Left: Winemaker Greg Stokes; Center: Laura & Drew Tallent, Dr. Bob Young, Kathryn Cook, Tallent Vineyard Manager; Right: Tannat from Tallent Vineyards, Mason TX
The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo and Botanical Research Institute of Texas recently announced the winners from the 2020 FWSSR / BRIT™ Texas Sustainable Winegrowing Competition. Top honors were awarded to Bending Branch Winery in Comfort, Texas, in combination with Tallent Vineyards of Mason, Texas. Nice Winery in Houston, Texas won the Grand Reserve Champion award in combination with Alta Mira Vineyards of Anderson, Texas.
The top winning wineries were awarded for their sustainable practices in the vineyard and other areas of operation in addition to the wines they submitted to a blind tasting. - Bending Branch 2018 Tannat Rosé, Texas Hill Country
The inaugural wine competition of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo established a unique approach to a Texas wine competition by recognizing both the winery/winemaker and grape grower. Working with BRIT, wineries entered the competition by submitting written applications highlighting their sustainable practices, alongside their Texas wines for evaluation.
Subscribing to sustainable practices in a Texas vineyard presents many challenges. Nonetheless, Texas wineries embrace the quality results of sustainable practices and continue improving their programs. Applicants outlined their efforts boosting sustainability across five areas: vineyard management, winemaking, employee practices, customer service and social responsibility.
Texas wines submitted by applicants were judged by a panel of experienced wine professionals. The entries represented 12 different grape varieties plus wines blended from multiple grapes. The wide range of grape varieties demonstrates the diversity of Texas vineyards.
“Recognizing the collaborative efforts of grape growers and winemakers spurs innovation,” said Stock Show President and General Manager Brad Barnes. “The sustainability effort benefits our environment and consumers get to enjoy award-winning Texas wines. We’re excited to play a role in the future of this growing industry.”
BRITS’s President and Executive Director Dr. Ed Schneider echoed the excitement. “This is a first for Texas wine competitions and we are most pleased with the results,” said Dr. Schneider. “Texas wine organizations are as passionate about their sustainable practices as they are about making great bottles of Texas wine.”
The 2020 FWSSR / BRIT™ Texas Sustainable Winegrowing Competition winners included:
• Grand Champion – Bending Branch Winery / Tallent Vineyards
• Reserve Grand Champion – Nice Winery / Alta Mira Vineyards
• Gold Medal – Lost Draw Cellars / Moonlight Vineyards, Roussanne 2018
• Gold Medal – Kiepersol Winery/Estate Vineyards, Texas Syrah 2015
• Silver Medal – Bingham Family Vineyards/Estate Vineyards, Dugout 2017
• Bronze Medal – Chateau Wright/Estate Vineyards, Heraldic Red 2017
• Bronze Medal – Bull Lion Ranch & Vineyard/Estate Vineyards, Montepulciano 2015
During BRIT’s Vine to Table awards dinner and fundraising event on January 15, 2020, Bending Branch Winery and Nice winery will be presented their champion awards. Tickets can be purchased to the Dickies Arena event here.
Visitors to the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo can enjoy a selection of Bending Branch wines at Vine-2-Wine’s Sip & Shop event on January 29, 4-8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.
The thing about Thanksgiving …
Thanksgiving is that uniquely American holiday when lots of relatives who may not see each other often (or have much in common) get together for a big meal. Stuffing or dressing? Mashed or sweet? Pumpkin or pecan? And that’s before sports and politics.
Choosing wines for Thanksgiving can also seem challenging. The flavors of the traditional menu are as diverse as the guests. The key is balance.
Balance means a harmonious blend of the basic flavors in wine – tart, fruity, bitter, and alcohol. Tartness comes from acidity in grapes, fruitiness comes from ripe grapes, bitterness comes mostly from tannin in grape skins, and alcohol comes from fermentation. If any of these component flavors overwhelms the others, the wine can seem uneven or simply unpleasant. But if the acidity, tannin, fruit and alcohol are coherent and complementary, the wine is nicely balanced.
Balanced wines have two great attributes. They are crowd-pleasers, and they taste good with many kinds of food – just the ticket for Thanksgiving. Here are a couple of good suggestions.
