in preventative medicine, “Dr. Bob” holds a winemaker certification from UC-Davis. He is a member of The American Society of Enology and Viticulture and the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association. Dr. Bob purchased Ursa Vineyards in California in 2014, and Greg Stokes and Deborah Elissagaray of Ursa are now part of the Bending Branch winemaking team.
They do not hesitate to push the envelope. Dr. Bob happily asserts they are not making Old World wines or New World wines, they are making “Next World” wines. Their processes include cyro-maceration—a freezing technique to extract more color, flavor, and tannins from red grapes—and thermoflash—a technique of flash heating grapes to extract more color, tannins, and aromatic compounds. Both techniques can be used in conjunction with traditional methods. I do not have the space or the knowledge to delve deeper, but I can tell you Bending Branch makes good, tasty Texas wines.
Bending Branch Winery Newsom Vineyards Tempranillo, Texas High Plains 2016 is an exemplar of how Texas makes serious wine, worthy of consideration for anyone’s cellar. Dense in the mouth with restrained alcohol. Begs to be paired with Texas beef; grilled or smoked red meats; slow-cooked brisket; barbecue; lamb shanks; herb-roasted chicken; grilled swordfish; marbled pork chops. $30-32