Medium ruby color; cherry, cinnamon, vanilla, dried leaves on the nose; cherry, blackberry, raspberry, dried fig, oak notes of vanilla, blackcurrant on the palate.
Dry; medium tannin, medium acidity, medium-full body, pretty much the classic tempranillo profile, but with a Texas twist of nicely big fruit. Tempranillo means “little early one” in Spanish, a nod to the grape ripening sooner than garnacha (grenache), with whom it often is blended. Tempranillo is most associated with Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Given many terroir similarities, the Texas High Plains, where likely some of these grapes were grown, has low moisture and high elevation (from 3,000 to 7,000 feet), which creates the diurnal extremes that favor tempranillo.
The Texas Hill Country AVA—the second-most visited AVA in the U.S., only behind Napa—is slightly lower in elevation (3,000-4,000 feet) than its sister Texas AVA to the north, but shares some High Plains terroir notes. Still, some 85% of Texas grapes are grown on the High Plains. The Hill Country dominates as the winery-tourist destination; the High Plains dominates in grape production.
Tempranillo does best when hot, sunny days allow its thick-skinned berries to ripen during the day, followed by cool nights to promote acidity. During the High Plains growing season, 100-degree days are common, followed by 70-degree or cooler nights. The same is largely true in the Hill Country, although not as extreme. Tempranillo, thus, has proven to be one of the grape stars in the Lone Star State in both Texas AVAs.
Pedernales Cellars has vineyards on the 17-acre Kuhlken estate near the winery in Stonewall, Texas, in the Texas Hill Country AVA roughly located between Austin and San Antonio. The Parr Vineyards are located near the Kuhlken Vineyards in the Hill Country. The Bingham Family Vineyards and Farm are located on the High Plains, as are the Newsome Vineyards and Reddy Vineyards. Pedernales uses grapes from all these vineyards in making its wine. Neither website nor technical notes indicate where the grapes for this reserve wine came from, but my educated guess is more than one vineyard, with grape quality rather than vineyard determining what was used. Pedernales does make a Texas High Plains tempranillo which uses only High Plains production and costs $10 less than this reserve.
Pedernales Cellars is a premier Texas maker with an admirable commitment to sustainable viticulture and ecological reverence. The sixth generation Texans who own and run the operation have particular focus on tempranillo and viognier—signature Texas varieties. Larry and Jeanine Kuhlken started the Kuhlken Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country in 1995. Over time, Kuhlken vineyards began producing high quality fruit—led by tempranillo—with bold, intense flavors.
In 2005, Larry and Jeanine’s children, David and Julie and their spouses Heather Kuhlken and Fredrik Osterberg, began plans for Pedernales Cellars. They imagined a boutique winery focused on handcrafted, small-lot Spanish and Rhône-style wines. Sustainability is a particular focus—their cellar and case storage facility is cooled by a geothermal system that cuts energy consumption by half.
By-products of winemaking are composted. Barrels are “re-coopered” (refurbished). Ground cover helps reduce water use, and brush clearing helps re-establish seeps and springs. Local species of insect eaters—particularly Purple Martins—help control vineyard pests.
Today’s winery remains a family affair with David Kuhlken the winemaker, Fredrik Osterberg the president, and Julie in charge of design and marketing. Larry and Jeanine continue to oversee the vineyards. Heather is a freelance photographer who provides photographic art at the winery and tasting room. Pedernales Cellars draws its name from the Pedernales River; “pedernales” is Spanish for “flint.” Further inspiration came when David found a flint projectile point in the vineyard and Fredrik found a flint ax on the winery site.
Pedernales Cellars Texas Tempranillo Reserve 2016 is an on-point expression of tempranillo in Texas. It smooths out with air, which emphasizes the lush, tasty cherry fruit, and the blackcurrant on the finish. Tempranillo clearly has a home in Texas, and this is an exemplar of that trend from a winery famous for tempranillo. Pair with a grilled rib eye steak, aged beef, roast beef, roast pork, venison, wild turkey, any rich red meat. $50. Pedernales ships to most states.