Turkey is a fowl, but it is also a game bird with rich, dark flavors and texture. Elegantly balanced 2018 Ursa Tannat Rosé walks the line between white and red wines, a flattering partner for the big bird. Dark meat lovers may prefer an aromatic red like the 2016 Bending Branch Tempranillo. Both these well-balanced wines are also compatible with the many heirloom side dishes on the holiday table.
The cousin who rarely drinks may prefer something a little fruitier like Bending Branch Thinkers Blanc. Also consider having a bottle of Bending Branch 2017 Texas Tannat® around for that uncle whose tastes tend toward whisky and cigars. In wine as in family, balance is the answer.
Happy Thanksgiving from the Bending Branch Family!
Just outside of the West Texas community of Plains, you’ll find Newsom Vineyards – one of the oldest, most respected vineyards in Texas. In 1986, Neal Newsom and his family planted 5,000 vines on 5 acres. Today, the family has 148 bearing acres that produce nearly 400 tons of grapes annually. Many award-winning wines have been produced from Newsom’s grapes, and they were the first to plant Tempranillo in the state.
Tempranillo is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world, and the variety has emerged as a star in Texas. Bending Branch has produced Tempranillo every year since 2010, with the exception of vintage 2013. Unfortunately, late spring freezes wiped out the 2013 crop. Tempranillo is one of the most highly-awarded wines in the Bending Branch portfolio.
SPECIAL OFFER: In honor of International Tempranillo Day, receive complimentary shipping on three bottles or more of Bending Branch Tempranillo with coupon code TEMPRANILLO Thursday, November 14th through Sunday the 17th. ¡Viva Tempranillo!
Gold/Texas Reserve Class Champion – 2014 Houston Rodeo Uncorked!
Silver – 2013 Dallas Morning News/TEXSOM International
Silver – 2013 Lone Star International
2011 Tempranillo, Newsom Vineyards
Silver – 2014 Houston Rodeo Uncorked!
2012 Tempranillo, Newsom Vineyards
Gold – 2016 Houston Rodeo Uncorked!
Gold – 2015 Lone Star International
92 Points – 2016 Beverage Dynamics
85 Points – 2015 Wine Enthusiast
Double Gold/Best Texas Red – 2018 San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo
Silver/Texas Class Champion – 2018 Houston Rodeo Uncorked!
Silver – 2018 San Francisco Chronicle
Silver – 2017 Lone Star International
Gold – 2019 Houston Rodeo Uncorked!
Gold – 2019 San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo
Gold – 2019 Texas International
Silver – 2019 San Francisco Chronicle
Gold – 2020 San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo
Silver – 2019 San Francisco International
Happening now in the winery...
Cryo-Maceration – Cryo or CM for short – is a technique we use to improve the extraction of color, flavor, and tannin from the skins of red grapes. Freshly harvested grapes are destemmed, put in half-ton bins, and then taken to the freezer. As the grapes freeze, large, slow-forming ice crystals weaken the cellular structures containing tannin, pigment, and flavor. Once defrosted, the subsequent fermentation can extract about 50% more of these critical compounds than a conventional fermentation without Cryo-Maceration.
Conventional Fermentation – around 20% to 40% extraction
Cryo-Maceration – around 30% to 60% extraction
The first wine in which Bending Branch employed Cryo-Maceration, the Bending Branch Winery 2011 Estate Tannat CM, was awarded Double Gold, Texas Class Champion, Class Champion, and was named Top Texas Wine at the 2014 Houston Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition.
One useful side effect of Cryo-Maceration is that it allows us to defer the fermentation of a portion of our fruit until later in the season when there is more room in the winery and more time in the winemaking schedule.
Harvest 2019 is underway at Bending Branch Winery. We have received all of our grapes from the Hill Country, and now Texas High Plains fruit is starting to arrive by the ton.
Recent update from owner Dr. Robert W. Young: “Bending Branch Winery has harvested most of its grapes from the Texas Hill Country AVA, and central Texas. We received outstanding Tannat and Picpoul Blanc from Lost Pirogue Vineyards in Center Point, about eight miles from Bending Branch Winery. The fruit flavors and chemistries of both varietals were amazing.”
“Thus far, all the fruit has been high quality with yields varying by vineyard, but mostly increased from last year. We have also processed Malbec, Tempranillo, Barbera, Mourvèdre, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Montepulciano, and Grenache for the red varietals, and Viognier and Pinot Grigio for whites. Bending Branch Winery is expecting grapes from the Texas High Plains vineyards by end of August.”
Our staff has the advantage of getting to know Bending Branch wines really well. Read what some of our team members are enjoying right now. Comment to tell us your favorites.
Pictured: Sara, Dr. Bob Young, Kim, Stephen, and Sami (Photo credit: Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News)
Robert W. Young, M.D., Owner and Winemaker:
I’m drinking the 2012 Reserve Petite Sirah from Shell Creek Vineyards because it is tasting so incredibly good right now. It is bursting with black fruits and it has just the right integration of American oak.
Terri, Tasting Room Associate:
Normally, I would choose a red but it's HOT out there, so my favorite to drink right now is the 2018 Tannat Rosé, Tallent Vineyards. Here's why: It’s a great summer wine for those, like me, who typically enjoy a rich, full-bodied red. The initial burst of ripe strawberry flows smoothly into a lush, slightly nutty finish resulting in a rosé that is refreshing and robust at the same time. I love to drink it ice cold by the pool and with my favorite summer foods like brisket, barbecued chicken, and potato salad.
Jim, Tasting Room Associate:
My favorite wine is the Tannat RF|EM from Bella Collina Vineyards. It’s not the wine to drink outside on a hot day, but if you grill a good steak in the evening and are dining inside in the A/C, this silky smooth Tannat will enhance the steak.
Stephen, Senior Tasting Room Associate and Wine Educator:
I'm enjoying the 2013 Tannat from Silvaspoons Vineyard. It manages to be both fruity and earthy. One of our best kept secrets.
Will, Tasting Room Associate:
My favorite wine to drink right now is the 2018 Estate Picpoul Blanc from Lost Pirogue Vineyard. The green melon notes, minerality, and crisp finish pairs well with one of my favorite summer dishes, pan seared lemon pepper trout. It is also exciting that we are able to source such quality fruit from just down the road in Center Point in the Texas Hill Country AVA.
Tom, Tasting Room Associate:
2014 Old Vine Petite Sirah from Shell Creek Vineyards is our hands down favorite for pairing with duck and lamb (and occasional venison) dinners at home. Alone, it is rich in aroma, intense in flavor, and balanced in tannins. The deep color and viscosity make for a beautiful glass of wine. It has a nose spanning both savory and bakery spices, combined with dark fruit flavors and a hint of figs. On the table, it compliments a range of our game and lamb recipes, and its lingering finish outlasts those often bold meat flavors.
Kim, Tasting Room Associate:
I'm a true Chardonnay fan, and for that reason I love our 2016 Comfortage! This 100% Roussanne variety is in the Chardonnay family and is aged in American oak barrels. The soft floral and fruit notes go down easily on a hot summer day.
Kelly, Tasting Room Associate:
One of my favorites is still our 2015 Malbec from Newsom Vineyards. I love the caramel on the nose and how surprisingly smooth and elegant it is. I love the fruit/cherry finish, and it’s one I’ll always go for – even in the summer. And on a really hot day, I’m loving the 2018 Estate Picpoul Blanc from Lost Pirogue Vineyards. It is light and refreshing, zingy but balanced – the colder the better!
Sami, Tasting Room Manager:
My favorite wine to drink right now is 2016 Texas Tannat®. It has so much big, bold fruit and flavor that I find myself having a hard time putting the glass down. I recommend drinking it with dinner in the A/C!
Amy, Tasting Room Associate:
My favorite Bending Branch wine changes often and it is so hard to have one favorite, but right now it is our 2016 Texas Tannat®. It’s very bold yet smooth and has an exquisite taste. It is definitely one that I encourage everyone to try.
Sara, Executive Marketing Coordinator:
I have many favorites, so it’s hard to pick just one. I’m enjoying Estate Picpoul Blanc and Tannat Rosé on hot days, but bold reds are my true love. The 2015 Petite Sirah from our friends at Newsom Vineyards is spectacular. Full-bodied and fruit-forward with deep, inky color, this wine is just luscious! It’s no surprise that it brought home Double Gold from the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition. Better hurry, there is not much of this vintage left.
All of these wines are available on our website. Be sure to stop by one of our tasting rooms and chat with the staff about your favorites!
Ursa Vineyards was founded in 2001 by husband-and-wife team, Greg Stokes and Deborah Elissagaray. Greg and Deborah both started their winemaking careers in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and first met in 1992 while working at David Bruce Winery, where Greg headed up Grower Relations. Greg is a highly respected viticulturist and a consultant to numerous vineyards in California and other states. Deborah grew up spending her summers visiting family in the Pyrenees Mountain village of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, where she gained an appreciation for her Basque heritage. The region inspired her work on the Basque Blend that bears her name and makes predominant use of the Tannat grape. The couple fell in love with Tannat, and they were the first to produce Tannat wines in California. They’ve been making Tannat from a variety of vineyard sources each year since establishing Ursa in the unique terroir of the Sierra Foothills in 2001.
A mutual interest in Tannat is also what brought together Ursa and Bending Branch Winery, when Bending Branch Owner Dr. Bob Young hired Greg as a consultant in 2007. Their professional relationship flourished and when Bending Branch was founded in 2009, its first wines were made by Bob and Greg at Ursa. Dr. Young purchased Ursa Vineyards in 2014, making Greg and Deborah a permanent part of the team.
Greg and Deborah were awarded Best Winemakers of El Dorado County in 2017. Their passion and dedication for producing limited quantities of the highest quality wines is unmatched. We are proud to showcase these beautiful wines at Branch on High in downtown Comfort, Texas. Ursa wines are also available in our online store.
Greg and Deborah will be in Texas for special events at Branch on High July 12-13, 2019. Meet the Winemakers at a free reception on Friday, July 12th from 5 to 6:30 p.m. A Guided Tasting with the Winemakers will be offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 13th. Tickets available here for $45 per person. Seating is limited.
When your travels take you to Northern California, visit Ursa Vineyards in Placerville. Tour and tastings are available by appointment by calling 530-644-3443.
We will officially release this wine on Saturday, June 22nd. Join us from 1 to 5 p.m. for a special release party at Bending Branch Winery. Meet and mingle with owner Dr. Bob Young and Hill Country grape grower Drew Tallent and hear a short presentation about the vineyard and the wine at 1:30 p.m. Come on out and taste this amazing Hill Country rosé! German Imbiss food truck will be onsite all day.
90 Point rating from C.S. Vin:
“Medium bodied at 13% alcohol, this rosé will satisfy even the bold tastes of a drinker who craves power but is willing to go a little lighter to sample Tannat’s more refined flavors, too. Bending Branch has added to its flagship grape a version all will love when heat demands refreshment, but a wine whose bold taste won’t give up its demands.”
Read the full review here from Experiencing Wine.
Join us as we celebrate the release of Bending Branch Winery 2018 Estate Picpoul Blanc grown at Lost Pirogue Vineyard. This exclusive event will be held at the vineyard in Center Point. Meet owners Bruce and Jana Colgate as they welcome you into their home on their beautiful estate. Bruce and Jana are not only growers; they are great friends of Bending Branch owners Robert and Brenda Young, and longtime members of the 1840 Founders Club.
Enjoy live music, hors d'oeuvres, and Picpoul Blanc while learning about the vineyard and growing grapes in the Texas Hill Country.
A limited number of one-of-a-kind letterpress posters by Erin Beckloff will be available for purchase to commemorate this special event. Prints will be signed and numbered. Learn more about letterpress and Beckloff, who is Jana’s daughter-in-law, in the trailer for the documentary, “Pressing On: The Letterpress Film.”
Tickets available at Eventbrite. $45 per person.
Lost Pirogue Vineyard in Center Point is awakening after last year’s very wet autumn, and a winter that was colder and drier than typical. Still, bud break this year was right on schedule, only a day later than in 2018. The Picpoul Blanc vines pictured here had just begun to bud out when the vineyard experienced an early March cold-snap. Some early buds may have been nipped, but many more are pushing out as the days get sunnier. Flowering is next, followed by green leaves in a couple of weeks – or sooner if the vineyard gets significant rain. Bring on harvest 2019!